God has given man a number of opportunities to recognize Him as their God and to serve Him. Throughout history, He’s made many covenants that have provided reason to worship Him, He has supplied all man’s needs and given us every reason to claim Him as our God, but man has successfully failed to obey in each and every instance.
Those covenants have been of two different types, conditional and unconditional.
The ultimate fulfillment of an unconditional covenant is promised by God and depends on God's power and sovereignty.
A conditional covenant guarantees God will do His part when man meets his requirements. If man failed, God wasn’t obligated to fulfill a conditional covenant.
An unconditional covenant may include certain human requirements, but the promises of an unconditional covenant will absolutely be fulfilled in God's time and God’s way.
Of eight Old Testament covenants, the Edenic, made in the Garden of Eden and the Mosaic, the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, were conditional. There is also a covenant about the sign of the rainbow in Genesis 9, but after God established it, no further action is required on the part of God or man.
1. The EDENIC COVENANT was the first covenant that God made with man.
Genesis 1:26-30. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30: And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”
God continues the covenant in Genesis 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This was a conditional covenant with Adam in that life and blessing or death and cursing depended on Adam’s actions. It gave Adam the responsibility of being father of the human race, subduing the earth, having dominion over animals, caring for the Garden of Eden, and not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Adam and Eve failed and disobeyed by eating the forbidden fruit, and the penalty was death for disobedience.
Adam and Eve died spiritually immediately and needed to be born again in order to be saved. They also died physically later but their sin caused the whole human race to suffer the penalty for sin which is death.
2. The ADAMIC COVENANT was made with man after the Fall.
Genesis 3:14-19. “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
16: Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17: And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18: Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
This is an unconditional covenant. God told man what man’s lot in life was going to be because of his sin. There is no appeal, nor can any human action change it.
When God made a new covenant, it didn’t necessarily mean that the conditions of the existing covenant were null and void. There are things in the Adamic covenant still in effect today. The covenant as a whole provides for things that shape the human life from this point on in man’s history.
The serpent used by Satan is cursed (Verse 14).
The promise of a Redeemer is given (Verse 15), which is ultimately fulfilled in Christ.
Women became subject to multiple conception and pain in childbearing, and to the headship of man (Verse 16).
Man would be involved in hard work and sweat to provide food and the other necessities of life and all mankind will experience sorrow and ultimately death (Verses 17-19).
Man continues to live under those provisions of the Adamic covenant from this point on.
3. The NOAHIC COVENANT was made with Noah and his sons.
Genesis 9:1-17. “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
2: And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
3: Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
4: But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
5: And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
6: Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
7: And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
8: And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9: And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
10: And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11: And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
12: And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
14: And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16: And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
17: And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”
This covenant introduced the principle of human government as a means to curb sin, and kept some of the features of the Adamic covenant. It was unconditional, and it revealed God's purpose for the human race that would come from Noah and his sons.
This covenant continued the principle of human government and added capital punishment for those who took another man's life. Modernists don’t like verse 6 and try to over-rule God.
The order of nature was outlined by God previously and man could now eat the flesh of animals. Evidently man was a vegetarian before the flood.
Verses 26-27 of this chapter designate Noah’s son, Shem as the line leading to the Messiah and through his son Japheth there would come Gentile dominance in world history.
The Adamic covenant introduced the dispensation of conscience, and now the Noahic covenant had introduced the dispensation of human government.
There’s another interesting aspect of the Noahic Covenant in verses 11-17 here, the rainbow.
God announced His covenant with Noah and his descendants in plain language. This promise included the animal world and every living creature. Man wouldn’t have to live in fear that God would destroy the world again with a flood. As a sign or symbol of this, God gave us the rainbow. The rainbow speaks of covenant mercy displayed to man on the storm clouds of judgment. It’s a picture of the cross of Christ, where judgment that would never be repeated, was paid for the believer's sins.
The idea of the rainbow is found in many old-world traditions. In Babylon and in India it symbolized a bow that was used in a victorious battle. With the Arabs it symbolizes the bow of one of their famous warriors which he suspended in the sky. In Greece it was the messenger of Olympus. But any covenant or promise connected with it only appears in the biblical account.
