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The Biblical Covenants, Part 6d: New Covenant Fulfillment

The establishment of the NC on the day of Pentecost 50 days after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ brings with it at least one additional question. If the NC has already been established and its future fulfillment will complete all the other remaining eternal covenants, then what does NC fulfillment look like? To answer that question, we must rely on the few men who have already seen it.

 

Isaiah 6


There has already been some discussion regarding Isaiah’s vision of the Lord and His throne, but the present argument demands that we return to this text to either reestablish previous points or to make a few new ones. The first point to remember is that Isaiah chapter 6 records a vision. This is necessary because a vision is not a revelation of the present as any normal human would be capable of seeing it. A vision does away with the boundaries of time and space to reveal a specific scene, event, or idea from God to man.


With this in mind, a second point is that Isaiah is not witnessing an event contemporaneous to his own day, as proven by several pieces of evidence. (1) The person Isaiah sees is none other than an enthroned Jesus, who sat on no throne in Isaiah’s day. A quick comparison between this text and John 12:36-43 will soon confirm this statement. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that all language calling Jesus a king and referring to Him as sitting on a throne is to be taken quite literally. Isaiah saw the finished product with his own eyes. (2) The scene Isaiah witnesses is on earth and yet is not consistent with the earthly events of Isaiah’s day. Because (a) we know that the One whom Isaiah sees is Jesus and (b) that Jesus is never spoken of as sitting upon His own throne in heaven, we cannot simply assume that this scene takes place in the heavenly realm. To this we should add that the seraphim proclaim His glory as filling the earth, a strange thing to state if the scene takes place in heaven. Therefore, this scene is not only terrestrial, but is also future from Isaiah’s day. In short, this is a scene of NC fulfillment. (3) The point of Isaiah’s vision is to tell a presently rebellious Israel of this glorious future as judgment. Isaiah’s generation will listen but not perceive and look but not understand (vv. 9-13). There will be a generation who repents and turns to Yhwh their king when He comes in glory (Ps. 24), but it will not be Isaiah’s generation. And yet, this scene guarantees that Israel will one day be Yhwh’s people and that He will be their God (Gen. 17:7-8). NC fulfillment will provide AC fulfillment as well.


Because Jesus is the Davidic Seed and is seen by Isaiah sitting on His rightful throne in Jerusalem, this scene is a peek into the fulfilled DC. But because the earth is heard by Isaiah as being filled with Yhwh’s glory, this is also an indication that the rest promised to Noah is in full effect. There is no longer any curse or the labor that accompanies it. Also, because this earthly scene takes place in the temple, one might wonder if there are not priests involved as well. In other words, Isaiah’s vision of an enthroned Jesus on earth depicts a fulfilled Noahic Covenant, a fulfilled Davidic Covenant, and a fulfilled Abrahamic Covenant while also hinting at a fulfilled Priestly Covenant. In this light, we must recognize that a fulfilled New Covenant requires a literal reign of Jesus upon His throne on earth.

 

Ezekiel 40-48


These final chapters of Ezekiel, about 19% of the entire book, contains a single vision of a future earthly temple and kingdom based in Jerusalem. The amount of detail in these chapters is both staggering and revealing, for Ezekiel saw something that does not yet exist nor has ever existed on earth.[1]


Most of this material is devoted to the temple. Chapters 40-41 describe the outer courtyard with its three gates on the east (40:5-16), north (40:17-23), and south sides (40:24-27). The inner court, which contains the temple, the altar, laver, and housing for the priests, is set up in a similar fashion to the outer court; that is to say, it is surrounded by a wall with three gates facing east, north, and south. Ezekiel is led from the outer court into the inner court via the south gate (40:28) where he is shown the splendor and dimensions of the east and north gates in turn (40:29-37). At this point things become interesting because on either side of the main temple (the north and south sides) stand chambers designed for the priests. The northern chamber (facing south) is simply stated as being for the priests who keep charge of the temple compound while the southern chamber (facing north) is designated for those priests who are descended from Zadok (40:38-47). The need to separate between the Levitical priests in general from those who come from Zadok is stated in 44:9-27. Only the descendants of Zadok are allowed to minister in Yhwh’s presence. A quick cross-reference to 1 Chr. 6:1-8 reveals that Zadok (who lived and served under king David’s reign) was a descendant of Phinehas. Ezekiel sees a time when the PC is being fulfilled in the line of Zadok in this new temple in Jerusalem. 


What is missing from chapters 40-42 is the most essential aspect of the temple, the presence of Yhwh. In chapter 43 Ezekiel witnesses Yhwh’s return in the exact reverse order which he witnessed Yhwh departing the temple (Ezek. 9-11); that is, He came through the eastern gate (43:1-2). Ezekiel sees the whole earth shining with Yhwh’s glory, just as the seraphim proclaimed in Isaiah’s vision. This same glory filled the whole house as it did when Yhwh indwelt the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35) and the first temple (1 Kings 8:1-11); a phenomenon never seen with the second temple much less Herod’s putrid remodel. The King of Glory, Yhwh of hosts, has come into His temple (Ps. 24). The Davidic King has just taken His throne. Thus, Ezekiel has witnessed the future fulfillment of the DC.


