Five Arguments for the Unity

of the Covenant of Grace

 

Robert L. Reymond

 


 

[...Before we move on to a consideration of the covenant program of God and the execution of God’s eternal plan of salvation in history, it only remains to point out in conclusion that Reformed dogmaticians for the most part have come to designate this eternal order of the decrees as the pactum salutis or "covenant of redemption" to distinguish it from the concrete, tangible execution in history of the specifically redemptive aspects of the same eternal decree, which they designate the "covenant of grace"...pg.502]

 

A. Once the covenant of grace had come to expression in the spiritual promises of the Abrahamic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant became salvifically definitive for all ages to come.

 

Immediately after Adam’s tragic transgression of the "covenant of works," which had been sovereignly imposed upon him by his Creator (Gen. 3:1-7; see Hos. 6:7), in the hearing of Adam God said to the serpent, and by extension to Satan himself: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen. 3:15). Theologians have long recognized in these words both the inauguration of the "covenant of grace" and God’s first gracious promise to men of salvation from sin. Not without good reason then has this divine promise been designated the "first gospel proclamation" (protevangelium). The promise is given in "seed-form," true enough, but God clearly stated that someone out of the human race itself ("the woman’s seed"), although fatally wounded in the conflict, would destroy the serpent (Satan).

In accord with this promise, God extended grace to certain antediluvian descendants of Adam, for example, to Abel (Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4), to Enoch (Gen. 5:22-23; Heb. 11:5), and to Noah (Gen. 6:8-9; see "my covenant in 6:18)17 and to Noah’s family (Gen. 6-8). But this period between the Fall and the flood, it must be acknowledged, saw only a minimal demonstration of restraining and saving grace, as evidenced by the fact that the human race came to moral ruin and was judged. This was doubtless in order that the true nature of sin might be disclosed.18 Nor was the situation much different during the postdiluvian age prior to the call of Abraham. There is some indication of the operations of special or redemptive grace in this period of human history, such as the identity of Yahweh as "the God of Shem" and the implicit promise of divine grace to the descendants of Japheth, who would "dwell in the tents of Shem" (9:26-27), but again the main feature of this period is the divine judgment in the form of the confusion of tongues at Babel (Gen. 11:1-11) and the consequent dispersion of the postdiluvian people over the face of the earth (Gen. 10) as punishment for the race’s manifest expression of pride (Gen. 11:4). Human moral declension in this period again underscored sin’s power to corrupt. In sum, the two emphases of the first eleven chapters of Genesis are the pervasive fact and power of human sinfulness and God’s holy recoil against sin in every form. And while we see evidences of the divine operations of salvific grace in accordance with the covenant of grace, it is equally true that we see it only minimally displayed.

But with the call of Abraham, the covenant of grace underwent a remarkable advance, definitive for all time to come. The instrument of that advance is the covenant which God made with Abraham which guaranteed and secured soteric blessing for "all the families of the earth." So significant are the promises of grace in the Abrahamic covenant, found in Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-16; 15:18-21; 17:1-16; 22:16-18, that it is not an overstatement to declare these verses, from the covenantal perspective, as the most important verses in the Bible. The fact that the Bible sweeps across the thousands of years between the creation of man and Abraham in only eleven chapters, with the call of Abraham coming in Genesis 12, suggests that the information given in the first eleven chapters of the Bible was intended as preparatory "background" to the revelation of the Abrahamic covenant. Revelation subsequent to it discloses that all that God has done savingly in grace since the revelation of the Abrahamic covenant is the result and product of it. In other words, once the covenant of grace had come to expression in the salvific promises of the Abrahamic covenant—that God would be the God of Abraham and his descendants (17:7), and that in Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed (12:3; see Rom. 4:13)—everything that God has done since to the present moment he has done in order to fulfill his covenant to Abraham (and thus his eternal plan of redemption). This suggests that the divine execution of the soteric program envisioned in the covenant of grace, from Genesis 12 onward, should be viewed in terms of the salvific promises contained in the Abrahamic covenant.19 This line of evidence demonstrates the unity of the covenant of grace from Genesis 3 to the farthest reaches of the future.

If this representation of the salvific significance of the Abrahamic covenant for the unity of the covenant of grace seems to be an overstatement, the following declarations from later divine revelation should suffice to justify it:

1. It is the Abrahamic covenant and none other that God later confirmed with Isaac (Gen. 17:19; 26:3-4) and with Jacob (Gen. 28:13-15; 35:12).

2. God redeemed Jacob’s descendants from Egypt (which redemptive act is the Old Testament type of New Testament redemption in Christ) in order to keep his covenant promise to Abraham: "God heard their groanings and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob" (Exod. 2:24; 4:5).

3. Again and again throughout Israel’s history in Old Testament times, the inspired authors trace God’s continuing extension of divine grace and mercy to Israel directly to his faithfulness to his covenant promises to Abraham:

Exodus 32:12-14: "Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self....’ Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened."

Exodus 33:1 (said immediately after the golden calf incident): "Leave this place... and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ "

Leviticus 26:42: "I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham."

Deuteronomy 1:8: "Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

Deuteronomy 4:31: "For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath." (See Deut. 4:37)

Deuteronomy 7:8: "But it was because the Lord... kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery" (See Deut. 9:5; 10:15)

Deuteronomy 9:27: "Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin."

Deuteronomy 29:12-13: "You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing it with an oath, to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

Joshua 21:44: "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers."

Joshua 24:3-4: "I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau."

Psalm 105:8-10, 42-43: "He remembers his covenant forever..., the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.... For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham. He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy."

2 Kings 13:23: "But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to banish them from his presence.

1 Chronicles 16:15—17: "He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.

Micah 7:20: "You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.

Nehemiah 9:7-8: "You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him.... You have kept your promise because you are faithful."

4. Both Mary and Zechariah declared the first advent of Jesus Christ, including the very act of the Incarnation itself, to be a vital constituent part of the fulfillment of God’s gracious covenant promise to Abraham:

Luke 1:54-55: "He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."

Luke 1:68-73: "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come... to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham."

It should be noted in passing that, whereas Christians today mainly only cele- brate the Incarnation of God’s Son at Christmas time, Mary and Zechariah, placing this event in its covenant context, saw reason in his coming to celebrate the covenant faithfulness of God to his people. In their awareness of the broader significance of the event and the words of praise which that awareness evoked from them we see biblical theology at its best being worked out and expressed!

5. Jesus, himself the Seed of Abraham (Matt. 1:1; Gal. 3:16), declared that Abraham "rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56).

