Notes on the dispensations of humanity on earth:
(Source: C. I. Scofield)

Dispensations are concerned with how God has dealt with humanity at different historic times.
Each dispensation ends with a judgment by God:
1. Edenic: Innocence [to the fall and expulsion from Eden]

2. Conscience: Genesis 3:7 to Genesis 7:11 [from expulsion in Eden to the judgment of the flood of Noah]

3. Human Rulership: From the offspring of sons of Noah [to the Tower of Babel dispersion.]

4. Promise: Abram called out of the Caldes to a land he would be shown (this dispensation is gracious and preceding the law) the dispensation of promise [ends with bondage in Egypt until Moses comes to deliver.]

5. Age of the Mosaic Law: The law highlights man in his moral deficiency. It becomes a mirror that shows man's iniquity. Tablets of stone outline the perameters of the moral law; Ceremonial law is administered by a Levitacal priesthood as strict ordinances to cover the sins of the people. Ended with the cross and Christ paying the penalty of sin lost by Adam in the garden.

6. The age of Grace: (The Church Age is currently in force.) Jesus came to fulfil the law and died to initiate the new covenant. The age of grace will come to an end with the removal of the Holy Ghost restraint of the Church. The end of the age follows with divine years of judgment and dealing with sin and rebellion.

7. The kingdom Age: (MILLENIUM)The return of Christ (the second advent) The Messiah of Israel will return to reign physically upon the earth. Those saved and delivered (those surviving) out of the tribulation at the end of the age, will go into the 1000 year “millenium.”

The Basics of Understanding the Bible Matthew McGee

In order to understand the Bible, one must study it dispensationally, that is, rightly divide the scriptures
(2 Timothy 2:15). But what does it mean to study dispensationally or to rightly divide? On the most basic level: It is reading a Bible passage and asking, "Am I in the group of people being spoken to here?" That is, "Is this passage speaking to Christians?"

Most commonly, we are taught that the entire Bible is written to us. But that is not entirely correct. The whole Bible is written for us, for our learning, but not all of it is addressed to us. For example: When God gave the law to the people of Israel through Moses in about 1500 BC, one of the laws was to do no work on the Sabbath. The Sabbath lasts from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. When a man was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32-36, God commanded the people of Israel to put him to death by stoning.

Now does that mean if we see our neighbor mowing his grass on Saturday morning that he is committing a sin? Should we round up the whole neighborhood and kill him? Of course not. We must realize that the children of Israel were not Christians. We are not under the law of Moses like they were then. They lived in a different dispensation from us.

The word "dispensation" comes from the word "dispense". So a dispensation is an administration (or dispensing) of God's will over a certain period of time to a certain group of people. In other words, a dispensation is God's way of dealing with a group of people during a particular time period. To properly understand a Bible passage, it is important to know both the time period to which it refers, and the group of people to which it applies. This way, you can determine which dispensation applies to each Biblical passage. God has had different rules for different groups of people in different time periods. Not only may the rules be different, but the punishment for not keeping the rules may be different. The way God interacts with man may be different. Sometimes even the environment man lives in may be different.

Here is an easy example that illustrates the point: Capital punishment.
1. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, there was no capital punishment for murder. For that matter there was no sin at all for which to be punished. On top of that, there was no death at all, since the fall of man had not yet happened.  
2. A few years after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Cain, their son, murdered his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:8-15). But there was no capital punishment for Cain. God had not yet allowed it. Furthermore, God put a mark on Cain so that no one would kill him. 
3. After the great flood, God instituted capital punishment for murder (Genesis 9:6). 
4. And as just explained, when God instituted the law of Moses, capital punishment was administered for working on the Sabbath. Some other offenses would also result in death by stoning, such as the worship of idols, adultery, homosexual acts, and consulting spirit mediums (Leviticus 20). In this simple example alone, we see four distinctly different sets of rules regarding capital punishment that applied in different dispensations. Below is a summary of all of the dispensations: Eternity Past - Even before God created the world, He always was, having no beginning or end.

1. Innocence - from the creation to the fall of man (the first sin) - Although the Bible does not say specifically, this dispensation probably did not last very long, perhaps only a few days. It ended about 4000 BC. This dispensation is covered in the scriptures from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 3:22.

2. Conscience - from the fall of man to the great flood - This dispensation lasted from about 4000 BC to about 2350 BC and is covered in the scriptures from Genesis 3:23 to Genesis 8:19. With very little instruction from God during this time, man acted according to his own conscience. The evil became so overwhelming, that this dispensation ended when God destroyed all but Noah and his family in the great flood.

3. Human government - from the great flood to the call of Abraham - This dispensation began in about 2350 BC and is still in effect. Although Abraham and his descendants went under the dispensation of promise around 2000 BC, as explained below, the remainder of mankind remained under the human government dispensation. It is covered in the scriptures from Genesis 8:20 to Genesis 11:32. God began allowing humans to govern themselves and to punish criminals.

4. Promise - from the call of Abraham to the giving of the law to Moses for the children of Israel - This dispensation applied only to Abraham and his descendants through his son, Isaac, and Isaac's son, Jacob (Israel). It lasted from about 2000 BC to about 1500 BC is covered in the scriptures from Genesis 12:1 to Exodus 19:7. God promised Abraham that He would give land to Abraham's seed and that all the nations of the world would be blessed by his seed. Although Israel went under the law described below around 1500 BC, the promise God made to Abraham is still in effect.

5. Law - from the giving of the law to Moses for the children of Israel to the calling of Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles (those not of Israel) - This dispensation applied only to Jacob's descendants, Israel. It began about 1500 BC and lasted until it began to fade away about 37 AD and stopped in 70 AD. It will resume for seven years during the future tribulation after the dispensation of grace listed below. It is covered in the scriptures from Exodus 19:8 to Acts 8 and from Hebrews to Revelation. The book of Acts is a book of transition from law to grace. During the period covered by Acts 9 to 28, we see the grace dispensation coming in and the law dispensation fading away. God chose Israel as the apple of His eye. He gave Israel strict laws, harsh punishments, and prophecies of worldwide prominence in the future kingdom of their coming Messiah.

6. Grace - from the calling of Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, to the rapture of the church - We are now in this dispensation. It began in about 37 AD and will last until the future rapture. Hopefully it will be soon, but we do not know when the rapture will occur, except that it will occur before the seven-year tribulation. This dispensation of grace is covered in the scriptures in Paul's letters from Romans to Philemon. When Israel refused to accept Jesus Christ, who had ascended to heaven, as their Messiah, God turned to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy (Romans 11:11).

7. Kingdom (or divine government) - from the return of Jesus Christ to the great white throne of judgment - This begins at the end of the seven-year tribulation mentioned above and lasts for 1000 years. During this time, Jesus Christ will reign as King in Jerusalem. This dispensation is covered in Revelation chapter 20. However, much more detail on this dispensation may be found in many prophecies in various other parts of the Bible. I have summarized many of these in my article, "The Millennial Kingdom Reign of Jesus Christ". Eternity Future - This dispensation begins at the end of the 1000 years mentioned above and lasts forever. It is covered in the scriptures in Revelation chapters 21-22.

Session 2