FOUR DISPENSATIONS OF THE LORD’S DEALINGS
We must realize there are four dispensations, or ages, in which the Lord will accomplish His work. There was the age of Adam to Moses (Rom. 5:14), the age of Moses to Christ (John 1:17), the age of the church, and the age of the millennium. The last of these four ages, the millennium, will be an age of restoration, but not an age of perfection. This means it will still be an age of dealing, an age for the Lord to accomplish something. During the time of the millennium, there will still be some curse left upon the earth. Some will die and even at the end of the millennium the nations will rebel. This proves that the millennium is not the age of perfection, but the age of restoration. The Lord’s dealing with the believers is mainly in two ages: the church age and the millennium. If we are willing to be dealt with by the Lord to the fullest extent in this age, we will enjoy the reward in the next age. But if we are not willing to be dealt with by the Lord to the fullest extent in this age, He will still deal with us when He comes back. At one time or another we must be dealt with—either in this age or the next. But there is a big difference. If we are willing to be dealt with by the Lord in this age, we will be rewarded. If not, we will be punished during the next age. Either way we will be dealt with by the Lord.
Why would the Lord still deal with us during the next age? It is because we are His harvest, His crop. As a crop, we must be ripe; otherwise, the husbandman cannot receive us into the barn. If we would not be ripened in this age, the Lord will make us ripe in the next age. If we are not matured in this age by the time the Lord comes back, He will cause us to be matured in the next age. For a crop to be matured is a fixed principle. We must be matured. As the Lord’s crop we must be mature and ripe. If we are willing to be ripened and matured in this age, the Lord will reward us for this willingness. If we are not willing to be matured and ripened in this age, the Lord will cause us to be matured and ripened in the next age, but we will suffer.
Many Christians today mistakenly think that once they die everything will be all right. That can never be! Even after we die whatever problems we have with the Lord will still remain. If we are not ready and mature before we die, we remain in the same condition after we die. Then, when the Lord Jesus comes back and we are resurrected, He will tell us that we are not ready and that we need to pay the price to become ripe and mature. This principle is quite logical. On the one hand it corresponds with Calvinism which says that we are saved eternally, and on the other hand it corrects Arminianism, by the fact that we will not be lost again but that we may suffer some punishment. At the Lord’s coming back, immature believers will not be lost, yet they will suffer some kind of punishment. If we are not living in the reality of the kingdom of the heavens today, under the control of the heavenly rule, we will not be able to go into the manifestation of the kingdom in the next age as a reward. If we want to enter into the manifestation of the kingdom in the next age, we must live in the reality of the kingdom of the heavens today. In other words, if we would rule in the next age, we must be ruled in this age. We must be exercised in the matter of the kingdom in order to enter into the kingdom to rule.
The kingdom is the requirement of the gospel, and the life we receive at regeneration is the supply of this requirement. It is not a loose and light matter to become a Christian. It is a very serious matter. We have been saved, and we have been born into a royal, heavenly family. Therefore, we have to be exercised in a heavenly way and to be ruled and governed by a heavenly rule in order to be qualified to be heavenly kings in the next age.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 49, by Witness Lee)