What Is Dispensation In The Bible

Overview Of Dispensation

The concept of dispensation in the Bible is an integral part of understanding the scriptures and many believe it is necessary to grasp to gain a better understanding of God’s plans and his relationship with mankind. The idea of dispensations, or periods of time in which God has specific plans for humankind, is found throughout the Bible and are often seen as distinct administrations by God.

Much of the content in Scripture focuses on the dispensation of grace from Acts through to Revelation. In this period, grace is seen as the center focus of God’s plan and people are no longer subject to harsh ceremonial laws and regulations, such as animal sacrifice.

In some contexts, the term ‘dispensation’ is regarded as synonymous with the term ‘covenant’ which is used in the Old Testament to describe a promise between God and mankind. Covenant theology view the Bible as consistent throughout, and the various covenants mentioned are viewed as promises for the people of God throughout the Bible.

However, there are some who believe in dispensational theology which sees the Bible as consisting of an overarching plan for salvation that is punctuated by several distinct administrations. It sees the various dispensations as being distinct from each other and having unique promises and expectations from God.

In this view, God’s expectations are different for each administration and his promises are interpreted as specific to that particular time period. This means that the promises and commands given to God’s people during the Old Testament are distinct from those in the New Testament and should not be interpreted as the same.

Varieties Of Dispensation Theology

Dispensational theology has been a source of debate among theologians as it is seen by some as an oversimplification of the Bible. Despite this, there are many different kinds of dispensationalism and different schools of thought regarding its exact definition. Some view the dispensational periods as distinct epochs in time, while others view the time periods as culturally-relative.

The most well-known dispensational theology is associated with John Nelson Darby and is known as Progressive Dispensationalism. This view sees the Bible as having multiple distinct administrations and believes that each period has unique promises from God as well as distinct expectations from his people. This view also sees the dispensational periods as being progressive and sees each period as leading to the fulfillment of the previous one.

Other types of dispensationalism include Covenant Dispensationalism which does not view the dispensations and covenants as distinct, but rather sees them as continuous. It sees the period of grace as no longer a distinct dispensational period but rather just a continuation of the covenants in the Old Testament. Historic Dispensationalism is another type of dispensational theology which views the periods as distinct and combines both Covenant and Progressive Dispensationalism.

Significance Of Dispensation In The Bible

Dispensationalism is an important view for understanding the Bible and its message of salvation. It helps to explain why God made different promises to his people in different periods of time and why his expectations were different during each dispensational period. It also helps to clarify why certain teachings of the New Testament, such as the new commandment and the teaching of grace, are different from the Old Testament and why certain laws or regulations given in the Old Testament do not apply to Christians today.

In addition, dispensationalism helps to clarify why certain events or prophecies mentioned in the Old Testament, such as the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, were fulfilled in the New Testament period and how their return fits into the overall plan of God for salvation. This view also helps to explain why Jesus was sent by God to earth and why his death and resurrection have such significant implications for humankind.

It is also useful for seeing how passages from the Old Testament, such as the law and prophets, are still applicable today and to gain a better understanding of Gods plans for redemption and for his people. In more general terms, dispensationalism can be used to gain an appreciation of God’s overall plan of salvation, the redemptive history of the Bible, and to better integrate passages from Scripture with those of different dispensations.

Old Testament Perspectives On Dispensation

In the Old Testament, dispensational theology is evident in the instructions given by God to his people in different periods of time. The laws given by God to the Israelite nation during the period of Moses, for example, were specific to that period and were only applicable within the boundaries of the Promised Land and not to people of other nations or cultures.

Similarly, the covenants made by God to the Israelite nation in the Old Testament, such as the Sinai Covenant, were specific to that particular period and applied to the children of Israel alone. These laws and covenants were not applicable to other nations or cultures and had no relevance outside of the Promised Land.

The prophets of the Old Testament also provide insight into the concept of dispensation. In Isaiah and Jeremiah, for example, God makes specific promises to the Israelite nation about their future restoration in the Promised Land and about the return of Jesus Christ that have relevance in the New Testament period.

Finally, the Old Testament also mentions the concept of the ‘end times’ or the ‘day of the Lord’ during which God’s ultimate plan of restoration and redemption will be consummated. This theme is further developed in the New Testament and is seen as an important part of understanding the overall plan of God.

New Testament Perspectives On Dispensation

In the New Testament, the concept of dispensation is seen in the teachings of Jesus and in the writings of the Apostles. In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of the need for repentance, love, and faith in God as well as the need to be obedient to God’s commands.

In the writings of Paul, dispensational theology is further developed as he speaks of the grace of God and the need for Christians to be united as one body in Christ. This unity is seen as a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and to his descendants.

Similarly, the writings of the Apostles Peter, James, and John illustrate the need for believers to be obedient to God’s commands and to be transformed by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. The concept of ongoing blessings and judgment based on obedience is also evident as is a clear distinction between the Old and New Testaments with regards to the promises made and the expectations of God’s people.

Contemporary Perspectives On Dispensation

Today, the concept of dispensationalism is still widely debated by theologians, particularly in regards to its applicability to the modern world. While there is a great deal of agreement among theologians on the concept, there is also much disagreement on how exactly it should be applied.

Many view dispensationalism as necessary for interpreting the Bible, particularly for understanding the fulfillment of God’s promises and His plans for His people. Others, however, view it as an oversimplification of the Bible that can lead to an incorrect interpretation of Scripture.

While there may be disagreement on the specifics, most agree that dispensational theology is a helpful tool for understanding the Bible, its overall plan of salvation, and the expectations God has for His people. It can be used to gain a better understanding of God’s promises, His expectations, and how He has revealed Himself to humankind throughout the Bible.


In conclusion, the understanding of dispensation in the Bible is essential for gaining a better understanding of God’s Word and his plans for humankind. Dispensational theology is a helpful tool for understanding the various covenants and promises in the Bible and for integrating these with the New Testament to gain a fuller picture of God’s overall plan of salvation. It also helps to clarify why certain teachings and expectations are different depending on the time period, providing a clearer picture of God’s expectations for His people.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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