Christians are one Church, One Covenant, one Temple,...

Chapter 1: The Pattern of Sacred History

I. The Pattern of the Sacred Era

W. J. Phythian-Adams: How can our differences [between separate Christian groups] be reconciled? Say rather first, How have they arisen? How is it that, using the same Bible with the same reverence and the same careful industry, we have read into it such very different meanings and shades of emphasis? My answer is going to be a bold one. I suggest that it is because we have all lost sight of the Providential unity of the Bible as it was grasped and expounded by the writers of the New Testament.

We ourselves would presumably claim that the uniqueness of the Bible lies in its being the record of Sacred History; of that Dispensation (Economy) of Love which God is working out in time and space, and which has as its goal the recapitulation of all things in Christ. This Dispensation, we should say, is revealed in the Bible as being effected in two stages, each with its "fulness of the times" (Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:10) and each with its Covenant and its Elect People.

But the question then arises, what is the exact relation between these two? And it is at this point that we seem to have lost touch with the writers of the New Testament. Our own view of the events recorded in the Old Testament is that they were a necessary prelude to, and preparation for, the coming of Christ: now, being over and done with, they possess for Christians only a vague parenetic value. We may make use of them, as St. Paul did, for our "admonition and comfort"; but if we do so, it is simply by way of metaphor or analogy. Nor is this attitude of ours to the Old Testament merely a popular one; it permeates our New Testament exegesis.

When, for example, St. Paul speaks of the experience of the old Israel in 1 Corinthians 10:1ff, the modern scholar's comment is: "This is described, so as to bring out the analogy between the gifts of God to Israel, and His gifts to the Church." (Goudge, The First Epistle to the Corinthians ad loc., italics mine). So again, on Colossians 1:12, where St. Paul refers to the "inheritance" of the Saints, another commentator has written: "The inheritance of Canaan, the allotment of the promised land, here presents an analogy to, and supplies a metaphor for, the higher hopes of the new dispensation." (Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon ad loc., italics mine).

But surely the truth is that St. Paul did not go to the Old Testament for appropriate figures of speech: he went to it - or rather he lived in it - because he read there a story of Redemption which was repeating itself in the events of the New Age of Christ. It was for him no mere analogy that there was a new Israel, a new deliverance from bondage, a new Covenant, a new Inheritance: and what is true of St. Paul is equally true of the other writers of the New Testament.

What they found in the Old Testament, when they compared the events recorded there with those which had happened, and were happening, and were to happen, to themselves was a real and intimate "economic" relationship, not a striking but accidental resemblance. This had God done when he went first to choose him out a People; this he had promised through the prophets to do yet once more at the end of the age; and this he had actually done, or was in process of doing, under his new Dispensation of Holy Spirit. Now, as of old but by a far more wonderful working, the great procession of his mercies unfolded its mysterious pattern; and that which had been for centuries a source of hope and comfort drew near in Christ to its consummation.

How shall we describe this interpretation of the Old Testament? At the risk of seeming pedantic I would urge that we need a special term. To speak of "analogy "and "metaphor "in this connection is not merely inadequate, it misses the mark at which the writers were aiming. The relation which they perceived between the old and the new Dispensation was, in fact, wholly unique and cannot be indicated in quite ordinary language. But there is another term, less common yet not entirely unfamiliar, which may help us, namely "homology." By "homology "we mean that there is between two things not a mere resemblance but a real and vital - in this case, an "economic" - correspondence: and this seems to be precisely what the writers of the New Testament expound.

I propose, at any rate, to use this term in what follows, in spite of its stiffness and in default of a better one. For this is not simply a matter of accurate terminology. We need to be reminded, when we read the New Testament, that the writers never felt themselves free to state the Gospel in self-chosen figures of speech. For them, the framework, the pattern, of their message was already given, not by man but by God; and it was for them, under this joyful and glorious constraint, to explore and expound the inexhaustible riches of their stewardships.

