The Facts and Flaws of Covenant Theology Part Two
Covenant Theology is the dominant theological system of most mainline Protestant churches and maintains that God has replaced the Jewish people with the church. On the basis of two or three “covenants” that are found nowhere in the Bible, it claims that Christians are now God’s chosen people and that the Jewish people have no claim to the land of Israel.
When examining this theology, what matters most is whether it can stand when tested by Scripture. It cannot.
What God’s Word Actually Says
God’s Word says the church began after Christ. Jesus Christ said, “I will build [future tense] My church” (Mt. 16:18). Christ was looking to a future day when the church would begin. Clearly, it had not yet begun or He would not have used the future tense. So the church must begin after Matthew 16. It began at Pentecost with the baptism of the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised to send after He was gone (Jn 14:16– 17; Acts 1:8).
First Corinthians 12:13 says all believers are put into the church through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, when Peter referred to Pentecost in Acts 11:15, he called it “the beginning.” Obviously, he meant the beginning of the church.1
God’s Word distinguishes between Israel and the church. In the Old Testament, Israel was a nation. In the New Testament, the church is never called a nation but, rather, an assembly or gathering of believers from many nations. Saved Jews in the Old Testament were never called the church, but they are part of the church in the New Testament. For example, Paul said, “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks [Gentiles] or to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32). The words Jews and Greeks encompass all the unsaved (unredeemed). The words church of God refer to the saved, which include both Jews and Greeks.2
Scripture calls Israel the wife of God (Isa. 54:5–6) but calls the church the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:9; 22:17). These concepts are never interchanged. They refer to two distinctly different relationships.
God’s Word says there will be seven years of tribulation following the Rapture of the church. Covenant Theology claims there is no need for the Tribulation and no need to restore the nation of Israel and bring it to repentance because God is finished with Israel. According to Covenant Theology, there also is no reason for God to judge the Gentile nations for their treatment of the Jewish people.
Scripture begs to differ. Paul taught that the church will be caught up before the wrath of the Day of the Lord (1 Th. 4:16–17). In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, he spoke of our waiting for God to send His Son from heaven, “even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” First Thessalonians 5:9 says, “For God did not appoint us to wrath.”
The Tribulation is a literal seven years, according to Daniel 9. The Antichrist will usher in that period by entering into a covenant with Israel. Divine judgment will flood the earth. Revelation 6—18 explains God’s twofold purpose: to punish the Gentiles and bring Israel to reconciling faith in the Messiah.
The prophet Jeremiah referred to the Tribulation as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). He said Jewish men will hold their loins like women in labor because of the great trouble on Earth. Christ referred to the time as “great tribulation,” the greatest trouble the earth has ever seen (Mt. 24:21). Unless God stopped it, He said, no one would survive. It will culminate at the battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:9–17; Rev. 16:14–16), in which Satan will bring the armies of the world against Israel to destroy the Jewish nation. Then Christ will return to deliver Israel (Zech. 14:1–5; 2 Th. 2:8; Rev. 19:11–21).
God’s Word promises Christ will rule from His throne for a literal 1,000 years. Covenant Theology, of course, sees no reason for this. Covenant theologians have developed two views that spiritualize the texts. The first is Amillennialism. Augustine developed it about 400 years after the church began. It maintains the Church Age merely continues until Christ returns to judge all men and then take believers to the eternal future. The second view is Postmillennialism. It takes what it considers to be a more positive outlook: The church will continue until the entire world becomes Christian, thereby opening the door for Christ to return to take all believers to the new heavens and new earth. Both these views are contrary to the explicit Word of God.
Six times in the first seven verses of Revelation 20 there are references to the 1,000-year reign of Christ here on Earth. God promises to establish His Kingdom on Earth with the Messiah sitting on the throne to rule over Israel (Isa. 9:6–7; 11:1–2; Lk. 1:31–33) and the nations (Ps. 72:8––11; Dan. 7:13–14; Zech. 14:9). The Bible says Messiah will govern as God’s King—God’s representative to do God’s will (Ps. 7:2–8; Zech. 14:9; Rev. 11:15). Since the time Adam fell in sin, there was no qualified human representative to administer His rule until Jesus came. When Jesus returns, His purpose will be to reestablish the theocratic Kingdom on Earth.
The beginning of the Millennial Kingdom is called a time of restoration of all things, a season of refreshing (Acts 3:18–21). Christ referred to it as the time of regeneration, in which He will restore the environment to its pre-sin condition. He will do away with droughts, wars, pestilence, disease, and illness and bring the world back to the way it existed before man sinned (Isa. 2:2–4; 9:6–7; 11:2–5, 6–9; 33:24; 35:5–6; 55:13; Ezek. 34:25–29; 47:1–12). Covenant Theology is a fabrication based on supposed covenants found nowhere in Scripture. However, the Bible does have covenants that are clearly defined. They include the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. We do not have to say that God implied these covenants; they are all recorded. They are clearly defined in Scripture. They were all initiated by God. They were given to the Jewish people, and they see their ultimate fulfillment through Israel. They also are unbreakable because their fulfillment is not based on Israel’s obedience but on God’s faithfulness. And they are everlasting covenants (Gen. 17:7–8, 19; Ps. 105:8–11).
