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The Main Points of the Doctrine of the Covenant

The Main Points of the Doctrine of the Covenant.doc

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The Main Points of the Doctrine of the Covenant

A speech given by Professor Dr. K.  Schilder in the Waalsche Kerk at Delft, the Netherlands on August 31, 1944.

This is a translation of a speech I attended in the Netherlands, and which was held in several places during 1944 and 1945, at the time of the Liberation of the Gereformeerde Kerken from the so-called Synodical Churches. One of the issues being debated at the time was the doctrine of the Covenant.  In this speech Professor Dr. K. Schilder gives an outline on what he and his reformed contemporaries confessed to be the Scriptural view of the Covenant. Considering that this topic is of ongoing interest, this speech has been translated from an uncorrected stenographic recording of Professor Dr. K. Schilder’s speech as it was held in the Waalsche Kerk at Delft, the Netherlands, on August 31, 1944.  In my opinion this speech gives an insightful and powerful presentation on that one covenant of grace as revealed by God in His Word.
Teun vanLaar, 1992

What covenant do we intend to discuss in this presentation?  Generally speaking, it is the covenant between God on the one side, and his people on the other side; between God and the believers and their children, or between God and Abraham and his seed.

We all know that the covenant exists, just as surely as we know that Scripture exists, and that our living and thinking is determined by it. Nevertheless, differences of opinion have appeared in the church lately on the question: with whom is this covenant actually made? 

We can be thankful that this debate has raised people’s interest in the covenant, even though it is disappointing to see that people have tried to resolve the differences in an improper manner, causing more than one back to be struck with the stick of a particular view of the doctrine

All religion stands or falls with the covenant.  According to Dr. H. Bavinck religion is always a matter of a covenant relationship; there is no religion and no service of God possible if it is not practised in the form of a covenant.

First of all, let us all agree on one thing: we must believe in the reality of the covenant.  Some people say, also some in the Church, that even though we speak of a covenant, it is still not a real thing. For how can the great God have a covenant with puny man? It is just as foolish as having a covenant between a giant and a child in a crib. It is just as impossible as having a marriage covenant between a grown man and a small newborn child.

Indeed, how can a man and a cow seal a covenant?  An animal and (as it is incorrectly stated) a reasonable moral being, such as a man, are not equal parties. 

We can respond by agreeing that this is correct.  There is indeed a difference between a giant and a suckling child, between a man and a newborn child, between a human being and a cow.  Yet these differences are still relative, because both are created and therefore dependent on God. They are created by God. Both of them are creatures, and the difference can still be measured.

But the difference between God and man, on the other hand, as it is correctly pointed out by some, is simply immeasurable; this difference is infinitely greater than between a giant and a youngster, between an adult and a newborn child, between a man and a cow. Indeed, with God and man we have a totally different distinction. 

That’s why it is so foolish, according to some, to speak of a real covenant between God and man, because man has been created by God, and his every breath and deed depend every moment on God.  Therefore man cannot be a party with God.  It’s true, they say, that in Scripture there is often spoken of the covenant, but that is then only in a figurative sense, not in a real sense. There is really no covenant because there are no parties.

With these arguments we find ourselves right in the middle of a reality. In fact, we say to those who speak in the manner as stated above, that they are completely correct. For if we ever receive a doctrine of the covenant that would diminish the difference between God and man, such a doctrine would be fundamentally wrong. There may not be a doctrine of the covenant that does not fully maintain this difference in determining each relationship between God and man. But must we then say that the covenant is not actually real?

No, we do not need to say this, for the covenant is still very real. Indeed, we ask, how can this be?  We answer this with the well known, and at the same time, thoroughly pious word: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” 

Indeed, we cannot enter this covenant from our side; we cannot say to God: “Come to me! You and I, and my children, must, at my initiative, sit down at the table to make an agreement.” Perish the thought!

