Last night we continued our study of the end times by looking at one of the most important parts of understanding how God describes the last days: the group of promises God made called the “covenants.” Here are the notes:
What is a covenant? Here’s a definition from Theopedia: “A covenant is simply a binding agreement or compact between two or more parties; in legal terms, it is a formal sealed agreement or contract. Classically, covenants are between nations or other powerful groups (for example, 1 Samuel 11:1; Joshua 9:6,15). At the international level they usually involve an alliance between two unequal parties – the stronger one pledging protection and help to the weaker in return for some form of vassal status (as in vassal treaties). This is similar to the biblical picture of God’s relationship with his people, except that the inequality between the parties (Creator and creatures) is absolute. It is always made clear that the initiative is God’s – that He makes covenants with his people and not vice versa. God initiates, confirms and even fulfills (ultimately in Christ, both sides of) the covenant.”
The Three Covenants of Promise
There are several covenants mentioned in scripture. The three that are most important for understanding how the end times will roll out are often called the “covenants of promise,” because they are unilateral (one-way, from God to Man) and unconditional (God says he’ll do it no matter what). These are the covenants he made with Abraham and David, and the third called the New Covenant.
The Covenant with Abraham.
Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 17:1-8
It’s Eternal: Gen 17:7, 13, 19; 1 Chr 16:17
The main parts of the Covenant with Abraham:
- To make from Abraham a great nation and to multiply his seed exceedingly and to make him a father of great many nations
- To bless Abraham and make him great.
- To make Abraham a blessing to all the families of the earth.
- To bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him.
- To give Abraham and his seed forever all the land which he could see.
- To give him a sign of the covenant (circumcision)
- The promise of a national land
- The promise of redemption, national and universal.
- The promise of numerous descendants to form a great nation.
What it means for the end: Before it’s all over, the descendants of Abraham will occupy and rule the land of Israel, forever, as the source of blessing to the whole earth.
What it means for the end: Before it’s all over, a physical descendant of David will rule over the descendants of Jacob (Abraham) in the land of Israel, forever.
The New Covenant:
Jer 31:31-34; Ez 11:17-20; Ez 16:60-63; Ez 36:25-28
The Main Parts of the New Covenant:
- Israel gets a new heart and God’s spirit in them
Israel is put back in their land for good
Israel is unified
Israel’s sins are fully forgiven
What it means for the end: Before it’s all over, Israel will turn to God with all their heart, receive the Holy Spirit, and, as a nation, do God’s will—namely believe in Christ. They will dwell again in their own land forever. This will happen because God will remove their sin.
Putting the three covenants together:
If God is to be trusted to keep his promises, then we can say know some things about what is going to happen in the future: God will bring his blessing to the earth through the descendants of Abraham, dwelling in their land, under the rule of a king descended from David. This blessing will include forgiveness of sin, a new heart that loves God, God’s spirit inside of us, and ultimate defeat of death. This is how God will heal the earth, redeem humanity, and defeat the serpent once and for all.
Now see Psalm 72:1-17 – Here we see that God will mediate his blessing to the whole earth, through the blessed rule of David’s king son, over the people descended from Abraham.
- There is a definite shape to the way history is shaping up. There are some details we can know, and a direction we can understand. Everything that happens is happening according to God’s plan as revealed by his promises. We don’t have to worry that we live in a world with no discernible pattern.
- History is not random or impersonal. Instead, everything about our world and our universe is essentially personal—it’s all about some promises that have been made and which will be kept. Everything is all about Someone who has the power to keep all his promises, actually working things out so that he keeps them.
- God works through mediation. What I mean by this is that he doesn’t just dump out blessing on the world haphazardly or indiscriminately—he works through channels. By learning about the covenants God has made, we see the channels he is working through—Abraham’s family and David’s royal line. In all of history, people are judged based on how they relate themselves to these channels of blessing. If they submit themselves to the way God has chosen to work, and they come to these channels to receive blessing, they are blessed. If they decide they don’t like the channels God has chosen to bless the world, and they either resist God’s way of blessing the world, or they work to find some other way, they miss out on the blessing.
- God’s chosen way of bringing blessing to the earth today is through the one descendant of Abraham and David, Jesus Christ.