The Difference Is In The Dispensations
How to make sense of the differences in the Bible
Chapter I b

Timothy S. Morton

Chapter I
The Covenants And The Dispensations cont.

 Mosaic Covenant  Davidic Covenant  Tribulation Period  Palestinian Covenant...  New Heavens...  The Great Lesson

The Abrahamic Covenant and The Dispensation of Promise

Nine generations after Shem, Abraham was born. Abraham was about 75 years old and living in Ur of the Chaldees when God one day spoke to him. God, through His amazing grace, wanted to make another covenant with man and chose Abraham as His partner. The covenant He made with him was again unconditional and contained many promises (Gen 12:1-3). The only hint of a condition appears to be that Abraham had to forsake his home and family and go to a land God would show him. When Abraham obeyed and entered the land the promises became fixed. God promised to:

1. Make Abraham a great nation (vs. 2). This promise has been fulfilled both physically and spiritually. Physically through Isaac and Ishmael, spiritually through all those who have Abraham's faith (Gal. 3:7).

2. To bless him (vs. 2), and He did this also both physically (13:14-18) and spiritually (15:6).

3. To make his name great (vs. 2). Still today the name of Abraham is known and respected by millions.

4. Make him a blessing to others (vs. 2). Abraham blessed people in his own time and blessed humanity by his seed Jesus Christ.

5. To bless those who bless him (vs. 3).

6. And curse those who curse him (vs. 3). God has not only blessed those who blessed Abraham, but He also blessed those who blessed the nation that sprang from his loins, Israel. On the other hand, those who cursed Israel (Babylon, Assyria, Rome, Germany, etc.) must suffer. Some have suffered already, but these promises will not be completely fulfilled until the future.

7. Bless all the families of the earth in him (vs. 3). The fulfillment of this is Christ himself, who blesses all those who believe on Him with salvation and who will also physically bless all who are in the millennium.

Though this covenant is unconditional it does not apply universally to everyone. Doctrinally, it only applies to the Hebrew race through Isaac and Jacob (Israel). Gentiles can only get in on it by receiving Abraham's promised Seed—Jesus Christ. Those who refuse to receive Him, Jew or Gentile, will be judged by Him.

Like the Noahic Covenant this covenant also has a sign, and it is circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14). Circumcision is a token of the promises God has made to Abraham and his seed, and anyone who refused or neglected to accept it was cut off from his people and the promises (excommunication). Circumcision was the only obligation Abraham and his people had under this covenant. If they performed it by faith, they had full access to all the promises. God again reconfirmed this covenant in Genenis chapter 15 after Abraham "believed in the Lord..." and asked for more details. After Abraham offered five offerings as God commanded, the Lord again affirmed the covenant and revealed how Abraham's seed would be a stranger in a land (Egypt) and afflicted for 400 years. God also revealed the boundaries of the land given to Abraham. Moreover, God promised all of this to Abraham while Abraham was asleep! This proves the covenant is unconditional. God reconfirmed the covenant again after Abraham passed his severe but revealing test of offering Isaac (Gen. 22:15-18).

Another significant thing about this covenant is it apparently has no ending. It goes beyond the Millennium and renovation of the earth and even past the New Heaven and New Earth. Therefore, the nation of Israel, governed by its Messiah and King, will still be in existence at the gate of eternity.

The dispensation that began with this covenant is called the Dispensation of Promise for obvious reasons. For the first time God has made promises to one group of people at the exclusion of all others. From the time of Abraham on in the Old Testament, the only way someone other than an Israelite could partake of the promises was to become an Israelite himself (Ruth, for example [Ruth 1:16]). Again, the only way now is to receive Jesus Christ. By some this dispensation is called the Dispensation of the Family because everything God had to say to man He said to this one family. The promises He made to Abraham He reconfirmed to his son Isaac, his grand-son Jacob, and then to Jacob's sons, the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. The manner of behavior God expected in this dispensation is much like the previous except that He told Abraham to go to a certain land and stay there (Canaan).

Abraham obeyed in going to the land, but when a famine came and times got hard he fled into Egypt for food. He could not yet trust God enough to stay. This again shows the weakness and failure of man to live up to God's requirements. In every dispensation man in some way fails to keep God's word and consequently brings judgment upon himself.

