Covenants in the Bible
Lesson 07 – The Everlasting Gospel
In our very first lesson we discussed how many Christians believe there is a tension, if not a conflict, between the new and old covenants in the Bible. However, as we have studied through the different covenants in the Bible, you may have noticed there is a common theme than unifies them together.
Let’s turn to Revelation 14:6 and read together.
Notice the angel had the “everlasting gospel” to preach to everyone on the earth. This is the same gospel that was preached to Adam and Eve, (Genesis 3:15), to Abraham (Genesis 22:1-18; Galatians 3:8), to the children of Israel in the time of Moses and Joshua (Hebrews 3:7-4:2), and to the people in the time of Paul the Apostle (Romans 10:9-17; Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 4:5). Every single covenant we have studied is based on this foundational truth, the “everlasting gospel.”
Theologian Skip MacCarty argued in his book “In Granite or Ingrained?” that God’s covenants (from the first covenant to the new covenant) all share a universal grace-based, Gospel-bearing, and mission-directed purpose. He argued against any tension or conflict between the old and new covenants. Instead, MacCarty asserted that the old and new covenants (as well as the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, and Davidic covenants) share four promises/provisions which show they are linked together:
Let’s look at Jeremiah 31:31-34 again.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Let’s look for these four promises/provisions in the new covenant:
- Sanctification (“I will put My law in their minds, and write in on their hearts”)
- Reconciliation (“I will be their God, and they shall be My people”)
- Mission (“No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them”)
- Justification (“For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”)
If you go back and examine all the covenants we have studied in the previous lessons, you will indeed find these four promises/provisions in every single one of those covenants!
Let’s turn to Galatians 4:21-5:1 and read together.
Some people try to point to this passage to prove that there is a conflict between the old and new covenants. However, if we read this passage from that perspective, then one could accuse God of dooming the people of Israel into spiritual slavery and never giving them a chance at salvation even if they faithfully kept their part of the covenant. Would a loving God, as we know Him to be, make such a malicious covenant – one that is different from all the Biblical covenants we have studied so far? If this were the case, then faithful men in the Old Testament like Joseph, Moses, and Daniel would be unsaved and lost for all of eternity.
Theologian Robert Rayburn argues that Galatians 4:21-5:1 should be read from an experiential perspective rather than a historical perspective – that the two covenants mentioned in this passage represent two human responses to the everlasting gospel. Abraham had a child with Hagar because Abraham and Sarah were trying to achieve God’s promise for an heir by their own means. However, Abraham had a child with Sarah because of his faith in God to keep His promise. We fall into spiritual slavery when we try to achieve righteousness through our own works of the flesh. We fall into spiritual slavery when we choose unbelief over faith, and legalism over grace.
In the Old Testament, the children of Israel had an old covenant experience when they rejected God’s promises, and as a result, died before they could enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:1-28). However, Joshua and Caleb had a new covenant experience and were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 32:11-12).
In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira had an old covenant experience and died for their unbelief (Acts 5:1-11). On the other hand, Saul who persecuted Christians had a new covenant experience and became Paul the Apostle, sharing the everlasting gospel with the Gentiles (Acts 22:1-21).
Friend, can you see the everlasting gospel has been the same throughout the entire Bible, from the Old Testament all the way through the New Testament? Can you see that you can have either an “old covenant” response or a “new covenant” response to the everlasting gospel, no matter what historical era you are in?
Friend, are you willing to respond to the everlasting gospel in faith and obedience?