I may be reminded here of the terms "type "and "anti-type"; but unfortunately these are too vague to be of value. St. Paul uses the former in at least two senses; and what he calls a "type "in Romans 5:14, the writer of Hebrews would call an "anti-type" (cf. Heb. 9:26). Furthermore, the use of these words has not saved us from slipping into talk of "analogy," which "homology" explicitly forbids.

What, then, were these events, the pattern of which, stamped alike upon the old and upon the new Dispensation, proclaimed the workmanship of the one Redeemer?

First, as a general synopsis, we may take Exodus 6:6-8:

"I am Jehovah, and I will bring you out from among a the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: and I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land concerning which I lifted up my hand to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage."

Here we have the series of events presented as a single unity. Considered separately in chronological order, they may be classified as follows

THE REDEMPTION FROM BONDAGE. This began with the slaying of the first-born, i.e., with the first night of Israel's departure from Egypt, and came to its climax when the People emerged safely from the Red Sea. We may note two points. Firstly, while the Passover itself commemorated, strictly speaking, only the former of these events, it was indissolubly connected with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, with which in our Lord's day it was normally identified. (Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament, p. 385.) These two constituted together a single memorial of the Redemption.

Secondly, our familiarity with this keyword Redemption must not blind us to its quite peculiar and definite significance. It did not mean that God "bought" Israel from Pharaoh: such an idea is never hinted at in the Old Testament, and it would have been well if some Christian theologians had remembered this. Redemption in this context meant that God had taken Israel out of bondage into his own possession, and that for this act of power and mercy Israel must pay him in acknowledgment a redemption-price. This price was the "passing over" (setting apart) to Jehovah of "all that opened the womb, being males," certain animals being "redeemed" by others more suitable for this tribute; and in the case of every first-born son, and later of every male Israelite, it was converted into a "ransom" for his "life" (LXX lutra tees psuchees), whether this "ransom" was paid in money or in the persons of the Levites accepted instead of the first-born (anti toon proototokoon) (Ex. 13:11-16, 30:11-16; Nu. 3:44-51; 18:15-16).

This act of redemption-tribute, as we may call it, was thus at once a memorial of the deliverance and a token that Israel now belonged to Jehovah. Like the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it was to be thought of as his seal, set upon the hand and between the eyes of the People, for a continual remembrance of what it had once been and what by his mercy it had become. (Ex. 13:9, 16; cf. Deut. 6:4-9, note the reference to the "door-posts" as a memory of the first Passover).

THE CONSECRATION OF ISRAEL BY COVENANT. This followed the march across the desert under the guidance of the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, and took place at the foot of the Mount of God in the third month after the departure from Egypt (Ex. 19:1). Now the Election of Israel was solemnly ratified, not merely by the sprinkling upon the People of the blood of the Covenant but by the inauguration of the Sacred Ark, which was to be the sign of Jehovah's Presence in its midst. This event, it should be noted, marked a new stage in the Divine Dispensation. Israel had been redeemed, now (after an interval) it was sanctified: it began that new life of communion with God which was to make it "a kingdom of priests and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:5-6). All this is epitomized in the oft-repeated Covenant-formula, "Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God," but its full significance is brought out best in the version given in Leviticus 26:11-12: "I will set my tabernacle among you; and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people." (Cf. 2 Sam. 7:6-7. On this central feature of Covenant-religion see my book, The People and the Presence, Oxford University Press.)

THE GIFT OF THE INHERITANCE. This began with the crossing of Jordan under Joshua (according to later Israelite thought), but it was accomplished "by little and little" (Ex. 23:30-1) and was not finally consummated until the kingdom had been conferred upon David, and the Ark installed by him on Mt. Zion. Then and then only, as the Jews came to perceive (cf. Deut. 12:9-12; Ps. 78:68-72), did Israel reach the summit of its Election. Then at last the Wars of Jehovah were ended, then at last the Divine Presence could "rest" upon its holy hill. Then, in a word, the promises of God attained their final fulfillment, and the Sacred Era of his mercies came to its close.

