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Scripture’s Golden Threads

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Genesis and Revelation are more than mere bookends to the Bible. Their correlation is fascinating!

One tells us how everything got started; the other, how everything will end. The garden with the forbidden tree corresponds to the city with the tree in its midst, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

The nations need healing because of sin’s entry in Genesis, which is now reversed by sin’s banishment in Revelation! This is celebrated at the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:9), which points all the way back to the wedding in the garden (Genesis 2:22, 23).

These observations help us better understand what the rest of the Bible is all about. Creative minds have strung together three words that succinctly capture what’s in the Bible: creation, conflict, and covenant.

All three words emerge early in Genesis. In the first two chapters, God creates the world and everything in it. Then conflict arises in chapter 3 with the entry of sin into the world, followed by the covenant God made to one day bruise Satan’s head through the seed of the woman (v. 15).

This begins what is commonly called “the drama of redemption,” God’s relentless pursuit of lost humanity, leading to the cross of Christ and the yet-to-be- fulfilled promise of a renewed creation. Central to this drama are the covenants God makes and remakes throughout biblical history.

Adamic and Noahic covenants

First, there’s the Adamic covenant, made in two parts — one before the Fall (sometimes referred to as the Edenic covenant) and the other afterward.

The former sets forth the terms and conditions of Adam’s existence in the garden. Bearing God’s image, he is to have dominion over everything God created and be fruitful, multiply, and replenish (fill up) the earth (1:26-30; 2:16, 17). The latter addresses Adam’s existence outside the garden, including the consequences of sin and God’s promise to one day bring redemption (3:16-19).

But sin’s corrupting influence necessitates the great Flood. After it, God establishes a covenant with Noah in which He renews the blessings of creation and promises the preservation of the earth (its times/seasons), issuing to Noah the same charge He gave to Adam (9:1-17).

Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants

But the sin problem persists after the Flood, so much so that by Genesis 11 there’s outright rebellion against God at the tower of Babel. So God makes a covenant with a man named Abram (later renamed Abraham), through which all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Known as the Abrahamic covenant, it expands to the creation of a new nation and its possession of the land of Canaan (chapter 12).

It is in God’s relationship with Abraham that the concept of covenant takes on added meaning. God uses animal sacrifice to vividly illustrate the certainty (immutability) of His commitment (chapter 15). From this illustration the term cut a covenant is derived, which the author of Hebrews describes as “an oath” (Hebrews 6:17).

The Abrahamic covenant passes down to Isaac and on to Jacob. God’s promise to make a new nation out of Abraham’s descendants is eventually fulfilled through Jacob’s twelve sons, who become heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

God keeps His promise to the nation, eventually bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and establishing a covenant with them at Sinai. Known as the Mosaic covenant, its elaborate details are provided in Exodus 19-24. Included is its central article, the Decalogue (or Ten Commandments), meant to govern and shape the new nation in anticipation of her entry into the Promised Land.

Throughout the long history of Joshua and Judges, the covenant ebbs and flows, seemingly lost at times, until it reemerges during David’s reign as Israel’s king. God makes a covenant with David, the culmination of the previous covenants, establishing Israel’s kingdom with a city, temple, and a throne forever (2 Samuel 7).

It is in relation to this covenant that the Messianic promise comes into full view. Specific references are found throughout the Prophets and the Psalms, and are quoted in the New Testament. Psalm 89:3, 4, referenced in Acts 2:30, is a good example: “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.’”

But the covenants found throughout Scripture are interrelated, and the Mosaic covenant binds the nation to an oath of faithfulness to God. This is a good place to point out that some covenants are unconditional, while some are clearly conditional — offering blessings for obedience, which Israel miserably fails to do.

New covenant

So God in mercy and love promises to make a new covenant with them. Moses alluded to this in his final address to the nation, speaking of a time when God would give His people “a heart to understand” (Deuteronomy 29:4, ESV).

The prophet Jeremiah puts it in specific terms:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — . . . But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (31:31, 33).

This is a promise to do for Israel what the Mosaic law could not do (Romans 3:20; Hebrews 9:9-15). In highlighting the benefits of the new covenant, Ezekiel lists, among other elements, a new heart, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the capacity for true holiness (36:26, 27).

This will be realized through Jesus, the “Mediator of a better covenant” established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). According to one author, this makes possible a new identity, a new disposition, and a new power for God’s people.

So it was that during His Last Supper with the disciples, Jesus declared, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

The next day, Jesus ratified that covenant with His own blood on the cross as the long-awaited sacrificial lamb. By His resurrection, ascension, and the birth of the church at Pentecost, a new power is released in the lives of ordinary men and women in a way that stuns onlookers, evoking skepticism.

In offering clarity, Peter points them back to the Old Testament prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-21). In short, the supernatural events you’re witnessing this day are the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to His people made thousands of years ago!

Creation and covenant

We serve a God who keeps His promises: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen,” says Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:20. It therefore follows that the golden thread of God’s covenant faithfulness runs from Genesis to Revelation, holding the Bible together.

Running close by is the creation thread, for in the drama of redemption, God’s actions as Creator are closely linked to His actions as Covenant-Keeper.

So it comes as no surprise that these two elements are central as the worship of heaven begins in Revelation. In chapter 4, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders worship God as Creator of all things: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (v. 11, NIV).

Then they worship the Lamb in chapter 5:

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (vv. 9, 10, NIV).

This is a good place to underscore that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant and that through Him God created the universe (Hebrews 1:1, 2). This is also a good place to note that God has not abandoned His creation. Despite the brokenness of our world, marked by social and political upheavals and the pain and trauma of war, God’s promise of a renewed earth, which the meek will inherit, still stands (Psalm 37:11). He is the faithful God “who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

So we joyfully heed the call to worship in the opening verse of the classic seventeenth century hymn:

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!

O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!

Come, all who hear; now to his temple draw near,

join me in glad adoration.

Whaid Rose

Whaid Rose, former president of the General Conference, is dean of the Artios Center for Vibrant Leadership and pastors the Newton, NC CoG7. He and his wife, Marjolene, live in Denver, NC.