Gloryland's New Christian Series Bible course may be copied freely, but must not be sold except to recover the cost of copying or printing. We only ask that proper credit be given and that you notify us if you are copying or distributing the course or making links to it on the Internet. Please let us know if you translate the course into another language, or if you wish to have it translated into another language. © Copyright 1994 Linton M. Smith Jr.
This is a study of Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, Lesson #9 in the New Christian Series.
Our key verse is:
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." — II Timothy 2:15
The "word of truth" we are to "rightly divide" is the written word of God, the Holy Bible (cf. John 17:17). In order to do this we must have a thorough understanding of what is in the word of God. This comes first of all by READING the word of God regularly. It is good to follow a regular daily plan, and complete a certain number of chapters or pages every day. This will help us become familiar with the stories and characters in the Bible, and we will get an understanding of God’s dealings with man throughout history.
It is equally important to set aside time for the careful STUDY of the word of God. There is a difference between reading and study. One way to study the Bible is to select a particular subject or certain passage of scripture and try to learn everything possible about it by studying related verses. These verses can be found using study helps like the cross references in our Bibles, a Bible concordance, a topical Bible, etc. Comparing these related verses should give us a clear idea of what the Bible teaches about that subject or verse.
Paul writes to the Corinthian Church:
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." — I Corinthians 2:12,13
The "spiritual things" Paul is talking about is not "the words which man’s wisdom teacheth." Rather it is the words "which the Holy Ghost teacheth." In other words, we teach by comparing scripture with scripture. That is the only way to learn what the Bible really teaches, and that is the method we have used throughout this course. For example, in our study of the believer’s promised resurrection body, we made a list of all the scriptures we could find about that subject. Then, we examined each verse closely, noting the context. Then we interpreted the more obscure verses in the light of the clearly understandable ones. Thus we were able to determine what the Bible teaches about our future resurrection body.
The faithful men of Berea, to whom Paul preached (Acts 17:10,11), should be an example to all believers who study the word of God with an earnest desire for the truth.
These men were commended because,
"[T]hey received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
— Acts 17:11
Always remember that the FINAL AUTHORITY for our faith is the scriptures themselves, and the only absolutely reliable commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. Learn to study the word of God by comparing scripture with scripture, and be careful to bathe your study in prayer.
As we undertake a sincere, in-depth study of the scriptures, we should be mindful that there are dangers. It is interesting to study about Bible history and to learn new doctrines, but that alone is not our goal. Instead, each believer should do all he can to DISCOVER the will of God for his life. Furthermore, he should strive to APPLY the things he learns to his daily life.
We read in the wisdom of the Proverbs:
"A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight." — Proverbs 11:1
We must strive for balance in our Christian life.
Let’s not spend so much time studying, that we hinder the Holy Spirit from molding our lives according to the truths we have learned.
James says it very well:
"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." — James 1:22-24
James likens the Bible to a looking glass (a mirror). When we read the word of God, we see ourselves as God sees us— the Bible tells us about ourselves. The Holy Spirit will bear witness to the words of scripture, and HE, who moved holy men of God to speak, will drive its words home to our hearts and minds. But WE must decide if we will believe and obey the scriptures, or reject them in unbelief. WE must decide if we will follow God or pursue our own interests. Millions of Christians around the world take great pleasure in studying the Holy Bible. However, we must maintain a balance between studying the Bible and living a life that reflects the truths we have learned.
Andrew Murray said much the same thing:
"You have Christians who devote themselves most diligently to the study of God’s word, who are delighted with every new truth they discover, or every new light in which an old truth is set before them, and who yet scarce ever meet the one Divine Word, who speaks in power within them."
J. Sidlow Baxter also touched on this:
"In our study of the Bible, also, we need to guard against becoming so engrossed in the fascination of the subject that we lose sight of the object. As we have said, in these studies we want to get hold of the big, broad meanings in the wonderful old Book: but unless the meanings get hold of us our study will have failed of its vital objective. Our Lord Jesus Himself has taught us that HE is the focal theme of all the Scriptures; and everywhere, therefore, we want to see beyond the written word, to Him who is the living Word."
Beware Of Extremes
So we see that even a good thing like studying the Bible can be taken to the extreme. As a matter of fact, there are two potential pitfalls for the student of the word of God that should be mentioned.
In contrast to the noble Bereans (already mentioned), is another group to whom Paul preached, who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21). Their motive for studying was not to discover the will of God, or how to live a life more pleasing to God. Their motive was to show how well-read they were, and what great authorities they were on the Bible and all literature.
These Christians tend to overemphasize the value of knowledge to the neglect of love. They usually do little more than discuss doctrine, forgetting to live the doctrines they believe. Often they develop some pet doctrine that becomes their hobbyhorse. This is what we might call intellectual Christianity— all knowledge and no love.
We never want to become such bookworms that we do nothing but sit at home all the time, studying the Bible. Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church is still true.
"Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth."
— I Corinthians 8:1
Soulwinning, daily prayer, and clean holy living— each of these endeavors is just as important as study. But any one of them, pursued to the neglect of the others, will create a FALSE BALANCE. If you know the Bible well, perhaps the Lord will give you an opportunity to teach the Bible to others in a Sunday school class or home Bible study, even as Paul instructed Timothy to do.
"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." — II Timothy 2:2
When the Holy Spirit teaches us the Bible, He does not intend for us to become a puffed up know-it-all. He wants us to actively minister to others, and to apply what we have learned from the word of God to our daily lives as the good Samaritan did.
"And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him: and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was a neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise." — Luke 10:30-37
The priest "SAW" the man, and the Levite "LOOKED ON HIM," but neither of them took the time to HELP him. These religious men were absorbed in conducting ceremonies, spending time in prayer and teaching the scriptures, but they had no compassion on this poor man, nor did they show him mercy. When no one was watching, they failed the test of real Christianity. Sometimes we, too, get so caught up in being religious that we forget to have compassion. Being religious costs us nothing, but being the servant of the Lord will cost us everything. It means that we put the needs of others before our own needs, even as Christ did.
"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
— Matthew 20:28
Have you ever felt led of the Lord to witness to some soul the Lord pointed out to you, only to think you were too busy to stop RIGHT THEN and show compassion? I am sure each of us has done this very thing at one time or another, and have quenched the Spirit of God. We should be careful to take advantage of every opportunity to minister to those about us as their needs are made known to us by the Lord.
As the Bible says,
"Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee." — Proverbs 3:27-28
Every sincere believer wants to delve into the deeper things of God, and get hold of the meat of the word of God— that’s normal. But we must be mindful of the warning given in the book of Hebrews.
"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein." — Hebrews 13:9
We know the word of God gives us a balanced diet for our spiritual growth. It provides milk (simple things), and it provides strong meat (deep things— Hebrews 5:12-14).
The main theme of Hebrews is "something better"— the New Testament in contrast to the Old Testament. Hebrews 13 contains a warning that has to do with doctrine, especially regarding "meats" (those things allowed or forbidden under the Jewish law). They are warned not to be "carried about" by these relatively unimportant things (meats— the ceremonial things— the letter of the law), but to let their hearts be established with grace (spiritual things— the spirit of the law). It is not only a warning about false doctrines, but also about unusual doctrines of the word of God— it is not profitable to become "occupied" with those things. Through diligent study we can learn about the deep things of God, but we must guard against developing such a fascination for study that we neglect witnessing, ministering to others, worshipping, and praising God as we should. (It is even possible to spend so much time in the word of God that we neglect to spend time with God himself!) The most important thing in our Christian life is our relationship with our heavenly Father. The Lord does not look at the outward appearance— He looks at the inward heart motives (I Samuel 16:7). Always remember it is our hearts that are important! That will be the key factor at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Time spent studying the word of God is always time well spent, and we should try to learn all we can. But we must be careful not to become so occupied with dispensationalism, prophecy, the Great Tribulation, or the Antichrist, etc. that we forget to witness and minister to others.
Keep in mind that, "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth" (I Corinthians 8:1). To be an expert on the Bible, but not to have charity (love in action), is to miss the whole purpose of studying the Scriptures. In I Corinthians there is a whole chapter about this kind of love (I Corinthians 13) which we need to read again and again, lest we forget the importance of charity. We must feed our minds with the strong meat of the word of God, but our hearts need to be "established with grace" (Hebrews 13:9).
In his first epistle to the young Timothy, Paul writes about some believers who had gotten off the track when they left off charity and faith in their desire to be teachers. (That is what happens to those who put an overemphasis on study.) These "teachers" Paul wrote about had become legalistic. "Desiring to be teachers of the law," they wanted to be recognized and followed as teachers. They wanted to show how much they knew, but were really only showing how little they knew (I Corinthians 8:2). Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it only generates pride when that wonderful ingredient charity is missing.