God is in heaven and we are on earth. It is impossible that we from our side, as mere people, can present God with an agreement. At an invitation from us there will never be a covenant with God. But again, what then is impossible with man is possible with God. It is because God has taken the initiative and has revealed the reasons to create a covenant relationship, that we are able to speak of a covenant

He did two things.  He created man, and He announced to him that He had also established a covenant with him. It is not as if God had created man and that then those two (God and man) would find it mutually possible to establish a covenant. No, God created man and at the same time also created a special relationship between man and Himself. 

The fact that the covenant is created, rooted in God’s will to create it, is what makes this covenant possible. This also makes it possible for God to begin a lawsuit with man (Micah 6).  He speaks to him at His tribunal, before the Covenant-court: “My people, what have I done to you?  And how have I burdened you?  Answer Me.”

From our side it may seem absurd that God begins a lawsuit with us (a giant with a man), but if God from His side makes a covenant relationship between Himself on the one side and man on the other side, then it is possible. Then there is a legal relationship; then there is both blessing and (covenantal) curse; then He lures with a promise or threatens with a (covenantal) punishment.

Indeed, a small child cannot invite a giant to work out a covenant relationship with him, but a giant can say: “I will adopt that newborn suckling. To that end I will give that child an understanding, a will, and an inclination, as well as deeds flowing from these, so that as the child grows up it is able to become the other party.”

In this we see a flash of the power with which God says: “You, O man, are a party beside Me.”  Here we hear the mighty word of the prophet thundering through the church building: “For your Maker is your husband.” (Isaiah 54:5) 

Not a single man on earth can say that of his wife.  Not one can say, your Creator, your Begetter, your Maker is your husband.  When a man is a begetter, he is a father, and the two of them cannot marry each other, because father and daughter are not equal parties. 

It occurs here and only here; God is our Maker; He is hundreds of times more a begetter than we can say a father is, and still at the same time He is able to say, “I am your Husband,” that is, I make not only you, but also make a relationship between you and Me that is called a covenant.  That is why the covenant is just as real as a cow in the pasture, and a child in a crib, and a pew in the church, and the cloth of this upholstered chair. The bond is created by God and is therefore real and genuine. Therefore, we reject the idea that speaking about the covenant is figurative.

At the same time we can still learn something from the theory that suggests that it is only figurative. For, even though the covenant is real and truly exists, we must acknowledge that we will not be able to say everything about it, and not be able to understand it thoroughly. 

Since the two parties are the little man and the infinite God, we will not be able to explain it completely and precisely in human language. God Himself cannot do that either. He can not use human language in order to convey completely and precisely all that is contained in the covenant.

And why can He not do so? He cannot do so because God has bound Himself to His own works.  We people, with our finite understanding, can only know finite words, finite concepts, and finite linguistic terms, so that we can never imagine or understand infinite reality. 

Thus, God was faced with a choice between two possibilities. To state in a perfect, pure and holy manner, that is, in His own divine manner, what that covenant is, being able to express Himself in an infinite treasure of words, as He is able to do in heaven. But, since we are unable to understand heavenly language, He has chosen the other possibility and therefore speaks to us in a human language. In the Bible God then uses words that we all know, otherwise we would not understand.

He has to speak about this unique relationship with non-unique words. On earth many covenants are sealed; young persons become engaged and seal a marriage; kings sign offensive and defensive treaties; countries make all kinds of agreements. Among people, covenants of every kind are made. And in order to help us understand God has served Himself with the use of common words on this extraordinary matter.

Since God has made use of human language, we now must try, by what the Bible weaves around it, to draw from the word “covenant” the idea that God intends to convey, so that in that way we may come, on the basis of what the Bible says, to a proper view on the covenant.

With our view on the covenant we must begin with the question: what is normally the hallmark of a covenant?  It is this: in a covenant more than one party comes to the fore; two or three or more parties, who bind each other to an agreement.  We see this, for instance, in an engagement.  In an engagement free people say to each other, “yes, I do!”  There is a promise between two parties.  Each covenant is real only when an agreement is reached between the parties. 

