The Study of Scripture
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Ages and Dispensations
If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,
how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery . . . .
And to make all see what is the fellowship [dispensation] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ,
to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by [might be made known through] the Church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
according to the eternal purpose [according to a purpose of the ages] which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:2, 3a, 9-11)
The words “age” and “dispensation” do not refer at all to the same thing; nor are they even closely related. The former has to do with a period of time, but the latter does not refer to time. It refers to a “stewardship” occurring within time — within part of an age, a complete age, or even possibly a sequence of ages.
Thus, there are ages, and there are dispensations within the framework of these ages.
The ages began at the time of the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the dispensations could only have begun at the same time or shortly thereafter, at the time God established His universal government.
And, as matters in this respect relate to the earth — one province in God’s universal kingdom — there would have been at least one dispensation, possibly more, within God’s economy in association with Satan being placed over the earth as its first provincial ruler (at a time preceding his fall and man’s subsequent creation); and this dispensation, or these dispensations, could have covered one or more ages.
But insofar as man is concerned, ages and dispensations began with the restoration of the earth and the creation of Adam. We are living during a present age and dispensation (though the present dispensation only covers a part of the present age [Ephesians 3:2, 9]), and Scripture reveals and names both a succeeding age and dispensation (Mark 10:30; Ephesians 1:10; Hebrews 5:6). Then, beyond this succeeding age and dispensation, there is an unending array of future ages (Ephesians 2:7; 3:21; Revelation 1:6); and there would be one or more dispensations occurring within God’s economy during the course of these future ages.
Though we are living during an age, this present age is not “the Church Age” as it is often called. There is no such thing as “the Church Age.” The age during which we live began long before the Church was brought into existence, and it will continue at least seven years following that time when the Church is removed from the earth.
Rather, the existence of the Church during the present time (during part of an age) has to do with a “dispensation.” It has to do with “the dispensation of the grace of God,” “the fellowship [‘dispensation’] of the mystery” (Ephesians 3:2, 9).
And “the mystery” is explained in very simple terms in both Ephesians and Colossians.
In Ephesians, the mystery has to do with the “Gentiles [who are ‘aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world’]” being made “fellow heirs [with Jewish believers], and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (2:12; 3:6).
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles –
if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,
how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,
by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),
which in other ages [‘generations’] was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:
that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel [the gospel of the glory of Christ, not the gospel of the grace of God]. (Ephesians 3:1-6)
And in Colossians, reference is again made to the Gentiles, with the mystery being defined as “Christ in you [lit., contextually, ‘Christ being proclaimed among you’], the hope of glory” (1:25-28).
of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God,
the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you [Christ being proclaimed among you], the hope of glory:
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:25-28)
The mystery — though “hid in God” from the beginning (the beginning of the ages) and, of necessity, forming an integral part of the Old Testament foundational material, particularly material in Genesis (seen in the types) — was not fully revealed to man until the days of the Apostle Paul. Though God had chosen Moses, and then others, to lay this foundational material and/or build upon the foundation, He waited until the days of the Apostle Paul (1,500 years removed from Moses) to provide the necessary additional revelation, which opened the previous revelation surrounding the mystery to one’s understanding.
This is somewhat similar to the angels referred to in 1 Peter 1:12 desiring “to look into” the things surrounding the salvation of the soul (cf. vv. 3-11). They apparently had seen these things in the Old Testament Scriptures but could not fully understand them because the full revelation of God had not yet been given.
But why bother with the Old Testament Scriptures once the matter to which this foundational material refers has, at a later time, been revealed (as, for example, “the mystery”)? The answer is very simple. The later revelation opens the earlier after a fashion that the earlier will shed additional, necessary light on the later. And, aside from that, the unchangeable basics are set forth in the earlier revelation.
Both must be viewed together in order to grasp the complete picture after a correct fashion.
