God’s Progressive Covenant Plan with Israel

God’s Progressive Covenant Plan with Israel

For a term that defines one entire portion of the Bible, it is mentioned very seldom in that portion. We divide the scriptures into the Old Covenant and the New Covenant writings. I don’t believe these are fair labels. The New Covenant or New Testament certainly is a focal point of Christ’s coming, but the term itself is sorely lacking in those writings. Theologians have struggled with themselves and with each other for centuries trying to understand how the old covenant relates to the new covenant. This post will frankly discuss this issue.

In this post, I want to focus on how God’s covenant plan with Israel continues even after Christ died on the cross thereby establishing the new covenant. Christ’s death did not put an end to God’s covenant plan with Israel, it actually began the process of Israel entering into that covenant plan as a nation. Far from New Covenant scriptures changing God’s covenant plan with Israel, they affirm it. Two key passages teach us on the New Covenant. They are II Corinthians 3-6 and the book of Galatians. Note that while I mention a couple of key passages from Hebrews in this post, I plan on writing a post solely focusing on that book.

For some background, let me remind my readers that the covenant which God made with the children of Israel has the ten commandments as its foundation. Deuteronomy 4:13 makes the point probably better than any other verse. God’s covenant with Israel is embodied in the ten commandments which were written on the two tables of stone, but also includes the later revelations which Moses received while on Mount Sinai and at the tabernacle. Israel’s obligation was to obey the voice of the LORD, Exodus 19:5-6, Jeremiah 7:22-23. The new covenant was prophesied by Jeremiah to be a fulfillment of God’s laws written on the very hearts of His people, Jeremiah 31:31-34. The New Covenant would not alter the old covenant, but would fulfill it in an even more palpable way by having it engrafted on their hearts.

In the Gospels

When the Messiah came, He clearly revealed what His relationship to the law (old covenant) was. In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus made it plain that there would be no abolition of the law, only fulfillment. Jesus then demonstrated what He meant in six different examples comparing the old covenant law with His teachings. In His teachings, the law was not done away with, abolished, or destroyed; instead it was fulfilled. In the teachings of Jesus, the law would still be observed and abided by, but in an even higher sense. As Jesus explained the law, He revealed that it was merely a shadow of God’s heart. The commandment “thou shalt not kill” was really meant to show us how we must not hate our brothers, but instead to love. So the only sense in which “thou shalt not kill” would be done away with would be that we would always love our brothers no matter what, thereby guaranteeing that we would never even think of killing them. The old covenant law would still be there, still be observed, but now it is fulfilled.

At the last supper, we have the first mention of the term new covenant or new testament contained in the new testament writings. Following Matthew 26:27-29, Jesus proclaimed to them that the cup was the blood of the new covenant, shed for the remission of sins. Here we have the symbolic institution of the new covenant. The new covenant would not actually be instituted until Messiah’s blood ran down the cross resulting in His death and the veil being torn in the temple. According to the passage, this new covenant would result in a new relationship between Jesus and His disciples. Firstly, the sins of His disciples would be forgiven, Matthew 26:28. Secondly, they would be together with Jesus in the kingdom of God drinking the fruit of the vine, Matthew 26:29. So far we have nothing that would change any arrangement that God made with the nation of Israel concerning dwelling safely in the promised land. These new testament writings only confirm their original intent.

II Corinthians 3

II Corinthians 3:7 But if the ministration of death which was in letters engraved in stone came into existence in glory insomuch that it caused the sons of Israel to not be able to gaze upon the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, the splendor of which, howbeit, is being faded away.

Now let’s examine what Paul meant by his usage of the new covenant arrangement in II Corinthians 3-6. Paul affirms that what Jeremiah prophesied would occur has come to pass for the believing remnant. Those who believe in the Messiah have God’s laws written on their hearts, II Corinthians 3:3. This is what makes one a minister of the New Testament or New Covenant, II Corinthians 3:6. The previous covenant arrangement is rightly referred to as a ministry of death, II Corinthians 3:7. This is because the covenant at Sinai was never meant to bring life, but only to point out the sinful condition of the nation of Israel. Now, just because those laws have been written on the hearts of believers, and because believers will obey God’s laws because they are written on their hearts, does this mean that the ten commandments or the Old Covenant is no longer in force? Absolutely not. The New Covenant has come, meaning that we have come to the next step in God’s progressive plan for the nation of Israel, and that is to have God’s laws written on the hearts of His people. The old covenant law continues in its function to bring death and condemnation (II Corinthians 3:6, 9) in order that people may find life under the New Covenant.

