The Dispensational Application

The ordinary dispensational application of the week of creation is one which has so many adherents, and has given rise to so much speculation otherwise, that we shall do well to look at it before proceeding further. In the words of a modern writer, "In this application, ‘one day is as a thousand years.’ Six thousand years of labour precede the world’s Sabbath. The parallel here has been often traced.” It is as old, indeed, as the so-called "Epistle of Barnabas," * and its scriptural support is supposed to be the passage in 2 Peter iii, already referred to. According to it, the millennial kingdom answers, as the seventh thousand years, to the "seventh day," earth’s Sabbath-rest.
(* Which, It is almost needless to say, was not the production of the scriptural Barnabas, although by the very general voice of antiquity attributed to him. Its date is supposed to be somewhat before the middle of the second century A. D. I quote the passage from the translation in the "Ante-Nicene Christian Library:"
"Attend, my children, to the meaning ot this expression: ‘He finished in six days.’ This *implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth, Behold, to day will be as a thousand years.’" The last is probably an incorrect citation of psalm xc. 4.)

But as to the principle, the passage in Peter is no proof at all. It is no statement of time, but the contrary - the simple assurance of how little God counts time as man counts it. It might be as fairly argued from it that the millennial "thousand years" was but a day, as that the creation "days" represented each a thousand years; for it is not only one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, but also "a thousand years as one day."

Nor is the millennium, with all its blessedness, a proper Sabbath. The apostle represents the "rest" (literally, "Sabbath keeping,") that remains to the people of God, as God’s rest, and that surely is, as both the epistle to the Hebrews (chap. iv. 9’ 10) and the book of Genesis show, His ceasing from His work. But in the millennium there is not as yet this. It is the last work-day rather, and not till the new heavens and earth will God’s rest be come. The seventh day is not, then, the type of a millennium at all, but of final and eternal rest.

Moreover, the millennial kingdom answers so fully to the sixth-day rule of the man and woman over the earth, that it is strange how it could escape the notice of those who were seeking a dispensational application of the creation-work. While on the other hand a mere arithmetical interpretation of the days as each a thousand years of the world’s history, seems almost self-evidently artificial and unspiritual.

I may leave this, then, to point out what I have no doubt is the real dispensational application. In this it will be found we have but the former interpretation extended and adapted to the larger sphere.

Thus we have here alike a primitive creation and a fall, and then, too, that work of the Spirit and the Word by which every step toward the blessedness that shall be has been successively produced. The first day has very plainly the features of the age before the flood, when through the word of promise the light shone, but without further interference with the state of the creature. The light fell only upon a ruin. Lust and violence were the gentral features of man’s condition, and furnish a history over which the Spirit of God passes with significant brevity, and which "the troubled sea, when it cannot rest," sufficiently depicts. Upon this world a literal flood passed, and it perished.

The second day gives us the formation of the "heavens," a symbol not hard to read, when we have learnt elsewhere the constant use of these as the seat of authority and power. It is the uniform language of Scripture that "the heavens rule." The "sun to rule by day" is indeed not yet come, nor the moon by night. Naught fills these heavens as yet but "waters " - waters above as well as beneath - the very type of instability. And this makes it the perfect type of what took place when after the flood, man was put in the place of responsibility to be his brother’s keeper. "Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed," is the principle, and was the institution, as is plain, of human government. It was the formation of a political "heavens" with, as yet, nothing but waters filling them. And how quickly Noah, the acknowledged head of the new world, drunk with the fruit of his vineyard, exemplified the instability of the type! And from henceforth what has it been but the constant display of this - the want of self-government in those who govern? A step toward the full attainment of God’s perfect counsel for the earth it is; even now, power ordained of God, and His ministry for good, and yet a Nero or Caligula may be this "power." And significant it seems that on this second day there is no voice of God pronouncing "good" what is nevertheless for good. Providentially, He may be working blessing by that which in itself He cannot bless. And this is of solemn import for all times and spheres.

