The Bible is a big book with many characters, events, and details. Without an overview or “overall” understanding to keep the various elements straight, Scripture becomes a muddle of confusing and contradictory information. The eight administrations provide a kind of skeletal structure that can then be “fleshed out” to give an even greater understanding. Critics say Dispensationalism “divides” the Bible so one cannot see “big picture” themes such as God’s unifying grace. To us, that is a weak argument because an administrational perspective provides a way of magnifying God’s grace and resourcefulness as we see Him working in, around and through man’s failures to achieve His goals without ever forcing man’s obedience. To us, a non-dispensational view obscures the “big picture” by trying to force unity out of diversity, leaving the reader with no clear rules on how to tell what is literal and what is figurative, and no advice on when and why certain rules change (such as circumcision, marriage regulations, and sacrifices).
One way to see this “big picture” from an administrational perspective is to employ a metaphor. Let us liken God to a playwright who has written the story of redemption in the form of a dramatic play of several acts. The play is full of interesting characters who make a lot of unforced choices. The plot contains many unexpected twists and turns, conflicts and resolutions as each scene moves the story closer to its “denouement,” or final outcome.
The first scene is the Original Paradise, but even in Paradise there are limits. God’s arrangement of Paradise is to give the first two characters a job to do (dress and keep the garden), a blessing (freely eat) and one thing not to do (do not eat of the one tree). They fail to maintain this arrangement, and are expelled from Paradise. The author’s theme is now revealed: restoring man to Paradise on earth. His plan is to achieve this goal through the agency of another man (the “seed of the woman,” “the Last Adam”). God provides a temporary solution for their sinful condition by allowing the shedding of animal blood to atone for their sin. This new arrangement is informal (i.e., unwritten), yet well understood by Adam and Eve. But instead of immediately dying, they were allowed to continue to live out their natural lives by atoning for their sin through periodically shedding the blood of sacrificial animals. This arrangement was marked by God appealing to man’s Conscience to follow the right path, though he had no written legal or moral code.
The next scene opens with the sounds of joy and merriment, people apparently having forgotten all about the idea of sin. The truth is that, except for Noah and his family, their consciences are so seared that every thought they have is evil. The bloodline to the Redeemer is in danger of being destroyed, and God acts to save it by flooding the earth. After the Flood, God’s goal of a restored Paradise is hanging by a thread. Noah sacrifices more animals and God promises never to flood the earth again, no matter how bad things might get. God again changes the arrangement He has with man, adding yet another responsibility—man is now charged with his own governance. Thus begins the institution of Civil Government, which has remained a condition of man’s life on earth ever since (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Cor. 4:3). God will continue to hold man accountable for his self-government until He establishes the theocratic reign of Jesus Christ on the earth at his Second Coming.
The next change of arrangement develops out of God’s promises to Abraham, that he and his descendants are to be separated out for special blessings. These people, eventually called “Israel,” were delivered from bondage in Egypt and called to claim the land promised to Abraham. Instead of having faith in God’s promise, as did Abraham, their progenitor, they rebel and refuse to follow Moses. Because of their transgressions and notable lack of self-government, God changes the way He deals with them, giving them the Law, a formal and written moral code. The Law strictly separates Israel from all other nations (Jew from Gentile). This Law of Moses holds sway until Christ comes to Israel and fulfills it (Rom. 10:4).
Israel expects its Messiah to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem and sit on the throne of David, delivering them from Roman occupation. Instead, their pride and hardheartedness blinds them to the identity of their Messiah, and they are the ones who hand him over to the Roman authorities, who crucify him as though he were a common criminal. When he is vindicated by resurrection, the disciples think he will then establish his Kingdom on the earth. Instead, he ascends to the right hand of God, leaving them with instructions to “make disciples of all nations” and be witnesses to him “to the ends of the earth.” It gradually becomes apparent to the Jews who are becoming Christians that their Jewishness is no longer their first identity. They are not Jews first, but Christians. They also become aware that keeping the Mosaic Law is no longer accepted for justification (not that they ever could keep it), and that God is fully accepting everyone on the basis of simple faith in the Lord Jesus and his resurrection.
