The Angel of the Bottomless Pit: Challenging Our Comfortable Worldview (Pt. 4)

Part Three

I’ve said quite a lot about already about the angel of the bottomless pit, but I’ve not finished.  I believe certain passages of Scripture act as hermeneutical touchstones.  Decisions about what direction to take can be either determinative of where the exposition is going to go, or they highlight the assumptions brought to the text.  One thinks of the Olive Tree metaphor in Romans 11, or the exhortation given to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 43.  The first eleven verses of Revelation 9 are like that.  They ask the interpreter, “Are you going to hold your nerve?” 

Last time I ended by saying something about the strange statement of the angel who rebukes John for worshiping him in Revelation 22:9.  This angel claimed to have been “of your brethren the prophets,” and I stuck my neck out and connected him with Daniel.  I did so tentatively, let it be said, but in the spirit of inquiry.  Still some might object to this because how can a man now be an angel?  I don’t know.  But I do know that the Angel of the Lord isn’t an “angel” either.  (Of course, I realize that some writers insist that the Angel of the Lord is not a theophany, but most accept it).  “The Angel of His Presence” (Isa. 63:9) is, after all, no mere angel.  Therefore, the Bible does use the term “angel” (meaning “messenger”) in what we might call a non-technical sense, at least in respect to the Angel of the Lord.    

What if the Angel of the Abyss is the Beast (Antichrist)?

I have given reasons for linking the angel of the bottomless pit (Rev. 9:11, and an angel looks like a man), with the beast who ascends out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 11:7; 17:8).  I understand this is controversial, but I want to tease it out a bit. 

As stated already, the angel of the abyss is named in Hebrew and in Greek.  His names mean “destruction” or “destroyer.”  If Revelation 9:11 is the sole verse that speaks about him, why would John bother naming him?  Further, the beast who ascends from the abyss and kills God’s Two Witnesses in Revelation 11:7 does this with no introduction.  He just arrives completely unannounced.  Thirdly, this same “beast” goes into destruction (or perdition) in Revelation 17:8.  Here it is with verse before it.

But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.  The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” – Revelation 17:7-8. 

“Why did you marvel?”   As if there was nothing to marvel at!  I’ve just landed at one of the trickiest passages in the Apocalypse.  I included verse 7 because it harks back to the vision of the woman and the beast which starts in verse 3.  I’m not going to get technical about the details, but the beast the woman is riding is supporting her; she is not in charge.  Several things are said about the beast that pose problems for interpreters, among which are:

  1. it has blasphemous names, and has seven heads and ten horns (v. 3)
  2. the heads represent mountains and the horns represent kings (vv. 9, 12) 
  3. yet the beast is himself a king (v. 11)
  4. the beast appears to be, from John’s time perspective, past, present, and yet future.  He/it “was, and is not, and yet is.” (v. 8)
  5. Or more likely it could be that within the purview of the vision the beast the past, present, and future references are about the career of the beast, with it’s death interruption (Rev. 13), is in mind.

How can the beast be an individual, as he is in Revelation 17:11-13 (and Rev. 11:7), if he is depicted with heads equating to mountains and horns equaling other kings or kingdoms?  I think if we focus more on the function of the image things get a little clearer.  As we have noted, the beast supports the harlot, but according to verses 12 and 13 the ten kings “receive authority” with the beast, and “are of one mind, and give their power and authority to the beast”; therefore they can be depicted in such a manner.  This “key” helps us to see the continuity in the identity of the beast in Revelation.  

Again as previously noted, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul calls Antichrist by the name “Son of Perdition.”  Interestingly, Jesus referred to Judas Iscariot by the same name in John 17:12 (He also called Judas a “diabolos” in Jn. 6:70).  In Acts 1:25 Peter tantalizingly tells us that Judas at his death went “to his own place.”  The rabbit hole just seems to get deeper.  I’m not sure that I want go there.  Let’s get back to the angel of the bottomless pit.  I believe this angel who comes from the abyss is one and the same with the beast who comes from (ek) it.  Now if they both come from the abyss does that mean that the “earth-dwellers” know where he came from?  Do people know about the “shaft of the abyss”?  And if the Antichrist is from the abyss is he fully human?  I’m just asking. 

How certain am I of the connections I have made?  I would say about 70% certain, so there is quite some room for error.  I have posed some questions about the identity of the angel of the bottomless pit that I find intriguing.  I have not attempted to give definitive answers.  But I will leave you with this: I do believe that this personage is far more weird and frightening and beguiling than he is usually portrayed.  The Tribulation will witness some intensified supernatural activity, and the angel of the bottomless pit will take second place to no one save the figure of the returning Christ.               

THE ANGEL OF THE BOTTOMLESS PIT: CHALLENGING OUR COMFORTABLE WORLDVIEW (PT. 3)

Part Two

The Angel and the Beast

We are now in a position to look at the angel of the bottomless pit.  Here is the principal (some say only) verse referring to him:

And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. – Rev. 9:11

The first thing to notice is that in contrast to the fairly detailed descriptions of the demonic locusts in verses 3-10, the “king” gets one solitary verse and no description.  Well, that’s not quite true; we are told that he is an angel, and seeing as the Book of Revelation is the Book where angels appear with more frequency than anywhere else in Scripture, we might learn something from that.

