Dispensationalists understand that Biblical history is more easily comprehended when divided into a series of separate time-periods. Each era represents a different manner in which God deals with the human race. These periods are marked by a change in God’s interaction with humankind. Every distinctive segment always involves the question of sin and man’s responsibility. Interestingly, man’s need for God and His grace remains the same in every generation.
Although many see the Old and New Testaments as the only two actual divisions, there are seven generally accepted dispensations:
1. The era of INNOCENCE – prior to Adam’s fall (Gen. 1-3)
2. The era of CONSCIENCE – Adam to Noah (Gen. 3-8)
3. The era of GOVERNMENT – Noah to Abraham (Gen. 9-11)
4. The era of PROMISE – Abraham to Moses (Gen. 12 – Ex. 19)
5. The era of LAW – Moses to Christ (Ex. 20 – Acts 2)
6. The era of GRACE – the current Church Age (Acts 2 – Rev. 20)
7. The era of MILLENNIAL KINGDOM – the Second Coming on into eternity.
Nearly every dispensational doctrine emphasizes a literal interpretation of Scripture as fundamental. Almost all dispensationalists make a clear distinction between the Church and Israel, realizing many promises are given to one but not the other. Some agree these promises overlap – because many Jews are also Christians – such as John, Peter, Paul, and hundreds of thousands of others throughout the centuries.
The foundational underlying concept in every dispensational school of thought is the progressive revelation of God and His great plans. In all these diverse schools, Biblical covenants and promises are closely tied to the commencement and conclusion of a specific era. Dispensationalists universally accept the fact that Christ’s Church began on the Day of Pentecost. A large number of the dispensational schools hold to a pre-tribulation Rapture. They view Biblical history as advancing toward, and concluding with, the Millennium.
Terms for further study:
~ Classical Dispensationalism
~ Modified Dispensationalism
~ Progressive Dispensationalism
~ Traditional Dispensationalism