What are Dispensationalists?

Dispensation is basically the ordering of events under divine authority. Although the topic of dispensation may be found in the teachings of Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Augustine, the father of modern dispensationalism was John Nelson Darby, former member of the Church of England and a prominent leader of the exclusive assemblies faction of the Plymouth Brethren in the nineteenth century. Dispensationalists, often individualistic, fundamentalist and non-apologetic, are generally members of independent Christian churches which claim to be non-Pentecostal and are free of orthodox tradition. According to these, the true Church of Christ began when the Apostole Paul began to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 28:25-30, Ephesians 3:2-9, Colossians 1:25-27), which temporarily set aside the kingdom of Israel and ushered in a new dispensation (stewardship or administration) of grace to all, the mysteries of which are primarily found in the teachings of Paul in his prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Timothy, and Titus). Dispensations are basically progressive, theological systems of administration by which God dealt with man throughout various periods of history. Dispensations may be divided into the following historical ages of the Bible:
  1. Innocence - period of administration from the creation of Adam to the fall of man through sin.
  2. Conscience - period of administration from the original sin up to the great flood.
  3. Government - period of administration after the flood, when man was allowed to eat meat and the death penalty was instituted.
  4. Patriarchal/Promise - period of administration from Abraham up to Moses and the giving of the Law.
  5. Law - period of administration between Moses and Christ's death on the cross.
  6. Grace - period of administration from the cross to the millennial kingdom.
  7. Millennial Kingdom - period of administration during Christ's thousand-year reign on earth, which is centered in Jerusalem.

The last dispensation, that of Christ's millenial kingdom, deals more with prophecy. Dispensationalism takes a literal interpretation of the Bible. Much like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, who examined the Scriptures daily to test the credibility of Paul's gospel, Dispensationalists also test the Scriptures continually to test the credibility of any Christian claim to biblical interpretation. Basic dispensational beliefs include:
  • All knowledge of God can only be derived from the Bible.
  • Unbelief or rejection of the truth of Christ is considered the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit.
  • The true Church of Christ was established after Pentecost, when Paul took the Gospel to the Gentiles.
  • Gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and healings, have no place in the current body of Christ.
  • Satan's one means of access to the believer is through ignorance of the truth.
  • Souls of deceased believers go to heaven until Christ's second coming, when they will be resurrected bodily.
  • The Second Coming is pretribulational and premillennial.
  • The Church will end in apostasy.

Other prominent influences to dispensational beliefs inlcude Ethelbert W. Bullinger and C.I. Scofield, who advanced the teachings that the Gospels and Acts were dedicated to the Hebrew Church of the Jewish Christians, while the Mystery Church of the Gentiles and of the Christian Church came about through the enlightened teachings of the Apostle Paul. While the true Christian Church, descended from Paul, reigns on earth today, the Jewish Church etsablished by the original twelve apostles will be reestablished during the millenial reign after Jesus' second coming.

        But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." (Acts 18:6)
        "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: "Go to this people and say, 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.' For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them." [Isaiah 6:9-10] Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" (Acts 28:25-28)

basictheology.com - Dispensationalism

"Dispensationalism is a systematic view of the Bible that sees God�s primary purpose in the creation of as the display of His glory. He is displaying this glory by establishing a Kingdom of humans on earth in through a series of dispensations. Dispensationalism seeks to understand what God is doing in history. It looks at the big picture and helps answer questions such as �What has God been doing?�, �What will God do in the future?� and �How do we fit in today?� A �dispensation� can be simply defined as a way of running things. Dispensationalism then specifically looks at the way or ways God runs the world throughout history. It also recognizes that God has revealed His plans progressively or piece by piece. Believers in the Old Testament did not have access to the same books of the Bible and same truths we do today (Eph. 3:4-6). Therefore, when dispensationalists study the Old Testament, they try to understand it according to what God had revealed up to that point. Dispensationalism also defines a specific way of reading and interpreting the Bible called a �literal� hermeneutic."

The Biblicist

"This ministry of World Wide Web interaction and correspondence focuses on educating the saints in the essential truths of the Christian Faith. We offer direct one-on-one questions and answers to the Bible Teachers, along with presenting articles on important theological themes. We recommend Christian books to help Believers learn more about the faith and to aid them in doing their own research. Our primary focus is on theology and doctrine, as evidenced by our articles. We believe that the content of what one believes is important to form a good foundation in a Believer's life. We give Scriptural answers for any question you might have concerning the faith, hence our name The Biblicist. We are not, however, professional psychologists or counselors. Like the Apostle Paul, we are employed full-time as well as serve in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Various people help to make this site possible. Our material comes from many different sources. We interact with with Seminary professors, Pastors and Christian leaders. If you have a question there is usually somebody available to answer your questions concerning the faith."