"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." — I Timothy 1:5-7
Notice that when Paul speaks of his salvation, he recalls the grace and the love of God he experienced.
"And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." — I Timothy 1:14
Our heart’s desire should be to develop such a deep personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that His love will be manifested toward others in our daily lives. We must have a love for God, a love for God’s people, and a love for lost souls!
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." — John 13:35
"[T]he love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." — Romans 5:5
"But if any man love God, the same is known of him."
— I Corinthians 8:3
The Second Is Emotional Christianity.
The second extreme is emotional Christianity, which overemphasizes LOVE to the neglect of KNOWLEDGE. Folks in this group usually have little systematic understanding of doctrine since they do not rightly divide the word. Therefore, they develop a definite imbalance in their Christian lives. Having little understanding of the mind of God from their study of the scriptures, they know little about the heart of God (His will). Since they do not walk in the Spirit, they walk in the flesh (Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 5:16) and become worldly Christians.
The Bible warns us:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." — I John 2:15-17
These worldly beleivers’ spiritual walk is revealed by their dress and their music. For example, so-called "gospel rock" is popularly approved by this crowd. What is gospel rock? This is like saying there is a holy devil— the two words just do not go together. Gospel rock is nothing more than secular rock music with enough gospel words in the lyrics to give it a religious sound. It is still the same satanic music written and played by today’s popular God-rejecting, dope dealing, reprobate musicians. The only difference is the words, and even those usually present worldly thoughts and ambitions. Unfortunately, there are many worldly Christians (Revelation 3:14-19) who love that kind of slop, so they keep trying to mix the things of Satan’s world system with the things of God.
Because these believers exhibit too much love and too little knowledge, they teach heresies from the Bible. They often take scriptures out of context, and take doctrine from other dispensations to apply it to New Testament Christians. That is what happened in the Corinthian church, and that was much of the problem addressed in the book of Hebrews. Remember, love must be tempered with knowledge. However, this group places little emphasis on knowledge, except their pet doctrines. While we know that God is love, He still seems to think doctrine is quite important also.
Notice what the Bible says:
"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."
— I Timothy 5:17
And again Paul tells Timothy:
"Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine."
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine;"
— I Timothy 4:13,16
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;" — II Timothy 4:3
"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:"
— Titus 2:1
The Bible puts great emphasis upon the study and teaching of doctrine, properly balanced with the love of God. That is what the Lord wants us to do.
We read in our King James Bible, how the Psalmist honors the Lord saying,
"[I] love thy commandments above gold." — Psalm 119:127
We should certainly love God’s commandments the way David did, and one of the most important commandments in the Bible for a Christian is found in Paul’s letter to Timothy.
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." — II Timothy 2:15
Disobedience to that command is the cause of almost all doctrinal strife among believers today. The words "rightly dividing" are the key to understanding the word of God. Misunderstanding, confusion and heresy result when we fail to note proper divisions in God’s dealings with man. Not every verse in the Bible can be applied doctrinally to the born again Christian in the Church Age. Only by rightly dividing the scriptures can we know which parts apply to believers today. We will begin by looking at three of the most apparent divisions in the Old Testament.
2. Under the law
3. After the law
God told Noah:
"Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things." — Genesis 9:3
He also told Moses and the Jews:
"And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.
Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.
Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you."
— Leviticus 11:1-4
But then He told Paul:
"[E]very creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:" — I Timothy 4:4
Here we have three commandments from God regarding eating. Which one should we obey today? Looking at these examples, it is evident that either the Bible contradicts itself, or God has changed His manner of dealing with man regarding these things. Because we know the scriptures are not contradictory, it is clear that something has changed. While God never changes, regarding His person or attributes, He does change His manner of dealing with people and nations in different dispensations. If we do not obey God’s command to "rightly divide" the word, we are confronted with a host of scriptures that appear to contradict one another. To understand what is happening, we must note the beginning and end of each division.
Today there are some (especially a sect called Seventh-Day Adventists) who teach that New Testament Christians are still required to keep the Old Testament law. Furthermore, they say that many different kinds of meats are still forbidden, as the law says in Leviticus. Not understanding the proper divisions in the Bible, these false teachers are living in direct opposition to the clear instruction of the New Testament. As we read in I Timothy 4:4, the New Testament says that AFTER THE DEATH OF CHRIST, we CAN eat those meats formerly forbidden by the law, as long as we give thanks unto the Lord for them.
This is but one example of "rightly dividing the word of God." There are many other examples like this throughout the Bible. For instance, in Exodus 20:8-11, God tells those Jews (under the law), "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Furthermore, He tells them not to do any kind of work on the Sabbath day (Saturday, the 7th day of the week). Yet, when we look at the New Testament scriptures, we find something completely different being taught about the Sabbath and other holy days.
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:"
— Colossians 2:16
Another passage in the book of Romans says:
"Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?…
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." — Romans 14:4-7
Of course, it is true that Old Testament believers were UNDER THE LAW and therefore forbidden to eat certain foods, or to do any work on the Sabbath Day. But in the New Testament, where believers are UNDER GRACE, no day is distinguished from another and believers are free to observe these days, or not to observe them, as they wish. It is clear, then, that there has been a change in God’s dealings with man regarding holy days after the death of Christ. The only way to note and understand such changes is by rightly dividing the word.
Certainly, most Christians have been taught to make at least the one division that distinguishes the Old Testament from the New Testament. That division marks the end of God’s dealing with man under the Law (before Christ’s death), and the beginning of God’s dealing with man by grace after the Lord’s death. However, as we have seen, there are several other divisions in the Old Testament, and still more divisions in the New Testament. For the remainder of this lesson, we are going to study some things in the word of God that can only be properly understood and applied when the word of God is rightly divided.
Understanding Divisions (pp. 15-19)
Three classes of people
The first division essential to our study of the Bible, deals with three classes of people. Paul mentions all three of them in his first letter to the Church at Corinth.
"Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:" — I Corinthians 10:32
The three classes of people mentioned are:
Although the Bible is written to these three classes of people, the greatest part of it is addressed to the Jews (Israel) as a nation. Other parts are only for Gentiles and others for the Church. We will see from the Bible what God has to say about each of these people, and learn their distinguishing characteristics.
I quote at length from Dr. C.I. Scofield’s book Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth.
"Whoever reads the Bible with any attention cannot fail to perceive that more than half of the contents relate to one nation— the Israelites. He perceives, too, that they have a very distinct place in the dealings and counsels of God. Separated from the mass of mankind, they are taken into covenant with Jehovah, who gives them specific promises not given to any other nation. Their history alone is told in Old Testament narrative and prophecy, other nations being mentioned only as they touch the Jew. It appears, also, that all the communications of Jehovah to Israel as a nation relates to the earth. If faithful and obedient, they are promised earthly greatness, riches and power; if unfaithful and disobedient, they are to be scattered ‘among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other’ (Deuteronomy 28:64). Even the promise of the Messiah is of blessing to ‘all the families of the Earth.’"
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was given specific promises and covenants. It is evident that they have not yet received ALL of them; but we know they WILL receive them in full one day, because God does not lie (Numbers 23:19). They will not receive them now, during the Church Age, but later when the Lord returns to establish His earthly kingdom. Some Bible teachers claim that the Church has replaced the Jew, and that the Church will now receive the promises made to the Jew. They believe that God has finished dealing with the nation of Israel, but that is simply not true. The Bible tells us in Romans 11:25-26 that such teachers are ignorant and conceited. While God has temporarily set them aside, He will resume His dealings with Israel as a nation, after the body of Christ is taken to Heaven in the rapture.
"I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:"
— Romans 11:1,11,24-26
"Continuing his researches, the student finds large mention in scripture of another body, which is called the Church. This body also has a peculiar relation to God, and, like Israel, has received from Him specific promises. But the similarity ends there, and the most striking contrast begins. Instead of being formed of the natural descendants of Abraham alone, it is a body in which the distinction of Jew and Gentile is lost. Instead of the relation being one of mere covenant, it is one of birth. Instead of obedience bringing the reward of earthly greatness and wealth, the Church is taught to be content with food and raiment, and to expect persecution and hatred, and it is perceived that just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the Church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things.
In the appointments for worship we still find contrast. Israel could worship in but one place, and at a distance from God— only approaching Him through a priest. The Church worships wherever two or three are gathered, has boldness to enter into the holiest, and is composed of priests.
Compare the instructions found in the following references:
In the predictions concerning the future of Israel and the Church, the distinction is still more startling. The Church will be taken away from the earth entirely, but restored Israel is yet to have her greatest earthly splendor and power.
