Ages and Covenants
This narrative is provided as separate study modules of Biblical ages, dispensations, and covenants. I have made it an independent study because of the past interest in the subject on the previous website. It was the most popular of all my writings. Some groups have placed a link to it from their home website.
It is also part of the prophecy study, which will be added later.
It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. This will be the emphasis of our study as we follow God’s revealed program for the Ages from Genesis to Revelation. The study follows the golden thread of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.
The following outlines give you a broad or macro view of the bible. These are essential for an overall understanding of the Bible and any study of Biblical prophecy. Spend some time studying these outlines and some of the Scripture before you study the detailed commentaries at the end of the study. For a micro view of these studies, read the detailed commentaries at the end of the study. An old cliche says you can’t see the forest for the trees. Perhaps that has happened with many of us as we study the Bible. I pray that we can see both the forest and the trees in this study.
Note: You may click on the Bible links below to view the Scripture. You must press the windows previous window arrow in the upper left corner of the Bible window to return to this site.
The author also believes that at the beginning, God established a timeline that He has been following and will continue to follow until He destroys the old heavens and earth and creates new ones. This timeline is what we call “The Plan of the Ages.” We are told in Scripture that God knew all present and future occurrences from the beginning (Acts 15:18, Isa. 46:10-11). Since He knew all His works from the beginning, He numbered the days. That means that in the timeline of the ages, from the creation of the earth’s foundations through its destruction, God planned what would happen each hour and each day and would see His plan to completion.
The Biblical Dispensations
A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested concerning his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God. (New Scofield Reference Bible p. 3). The word “age” is often used interchangeably with the word “dispensation.” However, they are not quite the same. The word translated as “world” appears thirty-one times in many translations of the Bible and means a block or period of time. The word “dispensation” comes from a word meaning stewardship. “A dispensation is a specific, divine economy, a commitment from God to mankind of a responsibility to discharge that which God has appointed him” (Chafer’s Systematic Theology).
“The dispensations are a progressive and connected revelation of God’s dealings with man, sometimes given to the whole race and at other times to a particular people, Israel. These different dispensations are not separate ways of salvation. During each of them, man is reconciled to God in only one way, i.e. by God’s grace through the work of Christ that was accomplished on the cross and vindicated in His resurrection. Before the cross, mankind was saved in the prospect of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, through believing the revelation thus far given him. Since the cross man has been saved by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ in whom revelation and redemption are consummated” (New Scofield Reference Bible p. 3).
The dispensations have been said to shed more light on God’s message of divine revelation than any other aspect of Biblical study. This is because they begin with a fresh start of promise and end in mankind’s failings.
It is generally recognized that there are seven dispensations given in the Bible. However, there appear to be eight or more ages, with the last ones taking us into eternity. Scofield and Chafer both list the dispensations as Innocence (Gen 1:28); Conscience or Moral Responsibility (Gen 3:7); Human Government (Gen 8:15-17); Promise (Gen 12:1); Law (Ex. 19:1-8); Grace (Acts 2:1-4); Kingdom (Rev 20:4-6).
1. Innocence: Age of Liberty – Begins with the creation of man (Gen 1:26-27) and ends at Genesis 3:6. – Adam and Eve were given the responsibility of being fruitful, having dominion over the creation and living off the fruits and vegetables of the land. It ends in disobedience, with man and woman eating the forbidden fruit.
2. Conscience: Age of Human Determination – Begin with Adam’s and Eve’s eyes being opened, and they knew they were naked (Gen 3:7) and continues until (Gen 8:14-16) the worldwide flood. During this period, sin becomes so bad that God destroys mankind with a great flood. Therefore, man needed more than conscience.
3. Human Government: Covenant with Noah – This dispensation covers the period from Genesis 8:15-17 to Genesis 11:9. During this period, God entered into a new covenant with Noah, established human government, and permitted the people to eat meat. It ends with rebellion and God’s scattering the people over the earth with different languages to walk according to the ways of Satan.
4. Promise: Covenant with Abraham – This dispensation begins in Genesis 11:10 and extends through Exodus 19:2. The following quote summarizes the dispensation well. “The dispensation of promise established clearly the principle of divine sovereignty, provided a channel of special divine revelation to the nation of Israel, continued provision of divine redemption and blessing, revealed the grace of God, and promised a witness to the world. Like the other dispensations, however, it ended in failure as far as bringing conformity to the will of God, and it laid the groundwork for bringing in the law as a schoolmaster to bring believers to Christ (Gal 3:24)” (Chafer/Walvood Major Bible Themes p. 132).
