In the Bible, you are told to “Study … rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Tim.2:15). Of course, you can find one division between the Old Testament and the New Testament. But it wouldn’t take a great deal of study to see that division. So, there must be other divisions. These right divisions can best be seen by studying the major covenants that God made with men. A covenant is basically an agreement, promise or pledge that God made between himself and a man or group of men for a specified period of time.
To be doctrinally correct, students must determine under which covenant each Bible verse falls. Doctrinal errors come from placing a Bible verse in the wrong covenant. Even people who aren’t Bible students get fouled up when they try to deal with God under one covenant when he is dealing with men under a different covenant. Or they get messed up when they disregard the covenants under which God is dealing with them.
So, it is vitally important to study the covenants to rightly divide the word of truth. And it is essential to your salvation to know how God grants eternal life under the covenant you are in versus how He grants eternal life under the other covenants. The major covenants are the covenant with Adam in Eden, the covenant with Adam after the Fall, the covenant with Noah, the covenant with Abraham, the covenant with Moses, the covenant with David, the New covenant, and the Eternal covenant.
THE COVENANT WITH ADAM IN EDEN
Established: In Gen. 1:3 to Gen. 3:14.
Period Covered: From creation to the Fall.
Token: The tree of life.
Terms: Adam and Eve could be naked without shame, they didn’t have to work for their living, and they could live forever by eating from the tree of life.
World’s View: Modern fashion and education disregard that this covenant has ended. Modern styles reveal more and more shameless nakedness and graduates from modern universities do little manual labor.
Salvation: Adam & Eve just had to do what God said. No faith was necessary because they walked with him. Based on this covenant, though, there are people who think that they can get to heaven by taking better care of their bodies down here, using herbal remedies and eating healthy vegetarian diets. They are mistaken because this covenant is over.
THE COVENANT WITH ADAM AFTER THE FALL
Established: In Gen. 3:15-19.
Period Covered: From the Fall through the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
Token: The coats of skins that God made Adam and Eve.
Terms: The serpent was cursed to crawl on his belly (Is. 65:25); the seed of the woman (Jesus and his offspring) would bruise the head of the devil (Rom.16:20); and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was prophesied (Ps.22:16). Women experience increased sorrow, increased conception, painful childbirth, and subjection to their husbands (1 Cor. 11:3,7-9). The ground was cursed. Men have to sweat and labor in the dirt to produce food. Thorns, weeds and thistles compete with the crops. In the end, men die and return to the dirt.
World’s View: Modern science has tried to overthrow this covenant with antidepressants, contraceptives, and anesthetics. Many women’s rights groups have convinced women not to be in subjection to their husbands, resulting in the destruction of the family. Herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers have to be used in increasing amounts to produce the food we eat. Air-conditioned offices, cars, tractors, homes, and grocery stores keep men from sweating. So, they die from poor health and stress related diseases, instead. Beautiful, well-kept graveyards disguise the horrors of returning to the dust.
Salvation: Adam’s descendants had to have faith in the blood of a lamb. Based on this covenant, there are men and women who think they can get to heaven by being good, hard working, salt-of-the-earth type people, who willingly work in this cursed earth and don’t hurt anybody else. They also believe that self-sacrifice will save them. They are mistaken because God had to shed the blood of a lamb to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness with coats of skin. Their fig leaves of self-righteousness wouldn’t cover them in God’s eyes.
THE COVENANT WITH NOAH
Established: In Gen. 8:21 to Gen. 9:27.
Period Covered: From Noah’s flood through the millennial reign of Jesus, with part of it stopping at the second coming of Christ (Is. 11:6-9).
Token: The rainbow.
Terms: Men and animals begin eating animals, capital punishment is instituted, men are forbidden to eat blood, and God promises to never again flood the entire earth. Furthermore, international bounds are established (Gen. 10) and the major characteristics of three major nationalities are prophesied (Gen. 9:25-27). Europeans (descendants of Japheth) would enlarge into other countries; Asians (descendants of Shem) would be religious; and Africans (descendants of Ham throughCanaan) would serve.