Before investigating what the Apocalypse says about angels, it should be noted that if Revelation 9:11 is the only verse about the angel-king of the abyss, it doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose other than to tell us that these locust-scorpions are not natural to our terrestrial plane, because locusts in nature have no king (cf. Prov. 30:27).  But we knew that anyway by reading their description.  More problematical is the fact that John bothers to name the angel of the bottomless pit.  Why does he do that if this is the only verse to speak of him?  He doesn’t tell us the names of the mighty angels in chapters 10, 18 and 20.  This angel’s names(s) are his, they are not given to him by the press corps of the day.  No headline is going to proclaim that “Apollyon was seen marshaling his forces in New York an hour ago.”  At least I can’t imagine it.  Why then is he named, in both Hebrew and Greek?  John identifies the angel of the abyss with two names; Abaddon and Apollyon.  Why does he do that?  Isn’t Revelation written to the seven Greek-speaking churches in Asia Minor?  Why bother with the Hebrew name?  Both mean the same thing: “destruction” or “destroyer” (Beale, 502; Thomas, 2.39).  The only reason I can think of why John would tell us the Hebrew name is that this angel will terrorize Israel (as well as other parts of the world).  In which case his name may have more significance to Jews than to Gentiles.  (I am speculating, but at least I’m trying to fit the names into a tribulation scenario). Continue reading “THE ANGEL OF THE BOTTOMLESS PIT: CHALLENGING OUR COMFORTABLE WORLDVIEW (PT. 3)”

THE ANGEL OF THE BOTTOMLESS PIT: CHALLENGING OUR COMFORTABLE WORLDVIEW (PT. 2)

Part One

4. The smoke from the pit darkens an already darkened sun.

When I say “an already darkened sun” I do so because of Revelation 8:12:

Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

Here the sun is already greatly affected when the fourth trumpet sounded.  As an aside, this verse assumes that, like the sun and the stars, the moon gives off its own light (cf. Matt. 24:29. Do with that what you wish, but I always take the “assured results of science” with a big grain of salt).

A Chronological Conundrum  

Having said this, the question of chronology arises.  When exactly is the fifth trumpet blown?  We have to ask this question because in a purely sequential understanding of Revelation, not only must Revelation 8:12 be considered, there has already been an obscuration of the sun at the opening of the sixth seal:

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.  And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. – Revelation 6:12-13.   

This passage looks very climactic, but many assert that it happens prior to opening of the bottomless pit at the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9.  Robert Thomas (ad loc) employs a consecutive structure for the Apocalypse that places the fifth trumpet towards the end of the time covered by the Book, which would be towards the end of the 70th Week.  But Arnold Fruchtenbaum thinks the fifth trumpet occurs about two and a half to three years into the Tribulation.  In my opinion this is hard to reconcile with Matthew 24:29:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven… 

Are not Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12-13 describing the same events?  I do realize that some scholars teach that there are five end times “blackouts” (e.g. Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, 220-221).  Still, even if one allows this for sake of argument, just how many times do the stars fall out of the sky?  This is one reason why I hold that Revelation 6 runs through the entire 70th Week from year 1 to year 7.  From this vantage point I believe the fifth trumpet occurs before the sixth seal.  Revelation 8:12-13 doesn’t fit comfortably after the cosmic mayhem described in Revelation 6:12-17.  It looks anti-climactic.

Facing the Literal 

Whatever one makes of the chronological question, it may be said that the reference in Revelation 9:2 may be to the initial outcome of the opening of the shaft of the pit, in which case it would be of temporary duration.  Therefore, for a certain period (perhaps a few weeks?) the already blighted sunlight is obscured further by the smoke belching out of the pit.

Tony Garland takes an admirably determined literal approach to the description:

The plume of smoke that arose is probably one of the “pillars of smoke” which Joel described in the “awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:30). A similar plume of smoke attended the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Gen. 19:28). Here we see further evidence that the abyss is deep within the earth and probably of a great temperature due to subterranean activity below the earth’s crust. – A Testimony of Jesus Christ, I. ad loc. 

So the smoke from the pit roars (“like the smoke of a great furnace”) into the atmosphere obstructing the light of the sun and the moon.

5. Infernal “Locusts” come out of the pit and are commanded (by God?) what or who to attack.  They are very particular.

The “locusts” that come out of the pit are not like any locusts any naturalist has ever set eyes upon.  They strike men with something akin to a scorpion’s sting.  They are truly horrific.  Just the sight of one would chill the bones.  They are demonic (though not necessarily demons per se), but they are under authority.  They have a king, whom we shall be studying later, but the command not to hurt the greenery and not to kill people appears to come from God (e.g. what would Satan care about the plants and trees, nevermind humans?).  Beale, 494, notes the same “authorization clause” in Rev. 6:2-8 and 8:2.  Only those 144,000 sealed Jewish males (see Rev. 7:4-8 and Rev. 14:3-4) will escape these creatures.

6. For a space of five months they torment those who do not have the seal of God.

Strange as it seems, the other saints are not said to be immune from the strikes of demonic beasts (although Fruchtenbaum, Ibid, 229, extends immunity to them.  He may be right, but it is a surmise).

Now all of this is quite disturbing: the Tribulation will see the Earth we know altered both by plagues and famines, by the smiting of creation above and below, and by the infernal realm with its real monsters.  But we must now turn our attention to the main character in this plot; the “king” of the locust-scorpions.

And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. – Revelation 9:11

The king is called “the angel of the bottomless pit.”  He has a name, given interestingly, in both Hebrew and in Greek; the traditional language of Israel and the language (i.e. the lingua franca) of the first century biblical world.  We shall explore this enigmatic king next.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament (5)

Part Four

This is the final installment of the excerpts from my book ‘The Words of the Covenant: Old Testament Expectation,’ which I hope to get published by the end of 2020.  I would be grateful for those readers of this blog who have derived some benefit from these posts if you would please pray for God’s blessing on the publication and reading of the book.

The Durability of God’s Covenant Oaths

     All of the above categories fit nicely within a biblical covenantal framework.  Yahweh has freely entered into binding covenantal obligations by which His character and attributes can be seen for what they are.  There is no reason for humans to try to get God off the hook that He has put Himself on.  God wants to be held to His oaths.  He wants to be believed. For when He is believed by His creature they glorify Him.  When one traces a particular covenant oath through time it is clear that the oath does not undergo change.  Thus, the Noahic covenant in Genesis 9:8-11 retains the same meaning for Isaiah many hundreds of years later (Isa. 54:9).  The three main parts of the Abrahamic covenant, of land (Gen. 12:7; 15:18-21), descendants (Gen. 15:4-5), and blessing on the nations (Gen. 12:3; 22:17-18) are interpreted to mean the same thing by Jeremiah (Jer. 32:36-41; 33:22, 25-26), Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:23-28; 37:12-14, 21, 26), Zechariah (Zech. 2:10-12; 8:1-7; 22-23), and Malachi (Mal. 1:11; 3:12).  There does not appear to be any wiggle room for reinterpreting or reapplying these promises, and the Hebrew Scriptures never indulge in it.

