The Beginning and End of Dispensations

The Beginning and End of Dispensations

February 16th, 1986 @ 10:50 AM

Ephesians 3:1-13

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
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THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF DISPENSATION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 3:1-13

2-16-86    10:50 a.m.

 

 

It is a joy for us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the great multitudes of you who share this hour on radio and on television.  We are going to read, standing in a moment, God’s Word and the background text for the message.  Turn to Ephesians chapter 3.  We are going to read the first six verses; Ephesians chapter 3, right in the middle of your New Testament, after the four Gospels and the Book of Acts, then the epistles, Romans,1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians; Ephesians chapter 3.  The title of the sermon is The Beginning and the End of Dispensations.

These nine messages are being built around the theme, "The Beginning and the End."  We began with The Beginning and the End of the World, then Of Sorrows, then of Death, then of Satan, then of Grace, last Sunday.  Next Sunday, The Beginning and the End of Israel, then, The Beginning and the End of The Church, and then, the climactic and last one, The Beginning and End of the Golden Millennium; this Sunday, The Beginning and the End of Dispensations.

Ephesians chapter 3, the first six verses; now in the presence of the Lord may we stand together?  And we will read the passage out loud; Ephesians 3:1-6:

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:        

That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.

 

Thank you. The beginning and the end of dispensations; you find that word in the second verse.  "If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God" [Ephesians 3:2], and he spells what it is in the sixth verse: "That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel" [Ephesians 3:6], a new thing, an idea novel and unknown in the Old Testament.  That the Gentiles and the nation of Israel, that the Jew and the foreigner would be together in the same body, in the same message, in the same gospel, in the same grace, in the same kingdom; a new dispensation.

We are told in the Bible that we are to serve the Lord, and to love the Lord with all our minds, and our hearts, and our souls [Deuteronomy 6:4-5].  And this morning, I want us to bring our minds, as well as our hearts and souls, in obedient understanding of the revelation of the deep things of God.

We speak of the dispensations.  I’ve never done it before.  This is the first time in my life I’ve ever prepared a message on the dispensations in the Bible.  And yet without an understanding of those epochs and eras and the purpose of God that lies back of them, the Bible is enigmatic.  But with the understanding of that purpose and progress of God through the dispensations, the Bible becomes an open book.  So let’s begin.

A dispensation in the New Testament words, the name for house is oikos, oikos, house; and the name for law is nomos, law.  So when you say oikonomos, you’re talking about the law of the house; the management and the administration of a house.  In the New Testament, in the Bible words oikonomos, when you put them together, oikos nomos, oikonomos is the word for steward, a man who takes care and who manages and administers a house for his master.  He’s a steward.  When you put that word together in another way, those two words together in another way, oikos nomos, and you put it together like this, oikonomia, oikonomia, that refers to the management, to the administration.  That refers to the care of the house.  An oikonomia is an English word.  Oikonomia, spell it out in English and it comes out "economy."  It’s the exact New Testament word spelled out in English, oikonomia, economy.  When we speak of the American economy, we’re talking about the use of all of the resources of America in the business and social and domestic life of the nation, the economy, the American economy or the English economy.

Now that word oikonomia is also translated "stewardship," the management and the care of the house for the master.  That same word oikos nomos, oikonomia, is also translated "dispensation."  And we get our word dispensation from the Latin translation of it, dispensare which means the dispensing of the necessities for a household through the steward, through the manager.  

So that word dispensation; we can look at it from the Scripture, and we can look at it from theology.  And let’s look at it first from Scripture.  In Scripture, this world is looked upon as a household of God.  And the stewards are responsible to the Lord for the care and management of the household.  That’s a dispensation from the perspective of the Bible.  All of us belong to the household of God, and we are stewards to manage it for the Lord.  Now, theologically, a dispensation theologically is a section of time in which God rules and manages and administers His household in a certain way through His stewards.  They are pieces of time in which God controls and guides and governs His household down here in the world, in a certain way.

For example, you can say, the old Mosaic dispensation, the old Mosaic economy or administration.  Or you can say the new Christian administration or management or dispensation.  God does the same thing that we do down here in this world.  Ever since I’ve been preaching these messages, I have pointed out that we are exactly alike, whether it is up there or down here.  We also are made in God’s image [Genesis 1:27].  And whatever is true of the angels or true of the saints or true of the Lord, is also true of us.  And what you find up there, you’ll find down here.  And what you find here, you’ll find up there.  We are one in the Lord.