Moreover, the character of the descendants of Abraham degenerated from that of Abraham. Even though Abraham was afraid and lied in Egypt about Sarah, Isaac seemed to lie more easily (Gen. 26:7). Jacob (meaning Deceiver or Supplanter) was even more blatant in sin. He lied, deceived, tricked, and schemed it appears without a second thought (Gen. 27:6-29). Likewise, his sons (with the exception of Joseph) were even more mixed up in vice and evil. From adultery with handmaids and harlots to murder and kidnapping (Gen. 34:25, 37:23-36, 38:12-18), they all seemed to think lightly of sin. The actions of everyone concerned, from Abraham on down, and the degeneration of the character of the family in each succeeding generation caused God to send Abraham's seed into Egypt and later into bondage. It was 430 years from the call of Abraham to the exodus from Egypt, the length of this dispensation.

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The Mosaic Covenant and The Dispensation of the Law

By the time Moses was born, the 75 people that went with Jacob into Egypt had grown into millions. The new king that "knew not Joseph" put them into heavy bondage and eventually the Israelites began to cry upon the Lord for deliverance. God heard their cry and sent them a deliverer from among their own—Moses. Since the self-governing of man in the dispensations of Conscience and Promise failed, God established a highly comprehensive and detailed dispensation where He could rule man Himself from a central place of worship.

After revealing Himself to Moses in the wilderness, God sent Moses back into Egypt to free his brethren from their slavery. With great signs and wonders He performed through Moses, God forced Israel's release and brought the people across the Red Sea to make a nation out of them as He promised to Abraham. On their way to the promised land (Canaan), God established His covenant with them at Mt. Sinai, and this time the covenant is completely conditional. That is, for God to continue to do His part, the Israelites had to continue to do theirs. The bulk of this covenant is called "the law," a detailed list of rules and regulations concerning nearly every aspect of life. No longer were they to be guided only by their conscience or the opinions of other men, God had given them very specific WRITTEN commands which were easily understood and could be consulted at any time.

In Exodus 19:5-6 God, through Moses, lays the covenant before the people and tells them what He will do for them "if" they obey His voice. The people of one accord reply "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8) and the covenant is sealed. In the next chapter God gives them the "Ten Commandments," and in much of the rest of Exodus, nearly all of Leviticus, and a good portion of Numbers and Deuteronomy, He reveals more requirements. This covenant can be broken into three parts:

1. The Moral Law (Ex. 20: 1-26, the Ten Commandments, etc.).

2. The Civil (or Judicial) Law (Ex. 21:1-24:18). This was the precepts of the judicial system for the punishment of crimes and settlement of disputes.

3. The Ceremonial Law (Ex. 25:1-40:38, etc.). This was in essence their religious system and included all the details of sacrifice and worship (the tabernacle, priesthood, offerings, etc.).

This covenant also has a sign: the sabbath day—the seventh day of the week (Saturday [Ex. 31:13-17]).

Here, we must remind the reader that this covenant was only between God and the Israelites. No part of it applied to any Gentile then and neither does it now. The moral law of God found in the Ten Commandments is a reflection of God's nature and is profitable for anyone in any dispensation, but doctrinally as given in Exodus and Deuteronomy they are binding only on the Jews. All of the commandments, excluding the fifth (the sabbath), can be found in some form in the New Testament, thus making their message apply also to born again Christians, but as they are found in the Mosaic Covenant, they apply ONLY to Israel.

As we have said much of the Scripture wresting that goes on today is a result of people not properly dividing the Scriptures and forcing doctrines from one dispensational arrangement into another. The Sabbath, for instance, is one that is today heavily abused. God clearly states in Ex. 31:13-17 that the Sabbath is to and for the children of Israel alone and binding on no one else. Some think since it is found in the Ten Commandments it is an "eternal" law to everyone, but as mentioned above, no one else was ever commanded to keep it. In fact a born again Christian is not commanded to set apart any particular day for worship, not even the Lord's day (Sunday). He is free to meet on any day he esteems best (Rom. 14:5). Most believers usually meet on the Lord's day, however, by following the examples found in the New Testament (Acts 20:7, etc.). Again, when one tries to place a doctrine peculiar to one dispensation into another he will always end up with heresy.