Sometimes the word covenant is also used when a binding between two parties lacks the confirmation of a “yes!” God sealed a covenant with the earth, with corn and wine, with the rain, so that there will be much fruit in the hand of the owner, or that the water will not again destroy the earth, or that the earth will be consumed by fire.  In such cases the word covenant is indeed used figuratively, for the party earth, with that corn, water, and fire, cannot say “yes”. The Bible then also speaks of a covenant when it is a matter between God and a created thing that is unable to desire, think or say “yes.” In such situations God speaks by means of a comparison to indicate that something is firm, is decided upon, and cannot be changed.

A covenant is put on paper, is established and sealed with a signet ring, and in every case officially confirmed.  Thus, at times, God says that He makes a covenant with the earth, the sun, or with some other thing, because it is something that is established and cannot be changed. 

This is not the case with man. Each covenant that God establishes with man comes after creation. Before the creation there was room for the covenant in God’s plans, but the sealing of such a covenant comes only after there is something else that is not God. That is why the covenant is there only after creation, or to say it in the language of the Catechism: He upholds and governs it, two concepts that express God’s providence.

To uphold tells us that God, ever since Genesis 1:1, has upheld all the things that presently exist. That’s how the water in the ditch, the bricks of the church manifests the continuation of Genesis 1:1. For it was at that time that God created the water and the materials for bricks. In each created thing there is today a link with Genesis 1:1.

To govern tells us that God is moving forward in such a way that all the things created in Genesis 1:1 will reach their intended goal, the goal of Revelation 22:21. “Upholding” then comes from the “Alpha” and governing” means that what is present will reach the “Omega.” Thus, each providential deed is a deed between the alpha and the omega, between the beginning and the end. There is then a connection with the beginning and a connection toward the consummation of all things.

It should be clear that God can never deny His work.  He feeds and upholds and governs. Each covenant which God makes comes after creation, and builds on what there was already. Thus this covenant is truly natural, in the sense of joining itself in the world to what exists. A cow remains a cow, but a man also remains a man.  A cow is made without responsibility to God’s moral laws! 

Therefore, the covenant between God and man has to be connected to man’s responsibility.  Every argument that reduces the covenant to an abstraction – something that is also done by many synodicals around the time of the Liberation (1944) – is robbing the covenant of its content.

In the covenant the reality is that we are made responsible. This responsibility must be understood as real and must be taken into account.  This must be done fully and generously, otherwise the covenant will be robbed of its content. 

A magazine has recently stated that we (who are of the Liberated churches] are robbing the covenant of its content.  However, those who are saying this are more inclined to do so themselves.  When they point to our emphasis on “responsibility” they say it becomes moralizing, and then no one will know of a covenant blessing.  They insist that the covenant means election and that one must not speak of the threat of God’s wrath when one breaks up the covenant. According to them, this wrath does not exist. But we say that all such reasoning does indeed rob the covenant of a primary call, man’s call to responsibility. By denying this given responsibility, they devalue the covenant in its entirety, because they deny that the covenant originates from the time of creation, and that it unfolds in man the fullness of its riches.

Every covenant causes the parties to develop to their full glory, just as an engagement develops into a marriage, as a man develops into a father and a woman into a mother and as the marriage comes to its purpose when both parties in the two-fold relationship come to full development. 

When God as party on the one side and man as party on the other side enter into a covenant, there will also be a development.  God cannot develop in Himself because He is an infinite, holy being, but He does unfold Himself in His revelation.  In uncovering Himself before man’s eyes He is unfolding Himself.  The covenant makes Him rich in His revelation, in which He as the Creator reveals Himself as the Re-Creator, as the Father, who can make and break us, but who also pulls us out of the mire into which we have sunk because of our sins, and now never breaks us again. Every day He becomes more beautiful to behold. 

