There are many covenants in the Bible, but we will only focus on three, the first two being covenants which God had made with man and the third one which was made within the Trinity itself.
- If we understand these three covenants it will make the Bible much clearer and simpler to understand.
Firstly however we must understand the difference between a covenant and a promise:
- When God makes a promise, we have to put our faith in that promise for it to come to pass:
- (Heb 6: 12 NKJV) …but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
- (Heb 11: 33 NKJV) …who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
However, when God makes a covenant it will come to pass, whether we believe it or not.
God can not lie and when He takes an oath, He always does what He says.
Let’s look at the 3 Covenants:
First Covenant God appears to Abraham and makes a covenant to be Abraham’s God and to multiply and bless him.
Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: (Gen 17: 3-7 NKJV)
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
- There were no strings attached. Abraham also didn’t do anything to deserve any of this; he didn’t keep any laws or live unusually holy. As a matter of fact, some theological scholars believe Abraham was an Iraqi who worshipped pagan Gods!
Abraham disobeyed God by sleeping with his wife’s servant (Hagar) and through this single act of disobedience gave birth to Ishmael, who became the father of all the Arab nations as we know them today.
Abraham’s wife Sarah later gave birth to Isaac, the son who was born according to the promise and who became the father of the Israelites.
And we know that up to this day there exists a continuous conflict between these nations.
- Abraham also lied twice about his wife Sarah (once to the Pharaoh in Genesis 12 and once to Abimelech the king of Gerar, in Genesis 20) and alleged that she was his sister. Abraham was afraid that they would kill him due to the fact that she was a very beautiful woman.
- Now even though Abraham was clearly in the wrong here, God didn’t rebuke him for it but instead rebuked the pharaoh!
But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. (Gen 12: 17 NKJV)
And later again God rebuked the king of Gerar and not Abraham: But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife”. (Gen 20: 3 NKJV)
Who was in the wrong here? Abraham! Who did God rebuke? The king!
- This was because God had established a covenant with Abraham and neither with the pharaoh nor the king.
And because God always keeps His part of the bargain, Abraham was favored by God because of this covenant.
We just saw that Abraham had lied about his wife, but because of God’s blessing on his life he came out of Egypt (and later also out of Gerar) laden with slaves and cattle and wealth!
Now by this we are not saying that people should go out and lie to other people and deceive them in order for God to bless them!
We are by no means endorsing immoral living, but this just serves to illustrate that God blessed Abraham regardless of his level of obedience. God blessed Abraham even though he lied!
- There was no moral standard to live up to, since the Law of Moses which included the 10 Commandments was only introduced 430 years later, which brings us to the second covenant.
Second Covenant This is described in the Bible as the “Old Covenant”, where God gave the law and the 10 Commandments to Moses. Israel had kept on murmuring and complaining ever since God had led them out of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders.
They also didn’t want to have a personal relationship with God, but instead always asked Moses to speak to God on their behalf. They were uncomfortable with having to “deal” with God personally and preferred to remain at a distance.
Despite of all the goodness that God had shown them they always kept on murmuring and complaining, even saying that God and Moses wanted to kill them!
And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger. (Ex 16: 3 NKJV)
The tragedy of this is that in Exodus 15 (the previous chapter) Israel had just sung a song about the goodness of God and about how He had delivered them from the Egyptians when the waters of the Red Sea closed over them.
And here in the very next chapter they accuse Him of wanting to kill them! This happened again and again, time after time.
Eventually, because Israel refused to believe that God was on their side, He gave them the law and all the other commandments to keep, something that didn’t require any faith from their side (faith in God’s goodness): Then he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people.
And they [Israel] said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words”. (Ex 24: 7-8 NKJV)
The Sin of Unbelief In Galatians 3 we read more about why the law was given to Israel: What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made. (Gal 3: 19 NKJV)
Israel’s transgression was their persistent unbelief in the goodness of God. They blindly refused to acknowledge that God wanted to bless them, love them, care for them and be their God.
So the law was given unto them, but only for a certain period. God already had a master plan to restore mankind back into unbroken fellowship with Himself and He knew that the Old Law Covenant would only be in power until the Seed should come.
This Seed, of course, was Jesus Christ. For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He [God] angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He [God] swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Heb 3: 16-19 NKJV)
Note in the previous verses it talks about “those who sinned” and “they could not enter because of unbelief” (still talking about the same people, namely Israel).
Israel should never have agreed to living under the law! God would have accepted and loved them regardless of how holy (or unholy) they lived, because they were Abraham’s descendants and we just read about God’s amazing covenant with Abraham.
God declared Abraham to be righteous simply because he believed God: And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD, and He [the Lord] accounted it to him for righteousness. (Gen 15: 6 NKJV)
But instead, Israel in their pride said: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”(Exo 24: 7b ESV)
Cursed is he who does not rise to all the Words of this Law, to do them! And all the people shall say, Amen! (Deut 27: 26 LITV)
They agreed to something they would never be able to do or keep!
This must rank right up there with the Garden of Eden in the list of all time dumb things said or done.
- Even God said about them: And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! (Ex 32: 9 NKJV)
God never originally meant for us to try to relate to Him in this way. Just after God’s commands were written on stone and He set the choice of curse (for disobedience) or blessing (for obedience) before Israel, He said the following to Moses: And the LORD said to Moses: “Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. (Deut 31: 16 NKJV)
Does this look like God’s best plan for mankind? If even God Himself said that He knew Israel would break the Old Covenant Law, does it really seem logical that He would still want people to base their relationship with Him on the basis of how well they are able to obey a set of rules?
