SEEMING ERRORS IN GOD’S PERFECT WORD IF IT IS NOT RIGHTLY DIVIDED
(Note to the reader: Since writing this paper I have written a paper on the supposed errors in the Bible that discusses a wider variety of topics than is discussed in this paper).
There are, of course, no errors in the Word of God. But if we do not rightly divide the Word of truth, there are passages that seem to be in error. These seeming errors are all understood only if one rightly divides the Word of truth. And “rightly dividing” means dividing one dispensation from another. If we are to do that, we must understand when the present dispensation began. I believe the dispensation of the mystery began after Israel was divorced at Acts 28. (Please see the paper on this web-site When Did The Church Begin? for the Scriptural evidence for that belief.)
I TIMOTHY 4:1-5 COMPARED WITH ACTS 21:21-26
In I Tim. 4:1-5 Paul wrote of those who speak “lies in hypocrisy; ….forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth”. The Law of Moses did indeed command Israel to abstain from certain meats. We read in Lev. 11:26, “The carcasses of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you; every one that toucheth them shall be unclean”.
One might mistakenly conclude that this seeming contradiction is made clear because Lev. 11 is an Old Testament law and that changed with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. But we read in Acts 21:20, “….Thou seest brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law“. The remainder of this chapter goes on to describe how Paul proved to the believing Jews that he too was observing the law of Moses.
We read in Acts 21:21, “…they (the thousands of Jews who were zealous of the law, vs. 20) are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”. In verse 24 we read of the request made of Paul to disprove this false rumor, “Take them (the four men who had made a vow, vs. 23) and purify thyself with them, and be at charge with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law”. And in verse 26 we read that Paul did exactly what was requested in order to disprove the rumor that he had been teaching that Jews should not obey the Mosaic Law.
So in Acts 21 we learn that Paul and “thousands of Jews” were observing the law, which included abstinence from some meats, but in I Tim. 4:1 Paul was extremely critical of those who would command them to abstain from meats.
Once we see that what was true of the dispensation before Israel was divorced at Acts 28 (which included the Acts period) was not true of the dispensation after Acts 28, it is clear that there is no contradiction in these two passages. But we need to rightly divide the Word of truth in order to see that truth.
I TIMOTHY 5:14 COMPARED TO I CORINTHIANS 7:8
We read in I Tim. 5:14, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children….”. But we read in I Cor. 7:8, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I“, i.e. unmarried. And again in 7:38 we read, “so then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better“. It is not enough to say that Paul does not command the unmarried to remain so, because even if he did only recommend it, it is still a contradiction with what he tells the younger women in I Timothy. In other words, if we don’t see that these two passages were written in two different dispensations, we have a contradiction in the Word of God, which is, of course, not possible. Let us consider these two passages in their dispensational settings.
In the context of the verses quoted above we read in I Cor. 7:26 of the “present distress”. “I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress….”. The same Greek word translated “distress” in this verse is also used in Luke 21:23. To what were Paul and Luke referring when they wrote of “the present distress”? In Luke 21:7 we find the same questions being asked of the Lord as we read in Matthew 24, the questions having to do with end times. “….Master, when shall these things be: and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” The present distress then in Luke 21:7 is the same as that in Matt. 24, the end times distress, i.e. the great tribulation.
In Christ’s discourse in Matt. 24 (the parallel passage to Luke 21) we read in verse 23, “But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days, for there shall be great distress in the land…..”. Paul wrote I Corinthians during the Acts period. During the Acts period he was still looking for the return of Christ in his lifetime, which meant that he was still expecting to see the tribulation. During the tribulation it was better, according to Matt. 24:23 quoted above, for a woman not to be with child (“woe unto them that are with child”). But in the dispensation of the mystery Paul knew that the return of Christ was no longer imminent and that the great tribulation would not occur soon. That being the case, in the dispensation of the mystery it was better for the unmarried to marry and have children.
We can see therefore, that there is no contradiction in these two passages. But only if we see that I Timothy was not written in the same dispensation as was I Corinthians can we avoid this apparent contradiction.
MATTHEW 24:29 COMPARED TO I TIMOTHY 2:1-2
We read in Matt. 24:29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”. There is no question that the tribulation will occur around the time of the second coming of Christ. The tribulation will, of course, be a time of wars and great stress. Believers of the Acts period would not have expected, or even prayed for a “quiet and peaceable life” when they were expecting the tribulation.
But we read in I Tim. 2:1-2, “I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty”. How can we understand this seeming contradiction between Matt. 24:29 and I Tim. 2:1-2?
The answer lies in the fact that Matthew was written at a time when the tribulation was imminent. But after the end of the Acts period, when Israel had been set aside, the imminent return of Christ, and the tribulation that would precede it, was no longer what believers were looking for.
So in the dispensation that preceded the present dispensation the tribulation was imminent and a “quiet and peaceable life” was not the expected one. But in the dispensation of the mystery, the tribulation is no longer imminent because all prophecies concerning Israel have been put in abeyance with the divorcing of Israel. Therefore, in the present dispensation it is an appropriate prayer that we might live a quiet and peaceable life.
“And he said unto me, ‘These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to shew unto His servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold I come quickly…….”. We are told two things that are not true today. 1) That what the angel showed God’s servants would happen “shortly” and 2) that the Lord would come “quickly”. To be absolutely certain that we understand correctly the Greek words translated “shortly” and “quickly” in this passage let us look at some of the other verses in which these two words are used.
The Greek word translated “shortly” is “takos”. The first occurrence is in Luke 18:8 where we read, “he will avenge them speedily“. The same Greek word is translated “quickly” in Acts 22:18, “get thee out of Jerusalem quickly“.
The Greek word translated “quickly in Rev. 22:7 is “taku”. The first occurrence is found in Matt. 5:25, “Agree with thine adversary quickly“. In Jn. 11:29 we read, “she arose quickly and came to him”.
Some explain the fact that these things have not happened “shortly” or “quickly” by the verse in II Peter 3:8 which reads, “But beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. But if we choose that line of thinking to explain the fact that the events of Rev. 22 have not come after almost two thousand years, we destroy the very sense of what was written. That is to say, it is one thing to say that a day is as a thousand years with the Lord, but the message of Rev. 22:6-7 is that those things will come about “shortly” and “quickly”. If the Holy Spirit meant that it would come about in thousands of years He could not, and in my opinion, would not, say that they would happen “shortly.
What then is the answer to this seeming error? It lies in the fact that the present dispensation, the dispensation of the mystery, was a secret hid in God. We read in Col. 1:25-26, “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints”. The parallel passage is in Eph. 3:6-9. We read in verse 9, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship (should be “dispensation”) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ”.
Israel was divorced at Act 28, the result of which was that all prophecies concerning Her were put in abeyance until God takes His nation back again. When John wrote of the things that should happen “quickly” and “shortly”, he had no idea of the intervening dispensation of the mystery because at that time, it was still hid in God.
So here too, there is no error in Rev. 22:6-7.We must understand that the thousands of years between the divorcement of Israel and the time of the fulfillment of those events recorded in the book of Revelation, are interrupted by a dispensation of which John knew nothing because it was still hid in God.
Many believe that John wrote the book of Revelation as late as 90 A.D., which of course, puts it after the dispensation of the mystery had been revealed to Paul. But there is no Scriptural evidence for such a late date, and the verses quoted in this section prove that Revelation is an Acts period book.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org