All pre-messianic covenants in the Scriptures are CUMULATIVELY REVELATORY (Rom 15:4; 1Cor 10:11; 2Tim 3:15-17; Heb 1:1-2) and PROGRESSIVELY REDEMPTIVE (Heb 9:8-15; 11:39-40) in order to SCHOOL and TUTOR humanity unto Christ (Gal 3:21-27; 4:1-7). Jesus Christ brought the Eternal Messianic Salvation from sin’s depravity, dominion and damnation for all humanity through His NEW COVENANT to be the culminating and perfecting fulfilment of all the precepts, provisions and promises of all former typological REDEMPTIVE COVENANTS. All Redemptive Revelatory Covenants in the Scriptures are cumulatively TYPOLOGICAL SHADOWS (Heb 8:5; 10:1) building on one another toward their final fulfillment in Christ as their ultimate ANTI-TYPOLOGICAL SUBSTANCE (Col 2:16-17). So then, all God’s past covenants were not failed or void projects (Isa 55:11; ) as the Dispensationalists vainly theorize in recent times, rather they all cumulatively and progressively, serve God’s redemptive, revelatory and instructive purpose for all humanity till today. God’s Word in “the Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
According to plain Scriptures,
- God made immutable ordinance covenant with the Created Order (Jer 33:20, 25).
- God also made progressively successive covenants with Humanity through:
- Adam (Hos 6:7) with universal mandate and Promise of the MESSIANIC SEED (Gen 3:15),
- Noah (Gen. 9:9-17) with universal mandate and assurance,
- Abraham (Gen. 12:2-7; Gen 17:2-21) – reaffirmed to Isaac (Gen 26:2-6) and Jacob (Gen 28:10-16) – for both National Descendants’ greatness by BIRTH and UNIVERSAL Disciples’/Dependants’ Blessing by FAITH (Gal 3:6-9), with Promise of the of the MESSIANIC SEED (Gen 12:3; Gen 18:8; Gen 22:18; Gal 3:16) for MESSIANIC UNIVERSAL BLESSING of salvation from sin (Act 3:25-26; Rom 15:29; Gal 3:9-14; Eph 1:3;),
- Israel – at Sinai (Exd 24:4-8; 34: 10-28), as Old national SHADOW Covenant of the New Universal SUBSTANTIVE Covenant,
- renewed at Moab (Deut 29:1ff),
- renewed under Joshua (Josh 24),
- renewed under Jehoiada (2Chron 23:16),
- renewed under Hezekiah (2Chron 29:10),
- renewed under Josiah (2Kin 23:3),
- renewed under Ezra (Ezr 10:3),
- Levi (Malachi 2:4) and Phinehas (Num 25:12-13) for national Israel in SHADOW Earthly Sanctuary but subject to greater Promise of MELCHIZEDEK PRIEST-King for all nations SUBSTANTIVE Heavenly Sanctuary (Psa 110; Heb 5:4-10; Heb 9:8-15),
- David (2Sam 7; 1Chron 17) with Promise of the MESSIANIC SEED,
- All Peoples through Christ (Isa 49:8; Jer 58:5; 31:31-33; Heb 8) and the manifestation of the MESSIANIC SEED for the UNIVERSAL MESSIANIC BLESSING of Eternal Salvation of Church (Gal 2).
A COVENANT is specifically a formal agreement based on some solemn commands and/or consents while a TESTAMENT is specifically a formulary document of some covenant commands and/or consents. Therefore, a TESTAMENT is the written testimonial document containing all aspects of authenticated narrative and stipulations of a COVENANT. While the Old Testament Scriptures record the narrative and stipulations of the Old Covenant as authenticated for the nation of Israel, the New Testament Scriptures record those of the New Covenant as authenticated for the Church of Christ. The New Covenant springs out of the Old Covenant, such that the Old Covenant is anticipatory SHADOW that points to the New Covenant accomplishing SUBSTANCE.