II Corinthians 3:11 For if that which is being done away with is a reason for praise and exaltation much more is that which remains, in praise and exaltation.

It is important to understand the story of how the face of Moses shone due to the glory of God at the revelation of the covenant at Sinai, Exodus 34:29-35. Paul’s point here is that this glory was only temporary in that it faded, vs. 7. As Paul moves through this passage, he draws a parallel with the fading of the ministry of condemnation in the light of the ministry of righteousness, vs. 9. As the glory of God faded from the face of Moses, so the glory of the old covenant is fading now in the light of the new covenant, vs. 10.

Now let us examine the words which show that this glory is being brought to an end in II Corinthians 3:7, 11, 13. If you notice, the verbs which are employed here convey a progressive action. In the Greek they are present participles. The present participle does not necessarily indicate the time of the action, but indicates that the action is repeated or continuous. I have consulted several Greek scholars and have come to the conclusion that the best way to translate the phrases into English would be that the old covenant “is being brought to an end” (or “is being rendered inactive”; more on that later) rather than “has been brought to an end”. Upon examining the overall context of this passage, the reason that the old covenant is being brought to an end is because of the ongoing new covenant ministry by new covenant ministers; see II Corinthians 3:10 which shows it is by reason of the glory that excels, meaning the glory of the current new covenant ministry. Those new covenant ministers are showing forth the glory of the new covenant through their new creation lives (II Corinthians 5:17) and rendering in an ongoing way the old covenant as obsolete. After all, for someone who lives by the Spirit of God and has God’s laws written on their heart, what purpose would there be in observing the old covenant law?

There is another possibility here that I want to mention. The ongoing fading of the glory, or doing away with the glory, could be referring only to the ongoing fading that occurred in Moses’ day as the glory faded from his face after going up into the mount to meet with the LORD. In this case, the translation would be how the ESV has translated it, “what was being brought to an end”. This would indicate an ongoing, repeated action but back in the days of Moses. However, the overall context of what Paul is saying does not fit this application. While it is true that the glory on Moses’ face faded in his day, Paul uses language which indicates there were current circumstances in his day which was the cause of the fading of the glory of the old covenant. For instance, in verse 6, it is the letter (the old covenant law) that kills, but the new covenant Spirit gives life. This was current action in Paul’s day. This is especially contrasted in verse 10 where it states that the reason why the old covenant had no glory is based on the glory of the new covenant ministry. The new covenant ministry surpasses the old covenant in terms of glory thereby eclipsing it, sort of like a flashlight at night compared to a flashlight at high noon. Paul continues by explaining the ongoing action of the old covenant being read in his day while the veil remains unlifted and hearts remain hardened in verse 14. Finally, the surpassing glory which is eclipsing the old covenant is described as an ongoing process in verse 18. The overall context tells us that the radiance on Moses’ face faded in his day, therefore Paul is drawing a parallel of the present fading of the overall old covenant ministry because of the present glory of the new covenant ministry. The ESV with good intentions translated the passive present participles as “was being brought to an end” but the better translation is “is being brought to an end”. Note that NKJV agrees with me in vs. 11, but not in verses 7 and 13.

II Corinthians 3:13 And not like Moses who would put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not be able to peer into the end of that which is being rendered idle.

Since the original prophecy of Jeremiah stated that this New Covenant would be with the houses of Israel and Judah, Paul is keeping in perfect context by focusing on unbelieving Israelites in II Corinthians 3:12-16. They read the old covenant and are still hardened, not being able to participate in the new covenant ministry. However, Paul points out that once they turn to the LORD, that veil is lifted. So this New Covenant ministry will continue to bring an end to the old covenant as long as there are unbelieving Israelites to turn to the LORD. That is the salvation aspect of the new covenant ministry. Another aspect is that those who have believed are continually transformed from one degree of glory to another, II Corinthians 3:17-18, often referred to as sanctification. One thing is clear upon examining this passage. God is not done with the nation of Israel by the institution of the New Covenant, but He continues to bring Israel to Himself during this present time through His overall covenant plan. Instead of this passage portraying the physical nation of Israel as past, Paul places them square within the bounds of the New Covenant ministry by showing that the veil on the hearts of unbelieving Israelites will be taken away when they turn to the LORD, II Corinthians 3:15-16. Instead of discontinuity between the old covenant (Mosaic Covenant) and the new covenant, there is direct continuity.

