Dispensation of Conscience

When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they were given the knowledge of good and evil – a conscience. Rather than to obey the simple commands that God had given them previously, they were expected to live according to the conscience that they now had.

The Adamic Covenant brought both good and bad for Adam and Eve. The result of breaking the Edenic covenant brought death to them. In addition to this though, there would be sorrow in life and it would be hard. The easy work of the Garden would be replaced with hard labor and the ground would be cursed. Likewise there would be pain in childbirth and man would be placed as head over woman.

Despite the negative side of this covenant, the serpent would be punished. The serpent would be despised and feared and caused to move along its belly. More importantly however, in Genesis 3:15 we are given the first promise of Jesus. The seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent even though the serpent would strike His heal.

Blood sacrifice is instituted as a result of this covenant to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness. It was an expectation of this dispensation and pointed toward the eventual sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

The age of conscience ends in failure at the time of Noah. As the Lord surveys the earth in Genesis 6:6 He is “grieved in His heart.”  Man was unable to follow his conscience and unwilling to obey.  Therefore God planned to destroy the earth in a flood with the exception of Noah and his family.

Dispensations of the Church

The church age is ushered in with the death and resurrection of Jesus. There is some debate over the official start of this dispensation – whether it begins when Gentiles are first introduced, or when Paul declares that he would go to the Gentiles – but it is probably best understood to begin in Acts 2 on Pentecost with the giving of the Holy Spirit.

Without a doubt the most important revelation of this dispensation is the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is what every previous dispensation has lacked but has looked forward to. The church’s main responsibility can be best summed up in Matthew 28:18-20. Go, baptize, make disciples, teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament law. He did not come to do away with it but instead ushered in an era of grace. Jesus repeats nine of the ten commandments in the gospels. He also expands our understanding of what the law meant when He speaks about topics such as anger and lust. This means that the law does not need to be followed in the church age. Instead it means that God’s grace in salvation is extended to us when we do not follow the law. The point of the law was that we weren’t capable of following it and needed a savior. Every time we continue to sin today, we should be reminded that our forgiveness is only in Jesus’ blood and has nothing to do with our ability or attempt to follow the law.

The New Covenant is everything that the old covenants were not. It fixes the problems in the law, namely that we were incapable of following it. Hebrews 8:6 says that it is a “better” covenant than the Mosaic covenant. Jeremiah 31:31-34 give the terms of the New Covenant. God will write His laws on the hearts of the people. He will be their God and they His people. Everyone will know the Lord. God will forgive wrongdoing and never again remember sin. These promises are unconditional. There is no requirement of obedience like the Mosaic Covenant, God has promised that these things will happen.

The New Covenant is made with Israel and is meant to replace the old covenant as Hebrews 8 tells us. The church has gained the benefits of the New Covenant as Israel is still currently in denial of their Messiah. Like other covenants, the New Covenant has not been completely fulfilled yet. We see parts of its fulfillment, but it has not been completely fulfilled in Israel yet.

The church dispensation fails because of the rejection of many. In no dispensation has God failed. In this dispensation it is certainly not that the work of Christ for the redemption of man has failed. Many who hear the gospel will reject the truth however instead of acting in faith and accepting it. Certainly the New Covenant has not reached anything more than a remnant of Israel to this point. We have not achieved the day when all know the Lord. But the day is coming and will arrive in the dispensation of the Kingdom.

Dispensations and Covenants

Dispensational theology recognizes seven separate dispensations where God works with man in slightly different ways. These dispensations can be related to individual covenants between God and man. This stands to reason that man’s relationship with God would change with each new covenant.

In each dispensation God reveals something to man and man is expected to respond in obedience and faith. Often dispensations build upon one another, adding knowledge without doing away with what God had previously taught. In every age man doesn’t live up to the standard which God expects. Some individually may follow but collectively man rejects God’s revelations even up to today when they reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To read more about each dispensational and how they relate to the covenants, click the links below.

Innocence – Genesis 1:28 Edenic Covenant – Genesis 2:16
Conscience – Genesis 3:7 Adam Covenant – Genesis 3:15
Human Government – Genesis 8:15 Noahic Covenant – Genesis 9:16
Promise – Genesis 12:1 Abrahamic Covenant – Genesis 12:2
Palestinian Covenant – Deuteronomy 30:3
Law – Exodus 19:1 Mosaic Covenant – Exodus 19:5
Church – Acts 2:1 New Covenant – Hebrews 8:8
Kingdom – Revelation 20:4 Davidic Covenant – 2 Samuel 7:16

In each dispensation God reveals something to man and man is expected to respond in obedience and faith. Often dispensations build upon one another, adding knowledge without doing away with what God had previously taught. In every age man doesn’t live up to the standard which God expects. Some individually may follow but collectively man rejects God’s revelations even up to today when they reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Salvation in every dispensation is through the cross of Jesus Christ. Earlier dispensations look forward to the coming of the Messiah even while not understanding all there was to know. Humanity was responsible for responding to what they did know based on what God told man during each dispensation.

Covenants are agreements between God and man. Some address an individual person, some a specific family, some are to the nation of Israel, and finally others are for all of mankind. Covenants and dispensations intersect because with each covenant God reveals something about Himself or His expectations of humanity. These new revelations lay the cornerstone for new dispensations.

Most covenants are unconditional in the Bible. God declares that He will do something regardless of how humanity responds. God is faithful to His word and we can expect these to be fulfilled. Even though God has certain requirements of humanity that He expects in each dispensation as mentioned above, the covenants are nonetheless unconditional. A few promises in the Bible are conditional. These promises are laid out as “if… then…” statements. Often these refer to punishments that humanity can expect if they do not follow God’s commands.

Perfection at last

Every dispensation shows the depravity of mankind. We are sinful through and through. While a remnant is saved, most of humanity rejects God and will not acknowledge Him as Lord. The work of Jesus on the cross opens the door for the forgiveness of sin and many accept it but still many do not. Even in a time of tranquility under the reign of Christ, man’s sinful nature comes out and some rebel.

Perfection awaits humanity though. Like Christ, we will be resurrected and given a new body. It won’t be fleshly and sinful. Satan won’t be around to tempt or deceive us. The flesh will have no power over us. And the old world will have passed away. We will spend eternity in a new heaven and new earth in the presence of God Almighty!