6. Peter declared that God sent Jesus to bless the Jewish nation in keeping with the promise he gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, in turning them away from their iniquities (Acts 3:25-26).

7. Paul declared that God, when he promised Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:3), was declaring that he was going to justify the Gentiles by faith and was announcing the gospel in advance to Abraham (Gal. 3:8). Accordingly he states that all believers "are blessed [by justification] along with Abraham" (Gal. 3:9).

8. Paul also declared that "Christ became [gegenesthai] a Servant of the circumcision... in order to confirm [eis to bebaisai] the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy" (Rom. 15:8-9).

9. Paul further declared that Christ died on the cross, bearing the law’s curse, "in order that [hina] the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, in order that [hina] we [that is, Jews and Gentiles] might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13-14). The two hina, clauses are coordinate, the latter an elaboration of the first. God, having delivered his covenant people among the Jews from the curse of the law through Christ’s cross work, by that same cross work is free to deal likewise in grace with the Gentiles, with both Jew and Gentile receiving the promised Spirit through faith.

10. Paul expressly declared also that the Mosaic law introduced several centuries after God gave his covenant promises to Abraham and to his Seed (Christ), "does not set aside the covenant previously established by God [with Abraham] and thus do away with the promise" (Gal. 3:16-17).

11. Paul also declared (1) that Abraham is the "father of all who believe" among both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 4:11-12), and (2) that all who belong to Christ "are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" which God gave to Abraham (Gal. 3:29).

12. Finally, Christ described the future state of glory in terms of the redeemed "taking their place at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11).

These passages of Scripture make it clear that the promises of God, covenantally given to Abraham, that he would be the God of Abraham and of his (spiritual) descendants after him forever (Gen. 17:7-8) extend temporally to the farthest reaches of the future and include within their compass the entire community of the redeemed. This is just to say that the Abrahamic covenant, in the specific prospect it holds forth of the salvation of the entire church of God, is identical with the soteric program of the covenant of grace, indeed, is identical with the covenant of grace itself. It also means specifically that the blessings of the covenant of grace which believers enjoy today under the sanctions of the New Testament economy are founded upon the covenant which God made with Abraham. Said another way, the "new covenant" itself is simply the administrative "extension and unfolding of the Abrahamic covenant."20 Thus the temporal and spiritual reach of the Abrahamic covenant establishes and secures the organic unity and continuity of the one church of God composed of the people of God living both before and after the cross.

 

B. The exodus from Egypt—the Old Testament type par excellence of bib- lical redemption—by divine arrangement exhibited the same great salvific principles which governed Christ’s work of atonement, both in its accomplished and applied aspects, in the New Testament, thereby teaching the elect in Israel about salvation by grace through faith in the atoning work of Messiah’s mediation.

 

As a major feature of the Old Testament ground for the truth that "everything that was written in the past was written to teach us" (Rom. 15:4; see 1 Cor. 10:1-11, where Paul employs the exodus and certain subsequent wilderness events for this pastoral purpose), the great exodus redemption of the people of God from Egypt (and Moses’ inspired record of it) communicated God’s redemptive ways to his Old Testament people as it would do later to us, his New Testament people.

That it is not reading too much into the event of the exodus to characterize it as a redemptive event is borne out by the fact that the biblical text represents it precisely that way:

Exodus 6:6: "I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem [w ga alti] you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment."

Exodus 15:13: "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed [ga alta]."

Deuteronomy 7:8: "But it was because the Lord loved you ... that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed [wayyipdeka] you from the land of slavery."

Deuteronomy 9:26: "0 Sovereign Lord, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance, that you redeemed [padita] by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand."

The exodus is also described as "Yahweh’s salvation" (yesu at yhwh, Exod. 14:13), Moses also writing: "That day the Lord saved [wayyosa] Israel from the hands of the Egyptians." (Exod. 14:30). Later Stephen applied the title "re- deemer" (lytrotes) to Moses, a type of Christ (Acts 7:35).

Far from their becoming after Sinai a nation living under divinely imposed constraints of legalism, the people of the Mosaic theocracy, having been delivered from their slavery as the result of the great redemptive activity of God in the exodus event, became God’s "treasured possession," "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6) in order to "declare the praises of him who brought them out of darkness into his marvelous light" (see 1 Pet. 2:9). In the exodus God revealed the following four great salvific principles that regulate all true salvation, taught Israel about faith in Christ, and bind the "soteriologies" of the Old and New Testaments indissolubly together into one "great salvation."

1. The exodus redemption, in both purpose and execution, originated in the sovereign, loving, electing grace of God. This principle is expressly affirmed in Deuteronomy 7:6-8:

You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers [which oath itself was grounded in sovereign electing grace—Heb. 6:13-18] that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (emphases supplied)

And it is implied in God’s description of the nation as his "firstborn son" in Exodus 4:22-23 (see Deut. 14:1; Isa. 1:2-3; 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4; 31:9; Hos. 11:1; Mal. 1:6; 2:10), sonship from the very nature of the case being nonmeritorious and all the more so since Israel’s sonship was not sonship by nature (only God the Son is a Son of God by nature) but by adoption (Rom. 9:4).

In actual execution of the exodus it is highly significant that there was little religious or moral difference between the nation of Egypt and Jacob’s descendants in Egypt: both peoples being idolatrous (Exod. 12:12; Josh. 24:14; Ezek. 23:8, 19, 2I; but see Deut. 26:7 for evidence that a "remnant" still worshiped Yahweh) and sinful (Deut. 9:6-7). Accordingly it was God himself who had to "make a distinction" between the Egyptians and the Israelites (Exod. 8:22-23; 9:4, 25-26; 10:22-23; 11:7).

2. The exodus redemption was accomplished by Gods almighty power and not by the strength of man (Exod. 3:19-20). Every detail of the exodus event was divinely arranged to highlight the great salvific truth that it is God who must save his people because they are incapable of saving themselves. God permitted Moses to attempt Israel’s deliverance at first by his own strategy and in his own strength, and allowed him to fail (Exod. 2:11-15; Acts 7:23-29). Then he sent Moses back to Egypt with the staff of God in his hand to "perform miraculous signs with it" (Exod. 4:17). God himself promised, precisely in order to "multiply" his signs that he might place his power in the boldest possible relief and this in order that both Egypt and Israel would learn that he is God, that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart throughout the course of the plagues, and he did so (Exod. 7:3; 10:1-2; 11:9; see Rom. 9:17). And the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 has as its single theme the extolling of God for his mighty power to save. There should have been no doubt in anyone’s mind after the event whose power had effected Israel’s redemption.

