Category: General Theology

Jesus: The Most Excellent Name and His Superlative Name

Jesus: The Most Excellent Name and His Superlative Name

Philippians 2:9-11

For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I have heard this passage quoted countless times and rightfully so; the Name Jesus is worthy to be bowed down to, worthy to be adored, to be exalted in exuberant song. It is the very best name there is. Or is it? Does Jesus actually have a better name than Jesus? IF He does, what is that name and why will we bow to it?

As it happens, there is a different name that all men will bow down before. It is a name that has belonged to Jesus since before time began. It was His name before His incarnation; before He condescended to come to this earth and allow Himself to be sacrificed for our sins, this name crowned Him in glory and this name arrayed Jesus in every superlative of majesty that you could ever possibly imagine if you had 1000 lifetimes and no limitations to the capacity of your mind. This name, that Jesus has had for all eternity, is the one before whom every knee will bow and it is the name that will cause every tongue to confess; this name is YHWH (Jehovah). Dear children, it is not simply that every knee bows before Jesus, nor is it the confession of lordship that glorifies the Father but it is instead the confession of the Name that glorifies the Father. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, (don’t miss this) Jesus IS YHWH!

Isaiah 42:8 (ASV) “ I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images.”

Isaiah 43:11 (ASV) “I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour.”

YHWH (Jehovah) in the Old Testament declares that He will never share His glory and that He alone is the savior. But in Acts, the Apostle Peter tells us that it is the name Jesus that salvation is found in. Is there a contradiction here? Does Peter contradict Isaiah? Nope. The Greek Iesus is the same as the Hebrew Y’shua and it is in that name that salvation is found. You might ask how on earth I figure that Y’shua is the name in which salvation is found. Well, Y’shua is the shortened form of Yehoshu’a (Joshua) and Yehoshu’a literally means YHWH is Savior. Isn’t that beautiful?

 

It is YHWH which is Christ’s most glorious Name. The very God who was blasphemed by our sin has put aside the offense and has redeemed us unto Himself. Stop for a minute and think about what this means because it means so much more than you don’t have to go to hell for eternity and it means so much more than you get to go to heaven. You get to be with YHWH and you get to be like Him, unable to die, unable to be diminished. Your eternity with YHWH will be in perfect communion; you will behold the One who loved you more than life and gave His to redeem yours. Standing face to face you will see YHWH on His glorious throne. Eyes that have never seen will behold the Lamb, ears that have never heard will behold the majesty of heaven’s symphony of praise, lips that have never spoken will resound the anthem of Christ’s amazing grace, and feet that have never walked will dance before the throne with all their might just as David did in the Old Testament. In that moment, when all who have ever lived see Jesus in all of the resplendent majesty of His person, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is YHWH and the whole world will glorify YHWH, some in judgment and some from an undeserved spot in heaven but we will all give Him glory forever and ever.

Apostle’s Creed (Our Essential Creed)

Apostle’s Creed (Our Essential Creed)

Below, you will find the foundational statement of faith of all Reformed Christians. Officially codified in AD 390, this is a concise statement on the essentials of Christian Orthodoxy.

 

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

The third day he rose again from the dead:

He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

I believe in the Holy Ghost:

I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

The forgiveness of sins:

The resurrection of the body:

And the life everlasting. Amen.

God reveals His Covenant Name: I AM

God reveals His Covenant Name: I AM

 

Exodus 3:13-15Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

13 Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?”

14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.

Footnotes:

Exodus 3:14 Or I AM BECAUSE I AM, or I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE

 

This is absolutely delicious. When asked for His Personal Name, God answers with a verb phrase. If I could geek out for a minute…

When God reveals His Name, it is in the first person singular imperfect tense, imperfect being not complete rather than deficient.

I have to wonder if Moshe (Moses), upon hearing that Name, scratched his head and something akin to, “you are Who?” I AM WHO I AM is beautifully ironic; it is, at the same time, a totally sufficient answer and an open door to discover the Lord. Later, Iesus (Jesus) would give the final exegesis of the Father in His I am statements but in the meantime, the Lord God, the First Person of the Trinity, made several revelations of Himself via compound Names throughout the TaNaKH (Old Testament). They follow:

  • Yahweh Jireh (Yireh): “The Lord will provide.” Stresses God’s provision for His people ( 22:14).
  • Yahweh Nissi:“The Lord is my Banner.” God is our rallying point and our means of victory; The Lord God, the King of Heaven is the one who fights for His people ( 17:15).
  • Yahweh Shalom:“The Lord is Peace.” The Lord is the source of our peace and rest ( 6:24).
  • Yahweh Sabbaoth:“The Lord of Hosts.” A military term; the Lord is the commander of the armies of heaven (1 Sam. 1:3; 17:45).
  • Yahweh M’Kaddesh/Yahweh Mekoddishkem: “The Lord your Sanctifier.” The Lord as our means of sanctification or as the one who sets believers apart for His purposes ( 31:13).
  • Yahweh Ro’i: “The Lord my Shepherd.” The Lord is the Shepherd who cares for His people as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his pasture ( 23:1).
  • Yahweh Tsidkenu: “The Lord our Righteousness.” The Lord is the means of our righteousness. This righteousness is imputed to the justified believer ( 23:6 and Epistle to Romans).
  • Yahweh Shammah: “The Lord is there.” Portrays the Lord’s personal presence in the millennial kingdom ( 48:35).
  • Yahweh Elohim Israel: “The Lord, the God of Israel.” Identifies Yahweh as the God of Israel in contrast to the false gods of the nations ( 5:3; Isa. 17:6).

 

No matter how you portray it, Beloved, YHWH has always been and always will be. He will be the same eis ton aionos tou aiono (unto the age of the ages/forever and ever/eternity).

 

Let us pray:

 

YHWH our God, your Name is beyond splendid. There is nothing to equal it and no superlative adequate to describe the glory of Your Name. Teach us who You are in each Name so that they are written on our hearts then You will be our God and we will be Your people. May Your name be glorified with majesty upon majesty and every homage that can be imagined. Amen.

