We aim in the upcoming course to show the relationship between the old and new covenants and to investigate what had and what hasn’t changed. There is both continuity and discontinuity. Actually, your question is one of the more difficult questions of theology. On one level, nothing could be plainer than that there are simply two covenants, one that has passed, and one that has come in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 31:31-34). This is clear in the book of Hebrews, and in 2 Cor. 3:6.
However, we see in rom. 11:25-29, there is reference to a covenant that remains outstanding with Israel (“the natural branches”, ie. the Jew as Jew, and the nation as nation) that is to be fulfilled in the future. What covenant is this? Clearly, it is the same new covenant that is already ratified eternally in the sacrifice of Messiah. Still, it is not completely fulfilled in its stated provisions until all Israel is saved” (Rom. 11:26, 27). “But this shall be the covenantthat I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the LORD, I will putmy law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no moreevery man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:33-34; see also Isa. 39:20-21, in context).
We will show that according to the provisions of the New Covenant, the salvation of “all Israel” signifies an eschatological contrast to the perennial presence of a remnant that has always remained in the midst of a predominantly apostate nation. The context of Jeremiah’s new covenant points to the Old Testament Day of the Lord, when a remnant that has survived “Jacob’s trouble” (and only those will survive who are appointed to salvation) become a new nation, “born in a day” (Isa. 66: 7—9), the iniquity of the land is “cleansed in one day” (Zech. 3:9,10). From this time, there will never again be a remnant in the land, because the whole of the nation “from the least to the greatest” will all know the Lord, and will be preserved in holiness for the duration of the thousand years. That is to say, because the covenant is fulfilled in their national and collective obedience, there is no longer a remnant, but the entire nation is preserved in an everlasting righteousness” (Jer. 32:40; Dan. 9:24).
Because the law is fulfilled, as there is now a new heart of faithful obedience shared by the entirety of the nation, there is also no further threat of exile, no longer the inevitable recurrence of national disruption through covenant violation (Lev. 26; Deut. 28-32). The chronic tendency to backslide that placed the nation in perpetual covenant jeopardy is now replace by a new and lively spirit that can, and by the law of an inherent new nature, will ‘certainly’ persevere in righteousness according to the tenor of the following passages:
“Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause the to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. And I will given them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlastingcovenant with the, that I will not turn awayfrom them, to do them good; but I will putmy fear in their hearts, that they shall not departfrom me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them: (Jer. 32: 37-42).
“ In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none, and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve: (Jer. 50:20).
“Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified(Isa. 60:2).
“In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escapedof Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is leftin Zion, and he that remainethin Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every onethat is written among the living in Jerusalem” (Isa. 4:2-3).
“But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end…In the LORD shall allthe seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isa. 45:17, 25).
“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD: My spirit that is upon thee, and my words, which I have put in thy mouth, shall not departout of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever: (Jer. 31:33034; see also Isa. 59:20-21).
And so, Ezekiel and the other prophets: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heartalso will I giveyou, and a new spiritwill I putwithin you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and causeyou to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keepmy judgments, and dothem. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleanness….” (Ezek. 37:24-29).
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice. And without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim; Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days” (Hos. 3:4-5).
“Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the daythat I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent…The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (Zeph. 3:8-13).
“And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as thought I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them…In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness: (Zech. 10:6; 13:1).
This is not to multiply passages merely to prove a point; though many more that say essentially the same thing could be cited almost indefinitely rather, it is to give you a sense of just what Paul has in mind when he says that the salvation of “all” Israel is according to “my covenant with them when I shalltake away their sin” (Rom. 11:27). This is clearly future; it concerns the “natural branches” that are currently “enemiesof the gospel”. This is, of course, the same New Covenant that the church (through the revelation of the mystery) has entered upon in unexpected advance of the Day of the Lord, in contrast to the expected “restoration of the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6, 3:21; compare also Dan. 2:44 with Rev. 17:12 demonstrating the manifest futurity of this restoration of the kingdom “to Israel”).
Now consider also that until one is in Christ, there is no true fulfillment of the law, and so one remains “under” the law for condemnation and not for blessing, because the blessing is only to the doer (Lev. 18:5). But there is no acceptable doing of the law except through the gift of the Spirit received by faith. This is why Israel stumbled even before Jesus came. Paul explains that Israel’s historic error was their failure to pursue the holiness of the law by faith (Rom. 9:32). Instead, Israel turned the standard of righteousness into a work of human ‘do-ability’. This is quintessential humanism; it is “confidence in the flesh” (Phil.3:3-r), a condition so resilient and intractable that it continues to war against the believer as well (2 Cor. 1:9, 12:7).
When the law was revealed from Mt. Sinai, it stood forth in its holiness as humanly unapproachable (Ex. 19, Heb. 12:18-21). Till this day, this is Israel’s humanly insoluble predicament. Israel remains under the curse of the broken covenant UNTIL the law is fulfilled by the creation of a new heart, and a new spirit. And until the law is consistently kept by the entire nation, there can be no final refuge from terror, and no lasting possession of the land. There is no discharge from that covenant except through fulfillment of the righteousness that it demands, but cannot confer.
The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are both defined as “everlasting” (Gen. 17:7, 2 Sam. 23:5, Ps. 105:10, Isa. 55:3, 61:8, Jer. 31:35-37, 32:40, 33:25-26, Ezek. 37:26 et al), and belong to :my covenant (Gen. 17:19, Ex. 6:4, Lev. 26:42, 44, Ps. 89:28, 34, Isa. 59:21, Jer. 33:20-21, 25-26) “WITH THEM”(ie. the “natural” branches). This covenant is both fulfilled and unfulfilled. It is fulfilled in Christ, and with all who are in Christ. However, an essential feature of the covenant remains outstanding and unfulfilled until every Jewish soul living after Christ’s return will them be in Christ “from the day and forward” (Ezek.39:22, Acts 3:19-21, Rom. 11:25-27).
Significantly, God describes the broken law as “my covenant” in Jer. 31:32, as it is distinguished from the “new” covenant announced in the proceeding verse. Here, God calls the broken covenant “my covenant”, a term used elsewhere of the “everlasting” covenant. It is the same covenant that Paul unmistakeably identifies with the new covenant still to be established with the natural branches (Rom. 11;27 with Isa. 59:21 and Jer. 31:31-34).
God seems to look upon the covenant in its distinct stages as a single and perpetual covenant that is both conditional and unconditional. And, whether this “everlasting” covenant is regarded as “old” from the standpoint of its failure, (because of human incapability), or “new” in its Divinely assured success (because of the promise of regeneration through Messiah’s atonement), it remains throughout, “My covenant” (compare esp. Jer. 31:32 with Isa. 59:21 and Rom.11:27).