4. The ABRAHAMIC COVENANT. This is an unconditional covenant.
Genesis 17:4-8. “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5: Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6: And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7: And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8: And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
There are three promises listed here that are a great revelation about future history.
1. First of all, Abraham was promised that he would have innumerable posterity (Verse 4) [and he has innumerable posterity, not only physically but spiritually also].
2. He would be blessed exceedingly (Verse 6), [and he was].
3. His seed would own the land of Canaan forever (Verse 8). [and they will].
In Genesis 12 he was promised that his name would be great and that he personally would be a blessing. It would be through Abraham that great nations would emerge.
Genesis 12:2-3. “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
This refers to Israel and the descendants of Jacob, who made up the twelve tribes of Israel, and the numerous nations of Arabs, descendants of Abraham’s six sons by Ketura as well as from his son Ishmael, but the land of Canaan was promised to Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac.
The most important promise given here is to the Jews and Gentiles alike. The Messiah, Christ, would come through Abraham and be a blessing to the entire world. God pronounced a curse on those who would curse Israel and a blessing on those who would bless Israel because of Israel's special relationship to Him.
Israel was to be God's chosen people, set aside to reveal God to all mankind. Circumcision would be the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, identifying Israelites as cut off from the world and set aside to God.
Genesis 17:10-11. “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11: And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.”
Even though Israel as a nation failed in many ways, Israel’s prophets would reveal God to the world through the human writers of Scripture and the greatest blessing would be provided through Jesus Christ, who would be a descendant of Abraham.
This covenant with Abraham is unconditional but we find that any particular generation could enjoy its provisions only if they were obedient. If they were disobedient, they could, for instance, be led off into captivity but this wouldn’t alter the final outcome.
The ultimate promise of God was to reveal Himself to the world through Israel and to bless Israel. He will redeem them and eventually bring them into the land promised. That is absolutely certain because it depends totally on God's sovereign power and will.
In spite of Israel's failures recorded in the Old Testament, God did reveal Himself to them and caused the Scriptures to be written, and ultimately Christ was born, lived, and died, and rose again exactly as the Word of God had foretold. In spite of human failure, the purposes of God will be fulfilled.
5. The MOSAIC COVENANT, God’s fifth covenant with man was conditional and was given through Moses to the children of Israel while they were on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. It covers 12 chapters, Exodus 20 through 31.
God gave Moses the law on Mt. Sinai, in the Southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It was to be the government for His people Israel.
There were approximately six hundred thirteen specific commands included in the law and they’re classified into three major divisions,
(a) the ten commandments, which are the moral law and express God’s will, Exodus 20:1-26).
(b) the judgments that relate to the social and civic life of Israel (Exodus 21:1-24:11), &
(c) the ordinances, or requirement of offerings, sacrifices, and worship. These works alone took up Exodus 24:12 through chapter 31.
The Mosaic law was a conditional covenant. God anticipated that Israel would fail but He promised that He wouldn’t leave nor forsake His people. Deuteronomy 4:31. “For the LORD thy God is a merciful God; he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.”
If Israel was obedient, God would bless them, but if Israel was disobedient, God would discipline them. Deuteronomy 4:40. “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.”
This Mosaic covenant was temporary and ended at the cross of Christ. While it did contain many elements involving God’s grace, it basically required works on man’s part.
6. The PALESTINIAN COVENANT.
Genesis 12:7. “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.”
Genesis 15:18. “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
This is an unconditional covenant regarding Israel's final possession of the promised land.
It contains conditional elements for any particular generation but it’s final fulfillment is unconditional. The promise to Abraham was that Abraham's seed would possess the land. Because of disobedience and failure, that was delayed and Jacob and his descendants lived in Egypt four hundred years before the Exodus from Egypt. God then lead them back to possess at least a portion of the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 30:1-3. “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
2: And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
3: That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.”
This covenant hasn’t totally been fulfilled. Fulfillment will come at the end of the Great Tribulation.
Deuteronomy 30:4-10. “If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
5: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
6: And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
7: And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.
8: And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.
9: And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:
10: If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.”