World’s View: Men have tried to abolish capital punishment, which was still being practiced in the New Testament (Acts 25:11 andRom. 13:1-4). It will even continue in the millennium (Zech. 13:2-3). Animal rights groups have tried to protect animals from men. The United Nations, following Nimrod’s example (Gen. 11:1-6), has tried to breakdown the international boundaries (Is. 10:5-4; Acts 17:24-28). The philosophy of “all men are created equal” has been promoted to erase all national distinctions among Europeans, Asians and Africans. Religious worship involves drinking blood (currently called “transubstantiation”) and men will literally drink blood in the tribulation (Rev. 17:6) as part of their worship.
Salvation: Noah and his offspring had to do by faith what God said. Based on this covenant, there are men and women who think that they can get to heaven by adopting do-gooder policies to protect criminals, animals, and the environment, by approving global one-world policies to bring all men together for the common good, or by keeping the golden rule. They are mistaken, because God is going to destroy this earth and the nations in it again, (2 Pet. 3).
THE COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM
Established: In Gen. 12:1 to Gen. 17:22.
Period Covered: It is an everlasting covenant.
Terms: Abraham was promised a blessing (Gen. 12:1-3), a seed (Gen. 17:7), and a land grant (Gen. 15:18-21). Furthermore, this covenant protected Abraham and his seed from those that would curse them (Gen. 12:3). The covenant that God made with Abraham was established with Isaac, Jacob, and the 12 tribes ofIsrael (Gen. 27:29; Num. 24:2,9; Ps. 105:8-12).
World’s View:Israel is not God’s chosen people. The church replacesIsrael concerning the promises of God. Nations have repeatedly tried to destroy the Jews. In the end, the world’s jealousy over God’s promise to the Jews will lead to Armageddon. The Jews will win and becoming the ruling nation of the world under Jesus Christ (Zeph. 3:8; Zech. 8:20-23).
Salvation: Abraham and his seed had faith with imputed righteousness for believing God. There are men and women who think that they can get to heaven or paradise by killing Jews. They believe that they, not the Jews, are God’s chosen people. They are mistaken, because God will judge all nations based on how well they treated the Jews (Matt. 25:31-46). All must come to God through a Jew (Jesus Christ) or they will not get to Him (Jn. 4:22;Rom. 4:3-13).
THE COVENANT WITH MOSES
Established: In Ex. 19-20.
Period Covered: From Moses toCalvary, and then it starts up again in the Tribulation and runs through the Millennium.
Token: The Sabbath (Ex. 31:16).
Terms: The Jews were put under the law. The land grant to Abraham was confirmed (Ex. 34:10-16; Deut. 11:22-25). Jesus Christ did not abolish the law, but rather fulfilled it (Matt. 5:16-17). FromCalvary to the Tribulation, men are not under the law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). From the Tribulation to the end of the Millennium, men are back under the law (Col. 2:16-17; Matt. 24:20; Rev. 12:17; Rev. 14:12; and Rev. 22:14).
World’s View: The 10 commandments are not allowed in all government and public places. Men have set up myriad religions to replace the law, keep men under the law, or complicate the simplicity of salvation in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
Salvation: Moses andIsrael had to have faith and the works of the law for salvation. There are men and women, today, who think that they can get to heaven by keeping the law. They are mistaken, because the law cannot save (Gal. 2:16, Jas. 2:10, Rom. 3:19-20). Old Testament saints didn’t go to heaven when they died, they went to Abraham’s bosom (Lk. 16:22). They didn’t go to heaven until after Christ rose from the dead (Eph. 4:8-9). Likewise, the simple salvation of trusting Jesus Christ was not known beforeCalvary. No one in the Old Testament was born again (Jn. 3:3-7).
THE COVENANT WITH DAVID
Established: In 2 Sam. 7:8-16.
Period Covered: From David through the Millennium, with a skip from Coniah (Jer. 22:24-30), also known as Jehoiachin (2 Ki. 24:6), to Jesus Christ’s first coming (Matt. 2:2; 27:37), and another skip from the ascension to the second coming of Christ (Rev. 11:15).