Since the modern conjecture of Dispensationalist Theory, many now tend to perceive Divine Covenants as distinct durations or periods of what has come to be called “dispensations” during which each covenant expired unfulfilled. But Divine Redemptive Covenants are not about duration of eras and epochs but about agreements at altars with revelation for true devotion and stewardship. None of these covenants has any terms which mention that the redemptive Truth they reveal would cease to be divine Truth or fail to be fulfilled before the world passes away; in fact they all look forward to their fulfilment in Christ. And “dispensation” in the Scriptures does not mean duration or epoch, but stewardship or assignment.
To the Apostles, older covenants were typological preparations and probations designed by God as schoolmasters (Gal_3:22-25) and foreshadows (Col_2:16-17; Heb_8:5) which progressively built up to graduate God’s people and humanity unto the perfect eternal salvation reserved in Christ’s New Covenant (Heb_8:6-13; Heb_11:39-40). But the Dispensationalists have a different logic and concept for their theory – that covenants are “dispensational”, “crash-reboot” and “partition” contingency or emergency devices which God contraps to reboot His programme when humanity crashes an older covenant!
The Scriptures show that God Who created all humanity also calls them to loyally worship Him and intimately commune with Him, not casually or arbitrarily but according to His clearly commanded covenant terms. Divine Covenant is God’s loving initiative to offer His blessed resources and redemptive grace as means of bringing humanity into loyal stewardship and intimate communion according to His commands and counsels. Those who answer this loving and redemptive call to loyal intimacy are admitted into peculiar relationship through definite act of covenant faith and covenanting rite by which they subscribe to the provisions and precepts of God’s COVENANT COMMANDS and God’s covenant promises.
When God conceives and commands His redemptive covenant, God calls humanity to commit to it for their redemption. Through God’s divinely commanded Covenants, humanity is brought into covenant relationships with God in which God becomes their God and they become God’s people (Lev 26:9-15; Jer 7:22-23; Jer 11:2-5; Ezek 36:24-28; 2Cor 6:14; Heb 8:10; Rev 21:3). Every commandment in the Scripture is a COVENANT COMMAND (Deu_4:13; Deu_4:13; Deu_29:1; Josh_7:11; Judg 2:20; Neh 1:5; Psa 105:8; Psa 111:9; Mat 9:20; Heb 9:20) and every blessing in the Scripture is a COVENANT BLESSING. So also, every keeping of commandments in the Scripture is keeping of COVENANT COMMANDS, and every claiming of promises in the Scripture is claiming of COVENANT PROMISES. God relates with all His creation only on the basis of some covenant terms He has commanded. God calls us to commit and conform to His covenant commands in order to possess and steward His covenant heritage according to His good pleasure.
In the Scriptures, God reveals Himself as the only One Who is the sole Creator Who owns all creation and Giver of all things and blessings found in creation: both visible and invisible, spiritual and physical, temporal and eternal – whether present, past and future. At creation, God beforehand entrusted innocent Adam with regency over His wondrous creation and brought Him to dwelling in Eden for covenant fellowship with Him subject to God’s stipulated command (Gen_1:26-31; Gen_2:15-17).
The rebellious fall of Adam into sin and shame (Gen_3:1-12; Hos_6:7) evoked God’s covenant justice on Adam, thus requiring provision for the restoration of Adamic humanity from sin and judgment (Gen_3:13-24). Fortunately, God revealed that by His testamentary deposition and disposals, He has wisely and mercifully provided for restoration of humanity into future Messianic Heritage if we acknowledge such redemptive covenant in Christ (Rom_6:23). Through His Covenant terms, God invites all humanity to receive divinely sworn and sealed rights of eternal heritage and be entrusted with fruitful privileges of faithful stewardship in every aspect of His rich resources (grace and blessings) as He has commanded (Rom_6:20-22).
