Church history has left us at least two ways which Godly men and women thought that we should interpret God’s relationship to us: covenants and dispensations. Covenants and dispensations are debated even today by their “children.”
Through covenants made with some of our patriarchs, we see the guarantees of God’s intentions.
The covenant that God made with Abraham affects all of the generations of the children of God. He is the archetype of those of us who believe God.
The covenant that God made with David, affects especially, the people of Israel. They will have a place on God’s earth forever. Each covenant contains much more, but this is the gist.
Through dispensations, the focus instead is upon how God works. He works through innocence in the beginning, moving for example, through law and then grace.
Each theological stream thinks that they have captured “the” idea of God’s controlling thought for how to interpret His revelation. I see value in both. One side shows me the surety of what God guarantees through key people through whom God delivers the guarantee. The other shows me the focus on how God has progressed His revelation through time.
Ultimately, both are dominated by the two biggest concepts of scripture: law and grace. Or, maybe better said, law giving way to the ultimate salvation that comes through grace, and, in turn, fulfills the law.
There is one more way of seeing God’s moving in human time from eternity past to eternity future, in the new heaven and the new earth. Through the promise(s) contained in both the covenants and the dispensations. Indeed, the promise “predates” both the covenants and the dispensations. God made a promise in the very beginning:
A promise made by God who cannot lie. “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” Titus 1:2
A promise made in the very beginning Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
A promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17
A promise which fills us with the Spirit of God. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” Romans 8:11-16
A promise which will be “complete” some day. “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. ((Galatians 3:16-18)
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (Galatians 4:28 ESVi)