The Covenants Between God and
What principles determine the
way God relates to us?
EXPLANATION AND SCRIPTURAL BASIS
How does God relate to man? Since the creation of the
world, God’s relationship to man has been defined by specific requirements
and promises. God tells people how he wants them to act and also makes
promises about how he will act toward them in various circumstances. The
Bible contains several summaries of the provisions that define the different
relationships between God and man that occur in Scripture, and it often
calls these summaries “covenants.” With respect to covenants between God and
man in Scripture, we may give the following definition:
A covenant is an unchangeable, divinely imposed legal
agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their
Although this definition includes the word
agreement in order to show
that there are two parties, God and man, who must enter into the provisions
of the relationship, the phrase “divinely imposed” is also included to show
that man can never negotiate with God or change the terms of the covenant:
he can only accept the covenant obligations or reject them. Probably for
this reason the Greek translators of the Old Testament (known as the
Septuagint), and, following them, the New Testament authors, did not use the
ordinary Greek word for contracts or agreements in which both parties were
but rather chose a less common word,
(G1347) which emphasized that the
provisions of the covenant were laid down by one of the parties only. (In
fact, the word διαθήκη
was often used to refer to a “testament” or “will” that a person would leave
to assign the distribution of his or her goods after death.)
This definition also notes that covenants are
“unchangeable.” They may be superseded or replaced by a different covenant,
but they may not be changed once they are established. Although there have
been many additional details specified in the covenants God has made with
man throughout the history of Scripture, the essential element at the heart
of all of them is the promise, “I will be their God, and they shall be my
people” (Jer. 31:33; 2 Cor. 6:16; et al.).
Since the covenant relationship between God and man
occurs in various forms throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, a
treatment of this subject might be put at several different points in the
study of systematic theology. I have put it here at the end of the treatment
of man as created
(in the image of God) and man as fallen
into sin, but before the discussion of the person and work of Christ.
A. The Covenant of Works
Some have questioned whether it is appropriate to speak
of a covenant of works that God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The actual word covenant
is not used in the Genesis narratives. However, the essential parts of the
covenant are all there—a clear definition of the parties involved, a legally
binding set of provisions that stipulates the conditions of their
relationship, the promise of blessings for obedience, and the condition for
obtaining those blessings. Moreover, Hosea 6:7, in referring to the sins of
Israel, says, “But like Adam
they transgressed the covenant”
This passage views Adam as existing in a covenant relationship that he then
transgressed in the Garden of Eden. In addition, in Romans 5:12–21 Paul sees
both Adam and Christ as heads of a people whom they represent, something
that would be entirely consistent with the idea of Adam being in a covenant
before the fall.
In the Garden of Eden, it seems quite clear that there
was a legally binding set of provisions that defined the conditions of the
relationship between God and man. The two parties are evident as God speaks
to Adam and gives commands to him. The requirements of the relationship are
clearly defined in the commands that God gave to Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:28–30;
cf. 2:15) and in the direct
command to Adam, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day
that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen. 2:16–17).
In this statement to Adam about the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil there is a promise of punishment for disobedience—death,
most fully understood to mean death in an extensive sense, physical,
spiritual, and eternal death and separation from God.2
In the promise of punishment for disobedience there is implicit a promise of
blessing for obedience. This blessing would consist of not receiving death,
and the implication is that the blessing would be the opposite of “death.”
It would involve physical life that would not end and spiritual life in
terms of a relationship with God that would go on forever. The presence of
the “tree of life...in the midst of the garden” (Gen. 2:9) also signified
the promise of eternal life with God if Adam and Eve had met the conditions
of a covenant relationship by obeying God completely until he decided that
their time of testing was finished. After the fall, God removed Adam and Eve
from the garden, partly so that they would not be able to take from the tree
of life “and eat, and live for ever” (Gen. 3:22).
Another evidence that the covenant relationship with God
in the garden included a promise of eternal life if Adam and Eve had
perfectly obeyed is the fact that even in the New Testament Paul speaks as
though perfect obedience, if it were possible, would actually lead to life.
