PLAINER WORDS SINCE 1968 Issue # 426
A Study on
RIGHT DIVISION BY
TOM L. BALLINGER
TIMES AND DISPENSATIONS
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: For the LORD hath spoken ...” (Isaiah 1:2)
The most significant phenomenon the world has ever known is the fact that God HATH SPOKEN. The invisible God, Whom no man “hath seen, nor can see” (1 Timothy 6:16), has spoken. In times past, God spoke in divers manners and at sundry times (Hebrews 1:1). Much of what God has spoken, He, by the Holy Spirit, has caused to be put in writing. The Writings are the Holy Scriptures—the Bible.
If we are to understand what He has spoken through the Scriptures, we must be prepared to recognize that they are “the Word of Truth.” Since they are “the Word of Truth,” the Divine manner for handling “the Word of Truth” is to “Rightly Divide” It (2 Timothy 2:15). Thus, we need to distinguish the people To Whom God Spoke, such as:
1. The Jew
2. The Gentile
3. The Church of God (Acts 2 to Acts 28)
4. The Church over which Christ is The Head
We need to distinguish the “sundry times” at which He has spoken to them and, also, the “divers manners.” In plainer words, God has spoken at various times and in many different ways. He has spoken in TIMES PAST:
1. By the prophets to the fathers of Israel (Hebrews 1:1)
2. By His Son to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:2)
3. By them that heard the Son (Hebrews 2:3) to the Church of God
That which God wanted preserved, the Holy Spirit caused to be put in writing (2 Peter 1:21). Today, truth does not come to us orally, or handed down by tradition, but in writing. Writings given by the “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13) are now complete. Nothing is to be added to them. We have ALL that the Spirit of Truth has written for us in the “Scriptures of Truth.” Today, God
still speaks to man; not audibly, but through His written Word.
The “times” God spoke to the fathers of Israel by the prophets is set in contrast to the “times” He spoke to the Hebrews by His Son. This informs us that the Holy Spirit recognizes different TIMES when God spoke.
Times and dispensations are inseparable from the Word of God. The word, “dispensation,” is a word used four times by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 9:17, Eph. 1:10, 3:2, Col. 1:25). It comes from the word “dispense.” To “dispense” means to weigh out, or hand out. A Dispensary dispenses medicine. To dispense has the idea of administering, or dealing-out certain things. The Biblical use of the word, “dispensation,” has to do with the act of administering a particular phase of God’s program. He has had different administrations by which He has dealt with mankind. It is under these different administrations, or dispensations, that God has spoken at “sundry times.” We are to distinguish the different dispensations in which He has spoken; thereby, interpreting what He has said in light of WHEN He said it and to WHOM did He say it.
This present evil age, which is characterized by sin and death, extends from Adam to the “appearing” of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) which ends the present dispensation. While this evil age is one in essential character, it is subdivided into different dispensations. As God introduced different ways of dealing with mankind, or Israel, you will see, set forth below, divisions of dispensations. We don't pretend that the list is without fault; we only hope that the reader will see the need to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.”
1. From creation to the fall of Adam
2. From the fall to the flood
3. After the flood, from Noah to Abraham
4. From Abraham to Moses
5. From Moses to the entrance into the promised land 6. From the entrance to Davidic Kingdom
7. From David to the Babylonian Captivity
8. From the Captivity to the birth of Christ
9. From the birth to the resurrection of Christ
10. From Pentecost to the prisoner of Jesus Christ (Acts 2 to Acts 28)
11. The Prison ministry of Paul, the Dispensation of the Grace of God
12. The Appearing; God’s Government on Earth; Restitution of All Things 13. Rebellion against God’s Government—The Tribulation
14. The 2nd Coming and the 1000 Year Presence of Christ on Earth 15. Satan cast into the bottomless pit for 1000 years
16. Satan loosed for a “little season”
17. The Great White Throne Judgment
18. New Heavens and Earth; and New Jerusalem
It should be evident that as dispensations change, so should the particular lines of truth change as far as God’s revelation to man is concerned. This being true, the utmost care should be taken to
note dispensational changes. Things that were true before the fall of Adam would be untrue afterwards. Things which were true before the Law was given would not be true after it, and so throughout the dispensations. Some truths, however, are carried forward into the next dispensation.