More than this, as I have documented above, Yahweh seems to have little or no patience with those who do not make good on their covenant vows.  He held Joshua and Israel to the words of the covenant that they foolishly made with the Gibeonites in Joshua 9, even sending a curse on Israel many years after because Saul had violated its commitments when he persecuted the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21:1-2).  The prophet Jeremiah records a sentence of doom upon king Zedekiah and his nobles for not performing “the words of the covenant which they made before Me” in Jeremiah 34:18-20.  Ezekiel speaks similarly, although this time it involves a covenant that the king of Judah was forced to make with the king of Babylon (Ezek. 17:13), and which was reneged on.  The prophet then asks “Can he break a covenant and still be delivered?” (Ezek. 17:15).

The obvious conclusion one must draw from all this is that the Lord of the Universe despises covenant-breakers.  But this is instructive for us chiefly because Yahweh is Himself a covenant maker.  Unless we are going to become hopeless nominalists, we are faced with the inalterable truth that Yahweh intends to keep His covenants, understood by the normal canons of language, to the letter.

If this is what we are up against when it comes to the understanding of the divine covenants, then surely, we are justified in clinging to the oaths of God in faith, no matter how things appear to us in our times and places?  The burden of fulfillment falls on the oath taker; in this case God Himself.  It is the most sensible of all moves to believe that God means exactly what He says in these covenants and to leave the “problem” of fulfillment to Him.  This is all the more justified from an Old Testament perspective.  The question of whether the New Testament gives us a “new” meaning for God’s oaths will not be taken up here.  But on the face of things it needs to be said that any such assertion would have to be proven exegetically (and not just inferentially), and that anyone making such an assertion is duty bound to construct a theodicy which takes full account of what has been written above about oaths, oath-takers, and Yahweh’s attitude to those who do not perform “the words of the covenant.”

 The Future Kingdom of God in the Old Testament (What Are We Led to Expect?)

     There are many different parts to the big covenantal picture which gradually comes together on the large canvass of the Old Testament.  The basic elements are there: The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (not just Abraham) have been made into the foremost nation on earth, and Jerusalem is the city of the great King.  The Gentile nations have for the most part joined themselves to Yahweh, although there are some rebels.  Jerusalem has been elevated, and the new expansive temple of God sits atop a great mountain, from which living waters flow down continually.  Yahweh Himself dwells in Zion.  The New covenant Law is known across the globe.  He will rule with absolute authority, but His reign will be just and merciful and happy.  There will be no need to search for God, for everyone will know Him.  All will behold the glory of Yahweh.

As to the effects of this, the primary thing is that shalom pervades every land; a sense of belonging to the world; of fitting in, because the world is made and blessed for us.  No one goes hungry because of the massive productivity of the ground.  Everyone feels safe.  The only people looking over their shoulders are those who oppose the Prince of Peace.  Peace will be felt in the city and in the countryside.  The animals of the wild will not harm each other, for rapacious and carnivorous beasts will no longer exist.  All will eat grass like the ox.  Transformations in nature and scenery will make the world delightful.

While sickness will need healing remedies will be on hand.  While deaths will still occur, they will only encroach upon a long life.  This is not heaven.  This is not the new heavens and the new earth.  This is the reign of the Branch, the Servant, the Stone that smote the unrighteous kingdoms of man.

The covenants of God, made mainly with Israel as the channel through whom Yahweh will realize His Creation Project, have an everlasting aspect to them that surely reaches beyond this blessed but not yet perfect environment into the eternal realm.  One writer sums it up well:

The story of Scripture is thoroughly Jewish.  To de-emphasize or omit this part of the story is to misunderstand the covenants and the manner in which God blesses all people through his Messiah…The line of Abraham, as seen in the nation of Israel, is the main earthly character in the entirety of the Old Testament.  It is their history throughout the Old Testament that we follow through times of judgment, yet with a constant reminder of the eternal, everlasting promises of God’s covenants.[1]

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[1] Mark Yarbrough, “Israel and the Story of the Bible,” in Israel, the Church, and the Middle East: A Biblical Response to the Current Conflict (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2018), edited by Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser, 54.

The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament (4)

Part Three

g. The Rule of Righteousness, Justice, Peace, and Safety

When will this world know peace? When will things that could be fair actually be fair? When will justice stop being perverted? The answer to these questions is in the reign of the coming King (Isa. 32:1). He will judge righteously, “and decide with equity[1] for the meek of the earth.” (Isa 11:4). Only when His judgments are in the earth, will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (Isa 26:9). Once this occurs there will exist the wholeness and tranquility that is shalom, for the King is Himself, “Yahweh our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6), “the Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6).

In numerous places God has promised “peace and safety” to His people. In Hosea 2:18 “safety” is guaranteed because both human beings and the beasts of the earth become non-violent (cf. Ezek. 34:25).  Micah 4:4 declares “everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.” Isaiah 26:12 reveals a wonderful theological truth:

LORD, You will establish peace for us,
For You have also done all our works in us.

