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Times and Dispensations


By Tom Ballinger

"Hear, 0 heavens, and give ear, O earthy For

the Lord hath spoken. . . " (Isa. 1: 2).

The most significant phenomenon the world has ever known is the fact that God HATH SPOKEN. The Invisible God, Whom no man "bath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16), has spoken. In times past God spoke in divers manners and at sundry times (Heb. 1:1). That which God has spoken He, by the Holy Ghost, has caused to be put down in writing. The Writings are the Scriptures.

If we are to understand what He has spoken through the Scriptures we must be prepared to recognize that they are  "the Word of Truth." Since they are the "Word of "Truth" the Divine manner for handling the Word of Truth is to "RIGHTLY DIVIDE" (2 Tim. 2:15) it. Thus, we need to distinguish the people TO whom God spoke; such as:

1. The Jew
2. The Gentile
3. The Church of God (Acts 2 to Acts 28)
4. The Church of the Mystery

We need to distinguish the "sundry times" at which He has spoken to them and also the "divers manners." In Plainer Words, God has spoken at various times and in many different ways. He has spoken in TIMES PAST

1. By the prophets to the fathers of Israel (Heb. 1:1)

2. By His Son to the Hebrews (Heb. 1:2)

3. By them that heard the Son (Heb. 2:3) to the Church of God

That which God wanted preserved the Holy Ghost caused to be put in writing (2 Peter 1:21). Truth today does not come to us orally or handed down by tradition but in writing. Writings given by the "Spirit of Truth" (Jn. 16:13) are now complete. Nothing is to be added to them. We have ALL that the Spirit of Truth has written for us in "the Scriptures of Truth." Today God still speaks to man but He speaks through His written Word.

The "times" that God spoke to the fathers by the prophets is set in contrast to the "times" when He spoke to the Hebrews by His Son. This informs us that the Holy Spirit recognizes different TIMES when God spoke.

Times and dispensations are inseparable from the Word of God. The word "dispensation" is a word that is used four times in Paul's epistles (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10, 3:2; Col. 1:25). It comes from the word "to dispense", to weigh out or hand out. A Dispensary dispenses medicine. To dispense has the idea of administering or dealing out certain things. The use of the word "dispensation" has to do with the act of administering a particular phase of God's program. God has had different administrations by which He has dealt with man. It is under these different administrations or dispensations that God has spoken at "sundry times." We are to distinguish the different dispensations in which God has spoken, thereby, interpreting what He has said in light. of WHEN He said it and to WHOM did He say it.

The present evil age which is characterized by sin and death extends from Adam until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. While it is one in essential character, it is subdivided into different dispensations. As God introduced different ways of dealing with mankind you will see set forth below divisions of dispensations. We do not pretend that the list is without fault; we only hope that the reader will see the need to "rightly divide the Word of Truth."

1. From creation to the fall of Adam
2. From the fall to the flood
3. After the flood, from Noah to Abraham
4. From Abraham to Moses
5. From Moses to the entrance into the Land

6. From the entrance to the setting up of Kingdom
7. From David to the Babylonian captivity
8. From the captivity to the birth of Christ
9. From the birth to the resurrection of Christ
10. From Pentecost to prison (Acts 2 to Acts 28)
11. The prison ministry of Paul, the Dispensation of the Grace of God. The present age of God's Sacred Secret (i.e. The Mystery)
12. Dispensation of Judgment (the bulk of the Book of Revelation)
13. The millennial Kingdom
14. The new creation

It should be evident that as dispensations change so should the particular lines of truth change as far as God's revelation to man is concerned. This being true the utmost care should be taken to note dispensational changes. Things that were true before the fall of Adam would be untrue after. Things that were true before the Law would not be true after it and so throughout the dispensations.

Dr. E. W. Bullinger well said, "If we take what God said and did in one Dispensation, and carry it forward to another in which His administration was on quite a different principle; or, if we take a truth subsequently revealed, and read it backward into the Time when it was hidden from the sons of men, it is impossible for us to understand what we read; we shall find ourselves taking what is quite true of one Time, and using it to contradict what is also true of another Time."

