The Dispensation of the Torah
Exodus 19:1 to Acts 1:26
The fifth dispensation is called the Dispensation of Torah. It was given through Moses and contained a total of 613 specific commandments in the Torah, the first five books of the TaNaKh. This dispensation begins with Exodus 19:1 and continues through Acts 1:16. It covers the period of time from the Exodus through the life of Messiah to the day of Pentecost, or festival of Shavu’ot.
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 key person in the fifth dispensation was Moses. He was God’s, chosen mediator between Himself and His people.
Man’s responsibility was to obey the Mosaic Covenant. This involved two major areas. First, they were responsible to obey the 613 commandments of the Torah. Secondly, they were to obey the prophets God would send that would further elaborate on the Torah, define the law, give meaning to the Torah and explain it. In other words, they were to obey the commandments of the Torah and the prophets.
The test during that dispensation involved two things. First, they were to obey the entire Torah. They were to obey all of its 613 commandments because to break only one of these meant that they were guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10). The second part of the test was to believe and accept that God would raise up for them a prophet like Moshe from among the sons of Isra’el (Deuteronomy 18:15-18). In other words, they were to accept Christ once He came, because He was going to be a prophet to the people like Moses.
But then came the failure. They failed in both aspects of the test. First, they failed to keep the Torah (Romans 10:1-3). In fact, not only did they fail to keep the commandments of the Torah, but they tried to get around them. They created their own kind of righteousness by establishing what came to be known as the Oral Law, or the traditions of men (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law). Because of this, they felt that they did not have to obey the 613 commandments of the Torah. Secondly, they also failed to accept Christ (Mark 3:22, Matthew 12:24, Luke 11:15-16). Jesus denounced the Scribes and Pharisees, the leadership of Isra’el of that day, because they first rejected His messianic claims, but worse, they were leading the nation to the rejection of Him (John 7:19-20).
As a result of the failure, came judgment in 70 AD, and it involved two things. First, the Temple and Jerusalem itself were destroyed. Secondly, the Jewish people were dispersed throughout the world and they were exiled from the Land until 1948.
Grace was seen throughout the Dispensation of Torah in two ways. First, the sacrificial system was provided because the Jew was not able to keep all 613 commandments. Whenever the individual Jew failed, his or her sin could be covered (not forgiven) by the sacrificial system. It was God’s system for restoring the sinner. However, these sacrifices during the Dispensation of the Torah, with the blood of bulls and goats, were like interest only payments. They could buy the individual Jew a little time, but not forgiveness. The animal sacrifices could not take away their sin. No Jew was ever saved because of any sacrifice brought to the Tabernacle or the Temple. The righteous of the TaNaKh were saved by grace through faith. But faith needs substance. So when individual Jews brought a sacrifice to the Tabernacle or Temple, faith was being demonstrated in the fact that he or she believed that by means of the shedding of blood his or her sins would be covered and fellowship with ADONAI would be restored. Secondly, grace was displayed during this dispensation by God’s provision of judges, kings and prophets. Judges were given to deliver the Jews from the conquest of various peoples. Righteous kings were sent to give them a kingdom of righteousness and justice. Prophets were provided for them to expound on the Torah, call the people back from sin, remind them of where they had failed, and call for repentance.339