Redemptive-Historical Survey: 11 | Exile & New Covenant (LDBC Recap 4/17/16 Pt. 1)

Explanation

logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:

Recap/review

This week we finished our survey of (a) the exile and New Covenant as well as (b) the return from exile. As in previous times when we covered two redemptive-historical stages, we will break them up into two recap posts.

First, we will recap the exile and New Covenant.

Overview of Biblical material

The prophets (Isaiah–Malachi); Esther

  • God speaks through the prophets delivering a message of judgment, namely exile, as a consequence of Israel’s perpetual sin and rebellion (e.g., see 2 Chron 36:15-16).
  • Israel (northern tribes) are taken into captivity (exile) by Assyria. See 2 Kings 7:6-23.
  • Judah (southern tribes) are taken into captivity (exile) by Babylon (eventually taken over by Persia). See 2 Chron 36:15-21.
  • But, nonetheless, God is faithful to his people (e.g., he preserves them from annihilation [Esther]).
  • And through the prophets, not only does he foretell judgment, but he also gives hope of eventual restoration. 

Role within redemptive history

We summarized the role of this stage in redemptive history as follows:

Due to disbelieving disobedience, God’s people—Israel —experience the covenant-bound curses. They experience the opposite of the covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom blessings.

However, God promises a New Covenant in which he will deal with these covenant-bound curses, eradicate his people’s disbelieving disobedience, and thereby finally and actually bring about his new-creational kingdom.

We unpacked this summary by noting the following dimensions or aspects of this summary:

  • God’s people—Israel —experience the covenant-bound curses.

We recalled how the judgment of exile that Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) experienced was the culmination of the Mosaic Covenant curses (see e.g., Deut 28:58, 63-64 and 2 Kings 17:7, 15; Cf. 2 Kgs 17:6-23 and Judah’s fate in 2 Chron 36:15-21). The exile is the pinnacle expression–the full-on version–of the the Mosaic Covenant’s curses for disobedience. In other words, Israel and Judah hit their rock bottom in terms of the struggle with sin and its consequences.

As we discussed the prophets in terms of their role of proclaiming this judgment of exile, we noted that the prophets serve as, what we called, “covenant enforcers.” Although the prophets do foretell (i.e., predict or speak of things that will come in the future), more predominantly they are actually just applying God’s previous revelation–namely, the Mosaic Covenant–to the present situation. The Mosaic Covenant spoke of judgment and curse–namely exile–for disobedience. Israel and Judah were perpetually disobedient. Thus, the prophets apply this covenant to Israel and Judah’s present, sin-bound situation. The prophets foretold of exile based on the previously ratified covenant.

The prophetic proclamation of judgment, thus, is an application of the Mosaic Covenant. And this helps us understand what the prophets are doing. Yes, the prophets are inspired by God; and yes they are foretelling (future-telling) at point. For instance, many times they do carry God’s revelation forward and provide more specific details about his plans and workings. But, in many ways, and much more prominently than not, they are simply bringing the Mosaic Covenant to bear on the current situation.

In short, the prophets speak redemptive-historically. They proclaim a redemptive-historical message. They apply God’s past dealings and revelation to his present and future dealings. They deliver a message rooted in the context of the covenants and God’s dealings with Israel throughout redemptive history.

  • Israel and Judah experience the opposite of the covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom blessings.

For Israel and Judah, the exile meant much more than merely a new geographic location. It even meant more than being conquered by a foreign people, placed in bondage, and enslaved in a new geographic location. It meant God’s disfavor and the loss of any experience of the covenant-bound new-creational kingdom blessings. It was, in fact, the opposite of experiencing God’s new-creational kingdom as we have discussed it. The various elements of this new-creational kingdom (e.g., experiencing God’s presence in God’s place under God’s ruler, etc.) are denied in exile.

Furthermore, we noticed how this exile-experience recapitulates (repeats) the loss of the original creational-kingdom of the Garden of Eden.

  • God’s people are banished from God’s place (Eden // Promised Land).
  • Banished from God’s presence (Eden // Temple destruction [cf. Ezekiel’s opening vision]).
  • God’s people experience God’s curse (the curses of the Mosaic Covenant recapitulate Adam’s experience of the curse of God).

This recapitulation makes a lot of sense when we recall that Israel was appointed to be a corporate Adam. Thus, just as Adam failed, so Israel failed. Just as Adam received God’s curse, so did Israel. In short, just as the promised kingdom to Israel was creational (i.e., following the pattern of Adam’s promised kingdom), so Israel’s curse is of the same pattern as Adam’s fall.

  • Due to disbelieving disobedience…

In other words, the exile (despite maybe our common conception which views the exile largely in physical terms, as a physical, geographical, or national problem) was also a deeply spiritual problem. It was the consequence of the problem of sin.

This point anticipates and makes sense of the New Testament describing Christ’s work of dealing with sin as the end of exile. When Christ deals with sin, thus, he is effecting the end of exile in some already sense because the exile is the consequence and product of such sin.

