THIS WEEK’S R2R DISTINCTIVE
Eternity (John 14:1–4): We believe there is a heaven and a hell and that Jesus Christ is returning to judge the earth and to establish his kingdom. We believe in the resurrection of the dead: the believer to life everlasting and the unbeliever to the resurrection of judgment.
Starting this week, we begin a four week study of the New Covenant. It is essential to understand the biblical meaning of a covenant. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides a general definition:
Arrangement between two parties involving mutual obligations; especially the arrangement that established the relationship between God and his people, expressed in grace first with Israel and then with the church. Through that covenant God has conveyed to humanity the meaning of human life and salvation. Covenant is one of the central themes of the Bible, where some covenants are between human beings, others between God and human beings (p. 323).
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary refers to the covenant concept as “a central, unifying theme of Scripture, establishing and defining God’s relationship to man in all ages.”
Perhaps the most basic covenant that we would recognize today is the covenant of marriage. Holman notes that “Malachi 2:14 clearly indicates that marriage was understood as a covenant. In marriage one man and one woman vow to live together in a lifelong commitment (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4–6), involving sexual union, sacrificial love, and mutual support.”
Of most importance are the Divine Covenants God has made with Man. These covenants define the relationship between God and man and form the very thread that weaves together the story of the Bible. The heart of that relationship is found in the phrase, “I will be their God and they shall be My people” (cp. Gen. 17:7–8; Exod. 6:6–7; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 4:20; Jer. 11:4; Ezek. 11:20).
SIX DEVINE COVENANTS
The Edenic Covenant (Gen. 2:15-17) in which God makes a covenant with Adam in the garden of Eden. This covenant promises that God would give man everlasting life on the condition of his perfect obedience. Adam and Eve broke this covenant by eating the forbidden fruit, and fell under a terrible curse that promised death.
The Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9:9-17) in which God promised to never again destroy the earth via a flood. This covenant called for no human response, but was simply an act of grace on behalf of God.
The Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-19; 17:1-4; 22:15-18). In this covenant, God promised Abraham that he would make him a great nation, that he would in turn bless all nations, that he would inherit the land of Canaan. As a sign of absolute guarantee, God completed the terms of the covenant by Himself (Gen. 15:12-16).
The Mosaic (or Sinai) Covenant (Exod. 19-23) is a covenant established between God and Israel. The unique feature of this covenant was the establishment of the Law, summarized in the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:10-17). The promise of the covenant was contingent upon Israel’s obedience to the law. Under the Mosaic Covenant, Israel repeatedly rebelled against God, but God limited the severity of His judgement because of His promise to Abraham.
The Davidic Covenent (2 Sam. 7:1-17) is another unconditional covenant in which God promised David that He would establish for David a perpetual kingdom, and one of his descendants would sit upon the throne of Israel forever. Moreover, God promised David’s seed, “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me” (2 Sam. 7:14).
The New Covenant (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). First mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:27-34), God promised that He would establish a future New Covenant with Israel. Unlike the Old Covenant that was broken by Israel, this would be a New Covenant that would be an eternal covenant. In this New Covenant, God promised new birth, the full forgiveness of sins, an intimate knowledge of God, and the assurance that this new Covenant is unbreakable. Jesus announced the fulfillment of the New Covenant in the institution of the Lord’s Supper as a symbol of His substitutionary death on the cross, which made the Old Covenant obsolete. The ultimate consummation of the New Covenant awaits the return of Christ.
p class=”p2″>As we study Hebrews 8-10, we will examine closely the terms of this New Covenant and how this is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. I encourage you to spend time reading Hebrews 8-10 and making notes of what you observe about the New Covenant and how it contrasts with the Old Covenant. May God richly bless you in your daily study of His Word.–Chris Eller