Dispensationalism is the systematic study of the Bible, whereby the Word of God is divided into periods of time, during which man is tested with respect to his obedience to specific revelation of the will of God. The word, "dispensation" appears four times in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25). However, the same root word is found in sixteen passages translated as "steward," "chamberlain," "stewardship," and "edifying." In all cases, it has to do with man's accountability to God. The Word of God is to be "rightly divided" (2 Tim. 2:15), and while not all view the divisions the same, most dispensationalists generally agree that there are seven divisions of God's revelation to man: Innocence (Gen. 1:1-3:7), Conscience (Gen. 3:7-9:6), Human Government (Gen. 9:6-11:9), The Land (Gen. 12:1-Ex. 19:2), The Law (Ex. 19:8-Rev. 19:11), The Church (a parenthetical period within The Law - Acts 2:2-Rev. 3:22), and The Kingdom (Rev. 20:1-6).
Dispensationalism appears to be the fulfillment of Daniel 12:4, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." The man given credit for the spread of dispensationalism, John Darby (1800-1882), began teaching his approach to Biblical study in his early thirties. "Coincidentally," the first widespread modern mode of land travel was the locomotive, the Liverpool & Manchester Railroad, in 1830. The 1830's also brought us the sewing machine, the reaper, electrolysis, the refrigerator, the mechanical calculator, the propeller, the telegraph, the steel plow, Morse code, rubber vulcanization, the bicycle, blueprints, etc. The first U.S. patent was recorded on July 31, 1790. By 1836, when a fire destroyed the patent office, ten thousand had been recorded. Travel, knowledge, and a new understanding of God's Word all occurred as prophesied.
The dispensational approach to Bible study has clarified the difference between Israel and the Church. It has also provided us with a clear picture of order of future events in the prophecies of Daniel, the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, and Revelation. They are: the Rapture of the Church; the Judgment Seat of Christ; the Tribulation; the Marriage of the Lamb; Christ's Second Coming; the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; the Millennium; the Great White Throne Judgment; the New Heaven and New Earth; and Eternity. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will present the scriptural references for these events.
While much of God's Word can be understood without using the dispensational approach to Bible study, history has shown that without it, the many of the passages meant for the Jews have been applied to the Church. This has led to confusion, disharmony, and ultimately to division. Sadly, even though the dispensational approach has been around for nearly two hundred years, few schools of theology teach it, and consequently, very few pastors preach it. Even as I sit here typing this post, I feel like the prophet Elijah, wondering why I am the only voice crying out in the wilderness (1 Kgs. 19). But knowing God, and His Word, I know that there are thousands of God's servants attempting to teach this approach to Bible interpretation, and I rejoice!