Understanding The Bible
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (II Tim. 2:15)
In Eph. 2 the Apostle Paul sets forth the basic three-fold division in God's dealings with mankind: Time Past (v.11,12), But Now (v.13), and The Ages to Come (v.7). When the Bible is "laid out" according to this divinely inspired design we easily get an overview of not only what we are reading but when and to whom it was written. Thus the Word of God itself provides us with the key to its own proper understanding and right division: See the definitions of each at the bottom of this page.
The below chart in two parts demonstrates the importance of the secret, hidden nature of the present dispensation of grace (Eph. 3:1-9). See the first part of the chart to hide the "mystery" section and you will see the perfect continuity of that "which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21). See the second part of the chart to reveal the mystery program and you will visualize how the prophetic program has been temporarily interrupted by "the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest" (Rom. 16:25,26)
The present dispensation of grace is "the mystery" hid in God until first revealed to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-9, Col. 1:24-26, Rom. 16:25,26, I Tim. 2:4-7, Tit. 1:2,3, etc.). Thus in Paul's writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk and destiny of the body of Christ.
Time Past: Eph. 2:11,12 sets forth the basic issue in Time Past as the division between Circumcision and the Uncircumcision, between the nation Israel and the Gentiles. When you find this issue governing the way God was working with men, you know you are in Time Past. This covers the Old Testament (see Gen. 17:9-14, Deut. 4:5-8, Num. 23:9) as well as Matthew thru John (see Rom. 15:8, Matt. 10:5,6; 15:24, John 4:22) and the early Acts period (see Luke 24:47, Acts 1:6,8;2:14,22,36;5:32;11:19).
But Now: Eph. 2:13 indicates that in the But Now portion Gentiles are no longer "far off" but rather the "middle wall of partition" between Israel and the Gentiles has been eliminated and now" those who were far off are made nigh." Romans thru Philemon provide the doctrine for the dispensation of grace (Rom. 11:13;15:16;16:25, I Cor. 14:37, Eph. 3:1-9).
Ages to Come: God will bring His purposes to fruition and thus Eph. 2:7 points to the Ages to Come. The books of Hebrews thru Revelation focus on this.
Remember: While all Scripture is for us, all Scripture is not written to or about us. This is the key to understanding the Bible.