Berean Bible Church

"Berean Bible Church is an Independent, Non-Denominational, Non-Pentecostal, Fundamental, Evangelistic, Dispensational, Pauline Established, Grace Oriented, Bible Believing, Authorized King James Version Adhering, Plain Teaching, Friendly, Loving, Assembly of the Church, the Body of Christ."

Berean Bible Society

"The Berean Bible Society was founded over sixty years ago for the sole purpose of helping believers understand and enjoy the Word of God. Our Organization holds without apology to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith and is evangelical, that is, we believe that salvation is by grace through faith alone on the basis of the shed blood of Christ. We also emphasize the importance of proclaiming the whole counsel of God in light of the Pauline revelation. Insofar as Paul is the apostle of the Gentiles, it is our firm conviction that in his epistles alone we have the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny for the Church, the Body of Christ, during the dispensation of Grace."

Berean Bible Studies Page

"Here are several Bible Study periodicals that minister to Christians in the post-Acts economy of the Church which is His Body. The publishers are allowing this web page to freely distribute their articles on the internet. Each of these publications adheres to these four basic Truths: The divine inspiration of the Scriptures; The deity of Christ; The all-sufficiency of His atonement; The right division of the Scriptures." (by Leo Wierzbowski)

Berean Dispensational Site

"A Berean, then, is simply a Christian who searches the scriptures to verify whether the things he has been taught are scriptural. Sad to say, though, many Christians are not Bereans, since many of them will swallow any doctrine that is taught to them - even if there is no scriptural support for that particular doctrine. Certain "Covenant Theologians", for example, have claimed that water baptism has replaced circumcision as the "seal" of the New Covenant. A Berean, though, will soon discover (from searching the scriptures) that such a teaching has absolutely no scriptural foundation whatsoever. So a Berean, in view of Acts17:11, is simply a Christian who allows the scriptures alone to be the final authority. A true Berean will not accept any teaching that has no scriptural foundation. In simple terms, Christians who do not believe the church is "Spiritual Israel" are dispensationalists, even if they do not apply the term to themselves. In broad terms, believers can be divided into two basic categories: Dispensationalists, and Covenant Theologians. Dispensationalists, for example, take a literal view of the scriptures. Covenant Theologians, on the other hand, spiritualize the Old Testament promises, thereby denying that the Kingdom will be established at the second coming of Christ. In other words, we dispensationalists do not believe that the church can claim doctrines and promises which were specifically given to the nation of Israel. Although there are varying degrees of dispensationalism, and numerous opinions as to what constitutes a "true" dispensationalist, our common doctrine centers around the belief that the church is not "Spiritual Israel". Therefore, even many diverse groups such as Methodists and Baptists contain Dispensationalists, since neither denomination requires its member churches to teach that the church is "Spiritual Israel". Likewise, there are numerous Pentecostal churches that are dispensational, as well. Among dispensationalists, then, opinions differ widely as to when the church actually began. Consequently, we dispensationalists often distinguish ourselves from other dispensationalists, who hold to a different starting point for the church. The most common method for doing so is to label ourselves according to the chapter of the book of Acts in which we believe the modern church (the body of Christ) began."


"Dispensationalism - A system of theology that sees God working with man in different ways during different ages. While 'Dispensations' are not ages, but stewardships, or administrations, we tend to see them now as ages since we look back on specific time periods when they were in practice. Dispensationalism is distinguished by three key principles.
1 - A clear distinction between God's program for Israel and God's program for the Church.
2 - A consistent and regular use of a literal principle of interpretation
3 - The understanding of the purpose of God as His own glory rather than the salvation of mankind."

GraceOnlineLibrary - Dispensationalism

"The "father of modern dispensationalism" was born John Nelson Darby in Ireland, in the year 1800, and died in 1882. He was an honor student in Westminster and Trinity college, where he studied law. He was a successful lawyer until the age of twenty-seven, at which time he gave up his law practice to become a curate in the Church of England. He followed this profession until the time he joined the Brethren movement about 1827... In brief, the teachings of dispensationalism are as follows:
The Jews are to be saved by repentance; they are to be left here on earth as God's earthly people
The Gentiles are to be saved by faith; they will be taken to heaven after the Rapture.
The church is a parenthesis in God's plan and will end in apostasy.
The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are sharply differentiated, the first being the Davidic kingdom and the latter being God's universal world-wide kingdom.
God deals with men according to seven dispensations."
(from an article by William E. Cox, website by Brian Dempsey)

