Dispensationalism is that method of reading the Bible respecting God’s progressive revelation and separate ways of dealing with humanity throughout the ages. Each distinct order of operation between God and humanity is revealed progressively and can be studied as a separate dispensation. Included in a dispensational understanding is recognition of God’s dual purpose for humanity; that is, His purpose for man on earth, and his purpose for man in heavenly places (Eph 2:10).
The Bible supports at least five prominent dispensations or separate economies in which God deals with humanity:
We see the dispensation of Promise delivered by God in Galatians 3:16 which says, ‘to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.’ In Galatians 3:17,19 we read that the Law was added after the Promise because of transgressions.
The passage continues to describe how the ‘law was added because of transgressions, TIL THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE WAS MADE’. In Galatians 3:22 we read that the promise was made to Christ and given to them who by FAITH will believe.
Paul writes about this dispensation of faith as new information. He continues in Galatians 3:23 to explain, ‘But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.’ In Ephesians 3:2-3 Paul says:
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery…”
and in Romans 6:14, ‘…for ye are not under the law, but under grace.’
The faith that Paul wrote about in Galatians 3:23 was that revelation of Grace revealed to him and kept secret from the prior generations.
Paul writes of the distant future when he says in Ephesians 1:10, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”
However, the dispensation of the fulness of times will not appear before the instituted kingdom on earth that God promised to the nation Israel in Jeremiah 31 and in Hebrews 8. Hebrews 2:8 describes this future hope of the kingdom to the Hebrews in Paul’s day:
“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.”
There will be time after this age of Grace is over that God will usher in the Kingdom as described in Revelation 12:10.
So then, as we understand the dispensations of God, we can better understand how to read our Bibles and God’s plan for the Ages. To see a more detailed introductory explanation take a look our Interactive Dispensational Chart and audio series.