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The Effects of Old Covenant Beliefs

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Issue #426January 2024

The Effects of Old Covenant Beliefs

The New Testament writers identify two classes of people in the earth: the children of God and the children of the flesh. While these are not nations in the political sense, they are certainly nations in a broader sense.

Children of the flesh are those begotten by their earthly fathers. All of us were begotten as children of the flesh, except for Jesus Himself who was begotten by God through the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). He was therefore called the Son of God. Obviously, the manner of His begetting was not sexual in the normal sense of the word.

For humanity as a whole, we must be “born again,” or more accurately, “begotten from above.” This is a second experience, accomplished by faith alone, having nothing to do with physical genealogy, except, of course, in that we still inherit genes from our mothers. Even Jesus Himself had an earthly mother named Mary.

Overcoming Mortality

The virgin birth of Christ is important because the curse for Adam’s sin, being mortality, is passed down throughout the generations through the seed of the man, not through the mother. Hence, we read that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22), even though Eve sinned first.

The sentence of death has affected all of us since Adam, because as his descendants, we are children of the flesh. Such children may be very sincere and quite religious, but they are still mortal.

The real question is how to receive immortality. This is the topic of the Bible itself as well as in the holy books of other religions, each presenting its own plan of salvation. The Bible’s plan is unique in that it does not depend upon the power of flesh or even the will of man. It is not about transforming our fallible flesh into perfect flesh. It is about becoming a new creation, that is, a new person (entity).

Many religions point to obedience and self-discipline as the path to salvation. Their solution is to strive to be more and more obedient to God, essentially reforming their flesh so that it can become good. The problem is that no one is able to become good enough to be perfectly obedient. Such people, if they are devout, eventually despair of ever achieving their goal. Many are able to change their behavior through self-discipline, but they discover that changing the sinful tendencies of the heart is beyond their capability.

The Bible provides an alternate goal. In fact, it provides us with two paths—but only one of those paths will work.

Path #1: The Old Covenant

The Old Testament, much like other religions, sets forth the Old Covenant, which measures men’s relationship with God with the plumbline of obedience. This, however, was meant to fail. In fact, it was meant to give the flesh the first opportunity to fail. That failure resulted in Israel’s exile and deportation to the land of Assyria.

For the Kingdom of Judah, that failure resulted in a temporary captivity to Babylon, and later in the diaspora brought about by the Roman War (70-73 A.D.).

The causes of these two failures have their roots in Adam’s sin. The Old Covenant put the responsibility upon men to be righteous, but it did not provide anyone with the capacity or strength to reach that goal. It demanded a change of behavior without changing their heart. Even the most devout believer was inadequate to the task.

Path #2: The New Covenant

Christ came as the Mediator of a New Covenant (Heb. 9:15). That covenant is called “a better covenant, because it was enacted on better promises” (Heb. 8:6). The Old Covenant mediated by Moses, was enacted by the vows of men to be obedient (Exodus 19:8). The New Covenant was enacted on the promise of God to men (Gal. 3:18).

The Nature of God’s Promise

It is a principle that whoever makes a promise is the one who is responsible for keeping his word. Under the Old Covenant, men were responsible to keep their vows of obedience; under the New Covenant, God is responsible to keep His promise. If God were unable to keep His promise, then He should not have made such a promise.

God’s promise meant that He took the responsibility upon Himself to make us righteous. Hence, if any man fails to become righteous before the end of time, God will hold Himself accountable. He would not be able to pass the blame to men, saying, “they are incorrigible,” for if He were to do so, then the New Covenant would simply be an updated version of the Old Covenant.

This establishes the fact of universal salvation of all men. So the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Tim. 4:10, “we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” Those who believe (have faith) during their lifetime are given a greater reward, but in the end, “He is the Savior of all men.”

Again, Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:22,

22 As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

The path to success is another matter, for it is evident that not many find that path. The path, as I have said, is to become the sons of God via a second begetting, not through natural seed of earthly fathers, but through belief in the seed of the word of God. We are begotten from above through our ears—by hearing the word and believing it.

The Bible calls this “the gospel,” which means good news. It is the good news that God has promised to save all mankind and that He has the power to fulfill His word.

Yet most people have lived and died without seeing the promise of God fulfilled their own lives. Hence, God has spoken of resurrection and a final judgment by which He will bring legal discipline and correct teaching so that the rest of mankind will follow the path toward salvation. At this judgment, the truth will be evident to all. The opinions of men will be proven or disproven. My own views will be corrected, where necessary.

Isaiah 26:9 (KJV) says

9 for when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

The laws of God will be formally established as the standard of righteousness in the earth, because the law, when understood properly, is a reflection of His nature. God’s nature is pictured as a fire and is called “the fiery law” (Deut. 33:2). The judgments of the law are thus pictured as a fiery river flowing from under the throne of God (Dan. 7:10). While many have turned this fire into a literal means of eternal torture, the law of God demands equal justice where all judgment fits the crime (sin). There is no sin so great that it merits unending judgment of any kind—much less torture.