Token: A Throne.
Terms: David was promised a throne and a kingdom forIsrael upon which his seed would rule forever. Jesus Christ is the literal fulfillment of that promised seed and he will rule on that throne at his second advent (Lk. 1:31-33; Matt. 19:28).
World’s View: From Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, through Alexander the Great and Caesar, and all the way to the Antichrist, rulers have tried and will try to rule the world without Jesus Christ sitting on his throne. Many religions that acknowledge Jesus’ reign have tried to spiritualize his rule to abolish his literal, visible, physical reign on earth. Others deny that he will reign, at all.
Salvation: Based on this covenant, there are religions that preach that they are the only ones with real salvation because their churches are worldwide and are converting the world. They are wrong, because the promise in this covenant is fulfilled when Jesus reigns on the earth. The simplicity of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ was still not known in the Old Testament, when this covenant was made.
THE NEW COVENANT
Established: In Matt 26:28, Lk. 23:40-43, Jn. 19:30, and Matt. 27:50-53.
Period Covered: From the Cross through eternity. Only partially fulfilled until the regeneration of the Nation of Israel (Matt. 19:28, Is. 66:8, Jer. 30:7-11, Rom. 11:25-27, Heb. 8:8-13).
Token: The blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14, Col. 1:14).
Terms: Salvation is granted to anyone who would receive Jesus Christ by faith without works (Jn. 1:12, Titus 3:5). In this covenant, faith in placed in the finished work of Jesus Christ atCalvary, plus nothing (Eph. 2:8-9). At the second coming,Israel will accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah (Joel 2:27-32, Eze. 48:35, Jer. 33:6-8).
World’s View: Some believe that Jesus Christ was a good teacher or a good prophet but he was not the Savior. Others believe that he was the Savior but that simple belief in his finished work onCalvary is not enough to save us without us doing something to merit that salvation.
Salvation: Church age saints must have faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ onCalvary. There are men and women who try to be saved by works, good deeds, or keeping the law. They put themselves under one of the other covenants (like the earthly priesthood of Moses’ covenant) or under some philosophy. They wind up in hell because they have rejected the only method of salvation that God has offered them in this age (Heb. 2:3, 1 Tim. 2:3-6, Acts 4:12, Jn. 14:6). They must be born again, according to Jesus (Jn. 3:3-7), and anything added to that keeps them from being saved in this age.
THE ETERNAL COVENANT
Established: In Rev. 21-22.
Period Covered: From the end of the Millennium (White Throne Judgment) through eternity.
Token: New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:2.
Terms: God dwells with men (21:3). There is no more death, sorrow, crying or pain (21:4). The devil is in the lake of fire (20:10). The tree of life is available again to those who do his commandments (22:2,14). The curse is lifted (22:3).
World’s View: The language of Revelation is figurative and New Jerusalem and Heaven are not literal. Eternity is spent in paradise or on the earth in Jehovah’s kingdom. Some believe that heaven is just a state of mind.
Salvation: Salvation is completed with sinless, eternal perfection. There are men and women today that believe Christians are supposed to be sinless and perfect today. As the kids say, “Not.”
Understanding the doctrinal application of any verse in the Bible becomes easier when you can put the verse in its right division according to one of these major covenants. Some verses apply doctrinally to the millennial reign of Jesus from the covenant with David. Other verses apply to the church age under the New covenant, while others might apply to God’s covenant with Moses when it starts back up in the tribulation after the church age.
Doctrinal heresies are generally rooted in pulling a verse out of one of the covenants and applying it doctrinally to another covenant. For instance, putting a Christian in the church age back under the Levitical priesthood of the covenant with Moses is a doctrinal error taught by the Roman Catholic Church. Applying a verse on the kingdom from the covenant with David to church age salvation is a doctrinal error taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon’s.
The best method of doctrinal study, therefore, is to keep these right divisions in mind and trust the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom to find the right doctrinal application.