What is dispensationalism?
The dispensation is a Christian theological system that affirms that God has used different ways of administration of his will and his grace in different periods of the human being history.
The distinctive of the dispensation is the doctrine that Israel as nation and the church as body of Christ do not form a unique God’s people, but two nations with prophecies, promises and different destiny until the arrival of the millennial kingdom when everything will be one in Christ. According with this way to think, there are seven dispensations.
Dispensation of the innocence:
At the Eden, Adam and Eve should obey the divine command do not eat from the prohibited tree, with this they will be ensure to be innocent of sin. Both of them failed.
Dispensation of the conscience:
Since the fall until Noah, the human being had the possibility to control their decisions in free way according what their conscience pointed out. They failed in this, since the design of their hearts was constantly straight to the bad, instead of reaching for God.
Dispensation of the human being government:
From Noah to Abraham, since the personal conscience it was not an adequate guide to the human being, it was entrust to the government to manage justice and moral.
Dispensation of the promise:
To fail the governments in his mission, God did choose to Abraham to be the Father of the Faith and He did promise to him that all the nations of the earth will be blessed because of him.
Dispensation of the law:
From Moses to Jesus, the human being can be close to God just through complying with the Mosaic Law. This it was given to its perfect condition, it was impossible to comply; it was revealed on that the sin and curse of itself.
Dispensation of the Grace:
Only recognizing our inability to obtain something good (Conscience of sin) we can recognize that Jesus is the only mediator between God and the human being. “Because there’s no another name under heaven in whom we can be save”
Dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom:
At the end of the time it will arise one period of 1000 years in which Jesus will reign in the earth. It will be a period of glory without precedent. To finish that time, Satan will be free with the goal to test by last time. According the dispensation people, the God’s enemy will try to destroy the human being with the help of the wicked that will resurrect by the Final Trial; however their intention will be vain. After this period the time will be end and it will emerge a new land and new heaven, since all that we know will be destroy by fire.
The dispensation people understand the Bible about the base of the literal Bible. It will be noted that the word “Dispensation”, come from the latin “dispensare” (distribute), it translate to Greek languages: “diakonia” or service (2 Corinthians 3:7-9) and “oikonomia”, manage, commission, order (1 Corinthinas 9:17, Ephesians 1:10; 3:9; Col. 1:25). In the protestant theological it refers to the way that God interact with the human being during certain time established.
Brief history about Dispensation
Antique Dispensation do not systematized
Justino Martir (110 – 165) maintains one concept about the different programs of God. In the Dialogue with Trypho talks certainly, about 4 dispensations. According Larry V. Crutchfield Justino believed in four phases of the human being in God’s program. The first one was from Adam to Abraham, and the second one was from Abraham to Moses, and the third one was from Moses to Christ, and the fourth was from Christ to the eternity.
Ireneo (130- 200) giving reasons about why there was no more than four Gospels, said: “One of them is as follow: “and the Gospel is in four, as well is the course follow by the Lord. For this reason four main pacts were given to the human being: one, before the Flood, under Adam; the second, after the Flood, under Noah; the third, from the law, under Moses; the fourth, that is the one that restore the human being, and it covers all the things by itself by the Gospel, raising and taking the human being in his wings to the heavenly Kingdom”.
Teruliano (160- 220); Metodio (-311); Victorino de Petau (-304) y Clemente de Alejandría (150-220) they also talked about dispensation and they made three different patriarchal dispensations
Agustín (354-430 He also shows those same early concepts of the dispensation on his writing. Even though his frequently declaration said. “Discern the time, and the Scripture will be in harmony with itself “, it is not applicable in its context to de dispensation ideas, in another part he makes declarations that they are applicable.
“The divine institution of the sacrifice was suitable to the antique dispensation, but not today because the convenient change of the present age has been introduced by God, Who knows infinitely much better that the human being what is appropriate for each age, and what is, either that add or remove, cancel or prohibit, increase or decrease, the unchangeable creator of the changeable things, ordering all the events in His ruling until the end of the course of the time, whose component parts are the dispensation adapted to the consecutive age, it will be accomplished, as the big melody of any wise ineffable master of singing, and it will pass to the immediate eternal gaze of God, to whom we are here, although it is faith time and not by seeing, we worship acceptability.
