What are the 7 Dispensations? A Bible Study by Jack Kelley I’ve been answering questions…
By Dean Olson
The Bible is the most remarkable book ever written. The sixty six books it contains record the inerrant word of God. It was written by forty different men, ranging from peasants to kings, over a period of 1,600 years. In some cases, God spoke directly to prophets who recorded His word. At other times God spoke indirectly to scribes and psalmists via the Holy Spirit. In spite of its wide ranging authorship and the varied geography where it was recorded, the Bible is remarkably coherent and God’s message remains clear because the Lord has protected it at every step. The result is an un-contradictory volume of sixty-six books fused into one Divine Revelation that points us to God’s purpose for our lives. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In a world awash in deception as we near the end of the age, the Bible is the only source of absolute truth. It is a revelation of God beginning with the Fall of Man, through the Way of Salvation, and ultimately to God’s Plan for the Ages. The language of the Bible varies from figurative, symbolical and literal. An expression such as “Harden not your heart” is figurative and its meaning is made clear by the context. Descriptions of the “Colossus” in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s “Four Wild Beasts” are symbolic. Their meaning is explained either in the same chapter or somewhere else in the Bible. The rest of the Bible is to be interpreted according to the plain sense meaning of commonly accepted rules of grammar and rhetoric. The Bible is to be read as we would read any other book and letting it say what it wants to say. It is unbiblical and incorrect to allegorize or spiritualize its meaning. This false method of interpreting Scripture is the root of so many false religious sects and denominations and is one of Satan’s many successes in corrupting the word of God.
The Bible reveals to mankind things that we otherwise could never know like things hidden in the mind of God such as His “Plan for the Ages.” All Bible revelation ended with the Book of Revelation and there has been no new revelation from God since then. When men today claim that they have received some new revelation they are lying imposters.
The Bible is a unique sacred book because unlike all others it bases its authenticity and authority on prophecy. All other supposedly sacred books contain no predictions about the future. If their authors had attempted to foretell future events, their non-fulfillment would ultimately discredit their writings. Fulfilled prophecy is a very strong authenticator of the divine nature of the Bible. Prophecy is history written in advance and the Bible’s record is 100% accuracy.
The Old Testament contains more than 300 predictions about the first coming of Jesus Christ. Although some of those prophecies are virtual duplicates, at least sixty distinct facets of Christ’s life and ministry were predicted. Astonishingly, all sixty, without exception, were literally fulfilled. Mathematician Peter W. Stoner computed the probability of one person fulfilling forty-eight of these prophecies as one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Stoner put it into perspective by equating that probability as equal to the number of atoms in a trillion, trillion, trillion, billion universes the size of our own.
By fulfilling these prophecies, Jesus proved that He was the Messiah. He also proved that the Bible was the result of a supernatural revelation. Here are eight examples that show the prophetic bond between the Old and New Testament:
1. The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem – Old Testament (Micah 5:2) – New Testament (Matthew 2:1)
2. The Messiah would be born of a virgin – Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14) – New Testament (Matthew 1:18-23)
3. The Messiah would be a descendant of David – Old Testament (Jeremiah 23:5) – New Testament (Revelation 22:16)
4. Herod would attempt to murder the Messiah – Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:15) – New Testament (Matthew 2:16-18)
5. The Messiah would be betrayed by a friend – Old Testament (Psalm 41:9) – New Testament (John 13:18)
6. The Messiah would be sold for 30 silver coins – Old Testament (Zechariah 11:12) – New Testament (Matthew 26:15)
7. The Messiah would be crucified – Old Testament (Zechariah 12:10) – New Testament (John 19:16-18, 37)
8. Lots would be cast for His clothes – Old Testament (Psalm 22:18) – New Testament (Matthew 27:35)
Since the Bible claims to be the only inspired word of God it has become the focus of many attacks. Satan’s goal is to destroy mankind’s relationship with our Creator. It stands to reason that the Bible would be among the primary targets of his lies and deceit. If Satan can destroy the credibility of the Bible, he can convince mankind that God is a liar and a phony. The critics of the Bible have tried to discredit it by chipping away at its authority and credibility. This task has been made easy because some of the Bible’s older books were written 3,000 years ago in a radically different culture than our own. To compound matters, it was written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and in Greek (New Testament), two languages that are no longer widely spoken. These cultural barriers result in translation and contextual issues that make the Bible an easy target for criticism. Most of the criticism of the Bible stems from a superficial understanding of the Bible, or worse yet, “cherry-picking” Biblical passages by taking them out of context to assert that the Bible is rife with violence, intolerance and hatred. As one observer notes (D’Souze, 2006):
…all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades. It’s time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief has been the greatest source of human conflict and violent. Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history.
