Life-Study of Ephesiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
This message is a further continuation of the heading up of all things in Christ (1:10). First we need to see what is the fullness of the times. Ephesians 1:10 says, “Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in Him.” The word “unto” means “resulting in” or “in order to have.” The dispensation in this verse is that of the fullness of the times. The times here no doubt refer to the ages. Hence, the fullness of the times is the fullness of the ages.
In the Bible there are four different ages. John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and reality came through Jesus Christ.” Here we see that the law is related to Moses and grace to Jesus Christ. Two ages are implied here: the age of the law and the age of grace. When Moses was raised up, that was the beginning of the age of the law. When Christ came, that was the beginning of the age of grace. Romans 5 mentions Adam and Moses (v. 14). Sin is related to Adam, and, as we have seen, the law is related to Moses. Therefore, we have three persons—Adam, Moses, and Christ—and three things—sin, law, and grace. Adam is related to sin, Moses is related to the law, and Christ is related to grace. This indicates that from Adam to the second coming of Christ there are three ages: the age of sin, the age of the law, and the age of grace.
Many of you are familiar with the theological teaching of the seven dispensations, the dispensations of innocence, conscience, human government, promise, law, grace, and the kingdom. It is not incorrect to say that there are seven such dispensations. But according to the record of the Bible, we may say that prior to the millennium there are just three ages, the ages of Adam, Moses, and Christ. After the age of grace, the age of the kingdom will come. This will be the thousand years of the heavenly reign on earth. Therefore, altogether there are four ages: the age of sin, the age of the law, the age of grace, and the age of the kingdom.
These four ages are the times. Before the first of these ages began, there was not time, but eternity past. And after these four ages there will no longer be time; instead, there will be eternity future. Between the two ends of eternity, eternity past and future, there are four ages, four times. The time of Adam was of sin, the time of Moses was of the law, the time of Christ is of grace, and the time of the millennium will be of the kingdom. When these four times have been fulfilled, that will be the fullness of the times, the completion of the ages. The ages of Adam and Moses have been completed, the age of grace is being completed, and the age of the millennium has not yet begun. After the completion of the fourth age, there will be a dispensation called by Paul the fullness of the times.
When Paul was on earth, there was a dispensation which he called a stewardship of grace (3:2). Not only at the time of Paul was there a dispensation, but there has been one in every age, in the age of Adam, in the age of the law, and in the age of grace, and there will certainly be one in the coming age of the kingdom. At the fullness of the ages, there will be the consummate, the ultimate, dispensation.
Now we need to understand what a dispensation is. According to one teaching, a dispensation refers to an age. However, this understanding is not accurate. Another teaching is that a dispensation refers to the way God deals with people during a particular period of time. For example, in the dispensation of innocence God dealt with man in one way, and in the dispensation of conscience He dealt with man in another way. Likewise, God deals with people in different ways in the ages of human government, promise, law, grace, and the kingdom. This understanding of dispensation is not incorrect, but it falls short. A dispensation is the act or instance of dispensing. It refers to God’s dispensing of Himself into His chosen people. Although I have studied this matter of the dispensations for many years and have studied a number of diagrams, I have never been told that God’s dispensation is the dispensing of Himself into His people. We need to forget all the diagrams and remember one basic point: God is now dispensing Himself into us.
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