Comparing, then, what is said in scripture concerning Israel and the Church, he finds that in origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny— all is contrast.
Instead of pursuing her appointed path of separation from the world and following the Lord in her heavenly calling, she (the Church) has used Jewish scriptures to justify herself in lowering her purpose to the civilization of the world, the acquisition of wealth, the use of imposing ritual, the erection of magnificent churches, the invocation of God’s blessing upon the conflicts of armies, and the division of an equal brotherhood into ‘clergy’ and ‘laity.’"
We may also note that, while Israel is a physical body of men and women who compose a nation, the Church is a spiritual body of the souls of men and women who make up the bride of Christ. The Church has a spiritual priesthood (I Peter 2:5,9), while Israel had a physical Levitical priesthood. They are not the same.
Another class of people mentioned in the Bible is the Gentiles (referred to as "dogs" in the scriptures— Mark 7:28, 29). They are rarely mentioned, except in distinction to the Church or the Jew. In the New Testament, a Gentile is one who is neither a Jew nor a Christian (Ephesians 2:11,12; 4:17,18). Of course, when a Gentile gets saved, he is no longer considered a Gentile in God’s eyes, but a Christian, and part of the body of Christ, the Church. Likewise, a Jew in this dispensation is an unsaved man who is born of the nation of Israel, and is not a Gentile. So, when a Jew gets saved (by believing the gospel), he is no longer considered a Jew in God’s eyes: he is a Christian also. In Christ, all racial distinctions are lost.
Determining Doctrinal Applications
We must realize the bearing these three different classes of people have on our understanding of the scriptures. When studying the Bible, we must be careful to note who is speaking, and to whom. Then, we can determine, by the context, whether the verse is only for the Jews, only for the Gentiles, for lost people in general, or for the body of Christ (the Church). Many times a verse will apply to all three classes.
"Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it." — Isaiah 34:1
This verse clearly gives us the context of those following it. They are applicable to the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church of God— they are for everyone in the whole world, everywhere. But how can we know what scriptures specifically apply to the born again believer today, doctrinally? Of course, as we have said before, the answer lies in marking the proper divisions in scripture.
If the teachings of other scripture agree with Paul’s teachings, they can be applied to the believer in the Church Age. If not, they must apply to someone else in a time when God is dealing with another group, and must not be taught nor applied as doctrine for today.
See what the apostle Paul says:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." — I Timothy 3:l6
"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition..." — I Corinthians 10:11
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were for our learning." — Romans l5:4
However, we can use any scripture in the Bible for doctrine today as long as it does not contradict doctrine taught in Paul’s epistles to the Church.
Paul instructs the Church:
"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began," — Romans 16:25
So, all doctrine for the Church, must be in harmony with the doctrine Paul preached, "according to the revelation of the mystery" of the body of Christ.
Of course, that means we can also apply scripture from the Old Testament, the book of Acts, the four Gospels and other books of the Bible to our life today as long as it corresponds with the Pauline revelation for the Church. That is the real test.
Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles
In the book of Acts, we see how the Apostle Paul was saved and called to preach, and that while his own heart’s desire was to see Israel saved, God gave him a new ministry to the Gentiles.
"And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." — Acts 18:8
In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul says:
"But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)" — Galatians 2:7,8
In this verse, "the uncircumcision" means the Gentiles, while "the circumcision" means the Jews.
"For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:" — Romans 11:13
You will notice that most of Paul’s epistles are addressed to the Church (all born again believers since Acts 2). The question may arise, "Then what about all the other scriptures— are they no longer of use to us?" Of course they are! But, during the "times of the Gentiles," believers are to follow the doctrine of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (in distinction from the Jews). And Paul himself tells us,
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
— I Corinthians 11:1
Paul was specially chosen by the Lord to reveal a new doctrine previously hidden from believers. The Lord showed Paul that the Gentiles, as well as the Jews, could be saved by the gospel of salvation by faith alone.
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:" — Ephesians 3:1-9
When he wrote to the Romans, Paul called it "my gospel," and a "mystery."
"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began," — Romans 16:25
It was certainly a surprise to all of the apostles who gathered together for this official meeting to determine its validity.
"And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." — Acts 14:27
If there seem to be "contradictions" between the books written to the Jews and Paul’s epistles to the Church, then the Bible division can be drawn between Philemon and Hebrews.
Now, that does not mean there is no spiritual truth found there that can be applied to the Christian today. But, just as a Christian is not to take the Jewish dietary laws recorded in the book of Leviticus as doctrine, neither is he to look to any Jewish epistles for doctrine.
The first thing to be considered when studying a verse of scripture is its doctrinal content. That is the only way to make proper application of scripture. People get caught up in false teaching when they try to apply passages of scripture to themselves, which are not intended for them doctrinally. (Every false teacher can quote some scripture to justify his position.) We read in Matthew 4 that even the devil quoted scripture, when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Of course, the Devil took scripture out of context. The temptation before Jesus was to apply the right scripture at the wrong time. To do so would have been a serious offense to God.
Here is the second thing we must note in rightly dividing the scriptures:
1. The historical application.
2. The doctrinal application.
3. The spiritual or devotional application.
Now, we will take a closer look at these three applications so we will be able to identify them.
1. Is the verse aimed at the Jews, the Gentiles or the Church?
2. Is the verse speaking to someone living before Calvary or after Calvary, before or after the rapture, etc.?
If we follow these simple guidelines we can be confident that we are making the proper doctrinal application of scripture.
Another important application of scripture is its spiritual (or devotional) application— that is the practical application of the passage to the life and conduct of the believer. God uses His word in this way to speak to us personally concerning His will for our lives. We must always remember that every verse in the Bible can be used "for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." The spiritual application of any verse can be made today, regardless of its doctrinal application.
Remember what Paul wrote:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." — II Timothy 3:16
Here are four examples:
1. Paul used several verses from the Old Testament to instruct Church Age saints. These Old Testament verses had nothing to do with the Church doctrinally.
In his letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul wrote:
"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." — II Corinthians 6:16
Paul quoted Leviticus 26:12 (Old Testament), and applied it to New Testament Christians. Studying that verse in its context, we find it is a reference to the Jew entering the Millennium. But Paul is not making a doctrinal application, as is made in Leviticus, nor is he using the historical application, also found there. No, Paul is making a practical, spiritual application of the passage to Christians in this Church Age. That is perfectly acceptable, because it doesn’t contradict anything that the Lord revealed to Paul.
2. Another example is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
"As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack." — II Corinthians 8:15
The context of II Corinthians is giving (tithing). Notice that in verses 12, 13, and 14, Paul is talking about giving money in the Church Age. But the Old Testament verse he quotes (Exodus 16:18) is talking about the Jews going out and gathering up the manna that God fed them in the wilderness. So he is making a practical, spiritual application of a verse from the Book of Exodus to believers today.
3. One more example is found in Acts 13.
"Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you." — Acts 13:40,41
Preaching to the men in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, Paul quoted the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:5). We see that, in its context, the original statement is a reference to the invasion of the Chaldeans. Doctrinally, that had nothing to do with those to whom Paul was speaking in Acts 13; but that is an example of how we can make spiritual application of scripture to ourselves, even when it has nothing to do with us doctrinally. Proper spiritual application of every verse in the Bible can be made to the Church Age, but the doctrinal application of every verse cannot be made to the Church today.
Remember, all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for:
4. Now, let’s compare Hosea 11:1 with Matthew 2:15, and make all three applications to one verse.
"And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son."
— Matthew 2:15
Matthew is referring to Christ. Joseph and Mary took Jesus down to Egypt to escape Herod, and then they came back "out of Egypt." Matthew is saying that the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, spoke of this when he said, "out of Egypt have I called my son."
Now, turn back to the book of Hosea:
"When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." — Hosea 11:1
In Hosea, "my son" is a reference to the nation of Israel. We know this, because we read in Exodus 4:22 that God had already used this term "my son" in speaking of them. Hosea was speaking of the past deliverance of Israel out of Egypt under Moses.
Seeing these three applications of Hosea 11:1, you can understand how important the proper application of scripture is in determining Bible doctrine for us today.
This third guide for making proper divisions in scripture is dispensations.
On page 5 of the Scofield Reference Bible, we find a good definition of the word "dispensation":
"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."