3. The exodus redemption, notwithstanding the two previous facts that it sprang from God’s gracious elective purpose and was accomplished by the power of God, actually delivered only those who availed themselves of the expiation of sin afforded by the efficacious covering of the blood of the paschal lamb (Exod. 12:12-13, 21-23, 24-27). This truth underscores the fact that biblical redemption is not simply deliverance by power but deliverance by price as well.21

That the paschal lamb was a "sacrifice" is expressly dedared in Exodus 12:27, 34:25, and 1 Corinthians 5:7. As a biblical principle, wherever the blood of a sacrifice is shed and applied as God has directed so that he stays his judgment, the expiation or "covering" of sin has been effected. Accordingly the exodus redemption came to its climax precisely in terms of a divinely required substitutionary atonement in which the people had to place their confidence if they were to be redeemed. As we will suggest later, Moses could have informed them of the christological significance of the paschal lamb.

4. The exodus redemption resulted in the creation of a new community liberated from slavery in order to serve its gracious new Redeemer and Lord. Again and again God ordered Pharaoh: "Let my people go that they may serve me" (see Exod. 3:18; 4:23; 5:1; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3). The Bible knows nothing of a people of God springing into existence as the result of his redemptive activity who then continue to remain under the hostile power of their former master (see Rom. 6:6, 17-22; 7:4-6, 23-25; 8:2-4; 2 Cor. 5:15, 17). Though Pharaoh suggested compromises that would have resulted in something less than complete liberation for Israel (Exod. 8:25, 28; 10:11, 24), Moses would have none of it. Accordingly, Israel left Egypt completely (Exod. 12:37; 13:20), becoming a guided people (Exod. 13:21-22) and a singing people (Exod. 15), who had their sacraments (Exod. 14:21-23; 16:4, 13-15; 17:1-6; see 1 Cor. 10:2-4), and whose perseverance in their pilgrim struggles was dependent ultimately on the intercession of "the man on top of the hill" and not on their own strength and stratagems (Exod. 17:8-16). And far from Israel "rashly accepting the law" at Sinai and "falling from grace" when the nation promised its obedience to God’s law, the very preface of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1-2) places these ten obligations within the context of and represents them as the anticipated outcome of the redemption which they had just experienced. So it was to be through Israel’s very obedience to God’s commandments that the nation was to evidence before the surrounding nations that it was God’s "treasured possession," his "kingdom of priests," and "a holy nation"—precisely the same way that the church today evidences before the watching world its relationship to God. Peter informs Christians that they, like Israel in Old Testament times, are a "chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, in order that [hopos] you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Pet. 2:9). And Christians, just as Israel was to do through its obedience to God’s laws, are to show forth his praises as "aliens and strangers in the world" by "living such good lives among the pagans that . . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Pet. 2:11-12).

 

C. Moses and the prophets prophesied about the events of the New Testa- ment age, including the death and resurrection of Christ.

 

The New Testament writers, following the example of their Lord, regularly justified the existence and nature of the church of Jesus Christ by grounding them in Old Testament prophecy. A few of the clearest examples follow:

1. Jesus said: "the [Old Testament] Scriptures ... testify about me" (John 5:39); he also said: "[Moses] wrote about me" (John 5:46). Jesus teaches here that there are references to him in the Pentateuch, the specific reference in his mind on this occasion probably being the "prophet like unto Moses" of Deuteronomy 18:15.

2. Jesus also declared that Isaiah 53 "must be fulfilled in me, for that [which is written] concerning me is coming to an end" (Luke 22:37; see also Matt. 26:24, 31, 54, 56; Luke 18:31; Acts 8:32-35).

3. Immediately after his resurrection, Jesus said to the Emmaus road disciples: "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory"" Then Luke reports that "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained [diermeneusen] to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27; see John 13:18; 19:24, 28, 36-37; 20:9). Jesus specifically declares here that Moses and the prophets predicted that the Messiah would suffer the very things which he himself had just endured. And he implies that the Emmaus road disciples should have known about these things as a result of Old Testament prophecy.

Christians today often wish that they could have heard Jesus’ interpretation of the Old Testament on that occasion. But they can be assured that both the apostles’ sermons recorded in Acts—Luke’s "second work"—and the apostolic letters themselves, in the very way in which they interpret the Old Testament christologically, reflect major features of Christ’s Emmaus road exposition.

4. In addition to the numerous well-known Old Testament citations in his sermons and letters that endorsed his teachings about Christ and his work (see, for example, Acts 2:17-21, 25-28, 34; 1 Pet. 2:6-8, 22), Peter said to a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem: "I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer" (Acts 3:17-18), and then, after citing Moses’ predictive reference to Christ in terms of the "prophet like me," declared: "Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these [New Testament] days" (Acts 3:22-24).

5. On another occasion, Peter declared: "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43). Here Peter teaches that the Old Testament prophets designated the Messiah, described precisely in terms of One who would suffer and rise from the dead in the Acts 10 context as the object of Old Testament faith.

6. In 1 Peter 1:10-12, Peter wrote that the Old Testament prophets (1) "spoke of the grace that was to come to you [‘God’s elect, strangers in the world’]," (2) that they "searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow," and (3) that in response to their searching, "it was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven."

It should be noted that according to the Dallas Doctrinal Statement this passage in Peter teaches that the Old Testament saints (this would include the Old Testaments prophets themselves) "did not understand the redemptive significance of the prophecies and types concerning the sufferings of Christ" (see also in this connection the New American Standard Bible’s very misleading translation: "what person or time"). But this is not what Peter says. Rather, he says that it was only the time and circumstances (tina e poion kairon, lit. "which or what kind of time") of the Messiah’s sufferings and "the after these things glories" which they investigated intently and with great care, but he certainly does not say that they were ignorant of the Messiah’s sufferings as such.22 In other words, Peter’s "‘or’ is not disjunctive (as if two contrasted questions are referred to) but conjunctive (one question that could be stated either way): ‘What or what kind of period is this"’"23 This fact is borne out by Peter’s description of God’s revelatory response which answered to the prophets’ intense searching. It dealt only with the time factor of messianic prophecy. He revealed to them, not whose sufferings they were about which they spoke—this they quite apparently already knew—but when the Messiah’s sufferings were to occur. His sufferings, they were informed, were to occur not in their own time but in a later age (see, e.g., Dan. 2:44; 9:2, 24-27), at the beginning of this present age in which men preach the gospel by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

7. In addition to the many well-known Old Testament citations in his sermons and letters, also too numerous to list here, which endorsed his views of Christ, his death, and justification by faith (see, e.g., Rom. 4:3-8), Paul on his missionary journeys regularly "reasoned with [the Jews] from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead" (Acts 17:2-3). For example, in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch he taught that "the people of Jerusalem and their rulers . . . fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath when they condemned him. ...When they had carried out all that had been written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb." (Acts 13:27-30). Beyond all doubt the Old Testament prophets wrote about a suffering Messiah.