(A “mystery [Greek, mastering, meaning, ‘a hidden thing,’ ‘a secret’]” in the New Testament is usually defined as something previously hidden but now revealed [cf. Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:4, 5]. This definition though should not be thought of along the lines of something not found in previous revelation, for there is nothing in the New Testament that does not have its roots somewhere in the Old Testament. Rather, a “mystery,” in reality, pertains to something previously revealed [seen mainly in the types] but not opened up [or fully opened up] to one’s understanding until a later point in time.
The making known of a mystery requires divine action [e.g., Christ, in time past, opened previously revealed revelation surrounding mysteries to His disciples’ understanding (cf. Matthew 13:10, 11; Ephesians 3:2, 3); and the indwelling Spirit, today, leads individuals “into all truth” surrounding mysteries (cf. John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 13:2)]. Such a making-known takes something in the Scriptures that cannot be understood [or fully understood] in and of itself; and, by/through divine leadership [using additional revelation that casts light on the earlier revelation (today, comparing Scripture with Scripture under the leadership of the indwelling Spirit)], the matter is opened to one’s understanding.)
“These are ‘mysteries’ [a reference to ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens’ in Matthew 13] because men by nature and by their own abilities are unable to discover and to know them. It must ‘be given’ to a man ‘to know’ them. This Divine giving is done by means of revelation…”
— R. C. H. Lenski
The Greek New Testament uses the word for “age” (aion) one hundred twenty-six times. And the translation of aion in different ways in various English versions has resulted in confusion surrounding the use of this word in Scripture.
The word has, numerous times, been translated either “world” or “forever,” rather than “age” (e.g., Matthew 12:32; 13:22, 39, 40, 49; 21:19; Mark 4:19; 10:30; 11:14; Hebrews 1:2; 5:6; 6:5, 20, KJV).
Actually, in the KJV, there are only two instances in the entire New Testament where aion has been translated “age” (Ephesians 2:7; Colossians 1:26). Other versions (e.g., NASB, NIV) have, on the other hand, rendered the word as “age” in many instances, though still frequently remaining with the KJV translations of “world” and “forever.”
Then, to further complicate the issue in the KJV, the Greek word genea (appearing in a plural form and meaning “generations”) has been translated “ages” twice (Ephesians 3:5, 21), which, in conjunction with the mistranslation of aion numerous places in Scripture, leaves a very misleading thought pertaining to ages.
In Ephesians 3:21 both aion and genea appear together, and both have been mistranslated in the KJV. Genea, appearing in a plural form, has been translated “ages”; and aion, appearing twice and meaning within its structured usage, “of the age of the ages” (referring to the climactic age in a sequence of ages, i.e., to the Messianic Era [which is the subject matter leading into this verse — vv. 1-11]), has been translated “world without end.”
(Aion and genea also appear together in Colossians 1:26; and, unlike Ephesians 3:21, both words have been translated correctly in the KJV — “. . . hid from ages and from generations . . . .”)
To translate genea as “ages” in Ephesians 3:5 sets forth an issue concerning ages that is not at all in accord with the teaching of other Scripture. Scripture sets forth the thought of a series of ages beginning at the time of the creation of the heavens and the earth (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:2), which move toward and climax with the coming Messianic Era. That is, the 1000-year Messianic Era is the climactic age in a series of ages thaat began with the creation of the heavens and the earth and the placing of Satan over the earth as the earth’s first provincial ruler.
The basic problem though with understanding the word meaning “generations” as ages in Ephesians 3:5 has to do with the thought that many generations come and go during Man’s Day, but not so with ages. The whole of Man’s Day — 6,000 years — actually covers only one age, not many ages as Ephesians 3:5 in the KJV would lead one to believe.
Scripture makes it quite clear that only two ages exist within the framework of the 7,000 years referred to by the seven days in Genesis 1:1-2:3. One age covers the first 6,000 years, and the other age (the climactic age) covers the last 1,000 years.