5. Law: The Mosaic Covenant – The dispensation of law begins in Exodus 19:3 and extends to the Cross. However, some believe that the next dispensation did not begin until the day of Pentecost. The Mosaic Covenant was a highly structured and detailed social and religious order given by God for the theocratic reign of God. The commandments, judgments, and ordinances governed the daily life of God’s chosen people. Under the law, the people were to be a light unto the Gentiles and reveal the God of Creation to the world through them. The law also served as a schoolmaster to reveal sin and to bring believers to Christ. They were saved based on a promise and their response to God’s provision for the forgiveness of sin. The Covenant was also a system of shadows and types that looked forward to Christ and His work completed on the cross (See the book of Hebrews). This period ends with a blind Israel rejecting their Messiah.
6. Grace: Age of the Church – The dispensation of grace begins with the day of Pentecost and continues until the rapture of the Church (Rev 4:1). This dispensation was hidden from the Old Testament writers, and the Apostle Paul called it a mystery (Eph 3:1-13). During this age, God is calling out a special people of both Jews and Gentiles to be the bride of Christ. Salvation is by faith in the shed blood of Jesus. Each believer enters into the New Covenant relationship and is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Members of “The church” as the bride of Christ are joint heirs with Christ in His kingdom. They will have a special and unique role in eternity. However, this period will end with rebellion against God and with apostasy in the organized church.
7. Kingdom: The Theocratic Reign of The Messiah – This is the last of the ordered dispensations and begins with Christ’s return to earth to establish His kingdom as King of kings and Lord of lords. This period is also referred to as the millennial period or the thousand-year reign of Christ. Scofield says that: “The millennium is that period of time during which Christ will reign upon the earth, a time of universal peace, prosperity, long life, and prevailing righteousness.” During this period, divine grace is revealed to fulfill the New Covenant’s relationship with God. Satan and demons will be inactive most of the time, and justice will be swift for any rebellion against the King. The Bible says that Christ will rule with an iron rod with justice and righteousness. However, the kingdom will also be a period of failure (Isa. 65:20-22, Zech. 14:16-19, and there will be rebellion at its close (Rev 20:7-9).
This is the final dispensation of testing. At the conclusion, there will be a final judgment where evil is destroyed. However, this is not the end of the ages. There are more ages when we go into eternity with Christ on the throne, reigning over a new heaven and earth.
Note: References for materials used above are from the Scofield Reference Bible, Chafer’s Systematic Theology, and Chafer/Walvood Major Bible Themes.
In the book of Ephesians, we read these words, “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7, NKJV). The original Greek says that there will be multiple ages during eternity. How many we do not know.
The late Dr. Kenneth Wuest, former professor of Greek at the Moody Bible Institute, translates the verse from the Greek as follows: “In order that He might exhibit for His own interest (glory) in the ages that will pile themselves upon one another in continuous succession, the surpassing wealth of His grace in kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Source: Wuest’s Word Studies, Ephesians and Colossians In the Greek New Testament, p 69).
Eternity is a long time, and maybe God will change the landscape occasionally.
The Biblical Covenants
“The covenants contained in the Scriptures are of primary importance to the interpreter of the Word and to the student of Eschatology [a study of Biblical prophecy]. God’s eschatological program is determined and prescribed by these covenants, and one’s eschatological system is determined and limited by their interpretation. These covenants must be studied diligently as the basis of Biblical Eschatology.”
The primary Biblical Covenants of the Bible are primarily between God and Israel. “This study, then, is not occupied with the covenants contained in Reformed theology [what is called Covenant theology], but rather with the determinative covenants set forth in the Scriptures” (“THINGS TO COME” by Dwight D. Pentecost).
“It must be observed at the very outset of this study that the Biblical covenants are quite different from the theological covenants posited by the Covenant theologian. He sees the ages of history as the development of a covenant made between God and sinners, by which God would save, through the value of the death of Christ, all who come to Him by faith”. ‘While there is much in the position of the Covenant theologian that is in agreement with Scripture, Covenant theology is woefully inadequate to explain the Scriptures eschatologically, for it ignores the great field of the Biblical covenants which determine the whole eschatological program” (Dwight D. Pentecost).
