Luke 16:16 

 

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 

 

I have heard many Bible teachers use this verse as a proof text to support their claim that the present age of grace began with the ministry of John the Baptist. This verse is not referring to the law as a dispensation. If it is, that would also mean there was a dispensation called “the prophets” that ended with the beginning of John’s ministry. In what sense were the law and the prophets until John? By comparing scripture with scripture, we know that the law and the prophets PROPHESIED until John.  

  

Matthew 11: 

 

12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 

13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 

14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 

 

John was the forerunner of the King. With his ministry, the prophecies concerning the King and His Kingdom (this is the burden of prophecy) began to be fulfilled. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah and announced that the prophesied kingdom of heaven was at hand. 

 

Luke 1: 

 

13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 

14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 

15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 

16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 

17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 

 

If Israel would have repented and received Christ, John’s ministry would have been the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy: 

Malachi 4: 

5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 

 

Israel rejected her King and His kingdom. They crucified Christ but after He was risen and ascended the kingdom was re-offered to them in early Acts (3:19-26). They rejected the witness of the Holy Ghost through the apostles and prophets concerning their risen Messiah. The book of Acts is a history book that records the fall and diminishing of Israel. We are now living in a parenthetical mystery age that was hidden from the prophets and revealed through the apostle Paul (Eph. 3). After this age ends with the rapture Christ will bring Israel through the tribulation period and then save her when He comes again to the earth. Elijah will show up in the tribulation period when once again the kingdom is at hand (Rev. 11). 

 

The purpose of John’s ministry was NOT to prepare the way for Christ to come usher in this present mystery age in which He is building one spiritual body wherein there is neither Jew nor Gentile! Christ did not come to reveal and inaugurate the mystery dispensation but to CONFIRM the promises made to the Jewish fathers (Rom. 15:8). John’s ministry was to prepare the way for the KING of Israel, not the Head of the Body.  

Matthew 3: 

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. 

 

John made ready a people prepared for the Lord by preaching the baptism of repentance to ISRAEL. Under the gospel of the kingdom, water baptism was required for the remission of sins (Mk. 1:4-5; Acts 2:38). Israel receives the remission of sins when Christ brings her under a new covenant and establishes His kingdom (Acts 3:19-21; Rom. 11:26-27). 

John 1:31 

And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. 

 

The fact that John’s ministry was according to prophecy proves that this present dispensation, which was hidden from the prophets, did not begin with his ministry. So, instead of Luke 16:16 proving that this age began with John, it actually proves it didn’t! 

 

Luke 1: 

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 

68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 

69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 

70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 

71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 

72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 

73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 

74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 

75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 

77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 

78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 

79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 

80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel. 

 

The dispensation of the law did not end with the beginning of John’s ministry. Christ conducted His entire earthly ministry to Israel under the LAW.  

 

Matthew 5: 

 

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 

Matthew 23: 

1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 

2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 

3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 

 

When Christ establishes His kingdom in the earth, He will rule by pure law. 

 

Isaiah 2: 

1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 

3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 

4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 

 

It is Paul alone who says by inspiration of God to the body of Christ, “ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). This present dispensation was made possible BY the cross of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22) but that doesn’t mean it began AT the cross. There are things that Christ accomplished by His cross that were not immediately revealed or implemented. For example, Satan was defeated by the cross (Heb. 2:14) but he is not cast into the lake of fire until after the kingdom age (Rev. 20:10). 

 

Another proof text for claiming that the law dispensation ended with the ministry of John is: 

 

John 1:17 

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 

 

Does this verse teach that the grace age began when Christ came? If that is what it is saying, then it is also saying that there was no TRUTH until the earthly ministry of Christ! The verse is not referring to grace and truth as a dispensation. It is simply saying that Christ was full of grace and truth as He conducted His ministry.  

 

John 1:14  

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 

 

A new dispensation is marked by divine REVELATION (that significantly changes God’s dealings with man) with corresponding human responsibility. In other words, God reveals the truth and dispenses it to man who is then responsible to believe and respond to His truth. Since the mystery of this age was revealed to Paul (Col. 1; Eph. 3), how could this present dispensation begin before the mystery was revealed and dispensed? Man is not responsible to respond to truth that God has not revealed. The gospel of the grace of God was revealed through Paul (Gal. 1:11-12). It is by believing this gospel that we are baptized by one Spirit into one Body (Eph. 3:6; 1 Cor. 12:13).  

 

We don’t give Paul any glory for what he taught and wrote in his epistles. It is not his truth (1 Cor. 4:6-7), he was just a steward of it (1 Cor. 4:1-2). His epistles are the words of God, not his own words (2 Tim. 3:16). We give God all the glory for what He revealed through Paul to us. 

 

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