Agustín maintain a model of seven ages (dispensation). The first five stages were matched to the history of the Old Testament and they were demarcated by Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and the exiled. The two dispensation of the New Testament, according Agustín and almost all the people of the Dispensation, it was the age of the church and the Millennial Kingdom, the “Saturday rest” of the saint on earth (See Agustín, Sermon 259,2 and also “Revelation and Redemption at the early Christianity” (Vigiliae Christianae 45 (1991)).
Dispensionalism pre Darby
Pierre Poiret (1646-1719); French Philosopher ;in his work L’OEconomie Divine that it was published by first time at Amsterdam in 1687 and it was translated later to the English and it was knew in London in six volumes; in 1713 ; dedicated each volume to each economy or dispensation in particular. Let see:
Economy (dispensation) of the Childhood that last, since the creation until the Flood.
Economy of the Childhood, from the Flood until Moses.
Economy of the Adolescence from Moses to Solomon
Economy of the Youth, that last from Solomon until Advent
Economy of the Maturity that it will last “something else from this time”.
Economy of the Old Age that it is the time of the fall of the human being.
Economy of the Renewal of all the things: the Millennium.
Ehlert stated the following about the work of Poiret: “There’s no doubt that here we have a real design of dispensation”. The author use the phrase “Period of dispensation”, and his seventh dispensation is a literal millennium of the thousand years with Christ that he will come back and he will be ruling bodily over the earth, with his Saint, and Israel gathered up and converted. This schatological work is earlier than Darby.
John Edwards (1639-1716) published in 1699 two volumes, a total of 790 pages, with the title of A complete history or outlook of all the dispensations. He did believe in one millennium. Its dispensation structural was the following:
Dispensation of the Innocence and Happiness begins with Adam created in Justice.
Dispensation of the Sin and the Misery. Adam falls down in sin.
Dispensation of the Reconciliation: Adam restored from the Redemption in Christ.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), meanwhile, in one essay of forty pages with the tile of “The harmony of all the religions that God prescribed to the human being and all his dispensations with them”. He described his concept of all the dispensations y he presented his system. The definition is the following:
“The public dispensations of God for the human being, they are those wise and saint constitutions of his will and his government, revealed and exhibited somehow in different consecutive periods or ages of the world, in which contain the responsibilities of what He expect from human being, and the blessing that he promises, or He encourage to wait in Him, here and beyond; together with the sins that He forbid and the punishment that he promised inflict to the sinners, or the dispensations of God can be described shortly, as the moral rules ordered by God and his treatment with the human being, considering the human being as responsible before Him for his behavior”.
His sketch of dispensation is the following:
The dispensation of the Innocence, or the religion of Adam at the beginning.
The dispensation of Adam from the grace pact, or the religion of Adam after the fall.
The dispensation from Noah, or the religion of Noah.
The dispensation of Abraham, or the religion of Abraham.
The mosaic dispensation, or the religion of Judah
The Chistianity dispensation.
John Nelson Darby
Darby served in formal way in the Irish Church until he found the work of Irving whose reading produced in him an important theological impact. Darby is recognized in the theological world as the father of the Dispensation, this teaching was popular in United Stated of America by Cyrus Scofield in his “The Scofield Reference Bible”. Toward 1830 he found an interdenominational Christian group that they congregated to share the bread – the equivalent to take the host in the Catholism – as they way it is ordered by Christ. He sympathized with the ideas and attitudes of this person and he adhered to this meetings.
In 1833, this group has grown up so much and its member started to identify as Christian assembly. As they traveled and they found new communities in Ireland and England, they found the movement known as Brothers of Plymouth. Taking the decision of being separate completely of all catholic influence and Anglican, They formed a church with evangelical trends. ( In Argentine, the Brothers Free).
Likewise, he was responsible for proclaiming the theory of “the mystery of the secret rapture”, according this Christ will suddenly grab from this world his bride, the church, before it will occur without warning the trial of the Tribulation. From here, he was considered wrongly as the “the father of the futurism”. (The author from this writing believes in the rapture but not in secret way).
The belief of the people from dispensionalism about the restoration of the Jewish and the establishment of the Israel reign, it puts them in a prominent place of the Christian Zionism; these groups of believers hold that “God can work in Israel once more”, they hold this belief in their interpretation of the prophecies of the New Testament.
When he was in the Trinity University at Dublin (1819), Darby believed in base of interpreting the Scriptures, in one future restoration and salvation of Israel as nation. Based on his study of Isaiah 32, Darby concluded that Israel, in a future dispensation, it will enjoy the blessing of this world and they were different to the divine blessing lived by the church. In this way he saw evident distinction between Israel and the church.
