Christ at the Center (Pt.5c)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a, 5b

Let me start Part 5c by repeating my main thesis:

My main thesis is that Christ will perform all this restorative and promissory work by the New Covenant, which in Him (Isa. 49:8) provides the requisite cleansing unto righteousness that obligates God to fulfill His covenants.  This Christ-centered approach is what I call “Biblical Covenantalism.”

I have gotten as far as showing that there is a solid case, given the promises of God vouchsafed to the nation Israel (especially in the OT), and to the Church (exclusively in the NT), together with the separate “betrothals” of Israel to God the Father (e.g. Isa. 54:5), and the Church to the Lord Jesus (Eph. 5:31), to distinguish between them in the eschaton.  I see no reason to paper over these distinctions for the sake of some forced union.  The passages I have called attention to are as authoritative as anything else in the Word of God and must not be ignored simply because they make people uncomfortable.  Attempting to force together biblical texts which point to a plurality of redeemed people-groups and make them refer to one group for the sake of perceived theological tidiness always results in the debasement of “uncooperative” texts.  Either this or else a plain avoidance of them.  As David Allen wrote recently, “There is a difference between union and unity. Two cats with their tails tied together have union. They sure don’t have unity!”  I believe Christ brings covenantal unity but in plurality.

If the Bible, which is one Book, declares that God will save and restore Israel nationally (and it certainly does), after which time Israel will act as a magnet attracting the nations (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; Ezek. 37:20-28; Zech. 8:22-23; 14:16-19), and this turn of events is yet to occur, then that teaching must find a place within a person’s theology.  A man who will not make peace with the passages we have adduced, but who instead enters into a kind of skirmish with them, is not placing himself under their authority.  I am not saying counter-arguments cannot be brought forward.  If they can be then they should.  But when clear declarations of Scripture are passed over because they do not square with a certain theological preference, we cannot say that there is a true commitment to the whole counsel of God.

a. Before Israel

There was a lot of time which passed and a multitude of people who were saved before the call of Abraham.  Prior to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the twelve tribes there was no “chosen people” whom God singled out for His own (Psa. 114:7; 1 Ki. 8:48, 53; Isa. 2:3; 43:1, 21).  Sinners were saved but they were not within Israel.  This hardly requires any proof.  Since these saints were not part of Israel (which was not yet in existence), which people-group will they be in at the close of history?

Job was probably contemporary with Isaac and Jacob, and he certainly entertained hope of a resurrected life (Job 19:25-27).  Was he an Israelite without knowing it?  Is it not more likely that he joins those like Noah and Melchizedek within another set of saved humanity?

b. Before the Church

We have shown that the Church was not in existence until after the Resurrection of Jesus (e.g. Eph. 1:20-22; 4:7-12).   We cannot therefore avail ourselves of the rather too convenient remedy of placing the saints of all ages into the Body of Christ.  This answer can have absolutely no warrant unless someone can demonstrate how this can be (see the last post).  Nobody yet has; although many unsatisfactory arguments have been used to try to accomplish it.  If the Church is not in the Old Testament and there are people outside of Israel who were saved (before or during the era of the Abrahamic and the Mosaic Covenant), they can neither be in Israel or in the Church.

c. After the Church

We realize that there is no salvation outside the Body of Christ (Eph. 2:20-22), but we must also realize that the Body of Christ hasn’t always been here.  nor will it be here after it has been removed once “the fulness of the Gentiles has come in.”  In fact, Paul’s argument in Romans 11:11-30 is of great importance here.  I reproduce it with some notations:

I say then, they did not stumble [cf. Rom. 9:32-33] so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles [the world is “the Gentiles”, who we have said are the main peoples to comprise the Church], how much more will their fulfillment be! [there is to be a future “fulfillment” for Israel]13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. [Paul is aware that only some Israelites will be saved now] 15 For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? [Though Israel has been “rejected” they will be “accepted,” which fits Hosea 2] 16 And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. [this begins the Olive Tree metaphor, which is so often misunderstood] 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, [since Israel are the branches broken off, the “root” cannot BE Israel] 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. [whatever the root is, it is firstly Israel’s root] 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches [Israel], neither will He spare you. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.[which may perhaps allude to the future apostasy in 2 Thess. 2:3?] 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. [how can Israel be grafted into Israel?] 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree,[probably the world system] and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? [the question to be answered, then, is, “what is the olive tree?”] 25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel [the natural branches] until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; [Israel must wait for this “until,” which awaits the “fulness of the Gentiles”] 26 and thus all Israel [the nation, see 11:1-3] will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, [Jerusalem; more precisely, the city of David – 1 Kings 8:1] He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” [again showing the nation is in view] 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” [this is the New Covenant since that is the covenant which takes away sins] 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. [When God gifts a people and makes covenant promises He will ensure the gifts get to those to whom they were given, and the covenants will be fulfilled in precisely the way He made them.  IT IS THESE COVENANT PROMISES WHICH ARE THE OLIVE TREE – Rom. 9:4-5; 11:26-27].

Israel will receive its covenanted gifts through first receiving salvation via the New Covenant (11:26-27).  The Church will receive those covenant blessings meant for it (Gal. 3), again through the New Covenant.  But is there a third people group?

Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.5c)”

Christ at the Center (Pt.5b)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God: Part 5a

Due to Christ’s central role as the Redeemer, and owing to the fact that His redeeming blood is wholly  “the blood of the New Covenant” (Heb. 12:24), all who will ever be redeemed – whether they live before or after the Cross – will be redeemed under the terms of the New Covenant.  As I have been at pains to emphasize, Christ is Himself the New Covenant!

Saying that He is the New Covenant does not mean that it is all Christ is.  He is far more than that.  But as pertains to the salvation of sinners, I have stressed Jesus’ unavoidable role.  And unless someone can show that Christ’s blood is only partly the blood of the New Covenant (with part left over to apply elsewhere?), we must conclude that all redemption is, in the end, New Covenant redemption.

This does not mean that all the redeemed are incorporated within the Christian Church however (nor indeed within Israel).  Such a teaching is alien to Scripture and is sustained only by inferring doctrine in spite of Scripture.

In the previous article in this series I said that in the end, at the consummation of history, there will be one humanity reflected in three differentiated peoples of God: Israel, the Church, and the Nations.  We are now ready to look at the second of these groups – the Church.

The Church is a New Testament Institution

First of all we must dismiss this view, held by many pious men throughout history, that the Church is in the OT.  No New Covenant was made in the OT.  The NT records the making of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood (Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).  This is why Jesus spoke of the Church as future in Matt. 16:18 (Jn.7:39).  The Christian Church is the Body of Christ and is inescapably joined to the resurrection of Christ (Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 2:12; cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 14:9).  Thus, it was quite literally impossible for the Church to exist prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul writes,

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. – Rom. 7:4

The Great Commission could not be given until “all power” was given to the Risen Christ (Matt. 28:18f.).  The preaching in the Book of Acts relies on the resurrection (Acts 2:14, 24; 4:2; 10:40; 13:22-23; 15:6-11; 17:18, etc.).  Paul’s admonitions to holiness in Romans 6 are predicated on our vital connection to the resurrection.  Moreover, the Church is built upon Christ (1 Cor. 3:11. Cf. Rom. 10:9), and “the apostles and [NT] prophets” (Eph. 2:20).  If the Church is a New Covenant community (as it is in 2 Cor. 3), it stands to reason that it could not be in existence before the New Covenant was made.

All this means that those saved before the inauguration of the Church, both among the Nations and in ancient Israel, are separate from the Church.  Israel was (cf. Hos. 2:2; Jer. 3:8) and shall be (Hos. 2:19) married to Yahweh – whom we equate in most instances with God the Father.  The Church shall be married to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25, 32; Rev. 19:6-9).  We cannot entertain a theology which has these OT saints in some suspended animation until Jesus has died and risen, and then joined to the NT Body of Christ.  Though we insist that their salvation was firmly grounded in the foreseen merits of the Cross, that is not the same thing as declaring them all within the sphere of the Church.  There is no necessity forced upon us by Scripture to include the saints of all the ages within the Church.

The Church is Intentionally Gentile

Another thing which is often overlooked but which ought to be thought about, is the frank truth that the Church, although it has its seeds in Jewish soil (Acts 1-7), is intentionally predominantly Gentile in constitution.  The Apostolic teaching is that the Church’s design is to bring the Gentiles into relationship with God.  This can be viewed along at least two related lines:

  • The Jews rejected Christ and are judicially blinded to this very day (Rom. 11:8-10, 25, 28).
  • We are awaiting “the fulness of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25).  Once this period has concluded God will once again turn to Israel – the natural branches (one of the worst exegetical foul-ups is to equate the Olive Tree with its branches!).

Although any Jew who today repents and receives Jesus as Savior is incorporated into the Church (Eph. 2:12-16), Paul teaches that God will yet deal again with the nation of Israel, “the natural branches.”

What is the Church?

It is, at its core, a called together population of redeemed peoples, Jew and Gentile, but mostly Gentile, permanently indwelt by the Spirit, and betrothed to the Risen Christ.  Because this conception is unknown within the pages of the Old Testament, the Church as “the Body of Christ” is called “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.” (Col 1:26).  It is not, contrary to some, that the concept of the Church was known by OT saints but not realized until the New Testament era.  That blatantly contradicts Paul’s statement in Colossians 1.  Rather, the idea of the Church was  “hidden in God” (Eph. 3:9); it was a secret (musterion) that no one but God knew about until God disclosed it.

Everyone understands that the OT is filled with promises of salvation for the Gentile nations.  It is the presence of these promises which smooth out the transition between the Testaments and explain the “lack of surprise” at the church’s existence in the Apostolic writings.  But this turning to the Gentiles because of the neglect of Messiah by Israel is no more foreseeable from an OT perspective than a huge time gap between the first and second advents was foreseeable. Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.5b)”

Christ at the Center (Pt.5a)

SERIES: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c

Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b,

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c,4d

Christ and the Triadic People of God

As the One by whom and for whom everything was created, and who holds it all together for Himself, Jesus’ place in the middle of the Biblical Worldview should be obvious.  As well, He is the Word – the organizing and rational principle in the world – a personal principle (rationality is a product of personality).  So Christ is the “Hermeneutic” to God’s world.  He is the right way of seeing the world, or, I might say that He is the high mountain from which God’s creatures correctly see and understand their lives (Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, but his vantage point was off.  Satan didn’t see the world through Christ’s eyes).

