Chapter 6: The Covenants of Redemption

Kenneth L Gentry

Narrated By: Aidan McGuire
Book: He Shall Have Dominion
Topics: ,


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Chapter Text

At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12)

Structuring the relationship of God to man and exercising a great influence on the redemptive flow of history is the biblical idea of “covenant.” Biblical theologian Geerhardus Vos writes that “redemption and eschatology are co-eval throughout biblical history,”[1] meaning of equal duration, so the covenant concept has a tremendous bearing on eschatology.

Covenantal Scripture

Covenant Defined

A covenant may be defined as a legal bond, which establishes a favorable relation between parties based on certain specified terms, and which promises blessings for faithful adherence to those terms, while threatening curses for man’s unfaithful departure from them.[2]

In a covenant, the parties are ,solemnly sworn to maintain the specified obligations. Scripture notes of God’s covenant with Abraham: “Since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (Heb. 6:13). As legal obligations, favorable covenantal relations can be maintained only by the faithful keeping of the stipulated terms. Of the covenant set before Israel under Moses, we read: “I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity…. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse” (Deut. 34:15, 19). Obedience to covenantal demands brings blessings; disobedience brings cursings. Thus, a covenant establishes a legal bond that establishes and protects specified rights.[3]

Covenant and Scripture

The Bible is very much a covenant document, as even a cursory reading of Scripture demonstrates. The biblical words for “covenant” appear often in Scripture. The Hebrew berith occurs 285 times in the Old Testament, while the Greek word diatheke appears thirty times in the New Testament.[4] Thus, it might well be said that “the Biblical category which does the greatest justice to the persistence of God’s activity among his people is the covenant relation.”[5] That the covenant idea is a dominant biblical theme is held by a host of Bible scholars.[6]

Mutually established covenants were common among the ancients, examples of which are plentiful both in Scripture and in ancient non-biblical texts.[7] By way of example, we might notice the covenants between Abraham and Abimelech (Gen. 21:22-32), Isaac and Abimelech (Gen. 26:26-31), Jacob and Laban (Gen. 31:43-55), Joshua and the Gibeonites Gosh. 9:3-15), and Solomon and Hiram (1 Kgs. 5:12). Such mutually established covenants are similar to modern contracts and treaties, although with some important differences.[8] These human covenants were between roughly equal parties: man to man.

Also revealed in Scripture are the much more important sovereignly established divine covenants. The parties in these are decidedly unequal: the infinite God and finite man. The history-structuring divine covenants of epochal significance in Scripture are those established with Adam (Hos. 6:7), Noah (Gen. 6:18),[9] Abraham (Gen. 15:18),[10] Israel (Exo. 24:8), and David (Psa. 89:3)[11] Off in the future from the Old Testament perspective lay the glorious, final, consummative “New Covenant” (Jer. 31:31-34). These divine covenants are unique to the biblical record, for “outside the Old Testament we have no clear evidence of a treaty between a god and his people.”[12]

The significance of these covenants for Scripture will be dealt with below in the section demonstrating the relationship of “Covenant and Redemption.”

Covenant and Creation

Even the very creation of the world must be understood in terms of covenant. The creation account portrays a covenantal action,[13] even though it does not employ the word “covenant” (berith).[14] I argue this on three bases.

First, the elements of a covenant are there, even though the word is lacking. When God created Adam, he entered into a blessed relationship (Gen. 1:26-27) with him that established a legal bond on the basis of specified terms (Gen. 2:15-17). In that bond, God promised life for obedience and death for disobedience (Gen. 2:16-17; cf. 3:15-21). This forms the essence of a covenantal relation.

Second, later references actually employing covenantal terminology speak of the creation as a covenantal action.[15] In Jeremiah, we read: “Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season” (Jer. 33:20). “Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jer. 33:25).