A comparison of these passages suggests that it is the same covenant, but differently regarded in different relationships. Viewed from the standpoint of Israel’s chronic failure, and the pessimism of the prophets concerning Israel’s spiritual capacity to fulfill its demands, the covenant is “old”, failed, and ineffectual. But viewed from the standpoint of God’s sovereign resolve to establish the covenant on the basis of grace and Divine enabling, it is new and everlasting. But the same covenant in both relations is called “the everlasting covenant”. It never ceases to be conditional, but its abiding conditionality cannot frustrate the promise, because it is God who unconditionally assures that its conditions are fulfilled on the human side as well.
On man’s part, the covenant is indeed quite breakable (Duet. 31:16, Isa. 24:5, with Jer. 31:32), but on God’s part, it is eternally secure, because it is sure of success through the power and determination of God (Isa. 59:21 with Jer. 31:31-34; 32:37-41). Therefore, we can say that the covenant that can never be fulfilled ‘by’ the people of the promise is nevertheless fulfilled ‘for’ them that it might be fulfilled ‘in’ them. Thus, when we speak of the unconditionality of the covenant, we assume, not the removal of its conditions, but the certainty of an eschatological Divine initiative that guarantees God’s own fulfillment of its human side.
This is done for His people through the Messianic atonement, that it might be fulfilled in them through the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This gift is poured out upon “all Israel” in the great Day of the Lord (Is. 59:20-21, Ezek. 39:29, Joel 2:28-32; 3L14-21, Zech. 12:10-13:1), the grand demonstration in all of this is that there can be only one source of covenant fulfillment, because as Jesus said, “there is none good but one, that is, God!” (Matt. 19;17). Herein lies the key to Israel’s historic blindness and covenant failure (Rom. 9:32).
If, as some affirm, Israel is no longer “under the law”, and therefore no longer in jeopardy of its violation, no longer under the curse, then why is history such an open witness of the continued disciplines and judgments threatened in the covenant? (Lev. 26, Deut. 28-32). No one can read the threats of the covenant without being compelled to recognize that they are remarkably current in their fulfillment. Yes, anti-Semitism is indeed satanic. Nevertheless, the scripture is abundant in its testimony that God employs evil for the correction of His people (Isa. 10:5-6, 15, Ezek. 38:4). Even as Jesus said to Pilate; “You could have no power against me at all, but it be given you from above (Jn. 19:11).
This could as well be said of Satan in particular, whose limits are set by the sovereignty of God. So, while certainly, Satan is behind anti-Semitism, God is behind Satan. We know this because the Scripture is clear that if Israel (all Israel) should keep the covenant from the heart, God would make “even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7). Then would Israel lie down in safety, and none make them afraid” (Lev. 25:18, 26:6, Deut. 12:10, 33:28; Hos.2:18).
But so long as such blessing is conditional on a obedience that is beyond Israel’s natural capacity to fulfill, the nation must continue in its tragic condition until “the day of His power” (Ps. 110:3). “In thatday”, the people will be “willing and obedient”, and thus will “eat the good of the land” (Isa. 1:19). In other words, the debarring “if” of the covenant’s conditional aspect will be overcome by unconditional Divine determination in the Day of the Lord (‘the day of His power”).
This is “the set time…the time appointed” to favor Zion” (Ps. 102:13, Dan. 11:27, 35, Ezek. 29:22). This is the great eschatological “UNTIL’ that stand between the “in part” of Rom.11:25, and the “all” of verse 26. It is the same “UNTIL” that appears in Mt. 23:39, Lk. 21:24, Acts 3:21, and many other such instances throughout the Psalms and the prophets. It marks the transition between an Israel that is saved “in part” (the remnant), and an eschatological “fulness” when every Jewish person, without exception, will be established in” everlasting righteousness” (Dn. 9:24) as a standing witness to the nations of God’s sovereignty in grace. It is the eschatological vindication of the everlasting covenant. Then it will be irresistibly visible “in the sight of all nations” that Israel is “the work of His hands” (Isa. 45:11; 60:21).
This witness “in the sight of all nations” (Ps. 98:2; Ezek. 28:25-26; 39:27) is the more remarkable and supernatural in view of the fact that renewed Israel exists as Spirit-filled believers (Joel 2:28-29; Isa. 44:3; 59:21, Ezek. 36:27; 37:14; 39:29), serving the Lord in natural bodies (Isa. 65:20-23; Ezek. 39:9-16; Zech. 14:16-19). And though there will be great evangelism among the nations (Isa. 2:3; 66:18-22; Zech. 8:23),it is only among the Jews that such uniform regeneration exists as to render Jewish evangelism forever unnecessary (Jer. 3:34; Ezek. 39:28). Such is the nature of God’s intention for millennial Israel. Israel thus becomes the ultimate demonstration of the nature of the covenant, and of the sovereignty of grace in salvation, and so it is intended. As the Jew is to be provoked to jealousy through the Church’s fulness even so will the nations, “in that day” be likewise provoked to emulation through the demonstration of a nation among the family nations whose entire population is born again. “How much more their fulness!” “what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead!” (rom.11:12, 15). Israel’s future glory defines the nature of the New Covenant.
[Note:Let the future of the covenant as it will be displayed in Israel throughout the Millennium instruct and inspire the church to more fully apprehend and appropriate the implications of such a covenant for its own life and faith, even amid the conflict that persists in this present evil age before Satan is bound. By New Testament standards, the saints as stewards of the mysteries should recognize, appropriate, and exhibit the power of this eschatological demonstration in advance of Israel’s eschatological fulness by the
Spirit of revelation, as custodians of the “secret of the Lor”, which is the covenant of salvation. (2 Sam. 23:5, Ps. 25:14; 91:16), known only by revelation (Isa. 8:16; 53:1, Dan. 11:32; 12:9-10).]
As a brief aside, it should be noted that coextensive with Israel’s Millennial blessedness is the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:2), and this is coincident with the destruction of the veil that is cast over all nations (Isa. 25:7). There is a manifest correlation between these events and the “finishing of the mystery of God” at the sounding of the seventh angel/trumpet (Rev. 10:7). It is no mere happenstance that with the sounding of the seventh angel, the mystery is “finished”, the veil is destroyed, and “the kingdoms of this world are now become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15; compare also 1 Cor. 15:51-54 with Isa. 25:7-8; 26:16-21; 27-13).