He speaks of a “commandment which promised life” (Rom. 7:10; lit., “the
commandment unto life”) and, in order to demonstrate that the law does not
rest on faith, he quotes Leviticus 18:5 to say, about the provisions of the
law, “He who does them shall live by them” (Gal. 3:12; cf. Rom. 10:5).
Other covenants in Scripture generally have an outward
“sign” associated with them (such as circumcision, or baptism and the Lord’s
Supper). No “sign” for the covenant of works is clearly designated as such
in Genesis, but if we were to name one, it would probably be the tree of
life in the midst of the garden. By partaking of that tree Adam and Eve
would be partaking of the promise of eternal life that God would give. The
fruit itself did not have magical properties but would be a sign by which
God outwardly guaranteed that the inward reality would occur.
Why is it important to speak of the relationship between
God and man in the garden as a covenant
relationship? To do so reminds us of the fact that this relationship,
including the commands of obedience and promise of blessing for obedience,
was not something that automatically occurred in the relationship between
Creator and creature. God did not make any such covenant with the animals
that he created, for example.3
Nor did the nature of man as God created him demand that God have any
fellowship with man or that God make any promises concerning his
relationship with men or give man any clear directions concerning what he
should do. All this was an expression of God’s fatherly love for the man and
woman he had created. Moreover, when we specify this relationship as a
“covenant,” it helps us to see the clear parallels between this and the
subsequent covenant relationships that God had with his people. If all the
elements of a covenant are present (clear stipulation of the parties
involved, statement of the conditions of the covenant, and a promise of
blessing for obedience and punishment for disobedience), then there seems no
reason why we should not refer to it as a covenant, for that is indeed what
Although the covenant that existed before the fall has
been referred to by various terms (such as the Adamic Covenant, or the
Covenant of Nature), the most helpful designation seems to be “covenant of
works,” since participation in the blessings of the covenant clearly
depended on obedience or “works” on the part of Adam and Eve.
As in all covenants that God makes with man, there is
here no negotiating over the provisions. God sovereignly imposes this
covenant on Adam and Eve, and they have no opportunity to change the
details—their only choice is to keep it or to break it.
Is the covenant of works still in force? In several
important senses it is. First of all, Paul implies that perfect obedience to
God’s laws, if it were possible, would lead to life (see Rom. 7:10; 10:5;
Gal. 3:12). We should also notice that the punishment for this covenant is
still in effect, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). This implies
that the covenant of works is still in force for every human being apart
from Christ, even though no sinful human being can fulfill its provisions
and gain blessing by it. Finally, we should note that Christ perfectly
obeyed the covenant of works for us since he committed no sin (1 Peter 2:22)
but completely obeyed God on our behalf (Rom. 5:18–19).
On the other hand, in certain senses, the covenant of
works does not remain in force: (1) We no longer are faced with the specific
command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (2) Since
we all have a sinful nature (both Christians and non-Christians), we are not
able to fulfill the provisions of the covenant of works on our own and
receive its benefits—as this covenant applies to people directly, it only
brings punishments. (3) For Christians, Christ has fulfilled the provisions
of this covenant successfully once for all, and we gain the benefits of it
not by actual obedience on our part but by trusting in the merits of
Christ’s work. In fact, for Christians today to think of themselves as
obligated to try to earn God’s favor by obedience would be to cut themselves
off from the hope of salvation. “All who rely on works of the law are under
a curse....Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law
(Gal. 3:10–11). Christians have been freed from the covenant of works by
virtue of Christ’s work and their inclusion in the new covenant, the
covenant of grace (see below).
B. The Covenant of Redemption
Theologians speak of another kind of covenant, a covenant
that is not between God and man, but is among the members of the Trinity.