II. The Pattern in the Prophets

From Moses to David - and, after that, apostasy, schism, and corruption; defeat, conquest, exile, servitude! This dreadful antithesis was what the Jewish Remnant [of the time of Jesus] saw all too plainly when they looked back upon the history of Israel; and it is extremely important to mark their different reactions to the tragedy. Broadly speaking, we may note three of these. At the one extreme is the despairing cry of the Preacher, (Ecclesiastes) that all is vanity and vexation of spirit, and that there is nothing new under the sun. (And let it be remembered that this Preacher claims to be - Solomon!) At the other extreme are various apocalyptic writings which, while wholly despairing of this world, look for the vindication of Israel in the world to come. Finally, between, these came the more optimistic schools of thought, which expected the "consolation of Israel" in this life but differed as to its nature (whether political or purely religious), and as to the means by which it would be effected (whether with or without a Messiah, and in the former event whether he was to spring from Judah or from Levi).

But what is remarkable about all these views is not so much their diversity as their common failure to hold fast the "sure word of prophecy." This is striking enough in the single matter of the Messiah, when we consider how many passages predict a second, more glorious, David. (No doubt the reason for this was that the Seed of David had plainly suffered eclipse, and there was a natural reluctance, even in the best days of the Hasmonaeans, to seek a Messiah elsewhere.) But it is even more extraordinary that no notice seems to have been taken of those prophecies which foretold a new Redemption, a new Exodus, a new Covenant, and a new Inheritance.

Why was this? What did these prophecies mean to a Jew living in the last century before Christ? Let us study some of them, for a moment, and see what he would read.

In the later chapters of Isaiah he would find the prediction of a new deliverance from bondage, the wonders of which would recapitulate, yet surpass, the miracles of the old. There would be a new Redemption, but this time no ransom would be paid for it by Israel (Isa. 43:1-7; 52:3-6.). There would be a new Exodus, but not in haste or flight (Isa. 52:12, Ex. 12:11; 14:5). There would be a new march across the Wilderness; but now a highway would be there, and rivers of water called forth by the Rock of Israel: and he who once led it by the Pillar of Cloud and Fire would again go before his people and be its rearguard (Isa. 35: 43:19-20; 44:8; 47:20-21; 52:12 (4:5); cf. Ex. 14:19; 17:1-6; Deut. 32:4, 15, 18.).

Once more that Arm would awaken which slew Rahab, the dragon of the Nile; which dried and divided the depths and brought up his flock out of the sea with Moses its shepherd: but now God himself would gather and feed his flock, and would lead it gently to a Jerusalem renewed and glorified (Isa. 51:9-11; 63:11-12; 40:10-11; 52:7-10, etc.). Then the full cycle of the Sacred Era would be accomplished. Under a new David the sure mercies of the past would be confirmed by an everlasting covenant; and all the kings and nations of the earth would worship in the holy mountain, where in a restored temple the Divine Presence would reign amidst its holy priesthood Jehovah "tabernacling" in Zion! (Isa. 55:3-4; 41:8-9; 49:6-8; 60:1-16; 61:6; 66:10-23.)

If he turned next to Ezekiel, our Jew would find there a similar testimony. The outstretched Arm, breaking the "bars of the yoke"; the passing of Israel in the wilderness under the rod of its Shepherd; the renewal of the Covenant; the barring to the rebels of the Land of Promise and the entry into it of the faithful remnant;- all these events of the Sacred Era would be recapitulated in a new mystery of Redemption (Ezek. 20:33-42; 34:27; cf. Lev. 26:13). From the valley of death Israel would be raised to a new life; its lost and scattered sheep would be gathered by God himself to his holy mountain, and tended there by a new David under an everlasting covenant of peace; and in the midst of this Inheritance, newly allotted, would stand a new and glorious Sanctuary, where the Divine Presence and the holy nation would be at one for ever (Ezek. 34; 37; 40-48).

