TIMES OF DISPENSATIONS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
By Larry A. Smail
Have you ever really debated, within your thoughts, what the message was during the years of Christ’s earthly ministry; followed by the years after the resurrection in regards to the disciples’ “Jewish” ministry, and later, Paul’s “Gentile” ministry, concluding around Israel’s destruction? This time of dispensations lasted, approximately, forty years. (A dispensation is a change of program; a transition, or going towards, or dispensing, in a new direction.)This time frame is one of important transitions! There are three, distinct, dispensations during those forty years of Biblical transitions.
If you have read much of the New Testament books of the Bible you may have formulated a number of questions. You may have even felt there are contradictions within the books of the Bible by the various writers.
The usual way of thinking may be to simply ignore anything, but Christ’s words. That thought may seem proper; however, you’ll miss the Risen Christ’s words to Paul! Those words are IMPORTANT! One may, simply, disregard some writings, and avoid other writings that do not fit into a previously conceived belief. This may be a denominational belief that has been placed into your thoughts without question. Some may attempt to work all the New Testament books of the Bible as a puzzle in hope the pieces will fit together in the end. Maybe, others throw all the scripture into a Biblical blender expecting the truths to be poured out! Won’t work!
Any perceived contradictions are easily explained. However, grasping that fact may prove to be challenging without prayer, study, and a willingness to grasp a truth when revealed. There are specific reasons why Biblical variances are observed within the New Testament. The primary reasons are the dispensations, or the changes in God’s program to finalize the goal of salvation along with the coming kingdom.
First of all, the varied writer’s messages are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THE SAME! Their ministries were part of the forty years of transitions covering Israel‘s law-keeping time during Jesus’ ministry; followed with the times of many Jews becoming believers of who Jesus was, but continuing as law-keepers, concluding with the faith, and grace only ministry to believing Gentiles. (The latter applies to Jews today, as well. Paul wrote in Romans 10:12, that there is no distinction between the Jew and Greek… This occurs under Paul’s Grace Doctrine coming later. Notice the separations!)
Those interested in Bible study need to separate the Jewish culture, and the Gentiles of the times. They need to understand the variances between law-keeping, Jewish, Jesus believers, and faith-based Gentile believers. They need to separate Judaism; Jesus-believing Jews; (The Way) and Christianity!
Before we enter into Christ’s earthly ministry we need to visit some Old
Testament realities involving the Hebrews (Jews) early times and their purpose. We need to understand how, and why, this nation came to be.
THE HEBREW’S EARLY YEARS
God removed Abraham from the pagan, Gentile populace. He initially used Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, (Israel) and Joseph to form a nation of people known as the Hebrews. Joshua 24: 2-3 stated of Israel’s fathers serving other gods. However, these people, the Hebrews, became God’s Chosen People!
One, potential, and important, purpose for these chosen people is found in Exodus 19: 5-6. God, through Moses, told these people an important message. These Hebrew people (Jews) if obedient to God’s covenant were to be a special, set apart, and unique people, and to become a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, AND A HOLY NATION… Ask yourself why God would need a nation of priests? They were to take God’s salvation to THE GENTILES! Isaiah 49: 6, states…”I will give you (The Jews.) as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 61: 6 repeats of Israel being a nation of priests, and ministers of God! In Zechariah 8:23, the prophet wrote: “In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (These events are futuristic, and none of these have happened, yet! These will be reality at Christ’s return.)
In Exodus 20, the Hebrews received the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, the Jews failed continually! God would still make his move towards the redemption plan in other ways! This must be understood before we move into the words spoken by Christ to the Jews.
Many, many generations later, Israel was being dominated by the Roman
Empire. Many years of Jewish prophecies concerning Israel‘s King, and
kingdom were falling into place. Israel, however, wasn’t an obedient nation.
As promised through these Old Testament prophecies major events were ready to be fulfilled. A man, known as, John the Baptist entered onto Israel’s scene announcing, and preparing Israel that their King was at hand. Of course, with the arrival of their King, the kingdom was just out ahead!
Jesus of Nazareth was that Promised Messiah to be their King, and to restore their kingdom glory! However, the nation would need to accept this fact!
Paul wrote in Romans 15: 8-9, that Jesus’ purpose was to be a minister to the Jews in accordance with Old Testament scripture. Here are the verses: For I tell you that Christ became a servant (Minister) to the circumcised (Jews) to show God’s truthfulness, in order that the GENTILES might glorify God for his mercy.” (Read the next few verses adding more detail concerning the Gentile’s hope.) Israel’s second chance to fulfill the Exodus 19 covenant was about to occur. This, too, must be fully grasped, as well, to understand the dispensational times just ahead.
CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY DISPENSATION
Jesus’ three year ministry on earth was based on one extremely important message to Israel. The Nation of Israel (Jews) needed to believe Jesus was their Messiah, or Promised One! THAT WAS IT! If the Nation of Israel would believe Jesus was their Promised One the Kingdom of God would become reality for the nation. Of course, Israel then would become that nation of priests to go to the Gentiles as found in Exodus 19, and Isaiah 61.
This Kingdom of God was to be a literal government on earth with Jesus ruling. The Jews would become that nation of priests. This message is known as the Gospel of the Kingdom! OR the good news of the kingdom!
Proof of this kingdom being a government of Israel can be read in the words of the prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 9: 6-7, the prophet wrote: For a child will be born unto us; a son will be given to us. Ask yourself who the “US” is? The “US” here are the Jews, and Israel. Remember, Isaiah was a prophet for Israel!
Isaiah added the government will be on his shoulders. This kingdom will be a government ruled over by the child given to Israel. Who was, and is, that child? THE LORD JESUS!!!!!
Isaiah continued, His name will be WONDERFUL; COUNSELOR;
MIGHTY GOD; ETERNAL FATHER; PRINCE OF PEACE. There will be no end to this governmental kingdom of peace! He will set on David’s throne over this kingdom in Jerusalem!!!!
What did Jesus preach on earth? Again, his message was to believe who he was! The writers of the first four books of the New Testament wrote of the importance of believing on Christ’s name! Many of those words of believing were spoken by Christ himself. You can see Christ’s words if you have a red-letter edition of the Bible. His parables were everyday stories to relate the kingdom of God to the people. (Underline the kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of God, and you’ll soon see the importance.)
The Nation of Israel was still a law-keeping religion! The only difference, now, is Israel had to believe in Jesus as their Promised One! Did Israel believe? NO!!! Precious few believed who Jesus was. The Nation of Israel as a whole failed again! Israel rejected Christ again leading to his crucifixion on the cross.
CHRIST’S 40 DAYS ON EARTH AFTER RESURRECTION
Jesus was resurrected after three days, and three nights in the tomb. Jesus spent forty days on earth before his ascension to glory. What did the RISEN CHRIST talk about? Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God! (Acts 1) His message was the same. Believe Jesus was the promised One, and the kingdom of God would become reality!
THE DISCIPLES “JEWISH” MINISTRY DISPENSATION
Other important verses few have seen are located in Matthew 10: 5-6. Jesus told the disciples to go nowhere among the Gentiles…but go rather to the
lost sheep of the house of Israel and preach the kingdom of heaven is at
hand… Read that again! This language fits well with the Romans 15: 8 words of Paul. Remember, Paul wrote: Jesus was to be a minister to the Jews…to confirm the promises given to the fathers. (Also, study Matthew 15:21-28, where Jesus tries to ignore a Gentile woman.)
Jesus never altered that command during this time of Israel’s history. Yes, he said in Matthew 28: 19, for his disciples to make disciples of all nations, but
Those words were in regards to the Exodus 19 verses again of Israel going to all Gentile nations. The disciples were to have Israel believe who Jesus was, and then the Jews would cover the earth to the Gentiles. This would be the Great Commission! Proof of this can be found in Acts 10 where Peter argued to not go to the Gentiles. Also, the disciples twenty years after the cross during the Jerusalem Council shook hands on the fact that Paul would continue to the Gentiles, and the disciples would stay with the Jews. (Read Acts 15, and Galatians 2.)These were hints of the, soon, future transitions! Are you seeing this? The disciples did not run out to preach to all nations. They were attempting to have Israel believe! (Jews)Also, read Acts 11: 19…preaching to none, but Jews.
The next dispensation is about to occur with the disciples after they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. A different approach is in play towards the Nation of Israel, and the Jewish populace. (Pentecost is a Jewish time celebrating the Feast of First Fruits. See Numbers 28: 26-31.)
Peter, now filled with the Holy Spirit began to preach of Jesus’ message; the cross, and the resurrection. Peter’s ministry is preaching to the Jews. The Jews present heard Peter’s words, and became troubled as to what happened with Christ. These Jews requested what they should do now? (Acts 2: 37)
Peter addressed his Acts 2, and Acts 3, sermons to Jews. We can know this because he used language mentioning Jews. Peter used wording as, “Men of Judea” (Acts 2:36); “Men of Israel” (Acts 2:22); “All the House of Israel”(Acts 2: 36); and “Men of Israel”. (Acts 3:12) Other hints can be realized as Peter spoke of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Gentiles could care less of Israel’s fathers! No Gentile language here! Remember, the Jews still were to avoid Gentiles.
