Dispensationalism is a system of interpreting the Word of God based upon man's accountability as stewards of God's revealed truth at a specific time in history. Dispensations are not different ways of salvation. Salvation is, and has always been by faith in the revelation of God that one has (compare Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; and James 2:23 with Romans 10:9-17 and Ephesians 2:8-9). Throughout time, God has increased mankind's knowledge of Himself, and with each increase, He has increased man's accountability. From Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses, God revealed more of Himself until man had finally witnessed God Himself in the form of Jesus Christ (John 14:9; 1 Timothy 3:16).
The four times Paul used the term translated "dispensation" were: 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10, 3:2; Colossians 1:24-25). There are seven dispensations or periods of stewardship (accountability) in the Bible:
1. INNOCENCE which ended with THE FALL
2. CONSCIENCE which ended with THE FLOOD
3. HUMAN GOVERNMENT which ended with THE SCATTERING
4. THE PROMISED LAND which ended with THE EGYPTIAN BONDAGE
5. THE LAW which did not end as yet (The Sixth Dispensation is parenthetical and occurs within the Fifth)
6. THE CHURCH which ends with THE RAPTURE (followed by THE TRIBULATION - The end of the Fifth)
7. THE MILLENNIUM which ends with THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON
[For a complete description of each dispensation and related material, read my posts of January 30th through February 8th of this year]
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are going to suffer a more tolerable judgment than the cities of Jesus day because they were accountable for rejecting "less light" (Matthew 10:15). The same is true of Tyre and Sidon, which did not have the benefit of seeing the mighty works of Jesus that Chorazin and Bethsaida saw (Matthew 11:21). Neither Adam nor Abraham was expected to know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as their Savior. Nor were they responsible for understanding The Law, or The Church. But all men are responsible for believing what God has reveal of Himself to them. Salvation was, is, and always will be by faith in God.
Dispensationalism, as a method of interpreting the Scripture, makes its greatest contribution in that it clearly recognizes the differences between Israel and the Church. And, when one applies this method, one does not need to spiritualize passages, but can interpret them literally. Remember, every prophecy that Jesus fulfilled during His First Coming was fulfilled literally. The same will be true of His Second Coming.