FOR GOD’S BUILDING
In the old creation, before the coming of the new heaven and new earth, there are four dispensations. The dispensation of the Patriarchs, from Adam to Moses, was the dispensation before law. You may call it the prelaw dispensation or the dispensation of the Patriarchs. The second is the dispensation of law, from Moses to Christ’s first coming. The third is the dispensation of grace, lasting from Christ’s first coming to His second coming. Then with His second coming the fourth dispensation will begin, that is, the thousand-year reign of Christ. After this fourth dispensation, the old creation will surely be entirely renewed because through these dispensations God will have accomplished what He intends to accomplish.
God’s creation work was complete in the first two chapters of the Bible. Then from the second half of Genesis 2, God began His building work. This work goes on for all four dispensations: the dispensation of the Patriarchs, the dispensation of law, the dispensation of grace, and eventually the dispensation of the thousand-year reign. Through these four dispensations God accomplishes His building.
GOD’S WORK—A WORK OF BUILDING
God’s work through all four dispensations is a work of building. In the Old Testament we see the building of the tabernacle and the temple, which was the focus of Old Testament history. When the Lord Jesus came, He was the tabernacle. After helping His disciples to realize that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, He immediately revealed that He would build His church (Matt. 16:18). The Lord’s word indicated that He was doing a building work.
This thought of building is very strong in the Bible. Even in Acts 4 Peter told the Jewish leaders that they were the builders who had rejected Christ, the living stone, yet God had raised Him up and made Him the cornerstone of His building (Acts 4:10-11). Peter tells us in his writing that the Lord is the living stone, and we all as living stones come to the Lord and are being built up a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:4-6).
Paul also speaks of the building. He tells us he has laid the unique foundation, and that no one can lay another. The problem, however, is how we build upon it. We can build either with gold, silver, and precious stones or with wood, grass, and stubble (1 Cor. 3:10-12).
In John’s writings the thought of building is stronger. When Simon came to the Lord Jesus in John 1:41-42, the Lord changed his name to Cephas, a stone. Later in the same chapter the Lord told Nathanael that he would "see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (v. 51). Actually the Lord was referring Nathanael to the dream of his forefather Jacob (Gen. 28:12, 17, 19), indicating that a building work of Bethel, the house of God, was beginning. Then in chapter two the Lord indicated that He would build up His body in resurrection as God’s corporate temple (2:19, 21-22).
John writes further in Revelation that the overcomers will be built in God’s temple as pillars (Rev. 3:12). Eventually in Revelation 21 he shows us that the ultimate consummation of this building work will be the New Jerusalem, the tabernacle and temple of God, built with gold, pearls, and precious stones, and having the apostles as the twelve foundation stones.
Notice, then, that in the whole Bible only one and a half chapters are on God’s creation. The rest of the Bible, from the second half of Genesis 2 to the end of Revelation, is on God’s building. This building is termed the tabernacle and the temple again and again in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and at the conclusion of the Bible. In the Old Testament are the tabernacle and the temple. In the New Testament is the reality of the tabernacle and the temple. At the conclusion of these two Testaments is the ultimate consummation of the tabernacle and the temple.
(The Basic Revelation in the Holy Scriptures, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)