Note the parallels between verse 14 and verses 15-16. Paul is discussing present day action which concludes with the salvation of unbelieving Israelites. In verse 14 we have “to this day”, then a description of the reading of the old covenant, then the hope that through Christ the veil is taken away. Paul states the same premise in the next two verses. At the beginning of the verse it states “Yes, to this day”, followed by the veil on the heart when Moses is read, then it concludes with one turning to the LORD and the veil being removed. The ongoing action here is the salvation of Israelites when they turn to the LORD which continuously brings them out from the old covenant ministry into the new covenant ministry.

Let me reiterate. Paul does not say that the old covenant has been done away with. He uses the phrase “old testament” once in verse 14. The other synonyms show that he is contrasting Moses, the law, and the ministration of death and condemnation with the ministry of the Spirit of the Living God, the ministry of the new testament, and the glory that excels. The way these things are described is that they are being rendered inoperative in a repeated and continuous sense. The word katargeo is used three times and every time it is a present passive participle. The law of Moses is mentioned here as still being read to unbelieving Israelites in order to pronounce death and condemnation upon them. Another parallel that exists in this passage is that of the veil. The veil over the face of Moses is a parallel to the veil in the temple and the veil over their hardened hearts. Since the veil was torn in the temple at the institution of the new covenant, the veil prohibiting access to the LORD has been done away with. The veil over the face of Moses prohibiting the glory of God from being seen has been done away with. Finally, the veil over the hearts of the children of Israel is done away with when anyone turns to Christ.

What about at the end of the age? Will the old covenant be abolished then? We must be careful what terms we use. The Apostle Paul uses the Greek word katargeo which means to render inactive or inoperative, or to annul and bring to nothing. So while I have rendered the phrase as being brought to an end, the idea is really being brought to an end because it has been fulfilled and no longer has any use. Some translate the word “fade” when it occurs closer to the reference to Moses. The idea of fading is only occurring because of the light of the new covenant ministry shining forth. So it’s not fading because it’s not there, it’s fading because it’s not seen because of the surpassing glory of the new covenant. Once the nation of Israel turns to the LORD, then there will be no need for Israel to follow the old covenant law any longer in order to remain in the land. God will initiate the second exodus, gather Israelites from throughout the earth, and inscribe His laws upon their hearts in such a way that the nation will never turn from Him again, Jeremiah 31:8, 33. So of what use will the old covenant be? The old covenant will be completely fulfilled and Israel will abide by the New Covenant, but at all times will fulfill the old covenant since they will live by the indwelling Spirit. In short, the nation of Israel will enter the church.

Hebrews 8:13 By calling it “new” he has made the first old, moreover that which is being made old and is aging is close to disappearance.

The book of Hebrews goes no further than II Corinthians 3 does. Notice Hebrews 8:13 and the present participles there which explain the relationship of the old covenant to the new covenant. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” ~ ESV. If the author to the Hebrews wanted to say that the old covenant had been completely done away with, he would not have used present participles which convey a continuous action of the old covenant being made worn out (palaioo) and growing old (gerasko). He also would not have stated that it was ready to vanish away, but had vanished away. The entire passage of Hebrews 7-10 is based on the ongoing new covenant ministry of Jesus as our great high priest. So this passage is complimentary to II Corinthians 3 in that both see the old covenant as being brought to an end during this current time due to the New Covenant ministry of both the church as ministers and Jesus as high priest.

Continuing through II Corinthians, chapter 4 continues describing the new covenant ministry. The glory in chapter 3 is now described as the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. We as new covenant ministers have treasure in jars of clay. Then we come to 5:1-10 which moves into the future hope of those who currently participate in the New Covenant. Our bodies (jars of clay) are referred to as tabernacles or tents in that they are not permanent dwelling places. Paul points us to the future stating that when these temporary living places are destroyed that we will not be unclothed, but will be further clothed as mortality is swallowed up in eternal life. There are references to being with the LORD as we are absent from the body, but this is not referring to our permanent clothing. Rather our permanent clothing is referred to in verse 10 as Paul states that we will receive “in the body” our rewards. So while these verses teach us that we will be with God after we die, that is not all that there is. There is eternal life in another body even beyond that experience in God’s presence.

So at some future point in time, we will receive immortality as clothing, at which time we will receive our rewards in that future, immortal body. The current blessing of the Holy Spirit is the down payment assuring that this future payoff will occur, II Corinthians 5:5. The time and place is denoted by the phrase “the judgment seat of Christ”. This phrase is also used in Romans 14:10-12 which links it to Isaiah 45:23. The passage in Isaiah refers to Israel being saved with an everlasting salvation, Isaiah 45:17, resulting in all the offspring of Israel being justified, Isaiah 45:25. The context is the reign of the Messiah here on earth as nations (beginning with Israel) turn toward the LORD for their righteousness and salvation, Isaiah 45:24. The presentation of rewards occurs in conjunction with those on the earth bending the knee before the LORD and swearing allegiance to Him, Isaiah 45:22-23.

