“Behold, I am going to send My messenger [John the Baptist], and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord [Jesus Christ], whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
With these words, God foretells the coming of Jesus and John the Baptist who will clear the way for His arrival. This verse also contains a clear indication of Jesus’ mission. As “the messenger of the covenant,” He will declare another arrival with these words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
Jesus declares the arrival of the kingdom of heaven, but He is also the messenger of the covenant. In the light of the previous article, Covenant Of Kings And Kingdoms, it is perfectly understandable to link together the ideas of covenant and kingdom since it is by covenant that kingdoms are formed. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) We know that the words Law and Covenant are synonymous, i.e., The Book of the Law and The Book of the Covenant are references to the same book. (See 2 Kings 22:8, 11 and 2 Kings 23:2,3) Jesus came to fulfill The Law, that is, The Covenant. He is also the messenger of The Covenant, and according to the gospel of Matthew He begins His ministry by declaring the arrival of a New Kingdom by proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) It follows, that Jesus’ mission was to fulfill a covenant, and in so doing establish a new covenant kingdom … The Kingdom of God.
Before going on to look at this in more detail, we must ask the question, “Which covenant is Jesus to fulfill?” Paul wrote the following words to the Galatians:
16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. (Galatians 3:16-17)
The promises are the promises of the covenant God made with Abraham. Hence, the law (or the covenant) Jesus was to fulfill was God’s covenant with Abraham.
God brought Abram (later Abraham) into a blood covenant as described in Genesis chapter fifteen.
9 So He [God] said to him [Abram], “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. (Genesis 15:9-10)
[In this we see a clear indication of the preparations for a blood covenant ceremony.]
17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.
18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram. (Genesis 15:17-18a)
Following this, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. Changing names is another indication of blood covenant. While God’s covenant with Abraham had been made, it is important to note that neither God nor Abraham passed through the pieces. Instead, symbols (a smoking oven and a flaming torch) went through the pieces for them. In this we can understand that the covenant is not complete in that this covenant was not made directly between Abram and God. It was in need of fulfillment. The ability for men and women to covenant one-on-one with God would be fulfilled in the saving work of Jesus, the Messiah.
The Law came four hundred and thirty years later because of man’s sinfulness. (Galatians 3:19) Through the law, the due penalty for breaking God’s covenant would be recognized and recompensed. Everyone who was a law-breaker would be under a curse. Recall that blessings and curses are part of the blood covenant package. Jesus, in the fulfillment of the covenant, makes a way for all who choose to enter covenant with Him to be redeemed from the curse of the law.
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”-
14 in order that in [covenant with] Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)
Abram’s covenant with God is preceded by another important symbolic event. It is recorded in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis. When Sodom and Gomorrah were captured by four kings, they took the cities’ goods and food supply. They also captured Lot, Abram’s nephew. When Abram learns of his nephew’s capture, he takes 318 men, engages the captors in battle and rescues Lot. With victory in hand, the king of Sodom goes out to meet Abram in a place called the valley of Shaven which means the King’s Valley. And here Abram is met by another king whose name is Melchizedek.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
[Melchizedek brings bread and wine, an indication that a covenant is about to be made.]
19 He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] a tenth of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)
Blessings are a consequence of covenant. In the blessings and the bread and wine, we understand that a covenant has been established between Melchizedek the priest. But who is Melchizedek? The writer of Hebrews explains.
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.
[Melchizedek was king of righteousness and king of peace. These are Christ-like qualities. The writer continues.]
3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. (Hebrews 7:1-3)
Here we see that Melchizedek was like the Son of God, a name often attributed to Jesus in the New Covenant. Additional proof that Melchizedek is a type or shadow of Jesus Christ follows.
14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.
15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek,
16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement [priests came from the line of Aaron], but according to the power of an indestructible life.
17 For it is attested of Him[Jesus Christ] “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK [Psalm 110].” (Hebrews 7:14-17)
Abram could not make covenant with God because he was a sinful, unrighteous man. Through obedience to God, he demonstrated by faith that he had come to a place where he could enter into this most solemn of relationships with the Most High God. But this could not happen unless he was first cleansed from all unrighteousness, that is, his sin nature. Therefore, it was necessary that he make a covenant with one who was like the One who would come and cleanse all who would choose to enter covenant with Him, Jesus Christ. This is a picture of salvation in Jesus Christ. Like Abram, before we can enter covenant with God, we must first make covenant with a man who is righteous so that our righteousness can be established. For Abram that man was Melchizedek, for us it is Jesus Christ. For Abram it meant making covenant with a shadow of the real thing. For us it means making a covenant with the High Priest who became such based on an indestructible life in that He died, rose again and now lives forever. For Abram it meant needing stand-ins (a smoking oven and a flaming torch) to come into covenant with God. For us it means that by way of a covenant with Jesus Christ, who is in covenant with the Father, we come directly into covenant with God, the Father and Creator of all that is.
This entire scene of Abram’s covenant with Melchizedek and later with God is a picture of what was to be fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We, in our sinful nature cannot make covenant with God. But we can make covenant with a man. And if we were to make covenant with a man who was at one and the same time in the Abrahamic covenant as a descendent of Abraham and in covenant with God, then the way is cleared for any person to be able to come into a one-on-one blood covenant relationship with God Almighty, creator of all that is and ever will be.
All of this was accomplished in Jesus Christ.
Jesus was a man, a human being, like you and me. However, while He had a body of flesh as we do, He was different from a spiritual standpoint. He did not have a human father, but a spiritual one, the Holy Spirit. Therefore, He did not have a sin nature as we do. Since He lived His life without sinning, He died the perfect man, a completely righteous man, the perfect sacrifice for all of the sins of mankind. Hence, when you, me or anyone repents and enters into blood covenant with Jesus Christ, we make covenant exchanges. We exchange natures. We give Him our sinful nature, and He gives us His righteous nature. This is why Paul could rightly proclaim: “Therefore if anyone is in [covenant with] Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus is the covenant king. He is also king of a covenant kingdom. In the Bible it is called the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. It is a covenant kingdom because the way to become a member of this kingdom is to make a blood covenant with the true King of Righteousness and King of Peace, Jesus Christ. When you or anyone repents and gives all to the man Jesus, you also come into covenant with God because Jesus is in covenant with God. The same concept applies to the body of Christ.
Someone who is in covenant with Jesus is also in the same covenant with everyone else who is in that covenant. And they all have the same nature … the nature of Jesus through His Spirit. They are truly one body, and they are all members of the kingdom of God, and equal co-sharers in it. No wonder the first believers following the day of Pentecost considered everything they owned as common property.
This is the kingdom Jesus set up. He became the king of this kingdom first by making covenant with God, the Father, and then by making covenant with every person who choses to enter the covenant through repentance. This is why Jesus truly is the covenant king of a covenant kingdom, the kingdom of God.