A dispensation is a period in history, with its own peculiar characteristics, in which God relates to man. C.I. Scofield described dispensationalism with these words, “A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” It’s vital that we understand that these different dispensations are not different ways of salvation. During every dispensation, man is reconciled to God in only one way, FAITH. Romans 4:3 tells us, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” It has been that way through every dispensation and will always be so. It is faith, and faith alone, that brings us into a relationship with the Lord. The BASIS of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the REQUIREMENT for salvation in every age is faith; and the OBJECT of faith in every age is God.

Progressive revelation is the recognition that God’s message to man was not given in one single act and at one time, but through successive ages called dispensations. For an example, John 1:17 says, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The Lord made His unchanging will known to man in a slow and continuing process. In each dispensation, there are two primary characteristics:

  1. The governing relationship into which God enters with the world.
  2. The resulting responsibility on man in this relationship.

In each dispensation, the Lord tested man, giving them the opportunity to obey Him. In each dispensation, man failed and there was judgment. In one sense, the Lord used these dispensational tests to show the utter helplessness of man to be just before God.

Very briefly, here is an outline of the dispensations we find in the Word of God.

  • The dispensation of Innocence is where Adam and Eve lived in innocence. They failed by disobeying God and were cast out of the Garden of Eden.
  • The dispensation of Conscience which went from Adam to Noah.   Man totally fails and is judged by the flood.
  • The dispensation of Human Government which went from Noah to Abraham. Man fails again and falls into gross idolatry.
  • The dispensation of Law which went from Abraham to Christ. It was through Abraham that the Lord called out a people unto Himself. In Genesis 14:13, Abraham is the first man to be called a Hebrew. The law could not bring us to Christ, and this dispensation also ends in failure, resulting in the crucifixion of Christ.
  • The dispensation of grace which goes from the day of Pentecost until the Lord returns to rapture His church. This is the one we presently live in.
  • The dispensation of tribulation which will go from the rapture of the church to the physical return of the Lord to establish His kingdom on the earth. Even under the judgment of God, men still reject him.
  • The dispensation of the kingdom which begins at the return of the Lord to the earth, where He establishes His millennial kingdom. Although this will be a time of rich and wondrous blessing for all the earth, there are those who will still rebel against the Lord and will be judged with fire.

I realize this brief outline does not give justice to the truth of the different dispensations we find in the scriptures. I encourage you to ‘dig deeper’ on your own and learn more about this valuable subject. (174.1)