 

Until next time, Worship Vigorously, Serve Actively, Teach Faithfully and may mercy, grace, and peace be multiplied unto you

Kingdom Come: the 7th Dispensation

Kingdom Come: the 7th Dispensation

The final dispensation is that of the Kindgom. We will begin with some material from gotquestions.org and then move into our lesson on the 4 views of the Millenium…

“In classic dispensationalism, there are seven dispensations. It is important to remember that dispensationalism is a theology inferred from Scripture rather than an explicitly taught doctrine of God’s Word. The value of dispensationalism lies in its systematic view of history’s different eras and the various ways in which the Ancient of Days interacts with His creation.

The seventh and final dispensation brings about the culmination of life on Earth and the closest thing yet to how God really wanted to live with us on this planet. As its name suggests, the Millennial Kingdom of Christ will last for 1,000 years.

The Millennial Kingdom is the seventh dispensation (Revelation 20:1-10).

Stewards: The resurrected Old Testament saints, the glorified Church, and survivors of the Tribulation and their descendants

The Period: From the Second Coming of Jesus Christ until the final rebellion, a period of one thousand years

Responsibility: To be obedient, remain undefiled, and worship the Lord Jesus (Isaiah 11:3-5; Zechariah 14:9)

Failure: After Satan is loosed from the Abyss, sinful man rebels one more time (Revelation 20:7-9)

Judgment: Fire from God; the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:9-15)

Grace: Jesus Christ restores creation and rules righteously in Israel, with all saints assisting (Isaiah 11:1-5; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20)

The Millennial Kingdom will be a time characterized by peace (Isaiah 11:6-7; Micah 4:3), justice (Isaiah 11:3-4), unity (Isaiah 11:10), abundance (Isaiah 35:1-2), healing (Isaiah 35:5-6), righteousness (Isaiah 35:8), joy (Isaiah 55:12), and the physical presence of Christ (Isaiah 16:5). Satan will be bound in the Abyss during this period (Revelation 20:1-3). Messiah Jesus will be the benevolent dictator ruling over the whole world (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11). The resurrected saints of all times will participate in the management of the government (Revelation 20:4-6).

The Millennial Kingdom is measurable and comes after the Kingdom of God (embodied in Jesus Christ) came to man during the dispensation of Grace. On Jesus’ first visit to the earth, He brought grace; at His Second Coming He will execute justice and usher in the Millennium. Jesus mentioned His glorious return at His trial before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62), and He was referring to the Millennial Kingdom when He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10, KJV).

The rebellion at the end of the Millennial Kingdom seems almost incredible. Mankind will have been living in a perfect environment with every need cared for, overseen by a truly just government (Isaiah 11:1-5), yet they still try to do better. Man simply cannot maintain the perfection that God requires. Mankind follows Satan any chance he gets.

At the end of the Millennium, the final rebellion is crushed, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Then comes the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unrighteous of all of the dispensations will be judged according to their works and also cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

After the final judgment, God and His people live forever in the New Jerusalem on a new earth with a new heaven (Revelation 21). God’s plan of redemption will have been completely realized, and the redeemed will know God and enjoy Him forever.”

The “Millenial Kingdom” is the thousand-year period in Revelation 20:1-6. From days of old, orthodox Christian interpreters have been divided over the nature and timing of the millennium relative to Jesus’ second coming. There are 3 dominant views: Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. In premillennialism, Jesus returns before his thousand-year reign on earth. In postmillennialism, Jesus returns after an earthly golden age. In amillennialism, the millennium is a symbolic time frame between Jesus’ ascension and his return, when deceased believers reign with Christ in heaven. We will treat those a little more below.

Postmillennialism

Definition:

The postmillennialist believes that the millennium is an and not necessarily a literal thousand years during which Christ will reign over the earth, not from a literal and earthly throne, but through the gradual increase of the Gospel and its power to change lives (emphasis mine). After this gradual Christianization of the world, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. This is called postmillennialism because, by its view, Christ will return after the millennium.

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: covenant-historical.
  • Israel and the church: the church is the fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: a spiritual entity experienced on earth through the Christianizing affect of the Gospel.
  • The Millennium: a Golden Age previous to Christ’s second advent during which Christ will virtually rule over the whole earth through an unprecedented spread of the Gospel; the large majority of people will be Christian.

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting First Century events in the light of prophecy; preterism often goes hand-in-hand with postmillennialism.
  • Of the several versions of postmillennial eschatology, the reconstructionist’s seems to be gaining the most popularity in the world today.
  • Major proponents: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., David Chilton, and Gary North.

 Synopsis:

There are several different versions of postmillennialism, but one of the views gaining the most popularity, is that of the theonomists. Generally speaking, the postmillennial theonomist viewpoint holds to a partial-preterist interpretation of Revelation and the various judgment prophecies in the Gospels, believing that the majority of those prophecies were fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

The postmillennialist sees the millennial kingdom as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that he would become “a great nation” and that “all peoples on earth would be blessed” through him (Genesis 12:2-3). This holy reign will come about via gradual conversion (rather than premillennialism’s cataclysmic Christological advent) through the spread of the Gospel — this incremental progress is drawn from many pictures found throughout Scripture (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:22 and Ezekiel 47:1-12).

Postmillennial optimism is also nurtured through many of prophetic psalmody. The Psalms often speak of all nations fearing Him, salvation being known among all nations, the ends of the earth fearing Him, et cetera (e.g., Psalm 2:1-12; Psalm 22:27; Psalm 67:2, Psalm 67:7; Psalm 102:15; Psalm 110:1). Another passage that well feeds this earthly optimism is Isaiah 2:2-3 in which the nations will stream to the righteousness of God.

In light of current world events, I must reject the idea that the preaching of the Gospel is ushering in any kind of “Golden Age” for the church. Instead, it is my considered opinion that we are living in a time of unmatched wickedness. The advent of social media has enabled all manner of wickedness to spread like an insipid virus throughout the souls of mankind.

Some would ask, “Can’t social media be used to usher in the Kingdom?” Of course it could but it is not. Many of the largest and most influential “ministries” belong to false teachers and I find that to be indicative of the problem.

I do not, presently, see any indication that the world is becoming more Christlike, holy, peaceful, or prosperous.

Amillennialism

Definition:

The amillennialist believes that the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection (sometimes called “inaugurated millennialism”) at which point he gained victory over both Satan and the Curse. Christ is even now reigning at the right hand of the Father over His church. After this present age has ended, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. The term “amillennialism” is actually a misnomer for it implies that Revelation 20:1-6 is ignored; in fact, the amillennialist’s hermeneutic interprets it (and in fact, much of apocalyptic literature) non-literally.