So in every divine covenant, God is the owner, testator, initiator, inviter, censor and guarantor while we are His believers, invitees, beneficiaries, stewards, and inheritors of the disposed resources. Every Divine Covenant of redemption from sin is commanded and enacted with blood, sworn on loyal oath or faith, and administered by a mediator (Exo_24:7-8; Heb_12:24). Since the beginning of human history, individuals, nations and royalties have used similar covenant principles in their compacts and contracts, treaties and testaments.
COVENANTS WITH GOD involve God taking the initiative to graciously make and mediate promises (grace and glory) and issue counsels (precepts and commandments) as well as curses and cures, with invitation to humans who then pledge to loyally walk in the precepts, accept the promises as well as the penalties. (In Psa 119:89-104 the DIVINE TRUTH of God’s Covenant Terms is described severally as God’s word, law, commandment, judgment, statutes, ordinance, testimony, and precept). Covenants have four or five elements (terms and curses/cures, oaths and symbols) binding the covenanting parties:
- the terms or precepts and basis, commandments and counsels, provisions and promises, responsibility and benefit as stipulated and consented to;
- the curse or penalties for sinful disloyalty or violation (Heb_10:26-31);
- the cure or propitiation for penitent sinner (1Chron_7:13-15);
- the oath or binding pledge or loyal faith in God’s name subscribing to the covenant basis, commandments, counsels, benefits, responsibilities and penalties;
- the sign-seal as guaranteeing symbol/rite for initial ratification (e.g. circumcision, baptism, blood-cutting sacrifice for blood-sprinkling and blood-shedding) and memorial mark/token for continuous commemoration (e.g. rainbow, altar, weekly rest, annual covenant feast, regular covenant meal).
Agreements solemnized by invoking God or other spirits in PLEDGES, OATHS and VOWS, or agreements sealed with BLOOD are called COVENANTS. Other agreements lacking spiritual oaths or blood-cutting are mere varieties of formalized and informal agreements. Since God has imbued great powers in the terms of all His DIVINE COVENANTS with humanity, all other solemn or sworn agreements have basis to claim and impose binding powers according to their terms (Gal_3:15; Heb_9:17) whether they are: DEMONIC COVENANTS involving demonic spirits, Mutual and Suzerain TREATIES on behalf of peoples and nations, CONTRACTS between business partners, and other BONDS, COMPACTS and TESTAMENTS or Wills for various degrees of associations, relationships and dispositions between persons and peoples. Divine Covenants deliver from every other contrary covenant because only a greater covenant could deliver from the powers of a lesser contrary covenant (Isa_49:25; Luk_11:22; Heb_8:13).
Not all covenants in the Scriptures were conditional and not all covenants were sealed with blood. A covenant may be:
- MUTUALLY negotiated and CONTRACTED between two equals (also agreement/consent e.g. Luk 22:15, Greek= suntheke) as with peace treaties for civil alliances (Gen 21:28-32), compacts for social relationships (2Sam 5:1-5; 1Sam 20:16-18; 2Chr 23:3) and self-plighting troths for marriages).
Here, blood covenants are cut to bind the parties into a lifelong brotherhood/friendship/partnership/union and carry the penalty of condemnation and ostracism on the violator. (Gen_31:44-54; Joshua 9).
- UNILATERALLY stipulated and COMMANDED by a superior (e.g. God or any potentate) with the inferior graciously invited to pledge commitment (as in Divine worship Testaments and Suzerain royal Ordinances).
Here, blood covenants are cut to bind the invited beneficiaries to irrevocably unending allegiance, and usually impose the curse or sentence of death on the violator, who is inevitably the inferior party. (Exo_24:4-8; Jer_34:18). But there is usually a provision for atonement.
In God’s eyes, BLOOD has life in it (Gen_9:4; Lev_17:11a). Blood Covenants save/give life (Joh_6:53-54; Lev_17:11b; Heb_2:14) and cost life (Gen_9:5; Jer_34:18), such that their power last beyond life (Heb_9:12-15; Heb_12:24).
