The 5 Covenants of Israel – Guard and Guarantee her future Kingdom
Dr. Mike Johnston, Editor
Our studies of prophecy (Israel, earthly kingdom) and the mystery (church, heavenly kingdom) have taught us that Israel was created, led, and blessed from the prophetic Word. In order to understand Israel’s future, one must understand her past, pictured in five covenants God made exclusively with her. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum offers this: “Since much of God’s relationship to man is based upon covenantal relationships, a study of the eight covenants is a very important aspect of correctly understanding Scripture. The most common way to divide the Bible is by Dispensations. The dispensations, however, are based upon specific covenants, and knowledge of these covenants will help Bible readers to “rightly divide the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Although the dispensations may come to an end, the covenants themselves often continue.”
Types of Covenants
A covenant is a unilateral or bilateral grant or promise that can be signed, sealed, and implemented. Three different things happen once a covenant is sealed: first, some go into effect right away; second, some provisions go into effect in the near future, which may be twenty five years away or five hundred years away; and third, some provisions go into effect only in the distant prophetic future, not having been fulfilled to this day. There are two types of covenants in the Bible: conditional and unconditional.
- 2 Conditional Covenants– 2 (Edenic and Mosaic): A conditional covenant is a bilateral covenant in which a proposal of God to man is characterized by the formula: if you will, then I will, whereby God promises to grant special blessings to man providing man fulfills certain conditions contained in the covenant. Man’s failure to do so often results in punishment. Thus one’s response to the covenant agreement brings either blessings or cursings. The blessings are secured by obedience and man must meet his conditions before God will meet His (see Lev. 26; Deut 28).
- 6 Unconditional Covenants (Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Land, Davidic, New): An unconditional covenant is a unilateral covenant and is a sovereign act of God whereby He unconditionally obligates Himself to bring to pass definite blessings and conditions for the covenanted people. This covenant is characterized by the formula: I will, which declares God’s determination to do as He promises. Blessings are secured by the grace of God. There may be conditions in the covenant by which God requests the covenanted one to fulfill out of gratitude, but they are not themselves the basis of God’s fulfilling His promises.
God Made Eight Covenants
Of the eight covenants God made, the first three were made with man while the remaining five were made exclusively with Israel. Only one of these is conditional: the Mosaic Covenant. The other four covenants with Israel are unconditional: the Abrahamic Covenant (promise of a nation), the Land Covenant (promised land of Canaan- Israel), the Davidic Covenant (promised an everlasting king and kingdom), and the New Covenant (promised eternal salvation).
Four things should be noted concerning the nature of the unconditional covenants God made with Israel:
- First: they are literal covenants and their contents must be interpreted literally as well.
- Second: the covenants that God has made with Israel are eternal and are not in any way restricted or altered by time.
- Third: it is necessary to re-emphasize that these are unconditional covenants that were not abrogated because of Israel’s disobedience; because the covenants are unconditional and totally dependent upon God for fulfillment, their ultimate fulfillment can be expected.
- Fourth: these covenants were made with a specific people: Israel (not the church). This point is brought out by Paul in Romans 9:4: who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises. This passage clearly points out that these covenants were made with the covenanted people and are Israel’s possession.
This is brought out again in Ephesians 2:11-12: Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. As stated, five of the eight Bible covenants belong to the people of Israel and, as this passage notes, Gentiles were considered strangers from the covenants.
God’s 3 Covenants with Man
- Begin the Dispensation of Innocency (Gen. 1:28) [All references below can be studied fully in the Old Scofield Bible]
- The EDENIC Covenant (conditional), Gen. 1:26-31;2:16-17 Made with Adam in which life and blessing or death and cursing depended on the faithfulness of Adam. Adam and Eve failed, died spiritually and physically and their sin plunged the whole human race into its pattern of sin and death.
- Begin the Dispensation of Conscience (Gen. 3:23)
- The ADAMIC Covenant (unconditional), Gen. 3:16-19 Here God declares to man, after the fall, what his lot in life will be because of his sin. It includes the promise of the Redeemer.