As Robertson has carefully pointed out,[16] in Jeremiah 33:25 the Hebrew structure of the verse parallels “ordinances (huqot) of heaven and earth” with the “covenant (berith) with day and night,”[17] pointing back to the orderly creation ordained of God. This seems clearly to harken back to Genesis 1:14a: ”And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night.”

Some might rather see this as an indicator of the Noahic Covenant mentioned in Genesis 8:22: “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”[18] But in a passage pressing the same point elsewhere, Jeremiah employs the term “ordinance” (huqoth) to speak of the sun, moon, and stars as bearers of light (Jer. 31:35), as does Genesis 1, but not Genesis 8. Even the reference to “stars” is lacking in Genesis 8, though appearing in Jeremiah 31:35.

Third, Hosea 6:7a is another passage employing “covenant” in reference to the creation. Speaking of Israel God declares: “they like Adam have transgressed the covenant.” Although the Hebrew term adam may be translated either “Adam” (in particular) or “man” (in general), either would point back to the original covenant with Adam in Eden.[19] Yet the particular man “Adam” seems to be in view here for several reasons.

In the first place, the significance of Adam’s sin would bring out the force of the comparison with Israel’s rebellion more specifically. Adam’s role as the great sinner is familiar to the Jews (Gen. 3). Job 31:33 serves as a parallel: “If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom.” Furthermore, if “man” were adopted in Hosea 6:7, the verse would be “altogether expressionless.”[20] How else could they have sinned than like men? In addition, the reference (“they have transgressed”) is to Ephraim and Judah (Hos. 6:4), not to the priests. Thus, the contrast is not one between priests and ordinary men, but between “Ephraim and Judah” and the historical Adam.

Certainly the Scriptures are pre-eminently a covenant document. Even the pattern for creation is developed covenantally in the revelation of God.

Covenant and Redemption

The unity of Scripture may be traced in the unity of the covenants, which set forth the overarching Covenant of Grace. The heart of God’s “covenants of the promise” (diathekon tes epaggelias, Eph. 2:12) is: “I will be your God and you will be My people,” This idea occurs a great number of times in Scripture.[21] The redemptive covenants are established in order to secure a favorable relationship between God and His people.[22] By means of the covenant, the covenant people become intimately related to the Lord of heaven and earth.[23]

Covenantal development is onion-like, layer upon layer: “[E]ach successive covenant supplements its predecessors.”[24] We may easily see this in comparing the structural and thematic continuity between the covenants,[25] For instance, in preparing for the establishment of the Mosaic covenant, we learn that “God remembered his covenant with Abraham” (Exo. 2:24).[26] Under the Davidic Covenant, we find reference to and deliverance under the Mosaic Covenant frequently mentioned,[27] as well as to the Abrahamic.[28] And, of course, the relationship of the New Covenant with earlier covenants is contained in the very formula of the New Covenant: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31[29]).

Interestingly, Ezekiel combines the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants in the chapters in which he deals with the New Covenant:

And David my servant shall be king over them [Davidic]; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them [Mosaic]. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt [Abrahamic]; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever [Davidic]. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them [New]: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. (Ezek. 37:24-26)

In the New Covenant era itself, we discover continuity with the preceding covenants. Romans 16:20 harkens back to the Adamic Covenant. Second Peter 3:5-7 draws a parallel with the Noahic Covenant. Romans 4:16 founds the New Covenant on the Abrahamic. Romans 3:31 demonstrates the validity of the Mosaic. Romans 15:22 harkens back to the Davidic Covenant. As mentioned above, Paul summed up the various Old Testament covenants as being “the covenants [plural] of the promise [singular]” (Eph. 2:12). There is both a basic unity undergirding the divine covenants, as well as a progressive development in them. Thus, with the coming of the New Covenant in the ministry of Christ, “the fullness of time” has been reached (Gal. 4:4).[30] And these concern redemption – a redemption, as we shall see, that shall overwhelm the world.[31]