But Jesus is “the Word made flesh” (Jn. 1:14), and so unites the immaterial and material realms together in Himself.  That is what His work is!

God made this world with humans in mind.  He will restore it with us in mind.  But the restoration will be gradual.  First He must die and be raised in glory (Lk. 24:26), having instituted the New Covenant in His blood and made it with the Church (1 Cor. 11:23-26).  At His second advent He will make it with the nation of Israel (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-28), and then with the Nations.  Through the New Covenant, which is inseparable from the Person and Work of Jesus Himself, the covenant promises of God will finally find their literal fulfillment.  In this Jesus draws the two Testaments together.

I shall say more about this further on.  But this brings us to the hope promised to “the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32).  I want to show how Christ’s role in history necessitates His interaction with humanity, though distinctly organized into three distinct people groups in the consummation.  Thus, one humanity will be represented by three humanities – a triadic three-in-one that reflects the Creator eternally.

I shall explore this relationship one by one beginning with Israel.

Jesus and Israel

God’s promises to the people of Israel – the literal descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are about as strong and clear and unequivocal as anything that God has spoken to non-Israelites in the Church.  I have documented this elsewhere (e.g. here).  But I may say in brief that God’s covenant with the Patriarchs was confirmed and re-affirmed by covenant oaths by which God bound His Name to their eventual fulfillment (e.g. Ezek. 36:22-24; Dan. 9:18-19).  These covenant promises to Israel, in which the land is so conspicuous (Gen. 15; Psa. 105:6-11), cannot undergo transformation or eventuate in unexpected and equivocal fulfillment without God impugning His own character.  God does not use false balances.  He will not require others to stick to “the words of the covenant” (Jer. 34:18), while exempting Himself from the same obligation.  That is why Israel has hope.  That is also why we have hope (1 Thess. 5:24).

The promise God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendents contained temporal conditions in regard to occupation of the land and eschatological blessing (e.g. Lev. 26), but the core ingredients of the promises were unilateral and binding upon God alone.  This is why I have made so much of Jeremiah 33:14-26 in my writing.  The Royal grant to Israel was never a grant to a shadow of the Church but to a separate called out entity, and God through Messiah must fulfill it.  As one non-evangelical scholar has put it,

Then covenant is initiated by the suzerain who is obligated, not the vassal. The covenant is initiated by the suzerain, and is unconditional in the sense that no demands are imposed upon Abraham.”- David Noel Freedman, Divine Commitment and Human Obligation, Vol. 1: Ancient Israelite History and Religion, 173.

Therein lies another important teaching of Jesus in Mathew 22:32:

But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

The Patriarchs today are living witnesses to God’s covenant promises to them now and in the future.  In his day Abraham saw Christ’s day and rejoiced (Jn. 8:56).  He knew the Redeemer would come, and He knew that that would someday mean full covenant blessing through Him.  That blessing happens when “Shiloh” comes and claims the king’s scepter (Gen. 49:10. cf. Num. 24:17; Psa. 2:6-10; Zech. 6:12-13; 8:3; 14:9).  The Apostle places this occurrence at the second coming of Christ when He makes the New Covenant with the Remnant of Israel (Rom. 11:25-27 – Paul cites two Isaianic New Covenant passages).  Thus, the redemption of all peoples has been achieved at Calvary.  This is in all cases a New Covenant redemption or it is not a redemption at all.  The application of the merits of Christ’s sacrifice to the nation of Israel is a second coming event, occurring after the “days of vengeance” of Isa. 61:2b,  at which time the outstanding covenant promises of peace, safety, prosperity and land inheritance will come to fruition, which is why so many times in the OT Israel’s salvation is seen in terms of ethnic and geographical/agricultural blessing as well as spiritual salvation (e.g. Deut. 4:29-31; 30:5-6; Isa. 11:1-10; Hos. 2:16-20). Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.5a)”

Christ at the Center (Pt.4d)

Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b, The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c

The Hermeneutics of Jesus (Part Two)

The Lord Jesus constantly assumed His hearers could grasp His meaning and, where necessary, do it (e.g. Lk. 9:44; 10:26-28; 11:28; 18:17).  John ends his Gospel with a grand hermeneutical lesson which usually has remained unheeded:

Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”

The lesson is simple: Jesus means what He says!

d. Jesus’ Kingdom Teachings

Anyone writing about Jesus’ interpretation of Scripture has to mention the subject of the kingdom.  The kingdom was important to Him:

Before the Cross: From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10)

Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mk. 14:25)

“So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. (Lk. 21:31)

After the Cross: to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

The question before us is how Jesus Himself interpreted the subject of the kingdom.  I have already shown in the foregoing installment, that the prospect of the kingdom in the first years of Jesus’ life and ministry did not deviate from OT expectation.  I want to show how this expectation is only intensified as Jesus ministry continued.