- Begin the Dispensation of Human Government (Gen. 8:21)
- The NOAHIC Covenant (unconditional), Gen 9:1-18 Made with Noah and his sons after the flood, introducing human government to curb sin, the normal order of nature reaffirmed (Gen. 8:22; 9:2) and the permission for man to eat the flesh of animals. Also His promise never to destroy all flesh again by water.
- Begin the Dispensation of Promise (Gen. 12:1)
God’s 5 Covenants with Israel – Leading to the Earthly Kingdom and King
- The ABRAHAMIC Covenant – Kingdom family chosen (unconditional), Gen. 12:1-4; 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8 This Covenant is the first God made with Israel and the one from which all others derive. By divine decree, Abraham received posterity, prosperity, and title deed to a promised land. Through Abraham would come a great nation (Israel) and through him (via that nation) all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Messiah). Through Abraham’s descendants (the Jews) came the prophets of God, the writers of God’s written Word (the Bible) and Christ/Messiah according to the flesh. Begin the Dispensation of the Law (Ex. 19:8)
- The MOSAIC Covenant – Kingdom nation assembled and its laws established (conditional), Ex. 20:1 – 31:18 It is contained in Exodus but amplified in many other portions of Scripture. It was given through Moses as its mediator for the purpose of governing Israel’s (national) relationship with God. It was mainly made up of (a) the commandments, the express will of God, (b) the judgments, the social and civic life of Israel, (c) and the ordinances. It was temporary and would terminate at the cross of Christ. Though it had gracious elements it was basically a covenant of works. It could not impart life to the sinner in Adam (Gal. 3:21) but it served as a tutor which would lead those who were under its jurisdiction to the only One who could impart LIFE (Christ Jesus, Gal. 3:24). [Israel will rebuild Temple and reinstitute blood sacrifices during the day of the Lord- Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:4]
- The LAND Covenant – Kingdom Land guaranteed in perpetuity (unconditional), Deut. 30:1-10 God promised land to Abraham. This Covenant assures Israel will have that land forever. However, it is erroneously called the “Palestinian Covenant” in that the Bible does not assign to it that name. It is the land of Israel because it was divinely covenanted to Abraham’s descendants through Jacob (Israel). It is an unconditional promise regarding Israel’s final possession of their ancient land (study Gen. 12-17).
- The DAVIDIC Covenant – King’s seed chosen (unconditional), 2Sam. 7:4-16; 1Chron. 17:3-15 God promised David an unending, royal lineage, throne, and kingdom. Though God reserved the right to interrupt the actual reign of David’s sons for chastisement, the perpetuity of the covenant cannot be broken. The Abrahamic Covenant launched the nation and the Land Covenant promised them property, the Davidic Covenant guarantees an everlasting Throne, King and Kingdom connected to that people (the Jews) and the land of Canaan. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, is the rightful heir of this promised Throne (Matt. 2:2; Lk. 1:32-33) and on it He will reign over this literal, promised, earthly, future Messianic Kingdom from Jerusalem at His second advent. Begin the Dispensation of Grace (John 1:17)
- The NEW Covenant – The Kingdom commences with laws written upon hearts (unconditional), Jer. 31:31-40 It is a new covenant with Israel in contrast with the old (Mosaic, “which they broke,” Jer. 31:32). Christ Jesus is the Mediator (in His blood) of this new covenant which was inaugurated at the cross and is described in Scripture as, “enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:6). The Mediator of this covenant has become, for all mankind, “the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9) to all who obey Him; as well as the cornerstone and Head of the Church (Eph. 2:20-22; Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:23) which is being built during this dispensation; individuals called out from both Jews and Gentiles alike. Ultimately and literally, this new covenant with its unconditional and eternal blessings will be established with NATIONAL Israel at Christ’s second advent to earth. Begin the Dispensation of the Kingdom on through Eternity (Eph. 1:10)