A Covenant is an agreement or contract between men, or between men and God. Generally it is based on certain conditions agreed upon. Sometimes, as between God and man, it is unconditional. God's covenants with man originate with Him, and generally consist of a promise based on the fulfilment of certain conditions. God has made eight Covenants with man. They all relate to the earth. Each one introduces a New Dispensation. Six of them were given to individual and representative men, as Adam, Noah and Abraham, and went into effect during their lives except the one given to David, which took effect at the birth of Jesus. Each one has a time element and expires at a certain time. Four of them are distinguished by a "Sign."
I. The Edenic Covenant.
Gen. 1:28-30; Gen. 2:15-17.
This Covenant was given to Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall of Man. It ushered in the "Dispensation of Innocence" which was conditioned on obedience.
The Seven Conditions of this Covenant were.
1. To Replenish the Earth with an earthly race of people, the first or Pre-Adamite Race having become extinct, through the earth having been thrown into a chaotic condition. Gen. 1:2.
2. To Subdue the Earth to the needs of the human race. What this means is not clear, unless it means to so control the forces of light, heat, electricity, gravitation, etc., as to enable man to use them to supply his needs.
3. To have Dominion Over the Animal Creation. Not over the domestic animals only, but over wild creatures as well. This is beautifully described in Psa. 8:3-5.
4. To Restrict Themselves to a "Vegetable Diet." And from verse 30 it would appear that the animal creation, before the Fall, was limited to a vegetable diet.
5. To Till the Garden in which God had placed him. This was doubtless a pleasure and not a task. There was no curse upon the earth at that time. It was not until after the Fall that "thorns" and "thistles" and "weeds" made the cultivation of the soil laborious. Gen. 3:17-19.
6. To Abstain From Eating of the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." Man was created innocent like the infant. He did not know what sin is. His environment was such that he would have remained innocent if he had obeyed God, and refused to eat of the "Tree" which opened his eyes. The moment he ate of that "Tree" he broke the Covenant and knew the difference between good and evil.
7. The punishment of disobedience, was Physical Depth And this would have happened to both Adam and Eve at once if God in His Grace had not intervened and instituted a new covenant, known as the "Adamic Covenant."
II. The "Adamic" Covenant.
This Covenant, like the first, was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before their expulsion. It ushered in the "Dispensation of Conscience." It was without conditions, and embodied a "Curse" and a "Promise."
1. The "Curse."
The Curse was fourfold.
a. As to the Serpent.
The Serpent was Satan's tool, and from being a most beautiful and attractive creature became a loathsome reptile. It still retains traces of its former beauty and grace. It was condemned to crawl upon its belly and eat dust.
b. As to the Woman.
Her state was changed in three particulars.
(l)-Multiplied Conception. If Adam and Eve had any children before the "Fall" it is not revealed. It is certain Cain was not conceived until after their expulsion from the Garden. Gen. 4:1. By "Multiplied Conception" is probably meant that there would be several children born at a time. This would be necessary to rapidly replenish the earth. As a matter of necessity the children of the same parents intermarried, as there were no other human beings on the earth at that time.
(2)-Sorrowful Motherhood. That is, child-birth was to be accompanied with much pain and anguish. If sin had not entered, child-birth would doubtless have been painless, and motherhood a pleasure and children a delight.
(3)-Headship of Man. Woman was created the equal of man, but because she caused his fall she lost her equality and man was given the Headship over her. Gen. 3:16.
c. As to the Man. The ground was cursed for his sake, and whereas it had been a pleasure to look after the Garden, now he would have to secure a living from the soil by hard labor and the "sweat of his face," which would wear out his system and end in physical death.
d. As to the Ground. Henceforth it was to be cursed with "thorns" and "thistles." That is, with everything that would make the cultivation of the earth difficult.
2. The "Promise." The Promise was that the "Seed" of the Woman (Christ) should bruise the "Serpent's" head, while his "seed" should bruise Christ's heel. Here is the Promise that Christ shall redeem the world from the power of Satan, and restore the human race and the Earth to their condition before the "Fall." This Covenant reaches until the Renovation of the Earth by Fire."
III.The "Noahic" Covenant.
Man having proved himself a failure under the "Dispensation of Conscience," God sent a Flood to destroy the race from off the earth, sparing only Noah and his family. After the Flood Noah offered a "sacrifice" which was well pleasing to God, and God made an unconditional Covenant with Noah. It ushered in the "Dispensation of Human Government." It contained the following provisions.
1. That God would not curse the ground any more, nor destroy all the living. And that the "day" and the "night" and the "seasons" should not cease.
2. That Noah and his descendants were to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.
3. That they should have dominion over the animal creation as before.
4.That from that time they were not to be restricted to a "vegetable" diet, but could eat meat if they drained the blood from it. Vs. 3-4.
5. The law of "Capital Punishment" was established. Vs. 6. This has never been abrogated, though the manner of enforcing it has been more clearly laid down in the account of the Cities of Refuge. Num. 35:1-3.
6. That the earth shall never be destroyed again by the "waters of a Flood."
The "Sign" of this Covenant is the Rainbow, and the Covenant reaches until the "Renovation of the Earth by Fire," of which it is the Type.
IV.The "Abrahamic" Covenant.
The Tower of Babel episode was a turning point in human history. (Gen. 11:1-3). Up to that time the human race was a unit. There was neither Jew nor Gentile. The race had become idolatrous. To remedy this God decided to call out an individual of the seed of Shem, and of him form a separated people and nation. The man selected was Abraham. 'I'he "Call" came to him while dwelling at Ur of the Chaldees, in Mesopotamia. He obeyed. The Covenant then made with him was afterwards enlarged and confirmed to his son, Isaac, (Gen. 26:1-3), and in turn to his grandson Jacob (Israel), Gen. 28:10-12. The Covenant was unconditional and ushered in the Dispensation of the Family. It contained seven promises.
1. "I Will Make of Thee a Great Nation." This was to be fulfilled in a twofold way.
a. Natural Posterity. "As the dust of the earth." This has been fulfilled through Isaac and through
Ishmael. Gen. 17:20.
b. Spiritual Posterity. "As the stars of heaven." Gal. 3:6, Gal. 3:7, Gal. 3:29.
2."I Will Bless Thee." This was fulfilled temporally in flocks and herds and lands. Gen. 13:14-16; Gen. 15:18-20; Gen. 24:34, Gen. 24:35. Abraham was also blessed spiritually. Gen. 15:6.
3."And Make Thy Name Great." Abraham, next to Christ, is the outstanding name in the Scriptures.
4."And Thou Shalt Be a Blessing." Abraham was a blessing to the people of his own time and to the world, as through him came the chosen seed. Gal. 3:14.
5. "I Will Bless Them That Bless Thee."
6. "And Curse Him That Curseth Thee." These last two have been wonderfully fulfilled in the past history of the Jewish people and will be more wonderfully fulfilled in the future. Every nation that has treated them well has been blessed and every nation that has mistreated them has suffered.
7."In Thee Shall All the Families of the Earth Be Blessed, " This promise is fulfilled in Christ spiritually and shall be fulfilled temporality in the Millennium when the Gentile nations shall be blessed through Israel. Deut. 28:8-10; Isa. 60:3-5, Isa. 60:11, Isa. 60:16.
After Abraham's faith had been tested in the offering up of Isaac this Covenant was reaffirmed and confirmed. Gen. 22:15-17. It was an Everlasting Covenant. Gen. 17:1-3.
The "Sign" of this Covenant is "Circumcision" (Gen. 17:9-11), and the Covenant extends to the "End of Time," taking in the New Earth.
We must not forget that the "Adamic" and "Noahic" Covenants were not done away with or superseded by the "Abrahamic" Covenant. The "Abrahamic" Covenant is confined to the Hebrew Race, while the others cover the whole Gentile world. The Dispensations of "Conscience" and "Human Government" still continue as to the Gentiles.
V. The "Mosaic" Covenant.
The "Mosaic Covenant" was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, shortly after the Exodus from Egypt. It ushered in the "Dispensation of Law." It was conditioned on obedience, and may be divided into three parts.
1. The Moral Law. Ex. 20:1-3. This consists of the Ten Commandments.
2. The Civil Law. Ex. 21:1-3:18.
3. The Ceremonial Law. Ex. 25:1-3:38. This includes the Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and the order of service. The "Sign" of this Covenant is the Sabbath. Ex. 31:12-14.
This Covenant continued in force until the Jews were scattered at the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. It will be renewed when Israel is converted and restored to their own land, and will then be known as the "Palestinian Covenant," which Covenant ends with the "Renovation of the Earth by Fire."
VI. The "Davidic" Covenant.
This Covenant was given to King David, through Nathan the Prophet, at Jerusalem. It ushered in the "Dispensation of Grace." It has but one condition, based on disobedience, this would lead to chastisement and postponement of the promise, but not its abrogation. The Covenant contains four promises.
1. A Davidic House. Vs. 13. That is the posterity of David shall never be destroyed.
2. A Davidic Throne. Vs. 13. The Kingdom of David shall never be destroyed. At present it is in abeyance, but it will be set up again. Since the "Captivity" but one King of the Davidic family has been crowned and He with "thorns" (Matt. 27:29), but He will receive the Kingdom and return when Israel's chastisement is over, and the time comes to restore the Kingdom to David's Son. Luke 1:30-32.
3. A Davidic Kingdom. David's Son is to have an earthly "sphere of rule." It will be over the Millennial Earth. "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." Psa. 72:1-3.
4. It Shall Be Unending.
"Thine House and thy Kingdom shall be established Forever; thy Throne shall be established Forever." Vs. 16.
The "Sign" of this Covenant is a Son. Luke 1:30-32; Luke 2:12. This Covenant extends to the "End of Time."
VII. The "Palestinian" Covenant.
This Covenant was given to Israel through Moses and is conditioned on the repentance of Israel. It will go into elect after their return to Palestine and their repentance. It ushers in the "Millennial Dispensation" and ends with it.
VIII. The "New" Covenant.
This Covenant has not yet been made. It is to be made with Israel after they get back to their own land. It is promised in Jer. 31:31-33. It is unconditional, and will cover the Millennium and the New Heaven and New Earth. It is based on the finished work of Christ. Matt. 26:28. It has nothing to do with the Church and does not belong to this Dispensation. It is the "Eighth Covenant," and speaks of Resurrection and Eternal Completeness.