The major competitor to covenantal theology among evangelicals today is dispensationalism.[32] Dispensationalism allows the historic, biblical covenants to playa large role in its theology.[33] Yet dispensational theology and covenantal theology are, in the final analysis, “irreconcilable.”[34] Indeed, “reformed covenant doctrine cannot be harmonized with premillenarianism”[35] because the dispensationalist’s “dispensations are not stages in the revelation of the covenant of grace, but are distinguishingly different administrations of God in directing the affairs of the world.”[36] Thus, the major difference between covenantal theology and dispensational theology is that covenantal theology traces a relentless forward moving, unified, and developmental progress of redemption, generally understood in Reformed theology as the Covenant of Grace. Dispensational theology, however, moves forward rather fitfully, backing up in the final dispensation to a Jewish era involving a temple and (memorial) sacrificial cultus, the millennium.[37]

For better or for worse, the very system name “dispensationalism” tends to throw the focus on the system’s discontinuous, compartmental view of history, despite the protests of dispensationalists.[38] This is because “a dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose. If one were describing a dispensation he would include other things, such as the ideas of distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment.”[39] Dispensations, then, “are not stages in the revelation of the covenant of grace, but are distinguishingly different administrations of God directing the affairs of the world.”[40]

This necessarily has a fragmenting effect on biblical history. In fact, as one dispensationalist notes, “the more one moves in the continuity direction, the more covenantal he becomes; and the more he moves in the discontinuity direction, the more dispensational he becomes.”[41] Certainly, then, discontinuity in redemptive history is a major effect of dispensationalism. I will show later that this has a major bearing on the development of the redemptive purpose of God in history and thus on the eschatology of Scripture, when I compare the catastrophically introduced millennial kingdom of dispensationalism and the gradually developed kingdom of postmillennialism.[42]

Although there are many covenants specified and implied in Scripture, the overarching redemptive purpose of God throws a special emphasis on a select few of these. These covenants include the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and Christ’s New Covenant. It is unfortunate that dispensationalism suggests a secular understanding of some of these covenants, rather than a redemptive one (e.g., the Creation, Adamic, and Noahic Covenants). I will prove this in a later chapter when I focus on the postmillennial outworking of redemption.[43]

Covenantal Obligation

Due to the covenantal influence in Scripture, we learn that man‘s obligations are not fundamentally individualistic, but rather corporate. As we shall see in later chapters, this fits well with a postmillennial eschatology and its strong view of social responsibility.[44] Here is outline the case for the societal obligations of covenantalism.

Man was purposefully created as an organic, unified race.[45] Whereas all mankind traces its origin back to Adam, including Eve herself (Gen. 2:21-22; Acts 17:26), animals were created en masse (Gen. 1:20-25). Even angels were created en masse as non-procreative individuals (Matt. 22:30): a host.

The organic unity of the human race is vitally important to the redemptive plan of God, as seen in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Adam was the federal head of all mankind: a legal representative. In him, we are legally and judicially dead (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 5:22). Christ is the federal head of all those “chosen out of” (eklektos) mankind. In Him, we are legally and judicially declared alive (Rom. 5:15-19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Christ became flesh in order that He might attach himself to the unified race and become its Redeemer (Phil. 2:5ff; Heb. 2:14).[46]

That God’s covenant has societal implications may be seen in its being established with Abraham and his seed (Gen. 12:1-4). The significance of Israel’s organic connection is illustrated in her portrayal as a vine (Psa. 80:8-16; Isa. 5:1-7). In addition, when God made covenant with Israel in the wilderness, it included future generations (Deut. 5:3).

