Yesterday, I presented the seven dispensations or stewardships addressed to specific groups, having differing responsibilities, and all seven end in man failing to obey God. I like to point out some obvious differences in these seven to help others understand the importance of recognizing each as unique from the others.
My favorite example is the dietary restrictions that apply. In Innocence, there was only one tree that was "off limits" to Adam (Gen. 2:17). The first indication that man and some of the beasts became carnivorous was in the third dispensation, after Noah stepped off of the Ark (Gen. 9:1-3). It was during the fifth dispensation that the Kosher Laws came into being (Lev. 11:1-47). During the present dispensation, called either Grace or The Church Age, the only restrictions on what man can eat are things strangled, or with the blood still in them (Acts 10:10-16; 15:20). Sometimes, even within a dispensation, the dietary restrictions change. In Acts 15, James says believers should not eat what has been offered to idols, but later, Paul appears to have received God's permission to eat even that (1 Cor. 10:23-33).
In theology, the word "covenant" principally refers to solemn agreements made between God and man in the Bible. The first seven are presented in the Old Testament, and the eighth is found in the New Testament. In order to rightly divide God's Word, the student needs to recognize these eight covenants between God and man: Edenic (Gen. 1:28), Adamic (Gen. 3:15), Noahic (Gen. 9:1), Abrahamic (Gen. 15:18, Mosaic (Ex. 19:25), Palestinian (Deut. 30:3), Davidic (2 Sam. 7:16), and the New Covenant (Heb. 8:8). [These references are for footnotes addressing each covenant in the Scofield Reference Bible.]
Bible covenants can either be conditional or unconditional. Conditional covenants appear to have the form of a contract or treaty, in which there are clear stipulations to be upheld by both parties involved, such as the Mosaic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is an example of an unconditional covenant which does not have stipulations and represent a divine charter or gift.
Dispensations, on the other hand are always conditional. God tells man what He wants man to do, but with the command, He always warns man of the consequences should he fail to obey. All dispensations end with the failure of man to do as God commands, and as a result, man is disciplined. Only conditional covenants can be broken, and always by man; unconditional covenants depend solely upon the character of God, and therefore are never broken.
Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will present Christ's First Advent, and His Second Advent which involves two events: the Rapture of born again believers, and His Second Coming.