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." That is, all the words recorded in the 66 books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, ARE INSPIRED BY GOD. "And is profitable for DOCTRINE, for REPROOF, and for CORRECTION, for INSTRUCTION in righteousness" all of which Divinely equips "the man of God" for every GOOD WORK. The man of God has confidence in the Scriptures
believing 2 Timothy 3:16. However, he also knows that since ALL SCRIPTURE is the Word of Truth it must be"rightly divided" (2 Tim. 2:15), otherwise, the faith of the hearers will be subverted and error will be taught as Truth. The man of God must RIGHTLY DIVIDE the Word of Truth, otherwise, he will stand ASHAMED and not approved unto God.

Included in "right division" is the necessity for the student of Scripture to recognize the ages and dispensations to which the various sections of Scripture apply. The Bible itself is not silent on the fact that different ages and dispensations existed. Romans 5 speaks of the ages  from Adam to Moses. John 1 speaks of the fact that the Law came by M o s e s: BUT,  Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ (i.e. true grace)." Ephesians 1:21 speaks of this age (i.e. world), 3:9 speaks of "ages past'", and 2:7 speaks of "ages to come." The Lord Jesus Himself said that "The law and the prophets were UNTIL JOHN (i.e. the baptizer); since that time THE KINGDOM of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16). The book of Daniel in the ninth chapter speaks of the fact that 70 weeks are determined upon Israel; that is, the Lord is going to deal with Israel for a period of time of 70 weeks (490 years). Then is to come the establishment of the promised Kingdom. This Kingdom is made mention of in
Revelation 20:1-10 where the reference to a 1,000 year period is mentioned six times. This millennial Kingdom begins with Satan being bound and placed in the "bottomless pit" and it ends with him being loosed for a little season." Space does not allow more to be said. We emphatically state however that RIGHT DIVISION of the Word of Truth recognizes ALL SCRIPTURE. It does not cut out unpopular doctrine; it simply apportions ALL SCRIPTURE according to the ages and dispensations to which it pertains.

Times were appointed by God for the fulfillment of different purposes; such as, a time of 400 years was appointed for the filling up of the iniquity of the Amorites (Gen. 15:16). This 400 years was connected with Israel's bondage in Egypt. Israel was not to be delivered until such time that God was ready to punish the ° "iniquity of the Amorites"; that is, when their sin was filled up and punishment due. He was to use Israel to execute the sword upon the Amorites. God has, in His infinite wisdom, allotted a period of time which the Bible refers to as "the times of the Gentiles" (Lu. 21:24). This seems to be the period from Nebuchadnezzar until the second coming of Jesus Christ.

An inspired example of right division is left us in the gospel of Luke. In Chapter 4:16-21 we note the Lord Himself reads from Isaiah 61:1-2. He closes the book with the words, "To preach the acceptable year of the Lord", then He says, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." Had the Lord read on in Isaiah 61:2 the next words quoted would have been: "and the day of vengeance of our God": a day which is connected with the millennial blessings of Israel when they become a "holy nation°", a "royal priesthood°', and a "kingdom of priests", and receive "double" for their shame./This was not fulfilled during the ministry of the days of Christ. Almost 2,000 years have elapsed between the "Acceptable day of the Lord" and the °"day of vengeance" (i.e. the great tribulation). The Bible divides these 2,000 years merely by a comma. Luke 4:20 says, "HE CLOSED THE BOOK, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down.°' Why did the Lord close the book at this point? The answer lies in the great revelation to us concerning the principle of "right division." Had the Lord read the next sentence in Isaiah 61:2 about
"The day of vengeance of our God" He could not have said the Scripture this day "is fulfilled in your ears"; for "the day of vengeance of our God" had not come, nor has it come as yet. The Lord practiced right division. He divided the two dispensations by closing the Book. This is what we must do if we are not to join together what God has separated. Alas, most Christians fail to learn the lesson of right division, thereby, ignoring the example of the Lord in Luke 4. They fail to see the interval of the Mystery
between "the acceptable year of the Lord" and  "the day of vengeance of our God." Now just how important do you think the principle of RIGHT DIVISION is?

     [Chapter 2]