Because of this, God specifically promises covenant blessings and warns of covenant curses running in communities of people. Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 detail specifics of community curses and blessings, transported from generation to generation and expansively covering the broad community. This covenantal factor is also demonstrated in Israel’s history. For example, the whole nation of Israel suffered defeat in war due to the grievous sin of Achan (Josh. 7:1). They were learning corporate responsibility through this “lesson” from God. Outside of Israel, pagan communities were destroyed for their corporate evil.[47]

Neither may Christianity be properly understood in terms of radical individualism. By God’s grace, we are in covenant with Him as a community. This may be seen from a number of angles. (1) We are grafted into the community of God’s people as a branch into a tree (Rom. 11:17-18). (2) We are adopted into the commonwealth of Israel and partake of the covenants of “the promise” (singular, Eph. 2:12-16). Thus, we are included in the “household” of God (Eph. 2:19-22) as stones in a building (1 Pet. 2:5). (3) We are constituted one, inter-related body (1 Cor. 12:12-27). (4) We are part of one, connected vine (John 15:1-8). (5) Our blessings as members of the Christian community flow from our Head, Jesus Christ, through the body to us (Eph.


The common societal unit among men is the family. Family solidarity involves covenantal succession, as is evident from the following: (1) Marriage, the world’s first institution (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-24; Matt. 19:4), was established as a permanent obligation among men (Matt. 19:5,6; Gen. 2:24). (2) Adam’s fulfillment of his mandate to subdue the earth required family pro-creation and solidarity (Gen. 1:28). (3) The principle of family solidarity is clearly illustrated in God’s sparing the families of righteous men during judgments. See the cases of Noah, Abraham, and Lot.[48] (4) Due to this covenant, responsibilities centered around the family. Diligent child training was commanded (Deut. 6:4ff; Psa. 78:1ff; Proverbs, passim). Family protection was mandated (Prov. 13:22; 19:14; 1 Tim. 5:8). Three of the Ten Commandments specifically guard the family while the others relate to the family (Exo. 20:12,14,17). (5) Families are declared to be an heritage from the Lord.[49] Fruitfulness is a blessing, while barrenness is lamented.[50] (6) God’s blessings run in family generations, as may be seen in the cases of Noah, Japheth, Abraham, Rahab, and covenant people in general.[51] By the same token, God’s curses also run in family generations.[52]

Because of God’s covenantal love, He graciously sanctifies the offspring of the covenant faithful (1 Cor. 7:14; Rom. 14:17). In the New Testament, even, His blessings are framed in terms inclusive of family generations, rather than terms excluding family generations (Acts 2:38, 39; 16:31; 11:14): inheritance.

In all of this, we learn something of the wider obligations of the Christian faith. “We should always bear in mind that there is a collective responsibility, and that there are always sufficient reasons why God should visit cities, districts or nations with dire calamities.”[53] In the soil of covenantal corporate responsibility, postmillennial eschatology takes root and grows in the light of God’s Word.

Objective Blessedness

The covenantal foundation of the eschatological hope encourages the anticipation of God’s historical blessings in history.[54] The biblical worldview is concerned with the material world, the here and now. Christianity’s interest in the material here and now is evident in that God created the earth and man’s body as material entities, and all “very good,”[55] Christ came in the flesh to redeem man,[56] His Word directs us in how to live in the present, material world,[57] and God intends for us to remain on the earth for our fleshly sojourn, and does not remove us upon our being saved by His grace.[58] As is obvious from these four observations, Christians have a genuine concern with their objective environment.

At death, all men enter the spiritual world, the eternal realm (either heaven or hell).[59] But prior to our arrival in the eternal state, all men live before God in the material world,[60] which He has created for His own glory, as the place of man’s habitation.[61] His covenant sanctions (blessings for the righteous; curses for the unrighteous) may, therefore, be expected in history. That is to say, these sanctions are predictable.

The objectivity of covenantal blessing, which undergirds the postmillennial eschatology, is clearly set forth in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. When God’s covenant people are faithful to His Law-word, He will bless them in all areas of life.[62] When they fail Him, His curses will pursue them to overtake them (Deut. 28:15-68; Lev. 26:21-39).

