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The Hilarity of Dispensationalism

Over my desk at work I have a nearly 60-year-old chart by Finis Jennings Dake entitled “The Plan of the Ages”.  It’s one of those classic charts of how old-school dispensationalists used to divide up the Bible.  This one, however is the mother of all dispensationalist charts.  It has literally everything on it.  The subtitle of the chart is “the Bible on canvas”.  Whenever I need a good laugh I just look at the chart.  The cross is located in the middle of the timeline, but it is carefully tucked into a tiny little corner between the dispensation of the law and the dispensation of the church.  (Which, incidentally includes a little cartoon in it that shows us “the river of death”, its various tributaries being things like gambling, drunkenness, uncleanness, variance, and revelling – and the river pours into Sheol of course.)  However, my current favorite part of the whole thing is the little section where Noah’s Ark is located.  There’s the Ark floating on the water, and down in the water are a couple hapless sinners who didn’t listen to Noah, helplessly waving their hands at the Ark, all to no avail.  The sub-texts of violence throughout the whole chart are interesting to say the least.  Here’s a graphic of part of the chart:

The Plan of the Ages by Dake by Finis Dake


  1. Bobby Grow wrote:

    I’m still progressive dispy . . . but I agree Scofieldian/Classic dispyism is a bit over the top. Although I would say that this little chart reflects an interesting piece of American history—for good or ill.

    Monday, February 11, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  2. Ben wrote:

    Halden, where you you stand on the whole Rapture thing? Is that always necessarily associated with dispensationalism?

    Bobby Grow, what do you see the differences being between progressive dispensationalism and classical?

    Most of my understanding of this issue comes from reading the pop-apologetics Catholic author Carl Olson and his book:”Will Catholics be Left Behind?”

    Monday, February 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  3. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    That’s funny. I have a one of those Bible charts in my office too, right above “the world history chart,” which is like 3 X 7 feet long with about size 2 font. However, mine is probably less fundy-oriented and is at least up to date with the latest historical-critical work! Jesus is at the end of my four foot long chart and he is a stick figure with no face.

    Monday, February 11, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Ben, I was raised in those realms, but I no longer operate within those kind of eschatological paradigms. The idea of the Rapture is pretty exclusively associated with classical dispensationalism. And I don’t buy it.

    I don’t maintain any semblance of belief in dispensationalism, progressive or otherwise. That said “progressive dispensationalism” isn’t a terrible thing. It’s at least starting to go in the right direction.

    Monday, February 11, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  5. Bobby Grow wrote:


    I have posted plenty on this, let me repost a comparison and contrast I did on this issue . . . and I will let you know when I do.

    In a nutshell: progressive dispy sees a continuity between Israel and the Church, with “functional distinctiveness” (i.e. the promises made to the “nation” of Israel are still in effect and will be “realized” in the literal millenial reign of Christ). Also we believe that we are “now” in the inaugurated “Davidic” kingdom, which will be fully realized in the “not yet” of the millenial reign of Christ. Basically prog. dispyism is a hybrid and synthesis of all the strengths of amillenialism and those of classic dispyism. One more thing, we see the biblical covenants (i.e. Abr., Siniatic, Mosaic, Davidic) as successively building on eachother (this would be closer to amil). If you have heard of “historic premil”, progressive dispyism is very similar to this ( a la George Eldon Ladd).


    Classic Dispy: which sees the church as God’s heavenly people, and the Jews as His earthly–i.e. heavy discontinuity between the two. Strong breaks between the various dispensations. Follows an “over-literal” herm.–and ultimately should be jettisoned.

    That is a nutshell response, I will repost on this soon. I was going to post on this issue anyway, at my blog, so this is a good excuse.

    I wonder what eschatological semblance, Halden does hold to, then?

    Monday, February 11, 2008 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  6. Ben Myers wrote:

    Wonderful — I’d love to see the whole chart. I hope it also includes eschatological signs such as Princess Diana’s death and the invention of supermarket bar codes (the Mark of the Beast).

    Monday, February 11, 2008 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
  7. Jon wrote:

    Halden, you do realize that this is just evidence of your own apostasy and that you’ll be among those Left Behind(TM) because of it. Only Real Christians(TM) will be raptured. 0:)

    On that note I’ll leave you with this,

    Some bright morning when this life is over
    I’ll fly away
    To that home on God’s celestial shore
    I’ll fly away

    I’ll fly away oh glory
    I’ll fly away (in the morning)
    When I die hallelujah by and by
    I’ll fly away…

    It just felt appropriate.

    Monday, February 11, 2008 at 8:19 pm | Permalink
  8. Kevin Tee wrote:

    Here’s a link to the full imgage. Almost as good as Dr. Seuss:'s%20Chart.jpg

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 4:03 pm | Permalink
  9. csalzman wrote:

    Link seemed broken for me. An alternate route:

    Then click on “Plans of the Ages” under the “End Times Charts” section. There’s a hard to see zoom button on the bottom right. Or you can right click and select “View Image” to see it in all it’s confusing glory.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 9:39 am | Permalink
  10. Ben Myers wrote:

    Hey, thanks for that link. What a chart! What a triumph of exegetical-theological synthesis! My favourite part is the “great gulf between the two departments” of hell and hades. I’d never thought of hell as a bureaucratic department before, but it all makes sense now (the weeping, the gnashing of teeth, the endlessness of it).

    The only heterodox feature I can see is the provocative homoerotic depiction of the “marriage supper of the lamb” — it looks as though everyone involved in this marriage is a bearded male!

    Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

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