To understand this within its Scriptural framework, begin with Matthew 12:31, 32. These verses, dealing with what is called “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit [attributing to Christ an exercise of supernatural power emanating from Satan rather than from the Holy Spirit],” refer to two ages. And the sin of committing this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by the religious leaders in Israel was such that it would not be forgiven them, “neither in this world [Greek, aion, ‘age’], neither in the world [‘age’ (not in the Greek text, but implied from the previous usage)] to come” (v. 32, KJV).
That is, there would be no forgiveness during either the age in which they lived or in the age that would follow. And, the action by the religious leaders in Israel (looked upon in a larger sense as action by the entire nation [cf. Matthew 23:34-39]), followed by Christ’s announcement to them, forms the major turning point in the gospel of Matthew.
It was on “the same day” in which this occurred that “Jesus went out of the house [alluding to the house of Israel], and sat by the sea [alluding to the Gentiles]” (Matthew 13:1; cf. Daniel 7:2, 3; Matthew 23:38; Revelation 13:1).
It was also on this same day that He began to speak in parables, something new in His ministry. Then it was shortly after these things occurred that the Church was first mentioned and the ministry of Christ moved more toward the thought of the Cross rather than the Crown (cf. Matthew 16:17-23; 17:22, 23; 20:17-19).
And then, anticipated by all the preceding, the announcement was finally made by Christ in Matthew 21:43 that the kingdom (the proffered heavenly sphere of the kingdom which had been rejected) would be taken from Israel and be given “to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”
The two ages referred to in Matthew 12:32 cover 7,000 years of time — the age that covers Man’s Day, and the age that covers the Messianic Era. And this is quite easy to illustrate.
(Note that the non-forgiveness associated with a particular sin and two ages in Matthew 12:31, 32 has to do with the heavenly sphere of the kingdom, not the earthly sphere, the kingdom covenanted to David. The earthly sphere of the kingdom can never be taken from Israel.
Refer to Chapter 7 in this book for information about and distinctions between the earthly and the heavenly spheres of the kingdom, both present and future.)
1) Looking Forward in Time
In the account of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-30, this ruler approached Christ with the question,
. . . Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life [lit., ‘life for the age’]?” (v. 17).
And Christ told him exactly what he must do (vv. 19-21). Christ’s answer had to do with obedience to that which God had commanded, denying self, taking up one’s cross, and following Christ (cf. Matthew 16:24-27).
Confusion can only arise when a person attempts to read into the account of the rich young ruler that which is not there, while ignoring that which is there. The subject is entrance into the kingdom during the coming age, not eternal life that exists during the present age and extends not only throughout the coming age but throughout the subsequent endless ages of eternity.
As previously indicated, from a contextual standpoint, the words “eternal life” in verse seventeen, a translation of the Greek word aionios, could be better translated, “life for the age.”
(Aionios is the word usually translated “eternal” or “everlasting” in English versions, though aion is occasionally translated in a similar sense — “forever.” Aionios is the adjective form of the noun aion, from which we derive our English word “aeon.” Neither the adjective nor the noun means “eternal.” Rather, the two words really have to do with “a long period of time,” usually thought of as “an age.”
The only way the Greek language can express “eternal,” apart from textual considerations, is by using the noun form of aionios [aion] in the plural [“ages” (e.g., Luke 1:33; Hebrews 13:8)], or by using aion twice in the plural [“unto the ‘ages (aionas)’ of the ‘ages (aionon)’” (e.g., Revelation 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10; 5:13, 14; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5)]. A person using the Greek language thinks in the sense of “ages,” with eternity being thought of in the sense of “endless ages,” i.e., “endless aeons,” or “the aeons of the aeons.”
For additional information on the use of aion and aionios in the Greek New Testament, refer to Chapter 9 in this book, p. 164.)
Mark 10:30, climaxing Christ’s dealings with the rich young ruler, clearly shows that “age” (a singular noun in the Greek text) has to be the correct understanding of aionios in verse seventeen (or in Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts [Matthew 19:16; Luke 18:18]). In verse thirty, remaining with the translation in most English versions, reference is made to “eternal life” in the “world to come [some versions read, ‘age to come’]” (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV).