First. in Luke 19:12-27 Jesus tells a parable about a nobleman who goes into a far country “to receive a kingdom.” (19:12. cf. Dan. 7:13-14).  While he is away, some of the people say they will not have him to reign over them (19:14).  Eventually the nobleman returns – though now as a king (19:15), and judges his people, including meting out recompense on those who had refused to acknowledge his rule (19:27).  The parable was told shortly before Christ was crucified.  The interesting thing about this parable is the reason it was given:

Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. (Lk. 19:11. cf. 21:9).

Clearly, the kingdom would not appear immediately, but awaits the return of the nobleman!  Therefore, anyone who teaches that this kingdom came after the Cross is gravely mistaken.

“The Days of Vengeance”: Concentrating again mostly on Luke’s account we come to Jesus’ clipped quotation from Isa. 61:1-2a in Lk. 4.  In verse 21 the Lord announces, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  If He had continued with the quote past the point where He left off He would not have been able to say that. The reason being, the details contained in the scroll reading truly were fulfilled by Him at His first coming.  But the reference to the “days of vengeance” which directly follows in the Isaiah passage bore no resemblance to anything in the Lord’s earthly ministry.  They refer, as anyone can see, to the second coming.  But Jesus uses this phrase, “the days of vengeance,” again in Lk. 21:22, and there He refers to phenomena strongly reminiscent of OT prophetic passages speaking of His second advent.  The passage reads (I have supplied some cross references):

19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives. 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. [see Zech. 14:1-4] “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 “Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people, [Israel] 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot [Zech. 12:18-20] by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. [Isa. 63:1-3; Rev. 19:11f.] 27 “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory [Dan. 7:13-14, cf. 7:24-27]. 28 “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption [Isa. 61:2b-3; 62:11-12; Jer. 31:31-36; 33:14-16] is drawing near. – Luke 21:19-28. 

No Jewish hearer of Christ would have had any trouble at all in understanding precisely what He was referring to – and it wouldn’t be the idea of the church!

Some Old Testament Background: The “day” or “days of vengeance” is a phrase found in several crucial eschatological contexts.  Isaiah 34:8 speaks of “the day of the LORD’s vengeance,” linking it to “the year of recompense for the cause of Zion.”  The same chapter mentions heavenly disturbances and phenomena reminiscent of second coming passages (see 34:4, after a great battle in v.3).  The reference to “Edom” and “Bozrah” in vv.5 and 6, together with the bloody sword (v.6) connect it to the second coming passage in Isa. 63:1-4; a passage that once more speaks of “the day of vengeance…in my heart.” (Isa. 63:4).  Then one finds a referral to “the book of the LORD,” which can be checked to ascertain whether God’s Word has come to pass (34:16).  Then there is the partitioning of the land to those who “shall possess it forever” (34:17), reminding one of Ezekiel 48, after the battle of Ezek. 38-39.

Returning to the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4, we witness Jesus reading from Isa. 61:1-2a and claiming literal fulfillment in his ministry.  Are we to believe He cut off mid-sentence because “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2b) would not be fulfilled literally?  Notice again that after the pouring out of vengeance comes comfort and consolation “for all who mourn in Zion” (61:3).  This is the kingdom which follows the day of God’s vengeance: the second coming of Christ.  It ought to be unnecessary to prove that Isa. 63:1-6 refers to the second coming (cf. Rev. 14:14-20; 19:11-16), but some people will never be persuaded.  

Jesus Corroborates OT Expectations: What does Jesus say about the phrase we are studying?  I have already shown that in Lk. 21:19-28 He puts the fulfillment of “the days of vengeance” at the time of His second advent.  This corresponds with His interpretation of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares:

 Then He left the multitudes, and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He answered and said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 “Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matt. 13:36-43.

The parable comes to a crescendo with eschatological judgment in verses 40-42 and blessing upon the righteous in the kingdom in verse 43.  It is worthy of note that these predictions of vengeance are often accompanied by overtures of peace and salvation for God’s people.  This pattern of judgment and blessing can also be seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 as well as Revelation 19:11-20:6. Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.4d)”

Christ at the Center (Pt.4c)

Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b, The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b

The Hermeneutics of Jesus (Part One)

We have seen that everything in the biblical outlook is centered on Jesus Christ.  Naturally, I’m not the only one who says such a thing, but virtually all non-dispensationalists fix on the first coming of Christ as the time of fulfillment of OT covenant promises, whereas I believe this to be a significant interpretative error which leads to them drawing unwarranted hermeneutical conclusions.  It is about time we examined the words of Christ in relation to how He expected those to whom He was speaking to interpret what He said to them, and what had been written in the only Bible they had: the Old Testament.  Any hermeneutical connections they would make would be confined to that revelation, not any NT revelation to come.  I shall start with what the angels said about Him:

a. The Birth Narratives

In the Lukan account we read the about angel announcing to Zacharias, a priest, that a son would be born to him who would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (Lk. 1:16).  He would go forth “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (1:17 – He would state emphatically that he was not Elijah in Jn. 1:21).  This, of course, was John the Baptist.