The Dispensation of the Law lasted from the exodus out of Egypt until the cross (around 1500 years), and God kept his part of the covenant despite many failures of the Israelites to keep theirs. Just a short period of time after they promised to obey it, the Jews rebelled against the Lord, but God graciously gave them many more chances to obey. When they rebelled against Moses over the bitter water, God made the water sweet (Ex. 15:25). When they murmured about the lack of food, God gave them manna for 40 years (Ex. 16). When they became idolaters and worshipped the golden calf, clearly breaking the covenant, God again had grace and mercy on them though He had a mind to do otherwise (Ex. 32).

Over the years God was very long-suffering with Israel and overlooked many of their transgressions. When Moses died God was gracious and gave them another leader, Joshua. When he died God gave them judges to lead them. When they sought to be like the heathen and wanted a king, God warned them against it but nevertheless gave them Saul. After Saul came a man after His own heart, David. After David, God gave them His wisdom through Solomon, and on and on. God gave His people every advantage and opportunity to love obey and serve Him as He desired, but the Jews were a stiff-necked and rebellious people. With a pitiful few short periods of semi-obedience and loyalty to their credit, the Jews were usually characterized by rebellion, immorality, and idolatry.

Though God was long-suffering with Israel, He would not put up with their rebellion forever, and after almost 1000 years His patience ran out. In the meantime He sent numerous prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) to warn them of what He was about to do if they didn't repent, but for the most part they either ignored them or persecuted them. God faithfully protected Israel from her enemies for centuries, but around 606 BC, because of their failure to return to Him, He let their enemies have them. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people into Babylon to again be slaves. Only after 70 years, after a new generation came along, did God allow them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it under Ezra and Nehemiah. Though they rebuilt it with the purest of intentions, they again, over the next four centuries, degenerated and became so filled with unbelief, self-righteousness, and hatred that they did not even recognize their own promised Messiah when He walked among them (Jn. 1:10-11)! More than that they mercilessly persecuted and then crucified Him! So much for the humanistic notions there is "a spark of divinity in every man" or "man is basically good."

God has up to this point set up five different doctrinal arrangements with man, five different methods of testing and dealing with him, and man has miserably failed in every one!

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The Davidic Covenant and The Dispensation of Grace

This covenant and dispensational arrangement is different from the others because the covenant is given nearly 1000 years before it and its accompanying dispensation go into effect. Instead of starting when it was first mentioned, this covenant is not fully in effect until David's seed comes along (Jesus Christ).

Once when Israel was at peace and David was at rest from his enemies, David wanted to do something for God and proposed building Him a permanent house (temple) to dwell in. Through Nathan the prophet God told David He did not yet want a house, but appreciated the thought (1 Ki. 8:18), and He then told David He was going to make a house out of HIM.

God made three promises to David in this unconditional covenant found in 2 Sam. 7:4-17:

1. That his house (posterity) would never cease (vs. 12-13).

2. That his throne will never be completely destroyed and continue forever (vs. 13, 16).

3. That his earthly kingdom will also continue forever through his promised seed (vs. 13, 16).

In some respects this covenant could be speaking of Solomon as the seed, but Solomon's reign ended in apostasy (1 Kings 11), thus another seed of David must be the ultimate fulfillment—the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the only person who can possibly fulfill it. He is the seed of Adam, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David, and he is the only person in history who fulfills the more than sixty other prophesies God had given concerning the "seed." Before Christ was born the angel Gabriel told Mary the son to be born of her was to be the "son of the highest" (God), the "son of David" (man), and He would reign on David's throne forever (Luke 1:30-33). This covenant, like the Abrahamic Covenant continues to the gate of eternity.

Since the fulfillment of this covenant is Jesus Christ, and God is going to keep all of His promises to David in Christ, the covenant did not come into effect until Christ was born. That no seed of David has reigned in Jerusalem since the Babylonian captivity has nothing to do with the fulfillment of this covenant. It is not until after Israel's full chastisement for rejecting Christ is completed (Tribulation) that Christ comes as a King to reign on David's throne (Millennium). Christ came the first time as a Servant and sacrificial Lamb; the second time He will come as a Warrior and King.

The dispensation ushered in by the Davidic Covenant is our present Dispensation of Grace. Again, that this dispensation is named grace does not mean that God's grace cannot be found in the other dispensations, only that it is more prevalent and visible in this one. God often had mercy and grace on many in the past (Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, etc.), but now He freely offers His saving grace to everyone through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Technically, this dispensation does not begin with Christ's birth but with his death and resurrection. It extends from the cross to the calling up of all believers, dead or alive, at the rapture. (1 Thes. 4:13-18). In some ways this is a parenthetical dispensation because it is in the form of a mystery and sandwiched between the two Jewish dispensations of Law and the Millennium.