This though is not what the Greek text states at all. In the Greek text, aion and aionios both appear together, referring to the same period of time. Aion has been translated “world” (or correctly, “age” in some versions); and aionios has invariably been incorrectly translated “eternal” (as in v. 17).
The latter part of Mark 10:30 should literally read, “. . . and in the age to come age-lasting life,” or, “. . . and in the age to come life for that age.” “Eternal life,” as previously stated, is not even in view. There is no such thing as inheriting “eternal life” (v. 17) in the “age to come [or ‘world to come’ as some translations erroneously read].”
Aside from the preceding, eternal life is not inherited; it is a free gift, and it is a present possession rather than a future hope. The possession of eternal life (present) and coming into possession of an inheritance (future) — both spoken of numerous times in Scripture — are two different things entirely. That which is in view in Mark 10:17-30 is an inheritance with Christ as co-heir in the 1000-year kingdom during the coming age.
But that which we want to see here is a reference to the same two ages referred to in Matthew 12:32. The coming age is, in Mark 10:30, specifically identified as the Messianic Era; and the present age, in existence at a time preceding Calvary in Matthew 12:32, lasts until the Messianic Era.
2) Looking Back in Time
Now, with that in view, note several Scriptures that show that the age in existence at a time prior to Calvary — an age that extends forward to the Messianic Era (the end of Man’s Day) — also extends back to the very beginning of Man’s Day. That is, comparing several other references with Matthew 12:32 and Mark 10:17, 30, it can unquestionably be shown that one age covers the whole of Man’s Day — the whole of the 6,000 years foreshadowed by the six days in Genesis chapter one.
Aion, translated “world” in the KJV, appears in each of the following verses:
As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world [age] began. (Luke 1:70)
Since the world [age] began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. (John 9:32)
Whom heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world [age] began. (Acts 3:21)
Known to God are all his works from the beginning of the world [age]. (Acts 15:18, KJV)
The reference to God’s “prophets” in two of the preceding verses (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21) should be understood in a somewhat broader sense than the word “prophet” is usually thought of today. The word appears quite often (about 150 times in the New Testament) and is used as a title given to the person whom the Lord had chosen to communicate — “announce,” “declare” — His message to the people; and the message did not necessarily have to be prophetic per se for the title “prophet” to be used of the messenger.
This title is used referring to those chosen at different times to declare the will and purpose of God by/through either a written revelation or an oral expression.
It is used of individuals preceding the existence of the nation of Israel (Jude 14), of individuals in Israel (Matthew 23:37; Luke 24:27), of individuals in the first century Church prior to the completion of the canon of Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:28; 13:9, 10; Ephesians 4:11), and of individuals in Israel once again yet future (Joel 2:27, 28; Revelation 11:3, 10).
In this respect, all of those chosen to write portions of the Word of God, beginning with Moses and ending with John, could be called “prophets.” And others, such as Enoch or Noah who communicated the message of God in an oral manner to the people of their day — though they were not chosen to write particular sections of Scripture — could also be looked upon after this same fashion (cf. 2 Peter 2:5; Jude 14). In fact, this word, in its strict Scriptural usage, could be used to refer to certain individuals all the way back to and including Adam himself.
(The first recorded statement by Adam, which concerned an existing relationship between himself and Eve, has far-reaching ramifications. It has to do with “a great mystery” that God desires His people to know and understand, for it concerns an existing relationship between Christ and the Church.
The former forms the type and the latter the antitype, and this mystery can be seen in its correct proper perspective only by viewing both the type and antitype together [cf. Genesis 2:23, 24; Ephesians 5:21-32].)