In spite of the best efforts of atheists and other unbelievers to destroy its credibility, many significant archaeological discoveries prove the consistent, inerrant accuracy of Biblical stories. The Book of Daniel is a good example. Aside from containing prophecies written hundreds, if not thousands of years in advance, ancient kingdoms rose and fell exactly as foretold, including their names and sequence of events. Because it is so unerringly accurate, several stories from Daniel have been attacked by naysayers as myth. The first is the story of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar described in Daniel 3. The king built a huge gold statue to himself on the plain of al Dura that he forced all his subjects to worship. Its dimensions were so large that many unbelievers attacked the story as myth. That is until French archaeologist Julius Oppert discovered a brick pedestal just six miles south of the site of ancient Babylon in a place called Tolul Dura (Arabic for the “mounds of Dura”). The location is where the Bible says the statue was located in a vast open area suitable for a large gathering of the king’s subjects to bow down in worship of his likeness. The pedestal ruin is forty-five feet square and twenty feet high. Oppert believes his discovery is the base of Nebuchadnezzar’s statute.
Similarly, Daniel describes Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson and heir of the kingdom of Babylon as Belshazzar. Historians dispute this assertion claiming that the story is a myth because there is no record of such a person existing. For many years critics believed the author of Daniel had fabricated the person of Belshazzar who was listed as a ruler of Babylon during the exile when Jews were taken captive into Babylon. These critics were silenced when archeologist made a major discovery in 1853. Prior to this discovery the name of Belshazzar did not appear in any other lists of Babylonian rulers. Because of this absence, except for the Biblical text, scholars of the day assumed Belshazzar was fabricated by Daniel; “Belshazzar the king made a great feast…” Daniel 5:1.
In 1853 an archeologist unearthed a clay cylinder approximately six inches in length that came to be known as the Nabonidus Cylinder. The Cylinder was not intended to list the rulers of Babylon, but was rather a commentary on repairs made to a temple. The repairs were commissioned by the King of Babylon at the time, Nabonidus. Previous listing of rulers of Babylon included Nabonidus and he was kinown to be the last king of Babylon. Since no previous king had been named Belshazzar, and there were no kings after Nabonidus, then critics claimed that Daniel must have made an error in the historical data or fabricated the name entirely.
The Nabonidus Cylinder clarified the confusion surrounding the rulers of the Babylon during the exile. In addition to the information concerning the temple repairs, the cylinder also contained a prayer by Nabonidus for his son and co-regent Belshazzar. It was found that the previous lists were correct but lacked the historical details recorded in the Bible which included both rulers of Babylon during the time of the writing of Daniel. Nabonidus was Belshazzar’s father and a talented warrior who went abroad to wage war against the kingdom’s adversaries. His son, Belshazzar was co-ruler of Babylon who stayed at the palace and administered the day to day matters of the kingdom.
A recent discovery on the high plain of the Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia confirms the Bible’s story of the Queen of Sheba in Kings 10:1-13. According to the Bible, the ruler of Sheba, which spanned modern-day Ethiopia and Yemen, heard of the great wisdom of King Solomon of Israel. She journeyed there with gifts of spices, precious stones, beautiful wood and 120 talents (four and a half tons) of gold to test him with questions.
Archaeologists recently discovered an ancient goldmine, together with the ruins of a temple in northern Ethiopia, part of the Queen’s former territory. The entrance lay concealed behind a 20ft stone slab carved with a sun and crescent moon. The carvings are described as the “calling card of the land of Sheba.” The inscription is in ancient Sabaean, the language that the Queen of Sheba would have spoken.
In line with Satan’s agenda, there has been an unrelenting, unscientific assault on the Bible. Professor William F. Albright, famed archeologist and head of Palestine’s American School of Oriental Research, observed, the excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools…has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history (Albright, 1960, p.127).
