Covenants

Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 1)

Excerpts from the book The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology (forthcoming)

As far as biblical covenantalism goes, the prophecies in Jeremiah 30 through 33, supported by chapters 34 and 35 are critical.1 After the prophet is heard in his own right, the covenantal picture that has been forming so far really starts to take shape. When Jeremiah’s historical situation is considered the covenantal picture is only reinforced all the more.2

The series begins when Jeremiah is commanded to “Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.” (Jer. 30:2). A written record of his utterances is required. The reason given for this is that,

‘…behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, `that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the LORD. `And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.’ (NASB, Jeremiah 30:3)

The phrase “the days are coming” is often connected with the eschaton, just as are the promises of peace and safety. This verse predicts a return from captivity. Most interpreters assume that by this the prophet has in mind the return from Babylon (Ezra 1 – 2). But as the oracle proceeds more than this is in view.

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Covenant in Isaiah, Part 6

This post continues a series of extracts from a draft chapter in the book The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology, Vol. 1 (forthcoming, d.v.). Read the series.

The Kingdom of God and the New Heaven and New Earth

The prediction of a new heaven and a new earth seems to throw a spanner in the works of those interpreters who think they see a kingdom-age after the second coming of Christ but before the New Creation. I think McClain is right in saying that the prophet simply views the kingdom-age and the New Creation together.1 And it is true that the Prophets do place events together which consequently are seen to be separated by millennia. The prophecies concerning the first and second comings of Christ are cases in point. Isaiah 65:17-25 predicts not only a new heaven and earth, it also predicts death and sin, though in a greatly modified setting where children and sinners die at a hundred years of age (Isa. 65:20). But Isaiah has already said that God will abolish death (Isa. 25:8). What is to be done? I think both should be taken literally, although they don’t seem to belong together. Are we to believe that death and sin are still in evidence in the New Creation? But what of the efficacy of the finished work of Christ?

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Covenant in Isaiah, Part 5

This post continues a series of extracts from a draft chapter in the book The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology, Vol. 1 (forthcoming, d.v.). Read the series.

God and Israel: A Special Bond

Isaiah 54 is a reminder to Israel that she bears a special relationship to Yahweh, who is both her Redeemer and Husband (Isa. 54:5). This role of husband has been seen already in Hosea (2:16) and will be repeated in Jeremiah (Jer. 3:14, 31:32).

It is no coincidence that what might properly be labelled “New covenant blessings” follow the atoning work of the Suffering Servant. The overtures of God to Israel ought to be taken for what they plainly are: a promise of a perpetual bond guaranteed by the covenant faithfulness of God. Like all the prophets, Isaiah is not backward in showing Israel her sin. But again, like the other prophets, he is a prophet of hope: “But My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed” (Isa. 54:10).1 The “covenant of peace”—which is an expression that is appended to the redeemed priesthood in Numbers 25:12 and Ezekiel 37:26, or to restored Israel depicted as a haven in Ezekiel 34:25—is in Isaiah 54:10 a reference to God’s people as restored and protected (Isa. 54:17). But each use of the phrase is prophetic and concerns the things to come when the New covenant is enacted.

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Covenant in Isaiah, Part 4

This post continues a series of extracts from a draft chapter in the book The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology, Vol. 1 (forthcoming, d.v.). Read the series.

The Suffering Servant

God’s Servant reappears in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This passage is of great significance because in it the Holy Spirit puts emphasis not on the reign of Messiah (if I may at this place call Him that), but upon His sufferings. It is a singular fact that the Old Testament prophecies are more concerned with the reign of the coming Ruler than with his death. This point has even caused interpreters to question whether we are dealing with the same person or with two “servants, ” a sufferer and a conqueror. This passage answers that question decisively I think.

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Covenant in Isaiah, Part 3

This post and those to follow are extracts from a draft chapter in the book The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology, Vol. 1 (forthcoming, d.v.). Read the series.

The Intertwining of the Covenants: A Little Summary of the Coming Kingdom

In these kinds of passages Isaiah presents a picture of the future kingdom of the Branch that is glorious in many respects. It is fair and just and safe and beautiful. After the initial battles, there will be a realization of the dream of world peace, brought about by the great mass of people turning to the true God—a New covenant era.

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Covenant in Isaiah, Part 2

This post and those to follow are extracts from a draft chapter in the book The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology, Vol. 1 (forthcoming, d.v.). Read the series.

Isaiah 11

A great monarch, called the “Branch” (Isa. 11:1. Cf. 4:2) will be possessed of the Holy Spirit (11:2). His wisdom and justice will be equal to Yahweh (11:2-4). Already Isaiah has taught us that this person will be miraculously conceived by a virgin (7:14 cf. Gen. 3:15), and no wonder, because He will be “Immanuel”—God with us.

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Covenant in Isaiah, Part 1

This post and those to follow are extracts from a draft chapter in the book The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology, Vol. 1 (forthcoming, d.v.). Read the series.

The prophet Isaiah prosecuted his ministry between around 755 to 685 B.C.1 Isaiah has a lot to say about both the developing picture of the Creation Project and the person of the promised King who will reign upon the earth. His presentation of both of these broad themes furthers the developmental picture of the covenant program greatly.

The Prophet Before His God

Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord in chapter 6 of his book helps us to understand the rest of what he had to say.2 The prophet is confronted by the unimaginably majestic vision of the throne room of God, being brought face to face with the King of the universe (Isa. 6:5b). In this environment he quickly becomes acutely aware of his own decrepitude and unworthiness. He is a sort of microcosm of the people of Israel to whom he is sent, and to every reader of his work.

The vision of the holy King in Isaiah 6 grants a glimpse of God, albeit terrifying, but with a lining of hope, that not only enables us to make (some) sense of God’s difficult words in the book, but also invites us to examine ourselves personally and corporately.3

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The Apocalyptic (Wrong) Turn, Part 5

Read the series.

The Function of Apocalyptic

Brent Sandy says that understanding the function of apocalyptic literature is probably the most important thing about it.1 He says that the main thing is to bring hope in adversity. As he puts it, “The lofty heights of the [rollercoaster] ride—so unlike anything known on this earth—help the persecuted put their misfortunes in perspective.”2 Sandy describes the six effects of apocalyptic upon the hearers3:

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