The end of the age is waiting on a revelation event that comes to “the escaped of Israel” (Is. 4:2), and this happens with the return of Christ, the Deliverer who comes out of Zion (Isa. 59:21; Joel 3:16; Ro. 11:26). The return of Christ “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mt. 24:29-31) concludes Daniel’s 70thweek of years (Dan 9:24). Until this point, the vision is ‘closed up”, “shut up”, “sealed up” (Dan. 9:24), “bound up”, and “hidden” (Isa 78:16-17; 29:11) from Israel (compare also Deut. 31:17-18; 32:20 with Ezk 39:29). The “times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24) is coextensive with the time of Israel’s national blindness (Ro 11:7-10, 25-27), a blindness that many scriptures show terminates with the Day of the Lord. This is very significant because it shows the relationship of the New Covenant to the revelation of “the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6:19). This means that god has predetermined a “set time”, (compare Ps 102;13, Dan 9:24-27; 11:27, 35; Ezk 39:22), that He will reveal Christ and the gospel to the beleaguered nation (Zech 12:10-13:1), who will call with one consent on the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32, Mt 23:39) “in the day of their calamity” (Deut 32:35, Ezk 35:5; Obad 13). “For that that is determined shall be done.” (Dan 11:36)]
The final crisis is precipitated most specifically over the covenant. Clearly, the conflict that will engage and test all nations throughout the period of Jacob’s trouble has all to do with “the controversy of Zion” (Ps 2, Isa 34:8, Zech 12:2-3). The Authorized Version terms it “the quarrel of my covenant” (Lev 26-25 KJV). The nations rage, and Jerusalem is made “a cup of trembling” and “a burdensome stone”, precisely because of the abiding significance of the ‘literal’ city, land, and people of the covenant. And who will deny that scripture builds the closing scenes of prophetic and apocalyptic eschatology around the holy land? In both testaments, it is the ‘literal’ people, land, and city that are depicted as most violently under siege at the time of the end. Ironically, these are the particular aspects of the covenant that most of Christendom has traditionally regarded as obsolete, belonging to an “old” covenant. Has the church’s appropriation of the new covenant disannulled the literal aspects that once distinguished and defined the “everlasting” covenant? May it never be! A pompous Christendom (Ro 11:25) may forget, but He will not forget! (Isa 49:15).
But regardless of how unknown, disregarded, or misread this covenant may be in the minds of men, the principalities and powers know well its meaning, and viciously oppose it. Satanic hatred becomes a sign of the covenant’s abiding significance! Therefore, Jacob’s trouble represents, on one hand, the satanic assault of nations against the land and people of the covenant (Lev 26, Deut 28-32 et al), on a people who have not attained to the obedience of the ‘new’ covenant, and are therefore under the abiding wrath of the ‘old’ covenant.
[Note:Until Israel will be “in Christ”, they are yet “of the law”, and “under” its curse (Ga. 3:10). Until Christ is revealed to the heart, all persons are “under” the curse of the broken “first” of “old” covenant (Jer 31:31-32, 2 Cor 3:14, Heb 8:13), because by definition, “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 Jn 3:4). So let none suggest that because Christ has come and fulfilled the law, Israel is no longer “under” the threat of the broken covenant. Such pitiful theology reveals a sanguine and humanistic superficiality that ill prepares the church for what should have been its prophetic expectation and responsibility.]
Does God’s covenant remain steadfast with Israel in spite of their failure to recognize either its promise or its threat? This question will become especially critical for the church as we near the end of the age. The Holocaust is proof that Jewish disregard for the covenant provides no asylum from its “vengeance” (Lev 26:25). The same is true of the nations who have before, and will again, stumble over the same covenant. And the nations that despise or disregard God’s covenantal prerogatives towards Israel will likewise drink of the cup of Divine indignation for the pride of their rebellion. In the paradox of God’s sovereignty, it is both God that brings the Gentile powers down )Ezk 38:4, 17, Zech 14:1-4) against “the people of my wrath” (Isa 10:6, Lk 21:23), and it is God who judges the presumption of the nations for their complicity in Satan’s hatred and defiance of God’s covenant, particularly as it concerns the land and people of Israel, a defiance that many scriptures show is inspired by demons (Ps. 2, Rev. 16:14), because Jerusalem is the city of the great King, the locus of Christ’s Millennial rule.
[Note:It is interesting to ponder the logic of Satan’s futile opposition to God’s rule. From the beginning the war has been over the Word: “Hath God said?” “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10b). If the sovereignty of the prophetic Word can be at any point prevented, then the God in whose living presence the demons will be eternally tormented cannot exist, because if the Word of God can fail, then the God of the Word does not exist, and Satan is not doomed. This also explains why the nations are depicted in a demonic frenzy as Satan sees that his time is short. It is therefore instructive to observe what Satan is most committed to oppose.]
The powers o darkness know the threat that the ‘literal’ land,, people, and city pose to their usurping rule, and this is why the nations rage (Ps. 2:1). The principalities and powers (Dan 10:12-13, 20) move the nations to defy the covenant, because they know better than the church what the Jewish resettlement of the land signifies. It is the presence of a ‘recent’ returned nation (Ezk 38:8), still in a state of unbelief, and facing imminent Divine discipline (Zeph 2:1-2, Jer 30:7, Ezk 22:17-22, Dan 12P1), that signals the imminence of Messiah’s rule over all nations (Ps2, Rev 11:15-18), and the final displacement of the false “rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age” (Eph 6:12 TEV). This “regathering” in unbelief is viewed as both human (Zeph 2:1-2), and Divine (Jer 30:3-7, Ezk 38:8). This is most certainly the order of return, because it is the nation’s continued state of unbelief and covenant defection that makes the Divine discipline of Jacob’s trouble necessary.
As previously noted, it is only as the new covenant is fulfilled in the salvation of “all Israel” (at
Christ’s return) that the beleaguered nation will know undisturbed tranquility and enduring possession of the land. Though the Jew may dwell in the land for an extended period under even a provisional blessing, until the nation can keep the covenant, it cannot keep the land. Until the covenant is fulfilled by an enduring righteousness that extends to the entire nation at once and forever, Jewish tenure in the land is probationary at best.
And when has it ever been otherwise throughout Israel’s history? Except for a remnant, and the rare occasion of a fleeting revival, the nation, form its inception, had never shown any other tendency than to slide backwards. Still in spite of persistent covenant disobedience and the judgment of exile, restoration to Divine favor always meant restoration to the land, because the land continued to be regarded as Israel’s inalienable possession: “Thee are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of His land” (Ezk 36:24). As long as the covenant shall stand, possession of the land can never pass to “another people” (Lev 20:24, Dan 2:44).
This inexorable decree will be defiantly rejected and violently opposed by the nations (primarily Islamic, the descendants of Esau in particular – Ezk 35-36:11; 38-39). These nations will constitute a multinational (ten kings?) confederacy that will suddenly and unexpectedly descend upon the land people of the covenant. And though these historic enemies of the covenant will be violently overthrown in the Day of the Lord, and fearfully condemned for their “perpetual hatred” of Jacob, it is necessary (in view of other clear prophetic passages that describe a brief 3 1/2- year period that is bounded by two distinct invasions of the land) to infer that these nations do not meet with immediate judgment, but have an initial success against Israel, bringing upon the Jews the final desolations threatened in the covenant and in prophecy (Mt 24:15-21).
