The Dispensation of Grace
Acts 2:1 to Revelation 19:21
The basis for this material comes from Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Ariel Ministries, San Antonio, Texas
One of the most important things in understanding the Bible is rightly dividing the word of truth (Second Timothy 2:15 NJKV). There are a number of ways we can divide the Bible to understand the different parts of the whole. One of the ways is by the dispensations contained in God’s Word. To understand what a dispensation is, we need to take a look at two Greek words. The first word is oikumenei from which we get our English word ecumenical. It means to manage, to regulate, to administer, or to plan. The second word is aion and it means age. It emphasizes the time element of the dispensation. So the term dispensation refers to a specific way by which God administers His program, His will, His rule and His authority. Each dispensation is an age, because each dispensation covers a period of time. Dispensations are periods of time in which God governs in a different way than He did previously.
There are seven dispensations described in the Bible: (1) the Dispensation of Innocence or Freedom (Genesis 1:28 to 3:5); (2) the Dispensation of Conscience or Self-Determination (Genesis 3:6 to 8:14), (3) the Dispensation of Civil Government (Genesis 8:15 to 11:32), (4) the Dispensation of Promise or Patriarchal Rule (Genesis 12:1 to Exodus 18:27), (5) the Dispensation of Torah (Exodus 19:1 to Acts 1:26), (6) the Dispensation of Grace (Acts 2:1 to Revelation 19:21), and (7) the Dispensation of the Messianic or Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 4:2-6, 11:1 to 12:6, 54:11-17, 60:1-22).
The sixth dispensation is called the Dispensation of Grace. While grace was evident in all other dispensations, it is in this dispensation that a very unique display of grace was manifested that was different from all former displays of grace. Concerning this dispensation, Yochanan 1:17 states: For the Torah was given through Moshe; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah. Certainly, ADONAI was gracious before the coming of Jesus, for that are many evidences of YHVH’s grace throughout the pages of the TaNaKh. However, with the coming of Christ, there was a totally unique display of grace. This is why it is called the Dispensation of Grace, and it is in effect at this present time.
This dispensation extends from Acts 2:1, with the beginning of the indwelling ministry of the Ruach ha-Kodesh at Shavu’ot, through Revelation 19:21. It covers the entire period of the Church Age, and also the seven years of the Great Tribulation.
At the beginning of each dispensation there is one key person through whom God reveals the new features of that particular dispensation. The key person in the sixth dispensation was Rabbi Sha’ul, also known as the apostle Paul after his Damascus Road experience (see the commentary on Acts Bb – Rabbi Sha’ul’s Conversion). It was Sha’ul who uniquely received the revelation concerning the Dispensation of Grace. It was no accident that he received more revelation than any other apostle. Sha’ul wrote most of the letters of the B’rit Chadashah. It was he that received that special revelation concerning the dispensation of the grace of God (Ephesians 3:2 KJV). Sha’ul, the apostle to the Goyim (Acts 22:21 and Ephesians 3:1-13), more than any other apostle, is the key person for this dispensation.
Each dispensation also had a specific responsibility. Our responsibility during the Dispensation of Grace is obedience to the Jewish New Covenant (see the commentary on Jeremiah Eo – I Will Make a New Covenant with the People of Isra’el), of which we are participants. Obedience to the B’rit Chadashah means to accept the gift of righteousness that ADONAI offers to everyone through the Messiah of Isra’el.
Not only does each dispensation come with a responsibility, but each also comes with a test. The specific test of this dispensation is simply this: Will you accept the gift? Will humanity, as a whole, accept the LORD’s offer of the free gift of salvation by the simple act of faith in the person of Yeshua Messiah? For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
There will also be a failure during this dispensation. As with all the previous dispensations, the present one will also end in failure, and this can be seen in two ways. First, most will reject the free gift of salvation (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Dw – The Narrow and Wide Gates). The majority of humanity will not come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in our own day, any more than it was true before our time. The second way that failure is going to be seen is that they very organism that has a knowledge of the truth, the unbelieving visible church, will become apostate, and will even turn away from the truth (see the commentary on Revelation Bf – The Church at Laodicea).
After the failure there is the judgment. This dispensation will also end with judgment, the judgment of the Great Tribulation (see the commentary on Isaiah Eu – The Rapture and the Great Tribulation). The Great Tribulation will fall upon the whole world in general, because humanity has failed to accept the free gift of salvation offered through Yeshua Messiah. Also, the unbelieving visible church will go into the Great Tribulation and suffer the wrath of God. But the believing invisible Church, the true believers in Jesus Christ, will be taken out of this earth before the Tribulation ever begins.
In every dispensation there is also the display of God’s grace. It will be seen through the Rapture of the Church in that the invisible Church, the true Body of Messiah, composed of Jews and Gentiles, all true believers, will be raptured out of this earth (see the commentary of Revelation By – The Rapture of the Church). Even for those who have died, their bodies will be resurrected, so that even their bodies will not be on this earth during the seven years of the Great Tribulation. The rapture will be a unique display of grace during the Dispensation of Grace.212