Will You Benefit From God’s Covenants?
“‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham.”—GALATIANS 3:8, 9.
1. What does history show as to the effect of many rulerships?
“BENEVOLENT [or, enlightened] despots” is what some 18th-century European rulers are called. They ‘meant well to govern their people with fatherly kindness, but their plans went wrong and their reforms fell flat.’* (The Encyclopedia Americana) This was a leading cause of the revolutions that soon engulfed Europe.
2, 3. How is Jehovah different from human monarchs?
2 How different Jehovah is from unpredictable human rulers. We can easily see mankind’s aching need for change that will finally produce real remedies for injustice and suffering. But we need not worry that God’s actions to bring this about depend on some whim. In the world’s most widely distributed book, he has documented his promise to bring lasting blessings to believing mankind. This will be regardless of people’s former nationality, race, education, or social standing. (Galatians 3:28) But can you rely on this?
3 The apostle Paul quoted part of the assurance God had given to Abraham: “Assuredly in blessing I will bless you.” Paul added that since “it is impossible for God to lie,” we “may have strong encouragement to lay hold on the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:13-18) Our confidence in those blessings can be further strengthened by noting the orderly way in which God laid the basis for accomplishing this.
4. How did God use various covenants to accomplish his purpose?
4 We have already seen that God made a covenant with Abraham involving a seed who would be instrumental in blessing “all nations of the earth.” (Genesis 22:17, 18) The Israelites became a fleshly seed, but in the more important spiritual sense, Jesus Christ proved to be the principal part of the seed of Abraham. Jesus was also the Son, or Seed, of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah. Christians who “belong to Christ” make up the secondary part of the seed of Abraham. (Galatians 3:16, 29) After forming the Abrahamic covenant, God temporarily added the Law covenant with the nation of Israel. It proved that the Israelites were sinners who needed a permanent priest and a perfect sacrifice. It guarded the line of the Seed and helped to identify him. The Law covenant also showed that, somehow, God would bring forth a nation of king-priests. While the Law was still in effect, God made a covenant with David to have a kingly dynasty in Israel. The Davidic Kingdom covenant also pointed to someone having permanent rulership over the earth.
5. What questions or problems still needed to be resolved?
5 Yet, there were aspects or objectives of these covenants that seemed incomplete or in need of clarification. For example, if the coming Seed was to be a king in David’s line, how could he be a permanent priest who would do more than previous priests? (Hebrews 5:1; 7:13, 14) Could this King govern more than a limited earthly realm? How would the secondary part of the seed qualify to be in the family of the Greater Abraham? And even if they could, what domain would they have, since most members did not descend from David? Let us see how God took legal steps in the form of additional covenants that would settle these questions, opening the way for our eternal blessing.
Covenant for a Heavenly Priest
6, 7. (a) According to Psalm 110:4, what additional covenant did God establish? (b) What background helps us to understand this added covenant?
6 As we saw, within the scope of the Law covenant, God covenanted with David for a descendant (a seed) who would reign permanently over an earthly domain. But Jehovah also revealed to David that a lasting priest would come. David wrote: “Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): ‘You are a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!’” (Psalm 110:4) What was behind this sworn word of God that amounted to a personal covenant between Jehovah and the coming Priest?
7 Melchizedek had been king of ancient Salem, which evidently was on the site where later the city Jerusalem (a name incorporating “Salem”) was built. The account of Abraham’s dealings with him highlights that he was a king who worshiped “the Most High God.” (Genesis 14:17-20) Yet, God’s statement at Psalm 110:4 shows that Melchizedek was also a priest, making him a unique person. He was both a king and a priest, and he served where the Davidic kings and the Levitical priests later carried out their divinely arranged functions.
8. With whom was this covenant for a priest like Melchizedek made, and with what result?
8 Paul supplies us with added details about this covenant for a priest like Melchizedek. For example, he says that it was Jesus Christ who was “called by God a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:4-10; 6:20; 7:17, 21, 22) Though Melchizedek obviously had human parents, there is no record of his genealogy. So rather than Jesus’ inheriting the office of priest according to a recorded lineage from Melchizedek, his appointment came directly from God. Jesus’ priesthood will not be passed to a successor, for “he remains a priest perpetually.” This is so, for the benefits of his priestly service will be eternal. We can truly be blessed in having a priest who “is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him” and to instruct and guide faithful ones eternally.—Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17, 23-25.
9, 10. How does knowledge of this fifth covenant expand our understanding of how God’s purpose will be fulfilled?