Why did these (and similar) prophecies find no echo in later Jewish aspirations? In part the reason is plain. It was because they had come so near to fulfillment already, and yet had not been fulfilled. For Israel had actually known a second deliverance from bondage; it had actually crossed a wilderness, reentered the Land of Promise, and built in a restored Jerusalem a new Sanctuary for the Presence.

But was it of this that the prophets had spoken? No signs and wonders had speeded the exodus from Babylon; no living waters had sprung up for Israel in the desert; no mystic bread had fallen for it from heaven. Rather it had returned, a weak inglorious remnant, not to rule the nations from Zion but to exchange one servitude for another. And with all this, despite the most heroic resistance to heathendom [e.g., the Maccabees], despite the most ardent efforts to uphold the Law, Jerusalem still mourned her widowed state uncomforted; in the Temple her priests still waited for the Glory.

Can it be wondered if after centuries of baffled expectation the Jews began to look elsewhere for the assurance of final triumph? That little by little they removed their hopes of it out of this world altogether, and sought in apocalypse what they could not find in prophecy?

But there was also another reason, which is perhaps less obvious. When we read these prophecies ourselves, we do it with the key in our hands; the key which is, in the widest sense, the Incarnation. But supposing we did not possess this key, what should we make of them? What should we have made of them, had we been Jews living in the last years before our Lord's birth?

After centuries during which the voice of prophecy had been silent, after centuries of ordinary matter-of-fact life, devoid of the least trace of the miraculous or supernatural, what should we have said of these predictions of a new Covenant, ushered in by signs and wonders and culminating in the return of Jehovah to his holy mountain? Should we have thought such a thing to be literally possible in this world of time and space, of flesh and blood? Could God indeed dwell in a temple made with hands? And yet, if this idea, once naively accepted, were now unthinkable, should we not be faced with an awkward dilemma? We might suppose, indeed, that these prophecies refer not to the present world but to a new and heavenly existence in the world to come: yet we could only do this by ignoring their plain reference.

To take a single illustration, Ezekiel. No prophet wrote more fully than he about the return of the Divine Presence to its Sanctuary at Jerusalem; what did he mean by it? Now Ezekiel's language is often poetical and parabolic, and much that he records was seen by him in the form of visions; yet when it comes to the description of the new Temple and its ordinances, Ezekiel is even meticulously three-dimensional. Are we simply to ignore this? But if we do so, what becomes of our loyalty to the word of God?

We have dwelt at some length upon this difficulty which beset the Jews because we often fail to realize how very real it was. It is indeed only when we have put ourselves in sympathy with their bewilderment that we can recapture the full shock of surprise which the New Testament ought to give us. To this we now turn, with a word of warning. Only one person is able to judge the Jews of that day, and we know what he said about their Scribes and Pharisees; but it was not of them that he said, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25) We may well meditate the significance of these words.

III. The Pattern in the New Testament

It needs only a rapid survey of the Epistles and the Book of Revelation to realize the astounding nature of the change that has taken place. From a world of doubt and perplexity we move into one of triumphant certainty and assured knowledge. Here the Scriptures are no longer a mystery to be dimly and partially apprehended: rather every page of them, from Moses to Malachi, is given its meaning and made to unfold its secret. What concerns us, however, particularly is the series of events which comprise the "Sacred Era." We have seen that according to the prophets these were to be recapitulated in a new act of God: now that act is made manifest, and we can follow it through its three stages.

THE REDEMPTION FROM BONDAGE. We may note two points at the outset. First, this new act of power and mercy takes place in the existing world of time and space, not in any apocalyptic "world to come." There is a new Age; but it does not abolish "the present evil age" (Gal. 1:4); it enters it to redeem it (Eph. 5:16). Thus the initial homology is that of "bondage"; that is, of a state of existence actually and historically experienced in flesh and blood.