Christian Marriage is a good example of mutual covenant of intimacy and loyalty between a husband and a wife plighting their life, love and livelihood to each other in the Lord, (NOT demanding love and service from, BUT devoting such to each other). When Marriage is by gentleman agreement based only on human honour and authority it becomes a mere contract. Nevertheless, God’s covenant relationship with Israel as His betrothed was not mutual but redemptive (Ezek_16:8; Hos_2:18-20). So also is Christ covenant relationship with His Church as His bride not mutual but redemptive (Eph 5:25).
UNILATERALLY COMMANDED COVENANTS are God’s means of offering His divine redemptive love:
- either as conditional law (gives promises for commitment to pleasing God – “If you will …, then I will …”) for regulation of hard-heartedness and lawlessness;
- or as unconditional grace (gives the promises of endowments to please God) which could be:
(i) reward for past merit (“Because you have …, I will surely …” e.g. the covenant with David) or
(ii) grant/gift for no merit (“Because I have …, I will surely …” e.g. the New Covenant in Christ).
Notice that the HERITAGE promises to Abraham (Gen_15:5-10), the GUIDING precepts through Moses (Exod_24:8) and the SAVING provisions through Christ, the Messiah (Mar_14:24; Eph_1:7) were all sealed with blood (Heb_9:18-22) not only for ratification, but also because these covenants involve death for purging from sin (Mat_26:28; Heb_9:22) in order to enter into the life of commune with God (Heb_10:22).
There are other covenant promises God made without blood in the Old Testament Scriptures – some of which were “conditional” (For Adam’s Edenic dwelling, for Israel’s heritage of the Promised Land at Sinai under Moses) and some “unconditional” (For Adam’s Regency on earth, for all humanity’s protection against Flood through Noah, for Universal REDEMPTIVE BLESSINGS through Abraham’s Seed, for Messianic RULE by the Seed from Davidic Dynasty).
THE SEVEN REDEMPTIVE COVENANTS
When a Covenant, commanded or declared by God is confirmed or ratified with blood, it becomes immutable and can no longer be altered, revised or modified (Gal_3:15; Rev_22:18-19), but it can only be conformed to, be received, and be testified (Mat_28:20; Act_1:8). The following are the Divine Covenants which God made with humans in the Scripture:
- Covenant with Adam: God’s commissioning blessing on Adam to replenish and subdue the earth was not called or described as “covenant” in the Scriptures, but God’s commandment banning Adam from eating of the tree of knowledge when brought into the sacred Garden of Eden is likened to a covenant, hence Adam’s disobedience to the commandment in eating of the tree of knowledge in Eden was later compared to “transgression of the covenant” in Hos_6:7. This was the basis for God’s commination penalizing Adam for eating of the tree of knowledge. This is because God set agreement terms for Eden dwelling and Adam consented just similar to a covenant, but later transgressed. This fits into Conditional Covenant.
Subsequent to the Fall of Adam and Eve, God’s commination against the sin of Adam and Eve paradoxically revealed the Unconditional Promise that Eve’s MESSIANIC SEED shall inevitably bruise the head of the Serpent (Gen_3:15). This seems to have made the Devil to frantically set out on destroying the descendants of Eve, despite the exploits of Abel and Enosh. But God overruled in the case of Enoch by taking him to heaven and in the case of Noah by saving him from the Flood and guaranteeing his descendants from further flood.
Since the Fall in Eden, God has successively made what the Scripture clearly calls “covenants” for redemptive relationship with subsequent generations leading progressively (Gal_3:22-25) to the arrival of the Messianic Seed (Christ):
- Covenants with Noah firstly for preservation of Noah from diluvian destruction of sinful humanity (Gen_6:18) and secondly for preservation of all his descendant humanity from any further universal deluge (Gen_9:9-17) – Unconditional Covenant (but admits on basis of natural descent).