In our time, God has once more brought the Jews home, not to the lasting peace of the covenant, but rather to a final crucible of Divine pleading, (though there may be a brief period of deceptive peace through the Jews’ presumptuous covenant with Antichrist). This surprising anomaly in the order of return is anticipated in Jeremiah’s prophecy of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:4-7). What the Jews will now experience in the land will test and uncover (Isa 28:15-17) the true poverty of its condition, the cause, and at length, the cure of the nation’s perpetual predicament. If we read the prophets correctly, the present return is a final trust and stewardship of the land that is Divinely intended to compel Jews to grapple with the implications of an ignored covenant bond, its promises and threats, and ultimately, the necessity of the promised Redeemer, who is the goal of the covenant. But also, the issue of the land is designed to press the issue of the covenant on the consciousness of the nations.
Prophecy indicates that this final test of the nation’s stewardship of the land ends again in covenant failure, invasion, desolation, and expulsion. Even after a future space of security in the land (though tenuous and apparently under the auspices of an unholy league with the Antichrist), the nation’s spiritual condition is manifested in that its sins increase under these deceptively tranquil conditions (Ezk 39:26 in context of 38:8, 11, 14 with Isa 28:15-18, Dan 9:27;11:22, 31;12:11, Mt 24:15, Jer 30:7). Always, throughout the prophets, and reiterated in the eschatology of Jesus, Paul, and John, Israel’s final distress before millennial glory is set in the context of an apostate Jewish presence recently regathered to the land (Zeph 2:1-2, Ezk 38:8, Jer 30:4-7), and existing again as a “nation” (Dan 12:1).
Nonetheless, however tenuous and threatened by covenant defection, the land remains Israel’s by sovereign unconditional election. We must distinguish between Israel’s conditional enjoyment of the covenant and God’s sovereign right to unconditionally give the blessing to ‘whom He will’: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth” Rom 9:11). Hence, Jewish possession of the land is an inalienable part of the everlasting covenant, and this recognition is Divinely required of the nations, regardless of Israel’s temporal spiritual status. Israel’s temporal spiritual fitness is not the criterion by which God judges the nations concerning their attitude towards the covenant.
It is true that Jewish generational descent is no guarantee of anything but of certain judgment if the covenant is not fulfilled by personal and national holiness. No generation of the Jews may hope for enduring personal or national peace, apart from the righteousness of faith. However, though the conditional and temporal aspects of the covenant may be suspended through disobedience, and individually denied, the eternal and unconditional aspects of the covenant are never removed from the Jews corporately considered, ie. as a distinct people with an aboding “special Divine status”, precisely because of God’s sovereign prerogative to “quicken who He will”.
It is not just God’s ability to overcome Israel’s inability that makes the covenant sure, but it is His sovereign determination to overcome Israel’s natural unwillingness (Ezk 20:33-37) in the “day of His power”, “the set time”, “the time appointed” (Ps 1092:13, Dan 8:19; 11:27, 35). The conditions of the covenant are not set aside. It is just that God has unconditionally predetermined to enable this particular people, at a predetermined time, to fulfill all of the conditions that make the blessing of the covenant both certain and everlasting Prophecy is not mere foresight; it is the declared foreordination of God, the sovereign Creator who “does according to His will in the army of heaven” (Dan 4:35). And though Antichrist exalts himself to “do according to his will” (Dan 11:36), such autonomous ‘freedom’ cannot frustrate or exceed the limits set by God’s predetermined purpose: “for that that is determined shall be done” (Isa 14:24-27, Dan 11:36).
It is the power and certainty of God’s predestinating grace that is the surety of the covenant and the consolation of all saints (see 2 Sam 23:5, Ps 89:28-34, Isa 55:3, Ro 8:28-39, Eph 1:11, 2 Tim 2:19). Though the covenant remains in constant jeopardy on the Jewish side until the bringing in of an “everlasting righteousness” (Jer. 32:20, Dan 9:24), the gift and promise of the land is not removed, but stands forever with this people only (Amos 3:2, Dan 2:44).
God is free and righteous to distinguish! It is the prerogative of His rule as God. And Israel is the historical proof of this Divine prerogative. However blessed the nations through Israel’s national resurrection, the stewardship of this particular land belongs exclusively with this particular people, because of god’s intended purpose to make of Israel a visible, compelling, and consummately instructive exhibition to al nations of the sovereignty of His rule.
However ignorant, indifferent, or hostile, the nations are finally accountable for their attitude toward the covenant. Though Israel does not spiritually ‘qualify’ for undisturbed tranquility or enduring possession of the land, it is nonetheless the assault of the nations against the pole and land of the covenant that provokes God’s ultimate indignation against them: “then shall my fury come up in my face” (Ezk 38:18). God regards the world’s disregard and defiance of His covenant as an arrogant assault on Himself. But observe carefully that his ‘latter days’ multinational invasion takes place ‘while’ Israel is yet under covenant judgment. May the church of Jesus Christ hasten to observe this, because most of Christendom will also stumble over this ‘rock of offense’ that the covenant (“My covenant”) will be to the nations! [Note: Of course, the ‘rock of offense’ has first to do with the mystery of Messiah, but as we show elsewhere, this mystery touches both of Messiah’s advents to Israel, and has everything to do with the covenant.]
God, in the wisdom that is able to employ even the greatest of evils to show the sovereignty of His judgment and the glory of His grace, brings the presumptuous nations against ‘the people of His wrath’ (Isa 10:6, Lk 21:22-23), but utterly opposes the motives and pride of their demonically-inspired enterprise (cf. Ezk 38:16-23, Zech 14:2-4, Rev 16:14). To deny Jewish inheritance of the land, even on the basis of Jewish covenant failure, is to deny the covenant.
Moreover, it is to deny “the foundation of the Lord”, because it denies the basis of election and grace. “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His” (2 Tim 2:19 KJV). Not only does the Lord “know them that are His” (“my sheep”), but He knows them before they know Him. And so it is with God’s covenant with Israel, though it has conditions, it is not based on human ability to fulfill those conditions, but is is based on God’s predetermination to “give repentance” (Acts 5:31, 1 Tim 2:25), to have mercy on “whom He will” have mercy, and to quicken “whom He will” (Jn 5:21, Ro 9:18). It is the sovereign “whom He will” of grace that is the ultimate foundation of the everlasting (new)covenant. “for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand. So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Ro 9:11, 16 KJV).