There has never been an archaeological discovery that disputes the historicity of the Bible. According to Jewish archaeologist Nelson Glueck, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference” (Glueck, 1969).
Although a comprehensive listing of all of the archaeological discoveries that support the Bible is beyond the scope of this work, several examples will suffice. In 1975, Dr. Paolo Matthiae, Director of the Italian Archeological Mission in Syria, discovered what has been described as the greatest third-millennium [B.C.] archive ever unearthed. It included more than 15,000 cuneiform tablets and fragments and unveiled a Semitic empire that dominated the Middle East more than four thousand years ago. Its hub was Ebla, where educated scribes filled ancient libraries with written records of history, people, places and commerce (La Fay, 1978, p.735). The Ebla tablets verified the worship of pagan gods such as Baal, Dagan and Asherah “known previously only from the Bible.” They mention the name “Abraham” and “Ur of Chaldees,” the Biblical Abraham’s birthplace, as well as other familiar cities and places:
The names of cities thought to have been founded much later, such as Beirut and Byblos, leap from the tablets. Damascus and Gaza are mentioned, as well as two of the Biblical cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah. … Most intriguing of all are the personal names found on the Ebla tablets. They include Ab-ra-mu (Abraham), E-sa-um (Esau)….(La Fay, 1978, 754).
For years, skeptics have disputed the stories of David recorded in the Bible asserting that they were based on myth. Recent finds by archeologists have confirmed “the first known reference outside the Bible to the House of David, a ruling dynasty presumably founded by King David in the 10th century B.C.” (Wilford, 1993). The stone fragment with these revealing inscriptions was found in the ruins of Tel Dan in northern Israel. The initial interpretation is that a victorious king, probably Baasha, was documenting his battle against the then ruling king of the “House of David,” probably Asa. According to the New York Times, this discovery “is strong independent evidence for the existence and influence of the House of David.” (Wilford, 1993).
Scientific discoveries also verify the inerrancy of the bible. Psalm 8:8 mentions “the paths of the seas.” We now know that these are the ocean currents, including the Gulf Stream that flows across the Atlantic Ocean bringing the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters to the coast of Norway. They are driven by earth’s rotation, gravitation, winds, temperature, saltiness, density variations, etc. First discovered by Matthew Maury (1806-1873), a naval officer who believed in the accuracy of the Bible, these mighty currents were documented after he studied old ship’s logs and performed experiments by setting “drift” bottles, weighted bottles designed to float below the surface unaffected by the wind, into the currents to track their speed and direction.
Maury’s charts were invaluable in establishing the science of marine navigation and led to his election into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. A monument erected in his honor… reads: “Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pathfinder of the Seas, the genius who first snatched from the oceans and atmosphere the secret of their laws” (Layman, 1989).
The Bible is the blueprint containing God’s will for man. It answers all the great questions of life and provides solutions in line with Godly living. Because the Bible is God’s word, he oversaw the authors who wrote the various letters and books. They were divinely inspired to be error-free. Because every book in the Bible has the same Author we can be assured that the same God who wrote the book of Romans through His inspiration, also wrote James and Hebrews. God will not contradict Himself and if a passage in Romans says one thing, the same Divine Author is expressing truth by what is contained in Hebrews.
It is vital in these trying times to remember that the only source of accurate information of our Creator’s intent is the Bible. As we near the Rapture and the end of the Holy Spirit’s restraint on evil in the world, we will continue to see an aggressive and widespread assault on God’s truth. Satan’s intent is to destroy our faith in the Bible to drive a wedge between us and our loving God. Pseudo documentary shows like the History Channel’s “Bible Secrets Unveiled” contain subtle challenges to the accuracy of the Bible and fit the agenda of Satan to destroy the faith of believers in God’s inerrant word. A good antidote for these, and the many other attacks that will come against “the good book,” is to be like the Bereans and to verify that what is being said comports with what is recorded in the Bible.
When we remember that Satan’s intent is to wrest human souls from our omnibenevolent Creator’s loving embrace to his cold, empty darkness and that his most subtle deceits are often his most effective, we are psychologically prepared to defend ourselves against the onslaught of untruth. We can resist any of Satan’s deceptions when we couple that preparation with the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17): “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Dean T. Olson, Omaha