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ISRAEL AND THE NEW COVENANT

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  May 12, 2014 — 1 Comment
Israel New Covenant

This is my third article in a series on Israel in Scripture. This is a vitally important issue for biblical interpretation and theological construction. In this submission I will touch on the biblical teaching of the New Covenant.

Jeremiah presents the vitally important “new covenant” in Jewish terminology: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31). As I will show, this provides evidence that we cannot interpret this text literalistically, despite dispensationalist claims that they use “the principles consistently in interpreting Scripture.” Jeremiah’s new covenant causes enormous difficulties for dispensationalism and their literalistic hermeneutic.

Ryrie’s Basis of the Premillennial Faith outlines three leading dispensational views: (1) The Jews Only View. This is “the view that the new covenant directly concerns Israel and has no relationship to the Church” (p. 107). (2) The One Covenant/Two Aspects View: The one “new covenant has two aspects, one which applies to Israel, and one which applies to the church” (p. 107). (3) The Two New Covenants View. This is Ryrie’s view, for this actually “distinguishes the new covenant with Israel from the new covenant with the church. This view finds two new covenants in which the promises to Israel and the promises to the Church are more sharply distinguished even though both new covenants are based on the one sacrifice of Christ” (p. 107).

In Ryrie’s more recent Dispensationalism (p. 174), he cautiously maintains this view when referring to 2 Corinthians 3:6–11: “It may indicate that Paul is focusing on a new covenant made with the church. . . . If so, there are two new covenants.” Then he immediately adds: “perhaps even more”! This was the view of Chafer and the earlier Walvoord.


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More recently still, Walvoord argues that some “hold that the covenant is with Israel but that the church derives blessing from the covenant of Israel.” But he immediately notes that this solution does not “solve the problem of how the church can have a New Covenant that is different in its qualifications than the New Covenant with Israel.” Pentecost is apparently one of those Walvoord is rebutting. John R. Master illustrates how confused dispensationalism is over this issue, in that he “is a contemporary advocate of a position similar to Darby’s,” arguing that “the new covenant is strictly for Israel in the future messianic kingdom.” Today, dispensationalists no longer hold to three views of the new covenant. They now have four views: “there are four major dispensational views of the new covenant.”

Despite the contortions dispensationalists go through to avoid the obvious, Christ clearly inaugurates this new covenant toward the end of his ministry as he establishes the New Testament phase of his church. Yet Pentecost is quite correct when he writes of Christ’s establishing the Lord’s Supper: “In its historical setting, the disciples who heard the Lord refer to the new covenant . . . would certainly have understood Him to be referring to the new covenant of Jeremiah 31.” What could be more obvious? In fact, the sudden appearance of the “new covenant” designation in the New Testament record, without qualification or explanation, demands that it refer to Jeremiah’s well-known new covenant (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; 1Co 11:25). The apostle to the Gentiles even promotes the new covenant as an important aspect of his ministry (2Co 3:6). He does not say he is a minister of a “second new covenant” or “another new covenant” or “some few aspects of the new covenant.”


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On everyone’s view Hebrews 8 cites Jeremiah’s new covenant in a context in which he is speaking to New Testament Christians. Yet Ryrie argues that “the writer of the Epistle has referred to both new covenants”! This is literalism?

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

One response to ISRAEL AND THE NEW COVENANT

  1. Amen. There really are a lot of wearisome efforts being carried out among those who say that the new covenant hasn’t yet arrived, or will only fully be established when national Israel accepts it all at once. I believe Ephesians 2 is another key to this. Paul teaches that the household of God (strikingly similar to “the house of Israel”) is being built up as a holy structure, built on the foundation of the apostles, with Jesus as the cornerstone. As mentioned in this article, the apostles were “ministers of the new covenant.”

    Therefore, the household of God is built on the ministry of the new covenant. This is one and the same with Jeremiah’s prophecy that the new covenant would be established with the house of Israel.

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