The Characteristics of a Covenant One of the characteristics of a covenant is that it cannot be withdrawn from by either of the parties that made it, since a covenant is a life-long contract or agreement. For a covenant to end, either one of the parties that entered into it literally has to die.
Since Israel was never able to fully keep up their side of the covenant and remain 100% obedient to all its stipulations, they were in breach of its requirements which meant that God had to keep up His side of the covenant and punish them for their disobedience. All the horrible curses that would strike Israel for disobedience can be found in Deuteronomy 28: 15-68.
If God hadn’t punished them for their sins, He would have been in breach of His side of the covenant, thereby making Him a liar and of course we know that God can not lie. There was also another problem: Since God has an indestructible life, He could not bring an end to this covenant by dying Himself. He therefore had His Spirit conceive a child through a human woman and the man Jesus Christ was born into this world.
Jesus Christ lived a 100% perfectly obedient life, thereby fulfilling all the requirements of the Old Covenant Law, which brings us to the third Covenant:
Third Covenant This is the most amazing New Covenant under which we now live!
- This covenant was cut within the Trinity with no human influence or intervention, but purely out of God’s heart of love towards us.
God took away the laws He gave to Moses, canceling the written code that stood opposed to us: …having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col 2: 14 NKJV)
He made Jew, Greek and Gentile equal – God’s church has now become spiritual Israel. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly…(Rom 2: 28-29a NKJV)
God’s relationship with Israel before the introduction of the Old Covenant was a type and shadow of what He wants to have with the whole world today. …that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Cor 5: 19 NKJV)
It is required that when making a covenant it has to be sealed with blood. God had also confirmed His covenant with Abraham with blood (Genesis 15: 9-18) and had Israel do the same: Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.
For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.”
Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Heb 9: 18-22 NKJV)
In the Old Covenant Israel slaughtered animals to appease the wrath of God. In essence they were only postponing the punishment for their sins for another year, because the blood of animals could never fully serve as payment for the sins of mankind: For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. (Heb 10: 4 NKJV)
So God sent His only Son, allowed Him to be crucified by the very people He came to save and accepted His blood as the full, perfect and complete payment for all the past, present and future sins of all mankind.
The Father then entered into a New Covenant with His Son Jesus, stipulating that the righteousness and all the blessings that Jesus had earned through His perfect obedience were to be given as a free gift to mankind on one condition: They had to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Every person that accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as a full and complete payment for their sins would be imputed with the perfect righteousness of God Himself: I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. (Isa 61: 10a NKJV)
God would also wipe out their sinfulness through the perfect offering of the cross, imparting His perfection unto all who believe in Him: For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. (Heb 10: 14 KJV)
Many people call this the “divine exchange”- our sinfulness was laid on Jesus and His righteousness was given to us as a free gift.
- Actually He was MADE to BE sin. Righteousness therefore wasn’t just given to us: we BECAME righteousness!
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5: 21 NKJV)
In fact the Bible is so full of references to the reality that the Old Covenant has passed away and that it has been replaced by the New Covenant, that it is very hard to miss it! The following verses clearly tell us that the Old Covenant (referring to the Law of Moses), which was only a type and a shadow of the New Covenant, has passed away:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah [remember how we spoke a little earlier about all believers being “Jews”?] – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts [this means God will give us the desire to please Him and have fellowship with Him, to seek His heart for us]; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
[This means gone are the days where we need a priest or someone else to constantly tell us about God, now we can know Him personally and intimately!] For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” [Do you really need any more proof that God won’t ever punish you again?]
In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. (Heb 8: 7-13 NKJV)
Beneficiaries of Two Covenants! Now, when a person becomes born again through simply putting their faith in Jesus, they are grafted into “spiritual Israel” and God plants His own Seed inside them: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3: 26-29 NKJV)
Here is verse 29 again, read it slowly: And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. We not only become partakers of the New Covenant, inheriting all its wonderful benefits, but through our faith in Jesus we also become heirs of the promises that God made to Abraham! Talk about a double portion, shabba!
Here are some more verses: …just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Gal 3: 6-9 NKJV)
You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Acts 3: 25 NKJV)
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal 3: 13-14 NKJV)
God will never again refrain from doing good to us and even when He chastens us (Hebrews 12) it is an affectionate reproach from His heart of love.
Old Testament Prophesies Some of the Old Testament prophets were given visions of the New Covenant and they painted an amazingly clear picture of the unconditional love of God towards His children; of a God that has chosen to blot out their sins and relate to them on the basis of the perfect obedience of His Son, Jesus Christ:
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. (Jer 32: 40 NKJV)
And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the LORD …when I provide you an atonement for all you have done,” says the Lord GOD’”. (Eze 16: 62-63b NKJV)
The blood of Jesus was the atonement: For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt 26: 28 NKJV)
Probably the most well-known prophesy that an Old Testament prophet made about the coming New Covenant is found in Isaiah 54: “For a mere moment I have forsaken you [when people were still under the law], But with great mercies I will gather you.
With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment [God had to serve punishment for man’s disobedience to the Old Law Covenant]; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the LORD, your Redeemer. [What part of “everlasting kindness” is so hard to understand?]
“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you
[There goes a whole heap of “angry God” theories and doctrines right out the door].
Isaiah 54: 7-10 NKJV “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
Under which covenant will we choose to live under ?