It is to this end, and in demonstration of this principle that God has made His covenant with Israel both literal and visible. The Jew is preserved in ethnic distinction (Jer 3:35-37) to show to all the helplessness of man and the sovereignty of grace. The power of this demonstration lies in its visible (literal) display with a specific race, whose distinction does not exist for its own sake (Ezk 36:32), but for the sake of the glory of God. Such demonstration intends the ultimate humbling of the nations, and the saving of many, as the nations are made to recognize the righteousness of God’s magisterial prerogatives in both judgment and grace towards Israel. “And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed the over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword” (Ezk 39:23). “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God I with you” (Zech 8:23). Whatever else the Day of the Lord will bring, the prophets are very express that all nations will b compelled to acknowledge Israel’s special Divine election (Ezk 37:28; 39:21-29). And no account of the everlasting covenant in prophecy can be detached from the eschatological controversy concerning the city and the land.
Israel’s covenant delinquency has and will again bring the nation into judgment and exile. Though exile is a sign of Divine rebuke and displeasure, the attitude of the nations towards the wandering Jew in their midst is a Divine measurement of eternal consequence. The nations are eminently accountable as to their perception and regard for Israel’s abiding covenant status. Whether in the land or out of the land, whether in covenant compliance (and when has the nation been sustained by more than a remnant?), or sinful indifference, the covenant stands with this people, and with this land (“shall not be left to other people” Dan 2:44). God may take the Jews from the land, but He will never take the land from the Jews.
The issue of God’s reckoning and coice is the issue of His rule, and the principalities and powers know it, thus the rage of their opposition. The land was not initially given on the basis of Israel’s righteousness. Therefore, even as the judgement of the covenant spews Israel out of the land, it remains their land, and Jerusalem remains the city of David. Though Israel cannot retain continued possession of the land apart from covenant obedience, the promise of return is irrevocable. The modern existence of Israel is not an accident of history. Jewish possession of the land is never incidental, regardless of God’s covenant contention with them. The nations will discover that God’s covenant contention extends to them as well. The test lies particularly in the question of Jewish fitness to possess the land. Though apart from national regeneration, Jewish possession of the land can never be assured of permanence, temporal tenure in the land has never been based on Israel’s spiritual worthiness! Though God may have sent the nation into exile, yet many were the days that God deal both bountifully and severely with the people in the land, and it was never the question whether the land should be theirs, but could they keep it? Could they prolong their days in the land? (Deut 4:26; 5:23; 11:9; 39:18; 32:47)
Thought God drive His people from the land, the land remains His, and because His, theirs. Not because of any virtue in the Jews, but to impress upon the nations the sovereignty of His decision, the chosen test-stone of His authority and rule, objections notwithstanding. Therefore, the Divine entitlement of the land is non-negotiable; it cannot pass to another people, or God is not God! And while great care is enjoined concerning treatment of “the stranger’ in the land, Israel is biblically forbidden to enter into covenant or league with the inhabitants of the land (Ex 23:32-33; 34-12, Judges 2:2-3). To do so is a precursor of Divine judgment (“a snare and a thorn”, as evident in Israel’s last days “league” with the Antichrist (Dan 9:27;11:23).
This league is made with one whom “in a time of tranquility” (NASU), “security” (ASV), enters in, and “becomes strong with a mall people” (Dan 11:23-24 ASV). There are some references to “the fattest places of the province (realm)”, suggesting that the “little horn” (an entity of insignificant origins) is actually active within the land. This would certainly fit the pattern where some of these events have been pre-typified (though not fulfilled in certain specifics) in past history. The passage indicates that “during a time of security” (Dan 11:21), and contrary to natural laws of succession (“to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom“ KJV), he gains royal power by intrigue and stealth. This strategic piece of cunning and artifice moves the “little horn” into a much larger dominion (“the glory of the kingdom” Dan 11:20 KJV). He is now a more significant power, and thus begins a series of regional conquest (11:25), securing increasing solidarity among those who share his contempt for “the holy covenant” (11:27-30), deceiving, and receiving support from all who are mutually incensed against it (11:32).
[Note: Many scriptures are harmonized if the Antichrist should originate as head of the newly-formed Palestinian state. In such a scenario, the ”little” horn comes up and becomes strong with a ‘small people’ after a forbidden ‘league’ (with Esau in the land?) that provides a treacherous and tenuous peace, (“by peace shall destroy many” Dan 8:25) From his newly-acquired platform as the leader of the new Palestinian state, and under the auspices of a treacherous “league” with the inhabitants of the land (‘”it will surely be a snare unto you”), this “man of sin” begins to “work deceitfully” (11:23), to prosecute his program of unification based on a shared hatred of the “holy covenant”. He has secretive conspiracy (“intelligence” KJV) with others who mutually plot the sudden overthrow of “the holy covenant” (11:27,30). “For when they shall say, ‘Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1Thess 5:3).]
There is a massive amount of biblical evidence to suggest that Israel’s final crisis is an eschatological reiteration of the quarrel that began in the tents of Abraham and Isaac. These ancient ‘brethren’ constitute the modern Arab world under the implacable banner of Islam, and will prove the ultimate thorn in Israel’s side. There is much to suggest that the ten kings that will confederate with the Antichrist in the final assault of Jerusalem are Arab nations. In our view of the covenant, it is not surprising that the God who loves what He has chosen with an eternal love, nonetheless takes a very stringent view of Jerusalem in its pretribulational apostasy: “how is the faithful city become an harlot?” (Isa 1:21), “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8). There can be little doubt that Jerusalem is to some extent identified with “that great city’ of apocalyptic mystery Babylon. There is no reason to make the identification complete, because there is evidence of two distinct destructions of “the whore”, one that inflicted initially by the ten kings, and another that comes at the end of the great tribulation with the last bowl of judgment in the great Day of God. This judgment of Babylon appears more comprehensive, (inclusive of the whole world system), and seems to include the ten kings (Rev 19:19). This is also the order of events in Israel’s apocalyptic eschatology. There is an initial invasion that begins the time of Jerusalem’s desolations (Ezk. 38, Jer30, Dan 9:26; 11:31-39; 12 :1, 11; Mt 24:15-21), and after 3 ½ years of great tribulation, there is subsequent convergence o nations (Armageddon), but this time the invasion is prompted by the presence of Antichrist, who is situated in the besieged city of Jerusalem (Dan 11:40-45, Rev 11:2). Towards the end of the tribulation, the nations are demonically induced to attack the Antichrist (Rev 16:14; 19:17-21 with Ezk 39:17-22). One can only infer why, but apparently his yoke has become to intolerable, and the nations revolt (?).
