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Adam, Noah, and the Kingdom:
The Covenants of Genesis and Consistent Eschatology

by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith

The New Testament Fulfillment of the Covenants

Perhaps our first question should be, Where does the New Testament refer to the Adamic mandate? Where does the New Testament speak of the mission that God gave to Adam to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, to subdue it and rule it? If we are looking for a clear and direct quotation or a reference that says something like, "the church must fulfill the responsibility that God gave to Adam," then the answer will be that there is no reference to the Adamic mandate in the New Testament. But to restrict ourselves to this kind of direct language would be absurd. It is more common to find old truth dressed in the new clothes appropriate to the covenantal context.

Romans 5:12-21 sets forth a contrast between Adam and Christ that provides a theological foundation for viewing the relationship between the two covenants. Adam sinned and failed, bringing covenantal judgment on mankind. Christ succeeded where Adam failed, bringing grace and blessing to mankind. Paul does not explicitly refer to the Adamic mandate here, but he does speak of grace reigning where sin used to reign. If the reign of grace is to be thought of as anywhere near as extensive as the reign of sin, then the implications of Paul's statement must be broad.

The other passage in Paul that speaks of Adam and Christ is 1 Corinthians 15:20-58. Though the thrust of the passage is Paul's teaching about resurrection, it includes Paul's outline for the present order of history — we should add for emphasis that this the only passage in Paul's epistles to set forth an explicit outline of history. As in Adam all his race die, so also the new race in Christ will all be raised. For the resurrection of the new race, God has ordained a certain order, a two-stage resurrection. First, Christ rose from the dead as the firstfruits, which means that His resurrection is the guarantee of the future resurrection of His people. Then, at His second coming, the dead in Christ will rise with Him.

Premillennial interpreters would have us believe that between the reference to the second coming at the end of verse 23 and the expression "the end" in verse 24, there is a thousand year kingdom of blessing that Paul passed by without mentioning. We are told to believe that a period of time like no other in which the resurrected saints together with men in their fleshly Adamic bodies will cooperate together to accomplish the work that God gave to Adam has been passed over without so much as a single word. The silence here is deafening. But it is only the beginning of woes for the premillennial interpretation.

When we read the rest of the context, the premillennial interpretation becomes even more difficult to sustain. The end is the time that Christ puts an end to all rule and authority for, Paul explains, Christ must rule until he has defeated all of his enemies. The premillennial interpretation assumes that this reference to Jesus' reign is to the millennial reign after His second coming. But Paul here quotes Psalm 110, the very same verse that Peter quoted to announce that Christ had ascended to the right hand of the Father and poured out the gift of the Spirit.

Paul also referred to Psalm 110 in Ephesians 1:20-23 when he spoke of the present - not future - reign of Christ. One of the important themes of the book of Hebrews is that Christ fulfills the Melchizedekian priesthood as prophesied by Psalm 110 (Heb. 7, esp. vs. 17, 21). Moreover, special emphasis is placed upon the conclusion of Paul's whole argument about Melchizedek, "Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man" (Heb. 8:2). Melchizedek was both priest and king. The present session of Christ at the right hand of God fulfills the Davidic promise as well as the meaning of the whole Levitical priesthood. Jesus at the right hand of God, the promise of the Davidic covenant, is therefore the repeated theme of the book that announces the fulfillment of the old covenant through the Messiah (Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). When, therefore, we read that, "Christ must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet," we cannot see it as a reference to anything other than the present reign of Christ that the New Testament so often proclaims as the fulfillment of the promise of Psalm 110.

The defeat of all of Jesus' enemies before His second coming means the defeat of His enemies through the normal course of covenantal history in fulfillment of the Noahic and Abrahamic promises. Paul does not say that Jesus must defeat all of His enemies so that He can reign — which is actually what premillennialism envisions — but that Jesus' reign must continue until they are defeated. There is a long historical process in view here. History is here seen as warfare between Christ and His enemies — a perspective that we have encountered previously, for Genesis 3:15 pictures history in precisely the same terms. The Abrahamic promise included references to defeating the enemies of God. The Mosaic and Davidic covenants, too, look forward to the conquest of righteousness. All of this points to the fact that the defeat of God's enemies is an aspect of the restoration of the world.

