A dispensation in the Bible is a period of time in which God dealt/deals with man a certain way. There are 8 dispensations that are commonly agreed between many Christian scholars. Some scholars who do not believe in a rapture of the Christian church or in a literal millennial reign, may only adhere to 7 dispensations. The 7th and 8th dispensation might be combined as the “Dispensation of Christ’s Reign.” Under each dispensation there seems to be a means of salvation for that time:
1. Dispensation of Innocence: Began from creation and ended with the fall of man (the first sin) Genesis 2:7—3:7.
- Salvation attained: By avoiding the forbidden tree. (Genesis 2:16-17)
2. Dispensation of Conscience: Began from the fall of Adam and Eve to the Great Flood in which Noah and his family were protected by the ark. Genesis 3:8—8:22.
- Salvation attained: To choose to do good over evil. (Genesis 3:22-23)
3. Dispensation of Government: Began from the time of the Flood to the time of Abraham. Genesis 9:1—11:32.
- Salvation attained: Have faith in God and build the ark He designed. (Genesis 6:16-18)
4. Dispensation of Promise: Began with Abraham and ended with Moses on Mount Sinai. Genesis 12:1—Exodus 19:25.
- Salvation attained: Acting in faith on God’s promise of a great nation, Abraham fled the county. (Genesis 12:1)
5. Dispensation of the Law: Began with Moses and the 10 Commandments given to him by God on Mount Sinai and ended with the time of Christ. Exodus 20:1—Acts 2:4.
- Salvation attained: Obedience to God’s commandments. (Exodus 19:5)
6. Dispensation of Grace: Began with the death of Christ and continues the day this is written. It is said to end either with the rapture, or the reign of Christ. Acts 4:2—Revelation 20:3.
- Salvation attained: Confessing and believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again. (Romans 10:9)
7. Dispensation of Tribulation: Will begin with the opening of the first seal and end upon the millennial reign. Revelation 6:1—20:3.
- Salvation attained: Those who keep the commandments of the Lord and do not receive the mark of the beast. (Revelation 22:4; Revelation 20:4)
8. Dispensation of the Millennial Reign: Will begin with the millennial reign and end with Judgment to eternity. Revelation 20:4—20:6.
- Salvation attained: Salvation, on the brink of this dispensation, has been attained. (Revelation 22:3-5)
Those who claim to be dispensationalists, or those who agree with the dispensations laid out, may see several elements within each dispensation of time. These include: God testing man, man’s failing of the test, God’s discipline, His new instructions and some sort of life changing outcome.