The subject of this dispensation is a group called "the church" or "the body of Christ." The Church is the mystery referred to in Eph. 3:3-9 and is so named because God had not revealed in the Old Testament that He was going to form such an organism, especially from both Jews and Gentiles. The New Testament tells us God's purpose in the Church is to gather a "people for His name" from all humanity, Jew and Gentile, in Jesus Christ to (among other things) become Christ's bride. "Whosoever will" can become a member of this living organism by simply repenting and by faith receiving the risen Jesus Christ into his heart. No works are required to obtain or keep this eternal salvation; all one must have is Jesus Christ in him. Christ has promised to freely come into and save all who will admit they are sinners, abandon all other means of salvation, and trust Him alone as Savior.

In this dispensation God is no longer dealing with man primarily as nations but as individuals. Every individual can have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and he does not have to go through any priest or religious system to receive atonement for his sins. Israel, as a nation, has been placed on a "back burner" because of their blindness, but individual Jews can be saved just the same as Gentiles until this dispensation ends. The "Church of God" is a distinct body from both Jews and Gentiles and has many blessings these two groups don't enjoy. God has poured many extremely rich blessings upon the saved of this dispensation that He has not given to those of any other. Even those saved in future dispensations do not have many of the precious treasures the Body of Christ has now. For example:

1. The new birth (regeneration [Tit. 3:5, etc.]). There is no clear, biblical proof that the new birth is valid in any other dispensation (More on this later).

2. A completed atonement (described under the salvation doctrines propitiation and redemption [Heb. 9:12; 1 Jn. 2:2]). Until Christ's death salvation was "on credit."

3. Eternal and everlasting life that the believer cannot loose (described under the salvation doctrines justification, adoption, reconciliation, imputation, etc. [John 3:16, 5:24; etc.])

4. Salvation by faith alone, no works at all required to obtain or keep it (Eph 2:8-9; etc.).

5. The indwelling Holy Spirit who comforts, empowers, and seals believers (Eph. 4:30).

6. A position in Christ's Body and Bride (Eph. 5:30-32).

7. The promise of a supernatural body like Christ's resurrection body (Phil. 3:21).

8. A future mansion in the New Jerusalem (John 14:1-3).

Clearly, born again Christians, by no value of their own, have been given more blessings and promises than any other group of saved people, all by the good pleasure and pure grace of God. Why God selected this group to shower these amazing privileges on is fully known only by Him, but how much more should we who are saved and partake of them obey God's wishes with love and thanksgiving?

The obligation of believers during this dispensation is simple and direct. Each believer is to:

1. Evangelize by preaching the gospel of the grace of God to every creature (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).

2. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and let Him direct his every thought and action (Gal. 5:16; Eph.5:18).

3. Present himself as a living sacrifice for God's service and separate himself from the world (Rom. 12:1-2).

Whether the believer obeys or disobeys these duties has nothing to do with his salvation, but disobedience will cost him rewards and crowns at the Judgment Seat of Christ where every believer will give account of himself to God (Rom. 14:10).

Even with the multitude of great blessings and privileges God has showered upon believers in Christ, this dispensation still ends in failure. Their failure was hinted at by Christ before the cross. He said when He returned the times would then be like the days of Noah thousands of years earlier (Matt. 24:37-39), characterized by unrestrained rebellion, wickedness, and apostasy. With all God has given believers in this present dispensation, they have again willingly refused to consistently do as He commanded.

Soon Christ will return and secretly take away all the Christians to Heaven and judgment and let the world continue, then even faster, toward its destiny of destruction.

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The Tribulation Period

Sometime after the rapture, possibly immediately or maybe years later, the Tribulation Period will began. In Jer. 30:6 this period is called "the time of Jacob's trouble" because God is going to judge Israel as a nation by allowing Satan to "trouble" them (through the Antichrist) for rejecting Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Though Satan will have his own reasons for punishing the Jews, God will allow him to do it because they said concerning Christ "crucify him, crucify him" (John 19:6) and "his blood be on us and on our CHILDREN" (Matt. 27:25). God simply gives them their request. This is the time period Christ was referring to when He said, "...for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21). It will be disaster and sorrow on such a scale that the strongest men will hide in caves and beg for death (Rev. 6:15-16).

