BIBLE STUDY SEVEN
The Powerful Message
of the Two Covenants
One of the most important of the 1888
message essentials was Jonesí and Waggonerís view of the two
covenants. It has within it an effective evangelism appeal that God
intended should characterize the Revelation 18 loud cry of "the
everlasting gospel." Unfortunately within 20
years of the Minneapolis Conference, the opposersí view prevailed in
the denomination, with the result that to this day confusion and
spiritual apathy continue. Children and youth in Sabbath School and the
Pathfinders Club are especially affected by a "gospel" that
embodies old covenant motifs. In 1890 Ellen White was shown in vision
that Waggonerís view was correct and that the brethren were wasting
their time trying to oppose it. 1
A world church cannot understand the truth of the new covenant and also
B. THE BIBLE EVIDENCE
The old covenant was initiated by the people at Mt. Sinai, established
on their promise to obey Godís commandments. 2
Hebrews 8:6, 7.
The new covenant is established on "better promises," that is,
Exodus 32:7, 8.
The people could not keep their promise to obey. Even today, they
The old covenant is not merely a minor mistake: it produces slavery to
spiritual discouragement, and thus to failures. 3
The Hebrew word translated "obey My voice" means "listen
to My voice" (shamea), and the Hebrew word translated
"keep My covenant" means
"cherish My covenant" (shamar). 4
While human covenants are indeed "mutual agreements" or
contracts, Godís covenant is always a one-sided promise on His part,
for He knows we cannot keep our promises. "Cherish My
covenant" therefore meant "cherish My promise to
Galatians 3:17; Romans 4:13.
Godís "covenant" is His unilateral "promise." 6
2 Chronicles 36:14-17.
The tragic failures of old covenant theology led to the destruction of
the temple and Jerusalem, and the captivity of Judah. 7
Genesis 12:1-3; Hebrews 13:20, 21.
The new covenant was Godís seven-fold promise to Abraham and to his
descendants "in Isaac."
Genesis 13:14-17; 15:4, 5.
The promises were repealed and amplified. Never did God ask Abraham to
promise anything in return.
With a solemn bloody oath God pledged His existence and His throne on
His fulfillment of those promises. 8
The Levitical sanctuary services were old covenant in nature.
Jeremiah 7:22; Amos 5:21-26.
God "hated" the sacrifices offered in an old covenant spirit.
As a consequence of the peopleís old covenant promise at Sinai, the
Lord had to "dwell among them," rather than where He
wanted to "dwell," that is, in their hearts, as with their
2 Kings 18:4.
Due to old covenant encouragement to idolatry, Hezekiah had to destroy
Mosesí bronze serpent. 9
Revelation 3:16, 17.
A basic problem in the remnant church is old covenant spiritual pride
and idolatry, and arrogance. 10
Isaiah 50:4, 5; Luke 19:10.
The old covenant idea of "righteousness by faith" majors in
our initiating and maintaining a "relationship" with Jesus;
the new covenant demonstrates that He is initiating and maintaining a
relationship with us, which will succeed if we do not resist Him by
hard-hearted unbelief. 11
2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
The faith that "justified" Abraham was his believing Godís
new covenant promises. Thus the faith that works in "righteousness
by faith" is a heart appreciation of Godís new covenant promise
to the individual believer today: the promise of the new earth as an
"everlasting possession" requires Him to make the believer
righteous, for in "the new heavens and new earth dwelleth
[only] righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).
Isaiah 41:10, 13.
Salvation does not depend on us holding on to Godís hand; but upon our
believing that He is holding on to our hand. The former is old covenant
in nature; the latter is new.
The cleansing of the sanctuary, the latter rain, the loud cry, the
finishing of the gospel commission, embody the ultimate fulfillment of
Godís new covenant promises.
When "the house of David [and] the inhabitants of Jerusalem"
in Laodicea understand their corporate involvement in the crucifixion of
Christ, Godís law will be written in their hearts and minds (see
Zechariah 12:10; 13:1).
Old covenant "righteousness by
faith" has us taking the initiative to promise God to be faithful
and keep our promises. It is essentially the
"faith-plus-works" brand of the gospel. The new covenant has
God more actively involved in our salvation, initiating the entire
process ("from first to last this has been the work of God," 2
Corinthian 5:18, NEB), so that the only reason one can be lost is his
own personal unbelief and resistance and rejection. Old covenant
Adventists fear the new covenant message lest it lower standards of
Law-obedience, unmindful that only "agape is the fulfilling
of the Law," and that all egocentric motivation produces either
lukewarmness or eventual falling-away (Romans 13:10; only "agape
never faileth," 1 Corinthians 13:8).
