The Covenants Five – Eight
5. Mosaic (Exodus 19:5). The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-24). It is sometimes called the Sinai Covenant or the Old Covenant but is more often referred to as the Mosaic Covenant since Moses was God’s chosen leader of Israel at that time. The pattern of the covenant is very similar to other ancient covenants of that time because it is between a sovereign king (God) and his people or subjects (Israel). At the time of the covenant, God reminded the people of their obligation to be obedient to His law (Exodus 19:5), and the people agreed to the covenant when they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8). This covenant would serve to set the nation of Israel apart from all other nations as God’s chosen people and was as equally binding as the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham because it is also a blood covenant. The Mosaic Covenant is a significant covenant in both God’s redemptive history and in the history of the nation of Israel through whom God would sovereignly chose to bless the world with both His written Word and the Living Word, Jesus Christ. The Mosaic Covenant was centered around God’s giving His divine law to Moses on Mount Sinai. In understanding the different covenants in the Bible and their relationship with one another, it is important to understand that the Mosaic Covenant differs significantly from the Abrahamic Covenant and later biblical covenants because it is conditional in that the blessings that God promises are directly related to Israel’s obedience to the Mosaic Law. If Israel is obedient, then God will bless them, but if they disobey, then God will punish them. The blessings and curses that are associated with this conditional covenant are found in detail in Deuteronomy 28. The other covenants found in the Bible are unilateral covenants of promise, in which God binds Himself to do what He promised, regardless of what the recipients of the promises might do. On the other hand the Mosaic Covenant is a bilateral agreement, which specifies the obligations of both parties to the covenant. The Mosaic Covenant is especially significant because in it God promises to make Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Israel was to be God’s light to the dark world around them. They were to be a separate and called-out nation so that everyone around them would know that they worshiped Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God. It is significant because it is here that Israel received the Mosaic Law that was to be a schoolmaster pointing the way towards the coming of Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). The Mosaic Law would reveal to people their sinfulness and their need for a Savior, and it is the Mosaic Law that Christ Himself said that He did not come to abolish but to fulfill. This is an important point because some people get confused by thinking that keeping the Law saved people in the Old Testament, but the Bible is clear that salvation has always been by faith alone, and the promise of salvation by faith that God had made to Abraham as part of the Abrahamic Covenant still remained in effect (Galatians 3:16-18). Also, the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Covenant did not really take away sins (Hebrews 10:1-4), it simply foreshadowed the bearing of sin by Christ, the perfect high priest who was also the perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-28). Therefore, the Mosaic Covenant itself, with all its detailed laws, could not save people. It is not that there was any problem with the Law itself, for the Law is perfect and was given by a holy God, but the Law had no power to give people new life, and the people were not able to obey the Law perfectly (Galatians 3:21). The Mosaic Covenant is also referred to as the Old Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 8:6, 13) and was replaced by the New Covenant in Christ (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:8; 8:13; 9:15; 12:24). The New Covenant in Christ is far better than the old Mosaic Covenant that it replaces because it fulfills the promises made in Jeremiah 31:31-34, as quoted in Hebrews 8.
6. Land (Deuteronomy 29-30). The Land Covenant (aka The Palestinian Covenant) promised that Israel would become the prime nation of the world if the Jews were obedient to God (Deuteronomy 28:1,13). But the covenant warned that many curses would befall the people if they were disobedient (Deuteronomy 28:15-37), including exile from the land (Deuteronomy 28:38-57). The covenant warned further that if temporary exile did not restore the Jews to obedience, they would suffer worldwide dispersion and persecution (Deuteronomy 28:58-68). But nowhere are they told that their disobedience would lead to a loss of their title to the land. In fact, the Land Covenant ends in chapter 30: 3-5 with a prophecy and a promise that a day will come — after the Jews have experienced the curses of the covenant — when the Lord will restore them to their land once again.
7. Davidic (2 Samuel 7:10-17). The Davidic Covenant refers to God’s promises to David through Nathan the prophet and is found in 2 Samuel 7 and later summarized in 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 and 2 Chronicles 6:16. This is an unconditional covenant made between God and David through which God promises David and Israel that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come from the lineage of David and the tribe of Judah and would establish a kingdom that would endure forever (2 Samuel 7:10-13). The Davidic Covenant is unconditional because God does not place any conditions of obedience upon its fulfillment. The surety of the promises made rests solely on God’s faithfulness and does not depend at all on David or Israel’s obedience. The Davidic Covenant centers on several key promises that are made to David:
1) God reaffirms the promise of the land that He made in the first two covenants with Israel (the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants). This promise is seen in 2 Samuel 7:10, “Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously.”