Man also unfolds himself in the covenant. Out of him appears what is present within him, either in saying “yes” to God, or in rebellion revealing himself against God as a covenant breaker. Man stands only in his own natural position when he is in a relationship with God, from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet, before the fall thanks to God’s favour, and after the fall thanks to God’s undeserved grace (forfeited favour – TVL).

This is actually the answer to the question on the position of the parties in the covenant. Some say, that the covenant is one-sided; It cannot be two-sided because God is first and He is last as well; God is God and can never be treated as a created being; God and man are not equal.  Therefore, they say, the covenant can only be a one-sided act of God. He begins with it and He also establishes the terms, etc.

Far be it from us to deny this one sidedness of the covenant. We readily and totally agree that it is God alone who devises and establishes the covenant. However, that is the very reason why it can then also be two-sided. Indeed, I cannot do it; but God can. He can make it two-sided if it so pleases Him, by placing me in a covenant relationship.

This is the context of God’s pre-eminent constitutional responsibility; otherwise the covenant would be brought back to before the creation, which is impossible. It is God who has made the covenant two-sided. He has made me the other party, even though I am not His equal. It is God who has conceived me and made me a party. 

He has considered this in His decision before creation, and has after creation made me a responsible party, and in order to activate my will has made this fact known to me in His declaration to father Adam in Paradise. 

Thus, there are two parties. They are really there.  By God’s power and will there is that typical relationship called a covenant relationship, and which then also reveals a two-way street. There is a way from Him to me, and a way from me to Him.

Those who say that the covenant is purely one-sided see only one direction in this relationship (that from God to man), but not that from man to God. Indeed, such a one-sided covenant has been made with the sun, or with the spring, but not so with man. If man is made a responsible creature and is called to act according to independent thought, as an independent being, as a real person, then the covenant, in keeping with the nature of man, becomes a two way street. 

This covenant is characterized by two parts. At baptism we are told that every covenant contains two parts. The two parts (not parties) are: in the first place, the promise, and in the second place, the obligation.  That’s how it is also in a marriage: the young man promises something to the girl, and he demands something from her as well. This is also true in reverse: the girl demands something from the man, what he has promised, and promises what he demands. Thus, when A promises something to B and B demands that of A, and at the same time B demands something from A and A promises that to B, the covenant has been sealed in both its parts.  With God and me it is then as follows: God promises something to man and man may demand something from God (See Psalm 81: “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”), and I must promise something to God, which He may demand of me.

Without these parts the covenant is a dead thing.  The covenant lives only through a promise and a demand. We may never separate those two. 
These days there are those who say that God has chosen His covenant-children from eternity. According to them, God promises them His grace but only where he pours it out there man is actually in the covenant. That’s how they come to speak of an internal and external covenant. Only the internal covenant is real. They say the covenant from the Lord’s side, comes as a complete gift of election, of eternal salvation. That and that only is the covenant.

To which we say, no! We will never be able to accept that. Those who describe the promise in that way and in that way remove the demand of the covenant are robbing the covenant of its very significance.

They in turn say to us, you are hollowing out the covenant by speaking to the people in a manner of “you must, and you shall!” You are making a song of labour out of the covenant; you are making a “preaching of the law” out of it.

Indeed, if it is true that we allow the covenant to become a matter of preaching the law or a matter of advancing a theory of morals, the allegation would be completely just.

There are two groups who run the danger of hollowing out the covenant, those who preach the promise but push the demand into the background, and those who stress the demand but neglect to stress the sweet music of the promise. Both have then slipped away from the covenant.

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. It would be wrong, whether it comes from the inside or outside of a Synod, or from a minister’s study. When God, before or after the fall, promises something in the context of a covenant there will also be His demands. No less that an oyster grows outside its shell, no less the promise may be peeled out of the shell of the demand. If God, then, proclaims His covenant demand it will never be an empty proclamation because it will always be accompanied by His covenant promise. He says “I am the LORD, your (covenant) God . . .” and then He follows through with those ten long words in which sound forth that booming music: “You shall.” 