Dr. E. W. Bullinger well said; “If we take what God said and did in one dispensation, and carry it forward to another in which His administration was on quite a different principle; or, if we take a truth subsequently revealed, and read it backward into the Time when it was hidden from the sons of men, it is impossible for us to understand what we read; we shall find ourselves taking what is quite true of one Time, and using it to contradict what is also true of another Time.”
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” That is, all the words recorded in the sixty-six books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, ARE INSPIRED BY GOD, and “is profitable for DOCTRINE, for REPROOF, for CORRECTION, for INSTRUCTION in righteousness;” all of which Divinely equips “the man of God” for every good work. The man of God has confidence in the Scriptures, believing 2 Timothy 3:16. He also knows; since ALL SCRIPTURE is the Word of Truth, it must be “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15); otherwise, the faith of the hearers will be subverted, and error will be taught as Truth. The man of God must RIGHTLY DIVIDE the Word of Truth; if not, he will stand ASHAMED before God as an unapproved workman.
Included in right division is the necessity for the student of Scripture to recognize the ages and dispensations to which the various sections of Scripture apply. The Bible Itself is not silent on the fact that different ages and dispensations existed. Romans Five speaks of the age from Adam to Moses (Romans 5:14). John 1:17 expresses the fact that the Law came by Moses; but, “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (i.e. true grace).”
Ephesians 1:21 mentions “this age,” and 3:9 refers to “ages past,” and 2:7 points to the “ages to come.” The Lord Jesus Himself said; “The law and the prophets were UNTIL JOHN: since that time the KINGDOM OF GOD is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16).
Daniel, in the Ninth Chapter, writes a prophecy which refers to 70 weeks (490 years) being determined upon Israel and their holy city. Jeremiah writes about the "time of Jacob's trouble" (30:7).
Right division of the Word of Truth recognizes ALL SCRIPTURE. It does not cut out unpopular doctrine; it simply apportions ALL SCRIPTURE according to the ages and dispensations to which it pertains.
Times were appointed by God for the fulfillment of different purposes; such as, a time of four- hundred years which were appointed for the filling-up of the iniquity of the Amorites
(Genesis 15:13-16). The four-hundred years were related to Israel's bondage in Egypt. Israel was not to be delivered until such time He was ready to punish “the iniquity of the Amorites.” God would use Israel to execute the sword upon the Amorites.
The Bible makes reference to “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). This refers to the Gentile nation’s rebellion, in the “latter days,” against the Government of God. Psalm Two speaks of this event: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (Psalm.2:1-5).
We should pay very close attention to two Old Testament verses. They are to play a critical role in a lesson of rightly dividing the Word;
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;” (Isaiah 61:1-2).
An inspired example of right division is left us in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus went into a synagogue in Nazareth. He stood up to read from the Scripture. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2, but notice, He didn’t read all of verse two; “And He ... stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord, And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down ...And He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:17-21).
Christ did not read the phrase found in Isaiah 61:2, “the day of vengeance of our God.”
In this inspired example of right division the Lord Jesus Himself reads Isaiah 61:1-2, but He did not read all of Isaiah 61:2; He closed the book with, “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then, He said, “This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Had He continued in verse two, He would have read, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” A division, here, must occur for the Scripture to be accurate.
Luke 4:20 says, “He closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down.” Why did the Lord Jesus Christ close the book at this point? The answer lies in the great revelation to us concerning the principle of “right division.”
Had the Lord read the next sentence in Isaiah 61:2 about “the day of vengeance of our God,” He could not have said, “Scripture this day is fulfilled in your ears;” for “the day of vengeance of our God” had not come, nor has it yet to come. The Lord Jesus practiced right division. He divided the two dispensations by closing the Book.
This is what the student of Scripture must do if he is not to join together what God has separated. The “acceptable (or welcome) year of the Lord” is a reference to His ministry announcing that the Kingdom of God was “at hand.” The “day of vengeance” is a reference to the wrath He will pour out upon the nations who are in rebellion against His rule at the consummation of the Kingdom [i.e., His 2nd Coming].
Most Christians fail to learn the lesson of right division, ignoring the example of the Lord in Luke Chapter Four. They fail to see the interval of the Present Dispensation, to wit, The Mystery, between the past dispensation and the future one.
~~END of CHAPTER ONE~~
Copyright © Thomas L. Ballinger 2018 First Printing 1975
Major Revision 2011