Such blessings are alluded to in a number of places and under a variety of images. Among these blessings are the reduction of disease,[63] abundant food production,[64] temporal longevity,[65] blessings upon offspring,[66] economic prosperity,[67] national stability and peace.[68] In fact, such passages provide the biblical basis of progress in history, not just linear movement, but upward linear progression.[69]
The material things of life must be kept in perspective, but Christ promises they will be given to His people: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). He even promises His people that if they leave all for Him, they will receive many times more in this life: “Then Peter said, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’ So He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come everlasting life’ ” (Luke 18:28-30).


All of the various covenants in Scripture are equally “the covenants of the promise” (Eph. 2:12). The covenant concept runs throughout Scripture. It frames God’s creational process, structures His dealings with man, and, most important for this book’s thesis, insures the success of His divine program in history. This program is not the defeat of Christ’s redemptive work in history: the gospel of salvation, the building of His Church, and the establishment of His comprehensive, worldwide kingdom: Christendom.[70]

The decline of covenant theology since the late nineteenth century has led to the decline of Christian influence in society. Postmillennialism is fundamentally covenantal, presenting a full-orbed Christianity in its pristine authority and power. The specific covenants of the Old and New Testaments support the postmillennial position, as I will show in greater detail in Chapter 10.

[1] Geehardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, [1930] 1991), p. 325.

[2] Helpful studies of the covenant in Scripture are found in Ray Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant (2nd ed.; Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992) and O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980). Sutton’s work demonstrates the formal structure of the covenant from various portions of Scripture. Robertson’s work outlines the particular divine covenants as a unifying principle for the structuring of redemptive history.

[3] In fact. the Hebrew word for “covenant” (berith) is probably from the Akkadian root beritu. which means “clasp or fetter,” indicating a bond. Moshe Weinfeld points out the difficulty of ascertaining its etymology, but opts for this derivation as the better one. Weinfeld, “berith,” in G. Johannes Botterwick and Helmer Ringgren, eds., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, trans. by John T. Willis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975),2:255. A common biblical representation of covenantal inauguration is “to cut” a covenant, indicating the self-maledictory oath and consequent binding obligation resultant therefrom (1 Sam. 11:1, 2; 20:16; 22:8; 1 Kgs. 8:9; 2 Chr. 7:18; Psa. 105:9; Hag. 2:5)

[4] Sometimes the Hebrew berith is translated either “confederacy” (Dba. 7) or “league” (Josh. 9:6ff; 2 Sam. 3:12ff) In the King James Version New Testament the Greek word for “covenant” (diatheke) is sometimes rendered “covenant” and other times (poorly) “testament.”

[5] C. H. Dodd, cited by Alan Richards and W. Schweitzer, eds., Biblical Authority for Today (London: SCM Press, 1951), p. 201. This is not to say that “covenant” is the unifying principle of Scripture, or of Reformed theology. The Scripture is much too rich and complex to be organized around one principle.

[6] For example: Walter Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, trans. by J. A. Baker, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961); Ludwig Kohler, Old Testament Theology, trans. by A. S. Todd (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957), pp. 60ff; Gerhard Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, trans. by D. M. G. Stalker, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Row, 1962); Richardson and Schweitzer, Biblical Authority for Today; Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants; Willem Van Gemeren, “Systems of Continuity,” Continuity and Discontinuity, John S. Feinberg, ed. (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1988), ch. 2. (For a helpful bibliography of historical treatments of covenant theology, see his footnote I.) T. C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology, trans. by S. Neuijen (3rd ed.; Oxford: Blackwell, 1970), pp. 139ff.

[7] See M. G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963). G. E. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East (Pittsburgh: Biblical Colloquium, 1955). Delbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969).

[8] Covenant and contract cannot be equated. Contracts are not established by a self-maledictory oath under God. See Gary North, The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), pp. 65-70. See also: Robertson, Christ of the Covenants, pp. 127. John Murray, The Covenant of Grace (Phillipsburg. NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, [1953] 1988), pp. 5ff.