This covenant they call the “covenant of redemption.” It is an agreement
among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in which the Son agreed to become a
man, be our representative, obey the demands of the covenant of works on our
behalf, and pay the penalty for sin, which we deserved. Does Scripture teach
its existence? Yes, for it speaks about a specific plan and purpose of God
that was agreed upon by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in order to gain
On the part of the Father, this “covenant of redemption”
included an agreement to give to the Son a people whom he would redeem for
his own possession (John 17:2, 6), to send the Son to be their
representative (John 3:16; Rom. 5:18–19), to prepare a body for the Son to
dwell in as a man (Col. 2:9; Heb. 10:5), to accept him as representative of
his people whom he had redeemed (Heb. 9:24), and to give him all authority
in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18), including the authority to pour out
the Holy Spirit in power to apply redemption to his people (Acts 1:4; 2:33).
On the part of the Son, there was an agreement that he
would come into the world as a man and live as a man under the Mosaic law
(Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14–18), and that he would be perfectly obedient to all the
commands of the Father (Heb. 10:7–9), becoming obedient unto death, even
death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). The Son also agreed that he would gather for
himself a people in order that none whom the Father had given him would be
lost (John 17:12).
The role of the Holy Spirit in the covenant of redemption
is sometimes overlooked in discussions of this subject, but certainly it was
a unique and essential one. He agreed to do the will of the Father and fill
and empower Christ to carry out his ministry on earth (Matt. 3:16; Luke 4:1,
14, 18; John 3:34), and to apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work to
his people after Christ returned to heaven (John 14:16–17, 26; Acts 1:8;
To refer to the agreement among the members of the
Trinity as a “covenant,” reminds us that it was something voluntarily
undertaken by God, not something that he had to enter into by virtue of his
nature. However, this covenant is also different from the covenants between
God and man because the parties enter into it as equals, whereas in
covenants with man God is the sovereign Creator who imposes the provisions
of the covenant by his own decree. On the other hand, it is like the
covenants God makes with man in that it has the elements (specifying the
parties, conditions, and promised blessings) that make up a covenant.
C. The Covenant of Grace
1. Essential Elements.
When man failed to obtain the blessing offered in the covenant of works, it
was necessary for God to establish another means, one by which man could be
saved. The rest of Scripture after the story of the fall in Genesis 3 is the
story of God working out in history the amazing plan of redemption whereby
sinful people could come into fellowship with himself. Once again, God
clearly defines the provisions of a covenant that would specify the
relationship between himself and those whom he would redeem. In these
specifications we find some variation in detail throughout the Old and New
Testaments, but the essential elements of a covenant are all there, and the
nature of those essential elements remains the same throughout the Old
Testament and the New Testament.
to this covenant of grace are God and the people whom he will redeem. But in
this case Christ fulfills a special role as “mediator” (Heb. 8:6; 9:15;
12:24) in which he fulfills the conditions of the covenant for us and
thereby reconciles us to God. (There was no mediator between God and man in
the covenant of works.)
(or requirement) of participation in the covenant is
faith in the work of Christ
the redeemer (Rom. 1:17; 5:1; et al.). This requirement of faith in the
redemptive work of the Messiah was also the condition of obtaining the
blessings of the covenant in the Old Testament, as Paul clearly demonstrates
through the examples of Abraham and David (Rom. 4:1–15). They, like other
Old Testament believers, were saved by looking forward to the work of the
Messiah who was to come and putting faith in him.4
But while the condition of
beginning the covenant of grace is always
faith in Christ’s work alone, the condition of
continuing in that covenant is said to be
obedience to God’s commands. Though this obedience did not in the Old
Testament and does not in the New Testament earn us any merit with God,
nonetheless, if our faith in Christ is genuine, it will produce obedience
(see James 2:17), and obedience to Christ is in the New Testament seen as
necessary evidence that we are truly believers and members of the new
covenant (see 1 John 2:4–6).
of blessings in the covenant was a promise of eternal life with God. This
promise was repeated frequently throughout the Old and the New Testaments.
God promised that he would be their God and that they would be his people.
“And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants
after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant,
to be God to you and to
your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7). “I will be their God, and they
shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). “And they shall be my people, and I will
be their God...I will make with them an everlasting covenant” (Jer.
