Four Dispensationalism Camps and Edenic Covenant
For many Christians, the doctrine of dispensationalism can seem convoluted and thus difficult to understand. What we (man) fail to understand is that scripture portrays the mind of God and as such, the doctrines found in God’s word are often difficult for our limited minds to comprehend. We often want God’s word to be simplified for our understanding. However, the danger of wanting a more simplified version of scripture is that many Christians fall victim to wrong doctrine because heresies are easier to understand. That being said, God wants us to study and understand scripture from His mind and not our own, hence why the doctrine of dispensationalism or rightly dividing the word of God to correct group of people, time period, etc is needed to correctly understand scripture.
Now that we have established the importance of rightly dividing, let’s go into the four different camps of dispensationalism.
- Covenant theology is what Calvinists and Presbyterians believe. This dispensationalism camp encompasses the belief that works are needed for salvation since the creation of Adam. After the fall of man, grace was introduced and this, combined with works, has been the method of salvation from Adam until now. This is a dangerous doctrine because it takes the promises of Israel and applies them to the Christian Church, which should be avoided. This dispensationalism camp is most dangerous to the world.
- ✅ Classic dispensationalism is what we, Bible-believing dispensationalists, believe. This camp believes that there is a difference between the Jews and the Church (based on scripture).
- Progressive dispensationalism compromises covenant theology with classic dispensationalism. These types of dispensationalists will believe in classic dispensationalism but will mingle in some form of Calvinist doctrine.
- Hyper-dispensationalists overdo dispensationalism. They divide EVERYTHING, even when it is unnecessary, to the point where it becomes harmful. This is not dividing according to how God wants us to divide (classic) but rather how they (hyper) see fit, which is heresy. Because the idea of dividing God’s word is confusing, covenant theologists and anti-dispensationalists accuse classic dispensationalists of over dividing God’s word much like the hyper-dispensationalists do, which should never be done. Thus, this dispensational camp is most dangerous to Bible believers.
Now that we understand the difference between the four camps of dispensationalism (and which one is the correct one), let us now discuss the three camps of millennialism, a period of one thousand years where Jesus will reign on earth, and separate correct doctrine from heresy.
- A-Millennialism: The Catholics and Augustine are prime examples of this. They believe there are no 1000 years because God’s earthly kingdom is already in place. That’s why they were militant in the dark ages, conquering lands in the name of Jesus for the purpose of expanding God’s Kingdom. This is why this heresy is so dangerous.
- Post-Millennialism: This heresy claims that Jesus will appear after mankind has built His Kingdom over 1000 years. This is one of the reasons that some Christian churches harp about revivals and changing the world, it’s all for the sake of building God’s perfect kingdom so that Jesus can eventually come down. What they fail to realize is that man, even in his best efforts, only makes things worse, not better. Most of the “Christian” world follows this heresy.
- ✅ Pre-Millennialism: This is the camp that we, Bible-believers, believe in. We believe that Jesus will come down to set up His Kingdom (not man) before the 1000 years begin and until that happens there will be no peace on Earth. In other words, until Jesus reigns on this earth we cannot hope for this world to get any better.
We have identified the correct camps of both dispensationalism and millennialism and together, they should look something like this:
Classic Dispensationalism –> Bible-believing Dispensationalism <– Pre-Millennialism
–> represents progressive revelation
Something to note when studying classical dispensationalism and pre-millennialism is that the more a person studies these two subjects, more and more things to study will be revealed to them. Ultimately, a person will grow in the knowledge of the scripture through revelation when they invest more time studying scripture. This is what we call progressive revelation and as Bible Believers, we strongly believe that growing in knowledge is crucial in pleasing God. We also study progressive revelation. As one studies classic dispensationalism and pre-millennialism, they will keep growing in the knowledge of the scriptures.
Now, let’s talk about covenants. A covenant is an agreement between two parties: God and man). In order to accurately divide the Bible, covenants must be used. Doing so ensures that correct doctrine is applied to every instance where God dealt with man. The covenants between God and man are as follows:
When studying each covenant, keep in mind that covenants do not belong to a specific time period because they can overlap each other. This is evidenced by a form of the Adamic covenant that exists today. Many dispensationalists will define dispensationalism as a period of time, however, this is not what it means. Dispensationalism simply means how God administers different things in order, which is not limited to different time periods alone.
Beginning with the Edenic covenant, let’s go to Genesis 1.
Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,”
First term: Replenish
It is in this verse that we find the first term of the Edenic covenant, which is to replenish the earth with “replenish” meaning to fill again. The use of this word alludes to the existence of beings before Adam was created. To know the identity of these beings before Adam, go to Job 38.
Job 38:4-7: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
This verse states that it was heavenly beings (angels) that were present during the foundation of the earth. However, during the Edenic covenant, Adam replaces them when God commands him and Eve to replenish the earth.
Second term: Subdue
Moving on to the second term, let’s revisit verse 28.
“and subdue it:.”
This is referring to controlling the earth and its resources for human use. This contradicts what many environmentalists say about saving trees and the environment in general. God, however, tells us that we are supposed to use the resources of the earth as part of this covenant. If you’re a firm believer of the pre-millennialism doctrine you won’t be worried about the earth’s resources running out because you know that God Himself will set up His Kingdom with a new and improved earth. We need to take care of ourselves and let God deal with His earth at His appointed time.