  • However, God promises a New Covenant in which he will deal with these covenant-bound curses, eradicate his people’s disbelieving disobedience, and thereby finally and actually bring about his new-creational kingdom.

We looked at just a sampling of texts related to the New Covenant. Some key texts for our purposes are Jer 31:31-34 (cf. Heb 10:14-17); Ezek 36:24-28; Hebrews 8:6-7; 2 Cor 3:6; Rom 7:6.

In these texts, one of the key elements is the promise that God will do “spiritual surgery” on his people in order to make them into the faithful, believing people he always intended his people to be. This, the prophets say, will be the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant.

Not only so, but in the New Covenant, God will also clear the people’s guilt. He will forgive their sins. In terms of redemptive history, specifically in mind here when we speak of “guilt” and its judgment or punishment is the curses of the covenant.

Thus we note the strong emphasis in these texts on dealing with the problem of human sin (both its guilt, and its dominance) that has been so central to the predicament throughout redemptive history.

Here we also see the interplay between the conditional (leading to judgment) and unconditional elements (resulting in maintained and further hope) of God’s covenant promises that we have seen all throughout redemptive history.

The fact that Israel and Judah will experience judgment is a result of the conditional element of the covenants. The fact that God in the New Covenant promised to meet those conditions, i.e., by making his people a faithful and obedience people, also relates to the conditional nature of the covenants: God will finally meet these conditions by changing his people into a people that actually meets them. And he will also meet the conditions of the covenant by somehow dealing finally with the guilt of their sins; he will deal with the covenant curses themselves.

But the unconditional foundational nature of the covenants also comes into play here in that Israel and Judah’s unfaithfulness does not thwart God’s redemptive purposes. God has guaranteed their fulfillment. And he will do that fulfilling in this New Covenant.

Thus, the New Covenant is a covenant intended to surpass the Old Covenant (Mosaic Covenant) by overcoming its inherent weaknesses–not that the law or the Mosaic covenant itself was bad, but that the people under it were bad. For example, the Mosaic Covenant resulted in the condemnation of God’s people since they could not keep the law. The New Covenant, on the other hand results not in condemnation but forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of its key elements. Or, again, the Mosaic Covenant could only say what to do; but it could not give the people the ability to do it. The New Covenant, on the other hand, actually turns the command of to obey into something promised: in the New Covenant, one of God’s promises is to turn his people into an obedient people. God actually promises the people’s obedience rather than just requiring it. The New Covenant, through the Spirit’s work, transforms people, gives them spiritual life, and actually makes them able to obey.

“Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands,
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.”

~ Often attributed to John Bunyan.

Summary of hopes bound up with the New Covenant age to come:

  • Forgiveness of sins (think: dealing with the covenant curses).
  • Holy Spirit poured out who causes obedience among God’s people.
  • Restoration to the land.
  • Restoration of creation.
  • Reign of an ultimate Davidic king-Messiah/Christ.
  • Peace, stability, and prosperity.
  • Salvation of God’s remnant (of Israel).
  • Inclusion of Gentiles in these hopes.

In short, the New Covenant aims at the new-creational kingdom.

We can break this down by observing each of the following six elements of the new-creational kingdom as promised by the prophets and associated with the age and arrival of this New Covenant.

  • God’s people –

Jer 24:7 – I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

God will deal with the corruption (or: death) of his people, both their spiritual corruption and their physical corruption.

(a) Spiritual corruption or sinfulness:

Hosea 14:4 – I will heal their apostasy.

 (b) Physical corruption or death:

Isaiah 25:8 – He [God] will swallow up death forever.

Isaiah 26:19 –
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Furthermore, the prophets make clear that Gentiles (i.e., non-Jews) will be included in this end-time Israel, this end-time, new-covenant age, new-creational-kingdom-age people of God.

Zech 2:11 – And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people.

It’s important to note that God’s dealings with Israel in the Old Testament, as we’ve tried to make clear, aren’t simply about Israel herself. God called out Abraham, for example, in order that he and his descendants might be a blessing to all nations. God’s purposes in electing and interacting with Israel (cf. Israel as a corporate Adam and priest-nation to the nations) are rooted in his creational-kingdom purposes for the world and his purpose to restore peoples of all nations and ethnicities. This original creational-kingdom purposes involving all of humanity becomes rather clear with texts like Zech 2:11 where other peoples are included in God’s people; they are said to become a part of God’s new-creational people, a part of this anticipated end-time redeemed Israel.

  • Experiencing God’s presence –

E.g., see Ezekiel 40ff – This final, ultimate experience of God’s presence is, as we might expect, depicted in terms of a grandiose end-time temple. In other words, the prophets speak of God’s presence in terms with which their audience was familiar–a temple. In this new-creational kingdom associated with this New Covenant, God’s end-time people will experience God’s presence in the grandest terms.

  • In God’s place –

The prophets anticipate a return to the Promised Land:

Jer 24:6 – I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up.

