The chart shows the major historical covenants God made with humanity from Adam at creation and the fall to the final ratification of His covenant of grace in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Through these covenants He progressively revealed deeper dimensions of the everlasting gospel’s plan of salvation.
Isaiah records Yahweh speaking to the long-awaited Messianic servant: “I, the LORD, have called you . . . to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles . . . to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”—in short, to deliver people from “the pit” (Isa. 42:6, 7, NIV, emphasis supplied; cf. 24:17, 18).
John the Baptist arrives on the shores of the New Testament to “prepare the way for the LORD [Yahweh]” (Luke 3:4, NIV). One day John passes the baton to the LORD Himself: “ ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ ” (John 1:29, NIV). He had finally come—
- the seed promised to Adam, Abraham, and David to deliver His people from “the pit,”
- the Lamb foreshadowed by the ritual of animal sacrifices that had provided a means of receiving forgiveness until He arrived, and
- the ultimate, sinless Priest and Mediator between God and humanity.
The gospel, progressively revealed through the subsidiary covenants as to how the deliverance would ultimately come, relied on His arrival and the accomplishment of His mission to seek the lost and shed His blood for their deliverance.
Note the different designations that Jesus and the New Testament writers give to His shed blood on the cross:
- “My blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28, NIV; Mark 14:24, emphasis supplied—newer Bible translations, including the conservative NASB, follow the manuscript tradition favoring “the covenant”)
- “the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20, NKJV; 1 Cor. 11:25, emphasis supplied)
- “the blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20, NIV, emphasis supplied)
It is clear from this list that “the covenant,” “the new covenant,” and “the everlasting covenant” are not three different covenants but are three different designations for one and the same covenant, revealing one and the same “everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6) by which the “everlasting . . . God” (Ps. 90:2; cf. Isa. 9:6) shared His heart, made His commitment to His people, gave them His promises, appealed for their response, and acted on their behalf to deliver/redeem them from “the pit.”
One covenant, one saving gospel, spanning all eras of earth history.
Nevertheless, because Jesus Christ, the covenant Maker, came in at a particular time in earth’s history to ratify “the covenant” in all of its dimensions, manifestations, and promises, we can authentically speak of an old covenant and a new covenant in its outworking on earth. This is two distinct covenantal or gospel dispensations in earth history: the first (the Old Testament era), anticipating the One to come; in the second (the New Testament era), Jesus arrives, “a covenant for the people,” to ratify “the covenant” with His “blood of the everlasting covenant.” Two historical dispensations but one unchanging, everlasting gospel that spanned both dispensations. To miss this point would be fatal to decoding the covenants!