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by Charles Simpson

From the Garden of Eden until the Heavenly Garden, the blood of the Sacrifice permanently represents God's grace. In the same way that fallen man was clothed with skins of sacrificed animals by the same God (Gen. 3:21), the blood of the Lamb was shed to reclothe with God's righteousness those who agree to receive this grace. This is the song of those who make this covenant with God because of the "sacrifice". Thus God brings to it "those who make a covenant with me with sacrifice" (Psa. 50:5) and will sing the song of the Redeemed forever: "To Him who loves us, and washes us of our sins with his blood" (Rev. 1:5). This author has studied the divine path of the covenant and has taught its beginnings as pastor, teacher and leader for more than 30 years, and shown that a life based on the covenant is a life undertaken forever.

1. God, the maker of covenants (Gen. 1:3-5)
From the beginning, God is revealed as the maker of covenants.

From the beginning, God is revealed as the author of covenants. Jeremiah referred to this activity of God in the creation (Jer. 33:20), speaking of the "covenant with day and night". Thus, the inalterable character of the divine nature is emphasized and his relationship with that which he created is represented as an immutable union under God's sovereign government.

2. The first covenant appeared with Noah (Gen. 8:20)
Noah offered sacrifice to God, and the term "covenant" came to be God's commitment to never again destroy the world by a flood.

Before Noah, the concept of a covenant can only be inferred in the Bible. The use of the term "covenant" appears for the first time when GOD's relationship with Noah is related (6:18; 9:9). The covenant is established through his sacrificial offering after the Flood. In gratitude for his deliverance, Noah constructed an altar and offered blood sacrifices. There are no specific commandments that require Noah to offer blood sacrifices, which suggests that a precedent had already been established, dating back to Adam and the lessons in the Garden of Eden, where a sacrifice of blood was required to clothe Adam and Eve. Noah's sacrifice pleased GOD and He responded, offering a covenant that he would never again destroy the creation through a flood. This is the first occasion in biblical history when the term "covenant" is applied to the relationship between GOD and an individual, as well as his descendants; and that it's established as a covenant of blood.

3. Isaac, the result of the covenant (Gen. 22:13).
God's covenant gave Abraham a son, and His covenant of love provided a substitute for the sacrifice.

Isaac was born of Abraham and Sarah as a result of the promise of the covenant (17:1). The divine mandate to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was the supreme test that would demonstrate Abraham's reverence as well as his trust in the divine faithfulness to the promise of the covenant. He prepared Isaac to be offered, with the certainty that GOD would raise him from death itself (Heb. 11:19). GOD intervened in time and provided a lamb to be sacrificed in Isaac's place. This is a dramatic prefiguration of the offering GOD would have to give through his only begotten Son so that he would die in our place (John 3:16). GOD's covenant of love gave a son to Abraham and the covenant of love provided a substitute sacrifice to save that son. Centuries later, the covenant love would make GOD hand over his own Son as a blood sacrifice for the sons of man.

4. The significance of circumcision (Gen. 17:10)
Circumcision speaks of removing dependence on the flesh, and placing all hope of future prosperity in God.

The act of circumcision was required as a sign of the covenant established previously with Abraham. This wasn't a new covenant but an external sign that Abraham and his descendants had been adopted, to show that they were the people of the divine covenant. The fact that this act was realized in the male reproductive organ had, at the least, a double significance: 1) cutting the foreskin meant setting oneself apart from the dependence on the flesh, and 2) their hope of future prosperity shouldn't rest on their own ability. Circumcision was an affirmation that trust rested on GOD's promise and faithfulness, rather than in their own flesh.

5. The first covenant with a sacrifice of blood (Gen. 15:10)
God originated the link represented by the Covenant; they offered him sacrifices as ordained, and God assumed the sovereign authority of His oath.

The requirement of a blood sacrifice as a means of establishing a covenant appears for the first time in this episode (verses 1-21), along with GOD's instructions to Abraham. The animals that had to be offered were selected, cut in half and placed neatly face to face. The participants of the covenant then passed between the halves indicating that they were irrevocably united by the blood. The cutting of the sacrificed animal in half indicated the end of the present life, in order to establish a new union or new covenant. The sacred nature of this union was testified to by the shedding of blood. On this occasion only GOD passed between the halves, indicating thus that it was his covenant and that he would assume responsibility for its administration. In this narrative of the realization of the covenant there are three essential ingredients: 1) the union that originated in the divine initiative; 2) the offering of a blood sacrifice as a requirement of the covenant; and 3) the sovereign administration of GOD to guarantee the fulfillment of the divine oath.

6. Without blood there is no atonement (Lev. 17:11)
The life is in the blood. If no blood is spilled (life is handed over) there is no atonement.