Darby also believe in one “imminent” rapture of the church that it is followed by the seventieth week of Daniel in which Israel will be once more the center of the stage in God’s plan. After this period, Darby believed that there was one millennial kingdom in which God would fulfill His unconditional promises to Israel.
According to Paul Enns: “Darby proposed the outline of dispensionalism noticing that each dispensation classified to the human being under the title of any condition; the human being has certain responsibility before God. Darby also noticed that each dispensation will end in a failure”. According Darby, there is seven dispensations:
Paradisiacal Condition until the flood
By his own testimony, Darby says that his theological dispensation was formed completely in 1833. Darby started to preach his ideas with major strong according some writings since 1867. Later he began to travel to North America; his trips gave as result the “Biblical conference of Niagara falls”.
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921) one of the participating at the Niagara Falls conventions, he created a forum of the teacher of the convention of the Bible in 1909 and produced what it is known as the Scofield Bible Reference . This work was famous in United States of America with his theological notes beside de scriptures. This Reference Bible became the greatest influence on the extension of dispensationalism.
The dispensionalism criticized and defended
Mainly on behalf of Preterism, doctrine that teach that the prophecies already were accomplished and it will be necessary to wait the Advent, without tribulation and without millennium. In relation to that Ryrie says: “In reply to this accusation that the dispensionalism is recent and, so, suspicious, we had treated to show two things:
We can wait that the dispensionalism, a system closely related to the eschatology, it wouldn’t be refined and systematized until current time because the eschatology was not a subject under discussion until then”. Ryrie with Apologetic tone presented his work titled “Dispensionalism today”, where he gives proof based on the history that the dispensionalism is not recent as theological subject. At the same time he replied to attacks ad hominem (to his person), intellectual, historic, and attacks that make fun of the doctrine.
Ryrie follows his conclusion with regard to the historic point of the dispensionalism. The conclusion taken from the accusation of novelty by the adversaries of the dispensionalism, they are, so, unjustified. In all this discussion it is necessary to remember that the verdict of the history is not the final authority. Every doctrine, either antique or recent, at the end of the analysis has to be proved to the light of the Scripture. It is interesting to stand out, between the big adversaries of the dispensionalism; it appears a prominent figure among the Evangelical Christian as Charles Spurgeon.
The Variations into the Dispensionalism
The previous people mentioned characterized the belief of those into the dispensionalism tradition. However, as Blaising writes, “the Dispensionalism has not being a static tradition”. He offered three ways of dispensionalism taught
The Classic Dispensionalism (ca. 1850 -1940s)
It refers to the point of view of the British and Americans dispensionalism between the writings of Darby and the Systematic Theological of eight volumes of Chafer. The interpretative notes of “The Scofield bible of Reference is frequently seen as the key of the representative classic tradition of dispensation.
One important Characteristic of the classic dispensionalism is his dual idea of redemption. In this tradition God is seen as looking for two different purposes. One is related with heaven and another with the earth. “The heavenly mankind should be made by all the redeems of all the dispensations that will be resurrected from the death. While the earthly mankind is related with the people who had not died but who were preserved by God from the death, the heavenly mankind was made from all the save that had died, whose will be resurrected from death by God”. In this tradition it was a little emphasis from the social activity to political for the church.
Dispensionalism inspected or Modified (ca.1950 – 1985)
This variety of dispensation abandons the eternal dual from heavenly and earthly people. They are structured in a different way with different role and responsibilities of dispensation, but the salvation that is received by everyone is the same. The distinction between Israel and the church, as anthropological different groups, will continue during the eternity. The dispensation people inspected usually reject the idea that there are two new pacts – one for Israel and another one for the church. They also see the church and to Israel living together during the period millennarium and eternal.
The Progressive Dispensionalism (1986 – to present)
The title “progressive dispensionalism” it refers to the relation “progressive” from the consecutive dispensation one to another. Charles Ryrie noted that: ‘the adjective ‘progressive’ it refers to the central thesis that the pacts of Abraham, David and New they will be accomplished today (so as compliance in the Millennial kingdom”.
One of the differences between the progressive dispensationalism and the previous one, the progressive people do not see the church as anthropological category in the same class of terms as Israel, Gentile Nations, Jewish, and Gentile people. The church is not a separate race from mankind (in contrast with Jewish and Gentiles) and it is not a nation in opposition with Israel and the Gentile Nations.