Does the New Testament endorse this sort of conquest mentality? Are we to think in terms of a historical battle between good and evil, with the Church of Jesus Christ as the bastion of righteousness?

Consider the following. First, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Mat. 16:18). Gates, of course, are not offensive weapons. The picture is one of the Church on the move against the empire of Satan with the Church being victorious. Without question, it is the church that is the aggressor for this is the language of conquest. In the context, Peter and the disciples have confessed their faith in Jesus as Messiah and the Messiah proclaims that upon that confession He will build His church and kingdom (cf. 16:19). In other words, if Peter is correct in asserting that Jesus is the Messiah, then Jesus must be the One to bring in the kingdom through defeating the enemies of God. Jesus promises precisely that, while also making it clear that the means for bringing in the kingdom is the work of the Church. Peter, as a representative leader of the church, is given the keys of the kingdom. We see later that the power to bind and loose is not Peter's personal prerogative but the authority given to the Church for Church discipline (Mat. 18:15-20). In this promise of Jesus, given at the crucial time of the disciples' confession that they believe He is the Messiah, we see a New Testament application of the promise of Genesis 3:15 - a promise which includes a view of how the warfare between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent is to be fulfilled in new covenant history.

Second, when Jesus gives to His disciples what is known as the Great Commission, His language reflects the Old Testament covenantal promises. To begin with, Jesus claims that, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth." This is a claim that He is the Messiah and that the blessing of kingly reign that was promised to the Messiah through David has been given to Him. It is His now. Jesus is not speaking of His second coming. Indeed, since Jesus has already been given all authority in heaven and on earth, we must wonder what additional kingly authority might possibly be given to the Messiah if He did return according to the theology of the premillennialist? If we interpret this passage literally, will we not have to say there is nothing more that can be given to Jesus in the way of authority?

What, on the amillennial view, is morally required and covenantally promised with respect to the Messiah's exercise of all authority? Will He not, as Paul said, defeat all His enemies before the second coming? And if He does defeat all His enemies, fulfilling the promise of Genesis 3:15 and covenant oaths given to Noah, Abraham, and David, does that not mean that Jesus, through His church and by building His church, will bring in the kingdom of God through the normal covenantal processes of history?

If there could be any doubt about the implications of this declaration of total Messianic authority, it is removed by the fact that it is made the foundation for a commission to conquer the world in Jesus name. All nations are to be converted to be His disciples. Every nation is to be baptized and to be taught to obey His kingly authority by observing all that He has commanded. This commission is nothing less and nothing other than a command for the Church to bring the nations into submission to the one and only King and Messiah. Baptism is the ceremonial pledge of loyalty to the Lord. It is the covenant oath of obedience to the Messiah. When all the nations are baptized, the Church will have prevailed against the gates of Hades and Jesus will have defeated all His historical enemies. Satan and his seed will have been the historical losers, and the new Adam will have brought in the kingdom that fulfills the commission God gave to the old Adam in the Garden.

But will this commission find historical fulfillment? Jesus Himself gave us assurance, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world!" The assurance that the Church will be able to fulfill its commission is couched in the language of the covenant — language that is even used in martial contexts in the Old Testament. For example, the famous promise to Joshua that he would indeed be able to defeat his enemies and conquer the land of Canaan is given in the very same covenantal language: "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Josh. 1:5, 9).

Jesus assurance has the same meaning for the Church. He is the One who commanded, therefore we should be strong and courageous, certain of the victory. He will neither fail nor forsake us, therefore we should fight the good fight in the certain hope of victory.