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: redemptive-historical.
  • Israel and the church: The church is the eschatological fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: a spiritual reality that all Christians partake in and that is seen presently by faith, but will be grasped by sight at the consummation.
  • The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds and immediately proceed to judge the nations with Christ and then follow Him into their eternal state.
  • The Millennium: inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection. In an “already/not yet” sense, Christ already reigns over all and is already victorious over Satan.

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting prophecy in light of Christ’s advent, death, resurrection, and glorification.
  • Relies heavily on a two-age theology.
  • Major proponents: Meredith Kline, Richard Gaffin, Robert B. Strimple, Gregory K. Beale, and John Murray.

 

Synopsis:

Eschatology is the study of the eschaton; the eschaton is equated with “last things.” While other views focus on the final days of humankind on earth, amillennialism sees “the last things” as having been initiated at Christ’s resurrection and so, being applicable from the earliest days of the Christian church (cf. Acts 2:16-21; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:1-2; and 1 Peter 1:20). The amillennialist perspective sees the whole of God’s redemptive revelation as twofold – promise and fulfillment; it also emphasizes that a strict-literal interpretation of Old Testament is not necessarily the most accurate way of determining what the text means.

The amillennial perspective emphasizes that the coming of the Kingdom ofGod is a two-part event. The first portion dawned at Christ’s first advent (John the Baptist proclaimed at this time, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” — Matthew 3:2). At the cross, Christ won final victory over death and Satan. And then He ascended to reign upon the throne of David forever (Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30-31). Now because we “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18) — because of this, the amillennialist sees the final things already accomplished, though not yet seen by sight, but by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

An important note is the amilleniallist’s view of the church in this world: a role of suffering. The Christian will be hated by all, just as was Christ (Matthew 10:22), for a servant is not greater than his master. Seeing this as the church’s role on earth — to suffer as did Christ — the amillenialist can hold no hope for an earthly exaltation and longs for the fulfillment of the second stage of the coming of the Kingdom.

This second stage of the amillennial perspective is the final consummation of all the heavenly promises. The Christian will no longer see by faith alone, but by sight. All the shadowy things will pass away and our eternal reign with Christ will begin. The amillennialist, expecting no earthly glory for the church, places all his hope on this heavenly glory.

Of course Christ is victorious over Satan. That being said, If Satan is bound, I think that he probably did not get that memo. 2 Thessalonians 2:6 mentions a “restrainer” that many have identified as the spirit filled church. The context of the text does not really allow for that but, at the same time, it is evident that there is a direct Agent restraining the evil that is in the world. Said Agent, is the Holy Spirit. How do I come to this?

By mere elimination, the Holy Spirit must be the restrainer.  All other possibilities fall far short of meeting the requirements of one who is to hold in check the forces of evil until the manifestation of Antichrist.  Some of the alternate suggestions are out of harmony with the basic text itself.

The Wicked One is a personality, and his operations include the realm of the spiritual.  The restrainer must likewise be a personality and of a spiritual order, to resist the wiles of the Devil and to hold Antichrist in check until the time of his revealing. Mere agencies or impersonal spiritual forces would be inadequate.  Moreover, the masculine gender of II Thessalonians 2:7 requires the restrainer to be a person.

To believe all that is to be accomplished, the restrainer must be a member of the Godhead.  Of necessity He must be stronger than the Man of Sin, and stronger than Satan.  In order to restrain evil down through the course of the age, the restrainer must be eternal, for Satan and his workers of iniquity have made their influence felt throughout the entire history of the Church.  Likewise, the sphere of sin is the whole world, making it imperative that the restrainer be one who is not limited by time or space.  Such an one is the Holy Spirit of God, for He is omnipotent, eternal, and omnipresent throughout the universe, and therefore preeminently qualified to hold in check all of the Satanic forces of darkness.

I will not go so far as to say that He is using the true church to restrain evil though it is possible; His methodology is somewhat of a mystery as it is not directly revealed in Scripture.

What is certain, though, is that while Satan is not currently bound, he certainly is severely restrained by whatever method it is that the Holy Spirit is using.

Historical Premillennialism

Definition:

Historical premillennialists place the return of Christ just before the millennium and just after a time of great apostasy and tribulation. After the millennium, Satan will be loosed and Gog and Magog will rise against the kingdom of God; this will be immediately followed by the final judgment. While similar in some respects to the dispensational variety (in that they hold to Christ’s return being previous the establishment of a thousand-year earthly reign), historical premillennialism differs in significant ways (notably in their method of interpreting Scripture).

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: grammatico-historical.
  • Israel and the church: The church is the fulfillment of Israel.
  • Kingdom of God: present through the Spirit since Pentecost – to be experienced by sight during the millennium after Christ’s return.
  • The Rapture: The saints, living and dead, shall meet the Lord in the clouds immediately preceding the millennial reign.
  • The Millennium: Christ will return to institute a thousand-year reign on earth. The Millennium will see the re-establishment of temple worship and sacrifice as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Major proponents: George Eldon Ladd, Walter Martin, John Warwick Montgomery, and Theodore Zahn.

 

Synopsis:

The historical premillennialist’s view interprets some prophecy in Scripture as having literal fulfillment while others demand a semi-symbolic fulfillment. As a case in point, the seal judgments (Revelation 6) are viewed as having fulfillment in the forces in history (rather than in future powers) by which God works out his redemptive and judicial purposes leading up to the end.

Rather than the belief of an imminent return of Christ, it is held that a number of historical events (e.g., the rise of the Beast and the False Prophet) must take place before Christ’s Second Coming. This Second Coming will be accompanied by the resurrection and rapture of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18); this will inaugurate the millennial reign of Christ. The Jewish nation, while being perfectly able to join the church in the belief of a true faith in Christ, has no distinct redemptive plan as they would in the dispensational perspective. The duration of the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6) is unsure: literal or metaphorical.

Dispensational Premillenialism

Definition:

Dispensational premillennialists hold that Christ will come before a seven-year period of intense tribulation to take His church (living and dead) into heaven. After this period of fulfillment of divine wrath, He shall then return to rule from a holy city (i.e., the New Jerusalem) over the earthly nations for one thousand years. After these thousand years, Satan, who was bound up during Christ’s earthly reign, will be loosed to deceive the nations, gather an army of the deceived, and take up to battle against the Lord. This battle will end in both the judgment of the wicked and Satan and the entrance into the eternal state of glory by the righteous. This view is called premillenialism because it places the return of Christ before the millennium and it is called dispensational because it is founded in the doctrines of dispensationalism.