Now, you’re like that.  You manage your household according to different situations and different times and different epochs.  Look at you.  You’ll do one thing with your children when they are babies.  That will be one economy.  You’ll do another thing with your children when they are teenagers.  That’s another economy, another dispensation.  You’ll do another thing with your children when they are young adults.  We change as the situation changes.  So God in His purpose changes the administration, the management, the dispensation of His people as He progresses through His purpose of God in history.

Now a second avowal: it is inescapable, if you read the Bible, not to find dispensations.  And that is an amazing thing to practically all of the professors who teach the Scriptures, the Bible, religion, in all the institutions of the world.  If you had them all together and asked, "How many of you are dispensationalists?" Practically all of them, Dr. Merrill, would say "We are not dispensationalists."

"Really, you are not a dispensationalist?"  That’s what they all say.  "Really, you are not a dispensationalist.  Well, then let me ask you, when you come before the Lord, do you come with an animal sacrifice?"

  "Oh, no," he will say.  "I come before the Lord according to the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, with the blood of Jesus" [Hebrews 9:12].  

"Well, why don’t you come before the Lord with the blood sacrifice of an animal?"  He has to answer, "That belongs to the old dispensation, and I belong to the new dispensation."

"All right, let me ask you again.  You say you’re not a dispensationalist.  When do you worship the Lord?  When you come before the Lord, do you come before Him on the Sabbath day?"

  "Oh, no," he replies, "I worship the Lord on Sunday, the first day of the week.  For you see the Sabbath belongs to the old dispensation.  And a man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day by commandment of God was stoned to death [Exodus 31:14; Numbers 15:32-35].  I live in another dispensation, another management, another administration.  I live in this New Testament dispensation.  And that belonged to an old dispensation."

"Let me ask this.  You say you’re not a dispensationalist: did I see you eat a ham sandwich?  Oh, yes! you ate a ham sandwich,  I saw you.  I saw you, and not only that, but I heard that you had bacon for breakfast.  Did you have bacon for breakfast?  And not only that, but you eat shrimp.  And you eat lobster, and you eat a catfish that doesn’t have scales, and according to the eleventh chapter of the Book of Leviticus, these are prohibited and interdicted.  And yet, you violate the law of God by eating those unclean things."

"Oh, but" he says, "that belongs to the old dispensation.  You see, in this new era and administration in which we live, the Lord let down a sheet from heaven before Simon Peter in which were all kinds of catfish, and shrimp, and lobsters, and ham, and bacon, and pork.  And God says, ‘Eat.’  And when Simon Peter hesitated, ‘I’ve never eaten anything like that, prohibited by the law’ [Acts 10:9-14].  See?  That belonged to the old dispensation, and this is the new one.  This is the new one."

"You say you’re not a dispensationalist.  Tell me, when December comes and you gather your family together, do you light the candles of Hanukkah – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight?"

 "No," he says.  "I light Christmas lights, Christmas lights." 

"Oh, so you light Christmas lights?  You don’t light Hanukkah lights?  You belong to a new dispensation."

Now let me show you from the Bible poignantly how true that is.  In the tenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, verses 5 and 6: "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles."  Look at that! "Go not into the way of the Gentiles.  And do not enter any city of Samaria.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" [Matthew 10:5-6].  What an amazing commandment!  Don’t you dare preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  And don’t even announce the good news of the kingdom to the Samaritan.  But you are to go rather and only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Well, what an amazing contrast when I turn to the last chapter of the Book of Matthew, Matthew 28, and read the last verses, 19 and 20.  There we are commanded to preach the gospel to the whole world, to all the nations of the creation [Matthew 28:19-20].  You see, you’ve got another dispensation.  You have another administration.

May I show you that traumatically how these dispensations differ?  Jesus in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus is in the coast up there of Tyre and Sidon.  He is in Phoenicia.  "And behold, a woman of Canaan comes and says, O Lord, O Lord, my daughter is grievously vexed with a demon.  Come and heal her."  And Jesus wouldn’t do it.  And finally He answered her saying, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" [Matthew 15:22-24].  Then she came and said, "But is it not right!"

No, He said, "It is not right to take the children’s bread and to cast it to the dogs" [Matthew 15:26].  And she said, "That is true, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table."  And out of compassion, the Lord healed her daughter [Matthew 15:27-28]. 

