The Bible was inspired over the course of 1400 years and its content spans from eternity to eternity. It is precisely because of this great span of application and audience that great respect must be given to the distinct revelations of God.
This is called dispensational Bible study, and its method is described in scripture as "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). A new dispensation can change what we know about God's will and how we respond. These changes must be marked clearly.
This foldout is a dispensational chart intended to communicate God's revelations, and also to whom he gave them, toward what end, and at what time.
A common mistake in Bible study is reading future revelations into passages where it was not yet revealed. Also, future revelations can replace or change instructions given in older revelations.
Moses did not know the later promise made to David. Abraham knew nothing of water baptism by John the Baptist. Likewise, Peter did not need to follow the previous instructions to build an ark given to Noah. Instructions had changed.
God treats each man on the basis of what he has revealed. It is man's responsibility to know God's revelations, or dispensations, and respond in faithful obedience.
Charts can help discern the time elements in God's revelations. This chart emphasizes the timing of the most important revelation for today: the mystery of Christ (Romans 16:25).
All scripture is profitable for our learning, but not every instruction is for our participation. It is necessary to discern the intended audience of God's revelations. To whom was God speaking?
There are many instructions in the Bible for past saints or future Israel that do not address anyone in the church today.
It would be wrong to claim these instructions addressed to someone else for our obedience. We do not participate in the promises and covenants given exclusively to Israel.
However, we should participate in the mystery of Christ revealed for all men. It contains the gospel, purpose, and destiny for the church.
Knowing your instructions from the Bible requires rightly dividing God's revelations by audience.