The inner work of peace is wrought by Yahweh. Peace is His gift (cf. Jn. 14:27). The pervasiveness of justice coming from Jerusalem provides for “quiet resting places” (Isa. 32:18 cf. Zech.9:10). The settings are this-worldly[2] and always eschatological, because they can only be eschatological. The difference is made by the One on the Davidic throne in Jerusalem, and in the ministry of the Spirit.

h. The Promise of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is not an unknown character in the Old Testament. He is there at the creation of the world (Gen. 1:2). The Spirit who superintended the beginning of the Creation Project is the One who will conclude it. His presence in the world insures this conclusion (cf. Psa. 139:7). The great change is to be brought about by the Spirit of God (Isa. 32:15). It is He who “adorned the heavens” (Job 26:13a). He will open the eyes of Israel (Zech. 12:10; Joel 2:28-32), and restore her (Ezek. 37:14 cf. Zech. 4:16). It is by the Spirit that the coming King will judge the earth (Isa. 11:2); that human nature will be changed so as to love righteousness and seek wisdom (Ezek. 36:27; Psa. 51:6). The Spirit of God is the one who will pour out the benefits of the New covenant, thus ensuring that the covenants with Abraham, Phinehas, and David are fulfilled to the letter (cf. Zech. 4:6).

i. The Blessing on the Nations

Zephaniah 2:10-11 says that the nations will one day worship Yahweh (cf. Psa. 87:4, 6; Am. 9:12; Isa. 19:19-25; Mal.1:11). Their salvation is guaranteed within one of the provisions of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:3c). In the days of the King the people of the nations will journey to Zion (Isa. 2:2; Zech. 14:16). This turning of the nations will in part be affected by the transformation and witness of Israel (Isa. 43:1-21). In short, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9). The Old Testament pictures independent nation-states upon earth governed in line with the great Ruler in Zion (cf. Dan. 7:13-14; Zech. 14:16).

The Compelling Force of Expectation

A crucial aspect of reading the Hebrew Bible that often escapes attention is the wave of expectation that its promises raised in the minds of believers before the New Testament era. Identifying that expectation is absolutely essential. I have done some of that in the examples given above.[3] Whatever a person may think about the priority of the New Testament in understanding the Bible, if one has not given thought to the subject of Old Testament expectation in the absence of the New Testament then I believe that he has not yet read the Old Testament truly. Whatismore, he is in no condition to comprehend the mind of a Jewish Apostle writing the New Testament. What God’s covenants do is to increase faith in certain outcomes. They raise expectations to another level. They become the firm basis for hope!

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[1] The word “equity” has been co-opted by critical race theorists (CRT) to mean “an assured equality of outcome” rather than a level playing field. In CRT “equity” is imposed based upon the decisions of those few in positions of power. It becomes rooted in man’s sinful nature rather than in a transcendental justice based on God’s character (Psa. 119:142). In the Bible equity is never equality of outcome, but universal conformity to God’s justice. Hence, the Messiah “shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears.” (Isa 11:3).

[2] Many amillennialists are now promoting a this-worldly final state instead of eternity in heaven. This has required them to stop spiritualizing texts which point to a kingdom upon earth after the return of Christ. But it also forces them to exacerbate their use of dual hermeneutical methods, often in the same passage. Moreover, while they have become more literal in interpreting e.g. Mic. 4:1-5; Isa. 11:1-12; 60:1-14, 19-22, they persist in spiritualizing the covenantal land promise to Israel, often turning it into a type. A good study of this trend is Steven L. James, New Creation Eschatology and the Land: A Survey of Contemporary Perspectives (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017).

[3] The reader would be well advised to study the Appendix in the book by J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, 325-336 for a more detailed list of prophecies designed to raise specific expectations in the hearts of Old Testament believers.

The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament (3)

Part Two

c. The Coming of the Great King

I have commented on this matter above, but here let us focus on the royalty of the Messiah. As far as the Old Testament is concerned this aspect of His person seems incompatible with His coming in humility as the suffering Servant (Psa. 22; Isa. 53). When He comes to reign, He comes with irresistible power (Dan. 2:44-45; Isa. 63:1-6). Much of the “Day of the Lord” language reflects His arrival (e.g. Isa. 34:8; Zeph. 3:8; Joel 3:9-16). Psalm 2:6, 9 has Him reigning on Yahweh’s holy hill (cf. Isa. 2:2). Isaiah 11:1-10 has David’s heir reigning in power and righteousness (cf. Am. 9:11; Mic. 2:12-13; Isa. 32:1a). Genesis 49:10 predicts this, as does Psalm 110:1-2 and Micah 5:2. The great prophecies of Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:14-16 set this reign in an era when Jerusalem is the great city of God; or as Ezekiel calls it, “Yahweh is there” (Ezek. 48:35). Zechariah 14 has the great King ruling in Israel and all the peoples worshipping Him.

There is no doubt that this Figure is the main character in God’s Creation Project. All creation’s hopes are wrapped up in Him. All the promises to Israel wait for Him. The calling of the nations, depends upon Him. And the defeat of the great Enemy can only be achieved by Him. And because, as I believe, He embodies the New covenant, the coming King is even essential to the fulfillment of all God’s covenants with man.

d. The Salvation of Israel through the New Covenant

Israel was established to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exod. 19:6). They never attained their high calling. But when the King comes to rule the earth “the Gentiles will seek Him” (Isa. 11:10 cf. Isa. 2:2), in part because Yahweh has redeemed Israel (Zech. 8).

But while they languish under the strictures of the Mosaic covenant, Israel can never be what they ought to be. Israel needs salvation. In those Israelites designated as the “remnant” the covenants of Yahweh will find their eventual fulfillment. In Jeremiah God speaks positively to Israel as “Virgin of Israel” (Jer. 31:4).[1] This is the same chapter as the promise of the New covenant with all Israel (cf. Jer. 31:1, 31). This New covenant will change the remnant (Isa. 37:31-32; Jer. 31:7; Zeph. 3:13; Joel 2:32). It will make them godly and obedient from the heart (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-30 cf. Isa. 46:13). They will want to go up to Zion to worship God (Jer. 31:6; Isa. 35:10).