Now, can’t you see the trauma of those dispensations?  A Canaanite woman; and the Lord says, "I am sent to the nation Israel.  And it is not right to take the bread that belongs to this distinct and elect people and give it to the dogs, to the Gentiles."  And she, in her faith and humility said, "But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table" [Matthew 15:27].  It’s another dispensation.  It’s another era.  God is doing a different thing.     

Now, may I hastily point it out in two other directions of many that we could say?  When the Lord died and yielded up His spirit, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom [Matthew 27:51].  A new dispensation heretofore in the old, heretofore you entered the presence of God through a priest.  He had a sanctuary.  He had a veil.  And the priest entered the presence of God in behalf of the people [Leviticus 16:3-34].

  There’s a new dispensation now, we go to God for ourselves.  The access to God for us now is direct.  We don’t go through any priest, and you don’t have to go through me to get to God; you don’t have to go through any man.  You go directly to God, and a kitchen corner is as sanctuarial as a cathedral; just go to God for yourself.  The veil between has been rent in twain.

In the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 7:26], the author discusses that: Jesus is our great High Priest.  And He maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered [Romans 8:26].  And He is our great Mediator [1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6].  But Jesus is not a priest according to the old dispensation: in the old dispensation, a priest had to be from the house of Levi and of the house of Aaron.  Jesus is from the house of Judah and could not be a priest.  He is one, and so the seventh chapter of Hebrews avows, "after the order of Melchizedek," which is an enduring priesthood forever [Hebrews 7:20-22].  It’s a new administration.  It’s a new era.  It’s a new management.  It’s a new government.  It’s a new dispensation.

May I point out just one other out of others that we can speak of?  Jesus is speaking of the tribulation, which is a Jewish dispensation.  And He says when that time comes, "and there will be trouble as was never in the world since its beginning" [Matthew 24:21], great tribulation.  He says, "Woe to them that are with child and to them that nurse in those days" [Matthew 24:19], difficult for them to escape.  Then He says, "And pray that your flight be not,on the Sabbath day" [Matthew 24:20].  Well, why the Sabbath day?  For the simple reason that in that dispensation, when they observe the Sabbath day, transportation is difficult.  And if you observed it meticulously, you could only go about a Sabbath’s day journey, about a mile on the Sabbath day.

Not to belabor the point, don’t you read in the paper the discussion and the dissension and the confrontation they had in Israel over El Al Airlines, and finally the conservatives won?  The rabbinical conference over there that wants to adhere to this dispensational theology; they grounded El Al on the Sabbath day.  And El Al, the national airline of Israel, doesn’t fly on the Sabbath day.  That’s what He is talking about there, "that your flight be not on the Sabbath day," because the thing is grounded.

All of this is just to point out – all of this is just to point out that there are differences of administration.  There are differences of government.  God deals with His household here in different ways.  And for us to blind our eyes to that is to make the Bible, I say, enigmatic.  It becomes a jumbled mess.  These things go according to the eternal purpose of God.  And they move in progression.

May I take just a minute to expatiate on that?  In this Book of Ephesians in that third chapter out of which we read, he says that all of this moves according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord [Ephesians 3:11]; that eternal purpose in verse 11.  The New Testament word there is prothesin, prothesin, and that’s an amazing thing; prothesinProthesin is the Greek word for the showbread.  When you went into the Holy of Holies, on one side, on this side was the table of showbread.  On this side was the menorah, was the seven-branched lampstand, and then right in front of you was the golden altar of incense [Exodus 30:1-10], and then the veil in between [Exodus 26:31-35].  Now, that showbread, that showbread had six loaves in a pile.  And they were placed there every Sabbath day representing before God the twelve tribes of Israel, six and six [Leviticus 24:5-9].  And the Greek word for that showbread is prothesin.

An amazing thing in language, a prothesin; that is, a presenting before God, a bringing to view before the Lord – these are His people, represented by bread.  And that is the word translated here, "purpose"; according to the eternal purpose [Ephesians 3:11], according to the eternal plan of God, brought to view by the Lord God through His holy prophets [Ephesians 3:5].  That is, there is purpose in God’s administrations.  There is movement in it.  There is progress in it.  And God begins here and then He does this, then He does this, then He does this.  And His inexorable purpose moves through human history and through all of the ages and finally consummates in a glorious, incomparable, messianic, millennial triumph.  That’s God. 

Now we’re going to look at that, and then I have to quit.  In these dispensations, these movings of the presence and purpose and plan of God through history; in these dispensations, we can easily follow the will and purpose of God.  I hold this Bible in my hand.  There are two of them that are very obvious.  One is called a kainē diathēkē, a new covenant, and one is the old covenant.  And the old covenant is different from the new, altogether different.