9 Another significant fact is that Jesus’ role as King-Priest goes beyond the earthly sphere. In the same context where he mentioned this covenant for a priest like Melchizedek, David wrote: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’” We can thus see that Jesus—David’s Lord—was to have a place in heaven with Jehovah, which occurred at his ascension. From heaven, Christ can wield authority with his Father to subdue enemies and to execute judgments.—Psalm 110:1, 2; Acts 2:33-36; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 12:2.
10 Consequently, by knowing about this fifth covenant, we have an expanded view of the orderly, thorough way in which Jehovah will accomplish his purpose. It establishes that the primary part of the seed will also be a priest in heaven and that his authority as King-Priest will have universal range.—1 Peter 3:22.
New Covenant and the Secondary Part of the Seed
11. What complications existed as to the secondary part of the seed?
11 When we earlier considered the Abrahamic covenant, we noted that Jesus became the primary part of the seed by natural right. He directly descended from the patriarch Abraham, and as a perfect human, he was an accepted Son of the Greater Abraham. What, though, about humans who have the privilege of becoming the secondary part of Abraham’s seed, “heirs with reference to a promise”? (Galatians 3:29) Being imperfect, part of the family of sinner Adam, they would be unqualified to be in the family of Jehovah, the Greater Abraham. How could the impediment of imperfection be overcome? That would be impossible for humans, but it is not impossible for God.—Matthew 19:25, 26.
12, 13. (a) How did God foretell another covenant? (b) What special feature of this covenant merits our attention?
12 While the Law was still in effect, God foretold through his prophet: “I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers . . . ‘which covenant of mine they themselves broke’ . . . I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people. And they will no more teach . . . ‘Know Jehovah!’ for they will all of them know me . . . For I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.”—Jeremiah 31:31-34.
13 Observe that a feature of this new covenant was the forgiveness of sins, evidently in a way that was ‘not like’ the arrangement with animal sacrifices under the Law. Jesus shed light on this the day he died. After joining his disciples in celebrating the Passover as required by the Law, Christ instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal. This annual celebration would involve a shared cup of wine, about which Jesus said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.”—Luke 22:14-20.
14. Why is the new covenant important in the producing of the secondary part of the seed?
14 Hence, the new covenant would be made operative by Jesus’ blood. On the basis of such a perfect sacrifice, God could ‘forgive error and sin’ once and for all. Think what that would mean! Being able to forgive completely the sins of devoted humans in Adam’s family, God could view them as sinless, beget them as spiritual sons of the Greater Abraham, and then anoint them with holy spirit. (Romans 8:14-17) Thus, the new covenant validated by Jesus’ sacrifice enables his disciples to become the secondary part of the seed of Abraham. Paul wrote: “Through his death [Jesus would] bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil; and [he would] emancipate all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives. For he is really not assisting angels at all, but he is assisting Abraham’s seed.”—Hebrews 2:14-16; 9:14.
15. Who are the parties to the new covenant?
15 While Jesus would be Mediator and the validating sacrifice of the new covenant, who were the parties to the covenant? Jeremiah foretold that God would make this covenant with “the house of Israel.” Which Israel? Not fleshly Israel circumcised under the Law, for the new covenant made that former covenant obsolete. (Hebrews 8:7, 13; see page 31.) Now God would deal with Jews and Gentiles who by faith were figuratively ‘circumcised in the heart by spirit.’ This harmonizes with his saying that those in the new covenant would have ‘his laws written in their mind and in their hearts.’ (Romans 2:28, 29; Hebrews 8:10) Paul called such spiritual Jews “the Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:16; James 1:1.
16. How does the new covenant aid in accomplishing what Exodus 19:6 pointed to?
16 Since God was now dealing with spiritual Israel, a door of opportunity opened. When God established the Law, he had spoken of the sons of Israel becoming to him “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) Actually, fleshly Israel never could and never did become a nation in which all of them were king-priests. But Jews and Gentiles that were accepted as the secondary part of the seed of Abraham could become king-priests.* The apostle Peter confirmed this, telling such ones: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness.” He also wrote that an ‘unfading inheritance was reserved in the heavens for them.’—1 Peter 1:4; 2:9, 10.
17. Why is the new covenant “better” than the Law covenant?
17 Consequently, the new covenant works with the preexisting Abrahamic covenant to produce the secondary part of the seed. This new covenant between Jehovah and spirit-begotten Christians allows for the formation of a heavenly nation of king-priests in the royal family of the Greater Abraham. We can see, then, why Paul said that this is “a correspondingly better covenant, which has been legally established upon better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6) Those promises include the blessing of having God’s law written in the hearts of devoted ones whose sins are not called to mind, and with all ‘knowing Jehovah, from the least to the greatest.’—Hebrews 8:11.