[9] The nature of that covenant is expanded in Gen. 6:17-22; 8:20-22; 9:1-17.

[10] See also: Gen. 12:1-4; 17:1ff.

[11] 2 Sam. 7; 23:5; 2 Chr. 6:14-17; 21:7; Psa. 89:3-4; 132:11-18.

[12] Ronald E. Clements, Abraham and David: Genesis 15 and Its Meaning for Israelite Tradition (Naperville, IL: Allenson, 1967), p. 83.

[13] See: Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants, pp. 19-21. Willem Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), p. 60.

[14] The word “covenant” is first used in Genesis 6:18. This should not be assumed an insuperable problem for covenant theology, even by anti-covenantal dispensationalists. One of the universally recognized covenants of Scripture, the Davidic Covenant, lacks the word “covenant” in the accounts of its establishment. See: 2 Sam. 7; 1 Chr. 17.

[15] As in the case of the Davidic covenant, it is called a “covenant,” even though it is not so designated at its establishment. 2 Sam. 23:5; Psa. 89:3; Isa. 55:3; Jer. 33:21.

[16] Robertson, Christ of the Covenants, pp. 18-21.

[17] Berith and huqoth are paralleled elsewhere in Scripture: Lev. 26:15; Josh. 24:25; 1 Kgs. 11:11; 2 Kgs. 17:15; Psa. 50:16; 105:10.

[18] Interestingly, in Genesis 6:18 the term employed of the “establishment” (Heb., qum) of the Noahic covenant may literally mean “re-establish.” If this is the case, the Noahic covenant would dearly harken back to a formal covenant in the creation in Genesis 1-2. See: W. J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984), pp. 16-20.

[19] For an historical study of the various interpretations of the passage, see: Benjamin B. Warfield, “Hosea vi.7: Adam or Man?” (1903), The Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield I, John E. Meeter, ed. (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1970), pp. 116-129. Though not unanimously so, according to A. Cohen, Jewish commentators have generally taken the position that Adam’s sin in Eden is the historical reference here. See Cohen, The Twelve Prophets, Hebrew Text, English Translation and Commentary (London: Soncino Press, 1948), pp. 23ff.

[20] Keil and Delitzsch, The Book of Job (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [1966] 1975), 2:193.

[21] Gen. 17:7; Exo. 5:2; 6:7; 29:45; Lev. 11:45; 26:12,45; Deut. 4:20; 7:9; 29:13-15; 2 Sam. 7:24; Psa. 105:9; Isa. 43:6; Jer. 24:7; 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 11:20; 34:24; 36:28; 37:23; Hos. 1:10; Zech. 8:8; 13:9; 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 21:3, 7. God’s people are his “special treasure,” His “own possession,” “his people,” and the like, Exo. 19:4,5; Deut. 4:20; 9:26, 29; 32:9; 1 Kgs. 8:51, 53; 2 Kgs. 11:17; 2 Chr. 23:16; Psa. 28:9; 33:12; 78:71; 94:14; Isa. 19:25.

[22] This, of course, would not include the pre-Fall Creation Covenant.

[23] The covenantal structure of redemption is reflected in the forensic terminology associated with redemption, such as ‘judgment/condemnation’ (krinein), “justification” (dikaio), “imputation” (logizomai), ‘judgment seat” (bema), God as “judge” (dikaois), judgment based on “law” (nomos), etc. In Acts 16:4 the dogmata kekrimena (“decrees having been decided upon”) is “court-terminology.” Vos, Pauline Eschatology, p. 268.

[24] Robertson, Christ of the Covenants, p. 28. An earlier dispensationalist position was that “the dispensation of promise was ended when Israel rashly accepted the law.” The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, [1909] 1917), p. 20n. Rashly accepted?!? Though recanted by later dispensationalists, this bold statement (“Israel rashly accepted the law”) well illustrates what is still a continuing tendency in dispensationalism to a strong discontinuity between the covenants.

