I. Article Title. Thy Kingdom Come – The New Covenant (Part 2)
II. Article References.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Th. D. (1871-1952). J. Vernon McGee, Th. D. (1904-1988). Merrill F. Unger, Ph. D. (1909-1980). Charles L. Feinberg, Ph. D. (1909-1995). John F. Walvoord, Th. D. (1910-2002). J. Dwight Pentecost, Th. D. (1915-2014). Charles C. Ryrie, Ph. D. (1925-2016). Robert L. Thomas, Th. D. (1928-2017). Stanley D. Toussaint, Th. D. (1928-2017). Robert P. Lightner, Th. D. (1931-2018). Harold W. Hoehner, Ph. D. (1935-2009). Thomas S. McCall, Th. D. (1936-2021). Edward E. Hindson, Ph. D. (1944-2022).
III. Article Narrative. The Fulfillment Of The New Covenant.
A. There are those who use the New Testament references to the new covenant to prove that the church is fulfilling the Old Testament promises to Israel. Thus there would be no need for a future earthly millennium inasmuch as the church is the kingdom. Consider their view of Hebrews 8:8-12 .
1. The passage speaks of the new covenant. It declares that this new covenant has been already introduced and that by virtue of the fact that it is called “new” it has made the one which it is replacing “old,” and that the old is about to vanish away. It would be hard to find a clearer reference to the gospel age in the Old Testament than in these verses in Jeremiah.
2. In reply to such allegations, it is necessary to observe certain essential facts about the new covenant.
B. The nation with whom the covenant is made. It should be clear from a survey of the passages already cited that this covenant was made with Israel, the physical seed of Abraham according to the flesh, and with them alone. This is made clear for three reasons:
1. First, it is seen by the fact of the words of establishment of the covenant.
Jeremiah 31:31. Other passages which support this fact are: Isaiah 59:20-21; 61:8-9; Jeremiah 32:37-40; 50:4-5; Ezekiel 16:60-63; 34:25-26; 37:21-28.
2. Secondly, that the Old Testament teaches that the new covenant is for Israel, is also seen by the fact of its very name, contrasted with the Mosaic covenant, the new covenant is made with the same people as the Mosaic. The Scripture clearly teaches that the Mosaic covenant of the law was made with the nation Israel only, per Romans 2:14, Romans 6:14, Galatians 3:24-25, 2 Corinthians 3:7-11, Leviticus 26:46, Deuteronomy 4:8. There can be no question as to whom pertains the law. It is for Israel alone, and since this old covenant was made with Israel, the new covenant is made with the same people, with no other group or nation being in view.
3. Thirdly, that the Old Testament teaches that the new covenant is for Israel, is also seen by the fact that in its establishment the perpetuity of the nation Israel and her restoration to the land is vitally linked with it (Jer. 31:35-40). Thus we conclude that for these three incontrovertible reasons, the very words of the text, the name itself, and the linking with the perpetuity of the nation, the new covenant according to the teaching of the Old Testament is for the people of Israel.
C. The time of the fulfillment of the New Covenant. It has been agreed that the
time of the new covenant was future. It was always viewed as future when reference is made to it in the Old Testament prophecies [Hosea 2:18-20, Isaiah 55:3, Ezekiel 16:60, 62; 20:37; 34:25-26] all spoke of it as future. It must be viewed as yet future, for this covenant can not be realized by Israel until God has effected her salvation and restoration to the land.
1. Ryrie says: The sequence of events set up by the prophet [Jer. 32:37, 40-41] is that Israel will first be regathered and restored to the land and then will experience the blessings of the new covenant in the land. History records no such sequence. God cannot fulfill the covenant until Israel is regathered as a nation. Her complete restoration is demanded by the new covenant, and this has not yet taken place in the history of the world. Fulfillment of the prophecies requires the regathering of all Israel, their spiritual rebirth, and the return of Christ.
2. This covenant must follow the return of Christ at the second advent. The blessings anticipated in the covenant will not be realized until Israel’s salvation, and this salvation follows the return of the Deliverer. And so all Israel shall be saved: As it is written, “There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins “[Rom. 11:26-27].
3. The covenant referred to here must of necessity be the new covenant, for that is the only covenant expressly dealing with the removal of sins. And it is said to be actual after the coming of the Deliverer.
4. This covenant will be realized in the millennial age. Passages such as Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 34:25; and Isaiah 11:6-9, which give descriptions of the blessings to be experienced in the time of the fulfillment of the new covenant, show that the new covenant will be realized by Israel in the millennial age.
5. The conclusion, therefore, would be that this covenant, which was future in the time of the prophets, and was future in the New Testament, can only be realized following the second advent of Christ in the millennial age.
D. The relation of the church to the new covenant. There are four clear references to the new covenant in the New Testament: Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8; 9:15. In addition to these, there are five other references to it: Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Romans 11:27; Hebrews 8:10-13, and 12:24. The question arises as to the relationship of the believers of this present age to the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34. This question is important, for, as has been seen previously, the contention of some is that the church is now fulfilling these Old Testament prophecies and therefore there need be no earthly millennium.
