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In Covenant Theology the Covenant of Redemption is an eternal agreement made between the members of the Trinity in which the Son of God agrees to become incarnate and die for the the sins of God's people. In return the Father promises to raise the Son back to life and glorify him.

What is the biblical basis for this idea? Answers do not have to show that the Bible uses the term 'covenant' to talk about this, but should show that this agreement was made before time began.

  • I think the problem is in interpreting Psalm 2. The most likely is that it refers to King David but it is easy to be lazy and see a messiah in there somewhere. I would suggest taking that part of your question to hermeneutics. The other part of the problem taken from John and based on Isaiah 53, involve the glorious reward Jesus would receive as 'payment' for suffering on earth. This is a strange concept. The problem comes in when Isaiah 52: 13-15 is taken into account. That part of the question belongs here but you will have to make your question very specific to avoid sermonizing answers. – gideon marx Nov 2 '14 at 8:09
  • I have rewritten my answer to your question, and you may or may not care to read the edited version. – BYE Dec 28 '14 at 17:41
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The Covenant of Redemption in the Bible

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

Here we see the outworking of the Covenant of Redemption. Jesus humbled himself to "death on a cross" and "therefore God exalted him." We see the same sort of thing in John 17. Jesus brings the Father glory, therefore the Father will bring him glory:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

John 17:4-5 (NIV)

Jesus says these sorts of things all throughout John. It's also in Isaiah 53:

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:10-12 (NIV)

Psalm 2* speaks of the glory given to Christ as decreed by the Father:

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:7-12 (NIV)

Before time began

But when was this agreement made? If it's spoken of by David and Isaiah, it's at least as old as the time of David. But was it made before time began? The reformed say yes. R.C. Sproul articulates the reformed position this way:

The Bible speaks often of God’s eternal counsel, of His plan of salvation and the like. It is a matter of theological urgency that Christians not think of God as a ruler who ad libs His dominion of the universe. God does not “make it up as He goes along.” Nor must He be viewed as a bumbling administrator who is so inept in His planning that His blueprint for redemption must be endlessly subject to revision according to the actions of men. The God of Scripture has no “plan b” or “plan c.” His “plan a” is from everlasting to everlasting. It is both perfect and unchangeable as it rests on God’s eternal character, which is among other things, holy, omniscient, and immutable. God’s eternal plan is not revised because of moral imperfections within it that must be purified. His plan was not corrected or amended because He gained new knowledge that He lacked at the beginning. God’s plan never changes because He never changes and because perfection admits to no degrees and cannot be improved upon.

Are there verses to support this idea? Yes. In 2 Timothy, Paul says that God saved us by giving us grace in Christ Jesus "before the beginning of time"**:

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

2 Timothy 1:8-10 (NIV)

Lastly, Ephesians 1 brings together all the themes previously discussed. We see God purposing to reveal the mystery of his will to us "before the creation of the world" by bringing all things together "under Christ."

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:3-10 (NIV)

Additional Resources


* Psalm 2 is considered a messianic psalm in the Christian tradition, especially by the reformed, and it seems hard to argue against that given the way it's used in Hebrews 1.

** I almost included Revelation 13:8 at this point. The verse was discussed on BH.SE and this translation was suggested: "All those who live on the earth worshiped it, anyone whose name has not been written in the scroll of life (which belongs to the slain Lamb) since the world's founding." The more traditional "lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world" would be a more convincing addition to this post, but I think even the translation given by Mark Edward works to support the point. After all, names were written in the scroll of life since the world's founding, and their being there depends on the lamb being slain. Hence the names must have been written before the foundation of the world with the knowledge of Christ's future sacrifice.

*** B. B. Warfield called covenant theology the "architectronic principle" of the Westminster Confession, but it's not universally agreed that it teaches the Covenant of Redemption. Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator is cited by those who believe it supports the concept. Very few would dispute that it supports the Covenant of Grace or Covenant of Works, however.

Addendum: The Covenant of Redemption is really threefold. The question captured two of its aspects, that of the Son dying and Father glorifying him, but equally important is the Father's promise to send the Spirit. This answer focused on the aspects that the question did, but if you want to understand the Covenant of Redemption, it's important to note the sending of the Spirit.

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I would like to add to the thought.

The covenant's beginning:

Psalm 2:7-9: I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Continuing the thought:

Hebrews 1:5: For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

  1. Father and Jesus covenanted that they will have a Father and Son relationship

Next:

Psalm 40:6-8: Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

  1. Jesus pledged to come to this world as a substitute (sacrifices and offerings thou did not desire)

Next:

Zechariah 13:7: Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

  1. Jesus will be cut off by God

Next:

Zechariah 6:12,13: And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

  1. Peace shall be between God and Jesus - once the ransom has been made

Next:

His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out. Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth: He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness... He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living. Job 33:21-26, 28-30

  1. Now God can justify sinners because of the ransom

Next:

Daniel 7:9,10,13,14: I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.... I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Psalm 110:1: The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

  1. The kingdom is then turned to Christ that He can be King of kings and Lord of lords

PS: Jesus raised from the Grave by His own power. The phrase "God raised Him up" denotes that God took responsibility for it.

Jesus says:

John 10:18: No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

"This commandment have I received of my Father" - This explains plainly why the scripture asserts that God raised Jesus.

Consider the following to make it more clear:

  1. Jesus had to accomplish the work of salvation alone:

Isaiah 63:5: And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.

Jesus' own arm brought salvation to Him

  1. Death was the enemy Christ came to defeat:

    Hosea 13:14: I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

If Christ had not overcome death by Himself (overcoming death = resurrection) then by no means could He ransom others. If He Himself could not defeat Death, but needed help from another (Father) then how can He promise others that He will ransom them from death?

  1. Jesus clearly says: "I am the resurrection and life"
  • This does not seem to present the biblical basis for the concept that reformed theology calls "the covenant of redemption". Also please use a more modern translation. – curiousdannii Feb 5 '15 at 5:14
  • I am not sure about the reformed theology. But this is what the Bible has to say about the covenant of redemption. – One Face Feb 5 '15 at 5:32
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    No, this question is about the Biblical basis for reformed theology's concept of the covenant of redemption, not just what the Bible says generally about redemption. It may need an expert in reformed theology to answer. – curiousdannii Feb 5 '15 at 5:36
  • Ok, but from your question, it was about a covenant between God and Jesus. If you notice, all the verses I quoted are conversations between God and Jesus – One Face Feb 5 '15 at 5:37
  • Either conversations or relates what is happening between the Father and Son – One Face Feb 5 '15 at 5:38

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