But before He does so, He also says yet, “. . . who has brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Therefore we do not want to speak of a covenant as being a real covenant only if it touches exclusively the elect. Such a covenant cannot exist because a covenant has two parts: a promise and a demand. When something is promised, then something is stated to which the other party must respond with a clear and resounding “yes!”

He who demands does not force his will on the other, but says or writes what he asks of the other.  For, when is an individual person ever addressed as an elect or a chosen person!  Never!  The children are baptized with a formula in which the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit promise them something and demand something of them.  For all the children there is only the one Form for Baptism, with the same demand. There is no separate promise, either in spoken words or written with the ink of Scripture, that is addressed exclusively to a specific person as elected.

There is no doubt that God thinks of the elect; He thinks of them for their good, and what He thinks is indeed the bone and marrow of the covenant: His glorious promise.  But what He says at baptism is not that He establishes His covenant with a specific person as one of the elect.

At baptism it is not said to a specific person that he is a chosen one, one of the elect. Election is a matter thought of only in God’s (eternal) counsel.  The covenant does not originate in what God thinks, for in His thinking there is neither promise nor demand.  God’s counsel was also not a spoken or written matter. If the covenant depends on election then a covenant child must be addressed as such in the language of Scripture or of the church in the quality of being a covenant child. But that kind of promise to the elect does not exist; there is no promise written personally or individually to a specific person. 

Here we see the hollowing out of the covenant and also of the promise.  When people speak of the promise to the elect, and claim that it is the real promise, it is as if they are trying to measure the size of a cloud with a pair of dividers.

The covenant is with people on earth.  Here, on earth, God speaks, and He demands on Sinai, on Horeb, and via Paul, from his prison table, writing his letters. It is here that God speaks and writes of His promise and demand. Therefore, we must speak of hollowing out the covenant (robbing it of its character and content – TVL), when people theorize that the actual covenant promise is not for the non-elect but that this promise is real only for the elect. 

Please, tell me when or where a specific person is addressed as elect, with a special formula, for I do not know.  I cannot imagine any promise that has not been promised but is only an imaginary idea.

Our thoughts must be led by the fact that both promise and demand are the two parts of every covenant.  The covenant is established with the believers and their seed, and that is according to God’s own word! 

There are those who do not say “yes” to those words and in that way manifest themselves as those who are falling away. And there are those who do say “yes” (Yes, LORD, here I am!) God has thought of them differently, according to what John Calvin called the awe-inspiring decree of election and reprobation. However, what God thinks to Himself is for Him, only what He says is for me!

It is only the latter that concerns the covenant, and that is why all believers with their children are real covenant children, and that is why they are really baptised; if only we accept that we can throw the anchor only into the river that is navigable for the church and have it catch into the firm ground of God’s spoken word. 

If a believer thinks “I am baptized, and starts to ask what use is that to me; it might have been a mistake; perhaps, it was not a real baptism (only some drops of water), he will never find rest. But what is promised and demanded you may consider as something that you have coming to you, as a right, and that gives certainty.

For a heathen child the covenant is something strange.  However, a baptized child has received that grace and that demand, that he is allowed to have, that have been promised, and that with his saying “yes” have already become his eternal possession.

Still, people object. They say that in this way man must again do something from his side. Is not in this way man addressed with a condition?  Due to this kind of reasoning a church-paper published a report on a speech which spoke of a third view of the covenant, namely, that there was only one condition man had to meet. To that I answer quietly that what I have just stated has been the ongoing view of all Reformed theologians throughout the ages. 

These critics speak in their dogmatic of conditions being made with respect to the covenant, that the promise does not come to man if it is not accepted in faith.  That’s how it is concluded that in this way you are actually speaking like a Remonstrant, because the Remonstrants teach that faith is the condition for salvation.