Dr. Peter Ruckman adds:
The Greek word for dispensation is ‘oikonomia’ (oikonomia)." It "…does not mean a ‘period of time’ at all; it means ‘the laws by which a household is operated, or the way the master of a house arranges his household.’ Our word ‘ecumenical’ comes from this word. Still, this word has been used, ever since 1700, to mean ‘a period of time.’ This, of course, is due to the fact that as the Master of the house (Hebrews 3:2; Ephesians 2:19), God, sets up different ways of running His ‘family’ at different times, according to His own wisdom. TIME BRACKETS show up where alterations in method and protocol take place. Clarence Larkin’s Dispensational Truth is the real granddaddy of all the work done since 1929. It is a superb, scriptural work; but, in constructing the charts, the time element is very conspicuous; it has to be. The law was given at a certain time, in a certain place. Christ died on the cross at a certain time, in a certain place, etc. Larkin’s charts are well done; they are excellently drawn, and everything in them, that is true, scripturally, can be found in ANY edition of a King James Bible. No knowledge of Greek or Hebrew is necessary to understand one ‘dispensational teaching’ in the entire book of over four hundred regular pages. Before Larkin (Scofield, 1909, for example), a number of dispensations were listed and commented on with several hundred scriptural cross references (see p. 6).
Now, anyone can pick up a King James Bible and see immediately that there are at least two different dispensations: the Old Testament and the New Testament. But with more study, we see that there are other divisions as well. For example, when we look more closely, we see that the Old Testament and the New Testament each have five dispensational divisions.
I quote from Dr. C.I. Scofield’s excellent booklet Rightly Dividing the Word).
"The scriptures divide time (by which is meant the entire period from the creation of Adam to the ‘new heaven and new earth’ of Revelation 21:1) into seven unequal periods, usually called ‘Dispensations’ (Ephesians 3:2), although these periods are also called ‘ages’ (Ephesians 2:7) and ‘days’— as ‘day of the Lord,’ etc.
These periods are marked off in scripture by some change in God’s method of dealing with mankind, or a portion of mankind, in respect of the two questions: of SIN, and of MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY. Each of the dispensations may be regarded as a new test of the natural man, and each ends in judgment— marking his utter failure in every dispensation."
The purpose of this lesson is to merely survey the main elements by which right divisions can be made in our Bible. Now, here are the ten dispensations as they are found in the King James Bible.
(Sometimes called The Edenic Dispensation)
"Man Innocent— This dispensation extends from the creation of Adam, Genesis 2:7, to the expulsion from Eden. Adam, created innocent, and ignorant of good and evil, was placed in the garden of Eden with his wife, Eve, and put under responsibility to abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Dispensation of Innocence resulted in the first failure of man, and in its far-reaching effects, the most disastrous. It closed in judgment; ‘So he drove out the man.’ See: Genesis 1:26; 2:16,17; 3:6; and 3:22-24."
(Sometimes called The Adamic Dispensation— Genesis 3:22-8:19)
"Man Under Conscience— By the fall, Adam and Eve acquired, and transmitted to the race, the knowledge of good and evil. This gave conscience a basis for right moral judgment, and hence the race came under this measure of responsibility— to do good and eschew evil. The result of the Dispensation of Conscience, from Eden to the Flood (while there was no institution of government and of law), was that ‘all flesh had corrupted his way on the earth’; that ‘the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’; and God closed the second testing of the natural man with judgment— the flood (Genesis 3:7,22; 6:5,11,12; 7:11,12,23)."
(Sometimes known as The Noahic Dispensation, this period begins with Noah’s commission to replenish the earth and ends with the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel— Genesis 8:20-11:32.)
"Man in Authority Over the Earth— Out of the fearful judgment of the Flood God saved eight persons, to whom, after the waters were assuaged, He gave the purified earth with ample power to govern it. This, Noah and his descendants were responsible to do. The Dispensation of Human Government resulted, upon the plain of Shinar, in the impious attempt to become independent of God and closed in judgment— the Confusion of Tongues. See: Genesis 9:1,2; 11:1-4; 11:5-8."
(Sometimes called The Abrahamic Dispensation— Genesis 12:1 through Exodus 20— this period begins with the calling out of Abraham and ends with deliverance from bondage in Egypt.)
"Man Under Promise— Out of the dispersed descendants of the builders of Babel, God now calls one man, Abram, with whom He enters into covenant. Some of the promises to Abram and his descendants were purely gracious and unconditional. These either have been, or will be, literally fulfilled. Other promises were conditional upon the faithfulness and obedience of the Israelites. Every one of these conditions was violated, and the Dispensation of Promise resulted in the failure of Israel and closed in the judgment of Bondage in Egypt."
The book of Genesis which opens with the sublime words, ‘In the beginning God created,’ closes with, ‘In a coffin in Egypt.’ See: Genesis 12:1-3; 15:5; 26:2; 28:12,13; 13:14-17; Exodus 1:13,14."
(Sometimes referred to as The Mosaic Dispensation— Exodus 20 through John 1:6— it begins with the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai and ends with the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist)
"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it."
— Luke 16:16
(This is a variation from the Scofield notes; He ends the law with Calvary. There’s nothing wrong with ending it at Calvary, but I make a further division here, because the Bible does say that "The law and the prophets were until John.")
"Man Under Law— Again the grace of God came to the help of helpless man and redeemed the chosen people out of the hand of the oppressor. In the wilderness of Sinai He proposed to them the Covenant of Law. Instead of humbly pleading for a continued relation of grace, they presumptuously answered: ‘All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.’ The history of Israel in the wilderness and in the Land is one long record of flagrant, persistent violation of the Law, and at last after multiplied warnings, God closed the testing of man by Law in judgment: first Israel, and then Judah, were driven out of the Land into a dispersion which still continues. A feeble remnant returned under Ezra and Nehemiah, of which, in due time, Christ came: ‘Born of a woman— made under the law.’ Him both Jews and Gentiles conspired to crucify. See: Exodus 19:1-8; II Kings 25:1-11 Romans 3:19, 20; 10:5; Acts 2:22,23; 7:51,52; Gal. 3:10."
[Sometimes called The Intermediate Dispensation— it begins with John the Baptist (John 1:6) and ends with the Day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).]
This is another dispensation that Dr. Scofield doesn’t recognize. We will study it more thoroughly later.
(Sometimes referred to as The Dispensation of Grace— it begins with the descent of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, and ends with the rapture of the Church. We are NOW living in this period of time.)
"Man Under Grace— The sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ introduced the dispensation of pure grace— which means undeserved favor, or God giving righteousness, instead of God requiring righteousness, as under the Law.
Salvation, perfect and eternal, is now freely offered to Jew and Gentile upon the acknowledgment of sin, or repentance, faith in Christ.
‘Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent’ — John 6:29
(cf. John 5:24; 6:47; 10:27,28; Ephesians 2:8,9.)
The predicted result of this testing of man under grace is judgment upon an unbelieving world and an apostate Church. See: Luke 17:26-30; 18:8; II Thessalonians 2:7-12; Revelation 3:15,16.
The first event in the closing of this dispensation will be the descent of the Lord from heaven, when sleeping saints will be raised and, together with believers then living, caught up ‘to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’ (ii Thessalonians 4:16,17.)"
(Also called The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, or Daniel’s 70th Week.)
We read about this time of tribulation in many places in the Bible. Revelation 6-19 gives us a detailed account of the Tribulation Period. Matthew 24 is also about this terrible time of trial upon the earth that begins after the rapture of the Church and lasts for 7 years. It ends with Christ’s second coming and the Battle of Armageddon.
(Also referred to as Christ’s kingdom upon the Earth, this period begins with the Judgment of the Nations found in Matthew 25, after the Second Advent and after the Battle of Armageddon. It lasts for one thousand years.)
You will find the Millennium mentioned in Revelation 11:15; 20:1-6 and hundreds of other places in the Bible. It ends with the release of Satan from the bottomless pit. Then follows the rebellion of Christ’s enemies. Finally, following the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:7-15), this present Heaven and earth will be destroyed and a new universe created for eternity.
"Man Under The Personal Reign Of Christ — After purifying judgments which attend the personal return of Christ to the earth, He will reign over restored Israel and over the earth for one thousand years. This is the period commonly called the Millennium. The seat of His power will be Jerusalem, and the saints, including the saved of the Dispensation of Grace, viz., the Church, will be associated with Him in His glory. See: Acts 15:14-17; Isaiah 2:1-4; the whole chapter of Isaiah 11; Revelation 19:11-21; 20:1-6.
But when Satan is ‘loosed a little season,’ he finds the natural heart as prone to evil as ever, and easily gathers the nations to battle against the Lord and His saints, and this last dispensation closes, like all the others, in judgment."