Galatians

The other main passage which explains the relationship between the old covenant and the new covenant (besides Hebrews) is the book of Galatians. Most of my readers probably know Galatians fairly well, but let me lay the foundation which appears in the book of Genesis for the sake of thoroughness. After the flood of Noah and the establishment of the Noahic Covenant, God called out Abraham and promised great things to him. Abraham believed all of these things that God promised to him. Later as Abraham’s offspring, the children of his grandson Israel, had just been redeemed out of Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai. This was the birth of the nation of Israel, long after the promises were made to Abraham. There God established the covenant at Sinai and gave them the law. This was a covenantal agreement for Israel dwelling in the land that God had promised Abraham that his offspring would dwell in forever. Mark in your mind in which order these events occurred.

Now fast forward to the church for a minute. As Gentile believers in the church became more numerous, the question was raised concerning Israel abiding by the law. What about Israelite law? Instead of Paul taking the stance that Gentiles must abide by Israelite law, he appeals to the original Abrahamic Covenant. Paul points to language in God’s promises to Abraham that show that all nations would be blessed because of God’s covenant plan with Abraham. He starts out in Galatians 3:5-9 by showing that all who have faith are children of Abraham and are blessed with faithful Abraham. This is not due to the old covenant law, but due to the Abrahamic Covenant which states “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” see Genesis 12:3. Paul states that this is the precise reason why the Holy Spirit could be and currently had been poured out on Gentiles who did not necessarily observe the entire old covenant law. Abraham received his blessings by faith without observing the old covenant law, so why must we observe the law in order to receive our blessings?

Paul continues in 3:10-14 by emphasizing Christ’s death on the cross as sufficient to redeem all from the curse of the law. In Abraham’s day, the just lived by faith, not by the law. The law which came much later could not justify, but only condemn. The law was meant to bring Israel to the point where they would recognize their sinfulness and respond in faith which would result in Abrahamic blessing. Christ took the curse for us in order that God might bless us (all nations) with those pre-law, pre-Israel, Abrahamic blessings, see Galatians 3:14. This is also the spirit in which Paul quotes from Genesis in Romans 4. The Abrahamic blessings included Abraham becoming a father of many nations, Genesis 17:4-8, not just a father of one nation, Romans 4:16-17. Therefore the blessings can be poured out on circumcised (Israelites) and uncircumcised (Gentiles) alike, Romans 4:9-12.

Now moving into Galatians 3:15-18 is where Paul makes it quite simple. Any man-made promise stands of its own accord. No one can add to it or take away from it. So when God promises something, it stands of its own accord. The law which came 430 years later cannot add or detract from God’s original promise to Abraham that all nations would receive blessings, not just one nation. The nation of Israel being set apart as God’s chosen people through the Mosaic Covenant does not annul the Abrahamic Covenant which would bring blessings to all nations based on faith. The institution of the Mosaic Covenant added no requirement for Gentiles or Israelites who receive these Abrahamic blessings by faith.

The law is then given its proper place by Paul in Galatians 3:19-22, and it is no more than what we saw in II Corinthians 3. The law was meant to pronounce death, or here to show imprisonment to sin, so that the promise of faith might be given to all who believe. So again, Israelites who live according to the law should be convicted of their sin so that they can turn in faith to the LORD and be forgiven. Instead of the New Covenant ending God’s covenant relationship with Israel, it begins the process of bringing Israel into the true covenant relationship that God had wanted all along.

Paul gives an illustration in 3:23-4:7 which demonstrates the nature of what the old covenant law does for those Israelites in bringing them into the New Covenant ministry. He uses the example of a child growing up which is destined to inherit a large fortune. While that child is growing up, they are not able to have the privileges of a millionaire, being just a child not knowing how to behave. Instead of treating this child like they are destined for wealth, the child is taught to obey being placed under schoolmasters/guardians (paidagogos), tutors (epitropos), and stewards (oikonomos) until the time appointed by the father comes for them to receive their inheritance. As long as the child is under those above them, there is no difference between that child and a common household slave. Once they have received the proper training and can handle the resources of their inheritance wisely, then they are free from those which had governance over them.