When Christ said, "I am come in my father's name, and ye receive me not, if another will come in his own name him ye will receive" (John 5:44), He was speaking of the coming Antichrist (also called "the Beast," "the man of sin," the "abomination of desolation," etc.). This evil character is second only to Christ as to the amount of information the Bible gives him. Daniel tells us he will make a covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27) for "seven weeks" (years) and then break it in the middle (at 42 months). Many Jews will think him to be their Messiah until he breaks the covenant and demands to be worshipped as the God of Heaven (2 Thes. 2:4). When the Jews refuse, the Beast (now Satan incarnate) will persecute them with a fierce vengeance. He will slaughter millions of them (and also Gentiles who refuse to worship his image or take his mark—666, Rev. 13), but 144,000 will be sealed by God and protected from harm.

Finally, after no more than seven years from the signing of the covenant, Jesus Christ will return and destroy the Beast and his armies at Armageddon. The few Jews that are left will then "look upon him whom they pierced" and receive Christ as their true Messiah and King. At that moment God will save them as a nation (Rom. 11:26). They will, after 20 centuries, have finally accepted Christ for WHO He really is—"God manifest in the flesh." Though the Tribulation will severely punish them, almost to extinction, God was forced to allow it to get them to receive the truth. Being "stiff-necked" (Acts 7:51) they would not accept it under any other means. Once they repent and receive Jesus Christ, they are then ready to receive the kingdom promised to their fathers Abraham and David.

Dispensationally, the Tribulation period is basically the Dispensation of the Law with a few added features. Since the Church will have left in the rapture, the parenthetical Dispensation of Grace will be gone along with the doctrines unique to it. Thus the nation of Israel will again be the main object of God's concern. There will be a temple in the Tribulation, sacrifices will be offered, and salvation will again have a Jewish ring to it. More on this in the following chapters.

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The Palestinian Covenant, The New Covenant, and The Messianic Dispensation

1400 years before Christ, at the end of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, God made another covenant with Israel besides the one He made at Mt. Sinai. Called the Palestinian Covenant because they were about to enter the land of Palestine, the covenant contains a promise of what God will do for them when they repent of their sins and return to Him after a period of rebellion. God promised after He dispersed them among the nations as punishment for future disobedience (ultimately the rejection of Christ), He would regather and return them to their land after they repent. This covenant is closely linked with the Mosaic Covenant, and some say the two are joined together at the beginning of the Millennium. It is found in Deut. 30:1-10 and its specific elements are:

1. Israel's dispersion for disobedience (vs. 1). Though Israel is a nation today, more Jews live in New York City than in the land of Palestine. The bulk of the Jews on earth are still scattered and those in Israel do not possess all the land promised to them.

2. Their (foreknown) repentance while dispersed (vs. 2). This is during the Tribulation.

3. The return of the Lord (vs. 3). Christ will personally regather them after the Tribulation.

4. The restoration of all their land (vs. 5). Christ will give them the entire land grant promised to Abraham.

5. Their national conversion (vs. 6). All Israel will be saved (nationally) in a day (Rom. 11:26).

6. The judgment of their enemies and oppressors (vs. 7). The judgment of the nations (Matt. 25).

7. Their national blessing and prosperity (vs. 9).

This covenant comes into effect at the end of the Tribulation period when the remaining Jews see the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him as their Messiah. They will nationally repent and mourn for their sin of rejecting Him and admit before all their acceptance of Him as King. God will then, in Christ, forgive them and bless them as He desired to bless them from their beginning. He will give them all the land promised to their fathers and reign over them Himself from Jerusalem. Christ will judge their enemies at the Judgment of Nations (Matt. 25:31-46) and place the other nations under them in privilege and importance. Israel will be the premier nation on earth, and that purely by the promise and good pleasure of God. This covenant lasts, at least, until the end of the Millennium.

The New Covenant is called "new" because unlike the previous covenants it has not yet been made. It was promised in Jer. 31:31-37 and confirmed again in Heb. 8:7-13, but it has not yet been officially given to the nation of Israel. Again, after the Jews repent and receive Christ as their Messiah, God will formally establish this unconditional covenant with them. This is the "new testament" Jesus was referring to in Matt. 26:28 when He said, "for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Thus this covenant is based on the shed blood and atoning death of Jesus Christ.