1. There are three premillennial views as to the relation of the church to the new covenant made with Israel. Consider each view, as follows.
a. There is one and only one new covenant in Scripture, made with the houses of Israel and Judah and to be realized at a future time, to which the church bears no relationship whatsoever.
(1) This covenant of the letter is made with Israel, not with us (the church); but we get the benefit of it. By Israel not accepting the blessing, God brought out the church, and the Mediator of the covenant went on high. We are associated with the Mediator. It will be made good to Israel by-and-by.
(2) The gospel is not a covenant, but the revelation of the salvation of God. It proclaims the great salvation. We enjoy indeed all the essential privileges of the new covenant, its foundation being laid on God’s part in the blood of Christ, but we do so in spirit, not according to the letter. The new covenant will be established formally with Israel in the millennium.
(3) The foundation of the new has been laid in the blood of the mediator. It is not to us that the terms of the covenant, quoted from Jeremiah by the apostle, have been fulfilled, or that we are Israel and Judah; but that while the covenant is founded, not upon the obedience of a living people, to whom the blessing thereupon was to come, and the blood of a victim shed by a living mediator, but upon the obedience unto death of the Mediator Himself, on which (as its secure, unalterable foundation of grace) the covenant is founded.
(4) It is, then, the annexed circumstances of the covenant with which we have to do, not the formal blessings which in terms have taken place of the conditions of the old, though some of them may, in a sense, be accomplished in us (the church).
(5) In the New Testament it has no reference whatever to the church in this age, although the blessing of that covenant comes to others beside Israel now, since the blood was “shed for many.” It will, however, be fulfilled literally in the millennium.
(a) The new covenant of Jeremiah 31 necessitated the work of a Mediator and the death of Christ is that which makes a new covenant possible. (b) The new covenant was originally made with the houses of Israel and Judah and will be fulfilled in them literally in the millennium. The covenant can only be fulfilled literally by those with whom it was made and, since the church is not Israel, the church can not fulfill that covenant. (c) All the blessings which come to the church today are based upon the blood of Christ, which was necessarily shed to make possible the new covenant.
b. “The New Covenant secures the perpetuity, future conversion, and blessing of Israel; it secures the eternal blessedness of all who believe.” Thus, there is one new covenant with a twofold application; one to Israel in the future and one to the church now.
(1) The blood of the New Covenant shed upon the cross of Calvary is the basis of
all of the blessings of the believer in the present age. The believer, therefore,
participates in the worth to the sinner of the New Covenant, so that he partakes of the Lord’s supper in remembrance of the blood of the New Covenant (I Corinthians 11:25), and he is also a minister of the New Covenant, (II Cor. 3:6).
(a) The believer is a child of Abraham because he is of faith (Gal. 3:7), and of Christ, (Gal. 3:29). (b) He is also to partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree, which is Abraham and Israel, (Rom. 11:17). (c) So too, though as an unbelieving Gentile he is an “alien” and a “stranger,” (Eph. 2:12), he is no longer such, (Eph. 2:19), because he has been made nigh by the blood of Christ, (Eph. 2:13). (d) He benefits in the New Covenant as a fellow citizen of the saints and of the household of God, (Eph. 2:19), and not as a member of the commonwealth of Israel, (Eph. 2:12).
(2) We must remember that God is speaking here explicitly of His earthly
people, and not of any heavenly one, the people with whom this covenant will be made will be a people in that day entirely according to His mind. It will be asked how, according to this, the new covenant applies at all to us. Other scriptures answer this clearly by assuring us that if we have not the covenant
made with us, it can yet, in all the blessings of which it speaks, be ministered to us.
(1) The references in the gospels and in Hebrews 8:6; 8:7-13 and 10-17; 9:15; 10:29; 12:24; 13:20 refer to the new covenant with Israel.
(2) The new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 must and can be fulfilled only by the nation Israel and not by the church. Since this was a literal covenant made with the physical seed of Abraham, any relationship of the church to the blood required by that covenant can not change the essential promises of God in the covenant itself. Apart from any relationship of the church to this blood, the covenant stands as yet unfulfilled and awaits a future literal fulfillment.
2. The question may arise as to why reference is made to Jeremiah 31 in Hebrews if the church is not fulfilling that covenant. In spite of the contention of others that Hebrews 8 “declares that this new covenant has been already introduced,” no such statement or intimation is made in the passage. On the contrary, the quotation from Jeremiah is used to show that the old covenant itself was recognized as ineffectual and temporary and was ultimately to be superseded by an effectual covenant, so that the Hebrews should not be surprised that a new and better covenant should be preached, nor should they place further trust in that which had been done away.
