Dispensational Chaos

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield

Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (August 19, 1843 – July 24, 1921). During the early twentieth century, his best-selling annotated Bible popularized dispensationalism among fundamentalist Christians. Click image to enlarge.

I’m Dispensational. There, I’ve said it. Now that we’ve got past the elephant in the room let me let you in on a little secret: I’m sooo frustrated by how fractured God’s People are; Dispensational, Covenantal, Premillennial, Pedobaptismal… we’re so… splintered. I understand why (in fact I’m as guilty as the next guy); I just hate it.

With that in mind I recently read a post by Prof. Johan Malan of the University of the North (which I think has merged to become the University of Limpopo; although I couldn’t find Prof. Johan Malan listed under the faculty [editor: I have it on good authority that the Prof is retired hence the absence on any lists.]) who laid down a seven fold Dispensational view in an article titled The Dispensations of God – Do You Have the Correct Perspective? Turns out, according to the Prof, I don’t. The seven Dispensations he laid down vary to the seven Dispensations I’ve always held to and am familiar with.

So with “Ecclesia semper reformanda est” ringing in my ears I went online to correct my view. After a bit of reading though I just couldn’t find references to back up his divisions, yet I found works to confirm mine… so I wrote to him (which he didn’t respond to :( ) and asked, “um… I don’t get it?” [editor: this is a paraphrase of the letter at the bottom of this post.]

Needless to say there might be a whole new group of Dispensationalists (like that’s all we needed, more obfuscation) out there who are characterised by their belief that God relates to human beings in a different way while the Antichrist reigns during the tribulation period (technically I think there is a flaw in this thinking).

Below is a table for comparison of who believes what regarding the Dispensations:

Schemes 7 or 8 Dispensational Scheme Prof Johan Malan 4 Dispensational Scheme 3 Dispensational Scheme (minimalist)
Genesis 1-3 Innocence or Edenic The Dispensation of Innocence Patriarchal Law
Genesis 3-8 Conscience or Antediluvian The Dispensation of the Conscience
Genesis 9-11 Civil Government The Dispensation of Human Government after the Flood
Genesis 12 to Exodus 19 Patriarchal or Promise
Exodus 20 to Acts 1 Mosaic or Law The Dispensation of the Law Mosaic
Acts 2 to Revelation 20 Grace or Church The Dispensation of Grace Ecclesial Grace
Revelation 4 – 18 The Dispensation of the Antichrist’s Reign
Revelation 20:4-6 Millennial Kingdom The Dispensation of the Kingdom Zionic Kingdom
Revelation 20-22 Eternal State or Final

Below is the letter I wrote to Prof. Johan Malan:

From: markpenrith@hotmail.com
To: johan@bibleguidance.co.za
Subject: Dispensations
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 22:18:07 +0200

Good day,

I came across an article you wrote titled The Dispensations of God – Do You Have the Correct Perspective?

As I read it I was struck by a small difference in the way your presented the Dispensations and yet as I pondered upon it I saw something worth giving more thought to hence my challenge. I’d always thought of a 7 schemed Dispensational approach as including:

Innocence or Edenic
Conscience or Antediluvian
Civil Government
Patriarchal or Promise
Mosaic or Law
Grace or Church
Millennial Kingdom

You article purported:

The dispensation of innocence
The dispensation of the conscience
The dispensation of human government after the Flood
The dispensation of the law
The dispensation of grace (the church dispensation)
Dispensation of the Antichrist’s reign
The dispensation of the kingdom

I guess my question is three fold:

Why drop out The Dispensation of Patriarchal or Promise?
Why add in The Dispensation of the Antichrist’s reign? (at first I saw much logic in this yet after some thought I wondered, does God’s dealing with man really change while humanity is under the Antichrist’s reign? Yes, Satan is given more lee way but…)
Why no room for The Dispensation of the Eternal State?

If you have time.