The instruction Ezekiel receives in chapters 44-46 revolve around the activities of the temple. The various sacrifices that are to be made, when they are to be made, and how they are to be offered are recorded in painstaking detail, though we are forced to admit that these details bear more than a passing similarity to the instructions given in the MC. Perhaps the picture of Israel’s relationship as articulated in the MC is more than a spiritual or symbolic picture. Here, Ezekiel sees a future Israel worshiping in a future temple with future Phinehatic priests and a future King (Yhwh Himself) reigning over them. The MC was more than a symbol. It was a perfect and precise articulation of Israel’s future relationship with Yhwh. The missing element, the heart to believe and obey, provided for through the NC is now in play. A fulfilled NC will include a perfection of the trappings associated with the MC.


The final chapters of Ezekiel (47-48) reveal what fulfillment looks like for both the Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants. Rest and restoration come to the earth through Yhwh’s living water which flows directly from His throne, through the temple compound, and out into the world (47:1-12). This living water restores the earth to a garden like state and in effect undoes and reverses the curse. After this, boundaries are given for the land of Israel (47:13-23) and specific allotments for each of the 12 tribes (48:1-29). Israel will inhabit the land promised to Abraham and not a mere shadow of it as before. The land that Yhwh promised to Abraham will finally belong to his seed while the Seed reigns over them and produces blessing upon the entire earth. In order to fulfill the Noahic and Abrahamic Covenants, a literal temple must exist in Jerusalem with Yhwh sitting upon His throne.

 

Daniel 7:13-14


The vision of Daniel as recorded in chapter 7 brings additional insight that later authors will pick up on. Here we see the kingdom that was already described in both Isaiah and Ezekiel being given to the King: The Son of Man. That He is referred to as the Son of Man indicates that this is more than simply a divine being, but that He represents both God and man. Here is a corporate head of humanity, the king of the world and not only Israel. This is confirmed when it is stated that peoples from every nation will serve Him. The links to David are irrefutable when the same language from the DC is used to describe this One’s everlasting dominion (v. 14). If Isaiah saw the King already enthroned and Ezekiel saw His triumphal entry, then Daniel saw His coronation. This is more than a promise to Israel, but to the world. The Davidic and Divine King will rule and subdue the world. Daniel witnessed the day when the Adamic mandate will once again be taken up by the last Adam, the seed of David, and Israel’s king.

 

Zechariah 14


In his final chapter, Zechariah records a future day when all the nations wage war against Israel by besieging them in Jerusalem (vv. 1-2). But Yhwh will fight for them and utterly destroy all who fight against Israel (vv. 3-5). The prophet goes on to build upon much of what Ezekiel saw. Zechariah, like Isaiah and Ezekiel notes that the earth is illumined by Yhwh’s glory (vv. 6-7). The living water which Ezekiel saw coming from the throne in the temple will fill the earth with its goodness (v. 8). Yhwh will be king over all the earth (v. 9) and the curse will be undone and reversed (vv. 10-11). Ezekiel emphasized the necessity of a new temple while Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah emphasized the coming of the king. Both truths are united as one.

 

Revelation 19-22


Almost five hundred years after Zechariah, the apostle John also had a vision of the future. He records the return of the king as a military conqueror (19:11-21), righteous judge (20:1-3), and perfect ruler (20:4-6). After a spotless thousand-year reign, the serpent will be released (v. 7), organize a final rebellion and besiege Jerusalem as Zechariah saw (vv. 8-9b), only to be destroyed (vv. 9-10). The head of the serpent will finally be crushed. This final act will bring about more than reform, but rest and restoration. New heavens and a new earth without sea, without curse, and without weeping will replace the old (21:1-4). God the Father and God the Son reign from the temple on earth (21:22), the earth will be illumined by God’s glory (21:23), and the peoples of every tribe, tongue, and nation will live in obedience to God (21:24-27). This garden like state will be preserved by the tree of life, which makes a reappearance once more (22:1-2). And there will no longer, forever, be any curse (22:3). This is the fulfillment of the NC.

 

A fulfilled NC demands and requires a new temple, kingdom, and restored Israel. To deny or redefine any of these elements is to (a) call God a liar or at least (b) tamper with God’s promises and put words into His mouth. Yet, the fulfillment of the NC is more than these things. If the NC is the fulfillment of all the covenants, then the NC will not be fulfilled in the earthly thousand-year reign of King Jesus on earth, but only after the serpent is crushed and the curse is completely undone and reversed. To put it plainly, NC fulfillment is the fulfillment of everything, where nothing is left to be done.



[1] That this is a future temple, even from our standpoint, is obvious. Ezekiel plainly stated in 40:1 that this vision occurred 14 years after Solomon’s temple was destroyed. Therefore, what is being described is not Solomon’s temple. By simply examining the detailed measurements, dimensions, and descriptions of this temple, one can hardly confuse it with Nehemiah’s temple or Herod’s remodel. Similarities obviously exist but so too are there differences.

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