Everlasting Covenants of the Bible
The Rainbow, Sign of God's Everlasting Covenant not to Destroy the Earth by Means of Water
Introduction: There are, in Scripture, a number of references to an everlasting covenant. These include covenants in regard to the Flood, Bread of the Presence, the Priesthood, Abraham, David, the People of the Earth, and the New Covenant. These covenants are presented in a more or less chronological order.
Flood Covenant. After the world-wide Flood of Noah, Elohim established an “everlasting covenant” with Noah, his sons, their descendants, and “every living creature of all flesh” (Gen. 9:16). This everlasting covenant was that Elohim would never again destroy the world with a flood (Gen. 9:8-17). The sign of this eternal covenant is the rainbow (Gen. 9:12-17). Return to the Top.
The Covenant in Connection with the Bread of the Presence. Yahweh commanded the sons of Israel every Sabbath day to set “twelve cakes” on the gold table before Himself (Lev. 24:5-9). In Exodus 25:30 these cakes were called “the bread of the Presence.” This was to be “an everlasting covenant (emphasis mine) for the sons of Israel” (Lev. 24:8). The retired cakes would be for Aaron and his sons to eat in a holy place. This would be “his portion forever” (Lev. 24:9). Return to the Top.
Food for the Priesthood, a Covenant of Salt. Yahweh spoke to Aaron, giving him charge of His offerings (Num. 18:8). The sons of Israel were to bring offerings to Yahweh. The sons, and in some cases, the daughters of Aaron were to be able to eat from these offerings. All these offerings, Yahweh said, “I have given to you and your sons and your daughters with you, as a perpetual allotment. It is an everlasting covenant of salt (emphasis mine) before the LORD to you and your descendants with you” (Num. 18:19). (For a broader explanation of the priests’ portion see Num. 18:8-19). Return to the Top.
God’s Covenant with Abraham. Yahweh made a promise to Abram. If he would leave his country and people and proceed to the land He showed Him, Yahweh would make of him a great nation (descendants), bless him, making his name great. In turn, Abram was commanded to be a blessing. Yahweh would bless those who blessed him, curse those who cursed him, and in Abram, all the families of the earth would be blessed. This is the original set of promises Yahweh made with Abram (Gen. 12:1-3).The promises related to a particular land, Abram’s descendants, and attendant blessings. The term “everlasting” was not here used, but the scope of the promises was obviously global in its impact by way of blessing. After Abram and Lot parted ways, Yahweh told Abram He was giving him and his innumerable descendants the land in which he found himself (Canaan) forever (Gen. 13:14-17). Later, Yahweh made an unconditional blood covenant with Abram, giving his descendants the land “from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:7-21). When Abram was ninety-nine, Yahweh established His covenant with him and his descendants after him as an everlasting covenant, stipulating that the land of Canaan was to be their everlasting possession (Gen. 17:1-8). It was at this time that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and instituted circumcision as the everlasting covenant sign (Gen. 17:9-14). Furthermore, God would establish with Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah, His covenant that would be an “everlasting covenant for his descendants after him” (Gen. 17:19, emphasis mine). Later Yahweh established personally with both Isaac (Gen. 26:1-5) and Jacob (Gen. 28:10-15) the same covenant promises He had earlier made with Abram (in Gen. 12:1-3). Later Jacob, near death, described that event as one in which “God Almighty” had promised “this land” to Jacob and his descendants as an “everlasting possession” (Gen. 48:3-4, emphasis mine). When the priests carried the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, David assigned Asaph and his relatives the task of giving thanks to Yahweh. On that occasion they sang a psalm. This psalm refers to the covenant Yahweh had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob giving them the land of Canaan. This covenant is described as an “everlasting covenant” applying “to a thousand generations” (1 Chron. 16:13-18, emphasis mine). Using nearly the identical words that same covenant is again referred to as an everlasting covenant in Psalm 105:8-11.
