There are three divisions that when recognized will give a tremendous boost in understanding the Bible. When their differences are not fully appreciated, confusion arises. Most of church history has been plagued with Bible difficulties by wrongfully ignoring these necessary divisions.
Law / Grace
Law and grace are the two principles under which mankind has operated with God. The first law was given to Adam and Eve; later hundreds were given in covenant with Israel. We learn from the law the need for a great work to be done for God’s righteousness.
Grace is epitomized in the great dispensation of grace in which we now live. It describes undeserved favor unto reprobate humanity. God’s provision of free grace is offered to all without works. God’s love is manifested in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
While both principles magnify the Lord Jesus Christ they must be separated if we are to avoid doctrinal confusion. We are either under law or under grace.
Israel / Church
Israel and the Church are the two entities through which God’s will is performed. Israel gives purpose to religion being the only religion ever ordained by God. Through its covenants, this one great nation of priests shadowed the greater things to come on earth through the Messiah.
The Church here is not the general congregation throughout all history, but that unique one body church which is called the body of Christ. In every aspect, this new creature represents the power of faith. Through faith the gospel of Christ creates all things new manifesting God’s glory in heavenly places.
While both entities point to the Lord Jesus Christ for their fulfillment they must be separated if we are to avoid identity confusion. We are either Israel (more aptly Jew or Gentile) or we are the Church the body of Christ (neither Jew nor Gentile).
Earth / Heaven
Heaven and earth are the two spheres of dominion that God has purposed to glorify him, but since the beginning have been usurped by Satan through sin. In the end, the home of lowly mankind, earth, will become the centerpiece of God’s kingdom. Israel will declare the marvelous works of God manifest in the flesh who keeps promises through all ages.
Heavenly places have always been the realm of angels and other spiritual beings. In the end heaven will be filled with grace taught members of the new creature. The one body will declare the riches of his grace through Christ in the very places where the great rebellion started in the universe.
While both dominions will be gathered together in Christ, they must now be separated if we are to avoid ministry confusion. We are either building a kingdom on earth through the covenants or we are ambassadors from heavenly places.
Prophecy / Mystery
These three divisions are sometimes simplified into the general division between Prophecy truth and Mystery truth. The law, Israel, and the earth are the subjects of prophecy which had been spoken since the world began until Paul (Acts 3:18-24).
Grace, the one body Church, and heavenly places are the subjects of the mystery of Christ which had been kept secret until revealed to the apostle Paul (Rom 16:25). This is the dispensation in which we now live.
A failure to rightly divide these pairs has turned the Bible into a conglomeration of confusion. Do not try to put together what God has separated. Making these distinctions clear will greatly benefit anyone who desires to grow in their understanding of God and the Bible.