All of this is to say that if the ten kings are indeed the descendants of Ismael and Esau, and if Jerusalem is rightly identified with the “harlot” of the apocalypse, we may reconsider the significance of the passage that says “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore (in this instance Jerusalem), and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (Rev 17:16 KJV). If we have rightly understood this mystery, the disaster of 9/11 is a portent of the kind of Islamic contempt that will be targeted towards all who will be identified with Israel. The die is cast. But of particular significance for our view of the covenant is the following passage which adds: “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (17:17). Again, it is the paradox of god’s sovereign employment of the greatest and most unlawful of evils to affect the judgments and desolations threatened in the covenant, and to convert these covenant severities into the salvation of “the remnant according to the election of grace” (Ro 11:5).
Contrary to international protest and rage, God will not surrender His land to Esau. If another people temporarily inhabit the land, the right o if inheritance cannot pass to them. In spite of Israel’s covenant rejection, possession of the land is an issue of inviolable Divine choice, and is not disannulled through Israel’s covenant faithfulness, because covenant faitfulness, though required, is to the work of man, but the gift of God. God must first give what He commands, o man, because he is fallen , will faithfully fail. Rather, the promise of the land, like all of the promises of the covenant, is base on God’s sovereign prerogative to give His irrevocable “gifts and calling” (Ro 11:29) to “whom He will” (Jn 5:21, Ro 9:18). But are the nations also required to recognize the prerogatives o God’s electing grace? Apparently so, in view of God’s “controversy’ with the nations that is provoked over the last days question of Jewish possession of Jerusalem and the land. The nations receive Divine rebuke for their presumption against the city and the people of the covenant, and this in spite of Israel’s own vulnerability to covenant wrath. It seems that it is one thing for God to judge concerning the duration of Israel’s temporal possession of the land, but not for another!
Scripture leaves to question that the Jews are back in the land for Divine dealings that conclude the age, not because they are worthy, but because they are His! And though It is true that according to the covenant, a secular and unbelieving people cannot prolong their days on the land (Deut 4:26; 30:18), yet, if Israel will be displaced in judgment, it is for God to remove them, but woe unto that nation by whom they are removed. It is indeed God’s prerogative to judge His people, but woe to those nations who lend themselves as willing agents of His wrath (Isa 10:5, 12, 15, Ezk 38:4, 17-18). God will indeed bring the nations down in Divine judgment against ‘His land’ (even employing demons in fulfillment of His sovereign determination to gather the nations (Zeph. 3:8 with Rev 16:14). They will come against the people that are paradoxically called “the people of My wrath” (Isa 10:6), but it is His people, and it is His wrath, and woe unto those nations who are so divinely-employed, because “they have broken the everlasting covenant” (Isa 24:5), and presumptuously “touched the apple of ‘His eye’” (Zech 2:8). This is the stone that will fall upon the nations. The same covenant that is blessing to the penitent is a trap and a snare to the proud that tumble. Thus, Israel becomes God’s magnet that irresistibly draws the nations into a “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14).
All of this confirms beyond dispute the viability and continuity of the literal aspects of the everlasting covenant. And nowhere is this continuity, and the distinctions between ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘first’ and ‘second’, better thean in the incontrovertibly future events of Jacob’s trouble. As pointe ot earlier, Jacob’s trouble is that period of crisi and transition that brings the Jewish nation into its full eschatological appropriation of Jeremiah’s New Covenant. Therefore, the Day of the Lord accomplishes the final enforcement of the new covenant in its full appropriation by “all Israel” (the surviving remnant of “that day”), and this is the goal of Jacob’s trouble.
[Note: Many scriptures show, however, that only a remnant, “one-third” Zech 13:8) will survive to become the “all Israel” of millennial salvation. Only the remnant “that is left” (Isa 4:3) receive the revelation that comes at the precise point of Christ’s return (Ezk 30:38, Zech 13:10,
Ro 11:26, Isa 59:21; 66:8, Zech 3:9, Ezk 39:22 et al.)]
And as many of the foregoing passages demonstrate, the ‘literal’ people, land, and city (Jerusalem) belong to the promise structure of the ‘everlasting covenant”. However, the judgements that descend on the Jewish people at this time are what Jesus calls “the days of vengeance…and wrath upon this people” (Lk 21:22-23). It is “the vengeance of the covenant” (Lev 26:25). But such vengeance and curse is not according to the tenor of the ‘new covenant”. Such judgment assumes what Paul calls “the curse of the law” (Gal 3:10). And yet, it is through the severities and travail of the so-called ‘old’ covenant that the ‘new’ comes. During the final period of unequaled tribulation period (compare Jer 30:7 with Dan 12:1, Mt 24:21). Israel is brought through sever chastisement “into the bond of the covenant (Ezk 20:33-37). The “bond of the covenant” suggests Israel’s eschatological attainment of new covenant salvation issuing in true covenant obedience. But this transforming even is accomplished by means of covenant discipline, the “rod” (37) and “fury poured out”(33), according to the tenor of the so-called ‘old’ covenant with its threats of judgement and curse. Such Divine rebuke assumes that the nation has no attained to the blessing of the new, and still suffers the curse of the old.
So, we see the simultaneous presence and activity of both the ‘unconditional’ ‘everlasting’ covenant, and the conditional Deuteronomic covenant in the very events of Jacob’s trouble. However, there is a continuity of conditionality that subsists in the covenant that is never abrogated, but ‘Divinely’ fulfilled. And it is that conditionality that creates the practical distinctions between ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘first’ and ‘second’. This aspect of conditionality is never ‘conveniently removed’ to accommodate the weakness of the flesh (the first creation, the first Adam). It does not cease to curse sin in the flesh. It is only through death to the flesh, and resurrection to newness of life that the curse of the law is removed. It is only removed because its demand for holiness is gloriously fulfilled through the Spirit. But the gift of the Spirit assumes the glorious mystery of the atonement in Christ’s blood. So the threat of the covenant is not removed merely because of a dispensational change (the nature of which has proven quite ambiguous in the history of the church), but only as Christ’s death and resurrection becomes ours by its repetition in us through a like pattern of death resurrection (the operation of the Spirit in regeneration, and of the pattern of the cross in our sanctification).