In point of fact, God will make Israel a blessing to the nations:

And it shall come to pass
That just as you were a curse among the nations,
O house of Judah and house of Israel,
So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. – Zechariah 8:13

This is when Israel can rightly act as “witnesses” for God (Isa. 43:9-12). In Micah 4:2 the nations decide to come to Yahweh. Isaiah tells us that the wonder of what Zion has become provokes this turning (Isa. 62:1-2). The New covenant is first and foremost the covenant of reconciliation of a lost humanity and a cursed earth to the Creator. It revitalizes the ground and redeems the elect of all ages. In so doing it clears the way for Yahweh to make good on what He has sworn to perform in His covenants to Noah, Abraham, Phinehas, and David. God’s covenants stand firm. They are to be trusted till the end. They cannot be changed out of recognition due to our impatience and near-sightedness. The New covenant is the key that will open them up in all their fullness and specificity.

e. Jerusalem, the City of Righteousness

There is little doubt that in the Prophets Jerusalem or Zion is beloved by Yahweh (see e.g. Isa. 62:1, 3; Zech. 1:17; 8:2). It is “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:7-8). Psalm 132:13 declares “the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place.” After Yahweh purges away all of its dross, He will redeem it with justice, and shall call it “the city of righteousness” (Isa. 1:26-27; 4:2-5). Zechariah refers to the future Jerusalem as “the City of Truth” (Zech. 8:3). This will be the center of the Kingdom of God (Mic. 4:7-8). Jeremiah says it this way:

At that time Jerusalem shall be called the Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. – Jeremiah 3:17

Zion is to be comforted (Isa. 51:3), and favored as the dwelling-place of God on earth (Zech. 14:16). A capital city is to be expected in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (Psa. 89:27, 34-37).

f. The Rebuilding of the Temple

Perhaps the most controversial teaching of the Old Testament is that the sanctuary of Yahweh, the temple at Jerusalem, will be rebuilt in the times of Messiah’s worldwide reign. From the perspective of many readers of the New Testament, particularly of the book of Hebrews, this is intolerable.

But I am not here concerning myself with the conclusions of those who “correct” the Old Testament picture with their understandings of the New Testament. Lord willing, at a later date I will be able to show that there is no contradiction between the covenant requirement of a new temple and the finished work of Christ at Calvary. But here we looking at the Old Testament and are allowing it to speak to us clearly in its own voice. Once this is permitted one runs into passages such as this:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it. – Isaiah 2:2

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. – Ezekiel 37:26

Many will instinctively turn the House of Yahweh and the sanctuary into Christ and the Church, but that is not what a Jew of the 8th or 6th Century B.C. would do. No reader of Haggai 2:6-9 (let alone the prophetic author!) would do that. In fact, no one familiar with Numbers 25 would have expected anything else but a new temple in the Kingdom of the Branch, just as we see in Ezekiel 37; 40 – 48; Zechariah 6 and 14. A rebuilt kingdom-temple is covenantally assured. Any accurate account of Old Testament theology must admit this fact.

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[1] There are places where this term is used to show regret at what Israel has become (e.g. Am. 5:2; Jer. 18:13), but Jeremiah 31 is a crucial eschatological setting.

The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament (2)

The Old Testament gives us a picture of a coming great Deliverer who will one day defeat the serpent and break his power (Gen. 3:15). We have seen that this prophetic picture is quite extensive, providing one puts the pieces of the “Scepter,” the “Star,” the son of David, the despised substitute Sufferer, the Branch, the donkey Rider, the Messiah, etc. together in one person. This portrait of the coming King of the Earth, who reigns in Jerusalem, is there so that He can be identified when He appears. And when He is identified through these prophecies it will eventually be seen that the Old Testament was spot on. The only question in light of for example, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 12 would seem to be, when would His own people recognize Him? This problem deepens because of the perceived mismatch between the victorious Ruler and the suffering Servant referred to above.

In similar fashion, what the Prophets have to say about the divine covenants paints a vivid picture of the Kingdom that is to come. The Prophets develop the unilateral covenants; the Noahic, Abrahamic, Priestly, and Davidic, and weave them together. The instrument they use to do this is the New covenant, which does not alter a word of the oaths which Yahweh took in the other covenants, but instead revitalizes these great covenants as they pass through the redemptive grace within it. This revitalization guarantees the literal fulfillment of the oaths of Yahweh, there being no sin standing in the way of their full realization.

But the New covenant is not just a means, it is a Man. It is none other than the promised One, the coming King Himself. This amounts to saying that the entire Creation Project, propelled by the covenants of God, is dependent upon this Man! Our comprehension of the Creation Project depends a lot upon our reading of God’s covenants, not to mention the nature of those covenants.

What, therefore, is the picture drawn by the Prophets? I think it best if I break the prophetic picture down into basic categories.[1]

a. A Future Time of Intense Trouble for Israel

Amos in the 8th century B.C. says that Yahweh will sift Israel (Am. 9:9), but after that He will “raise up the tabernacle of David,” that is to say, the reinstitution of the Davidic monarchy that would fizzle out at the Babylonian Captivity with Zedekiah of Judah will be seen. This sifting is tied to the Mosaic covenant, especially its elucidation in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 30:1-6 is pertinent here, as is Leviticus 26.

Having said this, nothing is solid enough in Amos’s time for a reader to determine whether there will be an end-time tribulation upon the Jews. Hosea 2:9-13 indicates a punishment upon Israel followed by an era of kingdom blessing (Hos. 2:14ff.). If I am correct in placing the two acts of God together, this necessarily puts us in the last times. Hosea 5:15 and 6:1-3 could well be referring to this same situation.

The theme of a future intense affliction upon Israel is not to be found stated plainly until Jeremiah 30:5-7 where something called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” is mentioned. The difficulty in the “time” is that it is not dated, other than in relation to the raising up of David and Israel being told that she will have no cause to fear anymore (Jer. 30:9-10). Is this the Holocaust? That might reasonably qualify as the time of Jacob’s trouble (cf. Hos. 2:6-13; 5:15; Isa. 1:25). But no restoration of the Davidic monarchy followed World War II. The only way that David, whether personally or through his heir, could rule over Israel is in the resurrection era (Isa. 26:19? Ezek. 37:12?). Terrible as was the Holocaust, something worse yet awaits the people of Israel.

