Skip to content

Covenant and Eschatology

by randy on June 3rd, 2010

Covenant theology is synonymous with Christ centered theology because it see’s Christ the redeemer throughout the whole of scripture. Every promise, type, shadow and even the law itself has one united theme: Christ and his kingdom. The unity of the covenants, much like the doctrines of grace, are so clearly proclaimed throughout scripture that it would take quite a feat of gymnastics to deny.

Riddlebarger in his book, “A Case for Amillennialism” takes two chapters to set in contrast the dispensational hermeneutic from the covenantal because they have such a massive impact on how we view eschatology. This is perhaps why those who have a perverted view of redemptive history also have an extremely strange and perverted view of what is to take place in the future. Complicated charts and speculation concerning microchips, nuclear winters, the rebuilding of the temple in national Israel, conspiracies and what might happen in the future overtake the clear, simple and profound message of what has already happened in the gospel and what that means for our future.

If all of scriptures find their fulfillment in Christ, then there are many OT promises that still have profound relevance for us today. If I am going to be consistent and honest there are some passages of scripture which seem to pose a problem, for example: the land promises of Canaan to Abraham and his offspring. “and I will give to you and your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God (Genesis 17:8).” The issue arises in that scripture states that Gentiles have been grafted in and are the offspring of Abraham. “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Is the land of Canaan the church’s now to possess?

Dispensationalists believe these prophecies refer to national Israel even though the authors of the New Testament apply them to the church. It is the church who Paul called, “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). It was the church Peter was referring to when he declared, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Additionally, as cited above Paul declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:38-29).

How then does this promise apply to us today? Benjamin Miller shed’s light on this topic in his book, “The Kingdom has Drawn Near.”

“As the book of Acts opens, Jesus’ disciples have been hearing a great deal about the kingdom of God, and now it seems their Lord is about to leave them, and they still haven’t seen Caesar overthrown. They haven’t seen a lot of the radical things the Jews were expecting from their Messiah, and so they ask Jesus, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” In effect, they are saying, “Lord, we’ve received all these prophecies over all these centuries about your bringing the kingdom and restoring it to your people. Are you going to do it now, Lord?’

Jesus in a very interesting way adjusts their perspective. He tells them first of all that the issue is not when God is going to build his kingdom. It is not for these disciples, nor is it for us today, to know the precise times and seasons God the Father has set for particular manifestations of Christ’s kingdom in history, or certainly for the final and grandest manifestation of Christ’s kingdom-victory when he returns. We are not to know the times and seasons (verse 7); that is not what we are to be thinking about. We are rather to give our attention to how God builds his kingdom. God builds his kingdom, Jesus says in verse 8, through the Spirit-empowered witness of the church to Jesus Christ: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses. Your witness will begin in Jerusalem; it will spread to Judea; it will spread to Samaria; it will spread to the end of the earth. You are to be my witnesses. That is how I will build my kingdom.’

The disciples need their perspective corrected in a second area as well. They are still thinking entirely in terms of national Israel. Jesus tells them they need to stop thinking about how he is going to restore the kingdom of Israel and start thinking about how he is going to build his kingdom in the entire world, as their Spirit-empowered witness radiates out from Mount Zion in Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. This brings before us the question: What precisely is the church to witness about Jesus Christ? Of what are we to bear witness?

First, the church is to witness of Jesus Christ that he is the Sin-bearer who brings god’s reconciling grace to the world. That is the first thing we are to tell the world. We are to tell them about the Creator who has a holy law for his creatures, and that humankind has in its entirety rebelled against this law, transgressed it, and refused to obey it. We call this kind of witnessing ‘personal evangelism.’ We talk to people in the world and appeal to the witness in their own hearts and consciences that sin is real. People don’t have to be Christians to understand sin, because God has impressed a sense of his moral requirements upon their hearts; they know the world is full of evil.

<snip>

The church has repeatedly been tempted to seek social transformation without bearing witness to the cross and the resurrection, to Jesus as the Sin-bearer and the agent of God’s reconciling grace. It has repeatedly been tempted to water down its message, and to seek the moral effects of the gospel without the gospel. The Holy Spirit will never own such a message or such a project, for the Spirit has come to bear witness to him who was crucified and resurrected, and this is where we must begin if we would see God’s transforming work in our society. The foundation of kingdom transformation is always the message of the death of the King.

That being said, I fear the church has often borne witness to a half-Christ, because we have not testified of a second thing, which is no less essential. Jesus is not only the Sin-bearer who brings God’s reconciling grace to the world. He is also the Lawgiver who brings God’s renovating grace to the world. By his revealed moral will for humankind, Jesus renovates human life back into that glory for which God created it. Recall what he commanded his apostles (paraphrasing from Matthew 28): ‘Go, and make disciples of the nations, not only telling them about the cross and resurrection, but also teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. I have a law. I have commands.’ This is what is pictured for us in Isaiah 2. The nations stream uphill to Zion, the ‘mountain of the house of the Lord,’ exalted above the mountains, because ‘out of Zion,’ they say, ‘shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2:2-3).

We must understand, not only for our witness to the world, but also for ourselves, that pardon in Christ’s blood is never an end in itself. If in our thinking about salvation God’s pardoning us has become an end in itself, then we don’t understand salvation. God never pardons anyone and leaves it at that. God reconciles us to himself through the blood of Jesus in order that his great purposes in creating human life may be fulfilled. God created humankind for a purpose, and nothing less than the total fulfillment of that purpose will satisfy him.

This means, then, that not only our souls are to be brought under the transforming, renovating rule of Jesus; all human callings, all spheres of human life and enterprise are likewise to be brought under his transforming, renovating rule. I do not expect Jesus to sanctify me only in my soul. I expect him to sanctify me in my callings as a father, as a husband, as a citizen, as an employee. We as a church should expect to see the renovating rule of Jesus transforming all of our callings as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, kings, magistrates, businesspersons, artists, and so on.” (Benjamin Miller, The Kingdom has Drawn Near, pg 64)

From → Doctrine

3 Comments
  1. Jim Tessin permalink

    Excellent!

  2. Allen Christensen permalink

    If there is no such thing as a literal millennial reign of Christ, will the Church usher in some sort of Golden Age before Christ’s return? In other words will this world improve and get better and better before the second coming of Christ?

    • randy permalink

      Allen-

      My views on eschatology are still wanting. I lean towards an optimistic a-mil in that I believe that the church will continue in suffering until Christ’s second coming. However we do see Christ’s Kingdom advancing especially in comparison to the very small gathering that started with a few uneducated fishermen at Pentecost. I think the pessimistic approach presupposes the church started out this big, because the pessimist only has room for mass apostasy in their theology (something that is definitely not evident in history). History demonstrates several ups and downs with a general trend towards up. Today the people of God meet in churches throughout the world to worship. As pessimistic as anyone can be, our savior’s kingdom has flourished.

      The question is, how much will be fulfilled now and how much at the commencement when Christ returns. I don’t know! But what I do know is that the defeatist mindset of dispensationalism is utterly unbiblical. Christ obtained victory at the cross and no matter where we fit things into the already or not yet we are to be about the Kings business, fulfilling the great commission and subjecting all things to the glory of God. We do not have to wait until the cavalry to expect God’s kingdom to advance; he obtained that victory on the cross.

      Here are some helpful sermons:
      http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=711101124536
      http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=71810114460

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS