A New Covenant Mindset
In Deut. 31:16-18 God told Moses that the Israelites were soon going to commit spiritual adultery by following after other gods. This is quite a depressing thought, for the prophecy came just before they were supposed to inherit the kingdom! Their fathers had all died in the wilderness on account of their refusal to enter the kingdom 38 years earlier. The next generation was willing to cross the Jordan, but God made it clear that their heart condition was no better than that of their fathers.
Even though they had been given the New Covenant in Deuteronomy 29, where God vowed to change their hearts, the fulfillment of God’s vow would still take many years to accomplish. In fact, it would be more than 1400 years before it would be ratified by the blood of Jesus Christ. And even then, the Pentecostal Age, beginning in Acts 2, would only see its partial implementation.
God always thinks ahead, because He has a long-term plan and has plenty of time on His hands. Thus, He revealed to Israel that they would fall into spiritual adultery and idolatry for a long time before God would fulfill His oath in all of them. Of course, the presence of the remnant of grace tells us that His oath would begin to be fulfilled immediately in a few of them.
Incremental Measures of the Holy Spirit
The New Covenant was to be fulfilled incrementally, not only a few people at a time, but also by dispensing the Holy Spirit in incremental measures. During the Passover Age, the Holy Spirit drew near but remained external in physical temples. During the Pentecostal Age, the Holy Spirit came to indwell us, but it has had to share a room with the old man of sin in a mixture of wheat and leaven (Lev. 23:17).
This incremental fulfillment of God’s New Covenant oath has puzzled theologians for thousands of years, as most of them did not understanding the message conveyed by the feast days of Israel. But God gave Moses a large clue by telling him that the kingdom which Israel was about to inherit was only temporary. The people would inherit the land of Canaan, but they would then corrupt themselves, and God would ultimately judge them by destroying it and by casting them out of the land.
Hence, it was clear that their inheritance was not the fulfillment of God’s New Covenant oath, for God never intended to fulfill His oath in them in that kingdom. Canaan was only a prophetic type of something greater that was yet to come. They were to enter Canaan on the day that they were to select the lambs for Passover (Joshua 4:19). This can be seen, then, as a Passover kingdom, a kingdom under the first anointing, or the first measure of the Spirit.
The next phase came in Acts 2, when God instituted a Pentecostal kingdom with a greater anointing. This kingdom was a mixed realm, prophesied by the reign of King Saul, who had been crowned on Pentecost, or “wheat harvest” (1 Sam. 12:17). Church history, written mostly by churchmen themselves, records how the church rebelled against God, following the pattern of King Saul, who also refused to obey God (1 Sam. 15:23).
But the reign of Saul ended after 40 Jubilees, and we are now in transition into the Tabernacles Kingdom under the anointing of the feast of Tabernacles. This is the point where God’s oath will be fulfilled in the overcoming remnant, the first group that will be perfected and will have the law fully written on their hearts.
After the Age to come, God’s oath will be fulfilled in the rest of the church, the greater body of believers, who will receive their reward of life (immortality) at the general resurrection of the dead (John 5:28, 29). At the same time the unbelievers will come under divine judgment, Jesus says. Then after the final Age of Judgment, God’s oath will be fulfilled in all of Creation as the law of Jubilee is fulfilled and God becomes “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:27, 28).
The song that God taught Moses prophesied of many things to come. Much of it focused upon Israel’s apostasy, but also set forth God’s ability to fulfill His vow in spite of stubborn opposition from the will of man. In fact, God has allowed the will of man to be seen in its full strength and corruption in order to give glory to God when He proves Himself to be far more powerful than any man’s will.
So God told Moses in Deut. 31:19, 20,
19 Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, in order that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. 20 For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant.
This song was to witness against the sons of Israel when they would become idolatrous. In other words, when God took Israel to court for lawless behavior, Israel would have no excuse. The song would testify against them, because it prophesied of their lawlessness ahead of time. The people had to learn this song, so they could not claim ignorance.
Their lawlessness would “break My covenant.” This is a reference to the Exodus covenant, where the people had vowed to be obedient. Hence, the song of Moses reveals the condition of the people under the Old Covenant who were unable to keep their vow. God continues in verses 21 and 22,
21 Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent [yetser, “purpose, imagination, device (intellectual framework)”] which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore. 22 So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel.
After giving this prophetic warning, Moses commissioned Joshua in verse 23,
23 Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”
Moses’ admonition to Joshua was not a mere formality. It would take both strength and courage to lead such a rebellious people into the kingdom. After exposing the hearts of the people—and perhaps even embarrassing them—Joshua knew how difficult his job would be. And yet the real difficulty lay in future generations, after the death of Joshua, when the elders, or princes of the tribes, would take over the government of Israel while awaiting the promise of their future king.
This commission was to be repeated on the next prophetic level in the New Testament, and therefore, these events prophesied of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist commissioned Yeshua-Jesus, and Jesus led us into the Pentecostal Kingdom. Then the church fell into idolatry and lawlessness, even as Israel had done earlier.
Two Covenants Side by Side
Notice also how the two covenants remained side by side in each case. In Deuteronomy, the New Covenant was revealed in chapter 29 when God made His oath to them, but yet the people remained under the Old Covenant, except for the remnant of grace who exhibited faith and obedience. In other words, whoever truly heard the voice of God and was led by the Spirit (like Moses and Joshua) proved that they were living by the New Covenant, even while the Old Covenant dominated Israel for the next 1,400 years.
