Times and Seasons
When people argue about when Jesus was born, or observance of holidays, they’re arguing over traditions, not scripture. Even so, traditions are what people think they are today, not what they started out as, or what past cultures thought. For example, not one Christian thinks the evergreen as a Christmas tree is anything but a symbol of eternal life. Some will gleefully quote Jer. 10:1-5 but ignore the context, which is idolatry. Nobody pays homage or respect to the tree; it just reminds them of the hope of eternity with God in a perfect realm decorated with precious metals and gems. Yet the wish to purge any and all Christian symbolism, however superficial it may be, is born of ignorance and bad logic on the part of Christians, as well as hatred of anything remotely Christian on the part of society.
The same for Thanksgiving, which many have declared is a pagan celebration of genocide. The truth is that it’s simply an expression of gratitude toward God (see this article for more). But the native tribes of the land are now painted as innocent, noble, and righteous, which is a gross oversimplification, depending on whose version of history you want to believe. People oppress other people, and in time the oppression goes the opposite way. This is human history; the one-sided view through rose-colored glasses is not.
Appointed times in scripture
We know that Jesus was not born in December (point 2). Yet the
holiday season leads into the topic of appointments, the times and seasons of scripture. Take a look at these references: Gen. 1:14, Lev. 23:4, Num. 10:10, Ps. 104:19, Dan. 2:21, Mat. 16:1-3, Luke 12:56, 21:24, Acts 17:26, Gal. 4:4, 9-11, 1 Thes. 5:1, 1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 3:1, Heb. 1:1-2, Jude 1:18, Rev. 1:3, 22:7.
So it isn’t just the annual cycle of Jewish festivals that are the appointed times and seasons; it’s also prophecy, the long step-by-step plan of God from paradise to corruption to judgment and then to restoration. All the festivals had prophetic meaning, with the spring ones pointing to the first advent of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb and firstfruits, and the fall ones pointing to the second advent when Jesus establishes his kingdom on earth for the Millennium. A lot happens between the two.
Those who reject dispensationalism (the understanding that God’s
house rules change from time to time) need to explain why God puts so much emphasis on
times and seasons if they make no difference. Why did the time of Jesus’ first advent matter so much? Why does scripture speak of the times of the Gentiles and their fulfillment? Why is there a time limit on the Millennium?
Surely no one can deny that something drastic changed in God’s rules for our lives when Adam and Eve sinned, when Noah’s flood came, when Israel became a nation, when Jesus came, and when Jesus will return. Do we still speak face to face with God as did Adam and Eve? Why not? Remember what God said to Noah in Gen. 9 after the flood, about how it used to be just this but now it’s also that? How about the laws of Moses, did people’s daily lives change at all from when they lived in Egypt? Why is it that people think nothing at all changed in our lives as a result of Jesus rising from the dead? God is the one who decided to lay out a plan on a schedule; he didn’t dump it all out at once.
That being the case, then, we should not be among those Jesus would reprimand for not knowing the time of his coming. Why else would Jesus say that there’s a blessing for those who study the Revelation given to John? Prophecy is one of the primary ways in which the Bible is set apart from all contenders, taking up nearly one third of all the scriptures. In fact, if you believe some prophecy remains to be fulfilled, you are a Dispensationalist by definition.
The real objection to dispensationalism, if its critics understand it at all, is the issue of salvation through the ages. Certainly no one could ever be saved without the sacrificial Lamb of God, and by faith in God. But the key is whether the Holy Spirit permanently indwelt people in all ages, since scripture says that
the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance in Eph. 1:13-14, 2 Cor. 1:22, and 2 Cor. 5:5. No permanently indwelling Holy Spirit, no guarantee.
There is zero evidence from before Jesus came that every righteous person was saved by faith in his death and resurrection. They knew a Savior would come, but they also seemed to presume that if they turned from God in their lifetime, salvation would not be given to them personally. They knew that God could take his Spirit from them at any time, if they had it at all; see 1 Sam. 16:14 and Psalm 51:11.
Never before Pentecost do you see anyone given the Holy Spirit as
a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance; ergo no such guarantee existed before then. The laws of Moses, in fact the entire Old Testament, only speak of physical blessings. Yet since that’s the case, how can anyone say the Old Testament promises eternal spiritual life to the righteous? How can anyone say that physical blessings are no different than the spiritual eternal life promised to us in Christ via the indwelling Holy Spirit?
Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me is pretty hard to write off as
Don’t let me physically die prematurely. And if salvation had always been the same, why were Adam and Eve driven out of Eden, instead of God saying,
No problem, Jesus will die for you eventually, you can stay here in my presence? Why did God give laws to Moses for Israel at all, since all they needed for eternal spiritual life was faith that Jesus would rise from the dead, which is the Gospel as explicitly stated in 1 Cor. 15:2-4? Abraham’s righteousness was for believing God— but for what exactly? That Jesus would rise, or that God would make a great nation from him? Scour the Old Testament for any hint that Abraham’s declaration of righteousness went beyond God’s promise of a nation.
I see a clear sequence of ages or dispensations/administrations in the Bible, in which spiritual eternal security is never guaranteed until Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit began to indwell people in a way and for a duration never seen before. Jesus brought radical changes to how his followers are saved, primarily that we are heirs according to promise rather than sevants whose good standing with the Master depends upon faithful obedience. Take a moment to read Gal. 4:21-28.
For those still opposed to Dispensationalism, please understand that I don’t reach my conclusions lightly, or dismiss counter-arguments without listening to them and testing them, or bend the Bible to fit my personal sensitivities, or throw logic and evidence to the wind. So it isn’t too much for me to ask my critics to give me the same respect I give them and their beliefs. People disagree because we’re imperfect, not necessarily because some are more flawed or less faithful than others.
The times and seasons of scripture aren’t complicated or cryptic or merey symbolic; they are the plan of God through the ages. If we can’t agree on this point, we can’t agree on anything else in scripture. Fellow believers we may be, but even Paul and Barnabus parted ways over a sharp dispute (Acts 15:39), yet they didn’t call each other names or condescend to each other. If only Christians today could follow that example; see Gal. 5:19-26,, Eph. 4:31-32,, 2 Peter 1:5-9,, and Mat. 25:24-25 (so much for the complaint about
fruit inspectors!). Know the time you live in, be prepared for what God has ordained, and live like Jesus and his teachings matter.