The age in which Jesus lived at the time of His earthly ministry is, thus, not only seen in Scripture as extending forward to the beginning of the Messianic Era but it is also seen as extending back to the beginning of man’s existence on the earth. Comparing the different ways aion (age) is used in Luke 1:70; John 9:32; Acts 3:21; 15:18, a person can arrive at only one conclusion. The present age, looking back in time, covers the entire period of the “prophets,” which, of necessity, would have to include not only Enoch (who “prophesied” over 1,500 years prior to the appearance of Moses [Jude 14]), but also Adam.
3) The Complete Picture
God knew all of His works that would transpire within the framework of the ages at the time of man’s creation (Acts 15:18). And this was something known at a prior time when He designed and made the ages with the thought in mind that His Son would, in the climactic age of the sequence of ages in view, inherit “all things” (Hebrews 1:2). And God — being both Omniscient and the Architect of the ages — in order to make His will known and reveal events transpiring during the ages, simply “spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets,” beginning with Adam.
Accordingly, at least three ages in relation to the earth can be seen in Scripture. At least one age (and there may have been more than one) existed between the creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 and the beginning of the restoration of the ruined creation in Genesis 1:2b. Then another age began at that point that covers the next 6,000 years. And, to bring the first sequence of ages to a close, the climactic age of the ages will be ushered in at the completion of the 6,000 years, an age that will cover the next 1,000 years.
Then, at the end of the 1,000-year Messianic Era, the present heavens and earth will be destroyed and be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth, and a new age will begin (which will apparently be the first in a new sequence of ages). How long that age will last is unrevealed. But it will have a beginning point and an ending point.
And following that age will be another age, and then another, and then another, forming an unending God-designed and arranged sequence of ages comprising eternity.
“Dispensation” is the term used in Scripture to show distinctions in God’s dealings with different groups of mankind during Man’s Day, along with the Messianic Era. As previously shown, one age covers the whole of Man’s Day and another age covers the succeeding Messianic Era; but, as will be shown, there are more than two dispensations within the framework of these two ages.
The word “dispensation” is the translation of the Greek word, oikonomia. A cognate form of the word is oikonomos, which is made up of two words — oikos (house) and nemo (to manage). Thus, oikonomos has to do with the management of a house, referring particularly to the person (the manager, the steward) placed in charge of the house. And oikonomia (the word used for “dispensation”) carries the same basic meaning.
Oikonomia has been translated “stewardship” in three instances in the New Testament (Luke 16:2-4, KJV); and the word actually only appears five other times, translated “dispensation” four of the five times (1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; 3:2; Colossians 1:25; 1 Timothy 1:4, KJV).
“Stewardship” has to do with household management. Christians are stewards in this respect since they are members of a household, have been placed in charge of a portion of the Owner’s goods, and are expected to manage those goods within the household (under the leadership of the Holy Spirit) after such a fashion that there will be an increase (cf. Matthew 25:14ff; Luke 19:12ff).
Thus, a “dispensation” simply has to do with the management of the Lord’s household affairs through those whom He has placed in His house (stewards). And when there is a stewardship change within God’s dealing with mankind, there is, correspondingly, a change in the dispensation. This would have to be the case, for stewardship and dispensation are synonymous in this respect.
Within the scope of the 7,000 years set forth through that which is foreshadowed by the seven days in Genesis 1:1-2:3, there are at least four different dispensations. There is a present dispensation (during which God is dealing with Christians), there were at least two past dispensations (one in which God dealt with Israel, and the other in which He dealt with mankind at large prior to His dealings with Israel), and there is a future dispensation (the Messianic Era).
Then, the period prior to the creation of Adam in which Satan ruled over the earth apart from a successor being present could only be referred to as a dispensation in the strict sense of the word (for a stewardship did exist, one in which Satan rebelled against the Lord within his assigned position and trust). And on the other side of the 7,000 years a similar situation exists with respect to the thought of dispensations, with man then occupying positions in God’s government of the universe.
However, time and events both before and after the 7,000 years are spoken of in Scripture only to an extent that will allow man to properly understand time and events during the 7,000 years. Scripture deals with the latter almost exclusively (with events occurring during the 7,000 years), having very little to say about the former (with events occurring outside the scope of these 7,000 years).