In the end, in order for God to fulfill His promise, judgment must have an end. For this reason, the Hebrew word olam, often translated “everlasting,” actually means something unknown, beyond one’s knowledge, hidden. Its Greek equivalent (as used in the New Testament) is aionian, “pertaining to an age, an indefinite period of time.” Biblical justice does not demand “everlasting punishment,” for if it did, God’s New Covenant promise would fail.

So the rest of mankind will be saved at the final Creation Jubilee, when all men have learned righteousness and have received the change of heart that conforms to God’s will.

I have written of these things many times in the past. To obtain a more detailed account of these things, see my book, The restoration of All Things. It can be read free of charge on my website.

Confusing the Two Covenants

Most Christians today have not been taught the difference between the two covenants. They think that both covenants are based on the will of man and made effective by man’s promises, vows, and decisions. Some even go so far as to link the New Covenant with one’s genealogy or race.

But speaking of the sons of God, John 1:13 says, “who were begotten, not of bloodline, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The main feature of the New Covenant is that it is based on the promise of God, not upon the vows of men. By teaching that New Covenant salvation is based on the will of man directly contradicts John’s gospel. God’s promise is not merely to save mankind but to cause them to see the truth. Man’s vow of obedience—his act of faith—is evidence that God’s promise is working out in the faithful one. Yet his faith should be seen as a response, not as an initiator of his salvation.

Faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). If God does not speak, how can one hear? Hearing, then, is a response to the voice of God and is fully dependent upon His will.

To believe that one’s salvation was initiated by one’s decision to follow Christ is to base one’s salvation upon the will of man. One may call it New Covenant salvation, but it is, in fact, Old Covenant salvation. Worse yet, such faith is misplaced, for such a view is in one’s ability to keep one’s vow. That is faith in oneself, not in God.

Old Covenant Thinking

Those Christians who rely upon the Old Covenant method of salvation easily retain Old Covenant thought patterns which can have negative consequences down the road. Some in the Church today think that Christians are saved by the New Covenant, while the Jews are saved by the Old Covenant. Such Dual Covenant Theology, as it is called, completely misunderstands the covenants.

Secondly, some teach that the Jews have the Abrahamic Covenant, while the gentiles have the New Covenant. Yet the New Covenant is based on the Abrahamic Covenant, because both are rooted in the promise of God. To have Abrahamic faith is to believe His promise.

For this reason, Paul identifies the children of Abraham also as the sons of God. Gal. 3:26 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Further, to be a son of Abraham, one must follow Abraham’s example. Jesus made this very clear in John 8:39, 40, “They [the Pharisees] answered and said unto Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus saith unto them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.”

Being of the lineage of Abraham does not mean that a man is of the seed of Abraham. So also, Paul says in Gal. 3:7, “It is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” The religious leaders in Jesus’ time claimed to be sons of Abraham, but Jesus denied them such status. It requires New Covenant faith in the promise of God to be a son of Abraham. God is not impressed with their bloodline.

Yet we see many Christians who disagree with both Jesus and Paul by reverencing those who fail to do the works of Abraham as if they were the chosen people.

Until about 1850, the western church largely understood that faith was the qualification for being sons of Abraham. But then something called Dispensationalism began to be taught by Darby and then Scofield.

Included in their teaching was the idea that Jews were the chosen people, based on a genealogical connection to Abraham.

This was, perhaps, the route of departure from the truth, which, when fully matured, resulted in Christian Zionism. They began to interpret Scripture to mean that Jews had a right to steal land in Palestine and to implement an Old Covenant takeover, patterned after Joshua’s conquest of Canaan.

They fail to distinguish between the two covenants and the “sword” that goes with each.

Two Swords

Joshua conquered Canaan by the power of the physical sword. But was it really in God’s heart to kill Canaanites? We can trace this answer back to the time of Moses. When God came down as fire upon Mount Sinai to speak the Ten Commandments to the people, this day was then celebrated as the Feast of Weeks. A thousand years later, it was translated into Greek as Pentecost.

In Moses’ day, the people were too afraid to approach God on the Mount (Exodus 20:18-20). Their fear prevented them from experiencing the outpouring of the Spirit and, in fact, delayed the fulfillment of Pentecost for 1500 years.

If they had drawn near to God—as the disciples did in Acts 2—they would have received the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). In fact, God was actually offering them the New Covenant itself. Their fear left them only with a carnal, physical sword by which to conquer the land of Canaan.

Jesus, however, gave His disciples the Great Commission, which was to use the sword of the Spirit to teach the word of God and baptize people into the Kingdom. Instead of conquering by the sword with its death, they were called to use a better sword and baptize people, signifying the death of the old self and resurrection to a new life.