[(Ephesians 1:10; I Corinthians 15:24-28) This final period begins with the creation of a new Heaven and new earth (Revelation 21 and 22) and goes on into never-ending eternity.] The ‘great white throne’ is set, the wicked dead are raised and finally judged, and then come the ‘new heaven and a new earth’— eternity is begun. See: Revelation 20:3, 7-15 and 21:1-22."
There are many good works available on dispensations. Below is a list of some that I have profited by. Beginning from the simplest to the more advanced:
1. Define the word "dispensation."
From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22, Bible dispensations cover all of human history. It is not written to the Church only. In fact, most of the Bible is written to the nation of Israel.
When the saints are called out at the rapture, the Bible will still be here, so those left behind can know how to be saved. While the plan of salvation varies from one dispensation to the next, it is always based on obeying what God said. Doctrinally, every verse in the Bible falls into one of the ten divisions we have just looked at, and is aimed at the Jews, the Gentiles, the church of God, or all three. A knowledge of dispensations is absolutely necessary to understand the scriptures. We must recognize these proper divisions, because God deals differently with people in various dispensations. If we fail to make these distinctions, the Bible becomes a book of confusion, filled with apparent contradictions. The following examples should make this plain.
The word "gospel" simply means "good news." The good news the nation of Israel was looking for was the coming of the promised Messiah to establish His kingdom on earth. Study the scriptures below and see what the Bible says about the gospel.
1. When John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness, he preached "the gospel of the kingdom."
"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." — Matthew 3:1,2
2. When Jesus Christ was on earth, he preached "the gospel of the kingdom."
"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom..." — Matthew 4:23
This "gospel of the kingdom" was to Israel only:
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
— Matthew 10:5-7
Jesus commanded his disciples not to go to the Gentiles, but only to preach "the gospel of the kingdom" to "the lost house of Israel." Paul was commissioned to preach a new gospel to all alike in the Church Age, rather than "the gospel of the kingdom" to the Jews.
In Acts 20, Paul says:
"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." — Acts 20:24
Here is Paul’s definition of "the gospel of the grace of God:"
"[H]ow that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." — I Corinthians 15:3,4
Paul’s gospel was that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again— according to the scriptures. He preached this gospel because the Lord Jesus Christ told him to preach this gospel.
"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." — Galatians 1:11,12
He was not taught this gospel by Peter, the apostles or any man: it was revealed to him directly by the Lord Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the Galatians he makes a strong statement:
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." — Galatians 1:8,9
When the Holy Spirit says anything twice it is significant. He led Paul to repeat himself in these two verses to emphasize that there is more than one gospel, and that the man who does not preach the right gospel at the right time is accursed. Now if we fail to rightly divide the word of God here, we have Paul calling Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, and all of the disciples "accursed," because the gospel they preached is not the same gospel preached by the apostle Paul. Every one of them preached "the gospel of the kingdom," but Paul preached "the gospel of the grace of God." It should be obvious then, that verses 8 and 9 must refer to those who preach "another gospel" in this present dispensation of grace. (He clearly instructs believers about this in Galatians 1:6.) Being the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul wrote to the Church. If we do not make that distinction we will not be able to completely understand the word of God.
3. The plan of salvation in effect during the Tribulation contradicts Church Age doctrine. It is different from the clear plan of salvation by grace, through faith alone. For example, look at Matthew 24 where Christ is preaching the "the gospel of the kingdom" for those in the Great Tribulation.
"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." — Matthew 24:13
How do we know that this verse applies to the period of time called the Great Tribulation? It is simple, just look at the context.
"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" — Matthew 24:3
Despite the evident application of these verses, many still teach Matthew 24:13 as a plan of salvation for today. But read what Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, writes to the Church at Corinth.
"Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth…
Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." — I Corinthians 1:2,6-8
This verse, which is clearly written to Church Age saints, says that Christ will confirm us to "the end." But, Matthew 24:13 says that only those who "endure to the end," will be saved (Matthew 24 applies to the Jews during the Tribulation, and "the end" refers to the end of the seven-year tribulation period they will go through).
"[T]he end" Christ is speaking of is plainly the end of the Great Tribulation. It is easy to see that there is a difference between these two passages of scripture. They clearly teach two different plans of salvation, for two different periods of time.
4. Look now in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. Doctrinally, this book is for the Jew, one of the three classes of people to whom the Bible is written.
"But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." — Hebrews 3:6
"[H]is own house" refers to the house of Israel. Furthermore, "if" means that there are certain conditions to be met. The condition is that they remain faithful to "the end."
Notice again in Hebrews 3, Paul says:
"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;" — Hebrews 3:14
This book is written for the Hebrews. It says that someone (those Jews) will be made partakers of Christ "if" (there is a condition) they hold out "stedfast unto the end" (the end of the Tribulation). This verse is commonly used to teach that a believer can lose his salvation. Indeed, it is true, but not in the Church Age. The doctrinal application is for a Hebrew during the Great Tribulation. Church Age believers are eternally secure in Christ.
Church Age believers are already—
Now, let’s look at the epistle to the Philippians, written to Christians (in the body of Christ) by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Then we will compare this with Matthew 24:13 and Hebrews 3:6.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" — Philippians 1:6
This verse in Philippians is clearly different from those in Matthew and Hebrews. Paul tells the Philippians that Jesus Christ will perform the good work He has begun in them, "until the day of Jesus Christ." What a contrast to the verses in Matthew and Hebrews, where those believers must "endure until the end" to be saved. (They will be in jeopardy of losing their salvation.) This hardly gives one the confidence that Paul speaks in Philippians 1:6.
5. Another prime example is found in the epistle of James. This is one of the most misapplied verses in the word of God. (Many erroneously use this verse to teach that a New Testament Christian is saved by faith plus works.)
He says in Verse 24,
"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." — James 2:24
We can see from James 1:1 that the book of James is addressed to the twelve tribes of Israel— the Jews. It is not doctrine for the New Testament Christian. So, it is not surprising that James 2:24 directly contradicts verses in Romans 3 and 5, and Ephesians 2, which are definitely written to Church Age believers.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" — Romans 3:23,24
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:" — Romans 5:1
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast." — Ephesians 2:8,9
You can see the confusion that can come from trying to apply all the scriptures, doctrinally, to a Christian in the Church Age. If we select scriptures directed at other people in other times, and try to use them as a plan of salvation today, we will find contradictions with other scriptures where the true plan of salvation is given for our dispensation. (To intentionally misapply scripture is heresy and sin.) In the Church Age, we are saved by grace through faith, plus nothing; and we cannot lose our salvation, for we are kept by the power of God (ii Timothy 1:12; I Peter 1:5).
Remember James 2:24, Matthew 24:13 and Hebrews 3:6,14? They teach that believers could only be saved by enduring to the end, and by refusing to take the mark of the beast (Revelation 14:9-11). Those scriptures cannot possibly apply to believers today, for Paul says, "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (I Corinthians 12:13). Although those who believe during the time of the seven year Tribulation will be saved, none of them will be born again. None of them will become part of the body of Christ, because the body of Christ will be in Heaven at that time. Like the Old Testament saints, those saved during the Tribulation will not be forgotten. They will merely have a different relation to Christ in eternity from those who make up His bride. For example, John the Baptist, who was saved before the New Testament was established, refers to himself as a "friend of the bridegroom" — not part of the bride (John 3:29).
Of course, salvation by faith plus works is a true doctrine. However, it is only true before Calvary and after the rapture— not now. Salvation always has an element of works, but now it is by Christ’s work for us at Calvary. Before Calvary and after the rapture, believers can lose their salvation. Furthermore, during the Tribulation, it is impossible for anyone who loses their salvation to regain it (Hebrews 6:4-6). Isn’t it strange that those who teach that believers today can lose their salvation, also believe they can get it back. This is the sort of error that naturally follows when scripture is used to justify someone’s preconceived doctrine.
Every heresy in this age is taught by taking verses that apply to the Tribulation, the Millennium, or Jesus’ earthly ministry to Israel, and misapplying them to the Church Age. Those who do so are presenting a false plan of salvation— they are sending people to Hell. So we need to correct these people, rebuke them, and try to help them to rightly divide the word of truth.
Why is it that even many Baptists have such a hard time accepting dispensational divisions? It is because they are always preaching salvation by grace through faith and contending with those teaching false doctrines of salvation for today. After a while they just develop a blind spot in this area. They err in teaching that salvation by grace through faith alone is the plan of salvation throughout the entire Bible: that just isn’t true. Others err by teaching faith and works as a plan of salvation for believers today. They are trying to make the entire Bible teach that doctrine for all periods when it does not. We must never attempt to make the Bible line up with our denominational beliefs, or twist the Bible to make it agree with our own preconceived doctrinal position. Rather, we must always be prepared to receive new light from the word of God and, if necessary, change our beliefs so that they line up with what the Bible says. If we do this, we will be able to rightly divide the word of truth, and will not end up teaching heresy. In summary, notice the progression of dispensations in the New Testament.