It is the Spirit that fulfills the covenant, first, and perfectly in Christ’s humanity, and by measure (Jn 3:34) in the believer who is delivered from the curse through death to the flesh (ie. death to confidence in the flesh). This means that Israel remains ‘under’ the curse of the broken covenant (the law) until the nation will attain the corporate obedience of the New covenant, then fulfilling the promise of the ‘everlasting covenant’. Thus, such distinctions of ‘old’ and ‘new’, ‘first’ and ‘second’ may be more accurately understood as referring to tow sides (human and Divine), two effects (judgment and redemption), and two stages in the historical progress of the same covenant. The New Covenant is the salvation side of the ‘everlasting’ covenant, and the ‘old’ covenant is ‘old’ by reason of the absence of the Spirit’s empowerment to meet its requirements and conditions. And of course, as there is no new Covenant, and no gift of the Spirit apart from the necessary work of Christ’s atonement, and it is the Spirit’s revelation of the fulfillment of the covenant in Christ that signifies a change of dispensation. Even the Rabbis recognized that with the advent of the messianic era. There would be significant changes in the administration of the law under the new millennial conditions, thus, a new dispensation. Therefore, certain dispensational changes adapted by the church (in keeping with its faith that the promised age of fulfillment has arrived in the relation of the gospel), actually constitute a strategic testimony to Israel, demonstrating (through the evidence of the promised Spirit) the inadequacy of the works of the law (ie. the works of human ability).
But remember, the covenant is fulfilled in one place only – “in Christ”. This of course takes place in real space-time history, and indeed changes history, and brings in a new form of administration, but until one is ‘in Christ’, for that one, the covenant is unfulfilled, and in the absence of faith and the indwelling Spirit, the curse remains. What remains outstanding and unfulfilled concerning the New Covenant is its promise of a day when there will be no singly Jewish person on earth that is not also, certainly, and forever ‘in Christ’. This is Paul’s meaning when he speaks of the future salvation of “all Israel”, and it is god’s meaning when He says, “this is my covenant with them, when I shall take away their sin.” (Ro 11:27, Isa 59:21). Already, there was a remnant according to the election of grace (in context, the term is used of the specifically Jewish remnant), but according to Paul, the salvation of a mere remnant still leaves the elect nation (with whom God has bound the ‘public’sanctification of His very name (Ezk 36:21-22) in its shame and reproach, and this is clearly short of the covenant promise (Paul is proving the inadequacy of a remnant to fulfill the promise, although the continued presence of the remnant is pledge that the covenant, though incomplete” as touching the election”, has not failed). No, the covenant will have its ultimate historical fulfillment in the resurrection of the elect nation out of the death of Jacob’s trouble (“in one day”). Then shall “the Jerusalem which is now” be united with “the Jerusalem which is above”, an through the quickening, liberating power of the Spirit, be made of God anopenand everlasting ‘praise in the earth” (Isa 62:7).
[Note:Observe the contrast between Paul’s negative term “the works of the law” (Rom 9:32, Gal. 2:16; 3:2,5,10) with his positive term “the righteousness of the law” (Ro 2:26, 8:4).]
Therefore, in any dispensation, the absence of the obedience that is reflective o regeneration places one under the curs of the law (see Isa 26:1-; 65:2-; Zech 14:16-19). And of course, true spiritual obedience is never the cause, but the inevitable sign of regeneration.
Decisive evidence for the continuity of the covenant is found in the eschatological book od
Daniel. Here we see that the last days Antichrist siege of Jerusalem is directed against “the holy covenant” (Dan 9:27, 11:22, 28, 30, 32). That the covenant touching the land, the city of Jerusalem, and Israel’s holy places is still significantly in force at the end of the age is evident in Satan’s rage against these institutions. In view of such indisputable evidence, it is especially unsettling to hear some of our finest evangelical leaders publicly deny ‘special Divine status’ to the ‘ancient people’ (Isa 44:7), the Divinely-commended witnesses of the covenant (Isa 43:10, 22; 44:8). “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches” (Ro 11:16). The though is not of active personal holiness, but ‘holy’ in the sense of ‘set apart’. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they (the elect race) are belovedfor the fathers’ sakes, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Ro 11:28-29). They are beloved enemies! And all the more as we realize that the “door of faith” newly opened to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27) is the result of the Divine purpose accomplished “through their fall”, and Paul is unwilling to leave us unapprised of this costly transfer (Ro 11:11, 28). Even in Israel’s blindness to the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, there remains a conspicuous continuity in the covenant (for woe rather than weal) until the nation will escape its abiding conflict with “the vengeance of the covenant” (Lev 26:25 NKJV), through revelation of the mystery of the gospel (Ro 16:25-26, Eph 6:19), the very revelation that now constitutes the church as the eschatological mystery, and ‘fellow-heirs’ of Israel’s covenants (Rom 9:4, Eph 2:12).
In further defense of an apparent continuity, consider that before Jeremiah calls the covenant “new”, it is already known as the “EVERLASTING” covenant. The everlasting covenant made with the patriarch, declared to be unconditional with David (2 Sam 7:10-16; 23P5, Ps 89;28-37, Isa 55:3), and so often reiterated throughout the Psalms and Prophets, was first described as ‘new’ in relationship to the promise of an eschatological intervention that would come at the end of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7). It represents the instantaneous regeneration of a final surviving remnant at one time only, the climactic Day of the Lord. From that day, Israel will not longer exist a s a mere remnant in the midst of a faithless nation, but as an entirely regenerate race, “from the least to the greatest, they shall ALL know me”….I have left none of them any more there.” The salvation of “all Israel” stands in contrast to “a hardening in part”. When the “Deliverer comes out of Zion”, there is not more “in part”.
And this eternal covenant has always been certain of success, because Christ is “the lamb slain before the creation” (Rev 13:8). This covenant also described as the “sure mercies of David” (Isa 55:3), that will one day take “all Israel” in its sweep, stood in other generations with the “remnant according to the election of grace” (Ro 11:5), in whose circumcised heart the law was written by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
[Note: It is pitiful theology that presents the new birth as something peculiar to this dispensation. Nicodemus was reprimanded (Jn 3:10) for being a teacher in Israel, and yet failing to recognize the necessity of inward regeneration. Though the terminology (“born again”) is indeed original with Jesus, the concept belongs to Israel’s eschatological hope. Nicodemus failed to make the connection between Israel’s national hope, and the hope of the individual. The pattern is the same. If the nations is helpless in its dry bones state of spiritual destitution and death until it is raised to newness of life as represented in the promise of a new heart, and a new spirit, “the sprinkling of clean water:, in Ezekiel’s terms or being “born at once in Isaiah’s terms, should it be otherwise for the individual who is likewise dead in sin until quickened by the Spirit? (Eph 3:1). “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living!” (Mk 12:27). The natural man (in any dispensation) CANNOT (not merely ‘will not’) receive the things of the Spirit. It is a modern heresy that claims that the Old Testament saints were not ‘indwelt’ by the Spirit (“the Spirit of Christ whish was in them” 1 Pet 1:11), or that the law was not yet written in the hearts of the righteous remnant, contrary to the clear testimony of David (Ps 37:31; 40:8), and the prophets (Gen 41:38, Num 27:18, Isa 63:11).]
