Dispensations are specific periods of time that play out throughout history. In this study we are going to look at a view of what Louis T. Talbot believed to be the dispensations of the church. I dedicate this study to him for writing his book “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” in which I have a copy of and where I am going to try and represent what Louis T. Talbot taught in this book. I am no scholar as he was so please bear with me while I try to communicate what this brilliant man was telling us about the dispensations of church history. He believed that when Jesus was writing to the churches in the book of Revelation that He was speaking about the seven different dispensations of church history that have played out throughout history and the last one is still playing out today.
In the letter to the first church which Jesus wrote too was the church of Ephesus. The name Ephesus means “desired”. Which we will see is written to the Apostolic church. The church that was started in the first century which was started by Jesus and His disciples. So when we look at this letter let’s view it as being written to the church of that time in history. Jesus was rebuking them for leaving their first love. That they had gotten caught up in works and distracted by the Enemy of their souls. That they were focused on what the Enemy was doing and not doing what Jesus wanted them to do, so He told them to repent and return to their first works. Which was preaching the gospel and spreading the good news. Praying to God and paying attention to what God is telling them to do.
He did give them some praise by telling them that they “hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans”, which Jesus also hates. Now the deeds of the Nicolaitans is better explained by understanding what their name means. “Nico” means “to conquer”, and “Laitan” means “the people, or the laity”, which means their name means to divide the people. The deeds of the Nicolaitans was where the division of the church began. The works of the Nicolaitans was dividing the church between the hierarchy of the church elders and the laity “the common people”. Satan conquers by division and Jesus was letting it be known that He did not approve of division among His people period. That no one is above anyone else in His kingdom. That His early church understood this and tried their best to keep the teachings of the Nicolaitans out of His church. This was the first of seven dispensations that are written about in the book of Revelation.
(Revelation 2:1-7) “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”‘ (NKJV)
This second dispensation was written to the church of Smyrna. This was the persecuted church that played out during the time period between the disciples of Jesus up to the fourth century where the church was historically persecuted. All of the disciples of Christ were persecuted and killed except John which was boiled in oil, but it did not kill him, so they exiled him to the island of Patmos, where he had the vision of the book of Revelation. Up until the fourth century the church was plagued with persecution. They were hunted by the governments and their officials, so the church was pretty much underground until the year 313 A.D. when Constantine made it official that the people were not to persecute the Christians any longer. This was the second time period in the seven dispensations of church history. The name “Smyrna” is rooted in the word “Myrrh” which was an embalming agent when there was death. Kind of fitting for that time period.
(Revelation 2:8-11) “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”‘ (NKJV)
According to Louis T. Talbot this is the third dispensation of church history. The church of Pergamos was now compromised with the official church of the state. Constantine had officially made it possible for Christians to practice their faith, but now Satan had joined their church. That is why Jesus says “where Satan’s throne is”. Because true faith does not compromise with governments. This was an Imperialistic church that was compromised with the ways of this world and had lost its power of conviction. The church had now turned into religion and joined itself to the pagan churches. This time period lasted from about 313 A.D. to about 500 A.D. then it turned into the next dispensation.
(Revelation 2:12-17) “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. ‘Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”‘ (NKJV)
The fourth dispensation of time in church history the Catholic Church was in control of the church. This period was called the Dark Ages from approximately 500 A.D. to about 1500 A.D. In the letter to Thyatira Jesus wrote that the Church was compromised with all sorts of bad doctrines and that Jesus was not happy with the health of the Church. That Jesus was aware of those who did not follow these deceptive practices and that if they hold fast that He would reward them.
(Revelation 2:18-29) “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. “Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. “But hold fast what you have till I come. “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations– ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ –as I also have received from My Father; “and I will give him the morning star. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘ (NKJV)
The fifth dispensation is when the Reformation happened within the Church. When Martin Luther read the Word of God (The Holy Bible/Scrolls) and came to the conclusion that the Church was not following what the LORD had told them to do. So this was the next dispensation in Church history. Now it was short lived in a way for Satan got his claws into this Church also. As you can see when you read what Jesus said to this Church. He is saying that this Church is not healthy but there are those who will make it to the end. He rebukes them to strengthen what remains to stay focused and to hold fast and repent.
(Revelation 3:1-6) “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘ (NKJV)
To the Church of Philadelphia Jesus writes that He is going to open doors which no man can close and shut doors that no man can open. This is the sixth dispensation of the Church and it is the time period that the missionary church goes around the world preaching the gospel. This all happened in the late 1700’s until the late 1900’s. In a way it is still happening today, but as you will see the next and last dispensation is where the church is at today and has been for a long time now. The name “Philadelphia” means “brotherly love” which really was a great name for the LORD to give to this particular church, for they shared the good news with all of those who had ears to hear and eyes to see. They went around the world preaching the good news.
(Revelation 3:7-13) “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie–indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘ (NKJV)
The last dispensation of Church history is the seventh dispensation and you will see that this is speaking to the Apostate Church. The Church who has fallen away and now the Lord Jesus is speaking to individuals on an individual basis. The Church at this time in history is rich in need of nothing, but it is neither hot nor cold. Jesus says that He is going to vomit them out. That they are deceived by their riches and believe that they are not in need of anything. He rebukes them as a whole, but speaks to them as individuals. He declares that He stands at the door and knocks asking to be let into their hearts, so He can be with them. I believe that this is where the Church is at today. And that it has been here for a long time. That we need to quit focusing on works and focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ. That He is writing to the Church as a whole, but He wants an individual relationship with you!!!! Hopefully you will buy the gold refined in the fire, receive the white garments so that you me be clothed and that you will anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. If you are reading this and believe that You want to receive Jesus Christ as Your Lord and Savior then please repent of your sins and ask Him to cleanse you and that you want to receive Him into your heart so that you can have a personal relationship with Him. Just ask Him and He will bless Your life. So that you can be on fire for Him!!!!
(Revelation 3:14-22) “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ –and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked– “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘” (NKJV)
Ephesus: The name means “desired”. The Apostolic church. 2:1-7 (First century)
Smyrna: The name uses a root word of “myrrh” which is associated with death. The Persecuted church. 2:8-11 (100 A.D. – 313 A.D.)
Pergamos: The church linked with the world, “where Satan’s throne is,” 2:12-17 (313 A.D. – 500 A.D.) Imperialistic church (Constantine)
Thyatira: The church in the Dark Ages, filled with corruption. 2:18-29 (500 A.D. – 1500 A.D.) (Roman Catholic Church)
Sardis: The church of the Protestant Reformation. 3:1-6
Philadelphia: The missionary church. Spreading the gospel around the world. 3:7-13
Laodicea: The apostate church. With the risen Lord on the outside, entering into the hearts of individuals who will “open the door” to Him. 3:14-22