Paul’s illustration would have had these Israelites asking themselves, “Now why would I want to go back to being a schoolboy bound by rules when I can be a child of God?” The old covenant law served its purpose in bringing them to Christ, but now that they know how to behave by faith, there is no more need for continuing in that fashion. They are children of God filled with the Holy Spirit who can call God their Abba Father, or Daddy Father. For those Israelites who had not yet believed, the schoolmaster was still there in order that they might also come to Christ in a New Covenant relationship. Paul shows that the old covenant was still functioning in the original intent that God had designed. It’s just that once someone believes, there is no need for it to point to the New Covenant any longer, since they already have come to faith. Again we see the continuity between the old covenant law of Moses and the new covenant.

This idea of obedience to the law acting as a schoolmaster does not need to apply strictly to Israelites in obedience to the old covenant, although that is the primary application here. Since any one at any time trying to live according to the commands of the scriptures will result in conviction of sin, we need to see that there is another application for this passage. For someone who knows that the Bible says not to steal, and then steals anyway, but is convicted in their heart because they know God’s Word said not to, they are being pointed toward their own sinfulness. The New Covenant truth of Jesus must be shared with them in order that they might be free from their sin. The same can be true of someone who fails to live up to the laws of the country in which they live. The laws of all nations are derived from God’s laws, many times being taken word for word or idea for idea right out of the scriptures. This alone will not save, but will bring conviction in order that someone may be pointed to Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Now let’s examine Galatians 4:21-31. There is nothing wrong with viewing the scriptures allegorically, only so long as it is clear that there is an actual allegory in the passage. Part of the problem with allegorical viewpoints is that some insert allegories where none were intended. Here in this passage, Paul specifically states that the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah serves as an allegory, that is, a story with a symbolic meaning. Paul has already defined those who are under the old covenant law as slaves, while those who participate in the new covenant are free. Abraham’s son by the slave woman is a picture of those who are slaves to the old covenant law. Abraham’s son by the free woman is a picture of those who are experiencing that new covenant freedom. Paul also uses another picture involving two mountains. Mount Sinai is not even in the land of Israel, but is in Arabia. Talk about a paradigm shift! Paul is stating that those who desire the law of Sinai might as well be slaves in Arabia, or slaves to the Arabians. However, those who are under the new covenant belong to the Jerusalem which is above. While Mount Zion is not mentioned by name, it certainly must have been in the mind of the apostle when he wrote.

Paul’s explanation of the present Jerusalem should cause us to pay attention. He saw the current situation at Jerusalem as one in which they were slaves, or in bondage to the old covenant. Jerusalem as a whole had not repented and come into the new covenant relationship with the LORD; only a remnant had repented. Paul mentions another Jerusalem to which all new covenant believers belong. Jerusalem which is above is free and is the mother of us all. Then Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 to demonstrate how this Jerusalem from above was seen by the prophets. The Jerusalem above is the previously barren one, now fruitful with many children. The present earthly Jerusalem was the wife, but now is left desolate. The entire chapter of Isaiah 54 describes a deserted wife, vs. 6, from whom the LORD hid His face for a little while, vs. 7-8, but then restored with compassion taking an oath to never desert her again, vs. 9-10. At that time, precious stones would be laid in the foundations and fixed in the walls of this bride, vs. 11-12, who would be the mother of all who believe, vs. 13. Hopefully you readers can see where I’m going with this. It was prophesied that Jerusalem would undergo a transformation. Paul saw that transformation as in progress and that is the context in which he quotes Isaiah 54:1.

The Jerusalem which is above described in Galatians 4:26-27 is also known as the heavenly Jerusalem in Hebrews 12:22 and the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:2, 9-21. While the current location for this heavenly Jerusalem is above in heaven, this city will descend from heaven to earth, Revelation 21:2, 10. The city has the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved on her walls, and the names of the twelve apostles inscribed on her foundations. (Remember that the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22:28-30.) This is in addition to the precious stones which are laid in the foundations and fixed in the walls, Revelation 21:18-21. So while we may refer to Jerusalem above for the time being, this is only temporary as the Jerusalem above will be here on earth. Paul’s allegory cannot mean that all who participate in the new covenant have a strictly heavenly hope and heavenly destiny.

The passage in Hebrews which describes the heavenly Jerusalem also goes on to say that there will be a future shaking of earth and heaven, removing the things which can be shaken so that only what cannot be shaken may remain, Hebrews 12:25-29, Haggai 2:6-7, 21-22. So heaven and earth will be realigned in some way so that the heavenly Jerusalem becomes the kingdom which remains. I mention Haggai 2:21-22 here because those verses focus on the kingdoms of the nations here on earth being overthrown. So the shaking of the heavens and the earth will result in the kingdoms of this world being realigned in some way. The author to the Hebrews explains that we are to receive this kingdom which cannot be shaken. So while it is not overtly stated that the heavenly Jerusalem of Hebrews 12:22 will descend to earth, it is certainly implied by the reference to Haggai, and the later vision from Revelation 21:2, 10 affirms this. The book of Hebrews agrees with Paul’s focus whereby God’s covenant plan with Israel continues even in the age to come.

