Israel's New Covenant and the Body of Christ

by Jerry Shugart

IV. Are the Promises of the New Covenant Now in Effect?

In his book The Case For Progressive Dispensationalism Robert Saucy says that "the Old Testament prophecies, the promise of salvation under the new covenant, and the promises to Abraham and David all contained provisions for the blessing of the nations along with Israel. This blessing of the nations was ascribed to the messianic era. This era has arrived, according to the New Testament, and thus the promises of the new covenant have begun to take effect and are available to all who will receive the Messiah" [emphasis added] (Saucy, The Case For Progressive Dispensationalism, 138).

Saucy is correct that the OT prophecies of the new covenant contain provisions for the blessing of the Gentiles. However, he is in error when he says that the promises found in the New Covenant have begun to take effect. But we will see that this assertion of Saucy is just another blunder among many. Here are the prophecies to which Saucy makes reference and it is clear that these prophecies are not being fulfilled now:

"Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David...Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee" (Isa.55:3,5).

"For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed" (Isa.61:8-9).

In the aforementioned book written by Saucy on page 112 he says that the words "everlasting covenant" are referring to the "New Covenant." These OT prophecies reveal that the Gentiles will receive blessings through the agency of Israel at a time when the nation will be restored to divine favor and at a time when the LORD will glorify and bless that nation. That certainly is not happening now and it has not happened at anytime in the past. The following prophecy speaks of the time when the New Covenant will be in force and the nation of Israel will be a blessing to the world and it will be the Jews who will bring the world unto the knowledge of Christ:

""And I will bring them (Israel), and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness...And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing...In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech.8:8,13,23).

These prophecies regarding Gentile salvation are not now being fulfilled so no one in the Body of Christ has received any spiritual blessings as a result of the New Covenant. The Apostle Paul says that salvation has come to those in the Church as a result of the fall of Israel:

"I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" (Ro.11:11-12).

In order to understand how Israel's fall was responsible for the salvation of the Gentiles Sir Robert Anderson wrote that "When some great French wine-grower appoints an agent in this country, he no longer supplies his wines except through that agent. His object, however, is not to hinder but to facilitate the sale, and to ensure that spurious wines shall not be palmed off upon the public in his name. Akin to this was the purpose with which Israel was called out in blessing. The knowledge of the true God was thus to be maintained on earth.' " (Anderson, The Silence of God [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978], 53).

When the nation of Israel refused to believe that the Lord Jesus is the promised Messiah the LORD God replaced Israel as His agent and appointed another agent to bring the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world and that new agent was the Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul. And now those in the Body of Christ have been given the "ministry of reconciliation" to preach the "word of reconciliation" (2 Cor.5:18-19).

The spiritual blessings enjoyed by those in the Body of Christ have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel or the New Covenant promised to that nation. Therefore, Saucy is in error when he writes that "according to the Scriptures, the salvation of God that flows from the Cross is given to all mankind through the new covenant" (Ibid., 111).

V. The Greek Word Diatheke

In the NT passages which refer to the covenant promised to Israel the Greek word translated "covenant" is diatheke. According to Thayer the word diatheke means "a disposition, arrangement, of any sort, which one wishes to be valid...esp. 'the last disposal' which one makes of his earthly possessions after his death, a 'testament' or 'will'" [emphasis added] (Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1977], 136).

J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan say that Greek word "is properly 'dispositio,' an 'arrangement' made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot alter. A 'will' is simply the most conspicuous example of such an instrument, which ultimately monopolized the word just because it suited its differentia so completely" [emphasis added] (J.H. Molton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930], 148).

For more information for the meaning of the Greek word diatheke please go to Appendix #1.

The Scriptures do reveal that there is a diatheke which applies to those in the Body of Christ and that diatheke also brings spiritual blessings to those living today:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new diatheke; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor.3:6).

It will now be shown that the diatheke which is operational today and which applies to those in the Body of Christ is the Last Will and Testament of Christ and not the New Covenant promised to Israel. We will now look at verses which speak of the Last Will and Testament of Christ.