A Covenant Cut before Time Began: [The Eternal Ministry of Jesus Christ (Part Three)]
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
First of all, let us clear up what we mean with covenant: it is not just a contract, but it is a solemn, sacred agreement between two parties to serve one another and it carried the death penalty if broken. In cutting it, you give away your own rights and assume responsibilities for your covenant partner. Traditionally there were nine steps of entering into a covenant, but sometimes just going through a few of them established the fact that the parties are cutting covenant. Typically, there will be rewards for keeping the covenant and punishments for breaking it.
God cut covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham, the nation of Israel, David, and then the New covenant was established by Jesus when He walked the earth. However, all these covenants could only have been cut because the Everlasting Covenant was already established before time began, because they are all based on it: it is the foundation of all covenants, that winds like a scarlet thread through the Old Testament and is then fibnally fulfilled in the New or Messianic Covenant.
What is this covenant and who cut it? We will not be able to finish this topic here, but let start by looking at some Scriptures that relate to it.
Scripture plainly teaches that God had an “eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus” (Eph.3:11). This purpose, being eternal, was already established in eternity past, before man was created. This “eternal purpose” was contained in the form of the Everlasting Covenant, for God declares no purpose apart from Covenant.[i]
There are many Scriptures that relate to the topic of this covenant. Let us start with one in Genesis after the Fall: So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed…; I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Gen.3:14,15
Even though we do not see anything about a covenant mentioned here, we can observe some interesting facts. Notice that the verse does not say “They will bruise your head”, but “He will”. Therefore, this verse is referring specifically to one particular Seed of the woman. God is not just foreseeing our salvation but it was already planned in detail at this stage.
We see in the Abrahamic covenant that God makes a promise to Abraham and his seed and Paul comments on that promise as follows: Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds”, as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. Gal.3:16
The same application can be made here, in Genesis: God is referring to one particular Seed, Jesus Christ, whose heel will be bruised, but He will crush the devil’s head. This verse in Genesis is often referred to as the Protoevangelium which Merriam-Webster explains as “a messianic interpretation of a text (as Gen 3:15 RSV) presaging man's ultimate triumph over sin through a coming Saviour —used as the first anticipation of the gospel”.[ii] Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner describes the Protoevangelium as "the first glimmer of the gospel”[iii] and the Church Fathers, such as Justin Martyr (160 AD) and Irenaeus (180 AD) regarded this verse as “the Protoevangelium, the first messianic prophecy in the Old Testament."[iv]
I have gone to some length to establish that what God has said here already looks forward to the day Jesus would die on the Cross and buy salvation for mankind. Therefore, salvation through Jesus Christ is according to “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). This is the eternal purpose that God has had from before time began. In fact, Revelation 13:8 refers to Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” and Titus 1:2 tells us that God promised eternal life before time began. However, eternal life is given to us because Jesus died on the Cross: but this verse tells us that He was already slain before time began!
Therefore, we see that the trial, fall and redemption of man was not only divinely foreseen, but that God had planned it in detail before the foundation of the earth. This included the provision of God’s Son as Mediator, His assumption of human nature, the offering of Himself as a sacrifice for sin, His exaltation to the right hand of God in the heavenly places, and His supremacy over the Church for the dispensing of blessings and salvation. [v]
All these factors were matters of a definite and certain arrangement, agreed upon by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the terms of the Everlasting Covenant, which is referred to in Hebrews 13:20:
“… 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…”
In my next blog I we will explore the details of the Everlasting Covenant more, so as to explain when and where it was cut and by whom.. Suffice it here for us to see that God loves us so much that He already planned our salvation in detail before time began!
[i] Conner & Malmin, The Covenants, (Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publications)92
[ii] Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, < https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/protevangelium>, [accessed 17 Jan., 2018)
[iii] Derek Kidner, Genesis (Leicester, UK: Intervarsity Press, 1967), 76
[iv] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1987), 80-81.
[v] Pink, Arthur W.: The Divine Covenants (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1963), 15.