But as we’ve noted throughout this series, the Promised Land of Palestine is not the finally aim. It serves as a type rooted in God’s original creational-kingdom design for all of creation to be God’s place for his people (cf. Adam’s mandate to subdue all of their earth and reflect/image God’s rule over all of creation, extending the borders of the Garden over everything). The Promised Land is a new Garden of Eden in this sense pointing us forward to a land as inclusive as creation itself.

Thus, it is no surprise that, as the prophets speak of a return to the land, they also speak of this return-to-land-promise in terms of new creation.

Isaiah 65:17 –
For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.

  • Under God’s rule –

That rule is to be exercised through an ultimate David-King in line with the hopes of the Davidic Covenant.

Jer 23:5-6 – “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

  • Through God’s deliverance –

Just as with Israel’s partial experience of the new-creational kingdom in her past history under the judges and kings (what we might call the “proto-new creational kingdom”)–i.e., just as Israel experienced this new-creational kingdom as a result of God’s work of deliverance, not their own schemes or effort–so this ultimate, final, fully realized new creational kingdom (what we might call the “eschatological [end-time] new-creational kingdom”) will only be brought about through a great redemptive, deliverance-effecting working of God.

And, as we saw with the promise of God’s presence, so here this ultimate, eschatological (end-time) deliverance is spoken of in terms with which Israel would have been familiar. The defining event in Israel’s history was the Exodus. That was God’s primary work of redemption on Israel’s behalf. That was their birth as a nation, so to say. Thus, this new, future, greater work of deliverance is compared to and spoken of in terms of that original Exodus. It will be a New Exodus. Just as the Old Covenant had an Exodus, so too will this New Covenant have a New Exodus. Only this act of deliverance with eclipse the original.

Jer 23:7-8 – “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”

Cf. Jer 16:14-15; Isa 51:9-11; Hos 11:10-11; Mic 7:15-16.

  • By means of mediation –

And, as always, because of the problem of sin and the guilt that comes as a result of sin, this new-creational kingdom is only possible by means of mediation and sacrifice.

For example, in the prophets we get a rather rare reference to a figure who will represent Israel (note the use of Isaiah’s corporate “Servant of YHWH” figure in this text) and who will serve as a guilt offering on their behalf.

Isaiah 53:10-11 –
10 
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

We concluded this section by drawing some final observations:

(1) These promises are equivalent to the end of exile (remember: a physical andspiritual problem). As the exile is in effect the opposite of the new-creational kingdom, so these promises of the new-creational kingdom are promises of the end of exile. When they arrive, in part or in whole, we are experiencing the end of exile to some degree.

(2) As we study the prophets, not only do we notice that there will be a New Covenant, but we also find several other “New,” end-time realities associated with it. Associated with this newcovenant is a new Exodus resulting in a new dwelling in the land (even a new creation), a new temple, a new (i.e., renewed) people of God, a new ultimate Davidic ruler, etc.

(3) Creational-kingdom typology:

We see that the elements of the partial experience of God’s new-creational kingdom in Israel’s history (what we can call the “porto-new creational kingdom”) serve as a pattern for this new, final, end-time salvation work of God that will fully bring about his new-creational kingdom (what we can call the “eschatological [end-time]” or “ultimate new-creational kingdom”).

For example, this final, end-time act of God to deliver his people and bring about the eschatological new-creational kingdom of which the prophets speak (the New Exodus) is modeled on his original act of deliverance (the original Exodus) that brought about what was the partial realization of the new-creational kingdom in Israel’s history (the “proto-new creational kingdom”). The same goes for the theme of covenant (a New Covenant is promised that will surpass the Old Covenant), the experience of God’s presence (this end-time experience of God’s presence is depicted in temple categories), and every other dimension of the new-creational kingdom.

In short, this final, eschatological, fully realized new-creational kingdom is modeled on the pattern of the proto-new creational kingdom, while this porto-new creational kingdom is, of course, modeled on the original creational-kingdom.

Thus: Creational-kingdom pattern → proto-new-creational kingdom pattern → ultimate or fully realized new-creational kingdom

(4) All of these end-time, new-creational kingdom promises associated with this New Covenant belong to what we have called the age to come. These promised elements are characteristics or aspects of this final age to come, an age–as we will soon see–that has already broken in and been partially realized in Christ’s first coming but that awaits its full realization at Christ’s second coming.

(5) Finally, as just mentioned, this New Covenant was inaugurated with Christ’s sacrificial death (Luke 22:19-20 [Cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; 1 Cor 11:25]; Heb 9:18). The New Covenant is the covenant of the Gospel, the covenant of which we are made partakers through faith in Christ. 

And so we conclude with the summary with which we began:

Due to disbelieving disobedience, God’s people—Israel —experience the covenant-bound curses. They experience the opposite of the covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom blessings.

However, God promises a New Covenant in which he will deal with these covenant-bound curses, eradicate his people’s disbelieving disobedience, and thereby finally and actually bring about his new-creational kingdom.

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