Six months later the angel Gabriel is sent to the house of Joseph, who is said to be “of the house of David” (and addressed as such in Matt. 1:20), to speak to Mary.  The angel’s message had as its main theme the birth of One who would sit upon the throne of David (1:32) over “the house of Jacob” in a kingdom that would have no end (1:33).  In Mary’s ‘Magnificat,’ with its echoes of Hannah’s praise-hymn, she mentions Israel (1:54) and “our [Israel’s] fathers,” and alludes to the Abrahamic covenant (1:55).  A few verses later it is Zacharias’s  turn to prophesy.  In the ‘Benedictus’ he mentions Israel who are “[God’s] people” (1:68) who are to be redeemed through One born to “the house of David” (1:69).  To a Jewish priest, just as to a Jewish maiden, this reference would be construed as a reference to the Davidic covenant.  But there is a pairing of the Davidic promise with the promise of redemption not found in the terms of that covenant.  This pairing is found in Jer. 31:31f. in reference to the New covenant!  Zacharias also speaks of the Abrahamic covenant (1:72 – at the apex of a chiasm), and the long hoped-for time of peace and safety so often run across in the Prophets.

In the next chapter it is important that Jesus is born at Bethlehem (2:3-7. cf. Mic. 5:2).  Then the angels announce His birth to shepherds nearby and speak of a hope for “all people” (2:10).  When the child is presented at the temple we run into Simeon, who has been waiting “for the Consolation of Israel” (2:25).  Simeon’s words gather up the joint hopes of the nations (2:31) and the nation of Israel (2:32), but he is careful to distinguish the two.

Please note that what had been promised by God happened exactly as was predicted.  The promises had a literal interpretation in line with the wording of the OT covenant expectations.  Thus, the “problem” of interpreting the OT in any other way than what it says is not restricted to the OT!

b. Jesus and Satan

Remaining with Luke, we see Jesus’ temptation by Satan in 4:1-13.  The first temptation Luke records is repelled by the statement that God’s Word is at least as important to life as bread (4:4).  The third temptation (in Luke’s order) involves the misapplication of Psa. 91:11-12 and Jesus’ reply that Satan’s interpretation is false because it flatly contradicts a plain command not to tempt God (4:9-11).  We don’t read of Satan trying to convince Christ of multiple interpretations or anything of the sort.  He knew better.

But it is the second temptation in Luke 4 which is crucial from a hermeneutical standpoint.  Satan shows Christ “all the [physical] kingdoms of the world” (4:5), and then says,

all this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. (4:6).

The Devil then requires worship in exchange for these earthly kingdoms.

Now the question must be asked, “what sort of temptation was this to Jesus?”  It is useless to answer that Satan was lying, because that would be known to the Lord and there would have been no temptation at all.  So what, we repeat, was the power within the temptation?

The only sensible answer to this question is that Satan did indeed have the authority to hand over the earth to Jesus (notice that the Lord doesn’t question or dismiss the Tempter’s assertion), and that Jesus could have had a literal throne on this earth if He had wanted it there and then.  But this brings up another question.  If Jesus plan for this earth did not include Him reigning over it (as amillennialists have argued), then why was He tempted?

Any response which implies that He was tempted to do something He had no mind to do seems ridiculous.  Why would Christ be tempted to do something He didn’t want to do?  He didn’t have a sin nature remember!  Therefore, we maintain that the strength of this particular temptation, and Jesus’ response to it (in 2:12 – which shows, I think, that He was tempted), present proof that it is indeed within His plan to reign over this earth one day; and this is in-line with Lk. 1:32-33 and OT expectations in Mic. 5:2; Isa. 11:1-10; Jer. 33:15f., Zech. 14:9 etc.
Additionally, these texts are covenantally linked texts.  Thus, we are once more dealing with a covenant-regulated hermeneutics which will not budge and cannot be warped by typological subterfuges. Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.4c)”

Christ at the Center (Pt.4b)

Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b, The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a

Christ and Interpretation

As the Word issued by God in the act of creation Christ turned thought into deed and brought about, through the Spirit, the physical universe in which we dwell.  This physicality is sustained by the same Word (Heb. 1:2-3), and He indeed is now an ineradicable part of it due to His Incarnation.  This is not to say that Christ is restricted to the material realm.  It is only to state the truth that He will always be a part of that realm.  Thus, the material realm is invaluable to Him.

In this created theater our histories take place.  They take place in the ineluctable presence of language; the language God spoke to Adam in the beginning; the language God thundered from the Mount; the language Jesus preached to the multitudes; the language we are to use to speak back to Him.  And, we must say that whether we are God’s children or the devil’s brood, we do use this language to speak to God; even if it is used indirectly.  And this is the first way in which Christ is the Savior of language: for He speaks the right interpretations of our existence to us in the midst of our baseless alternative explanations of ourselves.

