Bible Truth Examiner


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Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

THE word covenant as related to God is used in three senses in the Bible: (1) promises either binding one party – a unilateral or unconditional covenant, or binding various parties to one another on certain conditions – a bi-lateral or conditional covenant; (2) such promises with all their pertinent teachings, institutions, arrangements, etc.; and (3) such promises with all their pertinent teachings, institutions, arrangements, etc., and the servants who minister to the covenant’s subjects these promises with all their pertinent teachings, institutions, arrangements, etc. Note that in each succeeding sense of the word, all that was in the preceding sense is contained, plus something else, which is indicated by italics in the second and third senses of the word. Therefore, we may speak of the first of these senses of a covenant in the narrow sense of the word, the second as a covenant in the wider sense of the word, and the third as a covenant in the widest sense of the word.

Unilateral and Bi-lateral Covenants

Examples of unilateral covenants include: (1) God’s covenant to Noah never again to destroy society with a flood (Genesis 9: 12-17) (Isaiah 54: 9); and (2) the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12: 2, 3), which is a summary of God’s entire plan. These covenants bind only one party – they are unilateral, one-sided; hence they are unconditional promises. For this reason, the Abrahamic and Sarah covenants are repeatedly called the promises, binding God only (Romans 9: 8, 9)  

Examples of bi-lateral covenants include: (1) the Law Covenant, in which God and Israel entered into a covenant with one another, God promising as His part of the covenant to give Israel life, the right to life and its life-rights, if Israel would keep the Divinely-given teachings, institutions, arrangements, etc. (Galatians 3: 12, 10); and Israel as its part of the covenant promising to keep these, if God would reward such obedience with everlasting life (Exodus 24: 3) (Galatians 3: 12) (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20); and (2) the New Covenant, which will consist of the promises that God and man will make to one another on certain conditions, during the Millennial and post-Millennial Age periods (Ezekiel 18: 1-24).

Let us cite the Law Covenant as an example of the word covenant used in the second or wider sense of the word. It consisted not only of the above mentioned conditional promises, but also of the teachings, arrangements, institutions, etc., that were made the basis of the covenant in its narrow sense, and that as such were obligations of the parties to the covenant. Some of these included the various features of the Passover, the Sabbath, etc.

Covenants as Mothers

Let us also cite the Law Covenant as an example of the word covenant in the third or widest sense of the word. In addition to the conditional promises of the Law Covenant and their pertinent teachings, institutions, arrangements, etc., the covenant in this sense of the word includes every Israelite in his capacity of ministering the covenant teachings, institutions, arrangements, etc., to his fellow Israelites. Those Israelites, in their capacity of being so ministered unto, were the child of the Law Covenant. When Israelites ministered the covenant provisions to one another, they acted as the mother, antitypical Hagar (Galatians 4: 24, 25); and when nourished with the covenant provision by their brethren, they acted as the child, antitypical Ishmael (Galatians 4: 25, 29, 30).

From this standpoint, the mother included: (1) Moses; (2) the elders of the people, especially the twelve princes, the seventy judges and the priesthood; and (3) the Levites, the parents, the prophets and everyone else who would do any teaching of the covenant’s provisions to his fellow Israelites. In their functioning in that capacity they were Jehovah’s wife, antitypical Hagar, nourishing Israelites as her children.

Another example of a covenant in the third or widest sense of the word is the Sarah Covenant, the covenant that developed the Church, antitypical Isaac. The mother, antitypical Sarah, consisted of the brethren as they ministered the Covenant provisions to their brethren, which included: (1) our Lord; (2) the Apostles; (3) the prophets (both the Old Testament and the non-apostolic Gospel Age teachers of the general Church); (4) the evangelists; (5) the pastors or teachers; and (6) the non-official brethren of the Church.

As a final example, in the next Age the New Covenant as Jehovah’s wife, in the third or widest sense of the word, will include the pertinent promises, their teachings, etc., and those who apply these to the restitution class: (1) the Christ; (2) the Great Company; (3) the Ancient and (4) Youthful Worthies; (5) believing Israel; and (6) all the faithful of the restitution class (Matthew 25: 34-40).