Also note that Galatians and II Corinthians 3, when viewed properly, agree wholeheartedly with Romans 9-11 which shows the Gentiles provoking the nation of Israel to jealousy during this present time. Since I have already blogged about this, I want to focus on the mention of the new covenant in relation to the nation of Israel in this passage. Paul explains that the nation of Israel has been cast away, and later will be reconciled, Romans 11:15. Then he describes that after the fullness of the Gentiles all Israel will be saved based on two OT scripture references. He quotes Isaiah 59:20-21 and summarizes Jeremiah 31:33-34 which is the portion of the new covenant which speaks of forgiveness of sins for the nation of Israel. What Paul is saying is that the new covenant spoken of in Jeremiah has a future fulfillment for the nation of Israel which occurs when Israel’s blindness is lifted, Romans 11:25, when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, Romans 11:25, and when the Deliverer comes out of Zion or Redeemer comes to Zion, Romans 11:26, Isaiah 59:20-21. The word “covenant” appears in Isaiah 59:21, but the phrase “when I shall take away their sins” does not and must be from another covenant passage dealing with the forgiveness of sins, which passage is Jeremiah 31:31-34, or what we know as the New Covenant. Conclusion: after the fullness of the Gentiles all Israel will be saved by nationally entering into the New Covenant relationship with the LORD at which time their sins will be forgiven.

To summarize this post, God’s covenant plan with Israel continues with the institution of the New Covenant. Because Christ appeared at the end of the age, this assures us that He will come again to consummate His covenant plan for the nation of Israel. We have received a down payment of what will happen in the future. This down payment, present in both Israelites and Gentiles, assures us that the promises made to Abraham to bless all nations will come to pass here on earth. I am extremely disappointed with some dispensationalists who teach that during Daniel’s 70th week that there is a reversion to the old covenant law. This is completely unsupported by scripture and flies in the face of the ongoing new covenant ministry of Jesus as high priest. I am also disappointed with Covenant Theologians who accuse pre-millennialists of denying the person and work of Jesus Christ because they view God’s covenant plan as including a future for the nation of Israel. Here is laid out a very balanced approach to the way the old and new covenants relate to each other. It is supported thoroughly with scripture. It is not so complicated that the average reader of scripture cannot understand. I welcome any feedback in order that I might gain a clearer understanding of this issue.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S. Thank you to all who patiently listened to me as I presented this idea. Your input is seen above. Especial thanks to the one who provided the dynamic translations for II Corinthians 3:7, 11, 13 and Hebrews 8:13.

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7 Responses to God’s Progressive Covenant Plan with Israel

  1. Kathy says:

    That Haggai reference, seems to be more evidence that the NJ is on the earth during the millennium, in my opinion…

  2. Pingback: The future house of law | The Orange Mailman

  3. brianhydeB says:

    This is an incorrect analysis of the two covenants and reflects popular confusion of the distinction between not only the two covenants but law and grace.

    Moreover the entire Jewish economy came to an end at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Thats why Hebrews refers to the old as fading away. If something is fading it is becoming less and less. Isreal came to an end and when it did so did the OC.

    Today however any Israelite can receive salvation. True Israel today is a spiritual seed of Abraham not a nation after the flesh.

    • Well hello there. Would you care to interact with the scriptures that were provided in the post? Perhaps you have some other scriptures that you would like to cite to support your opinions.

      Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

      -The Orange Mailman

  4. brianhydeB says:

    Well, thank you very much, most kind! I thought you would blast the ground from under my feet. Yes, actually I have got a few scriptures in support. The issues of the two covenants are something I have been working on over the last week or so, trying to clarify the issues involved. As a former SDA I am loathe to go back to the spiritual prison they kept me in for 33 years. My view is that it is crucial to keep the two covenants distinct if we are not to end up falling from grace. But do not think that this is knee jerk reaction from legalism to antinomianism (did I spell that right?) to the opposite direction of license to sin. It is surely not. My here is my apologetic, for want of a better word.

    Is the Old Covenant still in force? Are Christians bound by its laws? What about the Ten Commandments?

    My understanding is that the Christian is no longer under the Old Covenant Law of works* but under the New Covenant of Grace.

    * That the Mosaic Law is defined by Paul as “a disciplinarian
    (paidagogos) until Christ came” (Gal. 3:22-23) proves that it must be a covenant of works.

