Deciphering Covenant Theology (Part 1)

This series is bound to annoy covenant theologians who stop by to read it. To them I want to say that my purpose here is certainly not to irritate anyone. If a CT has any problem with what is asserted in these posts he is very welcome to challenge it (giving proof where necessary).

For those readers who want a quick historical intro to CT perhaps my “A Very Brief History of Covenant Theology” will help.

First Things First

I have been reading covenant theology (CT) for many years; close to thirty. In that time, I have read numerous Systematic Theologies by covenant theologians, including Hodge, Dabney, Bavinck, Frame, Horton, Reymond, as well as expositions of CT by the likes of Warfield, Packer, Horton, Vos, Witsius, Owen, Turretin, and Robertson. I attended a staunchly Reformed CT seminary in England. I went to several churches where CT was preached for extensive periods. By far the majority of books I have read in the last thirty years have been written by covenant theologians. I know covenant theology.

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 10)

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“If He is the King of Israel”

We have seen that Matthew employs the idea of the kingdom in two basic ways. At the beginning of his Gospel the kingdom is the eschatological Kingdom of OT expectation. In the parables however, the introductory phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like” points to images of the progress of the kingdom program as it wends its way to final fulfillment; only now and then is the age to come in view. Now that He is in the hands of His foes it looks to most onlookers that this cannot be the Messiah. He is powerless against those who wish Him dead, being fully submitted to the non-exercise of divine prerogatives or authority as “Commander of the army of Yahweh” (Josh. 5:14).

Matthew 27:26-50 is one of the most intensely stirring recitals ever penned. From one angle it gives the lie to all the grand expectations of the OT of the great Coming One. Surely we are mistaken about Jesus? He is defeated. He goes to meet Death having barely made a splash in the world, never mind reigning over it in justice and peace! That was the perspective of many at the time, and they thought they had good scriptural reasons for their opinions. They are represented by those who cried “If He is the King of Israel…” then something must happen to realign reality with covenant expectation. Jesus could not be the long-expected King.

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Review: Covenantal and Dispensational Theologies: Four Views on the Continuity of Scripture

Covenant Theology by Michael Horton, Progressive Covenantalism by Stephen Wellum, Progressive Dispensationalism by Darrell Bock, Traditional Dispensationalism by Mark Snoeberger - P&D

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 9)

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Matthew 25

The Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25

The two parables that begin chapter 25 both have lead-ins which state, “The kingdom of heaven is like” (Matt. 25:1, 14). The second of these, the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)1, is about stewardship in honoring the King. Glasscock hits the nail on the head:

[T]he Lord’s point was that the kingdom…was calling servants to honor and glorify its King. Those who failed to do so demonstrated they were not true servants but wicked, lazy, and useless usurpers of the prerogatives of the kingdom…primarily this parable relates to Israel, who claimed a desire to serve their King but in reality squandered His blessings. Any tempt to relate this to the church or associate the “talents” with skills or abilities, especially spiritual gifting, is eisegesis.2

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 8)

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False Christ’s and the True Christ

Jesus continues His answer to the disciples’ second question by repeating that although there will be many false Christ’s and false prophets, and many attention-grabbing supernatural happenings, one should not be fooled (Matt. 24:23-24). We should take note that contra the scientistic naturalism so prevalent among “intellectuals” in our day, the Tribulation will be charged with spectacular supernatural manifestations and calls to worship. It will be an extremely “spiritual” time, with no room for cool rationalism.

Verse 27 says that the real coming of Christ will be so singular and incontrovertible that nobody could mistake it. It will be like a blast of sheet lightening across the sky. Therefore, during this short period prior to the return one can expect news outlets working overtime in their propaganda and false flags, “signs and wonders” distracting the masses, groupthink fomenting “the madness of crowds,” and the label “conspiracy theorist” and the like aimed at any who will not accept the “fact” that God has already come to earth in the person of the “prince” (Dan. 9:26b-27a) or Antichrist.

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 7)

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The Image and the Great Tribulation

It is usual for Dispensationalists to divide the seventieth week of Daniel 9; a week that lasts for seven years, into two halves of three and a half years each. There are good reasons for this which we shall discuss, but this clean division is not as apparent when one concentrates solely on the Olivet Discourse. The passage continues like this:

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:15-22)

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 6)

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The Olivet Discourse (Pt. 1)

Coming at last to the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25, although the main descriptive section comes in Matthew 24 with an addendum at the end of Matthew 25, before which are two parables.

Matthew 24:1-2 belong on their own. They provide the setting for the discourse that follows in that they refer to the glories of Herod’s temple.1 Jesus does not even acknowledge the great work, which by His time was famous throughout the Empire. Instead, He predicts its devastation, which came upon it in A.D. 70.

In the verses that come next some are tempted to keep within the first century setting of the opening two verses, but I think this is plainly mistaken. Verse 3 is critical to what will follow:

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

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