Viewed in such a light Christ provides the hermeneutic of life.  The term “hermeneutics” is essentially used to describe the interpretation of texts.  However, in today’s intellectual climate, the word also describes the study of the preunderstandings of both the writer and the reader.  The entire repertoire which a person brings to the text becomes a context.  Texts are then expressions of these contexts in one way or another, and as such the category of “hermeneutic” has becomes a philosophical category taking up into itself a broad range of worldview concerns.  Even those concerned with deconstructing the text do so unavoidably from their own worldview.  So David Bentley Hart correctly observes that in Postmodernity in all its forms,

Critique is never merely doubt, but always a vantage (and advantage); it is always already principled, already dependent upon firm metaphysical assumptions, already a transcendental surveillance that has determined in advance the limits of every story’s credibility. – David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, 7.

When this is seen, the criticisms of privileged groups by postmodernists, some of which have certainly added to our self-understanding, can and should themselves be held up as power-perspectives bidding for control of the conversation.

The Bible is a text and is (or is supposed to be) the Christian’s vantage point.  Integral to this vantage point is the Person of Jesus Christ, the Logos of God, who is both a character appearing here and there in more or less conspicuous form, throughout the pages of the Bible, and is also its Author.  This revealed Christ is, as we have presented Him, the Maker, Owner, Upholder, Redeemer, Judge, and future King over creation.  Now we want to add this role of Interpreter to His curriculum vitae.  Cornelius Van Til reminds us that,

Every fact and every law in the created universe is brought into existence by God’s creation.  Every fact and every law in the created universe continues to exist by virtue of the providence of God.  Every fact and every law in the created universe accomplishes what it does accomplish by virtue of the plan or purpose of God.  God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, through his Son Jesus Christ. – Cornelius Van Til, Christian-Theistic Evidences, 51.

So Christ’s Person and His roles within the created order situate Him in the center of conversation – or they should!  This is because He gives man the interpretive key to his existence.  God’s voice to humanity and God’s appearance as one of humanity ought to be seen as a communication of the intensity of Divine love, and as indicators of God’s gracious intentions for creation.  Christ is the Savior of interpretation conceived of as worldview.  The Incarnate Word fixes the Biblical Worldview in place, not as dumb and accidental as in the preaching of modern science, but as intentionally communicative between the Creator and the creature.  Christ restores the right spectacles to our eyes.  He is the true way of seeing.

Next installment

Christ at the Center (Pt.4a)

Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b

The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance

As I see it, the identification of Jesus Christ with the New Covenant which actualizes the other eternal covenants, not only secures the promissory stipulations within those covenants, it ensures the vertical personal relationships that have already been established under the covenants.

I want to make sure that we have established a very strong connection in our minds between the Bible, the world, and the personal Savior who is our Lord.  Just as the Bible is His, this world is His and we are His; and all these things exist, in the first place, for Him.  He is the judge of all of His creation and He shall rule over all of the creation.  This world is of Him, for Him, by Him, to Him.  If we’re going to have a scriptural doctrine of the Creation it will bear some correlation to Jesus Christ.  I don’t say we must “find Him in it,” only that we must relate it to Him.

The same applies then to the doctrine of the Revelation of God.  Here the danger of abstraction becomes a very real one.  The teaching about the Bible has got to be in accord with the worldview which springs from the Bible.  And, as we hope we have begun to make clear, a world and life view that is a truly biblical one will have to be centered in the Person of Christ.

Christ as the Logos

Even a superficial reading of John’s opening verses sets before the reader the absoluteness of his Logos (Greek for word, speech, narrative, account, but as a concept not just a label).  The Greeks knew the world had a structure, and they located it in their logos.  The Hebrews knew the heavens were made by “the word of God” (Psa. 33:6).   John knew the Master he followed for a few short years was this “Word,” was this Logos.  Vos writes,

By universal consent the furnishing of life and light to the world belongs to the very essence of the Logos task. – Geerhardus Vos, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 63

The Word/Logos concept there is not being used as a way of speaking about impersonal order in the universe.  John wishes to put Christ in the right light so that the momentous story he will tell can be better appreciated.

A. The Divine Logos is part of the Godhead:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  – John 1:1-2.

B. As a member of the Triune Godhead He is the Instrument or the Agent of creation and providence:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. – John 1:3.

C. Since all things were made by Him it is scarcely surprising that John tells us that the Logos is the light and life of men:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. – John 1:4.

He reveals God, not by simply pointing to general revelation alone, or even to the Law and the Prophets through whom God spoke, but supremely by means of His own incarnation:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. – John 1:14-18

Furthermore it is by the Logos, Jesus of Nazareth, that salvation is offered to sinners and hope shines brightly on our horizon. There can be little doubt that what John is doing at the beginning of his Gospel is putting forth a Christian worldview which finds its core in Christ.  As David MacLeod expresses it,

Today…a wide variety of worldviews exist, and John’s prologue is an antidote to all of them. The Gospel of John presents a true understanding of who Jesus is, so that readers may have the proper framework with which to interpret life and reality – that they may know God and walk in the light of His truth. – David J. MacLeod, “The Eternality and Deity of the Word: John 1:1-2,” – Bibliotheca Sacra, 160 (Jan-March), 2003

As the Word made flesh Jesus Christ. the Logos of God can be seen as the Great Explanation or Answer to man’s questions about his world, his place in the world, and to his destiny.

The flip side of this truth is that without Christ the world is a hollow which can be filled with values to suit; all of them entirely inconsequential in the great scheme of things.

