The above chart shows that God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the Scriptures has different time periods called dispensations and sub-divisions of these periods called the ages. The distinction between dispensations and ages involves who God is dealing with during the time period and how he is dealing with them.
The first dispensation apostle Peter calls “the world that was.” It covers the time period from the creation of man in the garden of Eden until the flood. “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: (6) Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” (2 Pet. 3:5,6) During this dispensation, angels had the ability to materialize and a number left their heavenly home to materialize and interface in man’s affairs which then led to great evil. (Gen. 6:1-13) Due to the evil, God destroyed this world with a flood preserving just Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives and the animals via the ark God instructed Noah to build. (Gen. 6:13-8:18) Following the flood, God put these fallen angels into chains of darkness and constrained them to the earth as their punishment. (2 Pet. 2:4,5; Jude 1:6) Please see our page on The World that Was for further information on this dispensation.
The second dispensation is called by the apostle Paul “this present evil world.” “Our Lord Jesus Christ, (4) Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” (Gal. 1:3,4) Satan is the god of this world. In this world, evil predominates and generally, the righteous have been persecuted. During the end of this dispensation, the risen Lord Jesus returns and destroys world as Peter explains in 2 Pet. 3:7,10 NASB): “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. … (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Please see our page on This Present Evil World for more information.
The second dispensation was divided into three ages: Patriarchal, Jewish and Gospel. During the Patriarchal age, God dealt with individuals (Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) who demonstrated great faith in God and His promises. Based on their faith and obedience, they were friends of God. “The Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,’ and he was called the friend of God.”
When Jacob died, God dealt with his 12 sons as a nation – Israel. He freed them from Egyptian bondage, established a covenant with them and then sent His son Jesus to them as their Messiah. Until Jesus cast them off at the end of his earthly, God dealt exclusively with Israel. “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2 NASB)
The Gospel age began after Israel was cast off. During the Gospel age, God called a people (the “church”) for His son name from among Jews and Gentiles. They were offered the opportunity to be baptized into Jesus, follow in Jesus’ footsteps and if faithful unto death, be raised spiritually to “glory and honor and immortality, eternal life” as part of God’s divine family. The Gospel Age comes to an end when after Jesus returns, the church is completed and Jesus destroys this present evil world in a time of trouble worse than man has ever before experienced.
The third dispensation is called by the apostle Paul “ages to come” in Eph. 2: 6,7 (NASB): “[God] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Peter describes this dispensation as, “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Pet. 3:13 NASB) “New heavens” is a symbolic term describing the spiritual phase of Christ’s kingdom that comes down from God out of heaven and will rule over mankind during this dispensation. (Rev. 21:1) “New earth” is a symbolic terms describing the earthly phase of Christ’s kingdom that will replace all of the nations of this world. Please see our page on The Ages to Come for more information.
The first age of this dispensation is the Millennial Age. One thousand years in length, it is time period of Christ’s earthy kingdom. During this kingdom, mankind is released from Adamic condemnation, release from the grave, taught righteousness and given the opportunity to walk up the highway of holiness back to human perfect, harmony and everlasting life. For more information, please see our page on the Millennial Age.
For additional information on ages and dispensations, please the following booklets and videos.
God Has a Plan
Gods Plan For Man