In this week’s review of the Book of Mormon, we’ll look at Jacob chapter 5 to Jarom. Here, Jacob sets out a symbolic story or an allegory of the olive tree that we see in the writings of Paul, Isaiah and Ezekiel, but Jacob references a prophet by the name of Zenos as its source. Jacob or Zenos sets out the olive tree allegory in such detail that we can easily become lost. The best approach to understand this allegory is to break it down into dispensations. So, this week we’ll define what a dispensation is in the scriptures. Then will look at the four dispensations that we see in the allegory and then we’ll wrap up with a look at the Endtime Dispensation or the last dispensation of the world.
The most basic definition of a dispensation is the act of dispensing; and, so in the biblical sense it is the act of dispensing, disbursing or issuing the gospel. In the scriptures, we see multiple times when the gospel has been dispensed. When the gospel is dispensed, we see the same recurring sequence of events within subsequent dispensations. Some commentators discount the idea of multiple dispensations because they think it means a change in God’s Law who is unchanging. But in the context of the gospel, what we see is the same law restored with the establishment of a new covenant. Moreover, a new dispensation opens when preceded by an apostasy and God appoints a dispensation head who restores the same law and establishes a new covenant. So our pattern looks like this.
So during the history of the world, we see a series of repeating dispensations from the Fall of Adam to the End of the World
Dispensations and Zenos' Allegory
When we review the allegory that Jacob sets out in chapter 5, we can identify four dispensations – the Mosaic Dispensation, an Apostolic Dispensation, an American-Gentile Dispensation and an Endtime Dispensation.
Mosaic Dispensation – The Mosaic Dispensation was preceded by the Abrahamic Dispensation where we see God enter into a new covenant with Abraham, which is then passed to Isaac and Jacob. But then we see Israel apostatize and placed under Egpytian bondage – a covenant curse. Here, we see the Mosaic Dispensation follows as God opens a new dispensation, and restores His law through Moses with a new covenant and the House of Israel. Jacob continues with describing the apostasy of the House of Israel using words of decay and perishing. Verses 3-15
Apostolic Dispensation – After the Mosaic Depensation, Jehovah condescends as Yeshua (Jesus) and reaffirms the Law, establishes a new covenant and sets up an apostolic system of leadership. Even though Yeshua doesn’t set up a political kingdom, he nonetheless reaffirms the Law – Matt 5:17. Jacob then describes a brief period of righteousness followed by a great apostasy, which Jacob describes that all the fruit is evil and all is good for nothing. Verses 16-49
American-Gentile Dispensation – Following the Apostolic Dispensation is the American-Gentile Dispensation. When we look at the latter-days, the single most important event having the greatest impact on the world in terms of a restoration of the Law and the establishment of a new covenant, is the founding of American and her standard of biblical liberty. Indeed, America’s covenant with God has its roots in the Law that God gave to Israel. Those roots or principles include: the collective nature of the covenant – we the people; it is constitutional, where the rule of law is supreme; a republic based on representation; a separation of powers; a money system based on “hard” value; a common militia and a foundation of biblical morality held in the hearts of the people. For more, see Rabbi Sacks teaching at the end of this post. Jacob describes this apostasy as plucking out the most bitter, ripened and must perish. Verses 50-59
Endtime Dispensation – Following the Gentile Dispensation will be an Endtime Dispensation. It is during this Endtime Dispensation that the Sealed Part of the Book of Mormon comes forth to reveal all things according to Nephi’s sealed book prophecy. The Endtime Dispensation has many elements of our restoration model but instead of an apostasy, this Dispensation transitions into the Millennium. Verses 60-77
So in summary this is what Jacob’s allegory looks like.
Key Elements - As we look at Jacob’s allegory of the olive tree we can identify specific elements that help us understand it. Below is a summary of those elements.
After all of this Jacob gets to the point and tells us at verse 2 in chapter six of what he really wants us to see. And that is the restoration of the House of Israel that occurs during the Endtime Dispensation. God has to do this to honor his covenant with Abraham and to continue with the salvation and exaltation of man into the Millennial Age. So God sets his hand a second time to recover the House of Israel making the First the Last.
One of the key aspects of this Endtime Dispensation is the calling of servants who assist the Endtime Servant of the Vineyard or God’s Endtime Servant. One thing that Zenos’ allegory doesn’t do for us is that the allegory doesn’t give us any details about the identity of these servants. Dr. Gileadi in his analysis of Isaiah has identified Spiritual Kings and Queens of the Gentiles who are the 144,000 and who gather Israel at the end. Today, we see faith systems attempt to connect themselves with these endtime servants. To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, being these 144,000 is a primary tenet of their faith. Then we have other faith systems claim divine authority. Most notably is the Catholic faith who connects their authority with Peter, Yeshua’s lead apostle.
If we follow the pattern in prior dispensations, we have to conclude that there will be a restoration of the Law and the establishment of a New Covenant, which Moses prophesied at Deuteronomy 30. So first and foremost, these Endtime Servants must be versed in the law code that God gave to Israel and be living it to the best of their ability. Moreover, Yeshua as the rightful king over this world, He and His posterity through the Davidic Covenant will rule over the righteous during the Millennium. Likewise, so are those who gather Israel at the end, who are the Seed of the Messiah whether literal or adopted.
America's Covenant with God - Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, PhD