8. Paul also declared that "the gospel concerning God’s Son ...Jesus Christ our Lord," to which he had been set apart, "God promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures" (Rom. 1:2-3). Paul expressly declares here that the Old Testament prophets wrote about "the gospel concerning God’s Son . . . Jesus Christ our Lord."

9. Paul also wrote that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" and "was raised the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3-4). From this passage too we learn that the Old Testament Scriptures spoke about the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

10. While defending himself before Agrippa, Paul testified that he was standing trial only because of his teaching concerning "the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain as they earnestly serve God day and night, concerning which hope I am being accused by the Jews" (Acts 26:627). He then explained what he meant by Israel’s hope by declaring that throughout his long missionary ministry of some thirty years he had never said anything "beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22-23). From these verses it is clear that Paul believed that the Old Testament hope to which Moses and the prophets witnessed was the Messiah’s death, resurrection, and saving ministrations, which "light" the Messiah himself would proclaim both directly and through his apostles to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles (see Eph. 2:17; 4:21).

11. While under house arrest in Rome, Paul told the Jewish leaders: "I am wearing this chain because of the hope of Israel [heneken...tes elpidos tou Israel]" (Acts 28:20), which hope was the death, resurrection, and ministry of Messiah. Then Luke tells us that Paul from morning to evening "explained and declared to them the Kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets" (28:23). It is inconceivable that the author of Galatians and Romans would have talked about Jesus from morning to evening from the Old Testament Scriptures and said nothing about Christ’s sufferings (see Acts 13:27-30; 17:2-3; 26:22-23).

12. James, moderating the Jerusalem conference assembled in debate in Acts 15, declared in verse 15 that "the words of the prophets are in agreement with [symphonousin]" the missionary activities of the apostles among the Gentiles, and he proceeded to cite Amos 9:11-12 as a summary description of what God had previously revealed in Old Testament times that he would do in behalf of the Gentiles in this present age.

Dispensational scholars have argued that the verb, symphonousin, means in this context "are in agreement with," not "speak about," and simply indicates that the missionary policies being observed in connection with Gentile evangelism in the present age are harmonious with the policies to be followed in the future Jewish kingdom age—the real referent of Amos’s prophecy. But aside from the fact that such an interpretation imposes an inanity on the text since the Jerusalem assembly hardly needed to be informed that God’s prescribed missionary policies throughout history are consistent with each other from age to age, this is a classic example of "theological reaching" in order to avoid the obvious. If there is no connection between the cited "words of the [Old Testament] prophets" and the missionary activity of this present age, beyond the mere fact that the (according to dispensationalists, unpredicted) character of the church’s present missionary activity among the Gentiles "fits in with" the (according to dispensationalists, predicted) character of Jewish missionary activity among the Gentiles in the latter half of the dispensationalist’s "seven-year tribulation period" just before Christ returns and in their millennium, one is left with no perceivable explanation for James’s citation of the Amos prophecy in this context. In fact, by this line of reasoning he is made to introduce an irrelevancy that has no bearing on the issue before the assembly. If the dispensationalist should respond that James cited Amos in order to justify, in light of what allegedly was going to be done in the tribulation period and the millennium, the propriety of the character of Gentile evangelism in the present age, he must acknowledge that James violated one of the cardinal canons of dispensational hermeneutics since, according to dispensational thought, one must never attempt to justify a truth or activity for one dispensation by arguing from the normativity of that truth or activity in another dispensation. To do so is to "confuse the dispensations"—a cardinal sin in dispensational hermeneutics. Furthermore, if James did utilize a kingdom-age practice in order to demonstrate that Gentiles should not be required to be circumcised now, it is not apparent how his conclusion follows from what dispensationalists allege elsewhere will be the practice in the kingdom age, since they argue on the basis of Ezekiel 44:9 that Gentile believers must be circumcised in the kingdom age! If James was really attempting to justify a church-age practice from a future kingdom-age practice, and if he had held the dispensational interpretation of Ezekiel 44:9, he should have drawn the opposite conclusion—that circumcision was essential to Gentile salvation! One can only conclude that the dispensational interpretation does justice neither to James’s statement in verse 15 nor to his supporting citation of Amos 9:11-12.

Clearly, according to the inspired writers of the New Testament, Moses and the prophets predicted the ministry and death of the Messiah, this present age, and the worldwide preaching of the gospel, and thereby the out-calling of the church in this present age. The evidence for all this is full and certain, and it is regrettable that some evangelical scholars actually labor to avoid the New Testament witness to this effect.

 

D. The church of Jesus Christ is the present-day expression of the one people of God whose roots go back to Abraham.

 

The church of Jesus Christ in its earliest "personnel make-up" was Jewish in nature and membership (see Acts 1:8; 2:5-6, 14, 22, 36), and it was only after the passage of some years that this Jewish church began to evangelize the nations (Acts 10). But even after Jewish Christians within the church became a minority because of the sheer number of Gentiles who were being converted, the New Testament makes it clear, in conformity to the details of the "new covenant" prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see Luke 22:20; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:8-13; 9:15), that, when Gentiles became Christians, they entered into the fellowship of that covenant commnnity designated by the "new covenant" prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31 as "the house of Israel and the house of Judah."

Because of the great number of Gentiles in the church today it is very difficult for many Christians to think of the church of Jesus Christ of which they are privileged members (by "church" here I refer to the true church, that is, the body of truly regenerate saints) as being God’s chosen people, the true (not the New) spiritual "Israel." But the New Testament evidence endorses this identification.

 

1. When Jesus described the man excommunicated from the church which he would build (Matt. 16:18) as "the heathen and the tax collector" (ho ethnikos kai ho telones) (Matt. 18:17), it is clear that his assumption was that his church was "Israel."