The book of Daniel furnishes more information on a future time of tribulation. As brought out in Daniel 7 and 11, a mighty foe will persecute Israel for three and a half years (“a time, times, and half a time” – Dan. 7:24-27), during which time Israel will have to endure it’s greatest travail (Dan. 12:1). Ezekiel 38 refers to distress brought upon God’s people by a person named Gog. And Zechariah 11:15-17 is an oracle about a careless shepherd who is to be recognized by certain marks upon his body. Whether all of these passages apply to the end time of trouble is uncertain, but a fair case can be made in the affirmative.

b. The Regathering of Israel to their Promised Land

Many times, the Old Testament predicts the restoration of the Jews to their land. The ten northern tribes were carried off by the Assyrians, and no leader ever issued a decree for their return. But many from the north would have been dwelling in Judah long before Tiglath-Pileser defeated Hoshea of Israel in 723 B.C.[2] Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesy about the reunification of all the tribes in their books. Daniel’s reading of Jeremiah 25:11-12 persuaded him to expect the southern nation to return from Babylon, which led to him beseeching Yahweh on behalf of his people (Dan. 9).

Another Exile

But closer study of the Prophets reveals that another exile and a greater regathering is to come, and it is to be looked for at the close of history. For example, if the “little horn” of Daniel 7 persecutes the Jewish saints (Dan. 7:21) when they are in their land (cf. Dan. 11:39), and the limit of the persecution in Daniel 7:25 corresponds to Daniel 11:36 (cf. Dan. 9:26-27), this would entail that they are driven out of the land again before being regathered at the time of Messiah’s arrival to set up His Kingdom (Dan. 7:22). They will return in repentance (Jer. 50:4-5). Ezekiel 37:11-14 has God bringing Israel into the land and granting them the Spirit. Earlier, in the context of God’s blessing on their productivity, Amos 9:14-15 refers to the same thing. Zechariah 8:8 has a great promise of return and blessing. In Isaiah 11:11-16; Jeremiah 16:14-15, and Jeremiah 23:7-8 there is a second exodus promise that is non-figurative. Continue reading “The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament (2)”

The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament (1)

From the forthcoming book ‘The Words of the Covenant: Old Testament Expectation’

If one surveys the contents of the Old Testament with both eyes upon the divine covenants, what one comes away with is a massive sense of expectation. The simply-worded Creation chapter (Gen. 1) displays a purpose and goal for the world which God is moving forward. The simplicity of the wording conveys an important hermeneutical truth; that what God does is directly in line with what He says (i.e. God’s words equal God’s actions). This can be tested in numerous points throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Gen. 1:3, 6-7, 11-12, 26-31; 6:7-13; 11:7-9; 2 Ki. 1:3-4, 16-17; 5:10, 14; Dan. 4:16, 25, 32-33).

This movement towards a goal is seemingly interrupted by the calamitous fall of our first parents and the autonomous thinking that it brought about. While seeming innocuous, this default of naive independence from the authority of God and His words has led mankind to every false notion and violent act in our bloody history. It has also caused God’s people to recalibrate what God has said by passing it through the apparatus of independent interpretation. In the long term this is what is chiefly responsible for the varied schools of thought in Christian theology. But in the Hebrew Bible it was a major cause, through reevaluation of God’s word, for Israel’s defection.

The covenants that Yahweh made were intended to counter man’s sinful default of independence by drawing attention to the grand motifs within the Creation Project that He is sustaining. These covenants may be seen as amplifications of God’s plain speech about central planks in His program of history. Because they express the outline of the Creation Project, which in turn is embedded in God’s decrees, the covenants that God made with Noah, Abraham, Phinehas, and David are unalterable, their oaths being unilaterally entered into by God alone. Although conditions were appended to the covenants, it is crucial to understand that these conditions were not included within the oaths. Therefore, although they could and did hinder the fulfillment of the covenants, they could never force their cancellation or their reallocation. The bilateral Mosaic covenant, being a covenant of law given to law-breakers, could only stem the tide of Israel’s sin and provide a sense of community and belonging which would sustain the Jewish race, although not forever.

Aside from Yahweh, there are two main protagonists in the Hebrew Bible; the nation of Israel and the coming King who would arise out of Israel. Israel was given the Mosaic covenant, but had to be rescued from its condemnation. The person of the King would do that by fulfilling its demands of righteousness, and suffering vicariously (Isa. 53:4-6; 10-12), and by ushering in a New covenant to replace the one made at Sinai (Jer. 31:31-34; Isa. 49:6-8).

The need to replace the Mosaic covenant with another “New” covenant can be found as far back as Deuteronomy 30:6, and is found repeated at several junctures, including Psalm 98:3; 130; Isaiah 25:8-9; 46:13; Ezekiel 36:24-28, and Zechariah 13:1. The outstanding promise is in Jeremiah 31:31-34. There it becomes clear that this New covenant will supersede the Mosaic covenant. The New covenant brings with it the essential ingredient of salvation which it alone possesses.

But there is a fascinating twist regarding the New covenant, for whereas the other covenants contain a divine pledge to a person or persons, and may have included animal sacrifice (certainly in regard to the Noahic, Abrahamic, and Mosaic covenants), the New covenant goes further by designating God’s Servant as the covenant itself (Isa. 42:6; 49:8)! As already said, this Servant is a person, not Israel, and this person must face death on behalf of others (Isa. 53). So, the extraordinary connection of the New covenant with the Servant becomes something to watch as revelation unfolds.

The Servant is the Branch is the Promised Seed

Since the temptation of Eve in the garden of Eden and the fall of Adam, God has promised to send a Conqueror who would destroy the Serpent (Gen. 3:16). This Conqueror is referred to as the Seed of the Woman in Genesis 3, but He appears in the prophecies of Jacob as a King from Judah (Gen. 49:10), as a “Star” out of Egypt who routs His enemies in Numbers 24:8-9, 17, and as the “Branch” who will subdue, judge and beautify the earth and exalt Jerusalem (Isa. 4:2-3; 11:1-10; Jer. 23:5-6; Zech. 3:8), seeing to it that the lines of David and Levi are maintained, although not in an unbroken succession[1] (Jer. 33:14-26). It is also He who will build the last temple (Zech. 6:12-13).

