Unlocking Dispensational Theology: Understanding the Seven Ages of Salvation History

The concept of dispensationalism is foundational to understanding salvation history. In this article, we will delve into the seven ages of dispensational theology, exploring the purpose of each age and the way God unfolded His plan over time. Whether you’re new to the subject or seeking to deepen your knowledge, you’ll find this article informative and engaging. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is Dispensationalism?

Unlocking Dispensational Theology: Understanding the Seven Ages of Salvation History

Dispensationalism is a theological system that seeks to understand God’s plan throughout history by dividing it into distinct periods, or “dispensations,” each with its unique character and purpose. Dispensationalism is based on the belief in a strict literal interpretation of the Bible and the belief that God’s promises to Israel have not been completely fulfilled.

Here are some key points to understand about dispensationalism:

  1. Dispensationalism is a relatively new system of theology, originating in the 19th century.
  2. The seven dispensations are the Age of Innocence, Age of Conscience, Age of Government, Age of Promise, Age of Law, Age of Grace, and the Age of the Gentiles/Millennial Age.
  3. Dispensationalism places a heavy emphasis on eschatology, or the study of end-times prophecy.
  4. Dispensationalism has been criticized by some theologians for being overly complex and for promoting a “two-track” approach to salvation.
  5. There are variations within dispensationalism, including classic dispensationalism, progressive dispensationalism, and covenant dispensationalism.

While dispensationalism is a controversial topic within theological circles, understanding its core beliefs can help us gain a better understanding of Christian history and God’s plan for the future. In the following sections, we will explore each of the seven dispensations in further detail, reflecting on its significance and the key events that took place during that time period.

The Seven Ages of Salvation History

As a youth pastor, I find that one of the most fascinating aspects of dispensational theology is the concept of the seven ages of salvation history. These ages, also known as dispensations, are unique periods of time in which God interacts with humanity in a distinct way. Understanding the seven ages provides insight into God’s plan for salvation and the role of Israel in end times prophecy. Let’s dive into each age:

  1. Age of Innocence: This age began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and ended with their disobedience. During this time, humanity lived in a perfect relationship with God and had direct access to Him. However, sin entered the world and humanity’s innocence was lost.

  2. Age of Conscience: After Adam and Eve’s fall, this age began and lasted until the time of Noah’s flood. During this age, humanity had a conscience and was accountable for their actions. God also communicated with some individuals, such as Cain and Abel, directly.

  3. Age of Government: This age began with Noah and lasted until the Tower of Babel. During this age, God established human government and society. However, humans rebelled against God’s plan and resulted in the Tower of Babel whose result was the dispersion of mankind throughout the earth.

  4. Age of Promise: This age began with Abraham and ended with Moses. During this age, God established the nation of Israel, gave them specific promises, and communicated with them through prophets.

  5. Age of Law: This age began with Moses and ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus. During this age, God gave the nation of Israel the Law as a means of keeping them separate from other nations. The Law also served as a foreshadowing of Christ and the coming of the Age of Grace.

  6. Age of Grace: This age began with the death and resurrection of Jesus and lasts until the rapture of the church. During this age, God offers salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ to both Jews and Gentiles.

  7. Age of the Gentiles & Millennial Age: This age is divided into two parts. The first part began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and lasts until the rapture of the church, during which Gentiles are given the opportunity for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The second part will begin with the Second Coming of Christ, during which He will establish His millennial kingdom on earth and fulfill the remaining promises made to Israel.

By understanding the seven ages of salvation history, we can truly appreciate God’s plan for salvation and the importance of Israel in end times prophecy. Dispensational theology is a rich area of study that can greatly enhance our understanding of Scripture.

Age of Innocence & Conscience

In the Age of Innocence, God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. They were given the task of tending to the garden and were free to eat from any tree except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This age ended with the fall of Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God’s command and ate from the forbidden tree.

The Age of Conscience followed the fall and lasted until the flood of Noah. During this age, people were responsible for their own sin and were expected to seek forgiveness from God. However, sin continued to spread and eventually led to the great flood.

As a youth pastor, it is important to understand these dispensations and teach them to the youth group. Here are a few key takeaways about the Age of Innocence & Conscience:

  1. Humans were created in the image of God. This means that we have inherent worth and value, and are capable of reflecting God’s character in the world.
  2. God’s desire was for humanity to live in perfect relationship with Him and with each other. The fall of Adam and Eve shattered this ideal and introduced sin into the world.
  3. The Age of Conscience emphasizes personal responsibility for sin. This means that each person has the ability to choose between right and wrong, and is accountable for their actions.
  4. Even in the midst of sin and brokenness, God seeks to redeem and restore His creation. The story of Noah and the ark is a testament to God’s faithfulness and mercy.

Understanding these dispensations can help us make sense of the overarching narrative of the Bible and our place in God’s story. As we continue to dive deeper into dispensational theology, we will explore how God’s plan for salvation unfolds throughout the ages.

Age of Government & Promise

The Age of Government & Promise is the second dispensation in Dispensationalism. This dispensation began after the fall of Adam and Eve and ended with the great flood. During this dispensation, God established human government and made a promise to Abraham.

In the Age of Government & Promise, humanity had turned away from God and into a state of rebellion. God dispersed mankind by causing them to speak different languages at the Tower of Babel. This led to the formation of different nations and cultures around the world. In the midst of this chaos, God established human government by giving authority to rulers and kings to maintain order and justice throughout the earth.