Secondly, it is from this state rather than from its cause or author that man is redeemed. That there is a power, homologous with Pharaoh, which has imposed this bondage, is not ignored: it is "the power of darkness," "the devil," the "prince of this world," the "prince of the power of the air," or (in the plural) "the principalities, the powers, the world-rulers of this darkness," etc. (Luke 22:53; Heb. 2:14; John 14:30; Eph. 2:2; 6:12.). Yet it is the bondage itself, the slavery of sin exposing man to the wrath of God, which is at all times foremost in the minds of the writers; and this has to be borne in mind when we study their teaching about Redemption.

It is unnecessary to trace this teaching in full detail. What we need here is simply the broad outline of the pattern which the writers were following, and which at every stage dictated their choice of terms. Some of these are self-evident, as when St. Paul speaks of Christ as "our Passover."

When, on the other hand, in the same letter he speaks of him twice as "the firstfruits," many modern readers are apt to miss the point (Cf. Deut. 26:1-11). The first-fruits [wave-sheaf offering] were presented in the Temple on the "morrow after the Sabbath", i.e., on Easter Day, (Gray, op. cit., pp. 386, 389). Yet both here, and in a number of other instances where the words themselves appear even less definite, the true reference is never really in doubt. Thus "deliver," "redeem" ("redemption"), "bondage" ("freedom"), "ransom," "purchase," "price" ("precious"), "lamb," and "first-born" are all strict Exodus-homologies; not simply metaphors taken at random, either from the Scriptures or from contemporary Graeco-Roman life. Everywhere it is the Divine pattern which controls, and gives the clue to, the writers' language. How closely it is woven a short catena of passages will show.

In I Corinthians (which is saturated with Exodus and Passover thought) "Christ our Passover" (5:7) is followed almost immediately by "bought with a price" (6:20). So in I Peter the description of the "precious" blood as of a lamb without blemish and without spot is not merely an echo of Exodus 12:5 [selection of Passover lambs].

(Gray's contention, op. cit., pp. 344ff, that the Paschal victim was not necessarily a lamb is irrelevant here. It could be, and to judge from the LXX rendering of Exodus 12:5, "from the lambs and from the kids," usually was a lamb. The simple fact, however, is that this is the homology used in the New Testament, so that there is really no point to argue. Its appropriateness requires no comment.)

It leads on directly to the status of the new Israel as "an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God's own possession" (I Pet. 2:9; cf. Ex. 19:5). This reference to God's "taking" of Israel to himself at the Exodus is echoed in Acts 20:28, where the same word [?] is used of the Church "purchased with his own blood." We may compare this again with Titus 2:14: "our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession" (cf. Ex. 19:5).

Once more, we have the Song of the Lamb in Revelation 5:9 "for thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests." This Song, it should be noted, is later sung (15:3) by the victorious saints with the Song of Moses. (i.e., Deut. 32, ["Rejoice O ye nations",] not Ex. 15). This seems to be clear from the use made of it elsewhere. It is cited in Rom. 10:19; 12:19; 15:10; Heb. 1:6 (Gk.); 10:30, in all but one instance of the Second Coming. St. Paul's homology of the Rock (1 Cor. 10:4) presumably comes from it also.)

Finally, we have the evidence of the Fourth Gospel. There the "Lamb of God" (i.e., the victim given by God, not offered according to his ordinance by man) is the true Paschal victim in whom the Scripture is fulfilled: "A bone of him shall not be broken" (19:36; Ex. 12:46). At the same time he is the Shepherd of the flock, the second Moses (cf. Heb. 13:20, and Is. 63:11), who gathers together the scattered sheep of God (John 10:11ff; 11:52; cf. Ezek. 34:12, and the Exodus reference in Ezek. 34:27, "having broken the bars of their yoke"). Wherever we look, in a word, it is the same story. This was what God did through Moses: this, but after a more excellent manner, is what he has done in Christ.