The first dispensation found in the gospels is merely a continuation of the Old Testament dispensation of the law, during which God dealt exclusively with the nation of Israel under the law.
When God temporarily displaced Israel, the second dispensation began. From then on, He ceased dealing with the nation of Israel under the law. We are now living in the Church Age, during which both Jews and Gentiles are made partakers of Christ by grace.
Another dispensation of time (still future) during which God will once again deal with Israel as a nation.
Matthew 3:1,2 Matthew 4:23 Matthew 10:5-7 Acts 20:24 Matthew 24:13 Philippians 1:6 Ephesians 5:30 Hebrews 3:6 Romans 3:23,24 Hebrews 3:14 James 2:24 I Timothy 3:14,15 I Corinthians 1:6-8 I Corinthians 15:3,4
Gospel of the Kingdom Gospel of the Grace of God
Four forms of the gospel
Our fourth guideline for marking divisions in the Bible is the distinction between four forms of the gospel.
(Acts 20:25; I Corinthians 15:1-4) In the previous section, under the heading Examples of Dispensations we discussed the revelation of this gospel to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
Mentioned in Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 4:23, the gospel of the kingdom was preached to the Jews only. It was the good news that the promised Messiah had come to establish His kingdom on this earth. This was the prophecy given to Mary in the gospel of Luke.
"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." — Luke 1:31-33
This was the gospel preached by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ, and all His disciples. It ended with the death of Stephen when he was stoned in Acts 7:59. Notice that Saul (who became Paul the apostle) was present at Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1; 22:20). Later, in Acts 9, he was saved by grace through faith.
Now, we will review the progression of the gospel message in the book of Acts beginning with the death of Stephen.
In Chapter Seven: The nation rejects their Messiah.
In Chapter Eight: A black Gentile (a proselyte to Judaism) becomes the first man to be saved by grace through faith in the Church Age period.
In Chapter Nine: The apostle to the Gentiles is saved.
In Chapter Ten: The revelation is given to Peter that Gentiles are no longer unclean, and even they can be saved.
That new revelation was especially important, because it verified the fact that, before that time, God was not dealing with the Gentiles as a group. By a dream, the Lord gave Peter this new revelation, which was a change from the past. He used the sign of tongues to convince those Jews accompanying Peter to Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:45).
In Chapter Eleven: Returning to Jerusalem, Peter had to go over the whole matter before the brethren, to answer their accusations and persuade them of this new doctrine.
In Chapter Fifteen: Doctrine is settled for the Church Age.
The "gospel of the kingdom" will be preached again during the Great Tribulation, after the Church is taken out in the rapture (fulfilling of Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24:14).
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." — Matthew 24:14
This "gospel of the kingdom" as a witness to the nations is very different from the gospel of the grace of God that we preach to the nations today. To confuse these gospels is to misapply scripture. Many erroneously try to teach this as the doctrine of salvation for today, but the kingdom message of faith plus works is not the right gospel for this present Church Age we live in.
Mentioned in Romans 2:16 and Romans 16:25, this is the "gospel of the grace of God" with the additional truths concerning the mystery of the body as revealed to Paul. It is defined in I Corinthians 15:1-4 as belief in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by grace, through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, plus nothing.
This is the gospel that an angel will preach for a very brief time at the end of the tribulation (Revelation 14:6-7). It is a warning for people to fear God because He is about to have His revenge at the Second Advent when He returns to destroy the Antichrist, His armies and the present world.
You will recall what Paul wrote to the Galatians:
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." — Galatians 1:8,9
Paul said that if any man, or even an angel, preached any gospel other than that revealed to him, they were accursed. Yet, the "everlasting gospel" of Revelation 14 is proclaimed by an angel and it is different from the gospel of the grace of God preached by Paul. Why isn’t this angel accursed, then? Because the gospel he is preaching is during a different dispensation and to a different class of people. If any angel preached that gospel today, he would be accursed and we would be compelled by the scripture to reject him and his message.
There is also mention in the scriptures of "another gospel" (which is not the gospel at all). It is a false gospel that adds works to the gospel of the grace of God. Again, this is a truth misplaced, and therefore heresy for this age. Once more we see the importance of making the right divisions in the word of God.
a. ____________________ c. ____________________
b. ____________________ d. ____________________
The two kingdoms
This is the fifth division that will help us in our study of the Bible. It is a complete study in itself, but we covered much of the material in our study of the four gospels and the dispensations.
Let it be noted that:
"[A]nd the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
— Luke 1:32,33
It says that Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob (the nation of Israel) forever, and there will be no end of this kingdom. Is that true today? No! Did Jesus ever sit upon the throne of David, ruling over Israel? No, He did not. Then this prophecy is yet unfulfilled, whereas men are entering "the kingdom of God" now.
So in John 3 we read:
"Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." — John 3:5
Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the King, both kingdoms may be said to be present when He is on earth. Therefore, in the four gospels, the two terms are often used interchangeably.
The sixth division for rightly dividing the scriptures is the separation of the two advents.
In his book, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, Dr. C.I. Scofield says:
"Whoever carefully considers Old Testament prophecies must be struck by two contrasting, and seemingly contradictory, lines of prediction concerning the coming Messiah.
In due time the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy began with the birth of the Virgin’s Son according to Isaiah, in Bethlehem according to Micah, and proceeded with perfect literalness unto the full accomplishment of every prediction of Messiah’s humiliation; for sin must first be put away, before the Kingdom could be established. But the Jews would not receive their King in the form in which He was presented, ‘meek and sitting upon an ass and a colt the foal of an ass’; and they crucified Him.
But we must not conclude that the wickedness of man has baffled the deliberate purpose of God, for His counsels include a second advent of His Son, when the predictions concerning Messiah’s earthly glory will receive the same precise and literal fulfillment as did those which concerned His earthly sufferings."
The first coming was at the birth of Jesus Christ. The second coming will be at the time of His return to the earth with His saints at the end of the Tribulation.
At His birth, the Lord Jesus Christ came as:
At His first coming, Jesus was like a lamb and a servant, but at His second coming He will be like:
Charismatics love to quote Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever," and of course, it is true— He is the same. However, His dealing with mankind is different during different dispensations.
There is a coming of Jesus Christ FOR His saints, and there is a coming WITH His saints.
The first part takes place when Jesus comes to call the Church (His bride) out of this world to be with Him in Heaven. This is the rapture— the coming for His saints. (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:10-11; I Thessalonians 4:16-17; Titus 2:13; Philippians 3:20-21; I John 3:1-3; Revelation 22:12 and 20— even so, come Lord Jesus). At that time, the Lord Jesus will not return all the way to the earth; He will return only as far as the clouds (I Thessalonians 4:17; Acts 1:9-11). Then the body of Christ (the Church) will be caught up to meet Him in the air.
The second part of the first advent takes place at least seven years later, at the end of the Great Tribulation. This is the coming with His saints, who will make up the armies who fight for Him at Armageddon. These will reign with King Jesus in His kingdom on earth. (cf. Joel 2:1-11, Matthew 24:29-31; II Thessalonians 1:7-8, Jude 14, Revelation 19:11-16; 20:4-5, and scores of other places.) At that time, He will come all the way back to the earth (Zechariah 14:1-4), and as He sets foot upon the Mount of Olives, it will split in half.
"The Jews were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken concerning the suffering of their Messiah, we are slow of heart to believe all that they have spoken concerning His glory. Surely the greater reproach is ours, for it ought to be easier to believe that the Son of God would come ‘in clouds of heaven with power and great glory,’ than that He would come as the Babe of Bethlehem, and the Carpenter of Nazareth. Indeed, we believe the latter because it has happened, not because the prophets foretold it, and it is time we ceased to reproach the Jews for their unbelief. If it be asked how they could possibly be blinded to the evident meaning of so many and such unequivocal predictions of His earthly glory, viz., by the process of ‘spiritualizing’ scripture. In other words, the ancient scribes are telling the people that the prophecies of Messiah’s sufferings were not to be interpreted literally, just as some modern scribes are telling the people that the prophecies of Messiah’s earthly glory are not to be literally interpreted.
But the second advent is a promise to the Church as well as to the Jew. Among the last words of comfort and exhortation addressed by our Lord to His perplexed and sorrowing disciples before He accomplished the sacrifice of the cross were these: ‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:1-3)."