Many today insist this New Covenant doctrinally applies to the present "church age," but this is another wresting of Scripture. By letting the Scriptures speak for themselves one can easily see that the New Covenant only applies doctrinally to "the house of Israel" and "the house of Judah" (Jer. 31:31, Heb. 8:8). It has nothing to do with the born again believer or the present Dispensation of Grace. The main thrust of this "new testament" is not the Church Age, but a future covenant with Israel based on the atoning death of the Jewish "testator," Jesus Christ. Of course, the salvation Christ bought with His blood is available to all today, Jew or Gentile, but as found in Jeremiah and Hebrews the New Covenant will apply only to Israel. The specifics of this covenant are (as found in Jeremiah 31):

1. God will put His laws in each individual's heart (vs. 33).

2. God will again be their God and Israel His people (vs. 33).

3. There will no longer be any preaching or witnessing because all Jews will know the Lord (vs. 34).

4. God will completely forgive them and remember their sin no more (vs. 34).

5. It is as permanent as day and night, the moon and stars, the waves of the sea, and the unmeasurable vastness of the earth and heavens (vs. 35-37).

This covenant is in effect from the beginning of the Millennium through to the gate of eternity.

The Messianic Dispensation (the Millennium), along with the New Covenant, will begin when the Palestinian Covenant is fulfilled at the end of the Tribulation. This dispensation is the "golden age" and "utopia" man today dreams about. It will be characterized by a perfect, righteous, and holy Ruler, universal righteousness, world peace, greatly reduced sickness and death, extended life span, gentleness and compatibility of wildlife, more cooperative earth for crops, perfect climate and environment, no random natural disasters, most of the curses lifted, little or no crime, and the binding of man's constant enemy, Satan. In the Millennium man will have everything he says today he wants, but will he fare any better in this dispensation than in the others? Hardly.

There are scores of passages in the Old Testament concerning this blessed period, and in the New Testament it is called the "kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 3:2, 5:3). The kingdom of heaven truly was "at hand" when Christ began His earthly ministry, but when the Jews rejected the King it was postponed until they were willing to receive Him. The "sermon on the mount" (Matt. ch. 5-7) will essentially be the Constitution of this kingdom and lay down the rules and principles of behavior required in it. During this 1000 year period, Christ will rule with a "rod of iron" and compel everyone to obey these principles and His will. Those who don't will be punished (Zech. 14:16-19).

With Satan bound in the bottomless pit and no longer able to influence nations or individuals for evil (Rev. 20:2), man will not be able to blame him for their sins. God will remove every form of outside negative influence during the Millennium, thus giving man every opportunity to do right. But even in this much sought after environment man will ultimately fail. It appears that during this period the people will begin to get tired of compelled obedience and of the righteous King in Jerusalem and rebel against Christ in their heart (Jer. 17:9). At the end of the 1000 years, God will release Satan from prison and give him access to the nations one last time. Very quickly Satan will organize a revolt against Christ and form a huge army to oust Him from Jerusalem. He will likely use pride to convince man he can do a better job "governing himself" (remember the Dispensation of Human Government?). The entire revolt is devoured by fire from Heaven and Satan's usefulness to God is over (Rev. 20:9).

It has taken God seven dispensations to do it, but He has proved his point. The problem with man is not his circumstances or misfortune, neither is it his environment or upbringing, man's number one problem is HIMSELF. Man by nature is evil, and no matter what kind of world or environment he is placed in he will remain evil. The only remedy is God must give him a new heart (2 Cor. 5:17).

During this time those who make up the body of Christ and have gone up in the rapture will reign with Christ from Jerusalem. They may act as His ambassadors to the nations enforcing His righteousness all over the earth. Nevertheless, each born again believer's old sinful nature will be literally and forever dead, leaving him with no capacity for sin. He will also have a supernatural, glorified body like Christ's (Phil. 3:21). Therefore, he cannot rebel with the world against Christ, he has already went through his testing period. The Jews and Gentiles that enter into the Millennium from the Tribulation, however, will still have only their natural bodies and the same old sinful Adamic nature all sinners are born with.

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The New Heavens, The New Earth, and The New Jerusalem

After the rebellion at the end of the Millennium and the destruction of all those involved, God's series of testing periods for man will be over; the time for final judgment will have come. God will judge everyone who has not been judged before in a final, all encompassing judgment at the Great White Throne. Every saved person from Adam to the end of the Millennium who was not part of a group that was previously judged (like the Church), along with every person of every other age who died lost will be resurrected to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and be judged according to their works. Those whose names are found in the "book of life" will be granted the privilege to enter into the New Heaven and New Earth. Those whose are not found in the book will be cast into the "lake of fire," there to spend eternity in torment (Rev. 20).