 

Features and Distinctions:

  • Favored method of interpretation: strict literal.
  • Israel and the church: views church and Israel as two distinct identities with two individual redemptive plans.
  • The rapture of the Church: The church is raptured before a seven-year tribulation (the seventieth week of Daniel – Daniel 9:24-27). This tribulational period contains the reign of the AntiChrist.
  • Millennium: Christ will return at the end of the great tribulation to institute a thousand-year rule from a holy city (the New Jerusalem). Those who come to believe in Christ during the seventieth week of Daniel (including the 144,000 Jews) and survive will go on to populate the earth during this time. Those who were raptured or raised previous to the tribulational period will reign with Christ over the millennial population.

 

Miscellaneous:

  • Higher degrees of interpreting present-day events in the light of end-times prophecy.
  • The Millennium will see the re-establishment of temple worship and sacrifice as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • From the millennium-ending “white throne” judgment (by which Satan and all unbelievers will be thrown into the lake of fire) Christ and all saints will proceed into eternal glory.
  • Major proponents: John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Louis Sperry Chafer, J. Dwight Pentecost, Norman Geisler, Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, and Chuck Missler.

Synopsis:

A strictly literal hermaneutic is foundational to the dispensational premillenialist viewpoint. Interpreting Scripture in this manner will in fact demand such perspectives unique to dispensationalism as:

  • an earthly kingdom of God from which Christ will reign
  • a future redemptive plan for national Israel
  • a seven year period of great tribulation
  • the rejection of prophetic idiom

 

Dispensational premillennialism holds that a seven-year tribulation (forseen in Daniel 9:27) will precede a thousand-year period (Revelation  20:1-6) during which time, Christ will reign on the throne of David (Luke 1:32).

Immediately previous to the time of great tribulation, all the dead saints will rise from their graves and all the living members of the church shall be caught up with them to meet Christ in the clouds (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17); this is known as “the rapture.” During this time of tribulation, there will be three-and-a-half years of world peace under an AntiChrist figure (Daniel 7:8; Revelation 13:1-8) who will establish a world-church (Revelation 17:1-15), followed by three-and-a-half years of greater suffering (Revelation 6-18). At the end of this period, Christ will return (Matthew  24:27-31; Revelation 19:11-21), judge the world (Ezekiel 20:33-38; Matthew 25:31; Jude 1:14-15), bind Satan for one thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3), and raise the Old Testament and tribulation saints from the dead (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4).

At this time, the millennial reign will begin and Christ will reign politically over the earth at this time from His capital in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). Throughout His reign, there will be no war (Isaiah 2:4) and even the natures of animals will dwell in harmony (Isaiah 11:6-9). At the end of this era of peace, Satan will be released and instigate a colossal (but futile) rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7-9). After this fated battle, Satan and the wicked are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10), while the righteous proceed into their eternal state in the realm of the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1ff).

 

Grace Upon Grace: Dispensation of the Church Age

Grace Upon Grace: Dispensation of the Church Age

Grace Upon Grace: The Dispensation of the Church Age

As we come to the 6th Dispensation, there are a couple things that need to remain in the forefront of our minds.

  1. We are currently in this Dispensation. It began at Pentecost and continues until the Rapture.
  2. The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church. (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 Romans 8:23 Titus 2:13 1 Corinthians 15:51,52)
  3. NO ONE, absolutely no one knows when this Dispensation will end. (Matthew 24:36 Mark 13:32) Therefore it is our duty, as the Church, to proclaim the message of the Gospel unto the ends of the earth until Christ shall come.

Many in the Covenant Theology camp accuse Dispensationalists of teaching a “secret rapture.” This absurd and reflects a lack of taking the Bible text at face value. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17 is the “Rapture Passage” and there is nothing in the text that suggests this event will be a secret. The Lord, Himself, will come with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the Trumpet of God; that does not sound very secretive at all. I will concede that it is possible that those who are about to be consigned to the Tribulation may have no clue as to what is happening since the god of this world will have blinded their eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4) but there will be absolutely no mistaking that something is happening. No mistake at all; Zero, zip, zilch, nada; not one single person will be left to wonder if something terrible has happened, though it is possible that they will be blind to the new definition of terrible that they will be about to learn.

Personally, I do not believe, for a second, that the entire world will be completely blinded to the reality of the Rapture. Instead, I am convinced that there will be people on the earth, who were not really believers, that will realize that they have heard, before, what they are witnessing and will weep, gnash their teeth, and fall prostrate before the Lord in hopes He will have mercy.

Because no man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36) we refer to End of Days (the final dispensation) as being imminent, that is to say that Christ could return at any moment. If Christ’s return is imminent we must, then, ask what is our obligation as the Church? In the Dispensation of the Church Age we must (Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 28:19, Luke 3:8)

 

  • Make Disciples, teaching them all things that Christ has commanded us
  • Bear fruit that is keeping with repentance
  • Proclaim Good News to the Poor
  • Bind up the brokenhearted
  • Set the captives at liberty
  • Release the prisoners from the darkness

 

It is required of stewards that they be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1) and our stewardship is the Good News of the Gospel, the Christ has come to redeem a people unto Himself and that we shall one day be with Him in the clouds for ever.

It should be noted that the Dispensation of the Church Age is also simply called the Dispensation of Grace. The people at gotquestions.org have some excellent information on this dispensation. It follows here:

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).

Until that “bright and blessed morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share,” let us labor for our King and spread the Good News, Our God Reigns.

Dispensation of Law

Dispensation of Law

In out study of Dispensationalism, we now come to the the fifth dispensation, Law. This is one of the 3 longest Dispensations, lasting approximately 1500 years and covering all aspects of the Scripture from Exodus 19:5 to John 19:30.