Thus, to speak of dispensations outside the framework of the 7,000 years is doing little more than surmising. There is very little revelation to work with in this respect, and the subject has been mentioned only to carry some continuity of thought from the past age or ages into the 7,000 years, and from the 7,000 years into the future ages.
1) The Normal Dispensational Outlook
When referring to dispensations, The Scofield Reference Bible is usually looked to more than any other source, for its references follow, to a large extent, a dispensational framework set up in different places in the footnotes. And this is the same dispensational framework that is usually taught in Bible colleges and seminaries when viewing Scripture after a dispensational fashion
Footnotes in The Scofield Reference Bible call attention to seven dispensations:
1) Innocence (from the creation to the fall).
2) Conscience (from the fall to the Flood).
3) Human Government (from the Flood to the call of Abraham).
4) Promise (from the call of Abraham to the giving of the Law at Sinai under Moses).
5) Law (from Sinai to Calvary).
6) Grace (from Calvary to the Kingdom).
7) The Kingdom (the 1000-year Messianic Era).
The preceding though, in The Scofield Reference Bible, is based on an incorrect understanding of what constitutes a dispensation. Dr. Scofield, for example, defines a dispensation as “a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God” (footnote to heading of Genesis 1:28ff).
Then, commenting on “the dispensation of the fullness of the times” in Ephesians 1:10, Dr. Scofield states, “This, the seventh and last of the ordered ages which condition human life on the earth, is identical with . . . .”
(The preceding quotations were taken from The Scofield Reference Bible of 1909, the original edition. The same definition of a dispensation was retained by the editors in The New Scofield Reference Bible of 1967, the updated edition; but the footnote commenting on “the dispensation of the fullness of the times” in Ephesians 1:10 was deleted in the later edition.)
Thus, in both editions of The Scofield Reference Bible, there is an incorrect definition of a dispensation. And in the original edition, in the footnote commenting on Ephesians 1:10, “dispensation” and “age” are made synonymous, i.e., the seven dispensations are set forth as seven ages.
This is probably the point to which a high percentage of the existing confusion concerning both dispensations and ages can be traced, for footnotes in The Scofield Reference Bible, rather than Scripture itself, have, in many instances, set the mold for much of the dispensational thought in Christendom today. And this is also probably why the present dispensation is, more often than not, erroneously called “the Church Age” by many Christians.
2) The Scriptural Divisions
Using the strict definition of the Greek word oikonomia (dispensation), Scripture will logically divide itself into four dispensations during the 7,000 years extending from the creation of Adam to the end of the Messianic Kingdom. In 1 Corinthians 10:32 mankind is divided into three groups, and God’s dealings with these three groups — separately during Man’s Day, and together during the coming Messianic Era — establish the only biblical, dispensational scheme of the matter.
Give no offense [do not be offensive or provide a cause for stumbling], either to the Jews or to the Greeks [Gentiles] or to the Church of God. (1 Corinthians 10:32)
God deals with mankind in cycles of time. There were, for example, 7-year, 70-year (7x10), and 490-year (7x7x10) cycles in which He dealt with Israel (Exodus 31:13-17; Jeremiah 25:11, 12; Daniel 9:2, 24-27), and these cycles occurred within a larger 2,000-year cycle in which He dealt (and will deal) with the nation (seven years yet remain — the seven years comprising the coming Tribulation, Daniel’s unfulfilled Seventieth Week — to complete not only a final 490-year cycle but the full 2,000-year cycle).
There are actually three of these 2,000-year cycles (though only one pertains to Israel); and the three 2,000-year cycles, comprising the whole of Man’s Day — covering God’s dealings with the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God (His dealings with each occurring separately within one of the 2,000-year cycles) — is followed by the last cycle of time, lasting 1,000 years. This will be the 1,000-year Messianic Era in which God will deal with the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God together at the same time. And all of this has been foreshadowed by the seven days that God placed at the very beginning of His revelation to man, in Genesis 1:1-2:3.