    What is Old Covenant Law? It is a reference to the system that was the legal foundation of the Jewish theocracy. It consisted of a range of ceremonial, moral and civil codes instituted by God. It prefigured through its shadows the redemption of Christ. But what about the Ten Commandments? The spiritual intent of the Ten Commandments is overlapped by the Law of Christ thus the ten precepts, that formed primacy of place under the Mosaic Law, are now rendered obsolete. Scripture shows that the Old Covenant was epitomised and represented by the Ten Commandments; in fact, the Ten Commandments (Decalogue) was itself called the Covenant. Here are two such examples:

    Deuteronomy 4:13: “So He declared to you HIS COVENANT which He commanded you to perform, THAT IS, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.

    2 Chronicles 6:11: “And there I have set the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with the sons of Israel.”

    (See also Ex 34:27, 28 Heb 9: 1, 4.

    Under the New Covenant, all moral law given to man has been superseded and transcended by the higher standard of the ‘Law’ of Christ’ (Gal 6;2; 1 Cor 9:21). The Law of Christ is expressive of spiritual principles or virtues that naturally exist in the loving heart of God. These spiritual virtues are worked out in the Christian’s life (by God Himself) hence they are called the fruits of the Spirit (not fruits of man). They are expressions of love and love is bigger, wider, broader, deeper and richer than the law. Hence love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom 13:10) –indeed I submit, of all law. Examples of these virtues are scattered throughout the NT. In fact there are 180 instances of their occurrence. These graces more than meet the righteousness demanded by the Law and the Prophets that stand in silent witness (Rom. 3:21) for there is nothing more required.

    Romans 7:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

    Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, [so], that we should bear fruit to God.

    Clearly we must be led by the Spirit for the fruits to be manifest in us. Hence, the Christian is no longer under the ministry of law but under the ministry of the Spirit of Grace. Of course, some will still point us straight back to the Law as dictating our standard of duty. But, according to Paul, not only am I delivered from that law but I am dead to that law. Why, therefore, should I look to a law from which I am ‘delivered from’ or ‘dead to’? That law is now obsolete; I must look not to the Law but to Jesus (Heb 12:2) whose character is the perfect fulfilment of all law and who is the perfect expression of God’s righteous character. We do not now serve in the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the Spirit. We do not look to Him for justification over and over (which is impossible), but in order to follow Him and serve Him in the newness of the Spirit. This is the new life that is available to me every day,

    I believe in progressive revelation. God’s laws are not arbitrary statutes. God has purposed to reveal His character to man over time through the laws He has imposed, thus showing His expectation from those who pledge loyalty to Him. This revelation reached its fullest expression in the life of Christ and now, through the spiritual laws His Spirit, God ministers that life to man.

    I see the giving of the Ten Commandments as a phase in progressive revelation in this case through the medium of law. Historically, we see that the Law was added because of sin and served its function until Christ came (Gal. 3:22-23). It is commonly argued by adherents to the Decalogue that because God is changeless His law is changeless. But this is a false argument. First of all, God is God and He can do anything He chooses. Who are we mere creations of His posit otherwise. Whilst we know that God Himself does not change, His laws do (as is demonstrated in the economy of Israel). God’s law changes according to time, place and circumstances. God’s character does not change but His expectations of man do. What is apparent is that God has changed His laws and restructured them over time for man’s benefit, in direct relation to man’s capacity to understand, receive instruction in holy living and render corresponding obedience. I see the Ten Commandments as a good and holy law in the form it was given but it has served its purpose. It was not abolished per se but it was rendered “inoperative” (Eph 2:15) thus obsolete and has faded away (2 Cor 3:11). The entire Law of Moses, with its representative ten commandment law, was purposed to discipline (Gal. 3:22-23) to teach the spiritually immature ‘children’ of Israel how to live holy lives and to lead to Christ. They were restraints directed at outward behaviour; prohibitions against enacted offences—hence the list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. The principle was “Do this and live” or “disobey and die”. This is in contrast with the principle of salvation by faith apart from works.

    But while they promoted righteousness through outward obedience, the Ten Commandments could not provide the grace to carry out their imperatives. So, in that sense, they remained instructions only—mere letters on stone. They were laws that condemned sin and proscribed death for their transgression. By comparison, the law of Christ is a living law. It not merely instruction in righteousness but is the grace dynamic by which Christ’s righteousness is reproduced in the believer. It is a work of grace upon the heart. Hence, it is depicted as inscribed, not on stone, but on hearts of flesh (our hearts and minds). It brings life, not death. Thus, ‘the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ has set me free from the ‘law of sin and death’ (Rom 8:2).

