A synthetic overview of the Bible

The term synthetic refers to an inspectional approach. It basically means to get an overview. According to Dr. Christopher Cone there are three basic types of approaches to theological studies: Systematic, Exegetical and, Synthetic. The purpose of this paper is to give a basic synthetic overview of the Bible. To accomplish this purpose we must begin with a simple presupposition. In order to properly give an overview of the Bible one must have the understanding and the belief that the Bible is the complete Word of God. To summarize the Bible without this basic presupposition would defeat the purpose of approaching the Bible synthetically or through any other approach.
In keeping with a literal grammatical historical hermeneutic the conclusion that is always obtained is dispensational premillennialism. This conclusion can be identified by two basic features, according to Paul Enns, “(1) A distinction between God’s program for Israel and His program for the church. (2) A consistently literal interpretation of scripture is maintained.” As we keep these factors in mind along with the presupposition that the Bible is indeed the Word of God we thus find that the synthetic overview of the Bible is seen through an examination of the basic dispensations. In order to accomplish our goal we must look at each dispensation in order as is seen in scripture.
According to Chafer, there are seven dispensations:
1. The Dispensation of Innocence
2. The Dispensation of Conscience
3. The Dispensation of Human Government
4. The Dispensation of Promise
5. The Dispensation of Law
6. The Dispensation of the Church
7. The Dispensation of the Kingdom As we continue to seek a synthetic overview of the Bible let us look at an overview of each dispensation.
The first dispensation that we see is the dispensation of innocence. This dispensation began with the creation of man and it ended with the fall of man. This was a time when the first man and the first woman lived in perfect harmony with God. They would walk with God and talk with Him. The duration of this dispensation is practically unknown. The amount of time that Adam and Eve spent in the garden before the fall is up for debate. However, it was a wonderful time in history where the first man and the first woman lived at peace with God.
The second dispensation is the dispensation of Conscience. The transition between innocence and conscience was the fall of man. This transition is seen in Genesis chapter three. The dispensation of conscience began with the fall and also the establishment of the Adamic covenant. According to Scofield, “The Adamic Covenant conditions the life of fallen man-conditions which must remain until the kingdom age.”
The new dispensation that is birthed from the flood and the Noahic Covenant is called the dispensation of Human Government. This dispensation begins as the flood ends and God makes a covenant with Noah. The promise from God is that He will never destroy the earth again by a flood. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states: “After Noah made the sacrifice, God promised never to curse the ground in this way again. The continuity of seasons is evidence of God’s forbearance.” According to Scofield some of the elements of the Noahic covenant are as follows:
1. The relation of man to the earth under the Adamic Covenant is confirmed.
2. The order of nature is confirmed.
3. Human Government is established (Gen. 9:1-6)
4. Earth is secured against a universal flood.
During the time of human government we see the family of Noah blessed and many decedents follow. Man fails under the Noahic Covenant and God confuses the languages at the tower of Babel in Genesis chapter eleven. This time of human government continues as we do not see a total theocracy until the age of the kingdom.
The fourth dispensation is believed to be a time in which God deals directly with the people of Israel. This dispensation is called the dispensation of promise. We see this dispensation from the call of Abraham to the giving of the law. At this time in history we see God dealing with man in a totally new way. Leon Wood writes: “God’s call of Abraham introduced a new phase in His dealings with mankind. Until Abraham, God had dealt with the human race in a general way. There had been no select nation, chosen in distinction from others. Accordingly, when mankind did not obey, mankind was punished in the flood. But with the call of Abraham, this worldwide approach was changed. No longer did God address Himself generally, but particularly. He chose one man alone. He separated him from others and gave him individual instruction. People at large had refused God’s way and so, for a time, had forfeited their opportunity. God would now make a special people through whom to work in effecting His plan of redemption.”
The next dispensation also deals directly with Israel and that is the dispensation of the law. This dispensation begins at Sinai and ends at Calvary. Essential it goes from Exodus to the cross. Scofield describes the events of this dispensation as follows:
1. Man’s state at the beginning (Exodus 19:1-4)
2. Man’s responsibility (Exodus 19:5-6 ; Romans 10:5)
3. Man’s failure (2 Kings 17:7-17 ; Acts 2:22-23)
We see here God’s purpose for Israel to be the people through which God reveal His redemptive plan to all of mankind.
The sixth dispensation is the dispensation of Grace or the Church. This dispensation began with the cross and the birth of the church in Acts chapter two and continues today. This is the time in which all who desire to have a relationship with God can, through the cross of Jesus Christ. Roman 10:13 tells us, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.” No more must man abide by all the regulations and rituals of the law. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This is the dispensation in which you and I live today.
The final dispensation is the dispensation of the millennial or the kingdom. This takes place after the rapture of the church (those who are born-again) and the period of tribulation in which the wrath of God falls on the world. After the tribulation, God comes back to earth along with the church and sets up His kingdom in which those of us who are saved will rule and reign with Him for 1,000 years. It is during this time that God restores His relationship with the nation of Israel. At the end of this 1,000 years we find the Great White Throne judgment from which all those who are not written in the Lamb’s book of life will be cast into the lake of fire for all of eternity. From that point on those who are saved will live with Him forever in a new heaven and a new earth. What a day that will be?!
As we look at the Bible as a whole we find that the Bible is an amazing book. It lays out for us God’s plan for mankind. From the beginning till eternity God has a plan. The entire Bible is summed up in the message of God’s redemptive plan. Everything we read in scripture points to God’s plan of salvation and the glory that He alone receives. May we all be challenged to study His Word and His Word speak to us. To God be the Glory!

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