2. To the Ephesian church, clearly a Gentile church, Paul wrote:

Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were [a] separate from Christ, [b] excluded from citizenship in Israel [politeias tou Israel] and [c] foreigners [xevoi] to the covenants of the promise, [d] without hope and [e] without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (2:11-13)

Paul teaches here that the blessed state to which the Ephesian Gentiles (who formerly were "far away") have now been "brought near" includes Christ, from whom they had been separated, and hope, and God, which had not been their possessions before (the first, fourth, and fifth items in Paul’s list). But Paul also says that they had been excluded from citizenship in Israel and that they had been foreigners to the covenants of the promise (the second and third items). Since Paul suggests that the first, fourth, and fifth of their previous conditions had been reversed, it would seem reasonable that he also intends to teach that the second and third conditions had been reversed as well. On what authority may one eliminate these two from Paul’s list of five conditions which he says God addressed in Christ in behalf of Gentiles" Accordingly, I would urge that Paul is teaching here that Gentile Christians are now citizens of (the true) Israel and beneficiaries of the covenants of the promise. And he seems to say this very thing in 2:19 when, summing up, he writes: "Therefore you are no longer foreigners [xenoi] and aliens [paroikoi] but fellow citizens [sympolitai] of the saints and members of God’s household [oikeioi tou theou]."

3. To the Gentile churches in Galatia, Paul described those who repudiate judaistic legalism and who "never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" as "the Israel of God" (6:12-16). (It is possible that Paul intended to refer exclusively to Jewish Christians by this expression, but it is equally possible that he intended to refer to the church of Jesus Christ per se, made up of Jews and Gentiles.)

4. To the Gentile church at Philippi, Paul described those "who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh" as "the [true] circumcision" (Phil. 3:3), an Old Testament term, as he notes in Ephesians 2:11, which the nation of Israel had come to use as a designation of itself.

5. Paul’s metaphor of the two olive trees (Rom. 11:16—24) also reflects this same perception: olive shoots from a wild olive tree, that is, Gentiles, are being grafted into the cultivated olive tree, that is, Israel, from which latter tree many natural branches, that is, Jews, had been broken off. This tree, Paul says, has a "holy root" (the patriarchs; see Rom. 11:28). Clearly, Paul envisions saved Gentile Christians as "grafted shoots" in the true "Israel of faith." And just as clearly it is into this same cultivated olive tree (which now includes multitudes of "wild shoots") that the elect "natural branches" of ethnic Israel (Paul speaks of them as "all Israel," Rom. 11:26) are being grafted in again through their coming to faith in Jesus Christ throughout this age.24

6. Employing Amos 9:11-12 as he did in Acts 15:16-17, James designates the church to which the "remnant of men," even "all the Gentiles who bear my name," was being drawn through the missionary activity of Peter and Paul as Amos’s "fallen tabernacle of David" which God was even then in process of "rebuilding" precisely by means of drawing from the Gentiles a people for himself and making them members of the church of Jesus Christ. But for James to represent the church of Jesus Christ as "the fallen tabernacle of David" which Amos predicted was to be "rebuilt" means that James believed that the prophets did speak of this age and the church of this age, that Gentiles were being drawn into "David’s fallen tabernacle"—Amos’s picturesque term for spiritual Israel—and that an unbroken continuity exists between God’s people in the Old Testament and Christians in the New Testament. It is of this "rebuilding" of David’s fallen tabernacle that Haggai speaks when he predicted that God would someday "shake all nations, and the desire of all nations will come,25 and . . . fill this house with glory" (2:7).

7. The fact that in the course of their description of the Christian life and the life of the church itself the New Testament writers draw heavily upon Old Testament citations, terminology, and concepts (for example, prior to their salvation, Paul writes, Christians had been in "slavery to sin," the idea of slavery having its roots in the fact of Israel’s slavery in Egypt, Rom. 6:17-22; Christ is the Christian’s "High Priest" and "Passover lamb," Heb. 9:11-14; 1 Cor. 5:7; Christian baptism is "Christian circumcision," Col. 2:11-12; Christians offer up "sacrifices" of praise and good works, Heb. 13:15-16; Christians live under the rule of "elders," 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9; Heb. 13:17) clearly teaches that they saw no such line of demarcation between Israel and the church as is today urged by the dispensational school.

 

E. The requisite condition for salvation is identical in both the Old and New Testaments: the elect were saved, are saved, and will be saved only by grace through faith in the (anticipated or accomplished) work of the Messiah.

 

Dispensational scholars maintain that no Old Testament saint could have been saved through conscious faith in the Messiah’s death work, simply because knowledge of this event was "as yet locked up in the secret counsels of God."26 The Westminster confession, on the other hand, affirms that the Holy Spirit employed "promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances . . . , all foresignifying Christ to come," in his Old Testament saving operations "to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation" (VII / v, emphasis supplied). The Scriptures alone should decide the issue: I will begin with New Testament data and move back into the Old Testament age.

1. Paul wrote to Timothy that "from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures [the Old Testament), which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15). Apparently Paul believed that the Old Testament contained revelational information about "salvation through faith in the Messiah."

2. Paul argued his doctrine of justification by faith alone, apart from all human works, by citing in support of it David’s words in Psalm 32:1-2 (Rom. 4:6-7) and the example of Abraham who "believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-3). The last thing that Paul would have wanted anyone to believe is that his was a "new doctrine." In light of these Old Testament examples it would have never dawned on Paul to say: "We know how the New Testament saint is saved—he is saved by grace through faith in Christ, but how was the Old Testament saint saved"" Instead he would have reversed the order of the sentence: "We know how the Old Testament saint was saved—he was saved by grace through faith in Messiah; we had better make sure that we are saved the same way, for there is no other way to be saved."

3. From the beginning of his ministry, during his early Judaean ministry (John 2:13-4:3), Jesus himself spoke of his coming death (John 3:14; by implication also in Matt. 9:15; Mark 2:20; Luke 5:35) and resurrection (John 2:19-22). There is no indication in the Gospels of a shift in Jesus’ teaching away from an earlier promise to the Jews of an earthly Jewish kingdom to later pronouncements concerning his own death. He spoke about his death from the beginning. We find rather only a shift in emphasis from fewer to more allusions to his death. Vos writes:

Our Lord simply takes for granted that there will he a breach between His followers and the world. And, since the cause of the breach is placed in their identification with Him, the underlying supposition doubtless is that the same conflict is in store for the Master Himself only after a more principial fashion. And there is no point in Jesus’ life where this mental attitude can be said to have first begun. The "sunny" and untroubled days of "fair Galilee" are, when exploited in such a sense, a pure fiction. There never was in the life of Jesus an original optimistic period followed later by a pessimistic period. As the approaching crisis did not render Him despondent towards the end, so neither did its comparative remoteness render Him sanguine at the beginning. The intrusion of such a terrifying thought as the thought of His death, in the specific form belonging to it, must have been, could not have failed to leave behind it the evidence of a sudden shock. But there is no evidence of any such sudden shock in the Gospels.27