In Christ,


I don’t mind being wrong, got somewhere where I can go and look for more detail on this seven fold Dispensational view? If you’d like to read up a bit more go and check out GotQuestions which uses Ryrie’s model. Oh yes, I think Ryrie is the bomb. Anyone actually care about stuff like this or is this a little too dry and dusty?


5 thoughts on “Dispensational Chaos

  1. Mark, Prof Malan’s view is new to me, though many classic dispensationalists have seen the Trib as belonging to the dispensation of Law. The fact that it is Daniel’s seventieth week, and the previous 69 all occurred under Law, led many to say that the Tribulation is the true conclusion to Law, and leads straight into Kingdom – both Israel-centred (hence the Church age viewed as parenthetical).

    I tend to think that between dispensations there are sometimes periods of time where two dispensations seem to overlap. I think the book of Acts really records how Law transitioned into Grace. Along the same lines, I could see the Tribulation period as one where Grace transitions into Kingdom. Of course, that depends on how much Progressive Dispensationalism you buy into. If you are a die-hard classic, then there can be no transitions between church and kingdom.

  2. Hope had faded that anyone cared enough to offer an opinion so: thank you thank you thank you for commenting. Actually, I’m also flattered that you read the snippet; the stuff you write is so erudite that it leaves me with the impression that you only have time for Schaeffer, Calvin and Tertullian (have I got the right David?).

    Your comment catches me in the throes of thought: I’ve been mulling “The Great Parenthesis” and “Leaky Dispensationalism” this morning (although I should be nailing down Luke 2:8 – 20 because there’s two sermons this weekend that need a preaching and only so many hours for the preparing!). I need to have a sit down discussion with someone who’s understanding of the word “progressive” extends past chronology to interrelationship. Any ideas?

  3. Schaeffer, not so much. Calvin, occasionally when I’m looking at a passage. Tertullian, when I need to read a paleo-fundamentalist :)

    Well, I think Robert Saucy and Darrel Bock are going to be your best bets for getting a view on Progressive vs. Classic (Though Saucy and Bock differ).
    For myself, some years ago I became uncomfortable with viewing the church age as a clear parenthesis, when so much of it seemed to be spoke of in fulfillment terms. The church is definitely a ‘new thing’, and I do think it does not replace Israel’s hope. However, I see in each dispensation a growing level of revelation and responsibility, with something of the character of the previous dispensation leading into the next. Although the church is not under Israel’s Mosaic code, consider how much of it is Jewish: Jewish Messiah, Jewish New Testament, worship patterned after the synagogue, Abraham’s seed being extended to us spiritually (I know – another can of worms). In my view, the kingdom may contain a lot of ‘church age’ forms without being the church. It will certainly be a Jewish kingdom, but I think that the revelation of the New Testament will very much shape its character. The ‘new man’ of Ephesians 2 might very well make up much of the citizenry of the kingdom.
    I know – speculation. Plain and simple. That’s what makes this stuff fun. Maybe sometime we could brew a cuppa together and replace all of Larkin’s charts with our own :)

  4. sounds like really good stuff. Yes I think much is in the area of speculation. So much we do not know or are not told. I do however think that the Anti-christ is goind to have part to play in history as we see it played out. A point that I noticed John MacArthur does not elaborate on either.

  5. Hi Mark

    I agree with David’s first comment. Sorry I did not email Prof Johan Malan. Time eluded me and then my husband dragged me away on holiday. That did not stop me from thinking about it and yes, my conclusion is just that. He combined the two because they overlap. The tribulation starts at the rapture. The church and Israel are very much separate. Will gentiles be saved during the trib? Of course. But God’s focus will have returned to Israel.

    Now you mention the ‘great parenthesis’. Funny I had this discussion on the blog the other when some guy was speaking about classic Premillennialism vs the newer version. I was quite dumbfounded as I never new there was a newer version UNTIL I realised the Dominionist/Word of Faith had a version too <– theirs includes a great parenthesis.

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