John in his Gospel, John 1:17 says: "For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth comes by Jesus Christ," two different dispensations.  Or look again: the preaching of the apostle Paul on Mars Hill to the Athenians, "The times of this ignorance," in the days of Socrates and Plato and Euripides and Aristides, "the times of this ignorance."  They didn’t know – God overlooked, but "now commandeth all men everywhere to repent" [Acts 17:30].  It’s a new dispensation.

Or once again, take the way the marvelous eloquent Alexandrian author of Hebrews begins, "God, God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto our fathers through the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" [Hebrews1:1-2]; another dispensation.  Paul mentioned three of them, and I wish I had time to discuss them.  Paul mentions three dispensations in these passages: he mentions one in the first chapter of Colossians [Colossians 1:25-29].  He mentions one here in the passage that we read, that Jews and Gentiles were to be together in one body [Ephesians 3:6-10], a thing unknown in the Old Testament.  And in the first chapter of Ephesians he mentions the dispensation of the glorious millennium that is yet to come [Ephesians 1:10-14].

Now, I pick out two of them, and we’re going to contrast them: the first one and the last one.  The first dispensation and the last dispensation and in between, all of human history works toward that achievement of the purpose of God.

The first one: the first dispensation is Edenic, Eden, the word for delight.  It was a pristine and beautiful and glorious era.  Everything was as God in His grace and omnipotence created it.  And the man and his wife that the Lord made were for fellowshipping with Him.  As I have said, God couldn’t fellowship with a mountain or with an ocean or with a planet.  They can’t talk back to Him.  They can’t think His thoughts.  But the man God created like Him can.  He can talk to the Lord.  He can think God’s thoughts.  He can love the Lord.  He can fellowship with the Lord.

And in that first dispensation there was face-to-face camaraderie, and fellowship, and love, and grace.  The man and his wife and the Lord God in whose image they were created.  And the Lord told the man and his wife, "You are to replenish the earth" [Genesis 1:26-28].  It was God’s plan that the whole family be just like that, made in the image of God, born in the likeness of God, loving the Lord and serving Him in wonder, and grace, and love forever.  

It ended as you know in catastrophe.  The commandment of the Lord, a simple one, was transgressed [Genesis 3:1-6].  And there fell into the grave and into death the family that God had created.  And all of us are a part of that tragedy to this day.

I had a memorial service, a funeral service yesterday.  My sweet prayer partner and assistant, Ed Poole, had another one yesterday.  That was the second one that I’ve had this week.  He usually has sometimes three and four.  We live in that kind of a world.  I never get away from it; the sorrow, and the tears, and the separation that comes and the tragedy of death.  "For in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die" [Genesis 2:17].

Now that is the first dispensation, and that is the catastrophe into which it ultimately fell.  But in the catastrophe, in the ending of that first era, that first dispensation, there was also a promise.  It ended in a glorious promise that the Seed of the woman – through her, the Seed of the woman – the coming messianic Prince of Glory will crush Satan’s head, and He will bring to us an incomparable and ultimate victory [Genesis 3:15].  And in token of that promise, and in affirmation of it, God placed on the east side of the garden of Eden, a shrine, a sanctuary.  And He placed there cherubim who are always symbols of the grace and the forgiveness of God [Genesis 3:24].

And there the man could retire.  There he could bow.  And there he could be brought back into the love and mercy and fellowship with the Lord God.  And from that day until this day, there has always been the shrine, the sanctuary with the cherubim with their wings touching up above, such as here today, and the Word of God proclaimed, and the people invited to come back to the Lord God. And through the years that followed after and through the dispensations that succeeded one another, that eternal purpose of God always moved, and does move.

God’s omnipotence is not thwarted, nor is it denied, nor is it interdicted.  God’s eternal purpose moves, and it progresses.  And it is the eternal purpose of the Lord God: that in the Seed of the woman, in the messianic Christ born of a virgin woman, that in Him, the incarnate God [Matthew 1:20-25], the whole world should reach forth into a millennial glory and an Edenic delight.

O Christ, He is the fountain,

The deep sweet well of love!

The streams on earth I’ve tasted,

More deep I’ll drink above:

There to an ocean fullness

His mercy doth expand,

And glory, glory dwelleth

In Immanuel’s land.

 

That’s why I love what you’re doing.  When we come to church, it ought to be glory, glory, glory.