Lev. 17:11 Without blood there is no atonement, BLOOD. This is the clearest declaration of the necessity of blood in sacrificial offerings: the life is in the blood. Life and blood were given on the altar with the specific purpose of atoning for sins and reconciling with GOD. There is no expiation apart from the shedding of blood or handing over life. This ordinance is reaffirmed with the new covenant in Hebrews 9:22. The new covenant with the blood of Christ fulfilled the old covenant requisites for redemption. The blood of Christ supercedes the bloody sacrifices of the old covenant and eternally satisfies the requirements of a holy GOD (Heb. 9:12).

7. The importance of blood sacrifices (Exod. 12:13)
Sacrifice was a means to obtain freedom, an offering for sin and an act of devotion.

The Book of Exodus manifests a fuller comprehension of the importance of blood sacrifices. The sacrifice is perceived as the means for liberation of the individual, the family and the nation. The blood of animals for sacrifices was used regularly as an offering for sins as well as to consecrate the instruments of worship (20:24). It is called "the blood of the covenant" for the first time in 24:5-8. In the covenant with Moses and in the Levitical priesthood we find the most detailed administration of the blood of the sacrifices. The significance of the role of the blood points here toward the blood of Christ and its application for our redemption, justification and sanctification (Heb. 9:14).

8. The blood, something essential to be good before God (Gen. 4:1-10)
To be good before God, maker of covenants is a question of life or death, not merely the fruit of our good intentions.

The subject of blood-sacrifices, as an essential part of our position before God, is presented by means of Cain and Abel's sacrifices. In accord with the fundamental lesson that God offered regarding Adam and Eve's sin (3:21), Cain's vegetable offering was rejected in the same way as was Adam's intent to use fig leaves to cover himself. But Abel's offering, a sacrifice of blood, pleased God. The animal sacrifice in the garden on God's part had established the principle of blood as the way to approach him. It remained in evidence that to adopt a proper attitude before God, the maker of covenants, was a matter of life or death, and not something that would merely depend on human abilities.

9. The sacrifice of blood depends on a good relationship (Is. 1:11)
God's holiness requires blood to cleanse sin, but a proper relationship is the supreme objective of the Covenant.

The most important thing in blood sacrifices is the attitude of the heart. To be acceptable, the sacrifice should represent a sincere devotion. Isaiah declared that GOD was fed up with animals offered hypocritically. Certainly GOD's holiness required blood for purification, but the goal of his covenant was a correct relationship with his people. David reflected this understanding in Psalm 51, when he said that GOD's delight didn't stem from animal sacrifices, but a contrite and humble heart. GOD's goal in making covenants is a correct relationship, not mere ceremonies and sacrifices. Therefore, sacrifices without sincere desire to establish a relationship with GOD pervert the true purpose of the sacrificial system, and they are unacceptable to the LORD.

10. The sacrifice of Christ, permanent help (Heb. 9:12)
The blood of Christ was shed on a heavenly altar, where redemption was provided one time for all.

The epistle to the Hebrews contrasts GOD's covenants through Moses and Christ. The Mosaic covenant allowed animal sacrifices to bring temporary alleviation to man's guilt, and offered lessons about the righteousness of GOD. The covenant of Moses provided a link with GOD through the blood of the animals. These sacrifices, however, had to be repeated annually in the tabernacle, which constituted only a symbol of the eternal and celestial altar of GOD. But Jesus Christ entered into history as an eternal priests to offer an eternal sacrifice for sin. The shedding of his blood provided a permanent sacrifice and link between GOD and human beings. His blood was shed not only on an earthly altar, but before the true altar of GOD in heaven, where he obtained redemption for the sin of all those who received him as their LORD and Savior. The immutable link established through the new covenant in the blood of Christ the definitive realization of GOD's promise and mercy at the same time.

11. The covering blood (Gen. 3:21)
Blood is God's only arrangement for the covering of sin.

GOD's covenant of love requires that innocent animals be sacrificed to provide clothes of skin for Eve and Adam. This early figure of the substitutive propitiation signals the necessity of justice against the innocent, in order to provide cover for the guilty. Adam and Eve made a vain attempt to cover themselves using their own efforts, by making clothes of fig leaves. However, God's order provided covering through the sacrifice. Under the new covenant, it is required that we clothe ourselves with Christ rather than our own works (Gal. 3:27).

12. God greatly inaugurates the new covenant (Matt. 26:28)
A new and eternal covenant was established by the blood of Christ.

The symbolism of the Passover supper under the old covenant, was about to be fully satisfied by the crucifixion of Christ. In that historic moment, Jesus transformed the meaning of the elements of the Passover supper into the symbols of a new covenant. The bread now represents his body, which would be given, and the cup, his blood, which would be shed for the forgiveness of sins. GOD's holy requirements and the old covenant were about to be satisfied forever: A new and vibrant way of entering into GOD's presence and provision was being prepared through Christ, the Lamb of GOD. A new and eternal link would be established through the blood of Christ Jesus. GOD sovereignly inaugurated the new and definitive covenant.

