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The Bible covers three major epochs (large time frames, sometimes referred to as dispensations) of God's dealings with mankind.

A. The Patriarchal Age, in which the fathers (patriachs) of familes ruled (from Adam to Moses).

B. The Jewish Age, in which the Law of Moses governed the Hebrew/Israelite/Jewish people (from Moses to the death of Christ).

C. The Christian Age, in which the New Testament sets forth the will of God for all mankind (from the day of Pentecost [Acts 2] until the end of the world). Thus, the Christian Age is spoken of as "these last days" (see Hebrews 1:1-2).

The Bible covers fifteen periods (smaller time frames) of God's dealings with mankind: from the Antediluvian (Pre-Flood) period (from the creation to the worldwide flood) all the way to the Early Church period (from the establishment of the church in Acts 2 to the close of the New Testament).

In reading the Bible, it is important to know in which of the above epochs (dispensations) and time periods one is reading.

The Old Testament consists of four major sections:

A. Law (5 books: Genesis-Deuteronomy)
B. History (12 books: Joshua-Esther)
C. Wisdom Literature/Poetry (5 books: Job-Song of Solomon)
D. Prophecy (17 books: Isaiah-Malachi)

The New Testament consists of four major sections:

A. Life of Christ (4 books: Matthew-John)
B. History of the Early Church (1 book: Acts of the Apostles)
C. Letters to Christians (21 books: Romans-Jude)
D. Prophecy/The Ultimate Victory of God's People (1 book: Revelation)

The Bible is not a self-help book designed to make its readers healthy, wealthy, happy, or successful (though within its overarching purpose there are broad principles that contribute to these matters). It is not a book of "codes" and "prophecies" as to when the second coming of Christ will occur and the world will end. Neither is the Bible a disjointed book of disconnected and unrelated documents.

Rather, it is a book that gradually and systematically, from beginning to end, sets forth God's grand scheme of human redemption from the time of its conception in the mind of God before the foundation of the world (Titus 1:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:8-11; Romans 16:25-27), through its being made known by Christ, the gospel, the church, and the New Testament (Ephesians 3:1-12; 1 Corinthians 2:1-13), to its ultimate fruition as the redeemed of heaven receive "the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:9).

- Hugh Fulford
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