- Covenants with Abraham for his particular natural descendants by birth and his believing spiritual disciples by faith:
(a) . Abraham’s descendants by BIRTH for National Material and Multiplication blessing for the holy-land heritage (Gen_12:2 and 7; Gen_17:2-21; Gen_22:17). This was re-affirmed to Isaac (Gen_26:2-6) and Jacob (Gen_28:10-16) – Conditional Covenant.
(b). Abraham’s disciples by FAITH for Messianic Spiritual blessings for All Nations (Gen_12:3; Gen_18:18; Gen_22:18. This was fulfilled in Christ and His Church Act_3:25-26; Gal_3:14-29) – Unconditional Covenant (but admits on basis of faith in God’s promises).
- Covenants with Israel (Legal/Probationary and Temporal/Preparatory, Gal_3:23-25; Gal_4:1-4) – Conditional Covenant:
At Sinai (under Moses) for conditional heritage of the holy-land temporalities as God’s special people (Exo_24:4-8; Exo_34:10-28).
This same covenant was thereafter re-enacted severally:
– under Moses at Moab (Deu_29:1 ff),
– under Joshua (Josh 24),
– under Jehoiada (2Ch_23:16),
– under Hezekiah (2Ch_29:10),
– under Josiah (2Ki_23:3),
– under Ezra (Ezr_10:3).
Old Covenant that enabled Israel against Enmity from national Princes for possession of the Promised Land shall be upgraded to the New Covenant that enables the Church against Iniquity from demonic principalities for possession of the Heavenly Kingdom.
- Covenant with Levi (Mal_2:4) and Phinehas (Num_25:12-13) for Israelite priesthood – Unconditional Covenant (but admits on basis of natural descent).
This national Levitical priesthood for temporal earthly sanctuary in the Old Covenant shall be overtaken by universal Melchizedek Priesthood for eternal heavenly sanctuary in the New Covenant.
- Covenant with David (2Sam 7; 1Chron 17) for Israelite dynastic and universal Messianic RULE – Unconditional Covenant (but admits on basis of natural descent).
Old Covenant David ruled Israel and the whole of Middle East (2Sam_8; 1Chron_18) from his temporal base in the Old Jerusalem. So his New Covenant Messianic Seed, Who is Lord over David and Greater than David, will rule Israel and the whole world from His eternal base in the New Jerusalem (Rev_21).
- Covenant with Christ: The New (Final, Internalised, Eternal, Universal and Messianic REDEMPTIVE) Covenant that brings the Light of ALL Spiritual blessings from heaven (i.e. salvation from sin and Satan) for BOTH Israel and All Peoples through Christ – Seed of Abraham and David (Luk_1:69-79; Mat_26:26-29; Joh_1:29; Act_3:25-26; Isa_49:8; Isa_56:3-8; Jer_31:31-33; Hos_2:18-20; Rom_4:13-14; Gal_3:8, Gal_3:29; Heb_8:1). Through Christ’s GREATER and more PERFECT priestly mediation (Heb_9:11), and the gift of the divine power of abundant Grace (2Pe_1:2-3), the New Covenant fulfils, perfects and exceeds all older covenants to offer BETTER promises (Heb_8:6) which are EXCEEDINGLY GREAT and PRECIOUS promises of participation in the divine nature (2Pe_1:4).
The New Covenant of Christ’s Gospel justifies us by Christ’s Blood and especially brings the FREE love GIFT of divine fruitful power (2Pet_1:2-8) which is the quickening GRACE to enable us exercise dominion over self, sin and Satan. Only such saving power could redeem us from all iniquity and purify us for zealous good works which God had purposed beforehand that we should walk in them (Rom_6:14-16; Eph_2:4-5; Eph_2:8-10; Tit_2:11-14) The Messianic New Covenant REDEEMS us through Christ to REIGN with Christ – Unconditional Covenant (but admits on basis of faith in Christ).