Third term: Have dominion
Continuing in verse 28, we find the third term.
“and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Man is to have dominion over animals, so anyone arguing for animals to possess the same rights as humans is not honoring the third term of the Edenic covenant.
Fourth term: Eat herbs and fruits
Genesis 1:29: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
The fourth term is to eat herbs and fruit.
Fifth term: Not to eat from tree of knowledge of good and evil
Genesis 2:16: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
It is in the fifth term that God forbids man to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now that we have identified the terms of the Edenic covenant, let’s how things played out for mankind.
Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
This verse explains how God created mankind to possess soul, body, and spirit. This is important to note because these things play a role in how God deals with men in future covenants.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground“
The dust is the body because when we die we go back into the ground. Even evolutionists cannot deny this
“and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life“
This is referring to the spirit which means breath or air.
“and man became a living soul.”
Man is given a soul.
At this point, Adam has not contaminated any of his three components: body, soul, or spirit. Keep in mind that we are still in the Edenic covenant. However, as we all know, Adam fails to keep one of the terms of the covenant, which is not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When he does he dies. What some people fail to understand is that although Adam’s body didn’t immediately die, he immediately died in spirit and eventually died in the body as well.
Romans 5:14: “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”
This verse states that, like Adam, death was passed onto each one of us. The reason for this is given in verse 12.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”
When Adam transgressed, his spiritual nature died, along with the spiritual nature of all mankind after him.
Ephesians 2:1: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;”
“And you hath he quickened,”
God made you alive.
“who were dead in trespasses and sins;”
Because you were dead in your sin.
This verse does not refer to death as a physical death but rather another kind of death. Now, compare this verse to Romans 7 to identify the type of death.
Romans 7:6 :”But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”
This verse says that we were renewed in spirit, meaning that it had to be dead before, thus the death that is talked about in Ephesians 2 is spiritual. “Oldness of the letter” refers to the old state of man.
Now that we have established that man’s spirit is dead, if you look through the Old Testament, you will rarely find an instance when God deals with people spiritually. In fact, it will almost always be physically. It wasn’t until Jesus’ sacrifice that our spiritual side was made alive. That’s why Paul speaks so much about spiritual Israel or the Church, not the physical nation of Israel since it was physically the Jewish people.
Genesis 3:19 :”In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
God tells Adam that he (and consequently mankind) will die, albeit, in a physical application this time. We see that this is geared more toward a physical death because of the comparison between man and dust. Just as dust returns to the ground, so do our bodies when we die since we are dust. Although Adam didn’t immediately die after eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it was signaling an eventual physical death along with immediate spiritual death. This is why dispensationalism is needed because without it, you would only think of physical death: a death that was gradual and not immediate as had God said.
Edenic Salvation via Innocence
The Edenic salvation was a covenant of works, not faith in Jesus Christ. Those that claim that salvation has been the same from Genesis until now have not taken into account that not eating the fruit was a work. You can also see works for salvation in the rest of the terms of the covenant mentioned earlier.
Genesis 2:25: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
Genesis 3:5-7: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
The theme of this specific salvation was innocence. Before they ate the apple, Adam and Eve had no shame or sin: they were as innocent as little children. However, by eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil all manner of sin and evil was opened up to them. They were no longer innocent. In the matter of Adam and Eve having their eyes open, New Agers and other liberals will argue that this is a good thing: attaining knowledge. However, it was better for them to have retained their innocence rather than to bear the knowledge of the consequences of what they had done, which was sin.
Genesis 3:16: “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
First and second terms: Woman to have painful childbirth and submit to husband
Here we see two terms of the Adamic Covenant between man and God: the woman is to have painful childbirth and the wife is supposed to submit to the husband. Many people of today ask themselves why God had to take away equal rights. The reason behind this is because Adam and Eve chose to sin rather than follow the original terms of the Edenic covenant. Therefore, God had to change the terms and make a new Covenant with them. In this verse, the woman is cursed.
Third term: Earth is cursed
Genesis 3:17: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;”
In this verse, the earth is cursed. We know this because there are various natural disasters, famine, poverty, and suffering that happens on this earth. This is the third term of the covenant.
Fourth term: Man has to work for his living
Genesis 1:19: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground;”
The fourth term of the covenant is that man has to work for his living. This verse specifies that in order to receive bread (food) man has to do it by the sweat of his face (work). This is the curse of men and as such, men are the breadwinners.
“for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Immortality is no longer applicable to humans and thus all of humanity is cursed by dying and returning to the ground.
Genesis 3:14-15 “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Humankind is not the only one that has been cursed so this should give us comfort. God has also cursed Satan, and Jesus will be the one to crush him. This is an important promise that God has given to man, Satan will be defeated!
Adamic Salvation via Conscience
After the fall, the theme of this covenant is conscience. God gave them a conscience and wanted to see how well they followed it.
Genesis 3:22: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.”
God wanted to give humanity the chance to live rightfully by their conscience in the world. That’s why there was no Bible written yet.
Genesis 4:4-7: “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”
This passage clearly shows that God was judging humanity by how well they followed their conscience.
Want even more clear evidence? Let’s look at the following verse.
Genesis 6:5-6: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”
God says humanity’s conscience is evil and is what was guiding them into sin. That same evil conscience is what grieved the heart of the Lord so deeply. Their conscience was supposed to lead them unto good, but it instead led them into sin.