Q: #161. What is dispensational grace?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Dispensationalism is a type of theology that was first made popular in the 1800's and early 1900's. The word "dispensation" comes from the Greek word "Oikonomia" which means "economy" or "management." Dispensationalism teaches that God has "managed" his dealings towards man throughout all of time (past, present, future) in a series of different ways or "dispensations." He has done this mainly to test man's obedience to Him.
Although this theology began in the 1800's, most accredit its widespread popularity to a man named C.I. Scofield, who in 1909, came up with a list of 7 dispensations based on his studies of the Bible. (The "dispensation of grace" is #6.)
THE DISPENSATION OF:
#1. Innocence (Gen 1:1-3:7): The period from creation to Adam's fall.
#2. Conscience (Gen 3:8-8:22): The period of awakening human conscience after sin until the end of the flood.
#3. Human Government (Gen 9:1-11:32): The covenant God made with Noah until Abraham.
#4. Promise (Gen 12:1-Ex 19:25): The covenant God made with Abraham until Moses.
#5. Law (Ex 20:1-Acts 2:4): The Mosaic covenant God made with Moses which extended from Moses until Jesus Christ.
#6. Grace (Acts 2:4-Rev 20:3): The beginning of the "church" age (present) which began at Pentecost.
#7. Kingdom (Rev 20:4-20:6): The Millennial reign of Christ.
Of course, different people have different names for these "dispensations" and some believe there are fewer dispensations.
In general, there are several other characteristics which MOST dispensationalists hold.
Most prominent is that a distinction is made between the two "people" of God: Israel and the "church" (all believers since Pentecost). It is not believed that God's promises to Israel in the Old Testament have been cancelled out in the New Testament, but rather, they are still in effect. Most believe that they will ultimately be fulfilled during the Millennium or 1000 yr reign of Christ.
*** The opposing viewpoint held by other scholars is that the "church" has now replaced Israel in God's plan, and the promises He made to Israel have now been transferred to the "church."
Another characteristic is that the Bible (especially Bible prophecy) should be interpreted literally and not figuratively.
Finally, the majority of dispensationalists hold a view called "Dispensational Premillennialism" (see: Q: #163 for more on the 3 views of the Millennium) which states that Christ's second coming will occur prior to the Millennium. Most who hold this view also believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of all believers followed by a 7 year tribulation period followed by the Millennium.
You can find Paul mentioning the term "dispensation of grace" in (Eph 3:2) of the King James Bible.