13. Correct relationship with God by means of the blood (Rom. 3:25)
The blood of Christ is forever the only means by which we can maintain a correct relationship with God.

GOD offered Jesus as a sacrifice for the expiation or reconciliation of mankind, who were separated from GOD. Communion with a holy GOD is only possible by means of the expiation of sins, which separated GOD and the promises of the covenant from humanity. It is the shed blood of Christ which finally satisfied the requirements of GOD's righteousness. GOD's justice completely fell in this way upon Christ, the immaculate sacrifice who bore all past and present sins. It's through faith in Christ's blood that mankind is justified in GOD's eyes. Christ's blood, then, becomes the link that unites people to GOD and that gives them the right to the provisions of GOD's covenant. Christ's blood is forever the only means to a correct relationship w/ a holy GOD.

14. The sacrifice of Christ embraces the Gentiles (Eph. 2:13)
The Gentiles now find themselves inserted between the patriarchs and the sacred covenants, and participate as heirs of all God's promises.

Before the new covenant, the Gentiles were excluded from the nation of Israel, and were considered removed from the promises of GOD's covenant. There was no hope for them in this life, neither could they recognize GOD's presence in this world. The blood of the sacrifice of the covenant of Christ united the Gentile believers, who were away from GOD, along with the Jews, in the new covenant. The Gentiles were incorporated so they could enjoy the promise through the new covenant, and included as heirs, along with the patriarchs, of all GOD's promises.

15. Rescued by the blood (I Pet. 1:18,19)
The blood of Christ is the price that is paid for us, for our redemption.

"Redeemed" means "rescued". The redeemer pays an appropriate price to reclaim something that had previously belonged to him. Mankind belonged to GOD when it was first created, but it was lost because of sin. The blood of Christ is the price for our rescue, or redemption. GOD offers us Christ's blood as the substitutionary sacrifice and accepts it when we offer it to Him. Consequently, our transaction with GOD isn't a question of silver and gold; but it deals with life and death. His blood is a worthy price and provides an indestructable bond between GOD and man.

16. Participants of the blood (John 6:53,54)
To participate in the covenant of the blood of Christ means to be united with God and to receive the benefits of this life.

To participate - or drink, in this case - in the blood of Christ's covenant is the means to being united to GOD and receiving the blessings of the life of his Son. Christ is the sacrifice of the covenant and the provision of GOD for our sustenance. When "we eat of Him", we become participants of the divine nature (II Pet. 1:4), which is eternal life. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we receive his life and participate in his promises (John 6:63). Those who participate in this mysterious relation with Christ are assured of being resurrected, in that day, to eternal life.

17. The blood of Christ satisfies holiness and, therefore, brings peace (Col. 1:20)
Jesus Christ shed divine life in his blood as payment of the debt for the sins of mankind and for the restoration of the peace of the covenant.

Mankind remained separated from GOD due to sin, and didn't have an acceptable offering that would satisfy the demands of the holy nature of GOD. GOD sent Christ to provide an acceptable sacrifice for sin, and established thus a link with all those who receive him to provide the means so that all creature can be reconciled with Him. Leviticus 17:11 declares that there could be no pardon without the shedding of blood. Because sin ends life, it's required that life pays the debts of sin. Jesus Christ offered his divine life through his blood, to satisfy all the debts of the sins of human beings, and to thus restore the peace of the covenant between GOD and men.

18. The blood, reconciliation and victorious Life (Rom. 5:9)
The blood of Christ resolves the problem of separation between God and men, and faith in his blood gives rise to divine life by the conquest of sin.

Romans 3:10 establishes that every person is unrighteous, and, consequently, deserves to be judged. The love of GOD goes beyond the satisfaction of justice, and establishes a bond of intimate fellowship through the blood of Christ Jesus. Faith in Christ's blood not only frees us from GOD's wrath, but is also the means to a victorious life: 1) the blood of Christ resolves the legal issue of our separation from GOD, reconciling us with Him; and 2)faith in His blood infuses divine life and gives us strength for our continual triumph over sin.

19. The weapon of the blood (Rev. 12:11)
The blood of Christ provides to each believer all that is necessary to defeat Satan.

