What is dispensationalism?


Clarify Share Report Asked November 16 2021 Mini Robert Sandeen

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
Dispensationalism is a theological system that emphasizes the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy, recognizes a distinction between Israel and the Church, and organizes the Bible into different dispensations or administrations.

Dispensationalists understand the Bible to be organized into seven dispensations: Innocence (Genesis 1:1-3:7), Conscience (Genesis 3:8-8:22), Human Government (Genesis 9:1-11:32), Promise (Genesis 12:1-Exodus 19:25), Law (Exodus 20:1-Acts 2:4), Grace (Acts 2:4-Revelation 20:3), and the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:4–6). These dispensations are not paths to salvation, but manners in which God relates to man. Each dispensation includes a recognizable pattern of how God worked with people living in the dispensation. That pattern is 1) a responsibility, 2) a failure, 3) a judgment, and 4) grace to move on.

Dispensational theology teaches that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the Church. Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by grace through faith alone—in God in the Old Testament and specifically in God the Son in the New Testament. Dispensationalists hold that the Church has not replaced Israel in God’s program and that the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the Church. Dispensationalism teaches that the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament (for land, many descendants, and blessings) will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation 20. Dispensationalists believe that, just as God is in this age focusing His attention on the Church, He will again in the future focus His attention on Israel (Romans 9-11; Daniel 9:24).

November 21 2021 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
Great question, Robert Sandeen! I think the main description of dispensationalism is based on progressive revelation, the fact that God continued to reveal Himself to humankind through biblical history. 

As the long-time president of Dallas Seminary (he was president for the 4 years I was there), Dr. John F. Walvoord, said, “Dispensationalism is an approach to the Bible that recognizes differing moral responsibilities for people, in keeping with how much they knew about God and His ways. God’s revelation of Himself in different eras required moral responses on the part of humanity. In the Garden of Eden the only requirement for conduct was that Adam and Eve were to keep the Garden and not eat of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. 

“With the entrance of sin, human conscience came in as the guideline for conduct. It proved to be faulty, however, and people continued to sin. 

“Following conscience, there was the Flood and with it the introduction of the concept of government and the command that murderers be executed. This, however, also ended in failure at the Tower of Babel. 

“The introduction of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12 and Genesis 15 presented a totally new perspective, as God revealed His special plan for Israel in the future. Then those dispensations or stages of progressive revelation were followed by the Mosaic Covenant. 

“The Mosaic Covenant, the most extensive code of conduct to be found in the Old Testament, was given only to Israel. The nations were not judged by it. None of the nations, for example, were punished for not keeping the Sabbath. Each dispensation superseded the previous one, continuing some of the revelation and conduct requirements of the past and introducing new requirements as well as eliminating some requirements of the previous dispensation. This situation was similar to raising a child who in his early years was subject to a number of limitations but for whom some limitations, as he grew, were lifted while new ones were added. 

“The New Testament introduces God’s plan and purpose for the church. The numerous requirements of the Mosaic Law do not apply to the present era because the present church age is a different dispensation. For instance, while the Law required executing a man for not keeping the Sabbath, no one would extend that requirement to the present day. In dealing with the legalism present in the Galatian church Paul stated that the Law was like a tutor to bring people to Christ. Just as an adult son no longer needs a tutor, so under grace believers no longer need the Law (Gal. 3:24-25; cf. Gal. 4:1-7 on the difference between the rules for children and the rules for adults).”

September 05 2022 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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