The third day following sees the dry land separated from the waters. These waters we have all along seen to be the type of human passion and self-will - what man left to himself exhibits. But this is evidently, on the larger scale we are now taking, just the Gentiles,* and the earth raised up out of these waters is the seed of Abraham after the flesh - that people ploughed up with the plough share of God’s holy law, and among whom was sown the seed of the divine Word. Little fruit may it yet have yielded, and given up it may be for its fruitlessness and unprofitableness at the present time; yet it lies but fallow, like the actual land of Israel, waiting for the latter rain and the foretold fertility under the care of the divine husbandry. Nor has the past been only failure. For long the only fruit for God we know was to be found there, and in a sense, of its fruit are even we: "salvation" was "of the Jews." Thus there need be no difficulty in this fertile earth separated from the waters representing Israel’s separation to God out of all the nations of the world.* *
* Compare Rev. 16:15 "The waters . . are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues."
* *To those acquainted with the meaning of Revelation xiii, it will not be insignificant that the last Gentile empire should be figured there in the beast from the ace, the Jewish Antichrist in the second beast from the earth.

The fourth day’s lesson is one simpler still. The lights set in the heavens speak very plainly of Christ and of the Church; or, as we are accustomed to say, of the Christian dispensation. The mystery here we have already glanced at, for the individual application scarcely differs from the dispensational. Here Christ, revealed by the Holy Ghost, shines out for men in the word of His grace; while the Church is the responsible reflector of Christ, His epistle to the world. The word of the Spirit to the churches (Rev. ii, iii.) may give us the moon’s phases in the night of Christ’s absence - that night surely now fast drawing to a close.

Let this scene preach to us that all true and divine light now is heavenly. To Let our "light shine" is naught else than to let men see we belong to another sphere, are not of the world even as Christ was not; and to let them see our faces brightened with the joy of what He is, our hearts satisfied with Himself, and so independent of the broken cisterns from which they strive to draw refreshment. This was once actually the Church’s testimony, in those days when men were "turned to God from idols . . . to wait for His Son from heaven." Alas! while the Bridegroom tarried, the light grew dim. "They all slumbered and slept." The only light for the world is still the virgin’s lamp as she goes forth to meet the Bridegroom.

His call of them to Himself will close this dispensation, and then will dawn that strange and solemn fifth day, when once again the "waters" will have risen and covered every thing; the time of which the ninety-third psalm speaks, though as of a past condition, - "The floods have lifted up, o Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves;" but only to prove that "the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea."

The time of the world’s discipline will have come, "the hour of trial upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." These waters speak of a universal Gentile (that is, lawless) state; of the working of man’s wild will: "upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring, men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."

But when God’s "judgments are upon the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." This is the secret of the waters producing the living creature. It is the time when (the heavenly people being gathered home) God will be preparing a people for earthly blessing. Brief may be the time in which He does this: Scripture is none the less full of the detail of the mighty work to be done. And a most real and necessary step it will be toward that reign of righteousness and peace which the sixth day so plainly figures.

For here the rule of the man in God’s image and likeness can scarcely fail to make itself understood by those who look for the Lord then to take a throne which as Son of Man He can call His own (Rev. i. 13; iii. 21.), and which therefore He can share with His people, as He cannot share His Father’s throne. The first Adam, we are told by the apostle (Rom. V. 14.), was the image of the One to come; even as he also tells us (Eph. v. 25, 32.) Eve is of that Church which He will present to Himself without spot or blemish. Thus we can scarcely by any possibility mistake the spiritual meaning of the sixth day’s work.
In that day, too, the earth brings forth the living creature. "Israel shall bud and blossom, and fill the face of the earth with fruit." She shall be Jezreel, "the seed of God," and "I will sow her to Me in the earth," says the Lord God.

And as this is the last work-day, not yet Sabbath rest, so is the millennial kingdom in the hands of Him who takes it to bring all things back to God. "He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. And when all things shall be subdued under Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject: unto Him that put all things under Him, that GOD may be all in all." Then, and not till then, is the Sabbath reached.