Middletown Bible Church - Dispensationalism

"THE SCRIPTURES, when interpreted in their natural, literal sense, reveal divinely determined dispensations or rules of life which define man�s responsibilities in successive ages. These dispensations are not ways of salvation, but rather divinely ordered stewardships by which God directs man according to His purpose. Three of these�the dispensations of law, grace, and the millennial rule of Christ�are the subjects of detailed revelation in Scripture (John 1:17; 1 Cor. 9:17; 2 Cor. 3:9-18; Gal. 3:13-25; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:24-25; Heb. 7:19; Rev. 20:2-6). When God�s Word, the Bible, is taken in a consistent, literal manner, it will result in dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is the result of a consistently literal and normal interpretation... A dispensation is a unique stage in the outworking of God�s program in time, whereby mankind is to have a believing response, being responsible to be a good steward of the particular revelation which God has given (Eph. 3:2,9; Col. 1:25; Exodus34:27-28; Gal. 3:10-12; 1 Tim. 1:4; Eph. 1:10; etc.). In order to be "rightly dividing the Word of truth" it is essential to distinguish things that differ and to recognize certain basic Biblical distinctions, such as the difference between God�s program for Israel and God�s program for the Church (Acts 15:14-17; Rom. 11:25-27), the separation of 1000 years between the two resurrections (Rev. 20:4-6), the difference between the various judgments which occur at various times (2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15), the difference between law and grace (John 1:17; Rom. 6:14-15 Rom. 7:1-6) and the difference between Christ�s present session at the right hand of the Father as the Church�s great High Priest and Christ�s future session on the restored Davidic throne as Israel�s millennial King (Heb. 1:3; 10:12-13; Acts 15:16; Luke 1:32)."

Omaha Bible Church

"Why study Dispensationalism?
  • Dispensationalism uses and compliments the only proper biblical interpretation method (historical-grammatical).
  • Dispensationalism emphasizes the authority and integrity of the Bible.
  • Dispensationalism forces one to hold to the text of Scripture rather than a system.
  • Dispensationalism holds up under the test of Scripture.
  • Dispensationalism understands the integrity of the Prophet's messages in the Old Testament.
  • Dispensationalism emphasizes the authority and integrity of the Bible.
  • Dispensationalism sees the uniqueness and importance of both Israel and the Church.
  • Dispensationalism sheds the correct light on the entire message of the Bible.
  • Dispensationalism is the key to understanding God's purposes in human history.
  • Dispensationalism defines eschatology correctly.
  • Dispensationalism understands the Kingdom correctly.
  • Dispensationalism understands the correct continuity and discontinuity of the two Testaments.
  • Dispensationalism comprehends progressive revelation and salvation issues in both Testaments.
  • Dispensationalism believes strongly in the eternal biblical covenants (Abrahamic and Davidic).
  • Dispensationalism does not lead to antinomianism."

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church - Dispensationalism, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth

"Dispensationalism is a doctrinal system that keeps Israel and the Church distinct. This system teaches that throughout history God is seen to have two distinct purposes and two distinct people and these distinctions are maintained throughout eternity (or at least throughout the end of the millennium). The question is whether the Bible teaches of such a division. To the contrary, the Bible teaches that God has taken all of His people and made them ONE. "For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." (Ephesians 2:14-16)."


"Confusion has arisen regarding the term "Pauline Dispensationalism." At the end of the 20th century and start of the 21st, the label is being used by various dispensationalists with both subtle and not so subtle differences in meaning. The purpose of this statement is to help clarify these differences. The term Pauline is a classical adjective used of or pertaining to the Apostle Paul, his writings, or his teachings and the theological doctrines derived from them. The etymology of Dispensationalism relates to the English word dispensation which is "an anglicized form of the Latin dispensatio which the Vulgate uses to translate the Greek work" oikonomia. Oikonomia comes from the Greek verb meaning: to manage, regulate, administer, and plan. In short, a dispensation is: a stewardship, an economy, an administration. While a dispensation often has duration, it can be misleading to treat a dispensation as being synonymous with a biblical aeon (age). While Biblical distinctions of the various ways of God have been recognized by theologians and Bible students down through church history, the Lord used one John Nelson Darby, (1800-1882), a leader within the Irish/English Plymouth Brethren, to restore to us the full-orbed truth of the Apostle Paul's teaching. This included clarification as to aeon (age), oikonomia (dispensation), and the interrelationship of the two. At the most basic level, the essence of dispensationalism, as found in Scripture, is "God has one purpose: to glorify Himself in Christ. The involves glory in two spheres, the earthly and the heavenly." While many of the original Brethren and their heirs on the American continent frequently used the terms Pauline and dispensation(al), it is both uncertain and irrelevant who was the first to combine the two and add the "ism" on the end." (by Dan and Diane)

        "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

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