4. No dispensationalist would represent John the Baptist as a New Testament prophet, and quite rightly so. As the forerunner of Jesus Christ, he was the last of the Old Testament prophets, ministering in the spirit and power of Elijah. Jesus himself said: "all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come" (Matt. 11:9-14). Accordingly, he is most often depicted in the role of the stern prophet demanding repentance of his hearers, baptizing only those who evidenced the fruit of repentance. He was that, but he was also a remarkable evangelical witness to Christ, identifying Jesus, the one coming after him, not only as the Messiah (John 3:28) in whose hands reside the prerogatives of both salvation and judgment (Matt. 3:10-12) but also as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)—a clear allusion to Messiah’s sacrificial death and one very likely drawn from Isaiah 53:7, I0-12.28 And what were people to do with him then" "He told the people that they should believe in [pisteusosin eis] the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus" (Acts 19:4). Here is the last of the Old Testament prophets, at the very commencement of his ministry, proclaiming that his hearers should believe in the Christ, who would die for the sins of the world, for their salvation—the very thing that dispensationalists maintain was "as yet locked up in the secret counsels of God"!

5. While the New Testament evidence indicates that the concept of a suffering Messiah in the first third of the first century A.D. was not widespread, having been overshadowed both in the official theological schools of the day (that had so emphasized particular aspects of messianic prophecy that to a considerable degree they misrepresented the total Old Testament picture) and in the popular imagination that clung to the concept of a nationalistic ruling Messiah, Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29—32), with its phrase "a light for revelation to the Gentiles," alluding to Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, illustrates that at least one circle within first-century Jewry (the elect) identified the Servant of Isaiah with the Messiah. Moreover, his oracle in Luke 2:34-35, by its prophecy: "This child is . . . to be a sign that will be spoken against. . . . And a sword will pierce your own soul too," intimates that the same circle understood (doubtless from Isaiah 53) that there would be a tragic dimension to the Messiah’s ministry

6. Turning to the Old Testament, in Zechariah 12:I0 (and we should note that anything God said about the Messiah before Zechariah’s day would have assisted the elect of his day better to understand him) Yahweh declared that the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem would someday "look on me, the one they have pierced, and mourn," and again in 13:7 he commanded: "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, against the Man who is my Associate! Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." Both of these verses are regarded by the New Testament as prophecies having their fulfillment in the crucifixion of Christ (see John 19:37; Rev. 1:7 and Matt. 26:31; Mark 4:27).

7. Seven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah prophesied the substitutionary, atoning death of the Messiah in Isaiah 53. We may legitimately infer that what Isaiah wrote about, he doubtless also proclaimed in the marketplace (see Isa. 20:2-3, Jer. 13:1-11 and Ezek. 4:4-8, 5:1-12, 24:15-24, for vivid examples of the Old Testament prophet’s "taking his message" to the people of his own generation). And we may be sure that what he proclaimed in the marketplace the Holy Spirit enabled the elect in Israel (Rom. 11:7), albeit a remnant (Isa. 10:22; Rom. 9:27), to understand and to believe to the saving of their souls.

I am not maintaining that all of the elect of the eighth century B.C. understood as much as the average New Testament saint does about Christ. But aware as I am that what the average Christian today knows about him is shockingly little, I am not denying either that some Old Testament saints may have had a deeper understanding of the things of Christ than some saints today. Nor am I saying that all of the elect of the eighth century B.C. had equal understanding of these matters. For just as among any given generation of true Christians one may find almost every degree of knowledge and understanding from that of the almost "nonknowledge" of some Christians to that depth of knowledge and insight possessed by a Calvin, so also doubtless there were degrees of comprehension among the elect of the Old Testament period. Some would have possessed only the barest minimum of comprehension of Isaiah’s message about the Messiah’s substitutionary death—but enough to be saved—while others, lacking only the knowledge of the time and circumstances (1 Pet. 1:10-11), would have clearly perceived that Isaiah was prophesying the suffering and death of the Lord’s Servant-Messiah in their behalf.

8. Earlier in the same prophecy (7:14) Isaiah had announced that the Messiah would be born of a virgin and be "God with us"—a prediction of the Incarnation (the reader should recall here that the Dallas Doctrinal Statement contends that the Old Testament saint could have known nothing about the Incarnation). Then he described this marvelous Child who would be born to us by the fourfold title, "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (9:6)— another prophetic allusion to the Incarnation. Again, there is no reason to doubt that the Holy Spirit illumined the elect to understand at least something of the implications in these facts about the Messiah. 9. Three hundred years before Isaiah said what he did about the Messiah (and we should note that anything God said about the Messiah before Isaiah would have assisted the elect of Isaiah’s day better to understand him), David prophesied that the "kings of the earth . . . and the rulers would gather [in rebellion] against the Lord and against his Messiah" in order to cast off their restraints upon them (Ps. 2:2; see Acts 4:25-28). Accordingly, in Psalm 22:16 David spoke of the Messiah’s crucifixion, while in Psalm 16:9-11 he spoke of his resurrection from the dead. What is particularly interesting about the latter Psalm is that Peter, commenting upon it, argues that David could not have been talking about himself in the Psalm since he "died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day" But, Peter continues, David, seeing what was ahead because he was a prophet, spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah (Acts 2:25-31; see Paul’s similar use of Psalm 16:10 in Acts 13:35237), this resurrection necessarily implying his prior death. In these psalms then, David, Messiah’s great royal ancestor, expressed a knowledge of his greater Son’s rejection, death, and resurrection. And what he knew under the Spirit’s inspiration, David expounded through his inspired psalms to his people in order that they might know as well. Again, there is no reason to doubt that the Holy Spirit used David’s teaching about the Messiah, revealed through his psalms, to bring David and other elect men and women to a saving trust in the Messiah’s anticipated redemptive work.

10. By the Levitical legislation that Moses had given the nation four hundred years before David (and recall again that anything that God had previously revealed to Israel would have assisted the elect better to understand David), Israel was schooled in the great principle of forgiveness through the substitutionary death of a perfect sacrifice. Again and again in that body of legislative material, the guilty Israelite is instructed "to lay his hand on the head of the [unblemished] burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him" (Lev. 1:4; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:4, 15, 24, 29, 33; Num. 8:12). The salvific significance of this ritual was not left to the speculative mind to "unpack" but is clearly explained in connection with the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement: once a year the high priest chose two goats, sacrificed one of them for a sin offering, and then he was "to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert" (Lev. 16:21-22). In this ritual the great salvific principle was being taught that salvation comes to the sinner who turns for forgiveness from his own efforts, who approaches God through the sacrificial death of a perfect substitute offered in his stead, and whose sins are imputed to the sacrifice. J. I. Packer quite properly understands the activity regarding the scapegoat as a "dramatization" of what occurred in the sacrifice of the other goat:

The [other] goat is the one that really counts. The action with the scapegoat is only a picture of what happens through the [other] goat. The [other] goat is killed and offered as a sin-offering in the normal way. Thus atonement was made for the people of Israel. The banishing of the scapegoat into the wilderness was an illustrative device to make plain to God’s people that their sin really has been taken away.