This man is also called Yahweh’s “Servant” in, for example, Isaiah 42:1-7 and 49:5-7, who will save the Gentile nations and redeem Israel,[2] restoring the entire earth. Amazingly, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 portray Him as reigning in justice, yet suffering the indignation of men and God. He suffers and dies innocently, yet as part of the plan of Yahweh (Isa. 53:10). And He will be rewarded and highly exalted. Daniel also speaks of His demise on behalf of others in Daniel 9:26, where He refers to Him as Messiah (anointed).

It is this coming King who as the Servant is said to be given “as a covenant to the people” (Isa. 42:6; 49:8). Once these passages are linked with the substitutionary nature of His suffering and its relation to securing pardon and justification “for many” (Isa. 53:11), it starts to appear that this great One is the pivot around which the whole Creation Project and its associated covenants turn. This King Messiah pulls every covenant hope into His orbit.

The coming of the Messiah is normally presented as Him vanquishing Israel’s enemies and bringing in justice and peace. Isaiah has Him coming in avenging might (Isa. 63). Daniel has Him smashing the kingdoms of man (Dan. 2). After crushing His enemies, He comes to rule from Jerusalem (Jer. 33:14-15; Zech. 1:17).

A “problem” arises between this unimpeded picture of His arrival and the occasional references to His suffering and death (Psa. 22; Isa. 53; Dan. 9:25; Zech. 13:6). How can He come in such irresistible power and yet be overpowered? The Old Testament does not tell us directly, though it provides us with clues which subsequent revelation will fit together. The closest thing to an outright explanation is perhaps Zechariah 12:10 where, in the common setting of God’s future judgment, we are suddenly told “they will look on Me who they pierced.” This implies that the people “pierced” Him previous to His coming in judgment and salvation. To step into a New Testament vantage-point for a moment, what we find is that the first and second comings of Christ are merged in the Old Testament, with the emphasis usually placed upon things that occur at the second coming.

One more vital consideration; we must never forget that according to Psalm 110:1, Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 9:6-7 the promised King is divine. Therefore, to the standard messianic passages we must add those texts which speak of Yahweh Himself as dwelling with men in the Kingdom of God. We must also not avoid the inclusion of passages like Ezekiel 43:1-7; 48:35; Joel 3:17, and Zechariah 1:16; 8:1-3; 14:9, 16-21 as pointing to Messiah. As one author has stated, “The Old Testament has its own messianic light.”[3] And it is a good deal brighter than many people realize.

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[1] The curse upon Jehoiachin (Coniah) in Jeremiah 22:28-30 essentially illustrates this. Although Jehoiachin lived on in captivity and had seven sons (1 Chron. 3:17-18), he was written as childless. This appeared to defeat the Davidic covenant, but God would find a way around the problem. Compare John Bright, Covenant and Promise, 180-181.

[2] Redeeming Israel, He cannot be Israel.

[3] John H. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch, 238.

My Take on the New Covenant (Pt. 10): In Summary

Part Nine

In this final part I want to gather things together and summarize what has gone before.  In the latter half of the full piece I interact with some other views.  I shall not concern myself with running over that ground here.  I shall only outline the major pillars of my position on the New Covenant:

  1. Jeremiah 31 is not to be thought about as definitive of the New Covenant.  There are many other passages which, although they don’t name the covenant as the NC, are rightly considered as important OT New Covenant passages (e.g. Deut. 30:1-6; Isa. 32:9-20; 42:1-7; 49:1-13; 52:10-53:12; 55:3; 59:15b-21; 61:8; Jer. 32:36:44; Ezek. 16:53-63; 36:22-38; 37:21-28; Hos. 2:18-20; Joel 2:28–3:8; Mic. 7:18-20; Zech. 9:10; 12:6-14.; 59:15-21).
  2. None of the great theistic covenants of the Bible (i.e. the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Priestly, Davidic covenants) have a provision of redemption set within them.  That means they can never be fulfilled!  Sin bars the way.
  3. However, the problem of unfulfillment is overcome by Jesus Christ in the New Covenant.
  4. Since it deals with sin and salvation, the NC deals with the promise of the Holy Spirit.
  5. Two key NC passages, Isaiah 42:1-6 and Isaiah 49:1-8, speak both to Israel and to the nations.  Isaiah 42:1-3 is quoted by Matthew 12:17-21, and is applied especially to “the Gentiles.”  He might have quoted Isa. 11:10; 42:15; 60:3; Jer. 16:19, and Mal. 1:11.
  6.  Further, Isaiah 42 and 49 identify a person as a covenant who will bring salvation to both Israel and the Gentile nations. The NC is the “salvation covenant.”
  7. The Apostle Paul uses NC terminology and applies it to Christian redemption in Colossians 2:11-14 and Philippians 3:3.
  8. Not only that, but Paul explicitly says that Christians taking the Lord’s Supper are celebrating “the blood of the New Covenant” (1 Cor. 11:25).  Paul also declares that his ministry is a ministry of the New Covenant in 2 Cor. 3.
  9. Jesus said that His blood was NC blood (e.g. Lk. 22).  His disciples partook of the symbolism of it, and they formed the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20).
  10. Hebrews 7 – 10 names Jesus as our High Priest, which He can only be on the basis of the New Covenant, since that is the covenant He mediates as High Priest.
  11. Jesus Christ and the New Covenant are One.  He is the covenant mentioned by Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8; as the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29), He is the covenant “animal” that makes the NC with His own body and blood (Heb. 9:16-17).  There is (and never was) any salvation outside of Him.  Therefore, the NC is not to be viewed as an agreement external to Him Who made it.
  12. We must beware of impeding our own understanding of God’s Word by wandering away from Scripture to fragmentary pagan notions of treaty and covenant.  We will be in poor shape to “hear” the Scripture if we fail listen with both ears and read with both eyes.  This is all the more important when the matter under consideration is the oaths of God!