Many today claim there will be no saved people from any dispensation before the White Throne for judgment, but what about those saved in the Tribulation and Millennium? There is no other judgment to cover these people. We agree no saved person from the present Dispensation of Grace will be judged there because the "Judgment Seat of Christ" will cover them, but those saved in other dispensations must be judged at some time (Heb. 9:27), and this is the only judgment left. These people will have their names recorded in the book of life when they are saved; the Great White Throne Judgment will simply reveal their salvation, and their works, to all.

While the above judgment is in progress, God will be forming the New Heaven and the New Earth. He will do this by renovating the old heaven and earth with fire, melting the elements and purging them from the contamination of sinful man and preparing them for future habitation. The White Throne Judgment apparently occurs in the void of space.

After the judgment and renovation God will be ready to establish His final dispensational arrangement. Calling this arrangement a dispensation may not be entirely accurate because it has no clear ending. It appears to join with eternity. Furthermore, three covenants will still be in effect at this time, the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants; therefore, the nation of Israel will still be in existence (Isa. 66:22).

Including Israel there will be three distinct groups of people in this final arrangement. Israel will be made up of saved Jews from every dispensation except the Dispensation of Grace; the second group will be saved Gentiles from every dispensation except Grace; and the third group will be all those saved, Jew and Gentile, in the Dispensation of Grace—the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ is a fixed number that cannot increase or decrease after the rapture, but the other two groups can increase through childbirth.

Since there will be no more death (Rev. 21:4), the kingdom will increase and rapidly fill the earth and then spread throughout the heavens. Isaiah 9:7 says, "of the increase of his government there shall be no end," thus Christ's kingdom may expand from earth to the other planets, then to the stars and beyond towards infinity. After 7000 years of dealing with man, God has redeemed those who obeyed him and put them in a suitable condition to populate the universe. Out of billions and billions of people who have lived on earth, God has saved a relatively small remnant and these now love Him in return. With
them God may begin to populate the entire universe.

The Bride of Christ will dwell in New Jerusalem, a city prepared by Christ for her habitation that contains "many mansions." The city will descend from Heaven to earth and among other things contain the throne of God and the "tree of life" (Rev. 21). At this point God will have in some respects made a complete circle in His dealings with man. The Bible begins with man in a garden with the "tree of life," and after more than 7000 years of revealing many things to him, God has him again in a garden like setting with a tree that brings life.

Although there are other more minor divisions in the Bible one could mention, the eight major divisions we have outlined above are the ones most essential for understanding the Scriptures. If a believer will spend a little time in study and by noting these divisions keep the different issues separate and the alike together, he will be well on his way to understanding God's program for man and all creation as He has revealed it. Things that are different are not the same, and in the Bible the difference is often in the dispensations.

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The Great Lesson

Of the many things God has showed man through the dispensations, the lesson that should stand out above the others is that man is a hopeless rebel, utter failure, and without hope without God. He is simply not capable of living up to God's righteous standard no matter how "enlightened" and able he may think he is.

Place him in a beautiful garden with everything he needs, including fellowship with God, a beautiful and compatible wife, the earth under his dominion, access to the Tree of Life, etc., and man will forsake it all and choose death. Leave him alone with his conscience to guide him and man will become so exceedingly wicked that he must be removed from the earth with a flood. Give him great and sure promises and man will flee them and speak lies in unbelieving fear. Make of him a chosen nation for God to speak through and dwell among, with His holy Law and priesthood, and man will abandon his God and worship dumb idols. Give him an eternal redemption from sin and hell, everlasting life, an indwelling Holy Spirit, the promise of a new body, a home in New Jerusalem, and birth him into God's own family making him His son, and man will repay his Savior with rebellion, worldliness, and indifference. Give him a perfect, uncursed earth, a cooperative environment, no Satan to tempt him, extended lifespan, and Jesus Christ himself to reign over him, and man will revolt and try to force Christ from His throne. All is clear. Man is a wicked, vile, evil, selfish, and vain creature, and apart from God he is utterly hopeless and bound for hell. The surest proof of this is God is near the last millennium of his dealings with man (now 6000 years along), and man collectively has not learned this ONE lesson yet!

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