When the writer to the Hebrews speaks of Christ achieving what the Day of Atonement typified [Heb. 9:11-14]—Our perfect and permanent cleansing from sin—he focuses not on the goat that went away into the wilderness but on the animal that was offered in sacrifice once a year by the high priest . . . the blood of Christ [fulfills] the whole pattern of the Day of Atonement ritual.29

All this was carried out in connection with the service at the Tabernacle—a structure, it must not be overlooked, which was built "according to the pattern which was shown to Moses in the mount" (Exod. 25:9, 40; 26:30; Acts 7:44), a pattern, the author of Hebrews affirms, that was a copy and shadow of the true, heavenly Tabernacle into which Christ himself entered with his own blood as the redeemed man’s High Priest (Heb. 8:2, 5). And when and where was that entrance" Christ’s "entrance into the heavenly sanctuary" occurred when he assumed his high priestly role as Mediator of the new covenant at the incarnation, and the Most Holy Place was his cross! Thus the Levitical system foreshadowed the sacrificial work of Christ who saved the elect in Israel as they placed their faith in him as he was foresignified by the earthly types within that system.

11. Even earlier, at the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the same essential lessons were being taught in connection with the blood of the paschal lamb: "The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt" (Exod. 12:13; see I Cor. 5:7). Again, we maybe confident that the Holy Spirit by such words as these instructed and built up the faith of the elect in Messiah’s death, which was symbolically and typically depicted in the death of the Passover sacrifice.

12. But did the nation of Israel even know anything about the Messiah and his death during the Mosaic age in order to understand that the bull or goat which the guilty brought to the altar for slaying foresignified Messiah’s sacrificial death" The author of Hebrews expressly declares that Moses, Israel’s great leader and lawgiver, "regarded as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt the disgrace of the Christ [ton oneidismon tou Christou], for he was looking forward to the reward . . . for he saw him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:26-27). And Jesus stated that Moses personally had written about him (John 5:46-47). A faith looking to the future, a faith that wrote about the Messiah, a faith aware of the disgrace which would befall the Christ, and a faith that preferred "the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings’" to the glories of his own age—this was Moses’ faith. And we can presume that Moses shared his understanding with his people.

13. Of Abraham Christ himself affirmed: "Abraham . . . rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). As with Moses after him, Abraham’s faith was directed not only toward God in some general way but also toward the Messiah who was to come. He was not looking toward some temporal blessing to become his in his own time, for as the author of Hebrews says of him: "By faith [anticipating "the day of Christ"] he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country . . . ,for he was looking forward to [exedecheto] the city having foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (11:9-10). Indeed, of all of the elect of that age and of those descending from Abraham (11:12) the author of Hebrews affirms a similar faith that looked to the future, indeed, to heaven itself:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance [porrothen]. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing [oregontai] for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (11:13-16)

14. There are indications of this faith in the Messiah’s future deliverance even in pre-Abrahamic times: ‘"Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied ... : ‘Behold, the Lord is coming with thousands of his holy ones’"(Jude 14). The intended referent of the title "Lord" seems rather clearly to be the Messiah, as evidenced by its occurrences with "Christ" in verses 4, 17, 21, and 25. And a significant textual variant actually reads Iesous, in Jude 5, concerning which variant Bruce M. Metzger writes: "Critical principles seem to require the adoption of [Iesous], which admittedly is the best attested reading among Greek and versional."30 One must conclude that Jude viewed the Messiah as present (in his preincarnate state) and active throughout the history of the Old Testament.

15. Abel showed that he understood the principle of the necessity of substitutionary blood atonement when "by faith he offered a better sacrifice than Cain did"’ (Gen. 4:3-5; Heb. 11:4). His offering from the flock, its death typifying the "Seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15) who in crushing the serpent’s head would himself be fatally wounded, doubtless reflected what the Holy Spirit had taught him through his parents’ instructions concerning the significance of the protevangelium, his need for a blood "covering" before God, and the relationship between the two.

16. Finally how did Abel’s parents know about the need for a blood "covering" before God" From their observation of God’s killing an animal, even before they were banished from the garden of Eden, and making for them covering garments from the skin of the animal (Gen. 3:21) and most likely by his own direct instruction to them. This divine work, coming as it did hard on God’s protevangelium (Gen. 3:15), according to which the Seed of the woman would destroy the Serpent’s power through his own death work, illustrated the "covering" significance of that Seed’s death. On God’s activity here Meredith G. Kline writes:

This remedy [clothing Adam and Eve] for the obstacle to their approach to God (see 3:10) symbolized God’s purpose to restore men to fellowship with him. The sinners’ shame, as a religious problem, could not be covered by their own efforts (see 3:7). Implied in God’s provision is an act of animal sacrifice; what is explicit, however, is not the sacrificial mode but remedial result.31

These five lines of argument vindicate the covenant theology of the Reformed faith and show that classic dispensationalism is in error when it denies that the Old Testament saint had any awareness of the future Messiah’s suffering in his stead. They dearly demonstrate that salvation has always been of one piece in Scripture, that the covenant of grace is one covenant, and that the people of God are one people.

 

A Disclaimer...

 

I certainly don not intend to suggest that the Old Testament elect were given all the information about Christ that the New Testament contains about his person and work....

When one takes into account, however, all the data amassed in this chapter, particularly Jesus’ own declaration that Abraham "rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad" and the New Testament reiterations that the Old Testament Scriptures ("beginning with Moses and all the Prophets") testified that "the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations" (Luke 24:25-27, 45-47; John 5:39, 46; Acts 3:24; 10:43; 13:27-30; 26:22-23; 1Pet 1:10-12), the obvious conclusion is that Old Testament saints, including Abraham the father of the faithful, knew much more about the Messiah’s suffering than is generally credited to them, and infinitely more about it than the dispensationalist would allow, since he insists that they knew nothing at all.