 

 

 

My Take on the New Covenant (Pt. 9)

Part Eight

Having come to a conclusion about the foremost question in the debate about the range of the New Covenant and its connection to Jesus Christ, I want to spread out before the reader my reasons for identifying Him with the NC.  These reasons are roughly, exegetical, theological, and devotional.  I see no need to go back over the arguments for Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11, 2 Corinthians 3, and the the Book of Hebrews (although I shall look into Heb. 9:16-17).  However, I will provide a summary of the teaching of these passages as I interpret them, and add several further thoughts.

Some Exegetical Arguments

In Luke 22:19-20 our Lord first refers to His body:

This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me – Lk. 22:19

The body of Christ was broken for the disciples, but who believes that it was broken for them only?  As Paul says, it was broken also for all Christians.  It is not called “the body of the New Covenant,” so there is no division of His body between supposed NC saints and non-NC saints.  Then we come to the cup:

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” – Lk. 22:20

As regards the “cup,” Christ is not recorded as saying, “do this in remembrance of me.”  Interestingly, the Apostle Paul adds these words in 1 Corinthians 11:25.  In so doing he reinforces the connection between the body and the blood as a single sacrifice.  If the blood is directed partly to the NC and partly non-NC, then so is His body.  Also, if, as we are sometimes told, Paul wished to teach a separation of Christ’s blood into NC and non-NC blood, why did he add the note of remembrance which the Gospels leave out?  That at least would give the theory of divided blood a sporting chance.  By adding the remembrance clause Paul is tying the blood and body of Christ together as one sacrifice for all.

In addition, it should not go unnoticed that although there is plenty of opportunity for the inspired authors to teach a separation of Christ’s blood into NC and non-NC, all we find is NC blood in the Gospels (Lk. 22; Mk. 14; Matt. 26), and 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 11) and Hebrews 12.

The author of Hebrews also combines the sacrifice of Christ’s body with the blood, making them one sacrifice; neither His body nor His blood is divided.

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:10

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22 

In 2 Corinthians 3:6 Paul speaks of his ministry to the Corinthians as that “of the New Covenant,” which he then continues to contrast with the “first covenant.”  Some argue that Paul did not do this; that he was merely comparing his ministry to the Gentile Christians in Corinth, with the future ministry to Israel at the eschaton.  If a person wishes to believe such a thing I cannot stop them, but it has all the marks of skirting around an obvious conclusion, which one would prefer not to draw

The straightforward “normal” meaning is not difficult to see: Christ instituted the New Covenant with His disciples before His Passion, the disciples formed the foundation of the Church, with Christ (Eph. 2:20), and Paul’s NC ministry (2 Cor. 3) included the remembrance of the “blood of the New Covenant”  being part of the Lord’s Table for Christians (1 Cor. 11).  Christ is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-15), because He has offered His blood at the altar in Heaven (Heb. 9:12-15).

This brings me to Hebrews 9:16-17.  As it reads in most of our Bibles this passage is an island of “testaments” sticking out of a sea of “covenants.”  The proposed temporary change from covenant to testament is due to the mention of “inheritance” in verse 15.  Here is the context:

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.  For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.  For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.  Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. – Hebrews 9:15-18

The switch back to “covenant” is necessitated by the reasoning in verses 19 and 20, which are concerned with Moses’ involving the people in the covenant in Exodus 24.  In every instance the same word (diatheke) is being translated.  My intention here is not to prove that “testament/testator” is an unnecessary translation (I think it is!).  I shall just give a few reasons for my rejection of it.

Firstly, the uniform translation of diatheke as “covenant” in Hebrews, save for these two verses, makes them look suspicious.  George Guthrie writes:

Interpreters often have read 9:16-17 in terms of “will” or “testament,” but these verses should be read, in their context, as speaking of the establishment of a covenant… “The one arranging [diatithemi] it,” occurring in participial form, in 9:16-17, refers to the sacrificial animal that must die for a covenant to be established… This fits perfectly with the argument of 9:18-22, which deals with Moses’ inauguration of the Sinai covenant with the sprinkling of blood (Exod. 24:3-8). – in G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson, editors, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old, 973.

Furthermore, there is good evidence that a testament in the ancient world did not require the death of the testator.  Think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son!  Hence, William Lane claims,

There is no evidence in classical papyriological sources to substantiate that a will or testament was legally valid only when the testator died. A will became operative as soon as it was properly drafted, witnessed, and notarized. Moreover, inheritance did not occur only after the death of the testator, since it was common legal practice for an inheritance, as parental distribution inter vivos (“among the survivors”), to take place before death. – Hebrews 9 – 13 WBC, 231

The assertion I am making then is that Jesus is Himself the “covenant animal” that ratifies the New Covenant.  Moreover, there is precedent for saying this.  Just recall John the Baptist’s reference to Christ as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn. 1:29).  Do notice this concerns the sin of the world and not only of the remnant of Israel!

I should add here that the OT (as far as I know) does not speak of “New Covenant blood.”  Only the NT does that.  This strongly implies that one cannot get a full understanding of the New Covenant from the OT alone!

Returning to Isaiah

We must revisit Isaiah 42, 49 and 52-53.  In both Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 the Servant of Yahweh is called “a covenant to the people.”  So Christ (for He is in view) is a covenant.  This fact cannot be stressed too much.  Regardless of where one comes out on all this (and one does not have to agree with me), it is vital to address this question:

‘If Christ is to be given as a covenant, which covenant is He?’

I have answered the question by claiming that what is to believed (the central oath) concerns the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The covenant is about Him, it is wrought by Him, it is mediated by Him, His blood is the blood of the NC, and He is Himself referred to as a covenant of salvation, and the only covenant of salvation is the New Covenant.  Q.E.D.  For me at least.  Continue reading “My Take on the New Covenant (Pt. 9)”