An Everlasting Covenant
Today I want to talk about the subject, of what the bible calls, an “everlasting covenant”. The bible uses the phrase “everlasting covenant”, fifteen times, in the King James Version. That phrase is used fourteen times in the old testament, and once in the new testament. But the phrase doesn’t always refer to the same covenant. That phrase is actually used in reference to four different covenants made by God. But before I tell you what those four covenants are, I want to give you a brief run-down, on the bible meaning, of the word “everlasting”. Just in case anyone thought that the word “everlasting”, necessarily means “eternal”.. It doesn’t.
What’s a Covenant ?
In order to understand this subject, we first need to understand what a covenant is. So then, what is a covenant? A covenant is an agreement, it’s pact, that is made between individuals, or groups of individuals. Marriage is a covenant. It’s an agreement between husband and wife. And what is the agreement based upon? Well, it’s based upon promises. I promise to love and be loyal to you, and you promise to love and be loyal to me. That’s pretty much exactly what a covenant is, that God makes. It’s an agreement, to KEEP, certain promises. To DO what we’ve promised to do.
Are our promises, obligations? Of course they are. Do our promises, regulate our actions, and our behavior? Of course they do; At least they do if we KEEP our promises!
Do you know what the bible definition of a “law” is? In the old testament, the word “law” means a precept or statute. In the new testament, a “law” is a principle, regulation. Are the promise that we make, “laws” by which we live? Of course they are. Our promises are all of those things that a “law” is. Our promises are principles by which we have agreed to live. Our promises are precepts which control our behavior.
One of the hymns we sing has these words, “precept and promise”? Our promises, are precepts, and our promises are “laws”, by which we have agreed to govern ourselves.
The Meaning of “Everlasting”
Let’s move on now to understanding the bible meaning of the word “everlasting”. The Hebrew word, which is translated as “everlasting”, almost always has reference to “time”, but it can have reference to three basic periods of time. And here are those three periods of time; A period, “Of long duration”, or a period “of antiquity” (meaning the past) or a period “of futurity” (meaning the future) An example of that, is found in Psalm 90, verse 2; “BEFORE the mountains were brought forth, or before Thou hast formed the earth and the world, even FROM everlasting, TO everlasting, Thou art God!”
That verse is saying, that even from before the past, and even after the future, God does, exist, and live. In that respect, the eternal nature of God is revealed, even though the word “everlasting”, doesn’t mean “eternal”. But aside from having reference to God Himself, the word “everlasting” in the scriptures, refers to a period of time. And even though it usually refers to a “long” period of time, there will always be, an end, to that period.
The Greek word, in the new testament, translated “everlasting”, also refers time past, or time future, however THIS word, in many instances, is also translated “eternal”; Such as, in John 3:16, where it says; “..whoever believes on Him (on Jesus) should not perish, but have eternal life.” Other versions say “everlasting”.
But the point that I want you to understand, is that when the bible talks about the covenants, that God has made with man, the word “everlasting”, doesn’t mean that that covenant is eternal. It means that it may be “of long duration”, and it may be “perpetual”, involving the past, and the future, but at some point in time, that covenant will end.
Four Specific “Everlasting” Covenants
So, I mentioned that the phrase “everlasting covenant” is used in reference to four different covenants. And here’s what those four covenants are; I’ll name them all, and then we’ll talk a little bit about each one. So first, there’s the covenant of the rainbow in the sky. In Genesis 9, verse 16, God says; “And the bow shall be in the clouds, and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between Me, and every living creature, of all flesh, that is upon the earth.”
And how long will that “everlasting covenant”, last? Well, when the physical heavens and earth pass away, then that physical covenant will also pass away.
Next there’s the covenant that God made with Abraham, and with his physical offspring. In Genesis 17, verse 7, God says; “And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee, and thy seed after thee, throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
And how long did that “everlasting covenant”, last? Well, it lasted for a long duration of time, but not as long as the covenant of the rainbow will last. Abraham’s seed, actually broke this covenant, by not remaining faithful to God. You see, God had told Abraham, in verse 2; “..I am God Almighty, walk before Me, and be thou perfect.” To be “perfect” means to be “complete”, and to be “complete”, means to be “whole”, and to be “whole” means to be without sin. But Abraham’s seed, did not do that; They did NOT, “walk before God, without sin.” And so God brought that covenant to an end.
An integral part of the “everlasting covenant”, that God made with Abraham and his offspring, involved the land of Canaan. Genesis 17, verse 8 says; “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings; All of the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; And I will be their God.”
So then, this “everlasting covenant”, involved the “everlasting possession”, of ALL of the land of Canaan. But the nation of Israel doesn’t possess all of the land of Canaan anymore, do they? No they don’t. And why don’t they? They don’t possess, that “everlasting possession” because they broke God’s “everlasting covenant”! And God took away their possession, and He took away their covenant!
The third “everlasting covenant”, is the covenant that God made with King David, and with HIS offspring. In 2 Samuel 23, verse 5, King David says; “Yet He hath made with me, an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure..” The covenant referred to, is summarized in 2 Samuel 7, verses 12 & 13; “When thy days are fulfilled (when David’s days are over) and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom (God is talking about Solomon here) He shall build a house for My name, (King Solomon was the one who had the temple in Jerusalem built) and I will establish the throne of his kingdom, forever.”
And how long did that “everlasting covenant”, last? Well, the temple was eventually destroyed, wasn’t it? And it was rebuilt, and then it was destroyed again. And why was the temple destroyed, and why does this covenant not remain in effect any longer? It’s because of the unfaithfulness, of the nation of Israel, and of the kings that came later. And because of that unfaithfulness, God brought to an end, that “everlasting covenant”.
And the fourth and final covenant, that the bible calls “an everlasting covenant”, was prophesied about in the old testament, and it was established in days of the new testament. The bible says, in Isaiah 55, verses 3 thru 6; “Incline your ear, and come unto Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given Him, for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples. (He’s prophesying about Jesus Christ, from the lineage of David) Behold, thou shalt call a nation, that thou knowest not; And a nation, that knew not thee, shall run into thee; Because of Jehovah thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel, for He hath glorified thee. Seek ye Jehovah while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”
Listen to the details of the “new everlasting covenant”, that Isaiah gives, in this prophecy, in Isaiah 61, verses 1 thru 8; “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings (that’s the same as the “good news”) unto the meek. He hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison, to them that are bound. (He’s talking about being bound in sin) To proclaim the year of Jehovah’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn.”
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to exchange unto them a garland, for ashes; The oil of joy, for mourning; The garment of praise, for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that He may be glorified.”
Isn’t that a wonderful usage of analogies? And a wonderful prophecy For the encouragement, of the people of God! Instead of letting the people mourn in ashes, God is going to give them a garland, to lift their spirits. Instead of them mourning any longer, God will give them, “the joy of oil”. (“Oil” being symbolic of the blessings of God) God will exchange their spirit of heaviness, for a garment of praise. And God will make it so His people will stand upright, like trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that God may be glorified.
“And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen, and your wine-dressers. (In other words, other people, from other nations, will be doing the work of God, in His vineyard, and not just the people of the nation of Israel) But you shall be named the priests of Jehovah; Men shall call you the ministers of God. You shall eat with the wealth of the nations, and in their glory, shall you boast yourselves.”
“Instead of your shame, you shall HAVE double; And instead of dishonor, they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore, in their land, they shall possess double, everlasting joy, shall be unto them! For I Jehovah, love justice, I hate robbery with iniquity, and I will give them their recompense in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant, with them. And their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples. All that see them, shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which Jehovah hath blessed!”
What a passage of scripture, telling of the new covenant, that was coming; The “everlasting covenant” that God would make with ALL people, not just with the physical house of Israel.
Jeremiah prophesied, in Jeremiah 31, verses 31 & 32; “Behold, days are coming, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant, with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; Which covenant they broke! Although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah.”
In that last verse, God makes mention of a covenant, that He had made with the nation of Israel, when he led them out of their slavery in Egypt. This was NOT the same covenant that God had made with Abraham, over four hundred years earlier. This was the covenant of the ten commandments, made with Israel, at Mount Sinai. It’s interesting that he covenant of the ten commandments, isn’t called, “an everlasting covenant”. But it was a covenant, nonetheless. It was a covenant, made in addition to the covenant made with their father, Abraham. A lot of people think that the old covenant was literally an “eternal covenant” but of course, it wasn’t