God’s Covenant with David. The background of this covenant is found in 2 Samuel 7:1-17. When David desired to build a house for Yahweh (2 Sam. 7:1-3), the latter promised David He would “make a house” for him (2 Sam. 7:11). He would raise up David’s descendant, establish his kingdom, and establish the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:12-13). Yahweh further told David, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). In “the last words of David” (2 Sam. 23:1-7), David declared, “Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant (emphasis mine) with me, ordered in all things and secured; for all my salvation and all my desire, will He not indeed make it grow” (2 Sam. 23:5)? We call this everlasting covenant with David the Davidic Covenant. It is distinct from the Abrahamic Covenant, but it certainly presupposes it and integrates it. This is true because the ultimate descendant of David’s who will sit on David’s throne forever is none other than Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-35). This same Jesus is also the one through whom all the nations of the world will be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8), according to the Abrahamic Covenant. Return to the Top.
God’s Covenant with the People of the Earth. In Isaiah 24, Isaiah revealed that Yahweh will lay the earth waste, devastate it, distort its surface, and scatter its inhabitants (Isa. 24:1-4). This He will do so in the Tribulation period. He will do this because the earth has been “polluted by its inhabitants” because “they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant” (Isa. 24:5). This “everlasting covenant” probably does not refer to the Abrahamic Covenant or the Davidic Covenant. It probably refers to an implied covenant God had with man that if man obeyed God, he would live forever, but if he disobeyed, he would die (see Gen. 2:16-17). (See also John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, OT Volume.) Charles Ryrie (Ryrie Study Bible) states that the everlasting covenant “may refer specifically to the covenant that God made with Noah after the flood (Gen. 9:8-17) or to His commands in general.” Return to the Top.
The New Covenant. Through Jeremiah the prophet, Yahweh declared He would make a “New Covenant” (Jer. 31:31-37). He would make this new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jer. 31:31). This new covenant would be unlike the former, Mosaic Covenant, which they were unable to keep (Jer. 31:32). In the terms of this New Covenant, Yahweh would write His laws on the heart of His people (Jer. 31:33) and they would all know Him, and He would forgive their sin (Jer. 31:34). Though the term “everlasting” is never explicitly used in relation to the phrase “new covenant,” there are a number of instances in which the terms “eternal” or “everlasting covenant” are employed as expressing a feature of the New Covenant. Undoubtedly, the New Covenant rests upon the foundation of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Jeremiah and the Everlasting Covenant.
In Jeremiah 31, in which the New Covenant is introduced, Yahweh promised to write His law on the heart of His people so effectively that He will never again remember their sin (Jer. 31:31-34). The changes introduced by the New Covenant are so permanent that the people of Israel are as permanently Yahweh’s people as the universe is interminable (Jer. 31:35-36). If it be argued that the present universe will be destroyed (and it will be) (2 Pet 3: 7-12), my rebuttal is that God will replace it with an unending universe that will never need to be destroyed because only righteousness will exist in it (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). Under the terms of the New Covenant, Yahweh’s commitment to His (formerly) fickle people is as measureless as the heavens above and as unsearchable as the foundations of the earth below (Jer. 31:37).
In Jeremiah 32:36-44, Yahweh promised to restore the fortunes of Jerusalem and the nation of which it was the capital. He will gather His people back to Jerusalem from all the lands into which He had dispersed them (Jer. 32:36-37). They will be His people and He will be their God (Jer. 32:38). He will give them one heart and one way that they will fear Him always (Jer. 32:39). He will make an everlasting covenant with them – He will not turn away from blessing them and He will place the fear of God in their hearts so they will not turn away from Him (Jer. 32:40). Yahweh associated this everlasting covenant, which is the New Covenant, we believe, with Israel’s return to and possession of the promised land of Canaan (Jer. 32:41-44).
According to Jeremiah 50:4-5, Yahweh predicted a time when both the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah will “go along weeping,” seeking Yahweh their God. They will ask for directions to Zion in order that they may unite with Yahweh in an everlasting covenant never to be forgotten. Jeremiah 50:1-3 speaks of a horrifying destruction of Babylon as yet unfulfilled. Most likely it is the eschatological destruction portrayed in Rev. 17-18. The return to Israel is that eschatological return in repentance described by Zechariah (Zech. 12:10-14). The everlasting covenant is the New Covenant. (See also Thomas Constable, Notes on Jeremiah, 2009 Edition, pp. 224-225.)
Isaiah and the Everlasting Covenant.
In Isaiah 55 God offered Israel salvation free of charge (Isa. 55:1-2). If they came to Him in faith, they would live and He would make with them an everlasting covenant (Isa. 55:3). This is most likely a reference to the New Covenant, and it would be extended to Israel with the same faithful mercies with which God had extended to David the Davidic Covenant, in which He promised David an eternal House, Throne, and King (2 Sam. 7:16; Luke 1:30-33).
Isaiah 61 predicts a time in the future when the Messiah will restore the people of Zion to a position of gladness and praise, righteousness and rebuilding (Isa. 61:1-4). Jesus announced a portion of this message (Isa. 61:1-2a) at His First Advent (Luke 4:14-21). He will fulfill the remainder at His Second. When Jesus returns, Israel will be granted spiritual, economic, and political supremacy over the nations of the world (Isa. 61:5-6). In the place of shame and humiliation, the Jewish people will be granted a double portion and everlasting joy in their land (Isa. 61:7). Yahweh will make with them an everlasting covenant (the New Covenant), and all who see them will recognize that Yahweh has truly blessed them (Isa. 61:8-9). The Messiah will rejoice greatly in Yahweh, grateful He has clothed Him with salvation and righteousness (Isa. 61:10). Yahweh “will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations” (Isa. 61:11), both during the Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom and also throughout eternity (Rev. 21:1-22:5).
Ezekiel and the Everlasting Covenant.
Ezekiel 16 describes Yahweh’s gracious treatment of ungrateful and adulterous Jerusalem. Yahweh spoke of Jerusalem as an infant girl whom He rescued and later married (Ezek. 16:1-43). He had rescued her in her infancy (Ezek. 16:1-7). When she matured, Yahweh entered into a covenant of marriage with her (Ezek. 16:8-14). Yet through her idolatry with foreign gods and her copying of the vile practices of her pagan neighbors, Jerusalem became a prostitute, though still married to Yahweh (Ezek. 16:15-34). In jealous anger, Yahweh turned his prostitute/wife over to the judgment of her lewd and self-serving paramours. They conquered her and savaged her (Ezek. 16:35-43). Next Yahweh portrayed Jerusalem as a wicked sister to the cities of Samaria to the north and Sodom to the south (Ezek. 16:44-63). As corrupt as Samaria and Sodom were, Jerusalem had become even more corrupt (Ezek. 16:44-52). Yet even though Jerusalem had broken her covenant of marriage, Yahweh will restore all three sisters (Ezek. 16:53-59). Yahweh will remember His earlier covenant with Jerusalem, and expand upon it (Ezek. 16:60-63). He will establish with her an everlasting covenant (Ezek. 16:60). This most likely refers to the New Covenant. The results of this everlasting covenant are that (1) Jerusalem will remember her ways and be ashamed (Ezek. 16:61); that (2) Jerusalem will know that He is Yahweh (Ezek. 16:62); and that (3) though Jerusalem will be ashamed and humiliated because of her treachery (see also Zech. 12:10-14), yet Yahweh will forgive her (Ezek. 16:63).
