Home > Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, Prophecy and Mystery > Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

Dr Mike Johnston

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). By design, God placed divisions in Scripture that when ignored leave the Bible somewhat cryptic. [1]

First, in our opening chapter we alluded to the fact that God has hidden in plain sight two programs; one for earth and Israel, and one for heaven and the Body of Christ – Prophecy and Mystery. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

  • The Prophecy Program featuring the nation of Israel focusing on earth and the Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem, (Genesis through John; Hebrews through Revelation)
  • The Mystery Program for the Body of Christ – the church – dealing with heaven and our inheritance there in Christ. (Romans through Philemon [2])

Both programs have separate purposes and ordinances (Jer. 33:25); existing “since the world began” (Acts 3:21; Rom. 16:25). In the grand arrangement, all Scripture exists to explain or enhance either the prophetic program for Israel concerning earth, or the mystery program for the Body of Christ concerning heaven [Discussed more thoroughly later].

Second, the 2 programs extend across 3 time periods – Past, Present, Future. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God’s two programs for His two entities can each be viewed from a triad of dispensational time periods.

  • Past – “time past” – (Eph. 2:11-12) –Prophecy Program for the nation Israel (which includes her history);
  • Present – “but now” – (Eph. 2:13) –Mystery Program of the Body of Christ exclusive of the nation Israel;
  • Future – “ages to come” – (Eph. 2:7) –Prophecy Program to be fulfilled through the nation Israel.

Third, the 3 time periods present us with 2 Primary Gospels for the 2 Programs – Kingdom for Circumcision (Israel), and Grace for the Uncircumcision (Gentiles). If you’re ever itching for a fistfight, explain to a carnal Christian the word gospel doesn’t mean salvation. According to Strong, it means “a good message”. As such, the gospel is a good news message to certain peoples in Scripture God reached in specific dispensational periods. [3] We’ll discuss two primary gospels covering the two programs of prophecy and mystery:

  • Prophecy Program Gospel: the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:35) – is good news to the Jews which Christ preached “in time past” connecting Israel to the Abrahamic Covenant and the circumcision (Gen. 17; Gal. 2:7) and Davidic Covenant (earthly Kingdom from David’s seed (2 Sam. 7:8-16). [4] Bear in mind the church must be removed at the rapture allowing for Jewish tribulation evangelists in the “ages to come” to once again preach this gospel of the kingdom message heralding the Lord’s return to inaugurate His Davidic Kingdom in Jerusalem (Matt. 24:14). [Old Covenant, Dispensation of the Law] [5]
  • Mystery Program Gospel: the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) – is good news for Jews and Gentiles who come to Christ by faith and are saved, justified, sanctified, glorified, and spiritually baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) where we are seated in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6) and sealed forever (Eph. 1:13-14) apart from anything other than faith in Christ’s shed blood which permanently removes our sin from us. By Paul’s own words this was a gospel unique for the uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7), never before preached or taught: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). Dr. William MacDonald observes that this “is the thrilling message of God’s undeserved favor to guilty, ungodly sinners who deserve nothing but everlasting hell. It tells how the Son of God’s love came from heaven’s highest glory to suffer, bleed, and die on Calvary in order that those who believe on Him might receive forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, 1995) This is the only gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13; see 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:6) for this dispensation.

[1] “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. The heaven for height, and the earth for depth . . .” (Proverbs 25:2-3).

[2] While every Book in the Bible is inspired and profitable for us, Paul is the only Apostle to the Gentiles identified in the Bible (Rom. 11:13; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). Therefore, the Pauline Epistles form the body of truth that is personally to us. Study them often. Develop a plan to read through them several times per year with your annual through the Bible regimen.

[3] The Old Scofield Bible defines a dispensation   as “a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” In simplest terms, dispensationalism teaches us that God dispenses his overarching program differently to the people living in different ages. As an example, God dealt with Adam differently than He did Abraham, who was dealt with differently than Moses, who was dealt with differently than Paul, and so forth. While some misunderstand the reality and relevance of this, the truth is that unless you are worshiping on Saturdays and bringing sacrificial lambs with you to a temple, you are at some level a dispensationalist.

[4] God made 5 unilateral Covenants with Israel and none with the Body of Christ. Bear in mind our status: “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise …” (Ephesians 2:12).

[5] This includes the gospel of circumcision (Gal. 2:7), which is good news for the Jews preached “in time past” linking them to the Abrahamic Covenant, the foundational contract for Israel’s relationship with God. It formed the groundwork for the promises that would be revealed in the other covenants. The Lord Jesus Christ, James, Peter (Cephas) and John were all ministers of the circumcision (Rom. 15:8; Gal. 2:7-9). [Old Covenant, Dispensation of the Law]

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