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The term “dispensation” occurs in the KJV in 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; 3:2; Colossians 1:25. In each case it translates the Greek oikonomia, from which the English “economy” is derived, and so is concerned with administration. Dispensationalism is the view that there is much variety in the divine economy in the Bible, that God has dealt differently with men during different eras of biblical history. A dispensation is “a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God,” according to C.I. Scofield.*
Some variety exists among dispensationalists, but Scofield's scheme of seven dispensations is widely accepted. These are Innocence (before the Fall), Conscience (from the Fall to Noah), Human Government (from Noah to Abraham), Promise (from Abraham to Moses), Law (from Moses to Christ), Grace (the Church age), the Kingdom (the Millennium). The close of the Millennium ushers in the Eternal State. J.N. Darby* is usually regarded as the founder of Dispensationalism, although some of its elements are found in Augustine. All dispensationalists are necessarily premillenialists, but the reverse is not always the case. Dispensationalism was greatly popularized through the Scofield Bible, and its fullest theological expression is in the works of L.S. Chafer.* An extreme version of it (“Ultra- Dispensationalism”) was due to the work of E.W. Bullinger. The term “dispensation” (as the virtual equivalent of “covenant”) is often used by those who do not accept Dispensationalism as defined above.