Four Marks of this Dispensation
D. M. Clark, Ontario, Canada
There are certain things that are unique to this dispensation. I refer to this day of grace, or church period, which will soon close.
The Indwelling Spirit
The first mark is that the Holy Spirit indwells believers. Although He had acted through men in Old Testament times they did not know His abiding presence within them.
His presence endues us with power. In Greek it is dunamis, and means 'the ability to do a thing'. We derive our word 'dynamite' from that same root. Without the Holy Spirit we are powerless to serve the Lord.
In John 16. 7, the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, is promised. 'Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.' The Greek word for Comforter is Paracletos, and means 'one called alongside to help'. The Lord has made complete provision for us, during His absence, by the presence of His Holy Spirit within us.
The 'onus' is 'on us' to recognize that His presence has caused our bodies to become His Temple. 1 Corinthians 6. 19-20, 'What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.' When this truth is laid hold of completely, then our every activity will have as its object God's glory. What a change that brings into our relationships with each other and what a guard it places on our activities.
Romans 8. 9, 'But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you'. That is stated as a fact, but we know that the flesh continually attempts to thwart the activities of the Spirit. Galatians 5. 17, 'For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would'. What is our resource? To reckon our flesh to be dead, and to allow the Spirit free course.
At the completion of this dispensation the Holy Spirit, with the redeemed, will rise to meet the Lord in the air. Then the forces of evil that are now kept in check by His presence will be released and the Tribulation period will commence.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in believers had another effect, that is, the uniting of all into one body, the church. From the church or assembly is to go forth the witness to the world, which is the next mark.
To Adam and Eve the Everlasting Gospel was made known - that the Seed of the woman (Christ) would bruise Satan's head and he would bruise His heel, speaking of Calvary, Gen. 3. 15. It foretells of Christ's victory over Satan, but was yet future. The gospel witness associated with His assembly on earth, tells of the complete salvation that God offers through the finished work of Christ.
The presence of His Spirit, within, enables us to bear witness at home, and to the furthest corners of the world.
The testimony of a witness is to declare truthfully what he has seen. The disciples began their witness with the declaration of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Acts 2. 22-24 'Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it'. Acts 2. 32: This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses'.
It is important to note the implication of their witness. Those who heard it were guilty of His death and were in imminent danger of being brought into judgment for it. The message pricked their consciences and raised the question, 'How could they clear themselves of their guilt?' The answer was that they could receive remission of sins through the very event that made them guilty, viz. the death of Christ. Many received the witness and they too were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and became witnesses as well.
The assembly has a witness to all, that Christ died. That occurs, when we gather to the name of the Lord Jesus, to announce His death, by partaking of the bread and drinking the cup. 1 Cor. 11. 26, 'For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew (or announce) the Lord's death till he come'.
1 Peter 2. 9, 'But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God's] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light', (Amplified Bible). As we read and weigh the meaning of this verse we see the way in which we are be witnesses to the Lord in every aspect of our lives. We have been made a 'special people' to be able to reflect Christ to a world that is in darkness.
A Man is in the Glory
Acts 1. 9, 'And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.' This fact has the most profound impact upon the truth of the Scriptures.
We have the evidence that because Jesus, as Man, has been caught up into the heaven of heavens that we shall also, in a body like His, be taken up into the same heaven. This in no wise detracts from His deity as Son of God, for as such He belonged to heaven. However, having through incarnation become a man, could He in bodily form, return to heaven? His ascension, as witnessed by the disciples is a very plain answer.
1 Timothy 3. 16, 'And confessedly the mystery of piety is great. God has been (or He who has been) manifested in flesh, has been justified in the Spirit, has appeared to angels, has been preached among the nations, has been believed on in the world, has been received up in glory', J.N.D. Christ, as man, made God manifest to us. As Man He has been taken up to God's right hand, in glory.
Hebrews 2. 9, 'But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man'. The scripture abounds with evidence that the Man, Christ Jesus, has been exalted to the right hand of God, while remaining both Son of Man and Son of God.
Moreover, the fact that He retained His manhood in glory enables Him to fill His office as Intercessor on our behalf. Hebrews 4. 15, 'For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin'.
Peter had a preview of Christ's glory as Man, 2 Peter 1. 16, 'For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'. The Man, Jesus, whom Peter had been following, was shown to him as the One whom God would glorify.
How important is this truth? Paul tells us 1 Corinthians 15. 13-14, 'But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain'. The fact of Christ's being caught up in glory verifies that He was raised from the dead as we also shall be. 'For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself, Phil. 3. 20-21. This leads us into the fourth mark of the dispensation.
His Promised Return
The Apostle Paul received a special revelation from the Lord concerning the rapture of the church, which is the event that we are anticipating at any moment. 1 Thessalonians 4. 15-17, 'For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (or go before) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord'.
Hebrews 10. 37, 'For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry". We should be in a constant state of anticipation. Each day should find our thoughts turning to the glorious moment when He will come. The transactions of each day should bear the imprint of His imminent return. For the Jew, in the Judaean economy, as the Year of Jubilee drew near the values of things on earth decreased. Even so the things of time and space should be held very lightly by us in view of Christ's return.
1 John 3. 2, 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure'. While awaiting the promised return it should also have a cleansing effect on our lives. Everything should be in order, we should not be occupied with anything that we would be ashamed of at the moment He comes again.
Revelation 22. 20, 'He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus'. Here at the conclusion of the last book of God's testimony to the world the Lord gives us the assurance that when He comes it will be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. We joyfully respond, Amen! Even so COME, Lord Jesus.
Shortly this dispensation will be complete and Daniel's 70th week will commence. Then the things that have marked this dispensation will have passed away, the church having gone into glory. The gospel of the Kingdom will then be the witness in the world. One fact alone will remain, there will be a Man in Glory but He will have the redeemed of mankind there with Him too. Thereafter He shall return as the long awaited Messiah of His earthly people. In the meantime we await the moment of His return for the church and are to 'Occupy till He comes', Luke 19. 13.