The Everlasting Covenant
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” (Hebrews 13:20)
God made a covenant of works with the first man, Adam, soon after he was created (Gen. 2:15-17). When Adam broke that covenant, everything God did with him and everything he has done with his sons in the punishment of sin has been according to the terms of that covenant (Rom. 5:12-14). The covenant of works, because of Adam’s sin and our sin in him, has always been a covenant of death. Later, when God gave the law at Sinai by the hand of Moses, it was a covenant of death from the beginning, because righteousness and life could never come to sinners by their works of righteousness (Gal. 3:10, 21). No sinner can ever perform righteous works. The giving of the law at Mt. Sinai was nothing more or less than the revelation of God’s justice in punishing every transgression under the covenant of works. It was never intended by God to be a way of life for men, a rule of life for his children, or a code of moral ethics. The law was given by God to be a messenger of death, a messenger of justice, wrath, and condemnation to fallen men, that sinners might be driven to Christ and to the covenant of grace established with him.
However, long before God made the covenant of works with Adam in the garden, he had made a covenant of grace with Christ, his Son. It was made for us. But it was made with Christ our covenant Surety and Mediator before the world was made in eternity. In fact, Adam, as the federal head and representative of all men in the covenant of works, was a type and picture (Rom. 5:14) of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is called “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) and is the federal Head and Representative of God’s elect in the covenant of grace (Rom. 5:12-19).
The covenant of works was broken by the first Adam. The covenant of grace was fulfilled by the last Adam. Death and sin came by the first Adam’s disobedience. Life and righteousness came by the last Adam’s obedience. Wrath came upon all men by the fall of the first Adam. Grace comes to all God’s elect by the success of the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:21-22).
This everlasting covenant of grace was also typified in the covenants God made with Noah (Gen. 6:8, 18; 8:1, 20-22; 9:11-15), Abraham (Gen. 15), and David (2 Sam. 7:8-17). It was often spoken of in the Old Testament (Ps. 89:19-31; Isa. 49:1-12; 54:9-10; Jer. 31:31-34; 32:37-40; Ezek. 32:21-38; 2 Sam. 23:5). God’s saints in those days prior to the coming of Christ found in this everlasting covenant a solid foundation upon which to stand and a soft pillow upon which to rest their weary souls. Believing God, they said to the comfort of their souls, “The Lord hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. This is all my salvation and all my desire!”
This everlasting covenant of grace is “the foundation of God that standeth sure.” It cannot be shaken by the changing tides of time and trouble. That which inspired David in life and comforted him in death, the everlasting covenant, is the inspiration of our lives and the comfort of our souls today.
The New Covenant
What is the covenant spoken of in this text? This is not the first time the word “covenant” is mentioned in the book of Hebrews. It is first mentioned in chapter 7, verse 22, where Christ is called, “the Surety of a better testament (covenant).”
This is the “better covenant” described in chapter 8, verses 6-12. It is the “new covenant” of Hebrews 8:13, and the “new testament” (covenant) of chapter 9, verse 15, by which we “receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” When we read Hebrews 10:15-17, we discover that this is the very same covenant that was spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34, which the Lord Jesus came to fulfill by his obedience to God as our representative.
The covenant spoken of in Hebrews 13:20-21 is the new covenant of the gospel, the covenant of grace made in eternity for the salvation of God’s elect. Yet, it is ever fresh and new. It is the covenant by which God makes all things new in the new creation of grace. This everlasting covenant is the whole will of God, the whole purpose of his grace concerning the salvation of his elect.
God’s Purpose of Grace
The will and purpose of God regarding the salvation of his people is revealed in the Bible as a covenant. I do not pretend to understand all that I know about this subject. But I do know that a covenant was made. It might be called “God’s sovereign purpose of grace,” or “God’s sovereign decree of grace.” But the Bible calls it, “the everlasting covenant.” It does so because God’s purpose and decree of grace, as it is revealed to us, bears all the marks of a covenant.
A covenant is a contract, or an agreement made between two or more contracting parties. The high contracting parties between whom the covenant of grace was made before time began were the three Persons of the Eternal Godhead. The triune God asked, “Who will go for us?” Christ, the Son, volunteering to be our Surety, arose and said, “Here am I, send me.” When he came to fulfill his covenant engagements he said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” When he ascended back into heaven, the Father said to his victorious Son, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance…Sit thou upon my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool.” And the exalted Son of God, our Savior, poured out his Spirit upon all flesh to gather his elect from the four corners of the earth.
Christ stood as our Representative, Mediator, Substitute, and Surety from everlasting. In that blessed, everlasting covenant the salvation of God’s elect was decreed, purposed, predestinated, and made sure. God the Father pledged himself to God the Son, saying, “I will save these whom I have loved and chosen.” God the Son pledged himself to God the Father, saying, “I will satisfy all the demands of your law and justice, so that God can be both ‘a just God and a Savior.’” And God the Spirit pledged himself to God the Father and God the Son, saying, “I will sanctify every chosen, redeemed soul.”
Done from Eternity
When the three persons of the adorable Trinity struck hands together, the deal was done. The salvation of an elect multitude, which no man can number, was made sure and looked upon by the Triune God as a things already done (Rom. 8:29-30; 2 Tim. 1:9).