[25] In passing, I will note only briefly that the three initial covenants could be included in the survey to follow, as well. They are all foundational to the outworking of God’s redemptive purpose: The Creation Covenant establishes man as the image of God, whom God will redeem (Gen. 1:26-28). The Adamic Covenant accounts for the sinfulness of man and the actual initiation of the redemption that will overcome that sin (Gen. 3:15). The Noahic Covenant is a preservative for the world, so that God’s redemptive purpose might be realized (Gen. 8:22).

[26] A number of Scriptures speak of the conquest of the Promised Land under the Mosaic covenant as a development of the Abrahamic: Exo. 3:16, 7; 6:4-8; Psa. 105:8-12, 42-45; 106:45.

[27] 2 Sam. 7:6, 23; 1 Kgs. 2:3ff.; Psa. 77:20; 103:7; 105:26; Dan. 9:11,13; Mic. 6:4.

[28] 1 Kgs. 18:36; 2 Kgs. 13:23; 1 Chr. 16:15-18; 29:18; 2 Chr. 20:7; 30:6; Neh. 9:7; Psa. 105:6, 9, 42; Isa. 41:8; 51:2; Jer. 33:26.

[29] See also Ezek. 34:20ff, where the New Covenant is related to the Davidic.

[30] “That the Covenant is a basic assumption throughout the New Testament is evident from such passages as: Luke 1:72; 22:20; Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 24:25-27; John 6:45; Acts 2:39; 3:25; Rom. 11:27; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6ff; Gal. 3:14-17; Eph. 2:12; Heb. 7:22; 8:6-13; 9:1, 15-20; 10:16; 12:24; 13:20. The basic idea, nature, and purpose of the covenants made with Abraham, Israel, and David are carried over into the New Covenant and require no explicit repetition in the New Testament.” Roderick Campbell, Israel and the New Covenant (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School Press, [1954] 1981), p. 53n.

[31] See Chapter 10 for the postmillennial significance of these covenants.

[32] See Chapter 3 for a definition of dispensationalism.

[33] The role of covenants in dispensationalism produces a strange anomaly in the system: it results in a pandemonium of history-structuring devices. History is divided by dispensations, while at the same time it is structured by covenants – covenants that do not always coincide with the dispensations! For instance, the Abrahamic Covenant is considered unconditional and everlasting, but the dispensation of promise (the Abrahamic era) is dosed by the giving of the Law. See: Robertson, Christ of the Covenants, pp. 202ff, 211.

[34] Charles Lee Feinberg, Millennia/ism: The Two Major Views (3rd ed.; Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 87.

[35] Ibid., p. 69.

[36] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), p. 16.

[37] And this is only after leaping over the parenthetical Church Age, during which the “prophetic time clock” is stopped. Feinberg, Millennialism, p. 150.

[38] Of covenant theologians, Pentecost writes: “These theologians claimed that they alone had a system that unified the Scriptures into a consistent whole; any other, they insisted, destroyed the unity of the Bible.” J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises Throughout History (Wheaton: Victor, 1990), p. 9.

[39] Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, p. 29. This definition is really not true to the system and contradicts Ryrie’s assertions elsewhere. For dispensationalism posits two purposes in history: “The dispensationalist believes that throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved, which is Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity.” Ryrie (p. 45) citing Chafer. It is remarkable that this statement allows the religion of Judaism (not just Israel the people) to have an equal role in history with the Christian religion – even in the future, post-Christian millennium! And even more remarkable is Ryrie’s expressed satisfaction following this statement: “This is probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a man is a dispensationalist, and it is undoubtedly the most practical and conclusive” (p. 45)!

[40] Ibid., p. 16.