These covenants guarantee that Israel will be restored to the Promised Land as a nation and its place of blessing. Someday all of Israel will be regenerated. The Messiah will return to establish God’s Millennial Kingdom on Earth and will rule from His throne in Jerusalem. And Israel will be the most blessed nation on the earth (Isa. 2:1–4; 60:1–3; 61:4– 9; Zeph. 3:20; Zech. 8:23).
All this will happen because God clearly says so in His Word. And His Word will endure forever!
- Renald E. Showers, There Really is a Difference (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), 171, 180.
- Ibid., 183–6.
4 thoughts on “The Facts and Flaws of Covenant Theology Part Two”
I would like to understand more about the “Covenant of Works”. Any good matierial u can recommend ?
It is more than keeping Israel and the Church separate we must keep the total prophetic earthly plan of Israel separate from the heavenly mystery plan of the church which is Christs body only revealed thru the apostle Paul. To many dispensationalists use Israel’s instructions and truths from the Gospels and early Acts and mix these prophetic earthly kingdom truths with far better truths for us. Regardless any dispensational view is far better than the spiritual lies of CT.
In the New Testament, the church actually is referred to as a nation.
In 1 Peter 2:9-11, God has something remarkable to say about all people who are born again through faith in Jesus Christ the Jewish Messiah. “… You are a chosen people, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, God’s SPECIAL POSSESSION, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now YOU ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Notice the manner in which in this New Covenant statement of identity for members of the body of Christ mirrors the same blessings of identity for physical Israel as long as they were obedient to the Law of Moses covenant.
In Exodus 19:5-6 God promised physical Israel in the law of Moses… “Now IF YOU OBEY ME FULLY and keep my covenant, THEN out of all nations you will be my TREASURED POSSESSION. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of PRIESTS and A HOLY NATION.’
These blessings of identity were not sustained through the law of Moses. The physical nation of God did not fulfill the “IF” in this conditional promise. They did not OBEY GOD FULLY. They did not KEEP THE (OLD TESTAMENT) COVENANT.
But here’s some GOOD NEWS! The promised Jewish Messiah, the Son of David DID OBEY GOD FULLY. And it is through faith in JESUS, that people of all ethnicities and geographic backgrounds are now included as members of GOD’s New Testament HOLY NATION.
In the New Covenant, being a member of God’s chosen nation is not a matter of physical descent or outward measurements. This idea is not invented by covenant theologians. Romans 2:28-29 says it like this: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Galatians 3:7 says that “…those who have faith are children of Abraham.” New Testament believers in the Jewish Messiah Jesus Christ are all “children of Abraham”. Being a member of God’s HOLY NATION is no longer limited to one physical ethnic group. All who have been born again are now members of the body of CHRIST, the Jewish Messiah. Every member of Christ’s church is “IN CHRIST”. Every member of Christ’s church is a member of God’s New Testament Israel!
One last word. Not all covenant theologians extrapolate implied covenants from the Bible. The explicit covenants God made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Testament Covenant are all that is needed for covenant theology to provide a coherent interpretive lens for the most compelling overall driving themes of holy scripture.
The assertion that Peter is using Old Testament descriptions of Israel to identify all believers and, therefore, all believers are called ‘a holy nation’ is based on a false presumption. To understand what Peter was teaching, we first have to know who Peter was addressing in this passage. Was he speaking to all believers in 1 Pet. 2:9-10?
The evidence indicates that Peter was speaking to Jewish believers who had been dispersed or scattered in the Roman Empire. Peter was first and foremost an apostle to the Jewish people according to Paul’s testimony in Gal. 2:7-8 and Peter’s ministry in the book of Acts. In 1 Pet. 1:1, Peter says he is writing to the “pilgrims of the Dispersion,” a title that naturally fits Jewish people but not Gentiles.
Further evidence that Peter’s audience is Jewish is his use of the Septuagint to quote Old Testament passages. It would be highly unlikely he would use the Septuagint to speak to Gentiles but very natural to use it when speaking to Jews. An examination of Peter’s arguments in 1 Peter demonstrates that they would have been hard for Gentiles to grasp but easily understood by a Jewish audience.
Since Peter was writing to a Jewish audience, it is only natural for him to use Old Testament titles of Israel to speak to Jewish believers. Peter is not teaching that all believers have taken on the Old Testament titles of Israel; rather he is calling out Jewish believers by the Old Testament titles they would readily identify with, i.e. ‘chosen generation,’ ‘royal priesthood,’ ‘holy nation,’ and ‘His own special people.’ This passage does not teach God has begun applying Old Testament titles for Israel to Gentile believers.