The covenants of God contained in Scripture fall into two classes, those that are conditional and those that are unconditional. A conditional covenant is one in which God’s action responds to some action from those to whom the covenant is addressed. A conditional covenant guarantees that God will do His part with absolute certainty when human requirements are met. Still, if man fails, God is not obligated to fulfill His covenant.
While it may include certain human contingencies, an unconditional covenant declares God’s certain purpose. The promises of an unconditional covenant are distinguished from a conditional covenant because God promises its ultimate fulfillment and depends upon God’s power and sovereignty.
There are eight biblical covenants given in the Bible. They are: Edenic (Gen. 2:16); Adamic (Gen. 3:15; Noahic (Gen. 9:16); Abrahamic (Gen. 12:2); Mosaic (Ex. 19:5); Palestinian (Dt.30:3); Davidic (2 Sam. 7:16); and New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). Six are unconditional, and two are conditional. In our study, we will determine which are conditional and which are unconditional.
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The Edenic covenant, a test of obedience, was God’s first covenant with man. It is the first general or universal covenants – Gen 1:26-31, 2:16-17.
The Adamic covenant was made with mankind after the fall – Gen. 3:14-19.
This is the covenant in which God declares to man what his lot in life will be because of his sin. There is no appeal allowed, nor is any human responsibility involved.
- Serpent used of Satan is cursed – Gen. 3:14; Rom. 16:20; 2 Cor. 11:3,14, and Rev. 12:9.
- The promise of a redeemer is given – Gen. 3:15.
- Place of woman and man – Gen. 1:26-27; 1 Cor.. 11:7-9; Eph. 5:22-25; and 1 Tim. 2:11-14.
- Man will henceforth earn his bread by the sweat of his brow – Compare Gen. 2:15 and 3:17-19.
- Mankind’s life was to be sorrowful and would end with death – Gen. 3:19, Eph 2:5.
The Noahic covenant was made with Noah and his sons – Gen. 8:21 – 9:18.
This covenant, while repeating some of the features of the Adamic covenant, introduced a new principle of human government as a means to curb sin. In addition, it revealed God’s purpose for the race after Noah.
- The standard order of nature was reaffirmed – Gen. 8:22; 9:2.
- Mankind was permitted to eat the flesh of animals – Gen. 9:3-4.
- Mankind was to have dominion over mankind (human Government) – Gen. 9:5-6. (see Romans 13:1-7)
- Prophecy concerning the descendants of his three sons – Gen. 9:25-27
- Beginning of the Gentile Nations (not part of the covenant)– Gen. 10:1 – 11:32.
- Man’s failure at Babel (False Religion and Government under Satan) – Gen. 10:8-10, Gen. 11:1-9.
- God confused their tongues and scattered the Nations – Gen. 10:31-32, Acts 14:16.
- Judgement and destruction of Babylon (Babel) – Biblical symbol of evil – Isa. 13:1 – 14:23; Dan. 2:1-44, Rev. 17:1 – 18:24.
The Abrahamic covenant is one of the great revelations of God concerning future history, and in it, profound promises were given. It was the first theocratic covenant (about the rule of God) and was unconditional. – Gen. 12:1-4, 13:14-17, 15:1-7; 18-21, 17:1-8, 22:15-18, 26:1-5, 28:13-15 and Lev 26:40-46.
The promise of a great nation: (1) Everlasting possession of the land is promised to Israel – Gen. 12:2, 17:8; (2) Everlasting covenant given – Gen. 17:7; (3) “I will be their God” – Gen. 17:8; (4) Abraham was also promised that he would father other nations – Gen. 17:6,20.
Four personal promises are given to Abraham:
- To be the father of many descendants – Gen 17:16;
- To receive personal blessings – Gen. 13:14-17, 15:18, 24:34-35; Gen. 15:6 and John 8:56;
- To receive personal honor, “make your name great” – Gen. 12:2;
- To be a channel of blessing – Gen. 12:2, Rom. 4:1-22, and Gal. 3:16.
- Promises to the Gentiles: “I will bless them that bless thee” – Gen. 12:3.
NOTE: The other four covenants, Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants, are additional promises of God in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. They are all theocratic covenants.
