The continuity of the covenant

May 9, 2012

The New Testament describes God’s covenant with the church as an everlasting covenant. The covenant is like an agreement to enter into a marriage, where Christ is the groom, and the church is the bride. This everlasting covenant is mentioned in Hebrews.

Hebrews 13:20-21
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.

The covenant is continuous, and in that respect, it is like a river, as continuity is one of the most characteristic features of rivers. But some have attempted to introduce discontinuity, which undermines the covenant which is a basic part of the gospel.

Jerusalem is the name applied to the church in the New Testament. It is the holy city where Christ is the king who reigns upon the throne of David.

In Zechariah’s prophecy, rivers of living water flow from Jerusalem. These rivers are continuous. Zechariah said, “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.” [Zechariah 14:8] The rivers flow towards the seas in both directions from Jerusalem, that is, to the east and to the west. And they flow in both summer and winter; that is, they do not fail; they are constant.

Daniel 11:45 refers to Jerusalem as the glorious holy mountain located between the seas. “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”

When Jesus initiated the sacrament of the Lord’s supper with his disciples, it was to remain in effect “till he come.” [1 Corinthians 11:25-26]

In Daniel 9:27, Jesus confirms the covenant for one week. But this does not imply it could not be an everlasting covenant. Some have assumed the 70 weeks is limited to 490 years; Christ appeared after the first 69 weeks were fulfilled, confirmed the covenant during his ministry to the Jews, and for another three and a half years after the crucifixion, and then it was over. This is the preterist view of the covenant. On the other hand, the dispensationalists claim the 70th week is yet future.

John F. Walvoord wrote: [The Millennial Kingdom: A Basic Text in Premillennial Theology.  Zondervan, 1983. p. 227.]

Daniel’s seventieth week for Israel. One of the classic passages related to this problem is Daniel 9:27, defining the last of Daniel’s weeks for the fulfillment of Israel’s program. As generally interpreted the time unit in the “weeks” or “sevens” is taken to be a year. Conservative scholars usually trace the fulfillment of the first sixty-nine sevens of years as culminating in the crucifixion of Christ, predicted in the terms that “the anointed one be cut off and shall have nothing” (Dan. 9:26). While the most literal interpretation of the first sixty-nine sevens is thus afforded a literal fulfillment, nothing can be found in history that provides a literal fulfillment of the last seven or the seventieth week. It has been taken by many that this indicates a postponement of the fulfillment of the last seven years of the prophecy to the future preceding the second advent. If so, a parenthesis of time involving the whole present age is indicated.

Walvoord saw the 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy as culminating in the end of Christ’s ministry, but most preterists put the start of Jesus’ ministry at the end of the first 69 weeks, which was the beginning of the 70th week. Walvoord and other dispensationalists introduce a “parenthesis” or a gap between the 69th and the 70th week, which destroys the continuity of the prophecy. Preterists end the 70th week prematurely, and in their view, “confirming the covenant” was merely a delay in the pouring out of God’s wrath. Some preterists interpret the book of Revelation as a description of God’s vengeance upon the Jews.

In a post on Interpreting Revelation – Preterism, Phillip J. Long wrote:

According to some preterists, the main theme of Revelation is God’s judgement on the Jews who crucified Christ. This is one of Ken Gentry’s main points in Four Views, but he does not represent all preterists here. See also G. L. Murray, Millennial Studies (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1948), 107-130). Gentry cites Matthew 27:22, 25 and John 19:1-6 as evidence the Jews are under God’s judgment for the sin of killing Jesus. In these passages the Jews ask for Jesus to be crucified and accept the blame for his death.

The preaching of the Apostles connected the crucifixion of Jesus with the Jews, see Acts 4:10, 2:22-23, 5:30; 10:39. The judgment on the Jews, according to Gentry, is the fall of Jerusalem. According to Gentry, Revelation is written in the A.D. 60’s, so the prophet is describing the horrors of the Jewish revolution in 66-70 as a just judgment against the Jews for their rejection of the Messiah. It would be possible to date the book later (commonly in the 90’s) and still see the fall of Jerusalem as the focal point, although it is no longer a prophecy at that point.

Long says that Gentry applies everything in Revelation to the fall of Jerusalem. But Gentry and other preterists may have misunderstood the nature of the covenant; in the present age, the church’s status is as a betrothed virgin. That is why Christ confirms the covenant for one week, and for a limited time. The week was foreshadowed by the seven years Jacob laboured for Rachel. The marriage of the church, at Christ’s coming, continues the perpetual union of Christ and the saints.

Several Old Testament prophecies mention God’s everlasting covenant. They are all promises, and blessings that apply to the saints. They are included in the table below.

Scripture Comment
Isaiah 55:3-4
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
the sure mercies of David –Christ, the mediator of the new covenant, is represented by David.
Isaiah 61:8-9
For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
I will direct their work in truth –God directs the saints in accomplishing the work of the church, witnessing to the truth of the gospel in the world.
they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed –the saints will inherit God’s blessing
Jeremiah 32:40-41
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.
I will put my fear in their hearts –the saints are given wisdom; the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart –means not that they physically go to Palestine, but that they are established in the better country that the promised land represents.
Ezekiel 16:59-60
For thus saith the Lord God; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.
Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.
I will remember my covenant with thee –God will fulfill the promise to Abraham, that in his seed all nations will be blessed.
In this chapter Jerusalem is a type of the church in every age.
Ezekiel 37:25-26
And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob –alludes to the spiritual reality that the land represents.
my servant David –alludes to Christ, who inherits David’s throne.
my sanctuary also alludes to Christ.

These scriptures show that the everlasting covenant refers to God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to David. The apostle Paul identified the promise to Abraham, that in his seed, all nations will be blessed, with the gospel. [Galatians 3:8] He said those who believe in Christ are the seed of Abraham: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” [Galatians 3:29]

In the table above, dwelling in the promised land is included in the everlasting covenant. The promise says God’s people will dwell in the land given to Jacob, and his tabernacle will be among them. How could that be fulfilled to the church?

The book of Hebrews explains; Abraham’s inheritance is spiritual. The things he hoped for were spiritual in nature. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” [Hebrews 11:1] The land of Canaan promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was a type of something better, which is therefore referred to as a better county. “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” [Hebrews 11:16]

The promises about the everlasting covenant in the table above refer to the promised land, while alluding to what the promised land represents. This includes the knowledge of God. God’s Spirit is like a river flowing in a spiritual land, which is often pictured as a desert. The river waters it and brings forth life. The continuous existence of the river is revealed throughout the Scriptures, from the early chapters of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. The everlasting covenant is a river flowing through every age.

 

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