The truth of the two covenants is part of
the "latter rain" message that would have prepared the church
to proclaim the loud cry message to lighten the earth with glory. It is
impossible for the "grain" in the "harvest" to
"ripen" if this greater Good News concept is absent. The
Seventh-day Adventist Church desperately needs a clear revival and
proclamation of this truth as the Lord in His great mercy sent it
through Jones and Waggoner. Do not fear that the "most
precious" Good News will weaken the devotion of our youth; nothing
else will produce a lasting commitment on their part. Only then can they
sense the motivation to take up the
cross to follow Christ "whithersoever He goeth" ó which
means more than a brief missionary trip to Mexico or Honduras, etc.
| Index of Bible studies | Study
Eight | Articles
"Clear and convincing," "plain light," "the
truth," "brought great relief" (Letters 59, 82, 30,
1890). [return to study]
A mistaken view of Deuteronomy 5:2, 3, 28 gives rise to the view that
God Himself initiated the old covenant, which would mean logically that
He led Israel into spiritual "bondage." The account in Exodus
19:4-8 shows God as seeking to restore the new covenant with Israel. The
only sense in which Moses said that "the Lord our God made ... this
covenant ... with us" is that He was forced to ratify the covenant
that the Israelites had mistakenly initiated. If they would not keep
step with Him, He must humble Himself to keep step with them. Paul was
probably the first to clearly understand what happened: "the
law" had to become "our schoolmaster [pedagogue] bringing
us" on a long detour of centuries until finally we should see the
outworking of the old covenant "that we might be justified by
faith" (Galatians 3:22-24). Godís statement that Israel
"have well spoken all that they have spoken" can only be
understood in the context of the next
verse: their "heart" was not in their words and could not be,
so long as they did not believe Godís new covenant promise. "That
was a great speech! I just wish they had a heart ..." (Deuteronomy
5:28, 29). [return
Steps to Christ, p. 47, says that "the knowledge of our
broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens our confidence in our own
sincerity and causes us to feel that God cannot accept us." This
sense of spiritual failure "genders to bondage," and is as
poison to children and youth. The argument that we must lead children
through the old covenant first is fallacious, because many never get out
of it. They must be taught the new covenant from the first. [return
The Hebrew verb shamar is used in Genesis 2:15 to indicate Adamís
care or cherishing of the Garden of Eden. Thus what the Lord said to
Israel was: "If you will listen to My voice, and cherish My promise
[made to your father Abraham], you will be a special treasure,
See Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, chapters 3, 4. Jones was in full
agreement throughout (see his The Everlasting Gospel of Godís
Everlasting Covenant, July 20, 1907). [return to study]
Godís requirement of obedience must not be construed as a contract
with Israel, else we have God again leading Israel into bondage. In the
new covenant that God made with Abraham the only response He wanted was
for Abraham to "believe in the
Lord" (Genesis 15:6). The essence of "the everlasting
gospel" of the plan of salvation is Godís "faith" or
confidence: when we learn to believe, such "faith works by
love" and produces total obedience. The old and new
covenants ore not dispensational, that is, matters of time. They are
present realities. Many today live under the old covenant; some
anciently lived under the new (as Abraham). [return to study]
The revivals and reformations led by kings of Judah such as Hezekiah and
Josiah were short-lived because they were old covenant in nature. [return
There is no Bible record that God asked Abraham to "pass
between" the divided "pieces" of the animals, and thus
bind himself to this terribly awesome oath that he (Abraham) would be
torn to pieces if he should fail to obey perfectly. In fact, he did
fail; but God did not cut him in pieces! [return
See Exodus 32:1-7. The old covenant promise to obey the ten commandments
functioned as "working wrath" (Romans 4:15) that led the
people to make the golden calf. They were angry with God and with Moses.
Due to the pervasive teaching of the old covenant in the Seventh-day
Adventist Church, we now see that same "wrath" operating in
rebellions of youth and even of Adventist ministers such as Dale
Ratzlaff and Richard Fredericks. [return to study]
Our denominational spiritual pride ("rich and increased with
goods") is old covenant in nature. Dale Ratzlaffís and Richard
Frederickís core idea is based on a false view of the two covenants.
It is sobering to realize that Ratzlaff claims to have gone through the
entire Seventh-day Adventist educational system from elementary school
to Theological Seminary at Andrews University,
yet the evidence indicates that he was never exposed to the 1888 view of
the covenants and of its history. [return to
Again, the 1888 concepts emphasize the much more abounding nature of
grace. [return to study]