"And on the seventh day God had ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made."

Here God alone appears, and the work being ended, all being according to His mind, He sanctifies the day of His rest. How significant this of the days never to give place to another, when redemption being fully accomplished, and all things brought to the pattern proposed in the eternal counsels, He shall indeed put the seal of His perfect delight upon the whole new creation, hallowed to Himself forever! How could God rest short of this consummation? Then indeed He will be "all," and that be the simple, full expression of the creature’s blessedness, and of its perpetuity as well.

Some details of this final blessing are presented to us in the following section, which concludes this first part of Genesis (chap. ii. 4 - 25.); but before we go on to this let us only for a moment compare the meaning of the lives which shortly follow in the book - a meaning already briefly glanced at - with that now given of these six creative days. We shall find in them, not absolute identity (for Scripture never merely repeats itself), but a parallel of a most striking sort; a remarkable witness of the internal unity of Scripture, and of this first book. How easy to understand that Genesis is, as it has been called, the "seed-plot of the Bible," when it is thus in the whole the expansion of those divine counsels which have their indication already in the creative work itself! And so indeed it is.

But it is plain that here the seven lives recorded in Genesis must have their counterparts in the six days’ work; there is none to the seventh-day rest. And it is as plain that the last life, Joseph, the most perfect type of Christ, the man, God’s image, answers here precisely to the sixth, and not to the seventh day. We shall obtain a seventh day then, so to speak, by taking the third day as a double one. We have already noticed that it is so, for God speaks twice, and twice pronounces His work good. Looking at the days thus, let us compare the double series.*
(* It has been noticed by many that the six days themselves fall into a double parallel series. Arranged thus, we have, as to the parts of creation touched on, these respectively: -
1. Light.                        4. Light.
  2. Waters.                     5. Waters.
8. Earth.                        6. Earth.
Dividing the third day into two will give us a regular series of seven, which is commonly in Scripture (as noted elsewhere) 4 plus 3.)

Now, beginning with the third chapter, the story of Adam is just the exposure of man, such as the fall has made him: the light let in upon his condition, with no apparent internal change. And this is the truth of the first day.

Next, as to the division of the waters on the second day, we have already seen that its lesson corresponds with that of the two seeds into which the human race at once divides: the opposition, namely, between the carnal and spiritual mind, which every renewed soul is conscious of.

Then, if the third day give us in the earth’s coming up out of the waters the type of how we too rise up out of the inundation of sin into the place at once of rest and power over it, the third life, Noah’s, gives us as plainly our passage in Christ our ark out of the scene of the sin and judgment of man in the flesh to that in which blessing is secured by the sweet savour of accepted sacrifice.

The fruit of the second half of the third day, again, is seen in Abraham, the practical life of faith which follows upon this.

The fourth-day parallel seems less exact with Isaac; yet is he undoubtedly, more emphatically than any, the heavenly man. Even Abraham is found out of Canaan; Jacob almost spends his life away from it; Isaac may fail, and does, but never leaves it; and as the picture of Christ Himself, as he undoubtedly is, he is necessarily the picture of the reflection of Christ - of the Son and of the Sons of God.

The parallel of the fifth-day type with Jacob is self-evident; the lesson of each is discipline, and what God accomplishes in it for His own - the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who are exercised thereby.

While Joseph’s life is as plainly the spontaneous fruit of the new nature, and the attainment of sovereignty over all around, as the sixth day is also of the same things, none the less blessed because so little known.

Thus the remarkable unity of this first book of Scripture is apparent. Nor will this glance at it be in vain, if it awake in any soul a fresh realization of that eternal love so manifestly set upon us, when He for whom are all things and by whom are all things formed the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. Well may our voices mingle in that jubilee-song,
"Praise ye the Lord from the heavens;
praise Him in the heights; praise ye Him, sun and moon;
praise Him all ye stars of light; praise Him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all deeps; mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars; beasts and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl; kings of the earth, and all people; princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; old men and children; let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name only is excellent; His glory is above the earth and heaven."