Bible Study Outlines

Volume 3, Lesson 1
by C.I. Scofield

The Dispensations, Part I

The Scriptures divide time, the entire period from the creation of Adam to the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21:1, into seven unequal periods. These periods are often called dispensations (Ephesians 3:2), or sometimes referred to as ages (Ephesians 2:7). Dispensations are marked off in Scripture by some change in God's method of dealing with mankind, or a portion of mankind, in respect to man's sin and responsibility. Each dispensation may be regarded as a new test of the natural man, and each ends in judgment -- marking man's utter failure. Five of these dispensations have been fulfilled. We are living in the sixth dispensation, probably toward its end, and have before us the seventh dispensation referred to as the Millennium. Let us examine each of the seven dispensations.

NOTE: Several of the subjects touched in Volume 3 of these Bible Study Outlines are also dealt with in Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, by the same author. While the material in the two publications is very similar, there would be profit in doing an initial study in one publication and then reviewing the subject in the other. Both publications, and the associated Chart of the Seven Dispensations, can be accessed via the Resource Menu.

  1. Innocency
    This dispensation extends from the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7) to the expulsion from Eden. Adam, created innocent and ignorant of good and evil, was placed in the garden of Eden with his wife, Eve. Both were put under the responsibility to abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Dispensation of Innocence resulted in the first, and the most disastrous, of the failures of the natural man, which had far-reaching effects. Then, in judgment, the first dispensation was closed.
  2. Conscience
    This dispensation lasted from the Fall to the flood. By the Fall, Adam and Eve acquired, and transmitted to the race, the knowledge of good and evil. This gave conscience a basis for right moral judgment, and hence people came under this measure of responsibility -- to do good and not evil.
  3. Human government
    God saved eight persons out of the fearful judgment of the flood. After the water subsided, God gave Noah and his descendants the responsibility to govern the purified earth. This dispensation extended from the flood to the confusion of tongues at Babel.
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