Rev. 12:11 The weapon of the blood, BLOOD. This passage presents Satan as wandering the earth, confronting and accusing the citizens of GOD's kingdom. The principal weapon of GOD's people against Satan is the blood of the Lamb. The blood of Christ, the Lamb, makes GOD's people prevail, because it answers all the enemy's accusations. Satan controls and defeats mankind by blaming them. He acts as a true "blackmailer". However, the saints know that the blood has satisfied all the charges against them, united them to GOD, and has provided them with all that is necessary to defeat Satan. The blood has established an unbreakable tie with a GOD who prevents Satan from his attempt to separate Christians from the eternal and sufficient resources that He offers them. GOD has declared us just and victorious through the blood of Christ.   (Rom. 5:9/I Cor. 10:16) C.S.

20. The importance of the covenant of communion (I Cor. 10:16)
The blessings and responsibilities of the covenant are extended to all those who participate with Christ.

The celebration of the Passover came to be the last supper that Christ shared with the disciples before his death (John 16:28). It was also the setting that the LORD chose to transform the significance of the cup and the bread within the concept of the new covenant. Now, receiving the cup is to participate in the blood of Christ, and sharing the bread is to participate in his body. The mystery related with the meal of the covenant goes beyond linking Christ with the individual. The participants of the covenant meal and also united in the body and blood of Christ. The blessings and responsibilities of the covenant are extended, therefore, horizontally, to those who participate together in Christ, in the same measure that they unite vertically to GOD and the believer in Christ.

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COVENANT (IDB) - an agreement between two people or two groups that involves promises on the part of each to the other. The concept of covenant between GOD and His people is one of the most important theological truths of the Bible. By making a covenant with Abraham, GOD promised to bless His descendants and to make them His special people. Abraham, in return, was to remain faithful to GOD and to serve as a channel through which GOD's blessings could glow to the rest of the world (Gen. 12:1-3).

Even before Abraham's time, GOD also made a covenant with Noah, assuring Noah that He would not again destroy the world by flood (Genesis 9). Another famous covenant was between GOD and David, in which David and his descendants were established as the royal heirs to the throne of the nation of Israel (II Sam. 7:12; 22:51). This covenant agreement reached its highest fulfillment when Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of the line of David, was born in Bethlehem about a thousand years after GOD made this promise to David the king.

A covenant, in the biblical sense, implies much more than a contract or simple agreement. A contract always has an end date, while a covenant is a permanent arrangement. Another difference is that a contract generally involves only one part of a person, such as a skill, while a covenant covers a person's total being.

The word for covenant in the Old Testament also provides additional insight into the meaning of this important idea. It comes from a Hebrew root word which means "to cut". This explains the strange custom of two people passing through the cut bodies of slain animals after making an agreement with each other (Jer. 34:18). A ritual or ceremony such as this always accompanied the making of a covenant in the Old Testament. Sometimes those entering into a covenant shared a holy meal (Gen. 31:54). Abraham and his children were commanded to be circumcised as a sign of their covenant with GOD (Gen. 17:10-11). Moses sprinkled the blood of animals on the altar and upon the people who entered into covenant with GOD at Mount Sinai (Exod 24:3-8).

The Old Testament contains many examples of covenants between people who related to each other as equals. For example, David and Jonathan entered into a covenant because of their love for each other. This agreement bound each of them to certain responsibilities (I Sam. 18:3). By contrast, GOD does not break promises. His oath to raise up believing children to Abraham (Gen. 22:16-17) is an "everlasting" covenant (Gen. 17:7).

The New Testament makes a clear distinction between covenants of Law and covenants of Promise. The apostle Paul spoke of these "two covenants", one originating "from Mount Sinai", the other from "the Jerusalem above" (Gal. 4:24-26). Paul also argued that the covenant established at Mount Sinai, the Law, is a "ministry of death" and "condemnation" (II Cor. 3:7,9) - a covenant that cannot be obeyed because of man's weakness and sin (Rom. 8:3).

But the "covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12) are GOD's guarantees that He will provide salvation in spite of man's inability to keep his side of the agreement because of his sin. The provision of a Chosen People through whom the Messiah would be born is the promise of the covenants with Adam and David (Gen. 3:15; II Sam. 7:14-15). The covenant with Noah is GOD's promise to withhold judgment on nature while salvation is occurring (Gen. 8:21-22; II Pet. 3:7,15). In the covenant with Abraham, GOD promised to bless Abraham's descendants because of his faith.

These many covenants of promise may be considered one covenant of grace, which was fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. His death ushered in the new covenant under which we are justified by GOD's grace and mercy rather than our human attempts to keep the law. And Jesus Himself is the Mediator of this better covenant between GOD and man (Heb. 9:15).

Jesus' sacrificial death served as the oath, or pledge, which GOD made to us to seal this new covenant. He is determined to give us eternal life and fellowship with Him, in spite of our unworthiness. As the Book of Hebrews declares, "The word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever" (Heb. 7:28). This is still GOD's promise to any person who turns to Him in repentance and faith.