Ponder the fact that the Israelites had the potential of receiving the Great Commission by which they might have conquered the Canaanites by the power of God’s word, rather than by genocide. This shows the difference between the two swords. The New Covenant sword, which Christ has given us, is the understanding of the word of God, which is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12).

Christian Zionism is based on the idea that God sides with the Jews in committing genocide against all non-Jews who live within the boundaries of ancient Israel. Somehow the Old Covenant has been reinstated, along with its carnal sword and its genocidal war. This is a disastrous outworking of Dispensationalism and shows just how important it is to have a New Covenant understanding.

What used to be called Dispensationalism has now become mainstream in Evangelical and Pentecostal circles. The basis of being one of God’s “elect” or “chosen” is shifting away from faith in Christ to tracing one’s genealogy back to Abraham. At the present time, one can find both views being taught from the same pulpits, and this creates some confusion. But if Zionism were to achieve its goals, the racial view would prevail, and faith would be destroyed.

The big problem today is that the church generally knows that it is to use the sword of the Spirit, but they extend Jews the right to use physical swords in conquering the Palestinian people. The effect of this is to justify genocide if it is done by an Israeli or by a Christian who fights for the Zionist cause.

The real question is this: What would Jesus do? Does any Christian seriously believe that Jesus condones the bombing of women and children of Gaza, forcing them to evacuate their homes to camps that are bombed again? One cannot simply label them “terrorist” or “Hamas” and then treat them as if the label were true. Yet that is the tactic.

Those Christians who have been deceived by the Christian Zionists increasingly rely upon Old Covenant swords. The trend is clear. This teaching has done more to establish Old Covenant Christianity than anything in recent history.

The Judas Factor

About 30 years ago, as I was studying the first chapter of the book of Acts, it occurred to me to look up the Scriptures that Peter quoted in relation to Judas.

[Psalm 69:25] At the time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share of this ministry… For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead be made desolate; and let no one dwell in it,

and

[Psalm 109:8] Let another man take his office.

Here we read that David prophesied about Judas in two specific psalms dealing with Ahithophel, David’s counselor and friend who ultimately betrayed him (2 Sam. 15:12). In that story, Absalom overthrew David with the help of the betrayer, Ahithophel. (Ahithophel later hanged himself, 2 Sam. 17:23.)

This story established a prophetic pattern of what occurred 1000 years later when Caiaphas usurped the throne of the Son of David with the help of his “friend,” Judas (Matt. 26:50). Judas came to the same end as Ahithophel. Both hanged themselves after their expectations failed.

Judas Iscariot is the Greek form of Judah Ish-Kerioth, “man from Keri-th-Arba,” the old name for Hebron (Joshua 14:15). Judas was from Hebron; Ahithophel betrayed David in Hebron. Furthermore, Hebron means “association, or friendship.” Hence Zech. 13:6 prophesied, “I was wounded in the house of My friends.”

In the replay of this prophecy, Caiaphas played the role of Absalom, for by sentencing Jesus to death, he usurped the throne that rightfully belonged to Jesus. Jesus, of course, played the role of his forefather David. And Judas played the role of Ahithophel the betraying friend. One cannot truly appreciate the New Testament story without connecting it prophetically to the story of Absalom and David. Peter makes this connection clear in Acts 1:16-20.

Now the question arises about another fulfillment of the story in regard to the second coming of Christ. In the first fulfillment the story centered around the throne rights of Christ. That is why He was born of the tribe of Judah, for Judah had been given the right to bring forth the King (Gen. 49:10).

The purpose of the second coming of Christ, however, is to secure the Birthright of Joseph (1 Chron. 5:1, 2), which is about the right to bring forth the sons of God. Hence, Jacob blessed Joseph, saying (literally in Gen. 49:22), “Joseph is a fruitful son.”

Rev. 19:13 pictures Christ returning “with his robe dipped in blood.” The only one whose robe was dipped in blood was Joseph himself (Gen. 37:31). In that story, it was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph for 20 pieces of silver. When Joseph was thus betrayed, the pattern was set for Judas to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15).

Hence, today, as we watch for the second appearance of Christ, we look for patterns of Joseph. The conflict today is primarily over the birthright and the name Israel. Zionism has arisen in the past 150 years to bring that conflict to a head. Zionism is the great competitor of the Kingdom of God itself.

The question, then, is not so much who is a friend of Jesus but who is the friend that betrays Jesus by siding with His competitors that are attempting to steal the birthright.

It is clear that many Christians today have joined with Christ’s competitors (enemies) in this matter. They have given the birthright of Joseph to those who are not able to carry that calling on account of their lack of faith in Christ.

This is the way that the story of David and Absalom is playing out in world history in our time. I do not doubt that Christian Zionists are friends of Christ. I am just saying that while enemies may kill, it takes a friend to betray.

Which side have you taken in this modern conflict? It is important to know Bible prophecy, lest we find ourselves playing the role of Judas, the son of perdition.