No, no, we respond!  You must watch out.  The Remonstrants teach that man must make that good work of faith the ground for salvation (i.e. the faith as foreseen by God and seen by the Remonstrants as the ground for salvation).

We do not teach this.  We believe that God makes and devises everything; that God has also created my faith, my saying “yes.” Any good that comes from me is God’s gift and is from Him alone!  Still, we are called to speak of conditions: I will not receive it if I do not comply with the demand – faith is the first demand.

The Catechism says that for the first commandment God demands faith, and for the second one faith, and for the third one faith.  Promise and demand are, in the service of God, very closely connected together.  God does not say “I promise you” as a special decree, but He speaks to me with a concrete condition: immediately the demand of faith is put forward. 

Promise and demand belong together; the two are one.  Therefore, God chooses a form that speaks of a condition but not that I have to earn salvation with my faith.  No, God is silent on the question whether a specific person will receive faith by way of election, or whether such a specific person will be one of the elect later in life. God is totally silent about the question whether I am one of the elect. He speaks to me with a living voice, about a promise and a demand: the good lies in the promise; if you accept the promise then it is for you. 

The order in the concepts of the covenant is so beautiful: the children are sanctified in Christ; the Holy Spirit will sanctify them; through the promise of the washing away of their sins through the blood of Christ they have the right to righteousness, and that’s how the Spirit wishes to continuously sanctify them, so that they increasingly, and more and more earnestly say “yes” to God. 

Thus, we must leave the things stand in their proper order, in their given connection, and let God speak in a conditional manner.  Let us never speculate on the question whether I am elected!  My saying “yes” is evidence of my election, because the fruit, that simply saying “yes,” is from Him.

For these reasons we uphold the unity of the parties and the unity of the parts of the covenant.  The covenant has only one history; people do speak of a covenant of works and a covenant of grace, as if there are two covenants, but that in fact is not correct.  God and man are in a covenant from the beginning by a creation decree of God.

In the beginning God and man stood in a relationship of friends without Christ as the “Christ.”  Christ, with the shedding of His blood appears for the first time after the fall.  When God, after the fall, wished to maintain the covenant that had been broken from man’s side, He appears as the Re-creator by restoring the covenant through Jesus Christ.

Christ says “I will stand in the breach by fulfilling the demand of the covenant, and bear the punishment for the breaking of the covenant and the demand,” so that He gives man again the promise of eternal life. 

Jesus Christ died because of the covenant.  In this we see the covenant in its horror: on Golgotha the covenant breaking is punished.  But Golgotha also makes the right to eternal life available again, and that’s how through Jesus Christ the second phase of the covenant begins, the covenant of grace. Still, the old relationship remains; God and man were friends; first without Christ as the “Christ” but now through grace with Christ as the “Christ.”

That’s how God’s revelations has become immediately much richer, due to the fact that God, who before the fall revealed Himself as the God of creation, now also has appeared as the God of re-creation. He becomes richer in His virtue of grace and in His virtue of just and righteous dealings; God is revealed in all his virtues of grace and justice.

Some say, (and the Synod of 1944 is really pushing this idea), “No, this cannot be true. The covenant knows only God from His friendly side; the covenant is a covenant of grace, and therefore when one speaks of God’s justice he is hollowing out the covenant and he is making a legal matter out of it.”

Indeed, we say, of course, for that’s what it is, as long as it remains a Divine lawsuit.  If God is justice and mercy, then we know the existence of only one covenant. If there is no justice, then the embracing love of God will also not come to us.  With the enforcement of justice, through which all the children receive the promise, God is grace. God cannot be cut into pieces: in so many percent grace, and so many percent justice.  God is always one hundred percent grace and one hundred percent justice.  Woe to the poor person who calculates the attributes of God in percentages!  In everything that He is, He is one hundred percent. He encompasses the framework of justice, but also the framework of grace in the covenant. 