The Dispensation of the Law begins with Moses and the children of Israel receiving the Law from God at Mount Sinai. The Period of this Dispensation ranges from Mt. Sinai until Christ Jesus fulfilled the Law with His death, which we have said is a period of around 1500 years. During this Dispensation, man’s responsibility was to keep the whole Law (Exodus 19:3-8). As with other Dispensations, man failed his responsibility and the Law was “broken.”  (2 Kings 17:7-20) Worldwide dispersion resulted from this failure as the Host of Israel we carried into captivity in Assyria (Northern Kingdom) or Babylon (Southern Kingdom) (Deuteronomy 28:63-66; Luke 21:20-24) All is not lost, though, and neither is there cause for despair; as the Dispensation of Law gives way to the Dispensation of Grace and the promised Messiah Redeemer arrives…

We need to understand that Israel was never to be saved by keeping the Law (Romans 3:20). The Law was meant to govern the daily life, to define sin, and to point to the coming Savior. The Law, as Paul pointed out was meant to be a school master (Galatians 3:24). I alluded to, previously, the fact that every sacrifice and festival pointed to Christ.

The dispensation of Law is named after what is commonly called the Mosaic Law but is called a “covenant” in Exodus 24:7-8; Deuteronomy 4:13; and Galatians 3:19. The Law of Moses, as is commonly called. was God’s only conditional covenant with Israel;  blessing and success depended upon the people’s obedience to the Law (Exodus 19:5). Unfortunately, as we see in Exodus 32, the Children of Israel did not even make it in their obedience to see the Law given but instead bowed the knee to a golden calf that Aaron fashioned for them from the jewelry of the people.

The Law was also a temporary covenant to be abrogated by institution of a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:13; 10:9). The Law was given because of sin until the promised Seed of the Woman (and also the Seed of Abraham) would come. (Galatians 3:19).

It is important to note that the Law of Moses was given only for the nation of Israel (Exodus 19:3-8; Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 4:8). Jesus made it clear that it was given to Israel and not the Gentiles (Mark 12:29-30). The apostle Paul said the Law was given to Israel and not the Church (Romans 2:14; 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:11-12).

The Dispensation of Law ends at the Ascension of Jesus as Acts Chapter two shows us the inauguration of the next dispensation. Some call it the Dispensation of Grace and others call it the Dispensation of the Church.

It is an absolute tragedy that the people of Israel misinterpreted the purpose of the Law and sought a righteousness by good deeds and ceremonial ordinances rather than by God’s grace (Romans 9:31—10:3; Acts 15:1)! It is an even bigger tragedy that people today continue to pursue a righteousness based on good works to this day.  In the case of Israel, they were focused on attaining their own holiness, they rejected their Messiah (John 1:11).

Israel’s history from Mt. Sinai to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 was one long record of violating God’s Law. However, the Law was still fulfilled, as Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Because of Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the Law, we are saved through Him.

Galatians 2:15-16 (HCSB)

15 We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners” 16 know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified.

Acts 4:12 (HCSB)

12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.”

There are those who dismiss the Law (antinomians) and say that Christians are no longer bound by it. I think, though, that what we call the Law still serves as our school master even to this day. If it were not for the Law we would not know our sin (Romans 7:7) and therefore would miss out on the glory of our Redeemer and His salvation.

Dispensation of Promise

Dispensation of Promise

The fourth dispensation, the Dispensation of Promise, was inaugurated with the call of Abraham, continued through the lives of the patriarchs, and ended with the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, a period of about 430 years. In this Dispensation, we see the formation of (Elect) Israel, a covenant people in relationship with YHWH.

This Dispensation focuses on the promise(s) that God made to Abraham, which we now call the Abrahamic Covenant. The promise was that he would be the father of a great nation, that God would bless Abraham and his descendants, and that the whole earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3). Indeed, all men are blessed in the Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ, who accomplished the work of redemption.

As we have said, the basic promise during the Dispensation of Promise was the Abrahamic Covenant. This is an unconditional covenant whose key points include:

  • From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity.
  • God would make Abraham’s name great; Abraham is probably one of, if not the most well known figure in religious history as Christians, Jews, and Muslims all claim him as a forefather.
  • God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those that cursed them.
  • In Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed. This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ via His penal, substitutionary, atoning death on the cross, which event is the center point of redemptive history.
  • The sign of the covenant is circumcision.
  • This covenant, which was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, is confined to the Hebrew people and the 12 tribes of Israel.

In Hebrews 6:13, we see that God swore by His own Name for there was found none greater to swear by. Genesis 15 lays out the Covenant and the Ceremony. Note that God does not lay any conditions upon Abraham; in this particular case, God not only swears by Himself but also binds any conditions of covenant upon Himself.

From http://gotquestions.org and used by permission:

The actual Abrahamic Covenant is found in Genesis 12:1–3. The ceremony recorded in Genesis 15 indicates the unconditional nature of the covenant. The only time that both parties of a covenant would pass between the pieces of animals was when the fulfillment of the covenant was dependent upon both parties keeping commitments. Concerning the significance of God alone moving between the halves of the animals, it is to be noted that it is a smoking furnace and a flaming torch, representing God, not Abraham, which passed between the pieces. Such an act, it would seem, should be shared by both parties, but in this case God’s solitary action is doubtless to be explained by the fact that the covenant is principally a promise by God. He binds Himself to the covenant. God caused a sleep to fall upon Abraham so that he would not be able to pass between the two halves of the animals. Fulfillment of the covenant fell to God alone.

Later, God gave Abraham the rite of circumcision as the specific sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:9–14). All males in Abraham’s line were to be circumcised and thus carry with them a lifelong mark in their flesh that they were part of God’s physical blessing in the world. Any descendant of Abraham who refused circumcision was declaring himself to be outside of God’s covenant; this explains why God was angry with Moses when Moses failed to circumcise his son in Exodus 4:24–26.

God determined to call out a special people for Himself, and through that special people He would bring blessing to all the nations. The Abrahamic Covenant is paramount to a proper understanding of the kingdom concept and is foundational to Old Testament theology. The Abrahamic Covenant is described in Genesis 12:1–3, and (1) it is an unconditional covenant. There are no conditions attached to it (no “if” clauses suggesting its fulfillment is dependent on man). (2) It is also a literal covenant in which the promises should be understood literally. The land that is promised should be understood in a normal definition of the word—it is not a figure of heaven. (3) It is also an everlasting covenant. The promises that God made to Israel are eternal.