The bride eyes not her garment

But her dear bridegroom’s face.

I will not gaze at glory

But on my King of grace.

Not at the crown He giveth,

But on His nail-pierced hand.

The Lamb is all the glory

Of Emmanuel’s land.

["The Sands of Time are Shrinking"; Ann Ross Cousin, 1857]

 

 

That is the purpose of God through all the ages.  And it moves, and it moves, and it moves.  And finally through all of the ages, the dispensations, finally the purpose of God is realized in the golden millennium [Revelation 20:1-9], which will be the last one of this series of nine messages.

But may I speak of just one thing of it and that is this: the optimism and the triumph and the victory that it carries with it.  All of the other systems, and economies, and philosophies, and approaches in life, all of them end in ultimate despair and death, all of them.  There is no hope in any one of them.  No light, no glory, no triumph, not in any of them.  Name them!  And when you name them, you will immediately fall into that same and ultimate darkness of despair. 

Let me name just two or three or four of them that you might see.  The materialist: whose life is in this world; and his life is bounded by and defined by the things of this world – the materialist.  An astronomer said, "The silence of the universe terrifies me!"    It doesn’t speak!  All of the creation around us, it is inanimate.  And finally, if I have my hope and my dreams identified with this material world, I face nothing but darkness, and silence, and despair.  One day, the sun will burn out.  One day, this planet either will fall into the sun or will become a great, globule of ice.  All of the creation moves toward some kind of an ultimate dissolution, and for me to bind my life and my hope with any materialistic, optimistic view is ultimately to fall into despair – the materialist. 

The evolutionist: he speaks of inevitable progress, "There is progress in science.  There is progress in knowledge.  There is progress in discovery.  There is inevitable progress."  But there is also progress in atomic warfare and bombs, in gases that could annihilate a whole nation!  And we live in terror and in fear of what evolution in science and discovery have brought to us.  And it will increase.  Don’t you ever think that there’s ever been any instrument of warfare that has not been used.  We live in that kind of a dreadful world.  And for me to give my life in the hope that evolution will bring to us an ultimate victory is to live in despair. 

Take again the sociologist.  He deals in social relationships. And all of these things that we have for the amelioration of society he gives himself to.  There are laws; there are civic organizations; there are all kinds of institutions; everything working with society in order to bring about a golden age.  But it seems to me the more they work and the more they strive, the more crime there is, the more violence there is, the more bloodshed there is!  Sweet people, when I came to Dallas, people came downtown by the thousands and walked up and down those streets.  There was everything in the world going on down here in Dallas at night for the people to come to.  I talked to a couple this last week, and they said, "We are afraid to walk downtown in Dallas."  

I was stopped on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia by a cop, an officer.  And he said to me, "What are you doing?"

 "Well," I said, "Mr. Officer, I’ve just come into town and I’ve been on an airplane."  I think I was coming back from Europe or something.  "And I’m just walking for a breath of fresh air."

 "Well," he said, "You go back to your room."

 "Well, why should I go back to my room?"

 He said, "It is dangerous for you to be out here on the streets of Atlanta at night.  And you go back to your room." 

That is America.  I wanted to visit a certain section of Chicago at night, and I was warned by everybody there, "Don’t you dare enter that part of this city."  Now this is after our finest sociological progress toward the solution of human problems.  There is no hope in them.  They offer no beautiful tomorrow. 

Let’s just take one other, and not, I say, to belabor the point.  "I’m an atheist.  I’m an atheist.  I don’t believe in God.  I don’t believe in Christ.  I don’t believe in the Bible.  I don’t believe in a Creator.  All of it just happened.  I’m an atheist." 

What does he look forward to?  I’ll tell you exactly.  One of the greatest scientists of all times was named Albert Einstein, Einstein, professor at Princeton University.  Einstein said, "I want it understood I am an atheist.  And when I die, there is to be no service.  And my body is to be burned and scattered to the wind."   When Albert Einstein died, there was no service.  They burned his body and scattered his ashes to the wind.  What a glorious consummation for human life.  Scatter it to the wind – no purpose, no reason, no victory, no triumph, just to die. 

Dear people, every philosophy and every approach to the reality of life is exactly like that, except one, except one.  And that’s for the man that opens that Book and reads about the purpose, the eternal purpose of God in human history.  And it moves, and it moves, and it moves, and it moves to the great and ultimate and triumphant ending – a resurrection, a regeneration, and a re-creation.  That’s the faith.  That’s the Lord.  And that’s our hope: again a heaven.  That’s the last; that’s the last of God’s administrations. 

