From before the creation, God made plans for mankind. For their life of service to Him on earth as well as life in eternity with Him after this one. His pleasure was that man should, of his own free will, believe in and obey Him. Consider this statement by the inspired Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (Ephesians 1:4)
This was His desire from the beginning throughout the three dispensations of man. He knew however, that man would fail. Those of the first dispensation, that is often referred to as the Patriarchal Age, lived under his first law which is not spelled out for us in the scriptures, although we can know some of it. For example, we can deduce that they were commanded to offer specific animal sacrifices to God simply by reading the story of Cain and Abel. (Genesis 4:8) (1 John 3:12) (Hebrews 11:4)
We can see also that it was a sin to kill, also from the account of Cain and Abel as well as several other scriptures. We can also assume that it was sinful to engage in reveling, excessive consumption of intoxicants, adultery and homosexuality by reading the account leading up to the universal flood and God’s cleansing the earth. This story is described in Genesis chapter 6.
Later on, after the earth had again been replenished with mankind and had again turned their back on God, He let his next plan be known to Abraham, one of only a small number of faithful men. Through faithful Abraham, he chose to raise up a mighty nation whom he had selected to furnish the lineage to the messiah, Jesus the Christ. Most of the Old Testament was devoted to the lives of those twelve tribes, descendants of Abraham through his son, Isaac and then his son, Jacob whose name was changed to Israel.
To these chosen people, comprised of the twelve tribes (the twelve sons of Jacob), God gave an extensive law. Beginning with Exodus through Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy most of the Law of Moses is recorded. Primarily, this law was of a physical nature, literal things they must do and literal rewards, or literal punishments, they would receive for their obedience or disobedience. As the years passed, those tribes strayed from God and when the surrounding nations were allowed to punish them sorely, they would cry out to God and He in turn, would send a leader to restore peace to them.
Eventually, after God had sent his Son to dwell among them and propose His next plan to include all mankind, Israel had become so far astray and were worshipping idols and other false gods, vengeance was taken upon them in AD 70.
The offering of the Son of God on the cruel cross, was the greatest and final plan that God would extend to mankind. This dispensation began on the first Pentecost following Jesus death, burial and resurrection. It contains His law through Christ. It is not like the one made with the Israelites which they were unable to keep and unwilling to do their best. This law was for everyone. No one was/is excluded under it, yet it is as the other two were in that adherence to it is essential yet voluntary. You are free to reject part of it or all of it. But if you reject one part of it, you may as well reject all of it. To reject part of it is to reject God and His Son. The gift of salvation being available to all who will accept did not come easily nor was it free. It took the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, after living a sinless life, to redeem us from our sins. None of us has lived a life worthy of salvation, we can gain it only by faith in the Son of God and obedience to his law…every command of it.
You see, this has been the most important part of God’s plans from day one. Complete faith and complete obedience insofar as one is able. Even though these three plans were different laws due to different circumstances, the basis of them were faith and obedience. Willfully ignoring God’s laws and instructions, removes one from the grace that is now being offered to all for their unintentional sins or even intentional ones once repentance and obedience is rendered. Only a small fraction of mankind has ever followed God’s laws satisfactorily.
Under the first law (the Patriarchal dispensation), and at the time of the cleansing brought on by God, only eight people were living who found favor in his sight. From among millions, all of the rest were destroyed in the great flood. The specific numbers or percentages of faithful followers under the second law, the Mosaical dispensation, yet it is clearly brought out that the majority of the Jews were in error and that they rejected Jesus as being the Messiah. This, according to Jesus himself, was the cause of the massacre and destruction when the Roman army was sent in and totally destroyed Jerusalem. This ended the dispensation and slaughtered the vast majority of the Jews, scattering the rest throughout the world which existed at that time.
As long as the 13 apostles lived amid the established church (kingdom) of Christ, most of those who accepted him as the Son of God were staunch in their belief and hundreds of them were tortured and killed because of their belief, nevertheless, most stayed the course and would not denounce their faith. The church went astray and became a human managed organization. Only small remnants of Christians continued to strive to serve and teach the truths of Jesus’ doctrines. As the years past, many broke away from the Church of Rome, the Eastern Orthodox church which had split from the Roman authority, and after the establishment of the Church of England which was another split from the Roman Church.
Many denominations were formed, each teaching their own form of doctrine, until now there are thousands of them, different and disagreeing. Jesus pled for unity, that all speak the same thing and be one as He and the Father were one. The inspired apostle Paul admonished the Christians who worshipped at Corinth, because there were slight divisions being formed among them.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
One is made to wonder what one of the inspired apostles or Jesus Himself, would say in regard to the vast chasms that divide the Lord’s church today.