Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Whenever we come to Revelation chapters twenty-one and twenty-two in our reading of the Bible, we immediately sense that we are entering another realm, another sphere. The reason for this is that in these chapters the entire universe is renewed. Not only the believers in Christ, but also the heaven and the earth are renewed. In this message we shall consider the new heaven and the new earth (21:1-8).
Because God’s dispensations are not completed until chapter twenty-one, the new heaven and the new earth do not appear before that time. Before the end of chapter twenty God’s dealing with His creatures is not completed. The coming of the new heaven and the new earth in 21:1 indicates that God’s dispensations have been completed.
In eternity past God purposed to have a corporate expression that He might be fully expressed and glorified (Eph. 3:9-11; 1:9-11). For this, He created the heavens, the earth, and mankind. Since the creation of man, there have been four dispensations: the dispensation of the patriarchs, from Adam to Moses (Rom. 5:14); the dispensation of law, from Moses to Christ (John 1:17); the dispensation of grace, from Christ’s first coming until “the restitution of all things” at Christ’s second coming (Acts 3:20-21); and the dispensation of the kingdom, from Christ’s second coming to the end of the millennium (Rev. 11:15; 20:4, 6). God has used these four dispensations to accomplish His purpose by perfecting and completing His chosen people that they may be His eternal corporate expression. All four dispensations belong to the old heaven and old earth. Although the dispensation of the kingdom will be the dispensation of restoration, it will still transpire in the old heaven and old earth, because God’s perfecting and completing work in His chosen people will not be accomplished until the end of that dispensation. When God finishes this work, by the dispensation of the kingdom, the old heaven and old earth will pass away through fire and be renewed into the new heaven and new earth (2 Pet. 3:10-13), where the New Jerusalem will come for God’s eternal expression.
Let us consider these four dispensations in more detail. Most Bible teachers say that from Adam until the end of the thousand years there will be seven dispensations. I agree with this. However, these seven dispensations are somewhat of a man-made design. According to the Bible, there are not seven dispensations from Adam to the end of the millennium; there are four. The first dispensation is from Adam until Moses (Rom. 5:14). This is the biblical way of marking the first dispensation. Some divide the first dispensation into various other dispensations: the dispensation of innocence, the dispensation of conscience, the dispensation of human government, and the dispensation of promise. But all these should be treated as sections of one dispensation, not as four separate dispensations. In each dispensation certain people have been completed by God. In the first dispensation the patriarchs were completed. They are signified by the stars of the crown upon the head of the universal bright woman (12:1).
The second dispensation, from Moses to Christ, is the dispensation of law. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and reality came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). In the dispensation of law God produced the Old Testament saints and perfected a number of them, such as Moses, Joshua, Aaron, Samuel, David, and the prophets. These saints are signified by the moon under the feet of the bright woman in Revelation 12.
The third dispensation, from Christ’s first coming until the restoration of all things at Christ’s second coming (Acts 3:20-21), is the dispensation of grace. In this dispensation God produces the New Testament believers and perfects many of them. They are signified by the sun which clothes the woman. Therefore, in the first three dispensations, God perfects the patriarchs, some Old Testament saints, and some New Testament believers.
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