(a) Walvoord says: the argument of Hebrews 8 reveals the truth that Christ is the Mediator of a better covenant than Moses, established upon better promises (Heb. 8:6). The argument hangs on the point that the Mosaic covenant was not faultless, was never intended to be an everlasting covenant (Heb. 8:7). In confirmation of this point, the new covenant of Jeremiah is cited at length, proving that the Old Testament itself anticipated the end of the Mosaic law in that a new covenant is predicted to supplant it. The writer of Hebrews singles out of the entire quotation the one word “new” and argues that this would automatically make the Mosaic covenant old (Heb. 8:12). A further statement is made that the old covenant is “becoming old” and “is nigh unto vanishing away.” It should be noted that nowhere in this passage is the new covenant with Israel declared to be in force. The only argument is that which was always true, the prediction of a new covenant automatically declares the Mosaic covenant as a temporary, not an everlasting covenant.
(b) Thus, in Hebrews 8 the promise of Jeremiah is quoted only to prove that the old covenant, that is the Mosaic, was temporary from its inception, and Israel never could trust in that which was temporary, but had to look forward to that which was eternal. Here, as in Hebrews 10:16, the passage from Jeremiah is quoted, not to state that what is promised there is now operative or effectual, but rather that the old covenant was temporary and ineffectual and anticipatory of a new covenant that would be permanent and effectual in its working. It is a misrepresentation of the thinking of the writer to the Hebrews to affirm that he teaches that Israel’s new covenant is now operative with the church.
3. In its historical setting, the disciples who heard the Lord refer to the new
covenant in the upper room the night before His death would certainly have
understood Him to be referring to the new covenant of Jeremiah 31. Several things are to be observed concerning the record of this reference on that occasion. In Matthew 26:28 and Mark 14:24 the statement is recorded: “This is my blood of the new covenant. “In this statement emphasis would be placed upon the soteriological aspects of that covenant. The blood that was being offered was that required by the promised new covenant and was for the purpose of giving remission of sins. In Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 the statement is recorded: “This is the new covenant in my blood.” This statement would emphasize the eschatological aspects of the new covenant, stating that the new covenant is instituted with His death. This would be according to the principle of Hebrews 9:16-17: For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
a. Since the disciples would certainly have understood any reference to the new covenant on that occasion as reference to Israel’s anticipated covenant of Jeremiah, it seems that the Lord must have been stating that that very covenant was being instituted with His death, and they were ministers of the blood (the soteriological aspects) of that covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), but these to whom it was primarily and originally made will not receive its fulfillment nor its blessings until it is confirmed and made actual to them at the second advent of Christ, when “all Israel shall be saved…for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Rom. 11:26-27).
b. There certainly is a difference between the institution of the covenant and the realization of the benefits of it. Christ, by His death, laid the foundation for Israel’s covenant, but its benefits will not be received by Israel until the second advent (Rom. 11:26-27).
4. There are several considerations which support the view that the church is not now fulfilling Israel’s new covenant. (a) The term Israel is nowhere used in the Scriptures for any but the physical descendants of Abraham. Since the church today is composed of both Jews and Gentiles without national distinctions, it would be impossible for that church to fulfill these promises made to the nation. (b) Within the new covenant, as its provisions have previously been outlined, there were promises of spiritual blessings and
promises of earthly blessing. While the church, like Israel, is promised salvation, the forgiveness of sin, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, yet the church is never promised inheritance in a land, material blessings on the earth, and rest from oppression, which were parts of the promise to Israel. The new covenant not only promised Israel salvation, but a new life on the millennial earth as all her covenants are realized. The church certainly is not fulfilling the material portions of this covenant. (c) Since the church receives blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (Gal. 3:14; 4:22-31) by faith without being under or fulfilling that covenant, so the church may receive blessings from the new covenant without being under or fulfilling that new covenant. (d) The time element contained within the covenant itself, both in its original statement and in its restatement in Hebrews, precludes the church from being the agent in which it is fulfilled. The covenant can not be fulfilled and realized by Israel until after the period of Israel’s tribulation and her deliverance by the advent of Messiah. While the church has had periods of persecution and tribulation it never has passed through the great tribulation of prophecy. Certainly the church is not now in the millennial age. Romans 11:26-27 clearly indicates that this covenant can only be realized after the second advent of the Messiah. Since the tribulation, second advent, and millennial age are yet future, the fulfillment of this promise must be yet future, and therefore the church can not now be fulfilling this covenant.
IV. Article Considerations.
A. One of the most difficult and most important factors of writing an article is related to sources of information. A writer must ensure that such sources have a high degree of knowledge on the subjects that are being written, and also must have a high degree of respect from other writers. A second factor that must be considered relates to how to lawfully use material of other writers. In this web site, copyright statutes are not violated. Also, “public domain,” is to be considered. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain
B. In this article, I have chosen theologians whom have proven themselves to be highly respected by others in the Biblical doctrine of eschatology (the study of what Scripture teaches about the end times), and other doctrines of scripture. All of the references in this article have a connection with Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) as graduate or instructor.
C. For education and other supporting data for each source of information in this article, please refer to my Page, “About My References.” The following links show information about Dallas Theological Seminary. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Seminary. It is important to understand that DTS is not a denominational seminary, and is totally independent of such.
D. About Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).
1. General Info. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas_Theological_Seminary
2. Doctrinal Statement. https://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinal-statement/