NOTE: All the covenants are unconditional (depositions and dispositions independent of meritorious works) except the “covenant” of Eden Garden with Adam and covenants of the Promised Land with Abraham and Israel (SEE No 1, 3a and 4 ABOVE) which are conditional (depositions and dispositions dependent of meritorious works).
While all the several preparatory covenants with Israel (collectively called “Old Covenant” as one group in 2Co_3:14; Heb_8:13) promised temporal, natural and national blessings, the consummating messianic (i.e. Christ’s) New Covenant promises eternal, spiritual and universal blessings.
As humanity matured, God gradually revealed His Kingdom administration or dominion by building each newer covenant on top of the older covenants. God began to reveal His Kingdom with universal covenants from Adam to Noah for PATRIARCHAL Kingdom commission. Next, through Abraham to Moses and David God narrowed into Israel as His ETHNIC Kingdom example with national covenants, in order to culminate in Christ as the Eternal King of the Kingdom by Whose mediation God fulfilled His new universal covenant (Heb_9:15) for better, excellent, and everlasting (Heb_7:22; Heb_8:6; Heb_13:20) MESSIANIC Kingdom consummation.
The Scripture shows that it is by His sovereign initiative, God authors explicit terms of His REDEMPTIVE COVENANTS by which He reaches out to humans for intimate COVENANT RELATIONSHIP as the means of revealing Himself and dispensing the riches of His redemptive blessings (Eph_1:2-12). Otherwise, worshipping God would be a fruitless guesswork – a mere uncertain groping in the dark (Act_17:27). By means of God’s condescending through His Covenants to call us to walk with Him through our loyal commitment (i.e. faith and obedience), God graciously invites us to obtain His superlative blessings which include:
– RESTORATION to life of fellowship with God as His people (All Covenants),
– ADOPTION to heritage of God’s Kingdom (Messianic/New Covenant) and
– ENDOWMENT with divine possessions of:
temporalities – protection & provision (All Covenants) , and
spiritualities – purity & power (New Covenant).
THE REDEMPTIVE SEED PROMISED ALL THROUGH THE AGES IS FULFILLED IN CHRIST
(16) Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of One, And to thy Seed, which is Christ.
(16) For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the Seed of Abraham.
All Divine Redemptive Covenants culminate in the New Covenants and are finally perfected therein for our full redemptive blessing (2Cor 1:18-22; 3:5; Gal 3:8, 16-17, 24-26; Heb 8:6-7, 13; 11:39-40). God’s Word reveals that the ultimate Seed Who would bring about the blessed redemption of all humanity is Christ the Son of God:
- In the judgment pronounced to the Serpent, God spoke about the Seed of the woman that would bruise the head of the Serpent’s seed (Gen 3:15).
- In the covenant promise to Abraham, God spoke about the Seed in Whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Gen 22:18).
- In the covenant promise to Isaac, God spoke about the Seed in Whom all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Gen 26:4).
- In the covenant promise to Jacob, God spoke about the Seed in Whom all the families on the earth shall be blessed (Gen 28:14).
- In Jacob’s patriarchal blessing to Judah, God spoke about the Sceptered Shiloh Who will gather all people to Himself (Gen 49:10; Isa 9:6-7; 65:9).
- In the covenant promise to David, God spoke about the Seed Who shall seat on the throne forever (1Chron 17:11-12; 22:10; Psa 89:4, 29. 36; Act 15:15-18).
- In the angelic gospel annunciation to the Virgin Mary, God confirmed that Christ the Son of God is the ultimate Seed of Abraham and David (Luk 1:30-33).
- In the apostolic gospel preaching to the Pentecost crowd, God confirmed that Christ the Lord is the ultimate Seed of Abraham and David (Act 2:25-28, 34-36; 3:25-26).
- In the first apostolic ecumenical council circular epistle, God confirmed that Christ is the ultimate Seed of David (Act 15:15-23).
- In the apostolic gospel teaching to the Early Church, God confirmed that Christ is the ultimate Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:8, 16, 24-26).