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I found this interesting partial quote from today’s Morning & Evening devotional by Charles Spurgeon. It’s about the “Covenant of Grace”:

Jesus is the representative head of His people. In Adam every heir of flesh and blood has a personal interest, because he is the covenant head and representative of the race when considered under the law of works; so under the law of grace, every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since He is the Second Adam, the Sponsor and Substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love.

Then I found this interesting snippet which, speaking of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, the Mediator, suggests that from eternity the covenant settlements of grace were decreed, ratified, and made sure forever.

My curiosity has been piqued. Is the expression “covenant of grace” about the Abrahamic covenant established by God? Or is it about the “New Covenant” introduced by Jesus? Is this “an everlasting covenant”?

I invite answers from Protestants on this topic, mainly because Spurgeon was a Baptist minister. I would appreciate a short overview (links to articles would suffice) of all the covenants established by God and whether any of them are everlasting.

Edit: As suggested, this question is about Covenant Theology

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  • Covenant Theologians vs New Covenant Theologians vs Dispensationalist will give very different answers to this question.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 26, 2019 at 13:32
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    Ah, you've got me there. Allow me to look into that and, if an edit is required, will do so. But please don't close the question without first giving me an opportunity to respond.
    – Lesley
    Dec 26, 2019 at 13:34
  • Though as your quote is about the Covenant of Grace it would be simplest to just ask about covenant theology, as that's the framework in which the CoG is a thing.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 26, 2019 at 13:38
  • Good idea and suggestion implemented.
    – Lesley
    Dec 26, 2019 at 13:43
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    Good point. Yes, I am thinking primarily about unconditional covenants whereby God promises blessings that will never be nullified.
    – Lesley
    Dec 26, 2019 at 13:59

5 Answers 5

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Are any of them everlasting ?

There are thirteen references to the 'everlasting covenant' (KJV Old Testament) and one reference to 'the everlasting testament' (KJV New Testament) that I can find:

Either these are fourteen different covenants referring to a variety of everlasting matters ... or they are fourteen different aspects of the one New Testament, resulting in New Heavens and a New Earth and a New Inheritance in the World to Come ... a New Creation and the Resurrection from the Dead.

But none of these covenants (or, none of these aspects of the New Testament) is a matter of an agreement between God and the first humanity, that of Adam in the flesh.

The everlasting promises here made are established by Divine Promise without dependence on the response of humanity come out of Adam.

Genesis 9:16 Noah/Rainbow

... that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature

Genesis 17:7 Abraham

... between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant

Genesis 17:13 Abraham/Circumcision

.....and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

Leviticus 24:8 Bread/Frankincense

....continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.

2 Samuel 23:5 David

... with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure

1 Chronicles 16:17 Covenant and Oath

... And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant,

Psalm 105:10 Covenant and Oath

And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:

Isaiah 24:5 Noah

... transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

Isaiah 55:3 David the King

I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Isaiah 61:8 A Future Priesthood

I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Jeremiah 32:40 A Future People

And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them,

Ezekiel 16:60 A Future Israel

and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.

Ezekiel 37:26 A Future Inheritance

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them

Hebrews 13:20 The Blood of Christ

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will


The above is extracted from previous work I wrote in 2012. A comment below from @curiousdanni enquires about the 'conclusions to be drawn' from the above. I cannot compress my previous work, so this is the link to the 100 or so pages titled 'The Everlasting Testament' (in PDF form).

The Everlasting Testament

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  • Can you explain more what conclusions Covenant Theology draws from these verses?
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 27, 2019 at 0:55
  • @curiousdannii I have added an edit and included the link to previous work from which the above details were extracted. I cannot compress that work, so the entire is linked.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 27, 2019 at 9:46
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A book written by Protestant B. N. Howard has on the contents page, “The Seven Divine Covenants.” (The Book of the Covenant, published by the good book company in 2013.) But other Protestants would disagree.

From personal e-mail correspondence I had with a Protestant friend on parts of that book came the statement, “There are two covenants. The first requires everything from man before any blessing can be expected from Deity. The Law was added because of transgression. The Everlasting Testament is that under which the Father appointed the Son - to be the Testator. No 'conditions' were ever laid upon men under this Testament.” Further, “Anyone talking of covenants who does not bring out the real spiritual application of the Law to the human soul and the real revelation of the Everlasting Testament in the blood of Jesus Christ, is just stitching words together, mixing old and new cloth. And nothing wholesome will come out of it.”

There is no one “Protestant” answer for your questions as demonstrated in the link below: How many bilateral covenants occur in the Bible? This Q and the As given show how difficult a subject this is. The answer selected as best gives a list of covenants; the other one suggests two covenants between God and man.

It might be helpful for you to first explore something of the history of the development of what is called “Covenant theology” and the link below might assist: What is the origin of the Covenant of Grace? A useful, brief history is in Mr Bultitude’s answer, with sources cited and links given.