    When the Bible says (somewhat controversially) that the Christian is not “under the law but under grace” (Rom 6:14), I take this to mean that he is no longer under the authority and mediation of the Law of Moses, either for righteousness or for condemnation.

    Galatians 3:24 “so the Law was put in charge to LEAD US to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are NO LONGER under the supervision of the law.” Romans 8:4 “and so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteousness requirements of the law might be fully met IN us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the SPIRIT”. Notice that Scripture says the righteousness REQUIREMENTS of the law IS “FULLY MET” “IN” us–NOT- “BY” us. Christ paid the penalty that the transgressing the law imposed and that law has no dominion over us. By paying the penalty for my sins—past, present and future—Christ has freed me from the law’s penalty. It can no longer condemn me. Christ took my condemnation and the law cannot condemn me again, ever! The ultimate penalty of the law was death. Christ died for me, so in Him I “died” to the law, meaning the law no longer has any power over me either in its authority or its sentence of death. It cannot condemn me and sentence me to death a second time. In Christ I have paid the penalty of sin which is death. Jesus death has given me freedom from the law of sin and death.

    Through Christ I have freedom. This freedom is what James is referring to when he talks of the ‘perfect law of liberty’ (James 1:28). If the Son of Man sets you free you are free indeed (Jn 8:36). Again, the Christian is not under the law but under grace (Rom 6:14). But we are not to use our liberty as a license for sin.

    “Obedience is not optional. Christians are obligated to walk in the Spirit. So deliverance from the Law is not the same thing as deliverance from the obligation to righteous living and obedience. The abolition of the Mosaic Law is not the same thing as the abolition of commandments, imperatives, or moral obligations.” Lee Irons “Not Under the Law but Under Grace”

    But then, I ask, if we are truly born again and led by the Spirit, will we desire to sin? Surely, not! The born again Christian cannot sin if he has Christ’s Spirit working in him AT ALL times. A regenerate Christian cannot sin (at least not as a pattern of life) because he lives for Christ. And that is why through the Law he died to the Law, so that he might live for Christ (Gal 2:19). There is no middle ground between obedience to law and living for Christ. Freedom from the Law is not freedom from its righteous requirements for it is through the sanctifying work of the Spirit that “the righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:4). I find that to be a compelling answer to the cry of “lawlessness” that nearly always comes as a result of proclaiming that we are not under law but under grace.

    The Mosaic Covenant of works has been superseded by a covenant of grace. Grace is a free gift of God, ministered by the Spirit of God. For salvation to be a free gift of grace then even our sanctification is by grace (through faith). It is grace all the way!

    “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law (hupo nomon)” (Gal 5:18).

    Notice the word “if”. There is a condition for being “not under the law” and that is: being “led by the Spirit”. It is through the sanctifying work of the Spirit that, “the righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:4).

    Let us not look back over our shoulder at the Old Covenant whose former glory has faded but ahead at the glory mediated by the New.

    “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” 2 Cor. 3:18 – ESV).

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope I wasn’t too verbose in my post so that my main points were lost. I agree that we are not under the old covenant. But the idea of the old covenant being obsolete is what is under dispute in my post. If you view the primary components of the new covenant, they are #1 – God’s laws written on the hearts of His people (not law abolished, but law established on our hearts), #2 – Forgiveness of sins for God’s people, and #3 – the nation of Israel continuing as a nation before God forever, see Jeremiah 31:31-36.

      The idea of the old covenant coming to an end is not what is taught in II Cor. 3 or in Hebrews. The language is such that the glory has not faded, but is presently fading. As long as the nation of Israel remain in unbelief, those are the terms that will be used to describe it. Once the nation of Israel turns to the LORD, then the old covenant will be faded. For now, Hebrews 8:13 states “what IS BECOMING obsolete and GROWING old is READY TO vanish away.

      Is the old covenant still in force? Of course not for new covenant believers as they are the ones who are causing the former glory to fade by means of the present glory that excels. When Israel turns to Messiah in repentance, the nation of Israel will have the law (old covenant) written on their hearts. You have some good things to write, and it may be an issue of two sides of the same coin. But take a minute and look at the way the verbs describe the fading, being brought to an end, becoming obsolete, and growing old of the old covenant. It’s an ongoing process throughout this present time as the Gentiles are destined to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy.

      Thanks again.

      Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

      -The Orange Mailman

      P.S. I appreciate your background coming out of SDA.

  5. Pingback: Jeremiah’s Covenant Revelation ~ Links | The Orange Mailman

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