The two covenants existed side by side, for the New Covenant had actually been established by Abraham, the father of faith who heard God’s voice and was led by the Spirit. The revelation of the New Covenant to Moses in Deuteronomy 29 confirmed this Covenant to Israel in the days of Moses. In other words, it was available to any individual who had true faith, regardless of the era in which they lived.
Unfortunately, the majority of the nation of Israel in pre-Christian times did not seem to have a clear revelation of the distinction between the two covenants. This distinction was made clear by the Apostle Paul many years later. Yet even the Church in the Pentecostal Kingdom had difficulty making that distinction; hence, Paul wrote extensively urging people to leave the jurisdiction of the Old and come under the New Covenant. The church had been given the New Covenant, much like what occurred under Moses in Deuteronomy 29, but yet many of the believers remained in the Old Covenant mindset.
Paul fought against this in his letter to the Galatians. The book of Hebrews spelled out in detail how to “immigrate” from the Old Covenant to the New. And yet it was no easy task to persuade those who were steeped in the religious culture of the temple to become New Covenant Christians. It would take the destruction of Jerusalem to settle most of the disagreements.
Even afterward, as the centuries passed, the church began to adopt rituals similar to those of the Old Covenant. Church bishops and priests adopted the wardrobe of the Levitical priests, they began to burn incense again, they required submission to the organization in order to draw near to God, and soon they began to externalize the very definition of church.
No longer were the people the church, but the idea of church resided in the organization itself and its hierarchy. In other words, to be part of the church, one had to be in fellowship with its hierarchy. The people could not be part of the church, it was said, unless they had a relationship with the organization. This teaching gave them a direct relationship with the organization and only an indirect relationship with Christ.
In time, men also began to “build churches.” The people then “went to church,” which testified that the church was an external building, built on holy ground where God dwelt. This re-established the Old Covenant tabernacles and temples, where God dwelt in buildings made by hands, and where men had to “go” in order to meet with God.
Old Covenant Salvation
Perhaps the most destructive Old Covenant idea that carried over into church theology was the idea that man’s own vow (or decision) is what saves him. There is certainly nothing wrong with responding to an invitation to “go to the altar” and give one’s life to Christ. There is nothing wrong with making a vow to follow Jesus. We should all do that. However, when we think that this is what will save us, our faith is misplaced. We have faith in our own vow, rather than in the vow of God. If our salvation is based upon our own decision to follow Christ, then we are yet Old Covenant believers.
The problem with our own vow is that no man has yet been able to keep it, regardless of how sincere his intent was.
In later years, this spawned a conflict between the Arminians and the Calvinists. The Arminian view was that man’s vow saved him, and hence, every time he sins, he falls from grace and must renew his vow. Calvinists teach that “once saved, always saved.” However, they say that if a man falls into sin, it means that his earlier vow had been insincere, and so he had not been truly saved in the first place. In practice, then, their salvation is still based upon their sincerity when making their vow and their ability to keep it by the power of their carnal mind. Their idea of “eternal security” is not really so secure after all. In fact, if they were truly honest, neither Arminian nor Calvinist would ever be able to rest in Christ, knowing that he was saved.
I myself was taught from my childhood that my salvation was based upon my personal decision to follow Christ—that is, to be obedient in fulfillment of my vow. I first made such a vow at the age of six. However, as I became old enough to recognize that I was sinning virtually every day, and I was frightened by a sermon that I had heard, where the preacher said, “No sin will enter heaven.”
The implication (as I understood it) was that if I died with some unconfessed sin in my life, I would go to hell. So I struggled every day for many years, continually renewing my vow and “getting saved” over again and again each night. Finally, after much seeking, God delivered me by showing me that I did not have to be perfect to be saved.
Some years later, while I was in College, this revelation clarified when I saw that my salvation rested upon God’s oath and His work within me. I saw that He had imputed the righteousness of Christ to my account, calling what was NOT as though it were (Rom. 4:17, KJV).
This set me free. A great weight was lifted from my shoulders, for my salvation no longer depended upon my own vow and my own ability to keep that vow. My faith was now in the oath of God and His ability to change my heart.
Ten years later, by studying the law in the 1980’s, I learned by further revelation that this work of God came in two stages: first, He imputed me righteous through His Passover work on the cross; and in the end, when His work was completed through the feast of Tabernacles, He will make me actually righteous. These are the two works of Christ, depicted in the two goats on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:5).
Many in the church, if sincere in their pursuit of God, have labored under the bondage of attempting to fulfill their vows of obedience, thinking that every time they fail, they lose their salvation. Devout Catholics must go to mass virtually every day to keep their salvation current, and if they die without confessing their sins to a priest, they believe that God will hold them fully accountable. They do not understand Paul’s concept of imputed righteousness, which they have been given ahead of time as a temporary respite until they see the oath of God fully manifested in their lives.
The Old Covenant indeed represents the house of bondage, as Paul tells us in Gal. 4:25. Many true believers have faith, but they are yet enslaved in “Egypt,” the house of bondage. The solution is to come to a New Covenant understanding and to know that their salvation is based upon God’s oath, not upon man’s well-intentioned vows. This is taught not only in the New Testament, but also in the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 29).