Thirdly, regarding your question on the New Covenant, I suggest this link: According to Reformed theology, when did the New Covenant start? The answers given by Nathaniel is protesting, and Daniel 1212, are helpful.

My answer is not designed to express my Protestant view but to show that there are differing answers within the Protestant 'camp'. As the Asker is 'thinking primarily about unconditional covenants whereby God promises blessings that will never be nullified', that would be the one established in Christ, inaugurated with blood, founded in the will of God, maintained by divine purpose, everlasting in condition and called 'The New Testament' (which is another word for 'Covenant' – think ‘Last Will & Testament’).

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According to Paul, there are two covenants. One he allegorically compares to Hagar and bondage, while the other to Sarah and freedom. This is the difference between the "covenant of works" and "the covenant of grace". All covenants between God and men in the Bible fall within these two basic camps.

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Gal 4:24-26).

First, what is the covenant from Mount Sinai that results in bondage? (Gal 4:24) This is the old covenant, the covenant of works, given by God to the Israelites at Sinai. The terms of which was Obey and live (Ezekiel 20:11, Leviticus 18:5), Disobey and be cursed (Deuteronomy 27:26, Gal 3:10). In other words, this covenant expected men to obey from their own righteousness, possible before sin, but impossible post sin, and therefore referred to as "bondage". Paul goes as far as to call it a "ministration of death" (2 Cor 3:7), the law written externally on tables of stone (2 Cor 3:7).

Then what of the second covenant, which is referred to as freedom (Gal 4:26)? This is the new covenant, the covenant of grace, which is establish upon "better promises" (Hebrew 8:6) -- the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God, and obedience to God through the process of sanctification, the same law written instead upon fleshy tables of the heart (2 Cor 3:3, Hebrew 10:16).

So far so good, but there is a further layer to be grasped:

Since "the covenant of grace" is the promise of forgiveness of sin and grace, this covenant actually existed prior to Jesus as the Abrahamic covenant, for it had existed as a promise. Paul explains:

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. (Gal 3:16-18).

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:29)

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Roman 4:3)

But if the new covenant first existed as the Abrahamic covenant, why is it called "new" while the other one "old" and "first"? This is because the new testament has existed as a promise at first, and was ratified with Jesus' own blood at the cross (Hebrews 9:12), while the old covenant was ratified first with the "blood of calves and goats" at Sinai (Hebrews 9:18-20)

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. (Hebrew 9:16-17).

Therefore, although Abraham was justified by faith, if Christ never died, the promise would have been of no effect. Finally, since the Abrahamic covenant is called "the everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:7), the covenant of grace is the everlasting covenant. It was first hinted to Adam after he sinned (Genesis 3:15), and is really the plan of salvation, put in place before the foundation of the world (Rev 3:18).

A fuller expounding of this topic is in Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 370-372

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A covenant of God is a promise he makes, sealed with a sacrifice and a sign. To be a legitimate covenant of God, it must be ‘called’ a covenant by God, which is its “ratification,” for example, “I have made a covenant with you and Israel,” (Exodus 34:27); it must identify to whom the promises pass down (“I Myself am establishing My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you,” Genesis 9:9); it must have an “inauguration in blood” (“Even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood,” Hebrews 9:18); and it must include a “sign” — “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations,” Genesis 9: 12.

From these criteria, it is determined that there are seven distinct covenants of God found in the Bible, and in some sense, they are all "everlasting":

Noah/Flood - Promise: Never Again Destroy the Earth by Flood (Gen 9:11,15) / Ratification: "I Myself am establishing My covenant with you," (Gen 9:9) / Type: One-Way Unconditional / Devolves to: All Mankind (Gen 9:12,17) / Sign: Rainbow (Gen 9:12,13,17) / Inauguration in Blood: Dead Bodies of the Wicked (Gen 6:13,17,18) / Term: As Long as the Earth Remains (Gen 8:22) [some call this the "Noahic" Covenant]

Abram/Land - Promise: Descendants Shall Possess the Land of Canaan (Gen12:7; 13:15; 15:7) / Ratification: "On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'To your descendants I have given this land,'" (Gen 15:18) / Type: One-Way Unconditional on Collective, Two-Way Conditional on Individual / Devolves to: Isaac (Gen 17:21), Jacob (Gen 28:10-16), Jacob's Descendants exclusively (Exodus 6:2-9) / Sign: Circumcision (Gen 17:8-14) / Inauguration in Blood: Animals Cut in Half (Gen 15:9-21) / Term: Forever (Gen 17:19) [some call this the "Palestinian" Covenant]