There are three main features to the Abrahamic Covenant:

  1. The promise of land (Genesis 12:1). God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to a land that He would give him (Genesis 12:1). This promise is reiterated in Genesis 13:14–18 where it is confirmed by a shoe covenant; its dimensions are given in Genesis 15:18–21 (precluding any notion of this being fulfilled in heaven). The land aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant is expanded in Deuteronomy 30:1–10, which is the Palestinian Covenant.
  1. The promise of descendants (Genesis 12:2). God promised Abraham that He would make a great nation out of him. Abraham, who was 75 years old and childless (Genesis 12:4), was promised many descendants. This promise is amplified in Genesis 17:6 where God promised that nations and kings would descend from the aged patriarch. This promise (which is expanded in the Davidic Covenant of 2 Samuel 7:12–16) would eventuate in the Davidic throne with Messiah’s kingdom rule over the Hebrew people.
  1. The promise of blessing and redemption (Genesis 12:3). God promised to bless Abraham and the families of the earth through him. This promise is amplified in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34; cf. Hebrews 8:6–13) and has to do with “Israel’s spiritual blessing and redemption.” Jeremiah 31:34 anticipates the forgiveness of sin. The unconditional and eternal nature of the covenant is seen in that the covenant is reaffirmed to Isaac (Genesis 21:12; 26:3–4). The “I will” promises again suggest the unconditional aspect of the covenant. The covenant is later confirmed to Jacob (Genesis 28:14–15). It is noteworthy that God reaffirmed these promises amid the sins of the patriarchs, which fact further emphasizes the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant.

God’s method of fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant is literal, inasmuch as God partially fulfilled the covenant in history: God blessed Abraham by giving him the land (Genesis 13:14–17), and, centuries later, the sons of Abraham took control of the land: “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there” (Joshua 21:43). God blessed Abraham spiritually (Genesis 13:8, 18; 14:22, 23; 21:22); God gave him numerous descendants (Genesis 22:17; 49:3–28). An important element of the Abrahamic Covenant, however, demands a still-future fulfillment with Messiah’s kingdom rule:

(1) Israel as a nation will possess the totality of the land in the future. Numerous Old Testament passages anticipate the future blessing of Israel and her possession of the land as promised to Abraham. Ezekiel envisions a future day when Israel is restored to the land (Ezekiel 20:33–37, 40–42; 36:1–37:28).

(2) Israel as a nation will be converted, forgiven, and restored (Romans 11:25–27).

(3) Israel will repent and receive the forgiveness of God in the future (Zechariah 12:10–14). The Abrahamic Covenant finds its ultimate fulfillment in connection with the return of Messiah to rescue and bless His people Israel. It is through the nation Israel that God promised in Genesis 12:1–3 to bless the nations of the world. That ultimate blessing will issue in the forgiveness of sins and Messiah’s glorious kingdom reign on earth.

I want to deal, briefly, with the idea that (ethnic/national) Israel will be saved.

That all Israel will be saved is a logical possibility. 

In two of the sets of judgments, in Revelation, we see the unmitigated death and destruction that the Holy God allows to be unleashed on a Christ Rejecting world. What we do not see, in Revelation, is how many of those who are killed are part of Israel and as a consequence we do not know how many Israelites are left alive to be saved. We can, then, infer that the salvation of the entirety of Israel is logically possible. As to probability, bear with me…

Seal Judgments:

Rev.6:3-2nd Seal: Wars on earth

Rev.6:7-4th Seal: Death released. 1/4 of the worlds population to die by plagues, disease, and beasts of the earth

Rev.6:9-5th Seal: Persecution and mass killing of God’s people worldwide

Rev.6:12-6th Seal: Massive earthquake wrath of God.

Trumpet Judgments

Rev.9:13-6th Trumpet: demons released and 200 million army kills 1/3 of the world’s population.

Some points from the Revelation Teaching Series by my mentor, Doug Warwick (with whom I am in perfect communion on this issue)

  1. “shall be saved”…salvation by faith in Jesus Christ vs works

Genesis 15:6 Habakkuk  2:4 Romans 4:9 – 5:1 Romans 9:24-26 Galatians 3:16-29

  1. “all Israel”

Romans 2:25-29 Romans 9:6 Romans 9:27 Ezkekiel 20:5, 8, 13, 16-17, 33-44

  • When will God rule over Israel…when will God be Israel’s King?
  • When will Israel pollute His name no more?
  • When will Israel be sanctified before the Gentile nations?
  • When will Israel know that Jesus Christ is Lord?
  • When will Israel loathe themselves and their tawdry history?
  • When will the Lord purge Israel of the rebels/unbelievers?
  • During the 70th Week of Daniel  (Dan 9:24)

Ezekiel 36:16-31 Zechariah 13:8-9 Romans 11:25-29

“all Israel” are those who believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, their King and Savior

Ezekiel 40-48

During the Millenial Reign of Christ, Israel as the Most Important Nation is fulfilled

Dr. MacArthur points out that “all Israel” means all of those members of the nation of Israel that survive the Time of Jacob’s Trouble/Great Tribulation.

Romans 11:17- only some branches are broken off, so a believing remnant are being preserved unto/until salvation.

Additional from Dr. MacArthur

Before all Israel is saved, its unbelieving, ungodly members will be separated out by God’s inerrant hand of judgment. Ezekiel makes that truth vividly clear:

“As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. And I shall bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; and I shall bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I shall enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,” declares the Lord God. “And I shall make you pass under the rod, and I shall bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I shall purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I shall bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezek. 20:33–38, emphasis added; cf. Dan. 12:10; Zech. 13:8–9)

Those who hear the preaching of the 144,000 (Rev. 7:1–8; 14:1–5), of other converts (7:9), of the two witnesses (11:3–13), and of the angel (14:6), and thus safely pass under God’s rod of judgment will then comprise all Israel, which—in fulfillment of God’s sovereign and irrevocable promise—will be completely a nation of believers who are ready for the kingdom of the Messiah Jesus.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:31–34; cf. 32:38)

God’s control of history is irrefutable evidence of His sovereignty. And as surely as He cut off unbelieving Israel from His tree of salvation, just as surely will He graft believing Israel back in—a nation completely restored and completely saved.

