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Through the Bible Dispensationally

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The Dispensation of Innocence

The Edenic Age

(From the Creation of Man to the Fall — Genesis 1-3)

This age extended from the creation of man to the expulsion from the garden. The record of this first period of testing is found in Genesis 1:28 through Genesis 3:21. During this dispensation, the human race consisted of only two people. Their name was Adam; they lived in the garden of Eden and they were perfectly innocent, until sin entered.

The test was whether they would obey God and live or disobey God and die. This proposition was made clear to both the man and his wife (because they were both one) by the Lord God, Himself. The details are recorded in Genesis 2:15-18: "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."

We are not told just how long Adam and his wife continued their fellowship with the Lord God in the Garden of Eden. However, the time must have been short, because they were only an hundred and thirty years old when Seth was born (Genesis 5:3). Cain and Abel were old enough to produce fruits and flocks (Genesis 4:1-4) before Seth came, and we know that they were not born until after their father and mother had fallen into sin and had been driven from the Garden (Genesis 3:24-4:2). Therefore the age of innocence was considerably less than one hundred and thirty years.

The Failure and Fall

of mankind in this first test are recorded in the first seven verses of Genesis chapter 3. The subtil serpent "Beguiled Eve" (Genesis 3:1-6 with 2 Corinthians 11:3); but "Adam was not deceived" (1 Timothy 2:14).

As an "Angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14), Satan cunningly approached the woman with this subtle question: "Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1). The question was pointed at the one and only command which God had given, the command by which the human race was then being tested and the command which, if broken, meant sin and death to the entire family of mankind (Romans 5:12).

The woman first listened to Satan's question, then she tolerated his company, and then she foolishly answered him with a part of the truth plus her own idea: "And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die."

God had said: "Thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17).

The woman said: "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die" and added a sentence of her own: "Neither shall ye touch it." Her attempt to meet Satan without the pure Word of God, with nothing added to it and nothing taken from it, was doomed to failure, and the same thing that was true then is still true today.

Realizing the weakened condition of his victim, Satan now boldly said to the woman, "Ye shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4). The woman continued to listen while Satan deliberately denied the very word of her Lord and creator. Furthermore, he accused God of withholding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in order to keep the man and the woman from becoming "As Gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5); but he did not tell them that when they came to know good and evil they would find themselves caught in the meshwork of evil and powerless to attain the good. Satan is an artist when it comes to mixing a little bit of God's truth with his own false teaching. He is doing this very effectively today through "false apostles" and "deceitful workers," who are successfully "transforming, themselves into the apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

The Final Test

came when Satan presented his three-fold appeal as recorded in Genesis 3:6:

  1. The lust of the flesh—"The woman saw that the tree was good for food."
  2. The lust of the eyes—"It was pleasant to the eyes."
  3. The pride of life—"A tree desired to make one wise."

She did not fall when she saw that the fruit was good for food. Neither was she persuaded to give in to Satan because the fruit was pleasant to her eyes. But, when she believed the subtle lie that this fruit was desired to make one wise, she took of it and "Did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."

To this very day, Satan has not changed his appeal to the human race. Since the fall of man, he has become the "God of this world" and is constantly blinding the minds of "Them which believe not" through the lust of their flesh, the lust of their eyes, and the pride of life. These three appeals include "All that is in the world" and all that is "not of the Father." (Compare 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 1 John 2:16). There is not a sin in the category which does not come under one of these three appeals, and all fallen human flesh is in bondage to Satan because of weakness along these three lines.

Results of the Fall

We are told in Genesis 3:8 that the fallen man and his wife "Heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:" and they "Hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden." This verse indicates two things. First, that God was accustomed to meeting with Adam and his wife in the Garden of Eden; second, that on this particular occasion man was for the first time found hiding from his Lord and maker. This brings God's first question recorded in the Bible: "And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?" (verse 9). Note the pitiful answer coming back to God from His fallen creature: "I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." He was afraid because his knowledge of good and evil had made him conscious of his nakedness, and his man-made "apron" of verse 7 could not cover the shame of his nakedness as he stood before a just and holy God. His sin had not only brought fear, but it had brought cowardly fear. This is indicated by his attitude to blame the woman for his deliberate sin (verse 12).

The Judgment of God

upon the serpent is recorded in Genesis 3:14, while verses 16 and 17 of the same chapter reveal His judgments upon the woman and upon the man, and verses 18 and 19 bring to our attention the curse upon the earth. This just judgment came as a result of the entrance of sin into the human race and the re-created earth.

From this point on we shall be occupied with an examination of the unfolding of God's eternal plan to regain that which was lost through the entrance of sin and to bring fallen man unto righteousness, even the righteousness of God—a higher position than that which he had in the state of innocence. This divine plan is woven around the finished work of Christ, the Redeemer, on the cross of Calvary.

Someone has suggested an interesting study in connection with three Biblical trees:

  • The Tree of Death—Genesis 3:17, which appears at the opening of the Bible,
  • The Tree of Calvary—1 Peter 2:24, in the middle of the Bible, and
  • The Tree of Life—Revelation 2:7 and 22:2, at the end of the Bible.

The work which Christ accomplished on the cross of Calvary extended backward to the entrance of sin in the garden of Eden and forward to the freedom from sin in the garden of Paradise. The believing sinner of the Old Testament times looked forward to the coming Lamb of God and His sacrificial work on the cross; the believing sinner of the New Testament times and the Body dispensation looks backward to the finished work of the Lamb of God on the cross.

