This post is dedicated to examining the Davidic Covenant solely from a New Covenant (New Testament) point of view. The texts I studied are those that mention David or those that mention the Messiah in light of the background of the promises made to David. Did the original promises change with the institution of the New Covenant? We shall see. First, it’s important to remember that every single book in the New Testament was written after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah, and after Gentiles began to be included in the assembly. Let’s go exploring.
The Birth of the Seed of David
Matthew’s gospel unequivocally sets forth the coming of Jesus Christ as a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. Beginning in chapter 1, Matthew documents the lineage of Joseph traced through the Davidic kings and through Zerubbabel, Matthew 1:1-17. Even though Joseph was not the actual father of Jesus, this was important to Matthew because of the prophecies that needed to be fulfilled. When the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream, He addressed him as “Joseph, son of David”, Matthew 1:20. The instructions for naming the child show Joseph’s role in passing on the birthright of kingship to Him. “You (Joseph) will call His name Jesus”, signifies how the inheritance of the Davidic kingdom would be passed from Joseph to Jesus, Matthew 1:21. Further, the language of the new covenant is named as a part of the reason for the name of the child. “You will call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” is a direct prophecy of the fulfillment of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:34 which states “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” While not mentioning David in particular, the story of the wise men serves to continue the theme that Jesus was the Davidic Messiah even from birth. He was claimed to be the King of the Jews, Matthew 2:2, was born in Bethlehem as a fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy, Matthew 2:4-6, Micah 5:2-4, and He was worshipped by the wise men, Matthew 2:11.
Luke’s account from Mary’s point of view also gives a clear place of prominence for the Davidic Covenant. When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he set forth the ultimate goal of her yet unborn Son, that of ruling over the house of Jacob, Luke 1:32. “The LORD God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” If you notice, there is no conflict in this passage with the deity of Jesus and with His identification as an earthly ruler who will inherit the Davidic throne. Jesus here is prophesied to be both Son of God and Davidic King with no contradiction. Zechariah’s prophecy sets forth a Savior from the lineage of David who will deliver Israel from her enemies, Luke 1:67-75. This is based on God’s faithfulness to His covenant plan of which several different components are noted. The Abrahamic Covenant is mentioned, Luke 1:73. Serving God without fear calls to memory God’s provision for Israel to one day dwell securely and safely, Jeremiah 32:37, 33:16. The forgiveness of sins mentioned in Luke 1:77 calls to mind the new covenant, Jeremiah 31:34. Bethlehem is called the city of David by the angel in Luke 2:11 due to the prophecy in Micah 5:2 which states that this is the place from whence the Davidic Messiah would spring forth. Simeon’s hope should encapsulate what God’s people should have expected from the Messiah, both consolation for Israel, Luke 2:25, and a light for the Gentiles, Luke 2:32.
The ministry of the Seed of David
Later in Matthew, Jesus confirmed that His disciples were the true Israel. In Matthew 19:28 Jesus affirmed that the twelve disciples would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel because they followed Him. Here Jesus uses the title “Son of Man” in a place where only the Davidic Messiah could be contextually possible. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all share the story of Jesus stumping the scribes with His riddle of how the Messiah could be both Son of David and Lord of David, Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37, Luke 20:41-44. I really like that Mark included the detail that the common people heard Him gladly. They understood what the Pharisees couldn’t conceive. This would have been standard teaching in the church by the time these gospels were written. When we come to Matthew 25:31-46, we must view this throne in light of the Davidic throne. Certainly the truths that Jesus has revealed throughout His ministry concerning the kingdom of God (heaven) can be applied in relation to this throne, but the beginning of Matthew’s gospel makes it clear what throne Jesus will reign from. It must be remembered that Matthew’s gospel was written well after the formation of the church and after Gentile inclusion within the assembly. So even after these developments, Matthew still documented the coming of the Messiah in light of the Davidic Covenant. Further, the inclusion of Gentile believers within the assembly only served as further proof that Jesus was that Davidic Messiah. In Matthew 12:14-21, Matthew points out that Isaiah 42:1-4 (through verse 6 can be easily read as well) foretold the Messiah coming in such a meek way that Gentiles would put their trust in Him. Immediately after that, Matthew points out that many ascribed the title of “The Son of David” to Jesus as He healed the blind and mute, Matthew 12:23. As the church read Matthew’s gospel, it became apparent that the rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and Gentile inclusion within the assembly should actually validate the claim of Jesus as the Davidic Messiah. So rather than the formation of the church changing the original prophecies into something else, they are cemented in place expecting a future fulfillment just as they are written.
