I was thinking about how one might visualize “Biblical Covenantalism.” Traditional Dispensationalism has its seven dispensations; Progressive Dispensationalism its four. But BC does not regard dispensations as basic to the system. That is to say, dispensations do not structure BC. I have given my reasons for this before. If I were asked to put my finger on one problem with defining a system by dispensations it would be that they are descriptive, not prescriptive. Because they don’t prescribe anything, Dispensational-ism has few designs on being a complete Systematic Theology, and therefore, it cannot be developed into a Biblical Worldview. That, to me, when I realized it, was fatal.
My focus is upon the identifiable covenants which God made at different points (not necessarily dispensations) which set out His program for the history of His creation. Because they determine the future, and since they are hermeneutical fixed-points, the covenants are prescriptive. Also, there is no doubt that the divine oaths are about as solid a foundation one could base a theology on (what could possibly be more secure than an oath of God?). And what is a divine covenant if not God’s voice hooked up to a loud-speaker?
With all that said then, here are two ‘Pyramids’ of Biblical Covenantalism. Number 1 is the Main Outline of Biblical History. It includes only the major events; the ‘levels of ascent’ of God’s program if you will. Number 2 is my understanding of covenantal structure in Scripture. I hold that the covenants of God are the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Priestly, Davidic, and New covenants. The Land covenant of Deuteronomy 29-30 is a subset of the Abrahamic covenant, so I personally don’t include it. So there are six or seven Divine covenants depending on how you count them. The Mosaic covenant is unilateral and temporal. It is replaced by the New covenant. The Noahic covenant is taken up by the New covenant in its restorative promises. The Abrahamic, Priestly, and Davidic covenants are literally fulfilled through being combined with the New covenant, which provides them the redemptive qualifications to be realized. The New covenant is the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom everything in Creation finds its telos.
Both diagrams should be read from bottom to top!
1. Main Outline of Biblical History
New Heavens and New Earth
(God dwells on earth with His peoples: Israel, Church & Nations)
Second Coming of Christ/Millennial Reign & Defeat of Satan
(New Covenant fulfilled – Applied to Israel/Nations; Abrahamic, Priestly, Davidic Covs. fulfilled literally via the New Covenant)
First Coming of Christ: New Covenant made; Founding of the Church
(Applied in the Church; 3rd part of Abrahamic Cov. applied)
The Founding of Israel
(From which Christ comes and through which blessing comes to the world)
The Great Flood
(Setting the “Stage” of Covenantal History)
Creation and Fall: Teleology & Eschatology
(The Mechanism of the Creation Project)
2. The Covenantal Structure of the Bible
New Covenant (Jesus Christ)
[Jesus as the New Cov is the Means of realization through salvation and literal fulfillment of all the other covenants]
Priestly Covenant and Davidic Covenant
[Held within the Mosaic Covenant, but transcending it in the New Covenant]
[A temporary placeholder for Israel and some covenants]
[The root covenant for blessing to Israel, the Church, and the Nations realized through the New Covenant]
[The stage-setting covenant within which covenantal history is played-out]
Covenants as Amplifications of Plain Speech
God’s Thoughts > God’s Words > God’s Actions
(The basic hermeneutics of the Bible)
I hope these rather poor diagrams help readers better comprehend what Biblical Covenantalism is.