Or as Carl Henry put it,

In a day when modern wisdom considers the cosmos devoid of teleology and derives man from purposeless nature, the reality of the self-revealed Logos towers anew as the only intelligible ground and sustaining source of meaning, value and purpose. – Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, 3.171

This is the importance of seeing that the revelation of God is the answer to man’s big questions: Who am I? What am I here for? What is the meaning of this life? What is the connection between me and the world around me? Where am I going? Where did I come from? What is wrong with the world?  What is wrong with me? Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.4a)”

Christ at the Center (Pt.3b)

Series so far: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a

Although it is not within the design of the present series to demonstrate it, the incarnation of the Christ, the Son of God, is a watershed event eagerly anticipated in the Old Testament.  What has begun to be shown is that Christ’s relationship to the New Covenant is, for all intents and purposes, one of identity (Isa. 42:6; 49:8).  This identity ensures that the terms of the covenant-making God will all be satisfied, clearing the way for the eventual fulfillment of the other everlasting covenants.

Several pertinent matters remain to be addressed, but I’m going to rest content for a while in the knowledge that the prominence of the Messianic idea in the Old Testament has been the subject of numerous fine studies (like those of Walter Kaiser and Alec Motyer, though many studies abandon grammatico-historical interpretation to “find” Christ in unlikely places).

Added to this, in the last article I commented on Meredith Kline’s teaching that the pre-incarnate Son was within the Glory-cloud at the creation and was the archetype for the image which Adam and Eve received from God.  Though somewhat speculative, there is enough textual and theological traction in the idea to warrant serious reflection.

But whatever we make of Kline’s proposal, the central thought of the Old Testament Messianic idea is what we might call a compulsory incarnation.  For without God becoming a man, man cannot become man – for he cannot become what he was created to be.  Both man and the environment God made for him must be renewed.  Here is Job:

And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; 27 Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another…  (Job 19:25-27)

The Redeemer of man will stand on this earth (whether this is interpreted as Job’s grave or the earth in general does not impact us either way).  Job is sure that his Vindicator will be seen by him at a future day.  Is it too much to assume then that the Redeemer who will become flesh and dwell among us (Jn. 1:14), will assure that this event in Job’s life will occur at the second advent (cf. Acts 1:11)?  It didn’t happen at the first.

Incarnation and Resurrection

The incarnated Christ is resurrected.  This ties Him forever to the physical realm, in prospect of a paradisaical material reality, yet in this creation before its destruction and replacement by the New.  Therefore the physical is guaranteed.  It is to be taken up in the eternal, because Jesus Christ is Himself physical.  Indeed, this is a critical component of Christ’s teaching.  Observe the contrast between the present age and the age to come in our Lord’s answer to the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection:

And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Lk. 20:34-36)

The passage speaks about those who in the resurrection will not marry, but our concern is just with the clear contrast between the two ages: in “that age”; the age of resurrection, the “sons of the resurrection” have eternal life as regenerated soul is joined to regenerated body (there is no incongruity between this passage and belief in a Mediatorial Millennial Kingdom before the New Creation). Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.3b)”

Christ at the Center (Pt.3a)

Series so far: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Parts 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c

The Covenant God Incarnate

We have seen that Jesus Christ is both the Instrument of Divine Creation (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16a), the Owner (Jn. 1:10; Col. 1:16b), Upholder (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3),  and Savior (Jn. 1:29; Matt. 19:28a) of that Creation.  We shall also see that Christ will rule over that which is His (e.g. Zech. 14:9; Matt. 19:28b; Rev. 19:11f.), before Himself presenting it back to His Father (1 Cor. 15:24).

Our main thesis is that Christ will perform all this restorative and promissory work by the New Covenant, which in Him (Isa. 49:8) provides the requisite cleansing unto righteousness that obligates God to fulfill His covenants.  This Christ-centered approach is what I call “Biblical Covenantalism.”

But before we go further we must stop to consider the marvel of the Incarnation of the Son of God.  This is because His mediatorship is tied unavoidably to His becoming flesh (cf. Jn. 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16 MT).

Not too many people are familiar with Anselm’s work Cur Deus Homo?  In that book the great theologian asked about the meaning of Christ’s incarnation.  In II.6 of that work he writes about the necessity of the incarnation to bring about a true atonement (although he was the author of the Commercial Theory, which I do not subscribe to):

while no one save God can make it and no one save man ought to make it, it is necessary for a God-Man to make it.

What Anselm gives is the basic reason why Jesus had to be born and die: why He had to become physical.  True enough, this basic reason for the incarnation is a crucial aspect of the Gospel.  That understood, there are still some rudimentary truths about this doctrine which can be easily passed over.  God became physical in the special sense that Christ, the second Person, assumed a body – “a body you have prepared for me” (Heb. 10:5).

God became a man.  He became the second Adam.

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.  (1 Cor. 15:21-22)

He is related to the physical realm, then, by virtue of His relationship to our first parent.  Adam was given dominion over everything God created on this earth.  He was to subordinate it to His loving care in concert with the appreciative gaze of God.  The earth was to be the focal point of praise to the Creator, and man “in Adam” was to be the Voice of earthly worship.  But Adam fell and death ensued for all those “in Adam.”

