In the dispensation of Innocence, God worked face to face with His highest creation, made in His own image. After the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind was no longer innocent, and God appealed to humans to use their divinely implanted consciences to do right. That brought in the second dispensation (Conscience), which lasted for about 1600 years until God could tolerate the sin no more and brought a flood to destroy all but eight persons—a remnant to continue His sovereign plan for mankind. During the dispensation of Human Government, civil authority was established to govern society, but again, mankind rebelled—this time, at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4). After God dispersed the people, He created the nation of Israel from Abraham and his descendants (the dispensation of Promise). After God had created the Hebrew people, He gave them the Law through Moses (the dispensation of Law). God’s people consistently broke the commandments, but the Law was finally fulfilled in Christ. The Lord then established the dispensation of Grace. God’s unmerited favor would finally allow His chosen people (believing Jews and Gentiles) to have lasting fellowship with Him.
Stewards: The church. All believers are ministers of their spiritual fruit and a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9)
The Period: From the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), a period of nearly 2,000 years and counting
Responsibility: To be perfected by sanctification; to love one another; to exhibit ever-increasing godliness (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 John 1:5)
Failure: A lack of maturity; worldliness; many churches falling into apostasy (Galatians 5:4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Judgment: The blindness of apostasy and false doctrine (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:3)
Grace: Forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus (1 John 1:3-7; John 14:20)
This dispensation of Grace is often referred to as the Church Age because it is during this era that Jesus is building His Church (Matthew 16:18). It began at Pentecost (Acts 2) and will end when all who are born again by the baptism of the Holy Spirit are raptured out of this world to be with Jesus Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Church is mentioned again in Revelation 19 as returning to earth with the Lord Jesus at His Second Coming.
Grace is God’s benevolence to the undeserving. Grace is the rule of life for the Church, and through the Church God’s grace is extended to the whole world, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is taken to the ends of the earth. It has been said that grace saved us (Ephesians 2:8-9), it supports us (Romans 5:2), it teaches us (Titus 2:11-12), and it disciplines us (1 Corinthians 11:28-32; Hebrews 12:5-11). With the Holy Spirit indwelling His Church, we are able to walk with the Lord and live as He intends (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10; 5:17-18; Philippians 1:6; 4:13; Romans 8:14). It is not heaven yet, and it is far short of perfection, but as the Church is being sanctified, it provides a little taste of heaven on earth (Ephesians 2:21-22).