Jesus’ Covenant for a Kingdom
18. In what sense did the covenants that we have considered so far not completely accomplish God’s purpose?
18 Reflecting on the six covenants that we have discussed, it might seem that Jehovah has legally arranged all that is needed to accomplish his purpose. Yet, the Bible brings up another covenant that ties in with what we have considered, a covenant that rounds out additional aspects of this vital matter. Spirit-begotten Christians rightly expect that ‘the Lord will deliver them from every wicked work and will save them for his heavenly kingdom.’ (2 Timothy 4:18) In heaven, they will be a nation of king-priests, but what will be their domain? When they are raised to heaven, Christ is already there as a perfect high priest. He will also have stood up with kingly power for universal rule. (Psalm 2:6-9; Revelation 11:15) What is there for the other king-priests to do?
19. When and how was a seventh important covenant made?
19 On Nisan 14, 33 C.E., the evening Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal and mentioned “the new covenant by virtue of [his] blood,” he spoke of another covenant, the seventh for discussion. He told his faithful apostles: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:20, 28-30) Just as the Father had made the covenant with Jesus to be a priest like Melchizedek, so Christ made a personal covenant with his loyal followers.
20 The 11 apostles had certainly stuck with Jesus in his trials, and the covenant showed that they would sit on thrones. Further, Revelation 3:21 proves that all spirit-begotten Christians who prove faithful will sit on heavenly thrones. Thus, this covenant is with all 144,000 who have been bought with Jesus’ blood to be taken to heaven as priests and “to rule as kings over the earth.” (Revelation 1:4-6; 5:9, 10; 20:6) The covenant that Jesus makes with them joins them to him to share his dominion. In a sense, it is as though a bride from a noble family was joined by marriage to a ruling monarch. She thus comes into position to share his kingdom rule.—John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7, 8.
21, 22. What blessing can be expected because of what these covenants accomplish?
21 What benefits will this open up for obedient mankind? Neither Jesus nor the 144,000 will be like the benevolent despots who “could provide no real solutions.” Rather, we are assured that Jesus is a high priest “who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” We can therefore understand why he ‘can sympathize’ with human weaknesses and why the “other sheep,” as has been true of anointed Christians, can also, through Christ, approach God’s throne “with freeness of speech.” Thus, they also “may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Hebrews 4:14-16; John 10:16.
22 Those covenanted to share with Jesus as king-priests also share in the blessing of mankind. As the ancient Levitical priests benefited the entire nation of Israel, so those serving on heavenly thrones with Jesus will judge in righteousness all those living on earth. (Luke 22:30) Those king-priests were once human, so they will be sympathetic to mankind’s needs. This secondary part of the seed will cooperate with Jesus in seeing that “all the nations will be blessed.”—Galatians 3:8.
23. How should individuals act in cooperation with these covenants?
23 All who desire to share in that blessing upon mankind, thus benefiting from God’s covenants, are now being invited to do so. (Revelation 22:17) One fine step is to be present for the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal, which will be held after sunset on Wednesday, March 22, 1989. Please make plans now to attend with one of the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There you will learn more about divine covenants and will further see how you can benefit from them.
“Even the most adventurous reforms left an impoverished peasantry, an overprivileged, undertaxed nobility, a middle class inadequately integrated into government and society . . . It must be said that while enlightened despotism began to face questions that could no longer be ignored, it could provide no real solutions within the political and economic realities of the era.”—Western Civilization—Its Genesis and Destiny: The Modern Heritage.
Jesus is not a party to the new covenant. He is its Mediator and is without sins needing forgiveness. Furthermore, it is not necessary for him to become a king-priest by it, for he is a king according to the Davidic covenant and also a priest like Melchizedek.
Do You Remember?
□ Why was the covenant mentioned at Psalm 110:4 made, and what did it accomplish?
□ Who are in the new covenant, and how did it help to produce a nation of king-priests?
□ Why did Jesus make a personal covenant with his followers?
□ What are the seven covenants that we have considered?
[Diagram on page 17]
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Edenic covenant Genesis 3:15
Davidic Kingdom covenant
Covenant to be a priest like Melchizedek
[Diagram on page 19]
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Edenic covenant Genesis 3:15
Davidic Kingdom covenant
Covenant to be a priest like Melchizedek
Covenant for a heavenly Kingdom