O!  golden hereafter, thine every bright rafter

Will shake in the thunder of sanctified song;

And every swift angel proclaim an evangel,

To summon God’s saints to the glorified throng.

 

O!  host without number, awaked from death’s slumber,

Who walk in white robes on the emerald shore;

The glory is o’er you, the throne is before you,

And weeping will come to your spirits no more. 

 

O!  Jesus, our Master, command to beat faster

These weary life pulses that bring us to Thee; 

Till, past the dark portal, we stand up immortal,

And sweep with hosannas the jasper-lit sea. 

 

O!  chorus of fire, that will burst from God’s choir,

Where the loud hallelujahs leap up from the soul, 

Till the stars in the skies and the tears in our eyes

Shall tremble with joy in the music’s deep roll. 

[from "Chorus of Fire"; Robert Lowry, 1868]

 

That is the purpose of God for us – not the dust of the ground, not the darkness of the grave, not the failure of the hope and the dream that we cherish in our souls.  God’s purpose for us is a millennial fellowship with Him, when we see Him face to face, when we walk in His presence, when we’re resurrected and regenerated from these bodies of dust and death and live as He does – resurrected, glorified, immortalized in that new and beautiful city of God. 

The first dispensation, Eden, and the last dispensation God gives it back to us again.  Glory to His wonderful name!  Now may we bow our heads in the prayer?

Wonderful Savior, what a victory You won for us.  The Seed of the woman who has crushed Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15], brought life and immortality to light [2 Timothy 1:10], and is preparing for us that city [John 14:2-3] – the golden millennium.  And however the world may falter or fail or darkness seemingly prevail, yet God’s eternal plan will not falter.  God will bring to pass every promise that He has made, keep every word that He said, and do for us above all that heart or mind could ever imagine or think [Ephesians 3:20].  And sweet Jesus, when that time comes and we’re gathered in Thy presence, resurrected, glorified, immortalized, without loss of one, may we all be present; every member of our family, everyone we’ve known and loved, every friend and neighbor?  And now precious Savior, these in divine presence this morning, without loss of one, may we be there with Thee and with God’s children?  Please, Lord, make it so, make it now, in Thy dear and saving name, amen.

In this moment we’ll stand and sing our appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, just one somebody you, "Pastor, today I decide for God.  I’m on the way.  All of us are coming," or just you.  In the balcony, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "This is God’s time for me, and here I am accepting the Lord as Savior."  Or coming into the fellowship of this dear church, or answering some call of God in your heart, or giving your life anew to the blessed Jesus, God be good to you, angels attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing.

 

 

THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THE DISPENSATION

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 3:1-13

2-16-86

 

I.          Definitions (Ephesians 3:2)

A.  Oikos, "house"; nomos, "law" – oikonomos – management and administration of a house; steward

B.  In Scripture – the world a household of God; stewards responsible to the Lord for care and management

C.  In theology – section of time in which God rules and manages His household in a certain way through His stewards

 

II.         It is inescapable to recognize dispensations

A.  Come before the Lord with animal sacrifice?(Hebrews 9:12)

B.  Come before the Lord on a Sunday?(Numbers 15:32-35, Colossians 2:16)

C.  Eat ham, bacon?(Leviticus 11, Acts 10:9-16, 1 Timothy 4:4)

D.  In December, light eight lights for Hanukkah?

E.  Different dispensations in the Bible

1.  Gospel to house of Israel; later the Great Commission (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:21-28, 28:19-20)

2.  Access to God through a priest; now we go to God for ourselves(Matthew 27:51, Hebrews 7:12-17, 25)

3.  In the tribulation(Matthew 24:19-20)

F.  All moves according to eternal purpose(Ephesians 3:11)

 

III.        Recognizable periods, eras, ages, economies, dispensations

A.  Old Covenant and the New Covenant(John 1:17, Acts 17:30, Hebrews 1:1-2)

B.  Paul mentions three of them (Colossians 1:25-26, Ephesians 1:10, 3:2, 6)

 

IV.       The beginning and the end of dispensations

A.  The first Eden – "delight"(Genesis 1:26-28)

      1.  Ends in catastrophe

B.  But with a promise(Genesis 3:15-27)

C.  The last glorious Edenic millennium – the purpose of God realized

      1.  Despair, hopelessness of all other systems of faith

D.  Poem, "Chorus of Fire"