The New Covenant (confirmed in the fulness of time in Christ’s blood) is none other than the “everlasting covenant” that always stood with the righteousness of faith, and that stands not with the church in continuity with the elect remnant of Old Testament Israel. And it is this same covenant that yet remains to be established with ‘all’ Israel when the Deliverer will come out of Zion, when “they will look upon Me whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10-13). In fact, in any dispensation, and not only in the end o f the age, this covenant is established with anyone who is enabled to “look” by the Spirit of revelation (Isa 45:22).
The everlasting covenant is at all times, and in every age, established with faith, and there is no want of personal holiness under the covenant, because righteousness myst be the issue of a heart that is purified by faith (Acts 15:9). And not only to natural Israelin the eschatological Day of the Lord, but in every generation, both before and since the cross, whether it is to an individual, or to an eschatological community (the church), righteousness is always imputed to faith (Ps 32:2, Ro 4:6-10), but a faith of what kind? We believe it is faith that is ‘quickened’ by the free and sovereign grace of God who quickens “whom He will (Jn 5:21, Ro 8:18). It is “the faith of God’s elect” (Tit 1:1). It is the faith that is found in that number that Paul classifies as “the remnant according to the election of grace” (Ro 11:5). It is this kind of faith that millennial Israel will possess forever; and this faith does not fail (“if it were possible” mt 24:24), because it is sustained by the power of God (1 Pet 1:15), and the unfailing intercession f Christ (Lk 22:32), Ro 8:34, Heb 7:25), because it is the faith of the new covenant, based on the eternal “I will” of god. Such sovereign determination overcomes all resistance. Just as God was able to ‘get His man’ on the road to Damascus, wo will He prevail to arrest His nation on its own ‘Calvary road’ of flight and international hatred. “For God is able to graft them in again” (Ro 11:232). However, we are not to imagine that such faith as here described is automatic, or arbitrarily quickened of God. It follows crisis, particularly the crisis of the Word, the preached Word. Apart from the Word, no amount of personal crisis, or Divine judgment can create faith. Faith comes at the end o strength (confidence in the flesh). “He takes away the first, that He may establish the second” (Heb 10:9). But such holy afflictions receive their saving significance only through “the hearing of faith” (Gal 3:2, 5), “Faith comes by hearing (Ro 10:17) as revelation destroys the veil over the heart (Isa 25:7, Zech 12:10, 2 Cor 3:14). This is the logic of Jacob’s trouble.
The re-engrafting of the natural branches is accomplished as God brings Jacob to the end of his power (compare Deut 32:36, Dan 12:7). It is then, “when thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days…” (Deut 4:30), that “the LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, wo that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deut. 30:5-6). This is the Divine aim of Jacob’s trouble. “when He sees that their power is gone” (Deut. 32:36)!
[Note:On the futurity of Jacob’s trouble, compare closely the parallel relationships between the evens described in Jer 30:7, Dan 12:1-2, Mt 24:21, Rev 12:12, also Dan 11:36-12:13 with 2 Thess 2:1-8, and observe the clear and inextricable association of a period of unequaled tribulation, the simultaneous brief career of Antichrist, the subsequent return of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous dead. This complex of events is “immediately” (Mt 24:29) precursory to the final and everlasting deliverance of Israel, “thy (Daniel’s) people” (Dan 12:1).To place any of these events in past history is to deny their manifest connectedness, and clear proximity to the resurrection (Dan 12:1-2 with Mt 24:21-31).]
Paul explains that the covenant conditions of the law were ‘added’ to exclude the flesh from any participation in the fulfillment of the promise, thus cutting off all confidence in the flesh. The law that was handed down at Sinai (with promise only to the doer – Lev 18:5) is no hindrance to the promise. It is a barrier only to the flesh. Rather, the conditions of the covenant spelled out at Sinai only magnify the grace and glory of the promise, because it excludes the flesh from any part in its fulfillment. Because the law demands nothing less that the righteousness of God (perfected Messiah’s humanity alone), all are ‘shut up’ to the necessity of regeneration. In ay age, or dispensation, it is equally true. “You MUST be born again!”
[Note:The quickening of such faith in the heart is itself a resurrection event of Divine revelation, and Christ is most preciously revealed in “the end of the law”, not only in the sense of the end of a dispensation, but particularly as the goal of the law to destroy the presumption of human self-sufficiency. So, in a certain existential sense, the end/goal of the law is also the end of all the strength of the flesh. The biblical pattern shows that repentance is given particularly to those who despair of themselves (Is 57:10, Zech 12:10), “He will regard the prayer of the destitute: (Ps 102:17). There is great hope for those who say concerning themselves “There is not hope!” (Isa 57:10) And the destitute contrition always signals a salvation that has drawn very near. As we said, the salvation of the Lord is revealed at the end of strength.]
The ‘old’ covenant requires what the ‘new’ covenant assures, ie. “a new creation”, because in any dispensation, it is only a new creation that avails anything (
Gal 6:15). But the ‘new’ covenant pre-existed the ‘old’ covenant in the form of the ‘everlasting covenant’. The later conditionalizing of the promises at Sinai could not disannul the original Abrahamic promise because of the sovereign prerogative of God to fulfill both sides of the covenant by Himself alone. Surely this is the symbolism of Abraham’s ‘deep sleep’ (Gen. 15:12). “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself” (Heb. 6:13).
This suggest not only the continuity of the covenant, but also the unity of the covenant, its temporary conditionality passing away only because of resurrection fulfillment. It suggest that ‘old’ and “new’ are different ways of describing transition and change in the program of the covenant. The ‘new’ is simply the ‘old’ fulfilled. Of course, such fulfillment implies a change of dispensation. The weakness of the first (old) creation has been replaced through death and resurrection by a new creation. Thus, “the second” covenant is the covenant of the new creation (Heb 10:9). It is the passing away of the old (first) creation that permits us to speak of the passing away of the ‘old’ (first) covenant (Heb 8:13). It is the old creation that is done away in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). All that pertains to the weak and beggarly elements of the first creation is manifestly cut off by the ‘old’ covenant. That was, and still is, its principle purpose. The life of the resurrection is the life of the new covenant, “against such, there is no law” (Gal 5:23).
I hope these thoughts, though very random, may contribute towards a sense of the continuity of the covenant in its different stages and distinction. Finally, there are three passages that most appropriately conclude these contemplations:
Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.
1 Chron 16:15-18
If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of the fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity; Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.
Lev 26:40-42 KJV
And as to the continuity of the covenant, I am particularly reminded of John’s contrast between old and new:
Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that he have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you, because the darkness is past, and the true light now shines.
1 John 2:7-8
Yours in the Beloved, Reggie Kelly