Throughout human history, salvation has always been by faith in the revealed Son of God—Jesus Christ the Savior. But the way in which Christ has been revealed and the expression of faith have differed in the various dispensations. Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines a dispensation as “an era of time during which man is tested in respect to obedience to some definite revelation of God’s will.” Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), 269.
The Greek oikonomia, “dispensation,” is one of four New Testament “time” words:
  • Chronos, usually translated “time, season, or period,” refers to a succession of events or the duration of a period (Act 13:18).
  • Kairos, also translated “time or season,” is time (chronos) divided into sections or eras (Mat 11:25; Rom 3:26.13:11; 2Th 2:6).
    • Broadly speaking, chronos expresses the duration of a period, kairos stresses it as marked by certain features; thus in Act 1:7, “the Father has set within His own authority” both the times (chronos), the lengths of the periods, and the “seasons” (kairos)—epochs characterized by certain events. In 1Th 5:1, “times” refers to the length of the interval before the Parousia takes place (the presence of Christ with the saints when He comes to receive them to Himself at the Rapture), and to the length of time the Parousia will occupy; “seasons” refers to the special features of the period before, during, and after the Parousia. Chronos marks quantity, kairos, quality. W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966), III, 332.
  • Oikonomia, translated “dispensation or stewardship,” speaks of the administration of an age or dispensation. The manner by which God’s plan is carried out changes in different dispensations.
  • Aion, usually translated “age” and often incorrectly translated “world” in the King James, focuses attention on one segment or age and the things that make that age unique as a part of the whole. While God’s plan is constant throughout history, the revelation of His plan is gradual and progressive (Heb 1:1–2). The most basic distinction between dispensations is laid out in Hebrews 8 and Galatians 4 in the division between the Old and New Covenants and between the Law (the Jewish Age) and Grace (the Church Age).
The cross is the divinding point in history.
The cross is the dividing point in history. Throughout history people have been saved exactly the same way—by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the oldest Old Testament book, written about a man who lived some 2,000 years before Jesus Christ entered this world, Job says, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26).
Job had salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We, who live 2,000 years after the cross, are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation in every age is by faith in the same Redeemer. The only difference is that before the cross, that faith was in the Redeemer who would come; after the cross, it is in the Redeemer who has come.
Without an understanding of dispensations, it is impossible to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2Ti 2:15), and apart from growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2Pe 3:18), it is impossible to mature in the faith (Heb 5:11–14).
 This material was originally a highlighted topic in “The Basics”.

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