It then becomes apparent that Israel and Judaism have been playing just one part in this “drama” of several acts. They had even played the lead role in getting the main actor (Jesus Christ) on stage. But now on center stage are all believers in Christ, regardless of national or ethnic ancestry, and they are all being empowered like Jews had never been before, and are being given new marching orders. Instead of keeping the Law and making proselytes, the new order of the day is preaching the good news of Christ’s finished work unto salvation for all men. This “gospel of grace” is the new backdrop for a Church of “neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28), but “one new man” (Eph. 2:15). Christ has broken down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile, eliminating the distinction between them in the sight of God. As Peter said when he saw Cornelius and his household speak in tongues, “God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34).
This turns out to be a complete surprise to the Jews, who have rightfully thought of themselves as the stewards of the oracles of God, the ministers and heirs of salvation and more. But God, the playwright, has kept this whole part of the script a Sacred Secret! The Jews knew that Christ would make his entrance, but they did not understand that he would be playing two separate roles, the suffering Savior and the triumphant King, and that these two roles are in separate acts. They also did not understand that God has inserted another act in between the Messiah’s suffering and his glory. And they also did not know that he is grafting believers from all mankind into participation in the Abrahamic promises. They thought those promises were only for Abraham’s physical descendants (his seed), but it turns out that the promise was also made to one Person: his “Seed,” the Messiah. So now God is calling out a people from all corners of the earth who are believers “in Christ,” without any respect to their “race, creed or national origin.”
While the Church is on center stage, God continues to keep an eye on Israel. He has not “killed them off,” like a worn-out “soap opera” star by writing them out of the script. Though they are blinded to the ineffectiveness of the Law and to the identity of Christ, they are still God’s covenant people and He will keep His promises to those of the bloodline who believe. That He is in some way watching over them as a nation does not mean that He does not want them to accept Yeshua (the Hebrew name for “Jesus”) as their Messiah and Lord during the “administration of the Sacred Secret.” Indeed, this is necessary for their individual salvation in the Church Age. What they have had to look forward to as Jews was great, but Christianity is based upon “better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
When this administration of the Sacred Secret is fulfilled, Christ will come for his Church, sweep us off our feet and carry us off the stage. After that, the Jews will again take center stage. Some of them will “remember their lines” and begin speaking for him again. God will take up with them where He left off, and His prophecy of a time of Tribulation and anguish on account of their rebellion will be fulfilled. This act will affect not only the Jews, but the whole earth as well. Mankind will fail to repent and turn to God, and would be wiped off the earth except that Christ will intervene, coming to earth to establish his Millennial Reign of righteousness. WOW! That was close! What a dramatic finish!
But wait, the play is not finished! In fact, God saves the best for last. This Millennial Reign of Christ on the earth will fulfill every promise God has ever made that was not conditional upon anyone’s obedience. At its onset, the Lord Jesus will raise from the dead all the saved Israelites and Gentiles who believed during the Old Testament or the Tribulation period. Then he will give Israel all the land God promised them (Rom. 15:8). God will set Christ up as the King over Israel and he will rule the earth from Jerusalem. He will totally fulfill His “New Covenant” with Israel, and they will individually and collectively enjoy an intimate relationship with God such as they have never had.
At the end of Christ’s Millennial Reign, all the enemies of God and Christ, including death and the grave, are finally destroyed. Then Christ for the second and last time exclaims, “It is finished!” He hands the keys to the Kingdom back to God, Who gives him a standing ovation (1 Cor. 15:24-28). The Final Paradise is ushered in, and the story finally has a totally righteous ending, a happy ending for those who have believed and obeyed. This will be a time of unimagined blessings and glory, with no sin, no death, no Devil and no separation between the redeemed peoples of the Lord, all of whom are Christ’s brothers and sisters in an everlasting family of God. Hallelujah!