That would be to say, God, throughout the 6,000 years comprising Man’s Day, deals with the three divisions of mankind on an equal time-basis — for 2,000 years each. Then, following the 6,000 years, He will continue His dealings with these three divisions on an equal time-basis. He will deal with all three together, at the same time, for 1,000 years.
And these four divisions comprise the dispensational divisions that Scripture itself provides. This is how the 7,000-year period, foreshadowed at the beginning, in Genesis 1:1-2:3, logically divides itself into four dispensations.
God began His actions after this fashion by/through dealing with mankind at large — by/through what would be considered His 2000-year dealings with the Gentiles — though during the first 2,000 years of human history there was, in the strict sense of the word, no such thing as Gentiles. “A Gentile” in Scripture is simply someone who is not a Jew (or today, when the expression “in Christ” is used, not a Christian as well [Galatians 3:28]); and prior to the call of Abraham and the separate creation that emanated from his seed through Isaac and Jacob (Isaiah 43:1), a division within mankind of this nature did not, it could not, exist.
However, God’s dealings with mankind in general during the first 2,000 years of human history was, in the main, with those who would later be looked upon as Gentiles. And His dealings with this division of mankind must either be placed in the first 2,000-year period or not be placed at all.
Or, to turn that around, the first 2,000-year period must either relate to the Gentiles or not relate to any one of the three divisions of mankind.
Then God dealt another 2,000 years (seven years yet remain) with those called Jews, or Hebrews (Abraham was not a “Jew” [a name derived from Judah], but he was the first person in Scripture called a “Hebrew,” with his descendants being called “Hebrews” [a name thought to mean “the one who crossed over,” i.e., crossed over the Euphrates in route to the land to which he had been called, with his descendants looked upon as crossing over with him — Genesis 14:13; 40:15; 43:32; Exodus 2:11; Joshua 24:2, 3]).
After that, which brings us into the present 2,000 years, God is dealing with a new creation “in Christ” — with Christians — called into existence for a specific, revealed purpose. And we are today living very near the end of the present two millenniums, which would also place man (Jew, Gentile, and Christian) very near the end of the entire triad of three 2,000-year periods.
That which will end the 6,000 years though, as previously shown, is not the completion of the present 2,000-year period but the completion of the previous 2,000-year period (for seven years yet remain to complete that period, which will run their course after the completion of the present period). These final seven years, completing Man’s Day, will complete Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy. One week — the Seventieth Week, a period of seven years comprising the coming Tribulation — remains to be fulfilled in the prophecy given to Daniel concerning his people.
Then, and only then, will God deal with all three divisions of mankind together, at the same time. And He will, at that time, deal with these three divisions after this fashion for 1,000 years, completing the full 7,000 years.
Thus, Scripture begins with:
1) A 2,000-year dispensation having to do with God’s dealing with the Gentiles (though, again, in the strict sense of the word, there were no Gentiles before there were Jews).
2) Scripture continues with another 2,000-year dispensation having to do with God’s dealings with the Jews.
3) Scripture continues with another 2,000-year dispensation having to do with God’s dealings with Christians.
4) Scripture then concludes the full 7,000 years with a 1,000-year dispensation in which God will deal with all three groups of mankind, together at the same time.
This is the manner in which Scripture naturally divides itself within a dispensational respect, which is in perfect keeping with the framework of time foreshadowed by the six and seven days opening the book of Genesis. And following these natural divisions is really the best way to divide the whole of Scripture to show an overall dispensational picture that can be easily understood:
1) From Adam to Abraham.
2) From Abraham to Calvary (plus the future seven-year Tribulation).
3) From Calvary to the Kingdom.
4) The 1,000 years toward which everything has moved since God, in the beginning, “made the worlds [‘the ages’]” (Hebrews 1:2).