A photograph featuring an open Bible with seven distinct sections highlighted, representing the seven dispensations, capturing the essence of spiritual progression and divine guidance.

What Are The 7 Dispensations In The Bible?

The dispensations in Scripture are distinct periods in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different biblical covenants.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: the 7 dispensations in the Bible are Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, and Kingdom.

In this comprehensive article, we will examine what the 7 dispensations are according to Scripture, the characteristics of each dispensation, the biblical covenants associated with each period, and the differences between the dispensations.

What Are Dispensations in the Bible?

Dispensationalism is a theological framework that understands God’s work and Biblical history as divided chronologically into dispensations.

According to this view, each dispensation is a period where God deals with humanity in a specific way as part of His progressive revelation.

Covenants play an important role in dispensationalism as well since they outline the agreements God makes with His people in each dispensation.

Dispensationalism Defined

Dispensationalism has been defined by one theological website as “a system of theology that interprets the Bible and world history as a series of epochs or dispensations during which God relates to human beings in different ways under different biblical covenants”.

The 7 Dispensations in Scripture

Dispensation of Innocence

The dispensation of innocence covered the period of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they fell into sin.

This was a time of perfect fellowship between God and humans when Adam and Eve lived in innocence and enjoyed close communion with God (Genesis 2:25).

This dispensation ended when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, bringing sin and death into the world (Genesis 3:6-7).

Dispensation of Conscience

After being banished from Eden, Adam and Eve entered the dispensation of conscience. This period from the Fall to the Great Flood was characterized by people being tested to live according to their conscience.

Humans were responsible for basic knowledge of good and evil as guided by their conscience.

However, the moral compass of conscience proved insufficient to restrain people from wickedness and violence (Genesis 4:8; 6:5). Only Noah found favor with God (Genesis 6:8).

Dispensation of Human Government

After the Flood, Noah and his family entered a new period known as the dispensation of human government.

With the failure of conscience, human government was instituted by God to restrain evil. As stated in Genesis 9:6, murder was to be punished by other humans.

However, without heart transformation, people again failed to follow God’s ways under the increased restraint of human government.

The rebellion at the Tower of Babel led God to introduce different languages and scatter people (Genesis 11:1-9).

Dispensation of Promise

Beginning with Abraham, the dispensation of promise depicts the period focused on God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants up to the giving of the Mosaic Law.

God unconditionally promised Abraham a son, land, and blessings to the world through his offspring (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 17:1-8).

This dispensation drove towards the fulfillment of the promise that through Abraham the Savior would come as a blessing to all peoples (Galatians 3:14-16).

Dispensation of Law

The dispensation of law began when God gave the law code and Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people through Moses (Exodus 19:1–24:11). It ended roughly 1,500 years later when Jesus Christ died for mankind’s sin.

This dispensation revealed the holy character of God in a detailed code of conduct for a nation to follow. It also revealed the inability of man to keep God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:19-20).

Through types and shadows, the law dispensation pointed to humanity’s need for the Messiah.

Dispensation of Grace

The church age is often called the dispensation of grace, referring to the extended grace giving opportunity of eternal life to all people (Titus 2:11).

This period began at the death and resurrection of Christ and continues to the present day.

It is marked by the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, outpouring of God’s grace, the church established as Christ’s body, and the commission to spread the Gospel message to all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

Dispensation of the Kingdom

The millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth is known as the dispensation of the kingdom. At the second coming of Christ, Jesus will return to judge evil and establish His thousand year rule on earth (Revelation 20:1-6).

A photo of an open Bible with a magnifying glass focused on a specific verse, symbolizing the quest for accuracy and interpretation of the chosen biblical text.

Key Differences Between the 7 Dispensations

God’s Methods of Interacting with Humankind

According to Bible scholars, there are seven major dispensations where God relates to human beings in different ways across history. In the dispensation of innocence, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

After they sinned and were expelled, God began interacting through conscience and limited revelation in the dispensation of conscience. During the dispensation of human government, God punished evil yet interacted less directly.

The dispensation of promise involved God making a covenant with Abraham promising blessings and land to his offspring. In the pivotal dispensation of the law, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and other laws to follow.

The current dispensation of grace began when Jesus Christ died for our sins, and the final dispensation of the kingdom will occur when Christ returns to rule directly on earth.

Responsibilities of Humans

The responsibilities and requirements placed on humanity also shifted significantly between dispensations.

In the garden, Adam and Eve only had to avoid eating the forbidden fruit. After being expelled, people were responsible for developing their conscience of right and wrong.

During human government, all were called to help establish justice and restrain evil, but few specific commands were given.

God made Abraham responsible simply for trusting and obeying Him in the dispensation of promise.

Under the law, the Israelites faced over 600 commands regulating worship, society, family issues and more.

Currently in the age of grace, accepting Christ’s sacrifice by faith is the primary human responsibility. In the future kingdom, we will live under perfect justice and righteousness.

Consequences of Disobedience

Just as God’s methods and humanity’s responsibilities changed through the ages, so did the consequences for disobeying God’s word. Adam and Eve’s blatant sin brought death and hardship on all.

Without clear commands, consequences were less defined in the time of conscience and human government, though evil and violence increased.

Abraham faced jeopardizing God’s covenant promises if he disbelieved. The law brought punishments like being cut off from the people or even stoned to death.

Under grace, believers lose fellowship with God and may face His loving discipline when living in unrepentant sin.

In the kingdom, immediate justice will likely return for blatant sin as Jesus reigns directly on earth.


In summary, the 7 dispensations in the Bible are distinct periods during which God deals with human beings in different ways within the biblical storyline.

While dispensationalism is a complex theological construct, examining Scripture through a dispensational lens can provide deeper insight into how God has related to humankind over time.

This overview of the 7 dispensations in chronological order reveals God’s unfolding plan of redemption and His desire to reconcile the world to Himself.

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