Moses/Law - Promise: Blessings in the Land for Obedience to the Law, Curses for Disobedience / Ratification: "I have made a covenant with you and with Israel," (Ex 34:27) / Type: Two-Way Conditional (Ex 24:3,4) / Devolves to: Every Generation of Israel (Lev 26:46; Deut 29:14,15; 31:11-13) / Sign: Sabbaths (Ex 31:13-17) / Inauguration in Blood: Sprinkling of Blood on Book and People (Ex 24:5-8; Heb 9:19,20) / Term: Until New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 Replaces It (Deut 31:13; Jer 31:31-34)

Aaron/Priest - Promise: Priests to Serve Forever (Ex 28:1,41; 29:9; Num 25:10-13) / Ratification: "I am giving (Phinehas, grandson of Aaron) My covenant of... a permanent priesthood," (Num 25:12) / Type: One-Way Unconditional on Collective, Two-Way Conditional on Individual / Devolves to: Levites (Num 18:23; Ezek 44:15-16) / Sign: Bronze Plating of the Altar (Num 16:36-40) / Inauguration in Blood: Bulls of Consecration (Ex 29:1-21; Num 8:5-14) / Term: Forever (Jer 33:14-26)

David/King - Promise: Son to Rule as King Forever (2 Sam 7:12-16; 23:5) / Ratification: "I covenanted with your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel,'" (2 Chron 7:18) / Type: One-Way Unconditional / Devolves to: The Promised Son (2 Sam 7:12-16; Jer 30:3,7-9,24) / Sign: Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:13-16; 9:1-7; Micah 5:2-5; Luke 2:10-12) / Inauguration in Blood: Death of King of the Jews (Matt 26:28; 27:22-31) / Term: Forever After (Ps 89:34-37; Jer 33:14-26)

Israel/New - Promise: Law Written in Hearts, Replacing Old Covenant (Jer 31:31-34) / Ratification: "Days are coming... when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah," (Jer 31:31) / Type: One-Way Unconditional / Devolves to: House of Israel and Judah (Jer 31:2,31,37) / Sign: Legal Purchase of Property (Jer 32:6-22,42-44) / Inauguration in Blood: Death of Wicked in the Day of Wrath (Jer 31:40; Is 66:24; Ez 39:18) / Term: Forever After (Jer 30:24; 31:1,8,12,27,31-36)

Abraham/Better - Promise: Blessings to All Nations Through Seed Heir (Gen 17:4-5; 18:17; 22:18; Gal 3:8-17) / Ratification: "My covenant is with you... Your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations," (Gen 17:4) / Type: One-Way Unconditional on Collective, Two-Way Conditional on Individual / Devolves to: All Mankind (Gen 12:3; 22:18; Is 55:1-5) / Sign: Bread and Cup (Luke 22:20; Mark 14:24) / Inauguration in Blood: Death of the Lamb of God (Mark 14:24; Heb 9:22) / Term: Forever (Heb 13:20) [also known simply as the "New" or "Eternal" Covenant; or as the "New Covenant in Jesus' Blood"]

One can see there were two distinct covenants God made with Abram/Abraham, the first to give him the Land of Canaan (Genesis 15 covenant), and the second to bring blessings to all the nations through the Seed Heir of Abraham (Genesis 17/22 covenant), first "ratified" to Abraham, then assigned a "sign" at the Last Supper, and finally "inaugurated" with the death of Christ on the Cross.

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    – agarza
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There are a number of special covenants but the major one is between God and his chosen people: the Jews and the Christians. However, it is a matter of debate whether these are really two covenants or one, and also whether the "old" covenant is still valid. This comes down to the the issues of supersessionism and replacement theory. Writing in First Things, Robert Novak defined supersessionism as:

The theological conviction that the Christian Church has superseded the Jewish people, assuming their role as God’s covenanted people, Israel.

So-called "hard" supersessionists cite Hebrews in support of their belief that the covenant between God and Israel is no longer valid and the church has replaced Israel:

Hebrews 8:13

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

This doctrine was dominant in both Catholic and Protestant churches until the twentieth century. Today, however, some denominations and many Christians reject it. For example since the promulgation of Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church has affirmed that the both Jews and Christians are included in the same covenant:

She (the Church) professes that all who believe in Christ--Abraham's sons according to faith--are included in the same Patriarch's call... The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles.

A leading Protestant voice in opposition the supersessionism is Pastor John Hagee, who emphasizes the God's covenant with Israel remains very much intact today:

God owns the earth and made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give their descendants the right to the land of Israel.. by covenant. And the covenant still stands.

Meanwhile, the United Methodist Church as a denomination has formally rejected supersessionism:

We believe that just as God is steadfastly faithful to the biblical covenant in Jesus Christ, likewise God is steadfastly faithful to the biblical covenant with the Jewish people, and no covenantal relationship is invalidated by the other.

Conclusion: traditional Christianity has held that there are two major covenants: one between God and Israel and one between God and the Christian Church as the New Israel. Since the twentieth century, the Catholic Church and many Protestants have revised this doctrine, affirming instead that Christians and Jews share in one eternal covenant.

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