The Mosaic covenant was given through Moses for the children of Israel. It was a conditional covenant and embodied the principle that if Israel was obedient, God would bless them, but if Israel were disobedient, God would curse and discipline them. The Mosaic covenant was also temporary and would terminate at the cross of Christ. It is the second theocratic covenant.
- The promises (marriage vows – Ex. 19:5-8) – (Israel enters a husband/wife relationship with God) – Hos. 2:14-23).
- The commandments, containing the express will of God as to their moral life – Ex. 20:1-6.
- The judgments relating to Israel’s social and civic life – Ex. 21:1 – 24:11.
- The ordinances governing the religious life of Israel – Ex. 24:12 – 31:18.
- Israel’s apostasy – God’s forgiveness – Ex. 32:1-13.
Conditions of blessings, warnings of chastisement, and God’s promise that the Abrahamic covenant will remain forever – Lev. 26:1-46, (emphases Lev. 26:40-46).
The Palestinian covenant was conditional and unconditional regarding Israel’s possession of the land. Israel would retain possession of the land if they obeyed God’s laws. However, the promise of future ownership of the land was unconditional. This is the third theocratic covenant. – Dt. 29:10-15, 30:11-20).
- Israel’s dispersion for unbelief and disobedience (conditional) – Gen. 15:13 and Dt. 28:63-68.
- Times of repentance and restoration – Dt. 30:2.
- The re-gathering of Israel – Dt. 30:3, Jer. 23:8, 30:3, 31:10, Ez. 39:25-29, Amos 9:11-15.
- Israel’s restoration to the land – Isa. 11:11-12, Jer. 23:3-8, Ez. 37:21-25, Amos 9:11-15.
- Israel’s spiritual conversion and national restoration – Isa. 45:15-25, Isa. 66:7-9, Hos. 2:14-23, Zech. 12:10 and Rom. 11:26-27.
- Israel’s ultimate safety and prosperity as a nation – Amos 9:11-15.
- Divine judgment of the nations – Isa. 2:4, 14:1-2, Joel 3:1-17, Matt. 25:31-46.
The Davidic covenant was unconditional in which God promised David an unending royal lineage, a throne, and a Kingdom, all of them forever. – It is the fourth theocratic covenant. 2 Sam. 7:12-16, 1 Chr. 17:1-15.
- Guarantees an everlasting throne – 2 Sam. 7:16, Ps. 89:34-36, 1 Kings 9:5, 11:31-36.
- An everlasting King – Jer. 33:15-21.
- An everlasting Kingdom – Dan. 7:13-14, Ezek. 37:24-28.
- Christ the eternal Son of God and son of David, the rightful heir to the throne – Luke 1:31-33.
- Christ’s reign – Isa. 9:6-7.
- His Kingdom will replace all other Kingdoms – Dan. 2:31-45.
- The Kingdom under the reign of Christ – Isa. 11:1-10, Acts 15:15-16.
The new covenant prophesied in the Old Testament was partially fulfilled in the Church (a mystery – Acts 15:6-16, Eph. 3:1-7) but will have a final fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. This unconditional covenant is the fifth theocratic convent – Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 36:24-28, Joel 2:28-29, Heb. 8:7-10:18 (Key 10:16).
The new covenant guarantees that all that God proposes to do for men will be on the grounds of the shed blood of His Son. This may be in two aspects:
- That He will save, preserve, and present in heaven, conformed to His Son, who have believed and received Christ – 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, Gal. 3:13-18, 26-29 and Phil. 1:6.
- The future salvation of Israel is promised under the unconditional new covenant – Rom. 11:26-27, Ez. 20:37, Zech.13:8-9, Zech. 12:10.
Commentaries on the Covenants
There is no commentary on the Edenic Covenant. We will began with the Adamic Covenant.
The following commentaries are given in separate study modules for ease of reading. Select the one you want to read and th
Commentaries on the Covenants
The following commentaries are given in separate study modules for ease of reading. Select the one you want to read and the study modules will appear in a separate window. You may click to return to this site menu.
Click the commentary below that you wish to study.
- The Adamic Covenant
- The Noahic Covenant
- The Abrahamic Covenant
- The Mosaic Covenant
- The Palestinian Covenant
- The Davidic Covenant
- The New Covenant
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