Happy Birthday, to us?
We have been studying Pentecost, otherwise known as Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, as one of God’s appointed times (mo’ed). Pentecost (Shavuot, the feast of weeks) is considered the day on which Judaism was born (the Age of Law). Pentecost is considered the day on which the Church was born (the Age of Grace). In this way, Pentecost has already marked the beginning and ending of several dispensations.
Will a future Pentecost mark another dispensation change, or “birthday”?
This is the main question I am examining with this study series. Before we continue, we need to review a little bit about dispensations.
What Are Dispensations?
God’s revelation and dealings with humanity can be broadly separated into “ages”. This is the basis of Dispensational Theology. It’s not perfect, but it helps us grasp how God has progressively revealed Himself and His redemption plan to humanity. Dispensational theology is the most common method of Bible prophecy interpretation in evangelical Christian circles. It is the only view which explains the literal rebirth of modern-day Israel and the aliyah, or regathering, of Jews that we can observe and track. It explains the prophetic lineup of nations and wars that we see in the headlines. It explains the current social and political climate. It is the method most consistent with a literal, cultural, historical, and contextual study of scripture.
A chart demonstrating these 7 dispensations would look like this:
Dispensational theology sees the Church and Israel as distinct entities, and understands that God has separate plans for each. It is progressive in nature, as each “dispensation”, or “age”, unfolds into the next.
Jack Kelley at GraceThruFaith notes that the word from which we get dispensationalism appears in 1 Corinthians 9:17, Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 3:2, and Colossians 1:25. On its’ history, he states:
Some say that dispensationalism is a relatively modern system of theology first proposed by John Nelson Darby in the mid-1800s. But evidence that the early church believed in the principles of dispensationalism can be found in the 2nd Century writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Justin Martyr saw four distinct periods (dispensations) and gave them the names of the principle players, Adam to Abraham; Abraham to Moses; Moses to Christ; and Christ to Eternity. Irenaeus also saw four periods, from the Creation to the Flood, from the Flood to the Law, from the Law to the Gospel, and from the Gospel to Eternity.
More recently most scholars have settled on seven dispensations. Each one has begun with an agreement between God and man that man has subsequently broken, causing the agreement to fail and requiring a judgment. Source
The seven dispensations that are generally agreed upon today, are:
- Innocence: Between Creation and the Fall of Man
- Conscience: Between the Fall and the Flood
- Government: From the Flood to Abraham
- Promise: From Abraham to Moses
- Law: From Moses to Jesus
- Grace: From Pentecost to the Resurrection/Rapture Event
- Millennial Kingdom: From Second Coming to Great White Throne Judgment
Image Credit: Bucherer Pianos
For more on this, please see Jack’s article What Are the 7 Dispensations? Gotquestions also explains it well in their article What is Dispensationalism, and is it Biblical? I would like to point out at this time, that there seems to be a teeny tiny mini-dispensation between Grace and the Millennial Kingdom. It will last 7 years (2520 days). Accurately termed the 70th Week of Daniel, or The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, it is most commonly known as “The Tribulation”. This Tribulation age, or “age of wrath” as I will call it, seems to involve elements of both Grace (salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ) and Law (holding firm in the faith until the end).
We will examine Dispensational Theology in more depth another time, but for today let’s examine how the Feast of Pentecost fits into a discussion of Dispensations. The two dispensations connected to Pentecost are Law and Grace.
Shavuot – The Dispensation of Law Begins
Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, is a memorial to the giving of the 10 Commandments on the tablets of stone to Moses on Mount Sinai. God additionally gave other rules at this time, collectively called “The Law” or “The Laws of Moses”. According to Hebrew4Christians, Shavuot at Mount Sinai is considered the day on which Judaism was born. We discussed this more fully in Part 1, The Giving of the Law, The Giving of Grace.
What is notable is that the Dispensation of Law ended on the day it began – Pentecost.
Pentecost – The Dispensation of Grace Begins
On the first celebration of this feast day after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit was given to the body of Christ in power. He seals us until the day of the redemption of our bodies (Ephesians 4:30). Thus, Pentecost is associated with the “birthday of the Church”. In the church age, the Holy Spirit reveals to us the spirit behind the letter of the Law. We refer to this as the age (or dispensation) of Grace. Again, we discussed this more fully in Part 1, The Giving of the Law, The Giving of Grace.
Will the Dispensation of Grace end on the day it began – Pentecost?
Pentecost – The Dispensation of Law + Grace Begins???
Once the Church Age ends with the removal of the Restrainer (the indwelling, sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of true believers), it seems that salvation will revert to how it worked in the Old Testament under the Law. The Holy Spirit will not be “gone” from the Earth; He is, after all, omnipresent. What will change is the way He works His ministry. The Holy Spirit will be involved in convicting people of sin, leading them to repentance, leading them to salvation. Salvation, as always, will be by grace through faith in the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The difference that will be seen after the rapture of the church, is that believers will no longer be sealed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, it will be possible to “lose” faith and “lose” salvation. Each person will be responsible for holding firm in the faith until the end (Matthew 24:13).
Tribulation-Age Saints will pray for God not to take His Holy Spirit from them as David did:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
It will also be necessary for post-rapture believers to act on their faith, despite severe deprivation and persecution. Believers will be held accountable for what they do, or do not do, as if it were unto Jesus Himself (see Matthew 25). This truly calls for the endurance of the saints (Revelation 14:12).
An interesting study on the indwelling Holy Spirit, written a few years back, is entitled The Indwelling of the Spirit – A Key to Understanding Bible Prophecy.
On this somber note, I want to bring our attention gently back to when will this occur? Will the dispensation of Grace end and the dispensation of Wrath mark another birthday?
Conceptions and Births
We mentioned above, that Shavuot, or the giving of the Law, was the “birth of Judaism”. We also mentioned that Pentecost, or the giving of the Holy Spirit, was the “birth of Christianity”. As several in the watching community have mused, was this actually our birthday… or was it our conception? What do I mean? Well, if the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai was the conception of Judaism, was it birthed in all its’ fullness with the start of Christianity? One might consider that to be true in some sense, as Christ stated that He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)
What would be a similar fulfillment of the church age of Grace?
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:22-25)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
As you have likely noticed, the end times revolve around a theme of birth pains, birth, and deliverance. We know that Israel will be delivered at the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (“The Tribulation”). Is the church’s deliverance at the rapture – the redemption of our bodies?
This birth theme is one to keep in the back of your mind as you read through end times passages in the Bible. Speaking of birthdays, there is one more birthday we must discuss today – that of Enoch.
The Rapture of Enoch
Only two humans have ever been translated to heaven alive, bypassing death. One of these is the Patriarch Enoch, who came before the global flood. The other is Elijah, who was one of the Old Testament Prophets. As far as I could find, there is no mention of what day Elijah was raptured. There is, however, tradition surrounding Enoch’s rapture. Jack Kelley writes about it here:
By tradition, Enoch, one of the patriarchs from Genesis 5, was born on the day later to be known as Pentecost. Enoch’s name means “teaching,” a primary function of the Church (Matt. 28:19-20). For this reason many scholars see him as a “type” of the church as well. Genesis 5:21-23 indicates that Enoch had a close relationship with God and was actually taken live (raptured) into Heaven before the Great Flood. Pre-Trib scholars see this event as one of several Old Testament hints that the Church will disappear from Earth before the Great Tribulation.
These same traditions also hold that Enoch was taken on his birthday. So here’s a man, identified with the Church, perhaps being born and raptured on the day that would become Pentecost, the day the Church was born. Will the Church be raptured on our birthday, too?
The relevant scripture passages are found in Genesis and Hebrews:
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:21-24)
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)
From Scripture itself, all we know is that Enoch walked with God (was righteous) and that God took him in a rapture-type event before the flood. Any additional hints we glean are from extrabiblical texts, so we must not give them the same weight as scripture. These traditions do seem to be interesting, though, in light of what we are finding when we dig deeper into the Word of God on this matter.
Interestingly, Enoch lived 365 years, which is the number of days in our post-flood calendar year. His son, Methuselah, was the longest-lived human. Methuselah’s name means “his death shall bring judgment“, and in the year when Methuselah died, the flood came. I’ve always wondered if there was a connection between the gap of time between Enoch’s rapture and the coming of the flood – the gap is 669 years. Perhaps you can figure something out! If you can, please let us know…
(this post was previously posted here)
Main Pentecost Study Menu: Everything You Need to Know About Pentecost, the Feast that Ties It All Together For The Church
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
What Are the 7 Dispensations? (GraceThruFaith)
What are the 7 Dispensations? (Gotquestions)
Meaning of the Names in Genesis 5 – God’s Redemption Story (Chuck Missler)
Does Scripture Support a Pentecost Rapture? (PDF – T.W. Tramm)
The Feast of Pentecost (GraceThruFaith)
Shavuot – Revelation and the Fruit of the Spirit (Hebrew4Christians)
The Mystery of Pentecost (Prophecy Watchers)
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details, some of which I think might need to be adjusted slightly. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!