The law of sin and death condemns mankind in all dispensations, but the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes men free from the law of sin and death. There is no remission of sin apart from the shedding of blood, and the shed blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin, but the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses from all sin.

The wreckage and ruin as a result of sin blots the pages of the history of the human race from the fall of Adam to the new heaven and the new earth. The sin question can be dealt with in one way only, and that one way is "Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins" (Romans 3:24-25). The setting forth of Christ as the sin bearer for the whole world is indicated by the crimson thread that runs through the entire revelation of God. When the saved of all ages are gathered together into the presence of the triune God, they will know that they were "Not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:18-20). He died on the tree of Calvary to take away the sin that came as a result of the eating of the tree of death and to make it possible for fallen man to partake of the tree of life.

"In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers 'round its head sublime.

Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that thro' all time abide."

The judgment of God that fell heavily upon the human race and upon the earth in the garden of Eden will not be lifted until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has already paid the redemption price and will come soon to claim His purchased possessions.

The First Promise of the Redeemer

is recorded in Genesis 3:15: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." This verse clearly sets forth the enmity between Satan and Christ. It also makes plain the fact that Christ, the seed of the woman, shall inflict the head wound that will bring about the destruction of Satan. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

This promise in Genesis 3:15 establishes the fact that the promised redeemer should be of the human race; Genesis 9:26 suggests that He should be of a certain section of the race, Shem; Genesis 12:1-3 indicates that He should be of a certain nation belonging to that section, the Hebrew Nation; Genesis 49:10 makes plain the fact that He should be of a certain tribe in that Nation, Judah; 2 Samuel 7:16 declares that He should be of a certain family in that tribe, David; Isaiah 7:14 emphasizes the fact that He should be of a certain member of that family, the virgin, Mary; and lastly the prophet Micah, in chapter 5 and verse 2, tells us that this promised one should come forth from a certain village, Bethlehem.

Manifested Grace

on the part of God toward sinful man is seen in Genesis 3:21-24. The naked sinner was clothed with God-provided garments and expelled from the garden "Lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever." The tree of life was guarded by a "Flaming sword" until God could reveal His plan whereby the sinner might have right to its fruits.

The careful student of the Word of God will come to see the sixty-six books of the Bible as one book which reveals God's one plan of redemption. For instance, a comparison of the book of Genesis with the book of Revelation helps us see the unity of the Word of God in the revelation of His plan and purpose. Between Genesis, the book of the beginning, and Revelation, the book of the end, we find the unbroken story of God's plan of redemption for fallen man and the cursed earth. The conflict of the ages is between God, the creator, and Satan, the fallen angel. God's triumph over Satan is assured through Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself flesh and blood "That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14).

"Jesus Christ the Same, Yesterday, and Today, and Forever"

This verse is found in Hebrews, chapter 13 and verse 8. It has been much misunderstood, because people have tried to read into it the idea that Jesus Christ is doing the same things yesterday, and today, and forever. The fact that He is the same personality yesterday, and today, and forever, does not suggest that He should perform the same miracles, signs and wonders in this dispensation as He did when He taught "In their synagogues," and preached "the gospel of the kingdom, healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people" (Matthew 4:23). His divine personality is the same throughout the ages, but His ministry during the different dispensations changes as the plan and purpose of God unfolds.

Before His incarnation, He was "In the form of God" (Philippians 2:6) and shared equally in "Glory" with the Father (John 17:5). He was the "Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:14). After His incarnation, He found Himself "In the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3) and "Was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Having no sin of His own to place Him under the death penalty, He could "Lay down" His life for sinners and "Take it again" in resurrection (John 10:14-18 with Romans 5:6-8). This He did on the cross of Calvary where He was made "To be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

In His present exaltation, He occupies a position "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Ephesians 1:20-21). God gives us two reasons as to why He raised His Son from the dead and gave Him such glory at His own right hand in heavenly places. Peter and the other apostles said to the nation of Israel: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree; Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:30-31). Paul declares that Christ was raised from the dead "To be the head over all things to the church, which is His Body" (Ephesians 1:22-23). The glorified Christ is doing two things that are of dispensational interest. He is officiating as the head of the church, which is His Body (Ephesians 1:22-23), and He is waiting with expectancy "Till His enemies be made His footstool" (Hebrews 10:13).

In His future glorious advent, He will be hailed as "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:11-16). At that time the church, which is Christ's Body, will have already been glorified and will return with the King in glory (Colossians 3:4). He shall "Sit upon the throne of His glory" and "Shall be King over all the earth" (Matthew 25:31 and Zechariah 14:9).

Thus we see Jesus Christ before His incarnation, after His incarnation, during His present exaltation, and in His yet future glorious advent. Through it all, He is the same "Yesterday, and today, and forever."

He was one with the Father in glory when the plan of redemption was drawn up, and He was present in the counsel that determined His crucifixion before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23 with 1 Peter 1:18-20). He is the promised seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) who was to come in "The fullness of the time ... made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

The human race passed through approximately 4,000 years and three dispensations between the promise of the Redeemer and His first advent. His complete work of redemption will not be realized until His second advent which is promised "Immediately after the tribulation" (Matthew 24:27-31).

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