This catastrophic fall of the first man, and the resultant curse upon the physical earth, did not catch God out.  Jesus is “the Lamb slain since before the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 13:8).  His “Book of Life” was written before the creative work began.  Thus, the Second Person knew He would become the “Second Man” (1 Cor. 15:45, 47) before Time began.

The Second Man as “Archetype” of the First Man: A  Fascinating Speculation

(Because this does contain speculative theology some readers may choose not to read on). 😉

However, Meredith Kline teaches the fascinating idea that the Spirit that hovered or brooded over the pre-creation was the enthroned Son, who just as he proceeded from the Spirit in his Incarnation, in a sense proceeded from the Spirit in creation, and that is why he is present as the Word in John 1:1-3.  I do not agree with Kline on a lot of things, but I think he may be on to something here.

Kline sees a correspondence between the Angel of God’s presence and the Holy Spirit during the wilderness journeys of Israel (cf. Isa. 63:9-11) and this has to do with the glory cloud, the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that was present with Israel in the wilderness. This glory cloud is what Moses entered into in the book of Exodus and that’s why his face shone.  He spoke to God face to face, there was a face there to talk to, a theophanic face, a theophany, an appearance of God as a man. Continue reading “Christ at the Center (Pt.3a)”

Christ at the Center (Pt. 2c)

Series so far: Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Parts 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b

Christ is the New Covenant! (Isa. 49:8)

Several passages in the Bible are crucial for studying the New Covenant.  In the OT, along with Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 there is in particular Ezekiel 11 and 37, as well as early notices of the need for inner renewal in Deuteronomy 30:5-6.  The NT references include Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11, 2 Corinthians 3 and a number of chapters from the Book of Hebrews (viz. chs. 7-13).  Important supplemental passages would be found in Isaiah 44, 54, 62, Hosea 2, Micah 5, Zephaniah 3, and 1 John, although there are plenty more salient passages which might also be considered.

One very important reference which interests us is found in Isaiah 49:8:

Thus says the LORD: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages…

Here in this verse, included in one of the so-called “Servant songs” of the prophet, is a prediction of a Servant who will “restore the earth” and bring blessing to Israel in line with her covenant expectations.  We must recall that to be in covenant with God is to be in relationship to God.  When that covenant is one-sided, putting the Divine Initiator also under obligation to ensure fulfillment of the terms, then God Himself will mend the relationship with those with whom He covenanted.  He will do this through the “promised Seed” – the Messiah.

Many interpreters have commented on the Messianic import of this verse (Cf. also 42:6).  For instance, Motyer says,

…the Servant is more than a covenant officiant or instigator; he is in his own person the Lord’s covenant….To speak of the Servant as the covenant means that while, as we know, it is through his work that covenant blessings become available, it is only in him, in the union of personal relationship, that these blessings can be enjoyed.  Prophets preached the covenant and pointed away from themselves to the Lord; the Servant will actualize the blessings and point to himself. – Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, UK edition, 391.

We would in places expound the features of these points differently than Motyer by tying the literal fulfillment of the unilateral covenants to the ” New Covenant Man” (Christ), but we fully concur with the author’s words.

In a similar vein P. R. Williamson writes,

This individual will be the very embodiment of God’s covenant; hence the agent and guarantor of God’s covenant love and blessing to all the people.” – Paul R. Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s unfolding purpose, 160. 

Paul’s use of part of the verse in 2 Corinthians 6:2 links it closely to the New Covenant which he has been talking about previously in that epistle.  But we must not miss what is being said here.  Jesus Christ doesn’t just bring about the New Covenant; He is the New Covenant.  This is what we have already taught in the previous installment, but here it is spelled out for all to see.

Although he was not dealing with this passage, my conclusions on this agree with the statements of Karl Barth when he insisted that,

[Christ] brings, and in His whole existence He is, the evangel, good news for all…

He Himself was and is the event…He speaks for Himself whenever He is spoken of and His story is told and heard. – Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV.1.225, 227.

This prophetic linking of the coming Christ as the personification of the New Covenant, when it is understood to be the means of fulfillment of the other unilateral covenants, cannot be overstated.  Everything must “go through” Christ just as everything is for Christ and will be subdued by Christ.

On the back of what we have seen so far it seems to me that to hold a system of theology which places any important prophetic covenant word beyond the directing influence of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood is to have a half-system – a system which somewhat relies on a flat fiat of God sending out the renewing Spirit of God without involving the immanent work of the Son of God.  I believe, therefore, that without the New Covenant it is not possible for God to join this world or anyone on it to the full realization of the Noahic, Abrahaimic, Priestly, or Davidic covenants.

More than this, to attempt to circumvent the Person of Christ, not just as the Mediator of the New Covenant, but as Isaiah has it, the New Covenant in Himself, is to inadvertently deprive Him of the glory which is rightly His as the central figure in our history.  That history shall not come to an end when Jesus returns to earth.  It will move into a new and better phase under His direct kingly presence, but it will still be the history of this world – the world made for Him, and not the world to come.

More next time…