Because of disobedience and disregard of the law, the ten tribes who had settled North of Jerusalem were led captive into Assyria in 721 B.C. The Northern tribes actually never returned as a nation.
The two southern tribes were taken captive by Babylon around 595 B. C. After seventy years of captivity, God in His grace allowed the Southern tribes to return and live in the land until the Diaspora when Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70.
In spite of all Israel’s failures, God has promised she will ultimately be returned to the land and live in safety there, and never be scattered again.
Ezekiel 39:26-29. “After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid.
27: When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations;
28: Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which cause them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.
29: Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.”
Israel’s present return to the land is setting the stage for this endtime. Israel's return will be complete to the last man when Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom. God has allowed them to be driven out of the land because of disobedience, but the ultimate purpose of God to bring all His people back into their promised land is unconditional and certain.
The Palestinian covenant covers these things:
(1) Israel's dispersion for unbelief and disobedience.
(2) their future repentance and restoration to their land.
(3) the regathering of Israel and their restoration as a nation.
(4) their spiritual conversion and restoration.
(5) prosperity as a nation.
(6) God’s judgment at the battle of Armageddon on those who oppressed them.
7. The DAVIDIC COVENANT
2 Samuel 7:8-16. “Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:
9: And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth.
10: Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime,
11: And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house.
12: And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13: He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14: I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
15: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
16: And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”
The Davidic Covenant is an unconditional covenant. God promised David an unending royal lineage, a throne, and a kingdom, all forever. However,
in verses 14-15, God reserves the right to interrupt the actual reign of David's sons and set aside the throne temporarily if necessary, but the covenant itself can’t be broken.
The Abrahamic covenant guaranteed Israel an everlasting identity as a nation and everlasting possession of the land. Genesis 13:15. “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.”
The Davidic covenant guarantees them an everlasting throne: 2 Samuel 7:16. “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”
Daniel 7:14 guarantees them an everlasting King and an everlasting kingdom and assures them the millennial kingdom when Christ will reign on earth. “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.”
Ezekiel states that David will be resurrected and reign under Christ as a prince over the house of Israel. Ezekiel 34:23-24. “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. 24: And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.”
8. The NEW COVENANT, prophesied in the Old Testament, is made "with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” and is also an unconditional covenant that will have it’s fulfillment in the millennial kingdom.
Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34: And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
This promises the millennial kingdom here on earth with Christ as King. It won’t be necessary to evangelize because the facts about the Lord will be universally known. Israel will repent and God will forgive Israel's sin and bless them abundantly.
Until that time, we are still in the church age, and God has instructed the church to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel” Mark 16:15 because of so little knowledge of the truth worldwide.
God chose the Children of Israel to spread the truth of Jehovah God to the Gentiles. That’s why they’re called “God’s Chosen People.” They failed in this so God turned to the Gentiles for that mission until “the times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled and Israel is restored.
God’s covenant with those who are saved promises this: "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6. God guarantees all believers their final destination in glory. Things in the daily life of the believer can’t alter the promise of God concerning the eternal salvation of the believer.
God has declared unconditionally what He will do for all those who put their trust in Him. John 5:24. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Those who accept Christ as their Savior are saved forever because of God’s unconditional covenant sealed with the blood of His Son.
The future salvation of Israel promised under the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 is re-affirmed in Romans 11:25-27. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. 26: And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
Jesus also spoke of the redemption of Israel in Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”
Christ describes Israel here as a treasure hidden in the field. The field is the world. It was Christ who sold all that He had, (gave His life for all the world) so He could purchase the field and possess that treasure.
Salvation can only be through the shed blood of Christ. God is just as free to save a nation through Christ’s sacrifice as He is to save an individual.
God promised a Redeemer back in Genesis. Even Job, of antiquity, believed in a Redeemer. That Redeemer came in the Person of God’s only Son Who paid the price God demanded for your sins and mine with His sinless blood.
God has made a covenant with all mankind, not just the Jews, through Christ Jesus, and it’s stated in Romans 10:9-10. “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10: For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
No matter what God promises, it will be completed unconditionally and in all the perfection of His own infinite being. But, we’re all sinners and we still have to trust Christ as our Savior individually for our redemption.