Most importantly, the reason why, at some point, the entirety of Israel looks upon Him whom they pierced, mourns, and turns to Christ is the fact that God does not change

Malachi 3:6

I, the Lord, do not change

Hosea 2:14-20

14“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness,

and speak tenderly to her. 15And there I will give her her vineyards

and make the Valley of Achore a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

16“And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolishf the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

1 Samuel 15:29

29 “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind”

Psalm 102:12 & 25-28

12 But Thou, O LORD dost abide forever; And Thy name to all generations. . . 25 Of old Thou didst found the earth; And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. 26 Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. 27 But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end. 28 The children of Thy servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before Thee”

The Dispensation of Promise has a future fulfillment that we eagerly look forward to.

Dispensation of Human Government

Dispensation of Human Government

In the first Dispensation, Innocence, God had worked face to face with the first humans, Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28—3:19) As we have already seen, they sinned, and all mankind became a fallen race living with God’s curse because of that sin. The Dispensation of Conscience (Genesis 3:23—8:19) saw all men being required to do righteously based on what they knew to be right. Mankind again failed to fulfill their responsibility. So God brought a worldwide Flood to wipe out all but eight people. As Noah and his family repopulate the earth, we are brought into the Dispensation of Human Government. (Genesis 8:20 to 11:9).

Stewards: Noah and his descendants

The Period: From the Flood to the confusion of tongues at Babel, about 429 years

Responsibility: To scatter and multiply (Genesis 9)

Failure: Refusal to scatter and the building of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4)

Judgment: Confusion of languages (Genesis 11:5-9)

Grace: Abraham is chosen—the start of the Jewish race (Genesis 12:1-3)

After the Flood God stepped back from directly judging the entire earth until the second coming. Instead, the human agency known as civil government was divinely appointed to restrain evil and protect man from his own sinful nature. Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives began to repopulate the earth. Shem would become the father of the Mediterranean region dwellers and eventually the Jews (the word Semitic comes from the Latin word for “Shem”). Ham’s descendants spread into Africa, and Japheth’s into Europe and Asia.

Excursus: The Noahic Covenant

The Noahic Covenant is found in Genesis 9:8-17 and it is the promise that God made to Noah and his descendants after the flood which destroyed the world. The Noahic Covenant has several distinguishing features. First, it is an unconditional covenant. Second, it was made to Noah and all his descendants as well as “every living creature” and the earth in general (Genesis 9:8-10). This, necessarily, means that the Noahic Covenant is still in force today. Third, it was sealed with a sign, the rainbow. If you notice, you will almost always see a rainbow at the end of a rainstorm; this is not because God needs to be reminded of the Covenant but it is His reminder to us that He has not forgotten.

The Noahic Covenant is an unconditional covenant because it does not depend upon anything Noah or his descendants had to do to fulfill the covenant. The promise is based upon God’s faithfulness alone. Because of God’s faithfulness to always do what He says He will do, we can know today with certainty that there will never be another worldwide flood as there was in the days of Noah, no matter how wicked mankind becomes. Neither the wickedness nor the righteousness of mankind affects this unconditional covenant. There is no “condition” under which God will renege on His promise. This does not mean that God will never again destroy the earth, however. He has promised to one day destroy the earth by fire (2 Peter 3:10, 11; Revelation 20:9, 21:1) in the terrible events known as the “Day of the Lord/the Day of Vengeance.”

Recap: God promised that He would never again send a worldwide flood to destroy the earth as an act of His divine judgment for sin. As a sign to remind Noah and his descendants of His covenantal promise, God “set the rainbow in the cloud” (Genesis 9:12-13). Just as circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, the rainbow is the sign of the Noahic Covenant. The lesson to us is that when we see a rainbow we should always be reminded of God’s faithfulness and His amazing grace and we must always be mindful that YHWH is a holy and righteous God who has a holy hatred for sin and who will not allow sin to go unpunished forever.

Noah and his family were saved from the wrath of God that came in the flood and this is a picture of what happens to the believer in Christ; those who are in Christ are saved from the “wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Noah and his family had practical knowledge of the failure under the dispensation of Conscience, and God made them responsible to protect the sanctity of human life and is given authority to use lethal force to do so. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6).  God established the orderly rule of mankind for the good of society and capital punishment is the most potent function of human government. On a side note, Children of God, I understand that the lethal authority afforded to the government is challenging and that we have differing viewpoints on the Death Penalty. I do not mean to promote one side or the other, merely to point out that the Bible teaches its existence. In the New Testament (Romans 13), man is still responsible to use this authority to enforce righteousness. In one sense, the Dispensation of Government overlaps with others as we are still under the rule of law.

Summary

Sin (called “lawlessness” in 1 John 3:4) continued in the third dispensation. In fact, the time after the Flood was characterized by great idolatry and moral degradation; it would seem that within a generation or two, men forgot the severe judgment that God brought upon the earth. The height of disobedient rebellion was the rebellion against God at Babel wherein mankind built a tower to “make ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). Since staying in one place was the one thing God told them not to do, this would have been quite futile.

In response to Babel God “confused their languages” i.e. He divided humanity into different language groups, and His sovereign will to populate the whole earth was accomplished. We should note, here that God will always have His will accomplished.  God also established a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by water. His grace continued to be shown through His chosen people, beginning with Abraham.

The Dispensation of Conscience/Moral Responsibility (Summary)

The Dispensation of Conscience/Moral Responsibility (Summary)

Having now sinned (Genesis 3:6-7), the Dispensation of Conscience begins. We find the following events:

  • Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden (Genesis 3:22-24)
  • The serpent is cursed (Genesis 3:14-15)
  • Women are cursed (Genesis 3:16)
  • Men are also cursed including having to till a cursed earth (Genesis 3:17-19)
  • The first promise of a Redeemer (proto-evangelion) is given (Genesis 3:15)

The end result of the first sin is what we call Total Depravity, but we will treat that in another lesson.

In an unfortunate irony, man did, in fact become like God, knowing the difference between good and evil but gained this knowledge by choosing to do wrong instead of doing rightly (Genesis 3:5-7, 22). The end result of this choice is not man being taken out of the image of God but that image being horribly disfigured by sin and a fallen nature in which “dwelleth no good thing. (Romans 7:18)”

Having been removed from the Garden and full communion with God, man is placed under the stewardship of conscience. Before we go any further, let us turn to the dictionary to define what a conscience is. According to dictionary.com:

Conscience: noun

  1. the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action:
  2. the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.
  3. an inhibiting sense of what is prudent

The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives; there is a gigantic problem with that. That gigantic problem is stated simply by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:18. Allow me to repeat it,

“I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing”  (emphasis mine)

My temptations and predilections to sin are quite too many to number as are yours. We do not have time to go deeply into depravity. Suffice it to say, I would like to do righteously. No that’s an understatement; I would give any price to be able to live righteously, to be able to have some basis on which I could approach God and talk to Him but I have nothing. Thankfully, there is grace because outside of this, I have no hope of doing anything that will please God.