THE CONSECRATION OF THE PEOPLE BY COVENANT. We have already had an indirect reference to this in some of the passages just quoted; since it was the Covenant which confirmed the Election of Israel as God's "own possession," and his "royal priesthood." The essence of the Covenant, however, was something more than this: it involved, as we have seen, a unique relation between God and his People. Having sanctified Israel, God did not remove himself from it to "heaven": he condescended to dwell and walk from that day forth in its midst. This was his promise to Moses, a promise kept faithfully through the centuries - "My Presence will go with thee, and I will give thee rest" (Ex. 33:14; cf. 2 Sam. 7:6).

For a full treatment of this all-important aspect of the Covenant I must refer the reader to my book. Here it must suffice to observe how St. Paul brings out the homology in the new Covenant by using the exact words of Leviticus without the change of a letter and yet with a complete transformation of meaning: "I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (2 Cor. 6:16). Thus were fulfilled the prophecies of God's return to his earthly dwelling-place. Through the Death and Resurrection of Christ the new Israel itself became in him this long-expected Sanctuary (Naos, Gk.). Now once more a Tabernacle stood on earth which enshrined and manifested the indwelling glory of the Godhead: but now it was in Christ a "Spiritual house" built up of "living stones" (1 Pe. 2:5).

We may recall here the dilemma which faced the Jews when they sought to interpret these predictions of the return of the Presence to the world of time and space. Now in Christ was revealed a Temple not made with hands, yet none-the-less outward and visible; a Body compacted and knit together of flesh and blood to be an "habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22).

This mystery of the new Temple, hinted at not obscurely in Mark (14:58; 15:29, 38), is confirmed out of the mouth of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (John 2:19-22). Its connection with the old Covenant must be sought in a different context - the Eucharist (1 Cor. 11:23-5). Here, as the repeated words of memorial show, we have two distinct actions, separated ("in like manner after supper") by a solemn pause. In the first, as the Paschal Lamb, Jesus gives his Body, his Passover [Redemption]: in the second, as the Consecrator of the new Israel, he gives his "Blood of the new Covenant." The allusion in these last words to the rite of Ex. 24:5-8, cannot be mistaken:

"Moses took half of the blood and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath spoken will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the Covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words."

Now, the meaning of this rite is clear. The blood is the life (Lev. 17:11), and by this two-fold sprinkling Jehovah declares his will to share this life with Israel. What had been united as a single people by Redemption was now by Consecration united mystically with its Redeemer. But if this is true of the old Covenant, how much more of the new! The Life which our Lord shares with us, through his Death, is the Holy Spirit. There must therefore be an intimate connection between the Cup of the Covenant on the one hand and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost on the other.

Here, to begin with, there is a most interesting, though not in the strictest sense Scriptural, homology to be studied. In the old Testament, as we have it, no annual memorial of the Covenant, similar to the Passover, is laid down, but a tradition, based probably on Exodus 19:1 ["third month to Sinai"], associated this event with the Feast of Weeks or First-fruits, the Jewish Pentecost (Tobit 2:1). This feast, which was originally a harvest-festival, was held at the beginning of the third month, and since it was in the same month that Israel arrived at Sinai, it lent itself readily to this historic anniversary.

Some later Jewish schools of thought tended, indeed, almost to ignore the original significance of Pentecost. In the Book of Jubilees, for example, while its two-fold nature is noted (6:21), it is the covenant-aspect which is emphasized [In Jubilees, Feast of Weeks = Shabuot = Oaths = Covenants]. It is said, there, to mark the renewal of the covenant made by Noah and his sons that they would eat no blood for ever (6:10), a covenant observed faithfully by the patriarchs but forgotten in Moses' day (6:19). Hence he is commanded to make a covenant with Israel in this month, and to sprinkle blood upon them; and they are to observe this festival one day in the year in this month for ever (6:11, 20). For the blood is the life, and it is with the blood that supplication for God's forgiveness is to be made morning and evening before the altar (6:7, 14).

This example of later Jewish thought has been quoted not simply because it connects the Blood of the Covenant as "life" with Pentecost (for in this it is perhaps hardly typical), but still more because it illustrates one of the most striking tendencies of later Judaism, that of throwing back the Covenant into the patriarchal age and thus virtually abandoning the unique significance of Sinai.

