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Historical Evidences of Dispensationalism

Aside from scriptural evidence, history will also prove that dispensationalism is not only the right doctrine but has also been used to rightly divide the word of God in previous centuries. Critics often attribute dispensational doctrine to men like Darby, Scofield, and Ruckman. However, history will prove that church fathers either considered or believed in a form of dispensationalism that eventually became the dispensational doctrine we know today. 

Dispensational doctrine began in the 2nd century with the first church father. The following outline documents various historical evidence throughout the centuries that helped to shape the dispensationalism of today.

2nd century

Justin Martyr

He spoke of different programs of God in different dispensations. Programs are broken down into:

o Adam to Noah

o Noah to Moses

o Moses to Christ

o Christ to Millennium

Book: Dialogue with Trypho LXXXVII (87)


He spoke of different dispensations of God, especially the current age. He also spoke of a pre-tribulation rapture. Dispensations are broken down as:

o Noah to Moses

o Christ to Eternity

· Book: Against Heresies, Vol. 5.29

2nd to 3rd century


He believed in different dispensations of God. Dispensations are broken down as:

o Adam to Noah

o Abraham to Moses

o Christ to Millennium

· Book: Ages and Dispensations in the Ante-Nicene Fathers Bibliotheca Sacra by Larry V. Crutchfield


He revealed different raptures: one before antichrist persecution in the tribulation and one after the end of the tribulation at the second advent. Book: Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5 by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson p. 250-1

3rd century


· He believed in pre-tribulation rapture

· Book: Treatises of Cyprian

Alexandrians from Egypt – Clement of Alexandria

· He believed in different ages

· Dispensations broken down as:

o Adam to Noah

o Noah to Abraham

o Abraham to Moses

o Moses to 1st coming of Christ

o 1st coming of Christ to 2nd coming of Christ

o Millennium

· Book: Clement of Alexandria to Marcellinus CXXXVIII (138)

4th century


· He believed in pre-tribulation rapture.

· Book: Book on the Last Times 2

Methodius, Victorinus of Pettau and two other church fathers

· He believed in different dispensations of God.

· Book: documented in Ages and Dispensations by Larry V. Crutchfield

4th to 5th century


· Anti-dispensationalist but still believed in different ages.

· Sources: Augustine’s Letter CXXXVIII (138), Letter CXX (120), Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, p. 182-3

12th century

Joachim of Fiore

· He believed in different dispensations, which were broken down into:

o The past age of the Father (OT)

o The current age of the Son (Christ to AD 1260)

o The coming age of the Holy Spirit (when God’s love covers the earth)

· Book: Evangelical Millennialism by Crawford Gribben p. 24

Late 13th Century to Early 14th Century

Apostolic Brethren

· He believed in pre-tribulation rapture.

15th century

Dennis van Leeuwen

· He believed in pre-tribulation rapture.

15th century 

Pierre Poiret (1687)

· Believed in different dispensations broken down as:

o Infancy (flood)

o Childhood (Moses)

o Adolescence (prophets)

o Youth (coming of Christ)

o Manhood (sometime after Jesus’ coming or Church age)

o Old age or the time of man’s decay (Church age)

o Renovation (Millennium)

· Book: Divine Economy

Late 17th Century to Early 18th Century

Isaac Watts

· He believed in different dispensations broken down as:

o Dispensation of innocency 

o Adam after the fall

o Noahic dispensation

o Abrahamic dispensation

o Mosaic dispensation

o Christian dispensation

· Book: The Harmony of all the Religions which God ever prescribed to Men and all his Dispensations towards them


· Tracts passed out that indicated a pre-tribulation rapture before the 2nd coming of Christ.

1726 – John Webb

· In his day, Bible scholars discussed different raptures among God’s children.

1727 – Richard Roach

· He believed in pre-tribulation rapture.

· He divided “all ages of the world” into different dispensations:

o Law

o Gospel

o The Elias’ dispensation

o Millennial state

Many more before Darby taught dispensationalism:

· William Gouge, (1575-1653)

· John Taylor of Norwich (1694- 1751)

· John Fletcher (1729-1785)

· David Bow (1715-1825)

· Adam Clark (1762-1832)

· John Priesly (1733-1804)

· George Fayres (1773-1843)

· David Russell (1779-1848)


C.I. Scofield

· He revealed different salvation plans.


William Evans

· He revealed different salvation plans.

· Book: Outline Study of the Bible p. 34


Clarence Larkin

· He believed in two raptures: one for church age saints resurrected and raptured up in the air where Christ is and a similar one for tribulation saints.

· Book: Dispensational Truth p. 94-5,106,108-9


E.W Bullinger

· He revealed different salvation plans.

· Old Testament salvation superseded by Christ’s righteousness (Rom 10:4-5, Gal 1:3,12) for the Church age.


Anti-dispensationalists (Calvinists)

· Held meeting to discuss the teachings of dispensationalists which were different and diverse dispensational salvation plans for various groups.


Lewis Sperry Chafer

· Revealed different salvation plans.

· Matthew 5:17-18,7:12

Long before Ruckman, the idea of many different salvation plans was taught among the following people:

· William Parling

· George Pember

· Robert Cameron

· George Wilson

· Adolf Knoch

Argument used by Anti-Dispensationalists

Anti-dispensationalists use 1 Peter 1:10 to disprove dispensational salvation by arguing that salvation by grace is also applicable to Old Testament saints. Verses 11-12, however, state that scripture must be studied diligently for a better understanding, and in this case, for discernment between salvation plans.

1 Peter 1:10-12 “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”

Progressive Knowledge

Progressive knowledge allows us to expand our understanding of a specific topic when considering the roots of the subject to compare them to current findings/teachings. It is undeniable that there is a progression of understanding within every branch of knowledge. Medicine, science, mathematics, and technology have progressed over the past centuries and our understanding of these subjects has become clearer to us as time goes. 

Different ideas are shaped or discarded over the years to gain a clearer understanding. That said, dispensationalism in the Bible is no different from this, with its foundation differing from what it is today. The following verse demonstrates the importance of progressive or perfecting knowledge:

1 Corinthians 2:10 “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

Ephesians 4:12 “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”