Christ at the Center (Pt.2b)
Series so far: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –
When one examines the Old Testament’s unilateral covenants a picture emerges which shows how each covenant: the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Priestly, and the Davidic, are bound together in their future fulfillment with the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. This feature of the covenants is plainly present in two important prophetic passages, Jeremiah 33 and Ezekiel 37.
Four covenants are either directly quoted or else clearly alluded to in Jeremiah 33:
14 `Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD,`that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: 15 `In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth [Isa. 11:1-10 - This is Christ at His second advent]. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ 17 “For thus says the LORD:`David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel [Clear reference to the Davidic covenant in 2 Sam. 7; Psa. 89:34-37]; 18 `nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.[Clear reference to the covenant with Phinehas in Num. 25:12-13. Cf. Psa. 106:30-31] ‘” 19 And the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, 20 “Thus says the LORD:`If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season [a reference to the Noahic covenant preamble in Gen. 8:21-22], 21 `then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. 22 `As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured [strong allusion to the Abrahamic covenant in Gen. 15], so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’” 23 Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, 24 “Have you not considered what these people have spoken, saying,`The two families which the LORD has chosen, He has also cast them off ‘? Thus they have despised My people, as if they should no more be a nation before them. 25 “Thus says the LORD:`If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth [probable reference to the creation ordinances, not covenant], 26 `then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [reference to the Abrahamic covenant]. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them.’”
Please notice carefully when and how these four covenants will be fulfilled: at the time when
“the Branch” (Christ) will “execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” (v.15). At that time, “Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’” (v.16). This salvation is issued through the New Covenant in Christ. If this is sound we have here evidence that four major biblical covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, and Priestly) will find their fulfillment by means of the New Covenant at the Second Advent.
I ask that my readers would postpone any thoughts about the New Covenant already having been made with the Church. I accept that that is so, and we shall look into it, yet these texts must be allowed to speak. And I believe the “problem” that arises can be adequately treated once the passages are pondered and their statements set out clearly. But let us show this phenomenon of major covenants being contingent on the New Covenant in another passage:
There are three covenants discernible in Ezekiel 37, as well as the New Covenant:
11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say,`Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12 “Therefore prophesy and say to them,`Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 “Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live [This is surely a reference to the New Covenant. Comp. Ezek. 36], and I will place you in your own land [Part of the Abrahamic covenant, sometimes called the "Land Covenant"]. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.’” 15 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,…21`Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 “and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them [Davidic covenant - there has never been a king in Israel (n.b. the recurring motif of "the mountains of Israel in Ezek. 34-39) since this prophecy] all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. 23 “They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them [New covenant]. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God [standard covenantal relationship promises appended to the biblical covenants]. 24 “David My servant shall be king over them [Davidic covenant - the details of how both Jesus and David can be king in Israel are not given, but such a thing was not uncommon in Bible history], and they shall all have one shepherd [cf. Ezek. 34:11-15, 23-24]; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them [New Covenant]. 25 “Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever [Abrahamic covenant]; and My servant David shall be their prince forever [Davidic covenant]. 26 “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. [a sanctuary (and tabernacle - next verse and chs. 40ff.) requires a priesthood. Ergo, the Priestly covenant] 27 “My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 28 “The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel [New covenant], when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”‘” – Ezek. 37:11-28.
Here, three covenants are connected with the cleansing brought about through the New Covenant. And you cannot have the New Covenant without the One who initiates it and mediates it. Therefore, Christ is essential to the realization of all these covenants.
The Covenant Maker is Himself the Covenant.
In the same way Jesus is both the propitiation and the propitiator. When one thinks about the work of propitiation this fact comes clearly to the surface. The NT view of propitiation is not the appeasement of a moody and contrary god, who has to be feted and won over to gain his blessing. It is the appeasement of the unchangeably holy and true God whose righteous justice must be satisfied by an appropriate Divine action. Sinners need propitiation because it turns away from them the righteous judgments of God. God’s wrath has to be propitiated (turned from off of those who deserve it) if sinners are to be saved. By becoming a man like us, Jesus’ death on the Cross as the One “who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), both propitiated God and made Him our propitiation (1 Jn. :2; 4:10). Jesus both made propitiation by His blood (Rom. 3:25), and He is our propitiation.
Along very similar lines, we think, He is both Mediator of the New covenant (Heb. 12:24 – something to which we must return), and, in fact, the covenant itself! Because the New Covenant is “in His blood,” and is bound, not just to Christ’s death but to Christ’s resurrection life (Lk. 22:28-30. Cf. Jn. 10:17-18), which is life in the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6), the covenant making cannot be separated from the covenant Maker. Jesus is the New Covenant. And there can only be one. All fulfillments of the other biblical covenants flow through Him. Nothing circumvents Him who made all things, upholds all things, redeems all things, and who will reign over all things. All things are, after all – His (Col. 1:16).
More on Christ as the New Covenant next time…