NOTE: Any mention of a church in your Bible translations relate to these
Jewish, Jesus believers. The Greek word is ecclesia, which simply means: a called out assembly. This can be a gathering for anything. In early Acts, these individuals are, also, still law-keeping Jews who have accepted, and believed Jesus was the Promised One. The Holy Spirit inspired term of “Christianity” doesn’t appear until Acts 11: 26 with Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles. NOTE: In Acts 19:32, the translators used “assembly” during the riot in Ephesus. The Greek word here is “ecclesia.” Why were the words “ecclesia” translated into two different meanings?
Peter told these troubled Jews they needed to repent, and be baptized. (Acts 2: 37-39.) Ask yourself repent of what? In verse 36 Peter said, “Let ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL know assuredly that God has made him both Lord, and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” These Jews needed to repent of their unbelief which led to the crucifying of their King, Jesus. They then were to be baptized under John the Baptist’s, baptism of
repentance in order to receive the Holy Spirit. They then would be forgiven of their sin of unbelief, and crucifying their Messiah. This was the next time of dispensation. Notice the difference from what Jesus preached while on earth? Do you see the difference?
Peter, in Acts 3: 19 mentioned the time of refreshing. This time of refreshing is part of the second coming of Christ. This second coming occurs at the end of Daniel’s 70th week. (Tribulation) The world will return as it was originally created, or refreshed. Peter stated that Christ would be sent back. (Acts 3:20) Peter’s sermon is in regards to the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God being preached again during the end times to announce the kingdom will be, again, at hand! (Matthew 24:14)
Another detail of proof as to who Peter’s message is directed comes from Acts 3: 25. Peter talked of the covenant promise which God made with “your fathers.” This covenant was made with Abraham; Isaac, and Jacob.
These men were considered the Fathers of Israel.
Peter, and the disciples, were obeying Christ’s command of going to the Jews, attempting to have Israel believe Jesus was their Messiah. Many Jews believed their words, but the Nation of Israel in its entirety, continued to firmly reject Jesus was their Promised One. Israel’s final rejection was about
The disciple chose some men to help take care of the believers in Jerusalem. (Acts 6:2-4) One of those men was named Stephen. We know little about this man except from a few powerful descriptions of his faith. In Acts 6: 5, scripture states he was a man full of faith, and the Holy Spirit. In Acts 6: 8, he was described as being full of grace, and power, able to perform great wonders, and signs. An Acts 7: 35 state Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. Scripturally speaking this means there was something extraordinary about Stephen. This man was stoned to death because he spoke words against the Jews in power, and of their betrayal of Jesus, the Righteous One!
The murder of Stephen would prove to be the final rejection of Jesus by the Nation of Israel in the eyes of God. Israel from this point on is in a state of
decline. Immediately, another Jew is brought into the word! A man named Saul is mentioned. He would become known as Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles! (Acts 8)
Scripture states a great persecution occurred concerning those Jesus-believing Jews. The disciples would continue to preach to the Jews despite this persecution. The persecuted Jewish believers left Jerusalem to Gentile countries. (Acts 8:1, and Acts 11:19) As stated, Israel would be in decline from Stephen’s murder. The disciples continued preaching to the Jews. (These are epistles to the Jews.) However, Israel was in a downward spiral towards destruction. Troubles upon them would increase. The Roman Empire would become increasingly belligerent towards Israel. That destruction occurred in 70 A.D.
A major transition would soon happen in regards to Israel, and the man named Saul. God would be using, this Jewish man, Saul to become a minister to the Gentiles, and preach the Gospel of Grace. God was side-stepping Israel to get his words to the Gentiles. The Exodus 19: 5-6 verses of Israel going to the Gentiles would be removed out of God’s agenda at this time. At a future time God will return to Israel when this time of the Gentiles is fulfilled. (In Romans 11: 25, Paul wrote of Israel’s hardening until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled. We are in the time of Gentiles presently.) This will happen at the latter half of the tribulation period or Daniel’s 70th week. (Daniel 9, and 12.) Towards the end of that 70th week, and the time of Jesus’ second coming, God will use the remnant of Israel to, once again, go and take the word to surviving remnants. THIS TIME THE
JEWS WILL BELIEVE WHO JESUS IS! In Zechariah 13: 6, the
prophet wrote of Jesus’ Second Advent. Jesus will answer the Jews of that
future time when they ask him how he received the wounds. Jesus will answer the wounds came about in the house of my friends. (The House of Israel.) The prophet wrote Israel will ask the Messiah about his wounds from the time of the cross. Again, Jesus, at this second coming, will announce he received the wounds from the hands of his friends. (The Jews.) THIS TIME THE JEWS WILL BELIEVE!