32:38–40; cf. Ezek. 34:30–31; 36:28; 37:26–27). That theme is picked up in
the New Testament as well: “I will be their
God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor.
6:16; cf. a similar theme in vv. 17–18; also 1 Peter 2:9–10). In speaking of
the new covenant, the author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31: “I will be their
God, and they shall be my people” (Heb. 8:10). This blessing finds
fulfillment in the church, which is the people of God, but it finds its
greatest fulfillment in the new heaven and new earth, as John sees in his
vision of the age to come: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will
dwell with them, and they shall be his people,
and God himself will be with them” (Rev.
of this covenant (the outward, physical symbol of inclusion in the covenant)
varies between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament
the outward sign of beginning the covenant relationship was circumcision.
The sign of continuing the covenant relationship was continuing to observe
all the festivals and ceremonial laws that God gave the people at various
times. In the new covenant, the sign of beginning a covenant relationship is
baptism, while the sign of continuing in that relationship is participation
in the Lord’s Supper.
The reason this covenant is called a “covenant of grace”
is that it is entirely based on God’s “grace” or unmerited favor toward
those whom he redeems.
2. Various Forms of the Covenant.
Although the essential elements of the covenant of grace remain the same
throughout the history of God’s people, the specific provisions of the
covenant vary from time to time. At the time of Adam and Eve, there was only
the bare hint of the possibility of a relationship with God found in the
promise about the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 and in God’s gracious
provision of clothing for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). The covenant that God
made with Noah after the flood (Gen. 9:8–17) was not a covenant that
promised all the blessings of eternal life or spiritual fellowship with God,
but simply one in which God promised all mankind and the animal creation
that the earth would no longer be destroyed by a flood. In this sense the
covenant with Noah, although it certainly does depend on God’s grace or
unmerited favor, appears to be quite different in the parties involved (God
and all mankind, not just the redeemed), the condition named (no faith or
obedience is required of man), and the blessing that is promised (that the
earth will not be destroyed again by flood, certainly a different promise
from the that of eternal life). The sign of the covenant (the rainbow) is
also different in that it requires no active or voluntary participation on
But beginning with the covenant with Abraham (Gen.
15:1–21; 17:1–27), the essential elements of the covenant of grace are all
there. In fact, Paul can say that “the scripture...preached the gospel
beforehand to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8). Moreover, Luke tells us that Zechariah,
the father of John the Baptist, prophesied that the coming of John the
Baptist to prepare the way for Christ was the beginning of God’s working to
fulfill the ancient covenant promises to Abraham (“to perform the mercy
promised to our fathers, and to remember his
holy covenant the oath which he swore to our
father Abraham,” Luke 1:72–73). So the covenant promises to Abraham remained
in force even as they found fulfillment in Christ (see Rom. 4:1–25; Gal.
3:6–18, 29; Heb. 2:16; 6:13–20).5
What then is the “old covenant” in contrast with the “new
covenant” in Christ? It is not the whole of the
Old Testament because the covenants with
Abraham and David are never called “old” in the New Testament. Rather,
only the covenant under Moses
the covenant made at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19–24) is called the “old covenant” (2
Cor. 3:14; cf. Heb. 8:6, 13), to be replaced by the “new covenant” in Christ
(Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24). The
Mosaic covenant was an administration6
of detailed written laws given for a time to restrain the sins of the people
and to be a custodian to point people to Christ. Paul says, “Why then the
law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come
to whom the promise had been made” (Gal. 3:19), and, “The law was our
custodian until Christ came” (Gal. 3:24).
We should not assume that there was no grace available to
people from Moses until Christ, because the promise of salvation by faith
that God had made to Abraham remained in force:
Now the promises were made to
Abraham and to his offspring...the
law which came four
hundred and thirty years afterward,
does not annul a covenant
previously ratified by God
so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance is by the law, it is
no longer by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. (Gal.