Luke documents similar developments throughout the ministry of Jesus. At the triumphal entry, Luke states that some said, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!”, Luke 19:38. This is important since Matthew records the saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The Son of David and The King are shown to be different titles for the same person. Mark’s comment is often overlooked, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David,” Mark 11:10. John as well joins the jubilation recording “Blessed is the King of Israel,” John 12:13. Continuing to follow Luke, at the last supper Jesus states that He would not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God would come (that’s erchomai), Luke 22:18. So Jesus was not speaking of going to heaven to drink of the fruit of this earth, but in a future reality here on earth when the Kingdom of God would come, arrive, be manifested, be fulfilled. Then Jesus authoritatively appointed the kingdom unto His twelve disciples, Luke 22:29. The same statement found in Matthew is also found here. Those who receive the kingdom would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22:30. This kingdom should not be seen in any other way than the nation of Israel being governed by the Davidic Messiah. After the rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection, Jesus walked alongside two disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus opened their understanding of the scriptures by proving from Moses and the prophets that the Messiah had to suffer first, and then enter into His glory. This glory would be the inheritance of the Davidic throne because of the clear foundation Luke laid out concerning the birth of the Messiah.
Ministry in Acts
Luke the Sequel, also known as Acts, continues the Davidic theme. Peter preached at Pentecost that David spoke concerning the LORD not allowing His Holy One to see corruption by not leaving His soul in the grave Acts 2:25-31. David, Peter preaches, is still in the grave, but Jesus (praise God) rose from the grave. Again, David foretold that the Holy One would ascend into heaven, Acts 2:32-35. David never ascended into heaven, but Jesus (praise God) ascended into heaven. Peter’s conclusion is that this is incontrovertible proof that Jesus is the Davidic Messiah, Acts 2:36. In chapter 3, Peter implores his countrymen to repent in order that the times of refreshing may be ushered in from the presence of the LORD, Acts 3:19. If they repented, the LORD would send Jesus, Acts 3:20. Jesus would stay in heaven until the time of restitution for all things had arrived, Acts 3:21. Peter was preaching to the nation of Israel because it was only through Israel that all nations of the earth (that’s the Gentiles) would be blessed, Acts 3:25. Later, it would be Jesus Himself (the Davidic Messiah) who would commission Saul of Tarsus to have a special ministry to the Gentiles, see Acts 9:15. Luke documents a sermon of Paul in which he connects the life of David with Jesus in three different ways, Acts 13:22-23, 33-34, 35-37. This passage, and the OT counterparts (I Samuel 13:14, Psalm 2:7, 16:10, Isaiah 49:6, 55:3, Habakkuk 1:5) should be studied in depth. Some solid conclusions that we can make are as follows. God brought forth Jesus from the physical Seed of David, Acts 13:22-23. The death and resurrection was further proof that Jesus is the Davidic Messiah because of the psalms which prophesied of His death and resurrection, Acts 13:30-37. Israelite rejection of Jesus also served as proof that Jesus is the Davidic Messiah, Acts 13:40-41. The current salvation of the Gentiles served as even further proof that Jesus is the Davidic Messiah, Acts 13:46-48.
In the middle of the book of Acts, there is a dispute which stands as a polarizing development in relation to the preaching of the gospel. In Acts 15, some were teaching that in order to be saved, circumcision was necessary for anyone, Israelite or Gentile. In short, they were teaching that one must follow the entire Mosaic law in order to be saved. [By way of clarification, this rite of circumcision was necessary for a Gentile to become a member of the nation of Israel. Before the coming of Christ, proselytes were taken into the nation of Israel from any Gentile nation, but they had to renounce all idolatry, participate in the Passover, be baptized, and be circumcised.] Of course, Paul and Barnabas disputed with them. The resolution was to go to Jerusalem to receive an official verdict from the LORD. At the end of the discussion, the sentence was clear. Gentiles are saved just as they are – by grace, Acts 15:11. They do not need to be circumcised. They do not need to become Israelites.
The proof which James cites comes from the prophet Amos. Many breeze over the citation of this passage without actually noticing the mention of David here. The prophecy, as James words it, tells of a return to rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David. The time of this return is when the tabernacle is in ruins; but at this same time, there will be Gentiles which are already called by the name of the LORD. James has one powerful point here. When the return occurs, Gentiles will already be called by the name of the LORD and that was being fulfilled during their present time especially under the ministry of Paul and Barnabas. Remember that they were first called Christians in Antioch, which was the first church to consist of a mixture of Israelites and Gentiles, Acts 11:19-26. Being called a Christian was to receive the name of the LORD (Christ) as a part of your description. So we only need take this one step further. Since James quotes this prophecy of the return to rebuild the tabernacle as future, and since the salvation of the Gentiles was present, we must consider the rebuilding of the Davidic tabernacle as a future event to occur at the return of Christ. This would mean that James and Amos saw the continuation of the Davidic temple worship even after the return of Jesus. At that time when the Davidic temple worship is continued, many Gentiles who are called Christians will worship the LORD as well.
In Romans 1:3 and II Timothy 2:8, Paul makes it a point to state that Jesus is of the seed of David. In Romans, Paul lays a clear foundation that Jesus was born in the flesh and then raised from the dead through the resurrection. This would not mean some spiritual type of resurrection, but the literal body that was born of the seed of David was raised from the dead. In II Timothy, if you take the whole context, the resurrection of Jesus of the seed of David from the dead is a part of the gospel. Immediately after this, Paul explains how he (and we) partake of the sufferings and then of that physical resurrection from the dead. “If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” This reigning is given in the context of Jesus being of the physical seed of David, raised from the dead, never to die again. I’m trying to drive the point home here that PreMillennialism gives a huge place for the incarnation in its eschatology. Jesus was made flesh for the purpose of continuing in the flesh as the Davidic King who will rule over the nation of Israel and over all nations of the earth.
The Revelation of the Davidic Messiah
Into the book of Revelation, which centers around the manifestation of Jesus Christ, we continue to see the connection to the title of David. Starting off the book, He claims the Prince of the kings of the earth as one of His titles Revelation 1:5. He has the key of David, Revelation 3:7, He is the root of David, Revelation 5:5, and He is the offspring of David, Revelation 22:16. In connection with His thousand year reign, many thrones are set up in order that they might reign with Him during that time, Revelation 20:4-6. This calls to mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30. As if to drive the point home, in the New Jerusalem, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on the gates, while the names of the twelve apostles (who will reign over the twelve tribes of Israel) are in the twelve foundations, Revelation 21:12-14. The New Jerusalem descends from heaven to earth in conjunction with that reign. During that reign, nations along with kings here on the earth walk in the light of that city, Revelation 21:24.
In examining the references in the New Covenant writings concerning David, there is nothing to suggest that the Davidic Covenant will not be fulfilled in the exact terms in which it was originally given. There were certainly many things more fully revealed, but nothing to detract from those prophecies, or to replace them with something else. Jesus was born of the seed of David. After the resurrection, He was affirmed to still be of the physical seed of David. His rejection by the nation of Israel and Gentile inclusion within the church only affirmed His identity as the Davidic Messiah. His first coming and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit served as a down payment that He would one day return and reign in glory from the Davidic throne in Jerusalem.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman