“Everlasting Covenant”

By Royce Frederick

When something is “everlasting,” it will “endure” or “last for ever.” For example, God is “the Everlasting God(Genesis 21:33). He will always continue existing.

A “covenant” is a contract or agreement. Some contracts contain a time limit. They will expire (end) on a certain date, or after certain events. An “everlasting covenant” does not contain a time limit. As long as all the persons continue doing their part, an “everlasting covenant” will continue. In the Bible, the term “everlasting covenant” reveals some important lessons about God’s relationship with man.

God’s “Everlasting Covenant” with Noah, his descendants, & all animals

The world became very wicked, so God sent a worldwide flood. It destroyed all people and animals on the face of the earth, except Noah, seven family members, and the animals that were with them in “the ark.” Afterwards, God said, “...I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you...Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth...The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth” (Genesis 9:9-11, 16). This covenant will never expire.

Also, this covenant will never be broken. Man cannot break it, because it does not require man to do anything. God will not break it, because He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). Some day, God will destroy the world by fire (2 Peter 3:5-13), but not by a flood.

God’s “Everlasting Covenant” with Abram and his descendants

God made several promises to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3;15:4-21). He also made a “covenant” with Abram, giving the land of Canaan to his descendants (Genesis 15:18). Later, God said, “...I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly...No longer shall your name be called Abram [“exalted father”], but your name shall be Abraham [“father of a multitude”]; for I have made you a father of many nations...And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:1-7). Abraham trusted God, obeyed His commands, and received His blessings.

God told Abraham to circumcise all males as “a sign of the covenant between Me and you...and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant(Genesis 17:11, 13). This covenant would never merely expire. But men could break this covenant and lose its benefits. “...the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:14).

God promised Abraham a son and said, “...you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” (Genesis 17:19). Later, He established this covenant with Isaac’s son, Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15).

God's “Everlasting Covenant” with Israel

God gave Jacob the name “Israel,” which means “prince with God” (Gen. 32:28). His descendants were later called “the children of Israel” or merely “Israel.” They became a large nation, were slaves in Egypt for a while, and were led out of Egypt by Moses.

On their way to the land which God had promised, Israel camped at Mount Sinai. There He revealed His covenant to Israel through Moses: “ ‘...if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people....’ So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’...” (Exodus 19:5, 7-8). God and Israel agreed to do certain things.

God then revealed His ten commandments and many other laws (Exodus 20-23). The people again agreed: “So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has said we will do.’ And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord...” (Exodus 24:3-4).

A third time, the people agreed to obey the covenant: “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood [of sacrifices], sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words’” (Exodus 24:7-8). Notice that this covenant was not with all nations, only Israel.

Several items in this covenant are called “perpetual” or “everlasting.” The SABBATH: Israel was told to “...observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant...” (Exodus 31:16). The SHOWBREAD: “Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant” (Leviticus 24:8). The PASSOVER: Israel was told to “...keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:14; see 23:15-18). The PRIESTHOOD of Aaron and his sons was “...theirs for a perpetual statute...” (Ex. 29:9).

The LAND was an “everlasting possession.” God had told Abraham, “...I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God...As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you...” (Genesis 17:8-9). Israel could lose the land: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations...lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Leviticus 18:26, 28; see 26:14-33; Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

Israel entered the land about 1451 B.C. “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it...Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43, 45; see 23:14; 2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Kings 4:21).

Joshua warned Israel, “When you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God...you shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you” (Joshua 23:16). David warned them: “...be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:8).

Israel Broke the “Everlasting Covenant”

Israel soon disobeyed God (Judges 1:27-2:6). Through an angel, the Lord said, “I led you up from Egypt...and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you’...But you have not obeyed My voice...” (Judges 2:1-2).

About 700 B.C., Isaiah wrote, “The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant(Isaiah 24:5). About 629-586 B.C., Jeremiah wrote, “...they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers” (Jeremiah 11:10).

With loving patience, God “...sent warnings to them by His messengers...because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans...Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions” (2 Chronicles 36:15-17, 19). Jerusalem and the temple fell in 586 B.C.

God had promised to return Israel to the land if they would truly repent (Leviticus 26:40-46; Deuteronomy 30:1-3). That the temple would be rebuilt was foretold in Isaiah 44:28 (Isaiah prophesied about 760-698 B.C.) and Ezekiel 40-48 (Ezekiel prophesied about 593-574 B.C.). Israel repented, and God brought them back after seventy years (dating from the first exiles, 606 B.C.). Three groups returned to the land (536 B.C., 457 B.C., and 446 B.C). They laid the foundation of the temple about 534 B.C. (Ezra 3:8-10) and completed the temple about 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:14-15). God kept His word!

But Israel again broke the covenant. To describe how the people had rejected God’s will, Jesus told a parable about wicked vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-46). “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43). He cried, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38). He also foretold the destruction of the temple: “...not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, almost two thousand years ago. God had kept His covenant, but Israel had not.

The “Everlasting Covenant” of Christ

Jeremiah foretold, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when 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, My covenant which they broke...” (Jeremiah 31:31-32). When Jesus died, the old law was removed (Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 2:15) and His new covenant became effective (Hebrews 8:6-13; 9:15; Luke 22:20; Gal. 3:24-25). After He arose from death and returned to heaven, He finished revealing His will through His apostles (John 16:12-13; Acts 2:1-4, 42; 2 Peter 1:3).

Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16) and circumcision (Acts 15; Galatians 2:3-5; 5:1-6; Romans 2:28-29) are not part of obeying God today. The yearly passover and the weekly showbread were replaced by the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 5:7; Acts 20:7). The temple is not a physical building, but is the church the saved people (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 2:19-22). The promised land is not on this perishing earth, but in heaven (John 14:1-3; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:1-4; Revelation 21-22). The priesthood is not Aaron’s family. Christ is High Priest, and all Christians are priests (Heb. 3:1; 7:12; Rev. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:9). The physical nation of Israel (the nation of the Jews) is not God’s holy nation today. Christians are “the Israel of God” and His “holy nation” (Gal. 6:16; 1 Peter 2:9-10; see Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6-8).

The PROMISE to ABRAHAM: “...in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, about 1921 B.C.), is fulfilled in the New Covenant. Christ invites sinners from all nations, including Jews, to become children of God (John 3:3-5; Mark 16:15-16). Paul reminded Christians, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek [non-Jew], there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). Jesus was a descendant of Abraham. When we are “in Christ,” we are heirs with Him. The COVENANT with DAVID is fulfilled in the New Covenant. God had told David “...I will set up your seed after you...I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever...If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men...But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul...” (2 Samuel 7:12-15). David called this an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure (2 Samuel 23:5). Sins of men could not end this covenant. God kept this promise by sending Jesus, a descendent of David, to reign over His kingdom, the church (Daniel 2:44; Luke 1:31-33; Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-47; Colossians 1:13). We receive the “SURE MERCIES of DAVID” through the New Covenant. Any Christians who leave Christ and stay away from Him will be lost forever (Galatians 5:1-4; Hebrews 3:12-14; 10:29; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 John 1:7, 9). But men’s sins will never cause God to end this covenant. It is sure, like God’s mercy toward David. Isaiah wrote, “...come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you the sure mercies of David...nations [non-Jews] who do not know you shall run to you...” (Isaiah 55:3, 5; see Rom. 1:16).

Like the COVENANT with NOAH, the New Covenant will never end. For this is like the waters of Noah to Me...My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed...” (Isaiah 54:9-10). Isaiah had already foretold that this peace comes through Jesus: “...He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus was “an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10; see 55:7; Jer. 31:34).

Receive salvation and peace through the New Covenant of Christ by obeying His gospel. And “...may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will...” (Hebrews 13:20-21).