Since day one of creation, God has desired to be in relationship with His people. He established and maintained that relationship through covenants made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David. In each of these covenants, God made promises to His covenant people and commanded them to walk in trust and obedience to Him. Yet over time, each covenant head (and each group of people they led) proved that they could not uphold their end of the agreement. Their hearts were hardened. Their minds darkened. They lived enslaved to their sinful desires and lusts. They chose the ways of the fallen world over the wisdom of the one true God. They all believed the same lie—that there was something better for them than what God had provided—and not one was victorious over the deceptive snake.
So, how would God ultimately deal with such rebellious and hard-hearted sinners? One might reasonably expect that He would rip up those broken covenants, declare them more trouble than they’re worth, and wring His hands of man forever. After all, God is perfectly just, and sin cannot go unpunished. Yet, God refused to give up on His people. Even in their brokenness, God loved them with a “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love” (to quote the Jesus Storybook Bible). He would not hand them over to eternal death and darkness.
The New Covenant
Instead, God announced that he was going to establish a new kind of covenant. A covenant that could not ever be broken. A covenant in which He would forgive His people of all of their sin and wash away every stain that had soiled them. He would work a miracle within their very hearts, changing them from stone to flesh and enabling them to obey His commandments. They would no longer be condemned by the law, but would be guided toward holiness by God’s own Spirit inside of them. In the New Covenant, God’s people would not live in slavery to sin or be separated from His presence, but as God had dwelled with man in the garden before Genesis 3, He would once again fully and permanently dwell with His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ez. 36:25-27).
So how could a holy and righteous God not only cancel the debt and cleanse the stains of those who had walked in such heinousness, but also heap undeserved blessings upon them? How could He remain truly just, yet justify the ungodly (Rom. 3:26)? He accomplished these things in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Father inaugurated the New Covenant by sending His Son, the covenant head, to live as a perfectly faithful and obedient man on the earth on behalf of His covenant people. Jesus’ faith in the Father never wavered. Through mockery, betrayal, hunger, weakness, emotional torment, and extreme physical suffering, He trusted that the Father was good. When tempted with power, earthly glory, and comfort, He stood firm in His conviction that there was nothing better for Him than what the Father had provided. He thwarted the lies of the enemy with the truth of God’s Word. He obeyed in all circumstances, doing only what the Father commanded of Him, even to the point of death. He laid down His own life, the ultimate lamb without blemish, as the final and sufficient sacrifice, fully and eternally paying for our sin. And He rose again 3 days later, proving that in the New Covenant, sin and death have no power over God’s people.
The Big Picture of the Covenants
All of the former covenants anticipated the inauguration of the New. They were designed to point forward to it, and they are all fulfilled within it. They each bear witness to the New Covenant head, Jesus, and intend to lead us to worship at His feet.
The Covenants with Creation & Noah: Jesus perfectly fulfilled the responsibilities originally given to Adam (and later Noah) of obedient son and righteous ruler. Where Adam was deceived and influenced by the serpent, Jesus came and crushed it’s head (Gen. 3:15). Where Adam brought in the curse of sin and separation between God and man, Jesus ushered in the blessing of salvation and tore down the dividing wall (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 10:19-22). Now those in the New Covenant are no longer represented by Adam, but by Christ. God has removed the curse of sin and death and given us everlasting life and fellowship with Him.
The Covenant with Abraham: In His death, Jesus fulfilled the promise of the shedding of divine blood as payment for the sin of Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 15:17). Jesus was the seed of Abraham that brought about the true reversal of the curse and blessing to all nations. All who live by faith in God are called descendants of Abraham, no matter their heritage or ethnicity (Gal. 3:7-9, 29). Through Christ, all of Abraham’s descendants (of whom there are more than the dust of the earth or the stars in the sky) are blessed, and they will be gathered from all nations to dwell with God forever in the New Jerusalem.
The Old Covenant: Like Moses, Jesus stepped down from His place of honor and took on the burdens of God’s people in order to deliver them from their slavery to sin. He is the true Israel, the faithful Son and perfect image of the invisible God. He is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. His death was fully sufficient to atone for all of our sin (Heb. 9-10). He obeyed the law perfectly and completely fulfilled every part of the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, God did what the law could never do. He changed His people from the inside out. He transformed our very nature. God’s law is no longer outside of us, sitting over us in condemnation. He has now written it on our hearts and enabled us to obey by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to repent and trust that His sacrifice was enough when we fail (Rom. 6:17-18).
The Covenant with David: Jesus is the perfect and final mediator between God and man. He took on flesh that He might be both the image of God’s glory to His people and the representative of the people before the Father. Jesus is the true king who reigns on the throne of David, over God’s kingdom, and will do so for eternity (2 Sam. 7:16). And unlike the kings before Him, He will never fail to rule according to God’s righteousness; in perfect love and uncompromising justice.
In the New Covenant, Christ as our head has fully and eternally secured our relationship with God. He has taken the condemnation for our sin and given us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13). For God’s New Covenant people, death has no power. Hell has no victory. Those who trust Jesus for salvation are covered by His blood. And just as they lay down their lives to follow Him, one day they will be raised with Him. In the New Heavens and the New Earth, God's New Covenant people will dwell with Him in all of His glory forever.