An overview of the covenants

Here is a great short article on the various covenants and how they progress from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses to David to Jeremiah’s New Covenant to Jesus.  I found the section on Jeremiah’s New Covenant and its relationship to Daniel’s 70-7’s very enlightening.  The original article can be found here.

I am reprinting the section on Daniel’s 70-7’s below:

In Daniel 9:24-27 we find a remarkable prophecy in which the seventy years of captivity in Babylon complete a cycle but also introduce a further period of ’70 sevens’. During this period events which achieve the goal of history will be realised by the true Messiah, the Last Adam.

24″Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. 25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” NIV

The passage tells us that the end of the 70 years of exile (Jer 25:8-1429:10) will introduce a new period of 70 units of seven. The exile was closed by Cyrus as God’s “Anointed One” (Isaiah 45:1) who allowed the Jews to return. The new period will be climaxed by the true Anointed One who will deal with the sin problem that had caused the exile in the first place; in fact, all sin would be so effectively dealt with that further sacrifices would not be needed.

The sabbath and numerical symbolism in the passage is important, more so that any precise calculation of time. The 70 sevens is a complete and perfect period during which the perfect plan of God will be realised in effective dealing with sin and deliverance from sin’s bondage (v24) through Messiah’s death (v27) which causes God’s covenant to prevail. The end point of the 70 sevens is therefore the eternal sabbath, the goal of history.

Notice the 3-fold division:
seven sevens – the city will be rebuilt but no 50th jubilee year follows (Lev 25:8-13) since true liberty will not follow the rebuilding of Jerusalem; this comes only with the Messiah.
sixty-two sevens – an odd or broken period as if to convey the idea that the period from the rebuilding until the coming of Christ (the first time) is uncertain to us, and a period which even with what has gone before is still incomplete.
one seven – the last seven is itself complete, a single seven. Like creation it suggests a new and complete work of God (cf Gen 1:1ff), but also completes the perfect plan of God (70 sevens). In the middle (not at the end) of this seven Jerusalem is destroyed [which it was in AD 70] through the application of the curses of the covenant, leaving three and one half to the end of history. This broken period appears to be a symbol of the Christian dispensation – a period of trial and persecution but also a period which ends in triumph. [The same period is expressed as 42 months in Rev 11:213:5 and 1260 days in Rev 11:312:6.]

So Daniel learns that the city will be rebuilt but eventually destroyed in order that God’s covenant may prevail through Messiah’s death so that its full benefits will be realised in the building of the spiritual temple and the establishing of the kingdom which will have no end. The earthly city/temple is not the key: it was always only a symbol of God’s presence. Messiah is the key for the future, the seed of the woman, the one who defeats the Serpent. Already anticipated as Immanuel, he guides the destiny of Israel in the absence of the king on David’s throne, and will come to be personally present with his people.

Significantly, the last of the Old Testament books, Malachi (ca. 430 BC), speaks of the messenger of God’s covenant, the Lord whom you seek, coming suddenly to his temple (3:1). Only such a one can fulfil the promise to Abraham, only such a one can fulfil the purposes of God in creation.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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