Many believe the Bible describes several periods called dispensations. Dispensational Truth – Is It Premillennial? What did Paul have in mind when he used this term in Eph. 1:10? “That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him?
To answer this question, we must analyze two important points in the text. First, we ask, what is the “fullness of the times?” According to the Galatians letter, this refers to the period of the Law of Moses. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son born of a woman, born under the law.” (Gal. 4:4) Christ was not born in the Christian age, but the Jewish. Thus, the fullness of the times means that the Jewish age had reached in fullness when Christ was on earth.
That means that the kingdom of heaven had drawn near. Jesus affirmed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15). Thus, within this time Christ came and the kingdom followed after. It is for this reason, the apostles announced that Jesus’ second coming was at hand, which is the same as saying the kingdom was at hand, because Christ comes in His kingdom. (Matt. 16:28; 25:31).
Dispensational Truth – Is It Premillennial?
Dispensational truth, to be understood, must harmoniously relate to the above time frame. This is how Paul used term in Scripture. We shall see by understanding Paul, that his eschatology does not allow for the modern concept of dispensational views.
The word “oikonomia” is the Greek term from which dispensation is translated. Properly, it signifies the “management of a household or of household affairs.” From a compound word, oikos, (house) and “nomos” (law) denote the management or administration of the property of others and so a stewardship. See Luke 16:2-4.
It is used by Paul to refer to:
- the responsibility of the gospel, 1 Cor. 9:17)
- to the stewardship committed to him ‘to fulfill the word of God, (Col. 1:25)
According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, this stewardship is “The fulfillment being the unfolding of the completion of the divinely arranged and imparted cycle of truths which are consummated in the truth relating to the church as the body of Christ,” (Col. 1:25) Walter Bauer’s Lexicon comments on the difficulty of this passage. “Also in the linguistically difficult passage, (Eph. 1:10) oikonomia certainly refers to the plan of salvation which God is bringing to the reality through Christ, in the fullness of times. Thus, dispensational truth would refer, not to a period of time but to the gospel.
This makes sense to say the apostles were given a stewardship of the gospel. Two passages confirm this interpretation. “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1). Again, he writes. “If indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.” (Eph. 3:2) In both cases he refers to the gospel.
Dispensational truth, therefore is the message, not time. This helps to shed light on why Eph. 1:10 is considered so difficult. God gave the dispensation of the gospel within the fullness of the times, i.e. in the closing days of the Jewish age. This truth cannot be denied. Paul and the apostles preached the gospel while seeing the age in which they lived come to an end in their day, (Matt. 24:14, 1 Cor. 10:11).
Now that we have defined dispensational truth as the gospel over which the apostles were stewards, we are prepared to determine whether that truth has an end. Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away but my words will never pass away. (Matt. 24:35). Peter said we were born again, not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. But the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the words which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
Thus, although the apostles began teaching the gospel in the fullness of the times, i.e. in the last days of the Jewish age, they preached an incorruptible gospel which does not fade away, i.e. which has no end. Hence John calls it the “everlasting gospel.” (Rev. 14:6). It is through this gospel that God would be glorified in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, “world without end, Amen.