In Ezekiel 37 Yahweh, through His Spirit, gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones. At Yahweh’s instruction, Ezekiel prophesied, and the bones came to life and stood, “an exceedingly great army” (Ezek. 37:1-10). Yahweh explained that this vision symbolized His future resurrection of the people of Israel. He would open their graves, place His Spirit within them, and bring them back to the land of Israel (Ezek. 37:11-14). In the symbolism of the two sticks joined into one, Yahweh instructed Ezekiel to teach his people that Yahweh would one day unite the houses of Israel and Judah into one nation. He would gather them from all the nations to which He had dispersed them back to the land of Israel, and He would cleanse them of their impurity. They would be His people and He would be their God (Ezek. 37:15-23). Yahweh’s “servant David will be king over them,” and they will keep Yahweh’s commandments. They, their sons, and their son’s sons will live on the land Yahweh gave to Jacob, His servant, forever. David will be their prince forever. Yahweh will make a covenant of peace with them, and it will be an everlasting covenant. Yahweh will set His sanctuary among them forever, and He will live among them. He will be their God and they will be His people. The earth’s nations will know that Yahweh has set Israel apart as His special nation when His sanctuary is among His people forever (Ezek. 37:24-28).
Two more passages in Ezekiel speak of what Yahweh will do on behalf of Israel in New Covenant terms, but neither passage uses the words “covenant,” “everlasting,” or “eternal.”
In Ezekiel 11:16-20, Adonai Yahweh promised to assemble the Jewish people from the countries in which He had scattered them, and He will give them “the land of Israel” (Ezek. 11:16-17). They will remove idolatrous worship from the land at that time (Ezek. 11:18). He “will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them.” He will remove from them “their heart of stone” and replace it with “a heart of flesh” so they keep His commandments. They will be His people and He will be their God (Ezek. 11:19-20).
In Ezekiel 36:22-38, Adonai Yahweh declared that He would, for the sake of His own name, gather the house of Israel from the nations to which He had scattered them and return them to their own land (Ezek. 36:22-24). He will “sprinkle clean water” on them and cleanse them from their filthiness and idolatry (Ezek. 36:25). He will place within them “a new heart” and a “new spirit.” He will remove from them their “heart of stone” and replace it with “a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). He will place His Spirit within them so they obey His commands (Ezek. 36:27). They will live in the land He gave their forefathers. They will be His people and He will be their God. He will save them from their “uncleanness,” (Ezek. 36:28-29). He will bless them agriculturally (Ezek. 36:29-30). They will painfully aware of their shortcoming, and they will loathe themselves for their abominable sin. Adonai Yahweh will not restore the house of Israel for their sake (Ezek. 36:31-32)! When He cleanses them from their sin, He will cause their ruined cities to be inhabited and their waste places to be rebuilt. Moreover He will multiply the citizens of Israel in their cities abundantly (Ezek. 36:33-35, 37-38). Then the nations surrounding Israel that have survived the Great Tribulation will know He has restored Israel in order to keep His promise (Ezek. 36:36).
The Eternal Nature of the New Covenant as Revealed in the New Testament.
Finally, in the New Testament, as in the Old, the New Covenant is contrasted with the “first covenant” (Mosaic Covenant) as effecting changes so satisfactory, no further changes would be necessary. This New Covenant, of which Jesus is the Mediator, is described as being a “better covenant” based on “better promises” (Heb. 8:6-13). Since Jesus’ own blood, by which He put into effect the New Covenant is so effective, He had to offer it only one time in the heavenly Holy of Holies, the very presence of God (Heb. 9:11-28). Since His perfect sacrifice results in permanent spiritual changes, “those who have been called” (under the terms of the New Covenant) “receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15) (emphasis mine). In the closing chapter of Hebrews the writer offers up a benediction. He refers to “the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord” (Heb. 13:20). The eternal covenant can only be the New Covenant, ratified by Jesus’ own blood. Jesus’ blood was a satisfactory, once-for-all-time atonement for sins, and so God was pleased to raise Him from the dead. The writer requests that God, whose power was evident in Jesus’ resurrection, equip the readers “in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Heb. 13:21). So the New Covenant is seen to promote holy living among its beneficiaries, just as God had promised in the Old Testament
We conclude, therefore, that, though the New Covenant is never explicitly stated to be an everlasting covenant, it is portrayed as possessing, and it is linked with, everlasting features. Return to the Top.
(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)
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Published November 5, 2010
Updated January 3, 2019