Moreover, although the sacrificial system of the Mosaic
covenant did not really take away sins (Heb. 10:1–4), it foreshadowed the
bearing of sin by Christ, the perfect high priest who was also the perfect
sacrifice (Heb. 9:11–28). Nevertheless, the Mosaic covenant itself, with all
its detailed laws, could not save people. It is not that the laws were wrong
in themselves, for they were given by a holy God, but they had no power to
give people new life, and the people were not able to obey them perfectly:
“Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not; for if a law
had been given which could make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by
the law” (Gal. 3:21). Paul realizes that the Holy Spirit working within us
can empower us to obey God in a way that the Mosaic law never could, for he
says that God “has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not
in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the
Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6).
The new covenant in Christ, then, is far better because
it fulfills the promises made in Jeremiah 31:31–34, as quoted in Hebrews 8:
But as it is, Christ has obtained
a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he
mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that
first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a
For he finds fault with them when
“The days will come, says the
when I will establish a new
covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah;
not like the covenant that I made
with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the
to lead them out of the land of
for they did not continue in my
and so I paid no heed to them,
says the Lord.
This is the covenant that I will
make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws into their
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach every one
or every one his brother, saying,
“Know the Lord,”
for all shall know me,
from the least of them to the
For I will be merciful toward
and I will remember their sins no
In speaking of a new covenant he
treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old
is ready to vanish away. (Heb.
In this new covenant, there are far greater blessings,
for Jesus the Messiah has come; he has lived, died, and risen among us,
atoning once for all for our sins (Heb. 9:24–28); he has revealed God most
fully to us (John 1:14; Heb. 1:1–3); he has poured out the Holy Spirit on
all his people in new covenant power (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:13; 2 Cor.
3:4–18); he has written his laws on our hearts (Heb. 8:10). This new
covenant is the “eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20) in Christ, through which we
shall forever have fellowship with God, and he shall be our God, and we
shall be his people.
QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL APPLICATION
1. Before reading this
chapter, had you thought of your relationship to God in terms of a
“covenant”? Does it give you any added degree of certainty or sense of
security in your relationship to God to know that he governs that
relationship by a set of promises that he will never change?
2. If you were to think of
the relationship between God and yourself personally in terms of a covenant,
whereby you and God are the only two parties involved, then what would be
the conditions of this covenant between you and God? Are you now fulfilling
those conditions? What role does Christ play in the covenant relationship
between you and God? What are the blessings God promises to you if you
fulfill those conditions? What are the signs of participation in this
covenant? Does this understanding of the covenant increase your appreciation
of baptism and the Lord’s Supper?
covenant of grace
covenant of redemption
covenant of works
(For an explanation of this bibliography see the note on
the bibliography to chapter 1, p. 38. Complete bibliographical data may be
found on pp. 1223–29.)
Sections in Evangelical
1. Anglican (Episcopalian)
1882–92 Litton (no explicit treatment)
1930 Thomas, 134–41
2. Arminian (Wesleyan or Methodist)
1983 Carter, 1:476–83
1767 Gill, 1:300–359, 491–530
1887 Boyce, 247–58
1947 Chafer, 7:96–99
1949 Thiessen, 199–205
1986 Ryrie, 453–60
1934 Mueller (no explicit treatment)
6. Reformed (or Presbyterian)
1861 Heppe, 281–319, 371–409
1871–73 Hodge, 2:117–22, 354–77
1878 Dabney, 292–305, 429–63
1889 Shedd, 2a:148–67
1937–66 Murray, CW
1938 Berkhof, 211–18, 262–301
1962 Buswell, 1:307–20
7. Renewal (or charismatic/Pentecostal)
1988–92 Williams, 1:275–304
Sections in Representative
Roman Catholic Systematic Theologies
1. Roman Catholic: Traditional
1955 Ott (no explicit treatment)
2. Roman Catholic: Post-Vatican II
1980 McBrien (no explicit treatment)
Archer, G.L. “Covenant.” In
Collins, G.N.M. “Federal Theology.” In
EDT pp. 413–14.
Dumbrell, W.J. Covenant and
Creation. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984.