Third, if we keep in mind these promises of Christ and their relationship to the Old Testament covenants and promises of salvation through the Messiah, we will be in a better position to understand Paul's use of martial language also. Imagery connected to warfare is repeatedly referred to in Paul's epistles (Rom. 13:12; 1 Cor. 9:7, 26; 2 Cor 6:7; 10:3-4; Eph. 6:11 ff.; 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:4; 4:7). Paul claims to be "pulling down strongholds" (2 Cor 10:4), language unmistakably reminiscent of Jesus' promise that the gates of Hades would not be able to stand before the Church. Paul's extended description of the Christian warrior depicts the Christian as a kingdom warrior whose weapons are the Word of God, faith, righteousness and prayer (Eph. 6:11 ff.). If Jesus is going to defeat all of His enemies, if we are His army, spiritually equipped to fight the devil, if Jesus is with us like He was with Joshua, and if the war we are fighting aims to bring about the fulfillment of the covenant promises of God through the leading of the risen Messiah, how can the Church not be victorious in history?

Fourth, amillennial and premillennial interpreters miss the Biblical program for victory because they miss one of the clearest passages in Paul's epistles: Romans 8:36-39. It is much to be regretted that not a few postmillennialists have missed this passage also! Paul's frequent references to spiritual warfare, just like the original promises of Christ, put the Christian fight into the context of a battle for the hearts and mind of men. This is not a physical war, nor is it merely a battle over words. It is covenantal war.

How is the Church to be victorious in a covenantal war? The obvious answer is that the Church is to be victorious in the same way that her Head was victorious. The Church is to walk in the way of Christ. How did He defeat the devil? By a philosophical/theological debate? Perhaps in part (cf. Mat. 4:1-11). But the real answer is that Jesus defeated the devil through the cross (John 12:31; 16:11). And when Paul speaks of the victory of the Church, it is through the cross that the Church is seen to be victorious. This means both the message of the cross and the experience of suffering, dying for the sake of the Truth, like our Savior did.

As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:36-39)
Note that Paul says, "we are more than conquerors." Is this the language of covenantal defeat? Not at all. The Christian warrior fights as Christ fought and gains the victory through faithfulness to his Lord. Paul is here following the teaching of Jesus, who taught His disciples in that last discourse that they were to imitate Him in dying to bear fruit.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
Jesus' disciples had to bear fruit in the same way that He did — through death. He is the supreme one who does not love His life, but sacrifices it. If the disciples are really going to follow Him, they must also sacrifice their lives in order to bear fruit that will remain. The way of the cross is the way of victory. It is the way that Jesus defeated Satan in fulfillment of the promise and it is the way that He called His disciples to follow Him.

This is not the glamorous road of success that some imagine. There is nothing splashy or showy about the way God works, though it is true that He does answer prayer and miracles are not only possible, they are a daily reality as God works in the hearts of men to bring them to the knowledge of Jesus. The age of sign-miracles, however, is over. The point is that the victory of the Gospel proceeds humbly and unobtrusively. The Gospel's working is more subtle than either the world or many Christians can appreciate. By preaching the Gospel and living according to its truth, the Church bears fruit through death until she gradually overcomes all opposition and the world sees the manifestation of God's glory in history. It is through the humble way of the cross that the nations are converted, baptized, and trained to follow Jesus, just as He commanded and promised.

The importance of the Noahic promise for the accomplishment of this plan is clear. There will be no more catastrophic judgments until Jesus has defeated His enemies and brought in the kingdom, as He promised. God will bring covenantal judgment on those who oppose Him, but to the unbelieving the covenantal connections between sin and judgment are less than perspicuous. What seems most obvious - for example the covenantal judgmental upon sexual immorality through the diseases it brings - cannot be seen by the non-Christian who denies the covenantal Lordship of Christ.[7] In the same way, the covenantal connections between social envy and covetousness with the resultant social poverty escape the notice of most non-Christian economic advisers.

The Noahic covenant assures us that we live in a world that is so structured that we may be certain that if we follow in the way of Christ, the way of covenantal obedience to God, including, when necessary, the sacrifice of our lives for the truth, we shall bear fruit (John 12:24; 15:1-16). We are more than conquerors through Him that loves us. If we are living according to His covenant word, we may be sure that death and suffering are not signs of His displeasure, but preludes to the kingdom. For suffering and death are the means that God uses to defeat the devil.


[7] It is hard to imagine why the non-Christian intellectual so often fails to see that there is a simple moral solution to many of our medical problems. Biblical monogamy would bring about the end of every STD within a relatively short period of time.


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