In the Dispensation of Conscience, man is accountable to do all of the good that he knows and to abstain from all that he knows to be evil and how I wish that were actually possible. Man’s approach to God is governed by blood sacrifice; this is the first portrait of the saving blood of Christ.  Accordingly, God sets forth what we now call the Adamic Covenant, which is the first Universal Covenant.

Yes the curse and judgment are pronounced but grace shines through in the promise that in the seed of the woman a redeemer shall come. God promises that one born of a woman would be wounded (Isaiah 53:4-5, Psalm 22) in the process of destroying the Adversary. The “seed” of the woman who would crush the Serpent’s head is none other than Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:4 and 1 John 3:8). Even in the midst of the curse, God’s gracious provision of salvation bursts forth in glorious light. (Read that again and shout for joy; I did.)

Man failed the test presented to him in this dispensation (Genesis 6:5), as he will in almost every other. Although, this dispensation ended with the flood, man continues in moral responsibility as God added further revelation concerning Himself and His will in succeeding ages (Acts 24:14- 16; Romans 2:15; 2 Corinthians 4:2).

 

There is much more to say about conscience but for now, this summary should provide you a foundation.

Naked and Unashamed: The Dispensation of Innocence

Naked and Unashamed: The Dispensation of Innocence

 

Created in perfection

When we look at Genesis 1:26, something very unique should jump off the page: “Let us make man in our image.” All of the other times in the creation account, God says, “let there be_______” and it was so; this time though, He takes counsel with the Trinity and says let us make man, and so mankind is the pinnacle of creation, fashioned by the very hand of God Himself. Let’s take a look at what it means that man was made in God’s image:

The word that is used in, Genesis, for God is Elohim, a plural noun connoting the compound unity that is God. Because He is self-existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, relationship is at the very center of His being and man, being in the image of God is created in relationship with his creator. Prior to the eating of the forbidden fruit, which we will discuss later, there is unbroken communion between God and man, in a sense a father and son relationship.

Because God is a spirit (John 4:24), He is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17) but man, having been made in His image, is the visible “likeness” of God or as John MacArthur points out, he displays God’s communicable attributes. Man was created as God’s living, visible image on earth (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15) displaying the attributes of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, which gives man unique value, the capacity for intimate relationship with God, and dominion over the earth as God’s representative. (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, Genesis 9:6, Genesis 5:1-3, Romans 8:29, Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 8:4-8).

Gods Commands and Prohibitions

In this dispensation God’s commands were

  • replenish the earth with children,
  • subdue the earth,
  • have dominion over the animals,
  • care for the garden,
  • abstain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

I am not going to belabor the point of man’s disobedience.

God warned of the punishment of physical and spiritual death for disobedience. This particular dispensation was extremely short-lived (perhaps an hundred years or less) and was brought to a swift and abrupt end by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit and their expulsion from the garden…

Talking Snakes and Other Problems

Genesis 3:1

Now the serpent (Heb. Nacash which is translated serpent, snake, dragon) was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”

My first thought when I read this verse, even as a child, was why in the world did Eve talk to a serpent. The only thing I could come up with is that this wasn’t the first time something like this happened. Whether animals could talk before the fall or not is not something I generally wish to speculate about but I have to tell you, honestly, that the only reason I can think of that Eve didn’t run away like her hair was on fire would be the fact that it was not a surprise for her.

Eve finds herself confronted with the most dangerous words ever spoken, “yea hath God said…?” Neither before nor since have there been words with such potential to destroy and the come repeatedly but today they sound different. Today they sound like this: Jesus never talked about homosexuality (did God really call that a sin?) Would a loving God really send people to hell (did God really say the wages of sin is death?) Don’t all religions basically say the same thing (did God really say Jesus was the only way?) If you listen carefully, you can hear the subtle hiss behind the words as once again the serpent says, yea hath God said?

It would be great if I could say that Eve’s biggest problem was a talking snake; it wasn’t. The biggest problem she faced was that she erred, not knowing the word from the Lord. I do not mean to say that she did not know what God had spoken but she did not know the certainty or sufficiency of the word, which had been spoken.

Sin becomes her

Fully half or more of the scholars in the world will tell you that “the Fall” happened when Eve ate the forbidden fruit. I beg to differ. Look at verse three of chapter three. Eve adds to the word that had been spoken. “Neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Some will say that Adam embellished when he passed the Lord’s instruction on to Eve; I tend to doubt that. There is nothing in the text to indicate that God told only Adam of the prohibition against eating the fruit of that tree. However, adding to the word that God had spoken, though bad enough in itself is not what got Eve…

“The Fall” happened in verse six. She saw that it was good for food (lust of the eyes) and desirable to make one wise (lust of the flesh) she took it and ate (the pride of life). And there it is. The fall happened not in the eating of the fruit, no that was the symptom; it happened when Eve decided that the serpent knew better than God and that she wanted the fruit.

Get thee hence (the test is failed and judgment comes)

They say forbidden fruit is the sweetest fruit and they are correct. Forbidden fruit is quite pleasurable but it, almost instantaneously, brings trouble. Adam and Eve had their eyes opened immediately. However, wisdom was not the dinner guest; shame came to dine with them for when their eyes were opened they saw their nakedness were ashamed. Now since Adam and Eve were alone at this point, they weren’t hiding their nakedness from other people, or each other, they were hiding it from God, which is just a touch ironic since He is the One who made them naked in the first place.

So as not to rehash a story we all already know, Adam and Eve are banned from the Garden, paradise is lost but only for a season. In verse 15 we have what is called the protoevangelion (the proto/pre gospel), a promise that one day the seed of the man will crush the serpent’s head. We will see later just how that happened.

Our next lesson is: It’s My Prerogative: the Dispensation of Conscience. We will go more into depth with each dispensation as we approach the current dispensation and the one yet to come. Until next time

 

Ahava v’shalom