The Dispensations: God’s Plan for the Ages - By Mark Sweetnam
In a masterful way, Mark Sweetnam ably presents Dispensational teaching in a systematic and biblical manner. He is simple without being simplistic. The book claims to be a mere introduction to the subject, but it has greater depth than one expects. Seizing on the expression in Hebrews 1:2: ‘by Whom also He made the worlds [ages]’, the writer claims, correctly, that God has organised history in discrete and distinctive ages. Care is taken to define in detail the meaning of ‘dispensation’ and how this is an apt description of the Creator’s ‘ages’. Derived from the Scriptures, four distinct characteristics of each dispensation are presented: revelation, responsibility, rebellion and retribution. Using this framework and an open Bible, Sweetnam analyses the Dispensations of Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace and Fulness of Times (Millennium). By using the popular titles for each dispensation, the reader is at once able to compare his or her current knowledge with what is presented.While much of the material confirms, convincingly from extensive quotations of Scripture, what others have taught (Chafer, Scofield, etc.), there are some thought-provoking exceptions. Claiming that some dispensations overlap each other, the rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea is presented as the close to the age of Promise, even though the Dispensation of Law had commenced earlier at Sinai. Even more controversial is the book’s claim that the Tribulation is the judgement (retribution) that finishes the Dispensation of Grace, even though the Rapture concluded the ‘Church Age’. Refreshingly, Mark Sweetnam defends with Scripture rather than dogmatism.
While the breadth of vocabulary is delightful, it is acknowledged that the reader might have to scramble for the dictionary on occasion! But that aside, the presentation is as lucid as it is lofty, leaving the reader with the satisfaction that not only is his mind being fed, but his soul nourished. Time and again, one is compelled to bow in contemplative worship to ‘bless the Hand that guided, bless the Heart that planned’. Brother Sweetnam has handled profound truth masterfully and reverently; this volume is highly recommended to both students and teachers of the Scriptures.
Review by Elton Fairfield