Fuller, Daniel P. Gospel and
Law: Contrast or Continuum? The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism and
Covenant Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
Jocz, Jakob. The Covenant: A
Theology of Human Destiny. Grand Rapids:
Kaiser, Walter C., Jr.
Toward An Old Testament Theology. Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.
Martens, Elmer. God’s
Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology.
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981.
McComiskey, Thomas E. The
Covenants of Promise: A Theology of the Old Testament Covenants.
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985.
Murray, John. Covenant of
Grace. London: Tyndale, 1954.
Osterhaven, M.E. “Covenant Theology.” In
EDT pp. 279–80.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. Thy
Kingdom Come. Wheaton, Ill.: Scripture Press,
Peters, G.N.H. The
Theocratic Kingdom. 3 vols. New York: Funk and
Wagnalls, 1952 (first published 1884).
Rayburn, R.S. “Covenant, The New.” In
EDT pp. 278–79.
Robertson, O. Palmer. The
Christ of the Covenants. Grand Rapids: Baker,
Dispensationalism Today. Chicago: Moody, 1965.
VanGemeren, Willem. The
Progress of Redemption. Grand Rapids:
SCRIPTURE MEMORY PASSAGE
“This is the covenant that I
will make with the house of Israel
after those days,” says the Lord:
“I will put my laws into
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.”
“TRUST AND OBEY”
This hymn reminds us that the enjoyment of God’s
blessings depends on our continuing to fulfill the conditions of faith and
obedience as stipulated in the New Testament, which is the written record of
the provisions of the new covenant that God has made with us.
When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But his smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of his love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows, and the joy he bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do, where he sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Author: James H. Sammis, d. 1919
mg.—margin or marginal notes
American Standard Bible
1. The RSV text translates, “But
they transgressed the covenant,” but the marginal note admits that
this is a conjectural emendation and that the Hebrew text actually
reads “like Adam” (Heb.
כְּ/אָ֖דָם). The Hebrew preposition
means “like,” not “at.” The word translated “Adam” (Heb.
can also be translated “man,” but the statement would make little
sense: there is no single well-known transgression of a covenant by
which it could refer. Moreover, it would do little good to compare
the Israelites to what they already are (that is, men) and say that
they “like man” broke the covenant. Such a sentence would almost
imply that the Israelites were not men, but some other kind of
creature. For these reasons, the translation “like Adam” is to be
preferred. (The identical Hebrew expression is translated “like
Adam” in Job 31:33 in the NASB, RSV margin, and NIV margin.)
2. The punishment of death began
to be carried out on the day that Adam and Eve sinned, but it was
carried out slowly over time, as their bodies grew old and they
eventually died. The promise of spiritual death was put into effect
immediately, since they were cut off from fellowship with God. The
death of eternal condemnation was rightfully theirs, but the hints
of redemption in the text (see Gen. 3:15, 21) suggest that this
penalty was ultimately overcome by the redemption that Christ
3. However, animals were
included with human beings in the covenant that God spoke to Noah,
promising that he would never again destroy the earth with a flood
4. See chapter 7, pp. 117–18,
for a discussion of the fact that Old Testament believers were saved
only by trusting in the Messiah who was to come.
5. The covenant promises to
Abraham were renewed and further assurances given when God spoke
with David (see esp. 2 Sam. 7:5–16; cf. Jer. 33:19–22), giving to
David the promise that a Davidic king would reign over the people of
God forever. For an excellent discussion of the continuity of God’s
promises as seen in the covenants made with Abraham and David, and
in the new covenant, see Thomas E. McComiskey,
The Covenants of Promise: A Theology of the Old
Testament Covenants (Grand Rapids:
Baker, 1985), esp. pp. 59–93.
6. For an excellent discussion
of the difference between the overarching covenant of promise and
the various “administrative covenants” that God used at different
times, see McComiskey, Covenants of
Promise esp. pp. 139–77 and 193–211.
Dictionary of Theology. Walter Elwell,
ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984.
Chapter 25 of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology