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.