The seventh division we must note is the division between the believer’s two natures (ii Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:20-24). We studied that in detail, in lesson two of this series. We review it here as a reminder that it is one of the divisions in the word of God that we must be aware of if we are to correctly understand Bible doctrine.
We learned that the Christian’s two natures are:
Yet there is also another nature inside each believer.
The new man cannot be seen, but demonstrates its divine nature when we yield to the Holy Spirit, and bring our flesh in subjection. In contrast to the "old man," our "new man:"
Those who refuse to recognize that the believer has two natures, always end up teaching the false doctrines of salvation by works, or of sinless perfection in the flesh.
standing and state
The eighth division we should note relates to the believer’s standing and state. We have also studied this in a previous lesson.
salvation and inheritance
The ninth division (one that affects the believer only) is between the requirements for his salvation and his heavenly inheritance. (See lesson 4, The Christian’s Inheritance, for a more detailed study.)
The tenth thing we find helpful is the distinction the Bible makes between two resurrections.
First, there is a resurrection FROM the dead.
Second, there is a resurrection OF the dead.
These two resurrections are separated by 1,000 years in time (Revelation 20:4-6). Now, let’s examine them briefly.
This is the resurrection of all the unsaved dead from the time of Adam to the end of the Millennium. This also includes the saints who will have died in the Millennium (John 5:28-29; Daniel 12:2).
In Christ’s day, people had heard of the resurrection OF the dead, but they did not know what the resurrection FROM the dead was. This can be seen in Mark 9:9-10, John 11:23-26 and Luke 20:35-36.
The Pharisees believed in the resurrection OF the dead (Acts 23:6-8), but they did not believe in the resurrection FROM the dead. They believed there would be only one resurrection and only one judgment at which all (lost and saved) will appear. This false doctrine is still taught by the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Church of Christ, and others. All these groups spiritualize the first resurrection, saying that it refers to the new birth. So they teach that Ephesians 2:1 and 2:6, etc. are talking about the first resurrection, which of course it is not. Making no distinction among the different judgments spoken of in the Bible, they teach the same doctrines as the Pharisees, that there will be only one final judgment for all. By doing this, they completely ignore the time, setting, and subjects of these judgments. They teach that no one can know for sure whether or not they are actually saved until the judgment. All this heresy comes from refusal to rightly divide the word of truth.
True or False. Consider each statement below, paying special attention to the underlined word or words. If the statement is true, write the word true in the blank. If the statement is not true, cross out the incorrect underlined word(s) and write the correct word(s) on the blank.
1. ________ The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are identical.
2. ________ The Kingdom of Heaven is a physical kingdom.
3. ________ Luke 1:32,32 refers to the Kingdom of God.
4. ________ People are entering the Kingdom of Heaven now.
5. ________ One enters the Kingdom of Heaven by the new birth.
6. ________ The Kingdom of God is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
7. ________ The Kingdom of God prophecy must still be fulfilled.
Circle the references or phrases that refer to the first advent. Underline those that refer to the first part of the second advent. Put a check next to those that refer to the second part of the second advent.
the rapture Jesus’ birth King of Kings John 1:29 Act 1:10-11 Revelation 5:5 Lord of Lords The avenger man of sorrows roaring lion our substitute The Lamb of God Isaiah 53:3 Isaiah 53:4 coming for his saints I Thessalonians 4:16-17 Revelation 19:11-16 call the Church out
The eleventh division is the Bible doctrine of seven distinctly different judgments.
In his book The Seven Judgments, Dr. Peter S. Ruckman says:
"When we talk about the judgments of God we understand that there are lesser judgments that have fallen upon individuals, nations, or groups of nations at various times. However, there are seven major judgments in the word of God. These judgments are of such a momentous nature that they fall into their own classification. We realize that God judged the world in the days of Noah and drowned them out with a flood; God judged the world in the days of the Tower of Babel and scattered them abroad. We realize that God has judged the Jewish nation under Nebuchadnezzar and Sennacherib and brought judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah and like judgments.
But there are seven main judgments, and they are in a class by themselves. They go beyond the judgment upon Adam when he fell, and they go beyond the judgment upon Lot for his sin and the judgments on other individuals for their sins. These seven judgments have a universal nature."
The expression general judgment occurs nowhere in the Bible. It is heresy to teach that all human beings, saints and sinners, Jews and Gentiles, living and dead, will be brought together to be judged in one judgment. Those who believe this teach a doctrine of salvation by works, and say that no one can be sure if they are really saved until they pass this judgment. Of course, that is simply not true.
How clear John is in his first epistle.
"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
— I John 5:13
If we study the Bible diligently according to the methods taught therein, we will see clearly that there are seven different judgments, which we will cover briefly here (Also see lesson 5, Judgment of the Believer.)
Subjects: The World (Every Sinner)
Time: 33 A. D.
Basis: The Law
Result: 1. The Death of Christ (the full payment of sin)
2. The Justification of the Believer
The Bible says,
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." — John 3:16
This judgment has already taken place at Calvary. Its result was death for Christ, and justification for the believer. Hanging on the cruel cross of Calvary, the Son of God paid for the sin of the world (John 1:29; Hebrews 2:9; Romans 3:10-23; Isaiah 53:4-12).
The Bible says,
"[T]he wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." — Romans 6:23
Why did Jesus have to die? He had to die because of God’s judgment against sin. God’s first judgment against sin was carried out at Calvary, where Christ became "sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Corinthians 5:21.)
The scriptures tell us:
"[C]hrist also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:" — I Peter 3:18
"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." — Isaiah 53:5
From Dr. Peter Ruckman’s book, The Seven Judgments we read:
"What does this mean? This means that when you take Christ as your Saviour, you are standing in a burned-out spot where the lightning has already struck, and it will not strike twice in the same place. Saved people who are always worried about losing their salvation are wasting their time, God’s time, and my time. In the old days when a man was going across the prairie and a fire was sweeping across the plains with a thirty mile an hour wind in dry grass, sometimes six feet high, do you think that old prairie dog beat his horse to death trying to outrun that prairie fire? Why, of course not. He got off his horse, struck tinder and flint, and back-fired the grass. He set fire to the grass ahead of him, and as the wind blew that prairie fire ahead of him, he simply took his horse and stepped into the place where it had already burned out. When the fire behind him caught up with him, it couldn’t singe a hair on his head. The place had already been burned. Do you understand what I am saying? Judgment can’t fall twice in the same place. You can’t try a man twice for the same offense: that’s double jeopardy. If you come to Calvary, you are safe. The wrath has already fallen.
Subjects: The Saints Themselves
Time: Anytime, Everyday
Result: Forgiveness and Cleansing
This is the day by day, moment by moment judgment whereby the believer judges his own sinful acts of disobedience to his Father’s word.
We read how that even David cried unto the Lord:
"Judge me, O Lord… Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart." — Psalm 26:1,2
Again Paul warns us, saying:
"[I]f we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."
— I Corinthians 11:31
If we refuse to judge ourselves, the Lord will judge us, and chasten us as sons.
"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." — Hebrews 12:6
As the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, we are to agree with Him and confess those sins as being what they are indeed— sin.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." — I John 1:9
It should be clear then, how important it is for believers to judge their own sin each day; for if we do not judge ourselves, God will. His chastisement is even unto death, for those who would ignore the pleading of the Holy Spirit and continue to live in sin. Yes, there is a "sin unto death," as seen in passages like I Corinthians 5:1-5 and Acts 5:1-11.
In relation to this, we see the soberness with which we should approach the Lord’s Supper. In I Corinthians 11:28, Paul instructs believers to examine themselves before partaking thereof. The reason for this holy admonition is to keep them from partaking unworthily (not having judged themselves for sin). Again, if we fail to judge ourselves, the Lord will judge us.
"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." — I Corinthians 11:29,30
As J.C. Ryle exhorted his own congregation in years past:
"O dearly beloved of the Lord, have you heeded the Holy Spirit as He has convicted you, betimes, of your sin? We are certainly not as those poor Romish slaves who feel they must castigate themselves and flagellate their bodies in penance for sin, but brethren, should we not take time, periodically, to examine ourselves and the path we walk each day? There is no question that because of a neglect of this solemn duty many are sick today, while many have surely met their death."
Thanks be unto God, all this has nothing to do with our eternal, blood bought salvation, but it does involve our precious fellowship with the Lord. As the sons of God, do you not find it a precious privilege and duty to judge yourselves?