We can see this tendency at work even in the mind of St. Paul, when in one of his most rabbinical passages he contrasts the "Covenant" made with Abraham with the "Giving of the Law" mediated through Moses (Gal. 3:17). It is true that a little further on he reverts to the scriptural contrast between the Covenant of Sinai and that which is to be consummated in the new Jerusalem (4:24): but this momentary glimpse of the pupil of Gamaliel is of deep significance.

This watering-down of the Covenant into a mere "Giving of the Law" was the product of the disappointed and baffled men upon whom was laid the task of legislating for post-exilic Jewry. To them it was simply a hard fact of experience that Israel had not received the new heart and spirit which was to make it spontaneously obedient to the will of God (Jer. 31:31-4; Ezek. 36:26-7): it could not be holy as he was holy, who had promised to dwell and walk in its midst (Lev. 11:44; 26:11).

The thought of the People's Consecration faded, therefore, into the background; the essential glory of the Covenant was replaced by the hope of the promises made to the saintly patriarchs; and as the stature of these old ideals diminished, a new shadow fell upon life, the towering inexorable shadow of the written Law.

But suppose now that the promised Age at last arrived, when all that the prophets predicted and all that these men had hoped for but found wanting was, of a sudden, miraculously supplied! Then at once the old Covenant would recover its glory, even though it might be faint by comparison with the glory that excelled it (2 Cor. 3:10). And if this new glory were manifested in fire and rushing wind on the actual day of Pentecost, would not the homology be declared thereby complete?

This is precisely what we find in the New Testament, and it is quite clearly in accordance with our Lord's design and with his teaching about himself. The Covenant which he fulfills is the Covenant of Sinai, understood once again in its fullest and deepest sense, i.e., not merely as the Giving of the Torah to Israel but as the solemn promise of Jehovah that he would dwell for ever in its midst. This was the significance of our Lord's saying about the new Temple of his Body (John 2:19); this and nothing else can be the significance of his choice of Pentecost as the day on which he "poured forth" the Spirit to be the indwelling Life of the Church (Acts 2:33); this also is the significance of the Cup of the Eucharist, declared expressly by him to be his Blood of the Covenant.

Finally, we may note that, according to Matthew, the Blood of the Covenant is said to be "poured forth for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). These last words take us back to the "beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," the mission of the Baptist, which was to proclaim a baptism more powerful than his own, "the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). This baptism, he bore witness, was to be administered by the "Lord," the "Angel [Messenger] of the Covenant," who was to come suddenly to his Temple with the purge of a refining fire (Mal. 3:1-3): and he described its nature in the mysterious words, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Later experience made plain the meaning of the prophecy. This baptism with the Holy Spirit first took place, according to our Lord's own promise, at Pentecost (Acts 1:5). Thus once more the Cup of the Covenant is found to be linked with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Consecration, through God's forgiveness, of his new Temple.

THE GIFT OF THE INHERITANCE. This last stage of the Sacred Era can be stated more briefly. We may note two things about it. First, the homologies employed are (as we should expect) those of the allotment of Canaan, the kingdom of David, and the glorifying of Zion (e.g., Col. 1:12-14; Eph. 3:18-19; Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21). To take a single illustration. When St. Paul says that "God delivered us out of the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins" (Col. 1:13-14), he summarizes the Sacred Era in a single sentence. First, Redemption [Passover] from bondage, followed by "translation" (the journey to the Promised Land) [Days of Unleavened Bread], then Consecration by the remission of sins [Pentecost], and finally the kingdom of "David" (the "Beloved") [Feast of Tabernacles]; the pattern is then complete. This "kingdom" in Christ is "the Inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12).

Elsewhere, when St. Paul speaks of us as "heirs" and "sons" (e.g., Gal. 4:1-7; Rom. 7:15-16) the same note of redemption from bondage is sounded: for the "Sonship" which Christ won for us through Death and Resurrection (Acts 13:33) is the homology of that into which Israel was adopted at the Exodus (cf. Rom. 9:4; Ex. 4:22; Hosea 11:1), and which came to its fulness under David (1 Sam. 10:1; Ps. 58:70-1).

The second point to note is that the Inheritance is not yet complete. Here and now we have the "earnest" of it, "the first-fruits" of the Spirit; but we are still "sojourners and pilgrims"; the imperfect Sanctuary which is to be fulfilled in the glory of the perfected Temple from heaven (Eph. 1:14; Rom. 8:23; 1 Pe. 2:11; Rev. 21:1-22:5). That "Temple" is the new Jerusalem which the prophets predicted, filled with the fulness of the Glory of the Divine Presence and drawing to it the honour of the nations: and the Inheritance which it discloses is the restoration of the universe, the consummation of all things in the new Paradise.

IV. Summary

It may help the reader of these complicated sections if we put the substance of them into three successive "creeds." For what we have to realize to-day is that these things were believed with the same fervor and intensity as those with which we confess our own version of the Christian Faith. If the discussion of them to-day is bound to seem academic, we must make all the greater effort to recapture their freshness. These dry bones once lived for man's hope and comfort, and it is for our hope and our comfort that we must be witnesses of their resurrection.

(i) Let us take first the faith of an Israelite as it might have been thus expressed in the palmy days of the reign of Solomon:

We believe in Jehovah, the Almighty, the Holy One; Maker of heaven and earth; who in his love and mercy chose Israel for his own possession, that we might be to him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation:
Who redeemed us by signs and wonders from the bondage of Pharaoh;
Who gave us his Law, and made his Covenant with us to dwell in our midst for ever;
Who brought us into his Land, the lot of our inheritance, and established us in peace in the Kingdom of David, his Beloved;
Who out of all our tribes chose himself one place to be his Sanctuary, that we might worship continually before the face of him that sitteth between the Cherubim, Jehovah Sabaoth [Lord of Hosts] is his Name.

(ii) Next we have the faith of a loyal Israelite of the Exile, who having learned from the prophets the reason for his People's downfall, had learned also from them the hope of its restoration. This creed would of course include the first; it would then continue:

We believe that this same Jehovah, who has justly punished us, will once more in his love and mercy redeem Israel;
that he will cleanse us from our sins, and will write his Law in our hearts, and will make a new Covenant with us, to dwell once more in our midst;
that he will bring us anew to our inheritance, and give us everlasting peace in the Kingdom of the Seed of David;
that he will set his Sanctuary once more in Zion, where we may offer before him for ever a holy and acceptable worship.
And we believe that in the latter days Jerusalem will be exalted in all the earth: for all nations will come to her to worship the God of Israel, and in his holy mountain all creatures will be at one.

(iii) Finally, we may summarize the faith of the new Israel. This also includes the first creed while, accepting the expectations of the second, it describes their fulfillment in the terms of its own new Gospel:

We believe that what God has promised by the prophets he has now fulfilled;
that through his Beloved,Son he has redeemed us from sin;
that he has put his Spirit and his Law of Love in our hearts, and has descended by the Blood of a new Covenant to dwell within us for ever;
that he has sealed us with the earnest of the lot of our inheritance, and has given us rest in the Kingdom of the Seed of David;
that he has made us his Sanctuary, a Holy Nation and a Royal Priesthood, to offer sacrifices holy and acceptable in his sight.
And we believe that in the fulness of the times all flesh shall be gathered into his new Jerusalem; and that in its light, as in a new Paradise, all things whether in heaven or earth shall be at one.


Christians are one Church, One Covenant, one Temple,...
Chapter 1: The Pattern of Sacred History
Chapter 2: The Royal Priesthood
Chapter 3: Biblical Theology in Eclipse
Excerpted from "The Way of At-one-ment: Studies in Biblical Theology" by W. J. Phythian-Adams, Carlisle, England, 1944.


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