2) God promises that David’s descendant or “seed” will succeed him as king of Israel and that David’s throne will be established forever. This promise is seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, “I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” This is a reference to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. The provisions of the covenant are summarized in 2 Samuel 7:16, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” The promise that David’s “house,” “kingdom” and “throne” will be established forever is significant because it shows that the Messiah will come from the lineage of David and that He will establish a kingdom from which He will reign. The covenant is summarized by the words “house,” promising a dynasty in the lineage of David; “kingdom,” referring to a people who are governed by a king; “throne,” emphasizing the authority of the king’s rule; and “forever,” emphasizing the eternal and unconditional nature of this promise to David and Israel.
8. The New Covenant is spoken about first in the book of Jeremiah. The old covenant that God had established with His people required obedience to the Old Testament Mosaic Law. Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), the law required that people perform rituals and sacrifices in order to please God and remain in His grace. The prophet Jeremiah predicted that there would be a time when God would make a new covenant with the nation of Israel. ”‘The day will come,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah . . .. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people'” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33). Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17) and create a new covenant between God and His people. The old covenant was written in stone, but the new covenant is written on our hearts, made possible only by faith in Christ, who shed His Own blood to atone for the sins of the world. Luke 22:20 says, “After supper, [Jesus] took another cup of wine and said, ‘This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you – an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.'” Now that we are under the new covenant, we are not under the penalty of the law. We are now given the opportunity to receive salvation as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through the life-giving Holy Spirit who lives in all believers (Romans 8:9-11), we can now share in the inheritance of Christ and enjoy a permanent, unbroken relationship with God. Hebrews 9:15 declares, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
Many Dispensationalists of the 19th and 20th century saw two individual New Covenants, one for the Church and one for the Nation Israel. Both were launched with the blood of the Messiah. I believe that there is only one, which is addressed to the Nation Israel with spiritual benefit to the Church. It is helpful to think of a plane called the New Covenant flying full of unsaved Jewish Folks. During the Church Age the members of the Church ride underneath the plane and are launched off of it at the Rapture of the Church. This leaves the Jews to travel on the plane through the very turbulent air of the Tribulation but landing in the Kingdom at Messiah’s Second Coming. They are now all saved and as a result they receive both the spiritual and physical benefit of the New Covenant at its inauguration..
In short, the New Covenant is announced in Jeremiah to both segments of the Nation Israel (North Israel and South Judah). It has spiritual and physical blessing components similarly to the Abrahamic Covenant. Jesus ratified the New Covenant when He shed His blood on the cross. The Church received the spiritual blessing component. The Nation Israel will not receive the physical and spiritual blessings until the Second Coming of Jesus, which will usher in the Millennial Kingdom. During the Millennial Kingdom the Church will then get the physical blessings of the New Covenant as well as Israel. There are no physical blessings for the Church in the Church Age since the Church is not a physical nation but a spiritual group entered into by those who have been Born Again by the Holy Spirit.
Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.
Chafer, Lewis S. revised by John Walvoord. Major Bible Themes.
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Fruchtenbaum, Arnold. The Eight Covenants of the Bible. n.d. <http://www.arielm.org/dcs/pdf/mbs021m.pdf>.
Ice, Thomas. “Covenants and Dispensations (Part 1).” Bible Prophecy Blog. March 14, 2011. <http://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/2011/03/covenants-and-dispensations-part-1.html>.
Ice, Thomas. “Covenants and Dispensations (Part 2).” Bible Prophecy Blog. March 17, 2011. <http://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/2011/03/covenants-and-dispensations-part-1.html>.
Ice, Thomas. “Covenants and Dispensations (Part 3).” Bible Prophecy Blog. March 21, 2011. http://www.bibleprophecyblog.com/2011/03/covenants-and-dispensations-part-1.html.
Ryrie, Charles C. Dispensationalism Today. Chicago: Moody Press, April 1999.