In the second phase of the covenant, after the fall, grace becomes more decisively grace; history shows us how grace is established until the coming of Christ and the Spirit of Pentecost. 

The covenant of grace administers grace.  Therefore the punishment is that much greater for him who defiles this covenant.  Even the hellish punishment is determined by the covenant of grace.  This is because promise and demand are the two parts; with the promise comes something else, and with the demand as well. With the promise comes as extra the prospect of a reward, and with the demand comes as extra the threat of a punishment; if you do this you shall live; if you do not do this the wrath of the LORD will be terrible. 

The covenant uses pleasant words as well as harsh words. In it we hear the noble strings of God’s mercy, but we also hear the thunder of God’s anger, and these are never to be separated.  Not even in heaven, for in heaven, at the sea of glass, they sing their Hallelujahs when the smoke goes up in all eternity; through the glass we see there the smoke and say Hallelujah also because of the justice that is evident in the smoke.  This manifests one hundred percent reverence for God in his unity. 

Men say unjustly that we hollow out the covenant. They say that only the promise belongs to the essence of the covenant, otherwise it would not be a covenant of grace.  We say, of course, but that is exactly why there is wrath for those who say “no” to God and disdain His promise. 

Sometimes they also say that the wrath only occurs in the Old Testament, and falls away in the New Testament. But that brings them into all kinds of difficulties.  For Israel it only begins at Sinai but the covenant was there long before Moses.  Was there then no wrath from Adam to Moses?

The Scripture begins with Moses, but wrath began with the flood. The wrath of God becomes apparent in heaven, where His every virtue is revealed in its indivisible nature by means of the New Testament, which makes everything richer, both the grace and the wrath (see Romans 22:20-22, Heb 10:28-31, Heb 12:25). 

We must accept it all, the reward that attracts, and the punishment which threatens.  These two, the law and gospel, and both are to the glory of God, the God who reaches His glory in the radiation of His Being. 

Thus the covenant comes into being in the first conversation with man after creation; and it shall find its fullness as it develops and comes to its historic end when the day of days comes.  But even after that day it will remain and will appear in all the places of God’s dominion: in the new heaven and on the new earth and in hell as well. In hell there will be all the covenant breakers. Each one will be there as a covenant breaker. 

There are people who have had no contact with the covenant of grace. These will be beaten with few blows, but those who have rejected the covenant will be beaten with many blows. In Adam all people are covenant breakers, and the punishment of hell is covenant punishment. God is there as Covenant God.

Just as in a country where law and order exist and where prison is the instrument by which the glory of the head of state of that country is seen and radiates, likewise in hell the glory of the Head of the State will radiate, of God Himself, who is God of the covenant, even with respect to the revelation of hell.

As to heaven and earth the covenant will exist there, not only in traces and reminders of creation, but it will be there in a living and powerful way. There is God, who eternally says “yes,” and there is man, who produces that “yes.”

There will be, side by side, the permanent promise and the continuous demand of the covenant. Neither party will be able to bring about a breach in the covenant.

The Head of the covenant is God Himself, the LORD, and before the eyes of His surprised church, and before God Himself, there will be Christ for all to see as the Mediator of the covenant. In that age it will become evident who the believers are, and their seed, but at the same time it will become evident that God, in the way of promise and demand, through His word and deed, fulfils His counsel.  The covenant will appear there as the revealed way along which God has made the curse the worse for the rejected ones and the blessing the greater for all His chosen ones.

We will also see there that for each one of those who have accepted the covenant here in time the entry into heaven has brought still richer promises than the old covenant stipulations themselves, but on the other hand, all that is new was already contained in the old, so that we may understand that trustworthy word: “my grace is sufficient for you,” says the LORD, the Almighty, your Creator and your Re-creator in Christ Jesus.