Subject: The Saints Being Judged for Their Works
Time: After the Rapture
Place: At the Judgment Seat of Christ
Basis: The Believer’s Works
Result: Rewards for the Faithful, Loss for the Unfaithful
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." — II Corinthians 5:10
This verse speaks of a judgment for Christians called, "The Judgment Seat of Christ," that takes place following the rapture of the Church. While this judgment is being conducted in Heaven, the first half of the Tribulation will be taking place down here on this earth. Then the marriage of the Lamb will take place, followed by the second part of the second advent— the coming of the Lord in His glory.
We know we are not saved or kept by our works. But it is very clear that the works we commit after we are saved will be judged, because the apostle Paul says, "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (Romans 14:10,11). We are saved by grace through faith. We don’t work to get saved, and we don’t work to stay saved— we work because we are saved. Then someday we will be judged to determine the real worth of our works, and our real motives for doing them (I Corinthians 3:11-15).
In his book, The Judgment Seat of Christ Dr. Peter Ruckman says:
"The Bible says, ‘And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.’ (Hebrews 9:2.) Even a saved person doesn’t get out of judgment. If you are unsaved, you will die and face the White Throne Judgment; if you are saved, you will die and face the Judgment Seat of Christ. The judgment in I Corinthians 3 is for Christians, so, if you are saved— a child of God— this is where you are headed.
‘For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.’
— I Corinthians 3:11-15
Notice in the passage that the man doesn’t burn; the works burn. Notice also in that passage that the fire is going to try every man’s work of what sort it is. What the Lord is interested in is quality, what sort it is.
Don’t you know a man in the Bible whose works all burned up in a fire, yet he didn’t burn? It was Lot. Lot lost all he had in a fire, but the fire didn’t touch him. The smell of smoke never even passed on him. That is a picture of a carnal Christian at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Now, there is something else to think about at the Judgment Seat of Christ. People don’t think. They say, ‘Well, I’ll just be glad to get to heaven, and if I can just get there I’ll be happy enough.’ No, you won’t! If you went home tonight and found your home burned to the ground; all of the sheets and linen burned; all of the furniture and Tupperware burned to the ground; the television lying there in ashes; and no insurance, you wouldn’t be too happy about it. There are going to be millions of Christians who will face the Judgment Seat of Christ and will see their lives go up in flames— nothing to cover it. I think that most Christians will find that. They will see their life just go up in smoke."
The first judgment determines whether we will go to Heaven or Hell. The second judgment determines whether we live a happy Christian life or a miserable one. The third judgment determines whether we will get any rewards or not, and what kind.
Subjects: The Jewish Nation— Ezekiel 20:34-38
Time: During The Great Tribulation
Basis: Their Rejection of Christ— I Samuel 8:7; Luke 23:18
Result: The Conversion of the Nation of Israel; Accepting Jesus Christ  as Their Messiah— Isaiah 66:8; Jeremiah 30:7
While the Church is being judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Jews will be judged under the Antichrist on the earth. This judgment will take place during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation, which is aptly called "the time of Jacob’s trouble." During this time, the wrath of God will be poured out upon the earth, and plagues shall bring death and torment for all.
At the coming of the Lord (Zechariah 14:3), the Jews will look upon Him "whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10), and the Jewish nation will be born (converted) in a day (Isaiah 66:8). At that time, God will "make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Hebrews 8:8).
Under the reign of the Antichrist, the Jews will have to suffer the plagues from the "vials of the wrath of God," endure to the end, and refuse to take the mark of the beast. Those who are faithful will have their reward if they faint not.
Subjects: The Gentile Nations
Time: At the Second Coming of Christ
Place: On Earth: Before the Throne of His Glory— In the Valley  of Jehoshaphat
Basis: Their Treatment of the Jews
Result: The Punishment of Some Nations and the Blessing of  Others
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate." — Matthew 25:31,32
"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." — Matthew 19:28
Notice that at this judgment, Christ sits upon the "throne of His glory." This is the time of the regeneration of the earth. In this Judgment, the Nations are made up of people who escaped death at the hands of the Antichrist, who avoided his mark, and who did not take part in the Battle of Armageddon. As a shepherd gathers his sheep, the Lord will gather all nations and bring them to the valley of Jehoshaphat (also called the valley of decision).
This prophecy was given to Joel regarding that time:
"I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land." — Joel 3:2
This all takes place at the beginning of the Millennium, after the Battle of Armageddon (cf. Matthew 25).
"And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." — Matthew 25:32,33
Of this Judgment, Dr. Ruckman says:
"The basis will be how they treated Israel in the Great Tribulation. He says to them, ‘[I]nasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40). The results are the damnation of the people who mistreated the Jews and the salvation of the people who blessed the Jews and took care of them. On the one hand we read, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:41). But for those who took care of the Jews we read, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ " (Matthew 25:34).
Of course, the brethren of Matthew 25:40 are the Jews, and the sheep are those who took care of the Jews. This earns these sheep nations the right to enter the millennial kingdom. The goats are those who abused the Jew or refused to help them in their distress. This brings upon them the wrath of God in the Lake of Fire. They will be cast into the Lake of Fire with the beast and the false prophet. This Lake of Fire will be located upon the earth during the Millennium, just outside the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 34:8-10; Revelation 19:20).
Many have confused this Judgment of The Nations with the Great White Throne Judgment. Lumping the two together, many view them as one general judgment for all at the end of time. They believe that Christians from the Church Age will gain entrance into Heaven because of their good works. This is not true, but let’s compare the White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20), and the Judgment of Nations (Matthew 25) to see just how different they really are.
Bible interpretation is simple if we believe what we read, where we read it, in its context, and rightly divide the word. It all becomes simpler if we just let the scriptures teach what they say. Let’s not try to twist them and make them fit something we have been taught.
Subjects: The Fallen Angels
Time: After the Thousand Year Reign of Christ
Place:Before the Great White Throne.
Basis: Their Rebellion
Result: Cast Into the Lake of Fire
These fallen angels will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment
"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." — Jude 1:6
Strangely enough, you and I (Christians) will be their judges.
"Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" — I Corinthians 6:3
You’ll notice that Matthew 25:41 says Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels— not for man. However, any man who rejects Christ as his Saviour will be punished in Hell with them, "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7).
Subject: The Unsaved Dead
Time: After the Thousand Year Reign of Christ
Place: Before the Great White Throne
Basis: Their Works
Result: Cast In the Lake of Fire
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." — Revelation 20:11,12,15
This judgment takes place at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ. At this time, the heavens and earth will have already melted with a fervent heat and passed away .
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." — Revelation 21:1
"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
— II Peter 3:7,12
At the White Throne Judgment, all the unsaved dead who had lived from the time of Adam until the time of the end of the Millennium will be sentenced to their eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire for their refusal to obey what God said. In addition to the unsaved dead, those saved during the Tribulation and the Millennium will receive their reward at this judgment. In Revelation 11:18, there are prophets and saints present receiving rewards. (These should not be confused with the Church, the body of Christ, since they will have already received their rewards before the Tribulation and will have been living in their glorified bodies for 1000 years.)
In The Seven Judgments Dr. Peter S. Ruckman says:
"At the White Throne Judgment there are witnesses. There is a prosecuting attorney: the devil. The questions are asked by God and the culprit is allowed to cross-examine God but, quite naturally (Romans 3), he not only will be unable to answer the questions put to him by God, but he will be unable to ask one question that God can’t answer. If you will study Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John you will find that every time Jesus Christ was asked a question He had an answer ready and when He asked questions back, His audience could not answer. This will be the condition of the unsaved sinner, the unregenerate, Christ-rejecting, hell-bound sinner as he stands before God and is presented with his life from start to finish, three-dimensional, full-color, stereo, tweeter woofer, hi-fi sound, and is demanded to give account of himself to God and answer the great and burning question, ‘Why did you trust your own righteousness to get saved when God’s righteousness was freely available as a gift?’ There is no way to answer this question and the man who fails to answer it has his home in a lake of fire. God forbid that should be your eternal destiny. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved...’" (Acts 16:31)
We have seen that when the major divisions in the Bible are pointed out, the student of the word of God is able to better understand the scriptures in the light of God’s different dealings with man, in different periods of time. Thus, many troublesome passages may be understood clearly, without distorting the word of God. Thereby, our King James Bible is proven to be without contradiction or error, and can be studied with the full confidence that the One who inspired it remains faithful to teach it to those who diligently search the scriptures. (Romans 8:17; II Timothy 2:10-12; Colossians 3:23.)
Original Lesson By
Gloryland Baptist Church
Edited and expanded by
Linton M. Smith Jr.
ThB., ThM., DD.
This Bible course has been prepared and distributed as a ministry of Gloryland Baptist Church. It and other gospel materials may be obtained from:
Gloryland Baptist Church
P.O. Box 587
Adamsville, AL 35005
Pastor Charles Andrews