17. Although the word "covenant" occurs for the first time in Genesis 6:18, the fact that it occurs with the pronominal suffix and the Hiphil form of the verb qum, "establish," rather than karat, "cut, make," suggests that this covenant was not first made in Noah’s day but rather was already in existence and was being extended into the Noahic Age.

18. See Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1954), 56.

19. Undoubtedly, temporal, earthly, promises of a land were given to Abraham and his descendants in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 13:15; 15:18; 17:8). But the land promises were never primary and central to the covenant intention, and a literal and complete fulfillment of these promises under Old Testament conditions was never envisioned by God. Rather, the fulfillment of the land promises must be viewed as arising from the more basic and essential soteric promises, and for their fulfillment they will have to await the final and complete salvation of God’s elect in the Eschaton (Rom. 8:19-23).
I say this because the Bible declares that Abraham dwelt in the Old Testament land of promise "as in a foreign country dwelling in tents"’ (Heb. 11:9) and never possessed it (Acts 7:25), since, as with so many other of God’s promises made during the "‘shadow" days of Old Testament Heilsgeschichte [Salvation History] (Col. 2:17), he looked forward to this promise’s final fulfillment, in the "substance" days of New Testament Heilsgeschichte [Salvation History], that is, in the new heaven and new earth of the Eschaton, whose country "is a better one, that is, a heavenly one (Heb. 11:16), whose "city [the redeemed church; Rev. 21:9-27] has foundations whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10), and in which he would be "the heir of the world" (Rom. 4:13).
0. Palmer Robertson, in his Understanding the Land of the Bible (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1996), 7-13, provides a short but helpful study of the land concept in Scripture:
"Land" as a factor of theological significance begins with "Paradise." ... In this "land" called "Paradise" man could serve his God and find meaningful purpose for life.
As a consequence of [Adam’s rebellion], the first man and woman found themselves ejected from this land of bliss. . .
But a divine promise gave [fallen man] hope. There was a "land," a land flowing with milk and honey. Somewhere ahead of him he would find it, for God had purposed to redeem man... ,to restore him to the land of blessing he had lost.
This glimpse of hope found concrete expression in the promise given to Abraham. As a supreme act of faith, the Patriarch abandoned the land of his fathers and became a wandering stranger, always on the move toward a "land" that God had promised.
Abraham arrived at the land but never possessed it... he died owning no more than a family burial plot (Gen. 23:17-20). His whole life-experience forced him to look beyond the present temporal circumstances in which he lived to "the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10, NKJV).
. . . Moses and his contemporaries wandered in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years, and Moses died in faith, not having received the promise (Heb. 11:39).
Under Joshua’s general leadership the people conquered the land, receiving in a limited fashion the paradise God had promised. But it quickly became obvious that this territory could not be the ultimate paradise. Undefeated Canaanites remained as "hornets." . . . [And because of Israel’s sin throughout the monarchy period, finally] the land was devastated, the people banished. Persistently disregarding God’s laws, they came to he known as Io-ammi, meaning "not-my-people’" (Hos. 1:9). The fruitful land took on the appearance of a desert, a dwelling place of jackals, owls, and scorpions. . . . Paradise, even in its old covenant shadow form, was taken from them.
[Even the restoration of the "second commonwealth"] could not be paradise. But the return to "the land" and the rebuilding of the temple point the way.... The glory of this tiny temple would be greater than Solomon’s grand structure, and the wealth of all nations would flow to it (Hag. 2:9)
All this hyperbolic language—what could it mean"
It meant that God had something better.... The promise of the land would be fulfilled by nothing less than a restored paradise. As Isaiah had predicted earlier, the wolf would lie down with the lamb, and a little child would lead them (Isa. 11:6). No more would sin and sorrow reign, nor thorns infest the ground.
When the Christ actually came, the biblical perspective on the "land" experienced radical revision.... By inaugurating his public ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles along a public trade route, Jesus was making a statement. This land would serve as a springboard to all nations. The kingdom of God [the central theme of Jesus’ teaching] encompassed a realm that extended well beyond the borders of ancient Israel. As Paul so pointedly indicates, Abraham’s promise from a new covenant perspective meant that he would be heir of the cosmos (Rom. 4:13).
The radical implications of Jesus’ pointing his ministry toward the whole of the world rather than confining himself to the land of Canaan need to be appreciated fully. By setting this perspective on his ministry, Jesus cleared the way for the old covenant "type" to be replaced by the new covenant "antitype." The imagery of a return to a "land" flowing with milk and honey was refocused on a rejuvenation that would embrace the whole of God’s created order. It was not just Canaan that would benefit in the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah. The whole cosmos would rejoice in the renewal brought about by this newness of life.

20. John Murray, Christian Baptism (Philadephia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1962), 46.

21. See part three, chapter seventeen, "The Character of the Cross Work of Christ," for the fuller argument.

22. BAGD, poios, A Greek English Lexicon, 691, I, a, a, translates the phrase "what time or what kind of time," which repetitive expression Blass-Debrunnser suggests may be a "tautology for emphasis" (A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, 155, sec. 298 [2]

23. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1945), 45.

24. A helpful chart depicting Paul’s olive-tree metaphor may be found in David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, Romans: An Interpretive Outline (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963), 100—1.

25. With NASB and NEB, I would say that the "desire of all nations" here is probably not Christ. The verb "will come" (uba’u) is plural, making its subject, the collective noun "desire" (hemdat) also plural. The phrase should be translated: "The precious things [the persons and wealth of the elect] of all nations will come." For an opposing view, see Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, ILL.: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 235-37.

26. Scofield Rcference Bible, 996.

27. Geerhardus Vos, The Self Discloaure of Jesus (1926; reprint, Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978), 278-79 (emphasis supplied).

28. Many suggestions have been made concerning what John the Baptist would have meant by his identification of Jesus as the "Lamb of God" (see Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1971], 144-48, for a survey of these suggestions). While Morris is not prepared to pinpoint the Old Testament reference which provided the background for this description of Jesus, he does affirm that John, the Gospel’s author, by his citation of the Baptist "is making a general allusion to sacrifice" (147). And we must assume that the author of the Gospel would not have used the Baptist’s description in a sense the Baptist had not himself intended.

29. J. 1. Packer, "Sacrifice and Satisfaction," in Our Savior God: Man, Christ, and the Atonement, ed. James M. Boice (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1980), 131—32.

30. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible Societies, 1971), 726.

31. Meredith G. Kline, "Genesis," The New Bible Commentary Revised, ed. D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1970), 85.

 


Robert L. Reymond. "A New Systematic Theology Of The Christian Faith". Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1998. Pages 512-537.