A. Interpretation of the New Covenant is the crux of all biblical studies. One’s understanding of the New Covenant typifies one’s thought and approach to the whole of the Scriptures. As such, much debate surrounds the nature and meaning of the New Covenant. What is its purpose? What is its ultimate end? What does it require? What is its relationship to the other covenants?
B. Historically, Platonic ideologies interpreted the New Covenant as the breaking point between the earthly typology of the Old Testament and the true heavenly plan of salvation. The New Covenant became the means of escaping the material realm, unto the inheritance of the immaterial heavenly destiny.
C. Conversely, those within Christonaturalism who emphasized sovereignty interpreted the New Covenant as the means by which God released power to enable the Church to subdue the earth. Modified dominionism views the New Covenant in a two-tiered manner, with part of the covenant being enacted in this age unto ecclesiological dominion and the rest in the age to come unto messianic dominion.
D. Traditional dispensationalists interpret the New Covenant dualistically, as two separate covenants, each according to their respective plans of salvation. God made a heavenly New Covenant with the Church at the first coming, which like traditional Platonism will end in an immaterial heavenly destiny. However, God also made an earthly New Covenant with Israel, which will come to pass on the earth in the age to come after the present soteriological parenthesis or intercalation.
E. This work argues for a narrative format for New Covenant interpretation. Within Scripture’s grand narrative of the resurrection and Kingdom, God made a covenant with Israel, which he later extended to the nations, providing an effective atonement (the Cross) and tarrying mechanism (the Spirit) to sustain the righteous in hope and perseverance unto their inheritance.
A. Introduction and Narrative Context
1. The “New” Covenant is simply a reaffirmation and renewal of the Davidic, Mosaic, Abrahamic and Adamic Covenants. However, the Messiah is now identified in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and the atonement necessary for the inheritance of the benefits of the previous covenants is now provided.
Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away (by the effective atonement), in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things (assuming the Adamic Covenant) about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 22 Moses said (assuming the Mosaic Covenant)… 24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward (assuming the Davidic Covenant), also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham (assuming the Abrahamic Covenant)… 26 For you first (Gk. proton, adv.), God raised up His Servant and sent Him (“first” NRSV/NIV/NLT) to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways (by the New Covenant). (NASB Acts 3:19-26)
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant (offering a better sacrifice), that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance (i.e. eternal life, cf. Adamic Covenant, et al.)– now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (cf. Mosaic Covenant). (NIV Hebrews 9:13-15)
2. It is called “new” because it is contrasted with the “old” Mosaic Covenant in reference to the effective forgiveness of sins.
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant (Gk. diatheke, “testament” KJV, Lt. testamentum) in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (NIV Luke 22:20)
Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (NIV Matthew 26:27-28)
a) The New Covenant therefore neither invalidates nor disqualifies the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Mt. 5:5:17-20; Acts 15:20-29; 16:1-4; 21:18-26; Rom. 3:31), which is still useful and beneficial until the consummation of the Kingdom (cf. Mt. Rom. 7:7-14; 1 Tim. 1:7-11; 2 Tim. 3:16f).
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (NIV Romans 3:31)
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (in the Sacrifice and Kingdom). 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments (of the Mosaic Law) and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness (concerning the Mosaic Law) exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV Matthew 5:17-20)
b) The purpose of the Mosaic Covenant’s sacrificial system was always to point the believer to an effective sacrifice that God would provide (cf. Lk. 24:44; Jn. 1:45; Acts 26:22; 28:23; Rom. 3:20-21; Heb. 10:1-4), the “lamb of God” (cf. Is. 53:7-8; Jn. 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pe. 1:19).
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify (cf. Deut. 32:43; Ps. 79:9; Is. 53:11; Jer. 23:6; Ez. 16:63; Dan. 9:24; etc.). (NIV Romans 3:20-21)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! … 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (NIV John 1:29-34)
c) Thus, the primary difference between the “old” and “new” covenants is an effective sacrifice unto the forgiveness of sins and inheritance of eternal life.
Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you (cf. Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 10:43; 11:18; 13:38; 14:3; 17:30; 20:21; 26:18). 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. (NIV Acts 13:38-39)
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight (at the Day of the Lord) by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known (in the New Covenant), to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. (NIV Romans 3:20-25)
But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself (the primary thrust of the New Covenant). 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. 10:1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming (both of sacrifice and of coming salvation)– not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship… 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me…” 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first (cf. Mosaic Covenant) to establish the second (cf. New Covenant). 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool (at the Day of the Lord), 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (NIV Hebrews 9:26-10:14)
3. The narrative context of the New Covenant is the Passover, which Jesus interprets typologically (cf. Lk. 22:7-20), implying a typological interpretation of the Law as a whole, testifying to the Messiah and his Kingdom.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed (cf. Ex. 12:1-29)… 14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (NIV Luke 22:7-18)
Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (cf. the purpose of unleavened bread). (ESV 1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
B. Covenantal Format
a) Like all covenants prior, the New Covenant assumes the ultimate benefit of eternal life and the propagation of infinite well-being through intimacy with the Godhead, which is seen in Jesus’ resurrection as a firstfruits and our deposit of the Spirit as a believer in him.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem… 15 he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area… 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house (Gk. oikos) into a market!” … 18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this (cf. Zech. 6:12-13)?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”… 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20). (NIV John 2:13-21)
For we know that if our earthly house (Gk. oikia) of this tabernacle (Gk. skēnos) were dissolved, we have a building (Gk. oikodomē) of God, a house (Gk. oikia) not made with hands, eternal in the heavens… 5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. (NKJV 2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
b) Moreover, like the previous covenants, the New Covenant assumes the same benefits of the resurrection and Kingdom, but now identified in the man, Jesus of Nazareth.
Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration (Gk. paliggenesia) when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones (cf. Kingdom), judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life (cf. resurrection). (NASB Matthew 19:28-29)
I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes… 20 This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood… 28 You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (ESV Luke 22:18-30)
a) Like the previous stipulations, the New Covenant assumes the ultimate issue of governmental submission expressed in obedience.
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (in the resurrection, cf. vv.5-8). (NIV John 15:10-11)
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world- our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (ESV 1 John 5:3-5)
b) It assumes the same stipulations of repentance and belief as the previous covenants.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV Mark 1:14-15)
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (NIV Acts 2:36-38)
c) Since the New Covenant offers one sacrifice for all time (cf. Rom. 6:10; Heb. 9:26; 1 Pe. 3:18), repentance and belief is symbolized by the remembrance of the sacrifice of Messiah, which represents the acknowledgement of deserved punishment.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (NIV Luke 22:19)
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death (as a sacrifice for sin) until he comes. 27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner (cf. offering a sacrifice in an unworthy manner) will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself (concerning his repentance and belief) before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (as discipline unto repentance). 31 But if we judged ourselves (in this age), we would not come under judgment (in the age to come). 32 When we are judged by the Lord (in this age), we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world (in the age to come). (NIV 1 Corinthians 11:26-32)
Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood (cf. Ex. 29:14; Lev. 4:11-12; etc.). 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp (in remembrance of his suffering), bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise (remembering the sacrifice of his body)– the fruit of lips that confess his name. (NIV Hebrews 13:12-15)
d) It is likewise assumed that the Lord’s stipulations are the same as before—to preserve and protect the repentant heart and provide the atonement and righteousness necessary for the inheritance of the blessing. This happened in the provision of the Cross and the giving of the Spirit who will be with us to the end of the age.
I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (ESV Luke 22:29-32)
While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled… 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it… 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (NIV John 17:12-18)
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith… may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. inheritance/benefit). (ESV 1 Peter 1:3-7)
 “Use in reference to the two divisions of the Bible (c.1300) is from L.L. vetus testamentum and novum testamentum, loan-translations of Gk. palaia diatheke and kaine diatheke. L.L. testamentum in this case was a mistranslation of Gk. diatheke, which meant both ‘covenant, dispensation’ and ‘will, testament,’ and was used in the former sense in the account of the Last Supper but subsequently was interpreted as Christ’s ‘last will.’” (Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper ed., “Testament,” available from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Testament.)
 “At the close of the additional Sabbath sacrifice, when its drink-offering was brought, the Levites sang the ‘Song of Moses’ in Deuteronomy 32. This ‘hymn’ was divided into six portions, for as many Sabbaths (v 1-6; 7-12; 13-18; 19-28; 29-39; 40-end). Each portion was sung in three sections with threefold blasts of the priests’ trumpets, the people worshipping at each pause.” [Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services As They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ (Angus Hudson, 1997, originally published in 1874), 126.]