God also made a promise to Abraham during this dispensation. He promised to bless Abraham and make him into a great nation, and in turn, bless all the nations of the earth through him. This promise would later become the foundation of God’s plan of salvation and the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ.

However, despite God’s efforts to reconcile humanity back to Him, humanity still rebelled and lived in sin. This ultimately led to the great flood, where God destroyed the earth and saved only Noah and his family.

The Age of Government & Promise teaches us the importance of establishing just rule and authority on earth. It also reminds us of God’s faithfulness to His promises, even in the midst of humanity’s rebellion and sin.

In the next dispensation, the Age of Law & Grace, we will see how God continues to reveal His plan of salvation and redemption to His people.

Age of Law & Grace

As we continue our journey through the Seven Ages of Salvation History, we come to the Age of Law & Grace. This dispensation is marked by the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, as well as the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Here are some key characteristics and events of this dispensation:

  1. The Giving of the Law: In Exodus 19-20, God gave Moses the Law which consisted of 613 commandments. The purpose of this Law was to reveal God’s standard of righteousness and provide guidance for His people. However, as we’ll see, humanity was unable to keep this Law perfectly.

  2. Israel’s Failure to Keep the Law: Despite God’s faithful provision and guidance, Israel repeatedly failed to keep the Law. This resulted in God’s judgment in the form of foreign oppression and exile.

  3. The Coming of Jesus Christ: In the fullness of time, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to offer the ultimate sacrifice for sin and fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose from the dead, providing forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who trust in Him.

  4. The Age of Grace: With the coming of Christ, a new dispensation was ushered in – the Age of Grace. This is marked by the offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from works of the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9). It also includes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the promise of future resurrection for believers (Romans 8:11).

In short, the Age of Law & Grace highlights humanity’s inability to keep the Law and the need for a Savior. It also demonstrates God’s faithfulness and provision through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As we’ll see in the next dispensation, the Age of the Gentiles, the message of salvation through Christ would begin to spread to the ends of the earth.

Age of the Gentiles & Millennial Age

During the Age of the Gentiles, which began after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and continues today, God turned His attention to the salvation of the Gentiles. This age is also known as the Church Age because it coincides with the era in which the Church was established.

The climax of the Age of the Gentiles will be the rapture, the event in which all believers will be taken up to meet Christ in the air. This event will bring an end to the Church Age and begin the Millennial Age.

The Millennial Age is a thousand-year period of peace and prosperity on earth, during which Christ reigns as King. This age is also known as the Kingdom Age and is the final age in dispensational theology.

During the Millennial Age, Satan will be bound and unable to deceive the nations. Christ will rule with a rod of iron, and believers will reign with Him, according to their faithfulness in this life.

The Millennial Age is a contentious area of theology, and even dispensationalists differ in their beliefs about how it will be ushered in. Pre-millennialists believe that Christ will return before the Millennium, while post-millennialists believe that Christ will return after the Millennium.

Regardless of their eschatological views, dispensationalists agree that the Millennial Age will be a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity on earth. It is the final chapter in God’s plan of salvation history before the new heaven and new earth are established.

Understanding the Age of the Gentiles and the Millennial Age is essential to grasping dispensational theology. It reminds us that God is sovereign over the course of history and that He has a plan for the salvation of all peoples. As believers, we can look forward to the return of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom with great hope and anticipation.

The Role of Israel in God’s Plan

As we explore dispensational theology and the seven ages of salvation history, it’s important to understand the role of Israel in God’s plan. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. God made a covenant with Abraham, promising to bless him and his descendants. This covenant included the land of Canaan as a permanent possession for Israel (Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15:18-21).

  2. Throughout the Old Testament, we see God’s faithfulness to this covenant, even when Israel was unfaithful. He preserved a remnant (a small group of faithful followers) and promised to restore them (Isaiah 10:20-22, Isaiah 11:11-16, Jeremiah 24:5-7).

  3. Jesus was born as a Jew and came to fulfill the promises made to Israel (Matthew 1:1, Galatians 4:4-5). He also promised to return and establish his kingdom on earth, with Jerusalem as the capital (Zechariah 14:1-4, Matthew 19:28).

  4. The church (made up of both Jew and Gentile believers) is not the same as Israel. While Gentiles are now included in the blessings promised to Israel (Ephesians 2:11-22), Israel still has a unique role to play in God’s plan (Romans 11:1-2, Romans 11:25-29).

  5. In the end times, Israel will play a key role in God’s judgment and salvation. The antichrist (a powerful world leader who opposes God) will make a covenant with Israel, but will eventually turn against them and try to destroy them (Daniel 9:27, Revelation 12:13-17). However, God will intervene and save his people (Isaiah 59:20-21, Zechariah 12:8-10). At this point, Israel will recognize Jesus as their true Messiah and savior (Zechariah 12:10-14).

As you can see, Israel’s role in dispensational theology is crucial. It’s important for us to understand the biblical dispensations and how they relate to Israel, as well as to keep a watchful eye on the end times. With this knowledge, we can have a deeper appreciation for God’s plan of salvation and his love for Israel and all his people.

In summary:

  • Israel has a unique role in God’s plan, based on his covenant with Abraham.
  • Israel’s history, as recorded in the Old Testament, reveals God’s faithfulness to his promises.
  • The church is not the same as Israel, but both have a place in God’s plan.
  • Israel will play a key role in the end times, experiencing both judgment and salvation.