[41] John S. Feinberg, “Preface,” Continuity and Discontinuity, p. xii; see also p. 64. Feinberg is a dispensationalist.

[42] See Part Three, below.

[43] See Chapter 10.

[44] See Gary North, Millennialism and Social Theory (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990). R. J. Rushdoony, God’s Plan for Victory: The Meaning of Postmillennialism (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn, 1977).

[45] The development of the seed-line in history is a significant aspect of the biblical revelation, as the genealogies of Scripture attest. See especially Matthew 1 and Luke 3.

[46] There is no corporate guilt for angels, but neither is there salvation for fallen angels.

[47] Josh. 2:10; 6:21; Exo. 20:16-18;Josh 8:1,2,24-29; 10:29-43; 1 Sam. 15:3. Cf. Lev. 18:24-27. See: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., God’s Law in the Modern World (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, forthcoming), ch. 6. Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (rev. ed.; Presbyterian & Reformed, 1984), Part 7.

[48] Gen. 6:8, 9, 18; 7:1, 7; 12:1-3; 17:1, 2, 7; 19:12-16.

[49] Psa. 127; 128; Gen. 33:5; 48:9; Isa. 8:18.

[50] Gen. 25:41; Exo. 23:26; Deut. 7:14; Psa. 113:9.

[51] Gen. 9:9; 9:27; 17:2-7; Josh. 2:12-14; Psa. 103:17, 18; 105:8; 115:13, 14; 37:25, 26: Prov. 3:33.

[52] Exo. 20:5; 34:6, 7; Deut. 5:9. Note: Gen. 9:24-25; Hos. 9:11-17; Psa. 109:1, 2, 9, 10; Prov. 3:33.

[53] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), p. 260.

[54] See Chapter 6, below. See also: North, Millennialism and Social Theory.

[55] Gen. 1:1-31; 2:7.

[56] Rom. 1:3, 9:5; 1 John 4:1-3.

[57] Rom. 12:1-2: Eph. 5:15-17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

[58] John 17:15; Job 14:5; 2 Cor. 5:9-10.

[59] 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 16:22-23. On the doctrine of hell, see: Gary North, Sanctions and Social Theory (forthcoming). See Chapter 13, below.

[60] 2 Chr. 16:9; Psa. 33:13-15; Prov. 15:3; Acts 17:28; Heb. 4:13. No U. S. Supreme Court “right-to-privacy” decision can alter this truth.

[61] Psa. 24:1; 115:16; Provo 15:3; Dan. 5:23; Acts 25:24-31; Rev. 4:11.

[62] Deut. 28:1-14; Lev. 26:3-20, 40-46. Cf. Psa. 37:25; 112:1-3; Prov. 13:22.

[63] Exo. 15:26; 23:25; Deut. 7:15; Psa. 103:3.

[64] See Exo. 23:24-25; Deut. 8:7-9; Psa. 67:6; Isa. 30:23-24; 65:21-23; Jer. 31:12;

Ezek. 34:26-27; 36:29-38; Amos 9:13; Zech. 8:12ff.

[65] Deut. 4:40; 5:33; 32:46,47; Isa. 65:20; Zech. 8:4.

[66] Deut. 5:29; 7:13.

[67] Deut. 7:12-16; 8:18; 28:1-15; Psa. 112:3; Prov. 13:22. See Gary North, “An Outline of Biblical Economic Thought,” in North, An Introduction to Christian Economics (Nutley, NJ: Craig, 1973), ch. 18.

[68] Josh. 1:5; Isa. 2:4; Mic. 4:3; Isa. 11:6-9.

[69] See the path-breaking economic commentaries on the Bible by Gary North, The Dominion Covenant (1982), Moses and Pharaoh: Dominion Religion Versus Power Religion (1985), The Sinai Strategy: Economics (1986), Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (1990). All are published by Institute for Christian Economics.

[70] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Greatness of the Great Commission: The Christian Enterprise in a Fallen World (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990)