The dispensations are God’s contrastive way of proving that His plan for man is right, by allowing mankind the opportunity to choose to be Godly on their own. So far we’ve examined four dispensations. In the first, man was in a state of complete innocence. In the second men were allowed to acquire vast knowledge. In the third, men had full agreement. In the fourth, God gave them earthly representatives to guide their choice. In each dispensation, mankind chose themselves over God by thinking comparatively. Furthermore, each dispensation resulted in men becoming more evil.
Its obvious that men will not choose God of their own volition. It would be unjust of God to continue to give man free reign to make that choice if the proven result is increased evil. The just thing to do would be to begin to lay the ground work for His plan, let men see it, and then allow them the opportunity to choose to be a part of that plan.
And thus we have the Fifth Dispensation (under which over half of the Biblical narrative occurs)
Law or Redemption?
The Fifth Dispensation is commonly referred to as the “Dispensation of the Law”, and while that is technically accurate, I think it would be more appropriate to call it the Dispensation of Redemption.
Although the Law and its fulfillment is a major part of this dispensation, the choice that ultimately decides the success or failure of this dispensation is based on God’s offer of redemption.
God’s plan requires that man be like Him in order to spend eternity with him. The problem is that man’s nature post-Dispensation 1 falls well short of God’s, which is why we need redemption. As we saw in an earlier post, we are essentially addicts, and the first step in dealing with addicts is to get them to admit they have a problem and need help. But since our addiction is rooted in pride, admitting that we are in need of spiritual detox is a tall order.
That’s where the law comes in.
After the Israelites were set free from Egypt by Pharaoh (ending the 4th dispensation), Moses led them Mt. Sinai where God wrote His Law on stone tablets. The most famous are the first ten (known appropriately as the Ten Commandments), but there are actually over 100 commands from God (including the entire book of Leviticus) dealing with everything from holiness and morality, to personal conduct, property rights, ceremonial procedures, worship instructions, food safely, litigation, hygiene, and medicine. By the time he was done hauling all the stone tablets down, I’m pretty sure Moses wished God had used pen and paper.
The Law served two very important purposes
The first was to show men what sin was! In the first four dispensations, there was no comprehensive definition for sin. Men were given their opportunity to choose God or themselves in a very open-ended fashion. Because of this freedom (and the nature of man) people were free to justify their ungodly actions as good, even though they were evil.
Knowing this, God knew He had to set concrete (no pun intended) and objective standards of Holiness (perfection), lest man come to think that he could meet those standards on his own and qualify for Heaven through his own works.
The Law provides that definition for sin. It shows that what God considers sin is so encompassing that there is no way any mortal man can go an entire day (let alone a lifetime) without committing sin and falling short of God’s requirement for perfection – which is the only way to qualify for Heaven and eternal life.
So then, if its impossible for man to achieve perfection, then aren’t we all doomed to never enter God’s presence if left to our own devices?
The answer is yes! We cannot ever earn Heaven and eternal life on our own. As I wrote in my earlier posts on life and death, we are born dead. The only way to gain life is to obtain redemption from someone with perfect thinking and perfect blood.
That was the second purpose of the Law
The Law would usher in the advent of a Redeemer who was qualified to justly offer mankind access to the perfect thinking and perfect blood that would result in eternal life.
How does this happen? God does this on our behalf by performing the most important, humble, and incomprehensible act in all of history. God makes Himself into a man without the mark of Original Sin (so He has perfect blood). Then He lives a life free of sin, in complete obedience to the Law (perfect thinking). Then He allows Himself to be killed unjustly, thus taking on then penalty and punishment that we all deserve.
However, since He is not deserving of death, He is justly resurrected from the dead. Finally, He offers us the opportunity to accept His sacrifice on our behalf and take possession of His perfection in place of our own depravity.
Again, it is the most incredible act imaginable, and we will spend several upcoming posts examining all aspects of it.
The Law and the Redeemer were meant for Israel
Its also VERY important to understand that the focus of this dispensation is the nation of Israel (remember, after Babel, God only deals with men as national entities). THEY are the ones who make the choice that decides the fate of the fifth dispensation.
After the Law is given in the Book of Exodus (and detailed and repeated in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) the rest of the Old Testament (80% of it!) deals with the history of Israel from the exodus from Egypt to the death and resurrection of the Redeemer (I will make the argument in a later post that the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John) are technically Old Testament books).
Much that documented history includes very detailed predictions of the life, career, death, and resurrection of the Redeemer. So much so, that the people of Israel (who were required to read their scriptures dutifully) had absolutely no excuse to not acknowledge the Redeemer when He finally arrived on the scene and choose to accept His gift of redemption when offered.
Religion ruins another dispensation
However, not only did Israel NOT accept their Redeemer, they didn’t even recognize Him when He came, despite all the clearly predicted evidence! How could this possibly happen? The same way it happened in previous dispensations – comparative thinking. Specifically religion.
By the time the Redeemer arrived, Israel had turned the Law into religion. And the religious leaders had become so brain damaged that they not only rejected the Man they had been expecting for centuries, they were the ones who conspired to have Him unjustly killed!
Thus by rejecting God in favor of their own religious pride, the people of Israel caused the failure of the 5th Dispensation.
Obviously a great deal happened during the 5th Dispensation, and we will spend the next several posts examining them in detail. We will begin next time by looking at some of the myths of the Law and the truth of its actual purpose…
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