A study of the whole Bible reveals that there have been different ages or dispensations in which God has dealt with humanity in different ways. It is not that God has changed or that the overall principle of the Bible has changed, but the administration of Gods revelation to mankind clearly has changed.
For example in the time from the Exodus to the Messiah Jesus God spoke through Moses and the Prophets to the people of Israel, who were required to keep the commandments of the Torah (Law). In the time in which we live God has spoken to all mankind through the Messiah Jesus and revealed the Gospel to us by means of which all who call on his name may be saved from sin and receive the Holy Spirit. At the end of this age Jesus will return in person and reign on the earth for 1000 years.
When we read the Bible it is important that we understand which age or dispensation the particular passage we are reading refers to. There are general principles in all scripture which we can learn from (2 Timothy 3.16), but to apply specific promises or commands to our age when in fact they refer to another age can lead to problems. For example when we read Exodus and Leviticus we may feel under an obligation to keep the kosher food laws, observe Jewish festivals and offer sacrifices. However when we read Romans 14, Colossians 2, Hebrews 8-10 we discover that these things belong to the previous dispensation and that Christians are under no obligation to keep them.
Another problem can be caused by applying to the present time passages which relate to the millennial rule of Messiah (i.e. the next dispensation). One such passage is Isaiah 2.1-4 which describes the millennial reign of Messiah Jesus after his second coming:
‘Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us his ways and we shall walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war any more.’ Isaiah 2.1-4
This passage is used by some Christians to say that these things will happen as a result of world evangelism and revival. By this they understand that the nations in despair at their confusion will come to the revived church which will teach them the ways of God and christianise the world before Jesus comes again. But the prophetic scriptures tell us that Christians will be persecuted and that Antichrist will reign before the return of Jesus.
As we recognise that there are different ages or dispensations in Gods plan of salvation we also notice that wherever there is a change in the dispensation there is a crisis event. Out of this crisis event God rescues those who have been faithful or whom he has chosen. They then become the pioneers of the new age or dispensation. The clearest example of this is the flood and Noah’s family. They are rescued from the catastrophe which brings judgment on the pre- flood age and then go into the next age to re-populate the earth.
This age will also end in crisis, caused by the rejection of the Gospel by the majority of people and their acceptance of Antichrist and by the apostasy of the church. The faithful remnant will be saved from the wrath of God by the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11) and go into the new age of the Millennium as the believers of all ages return with the victorious Lord at the end of the Battle of Armageddon (Zechariah 14.5, Revelation 19.14).