The Spirit of the Lord, §10.1: Covenant

First, the vision of the New Jerusalem is covenantal. The symbolic references to the mountain of Zion and the house of the Lord (Mic. 4:1-2) place this prophetic vision within the framework of God’s covenantal promises for humanity. The conflation of Sinai with Jerusalem emphasizes the connection between the ratification of the covenant between God and the people of Israel under the guidance of Moses and the telos of this covenant in the establishment of God’s holy city—both in its historical, proleptic form as the center of cultic worship and in its final, eschatological form as the New Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 4:24-26). Jerusalem is both the hope of the liberated Hebrews wandering in the wilderness and, more importantly, the hope of humanity exiled from the garden. In this sense, the one who embodies Jerusalem perfectly is none other than Jesus Christ.

While a fully developed doctrine of the covenant is too complex to explicate here, a few comments are in order. The covenant of grace is a theological category which orders all other theological loci around the eternal will of God accomplished in Jesus Christ to reconcile the world and redeem creation. In other words, the covenant is grounded in God’s protological self-determination to bring creation both into being and into an eternal communion with the triune God. Creation, in light of the covenant, exists for the sake of redemption. The covenant has its primal origin in the self-determining triune God and encompasses the whole history of God’s relation to humankind from creation to consummation. The covenant of grace thus includes both Israel and the church within God’s gracious activity to reconcile the world to Godself (2 Cor. 5:19). Both Israel and the church are simultaneously celebrated and relativized: both are established together within the one covenant of grace as communities of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18), and yet both are finite realities which can only witness to the one mediator between God and humanity, Jesus the Christ. The covenantal communities of Israel and the church look away from themselves even as they bear the word of grace into the world in faithful obedience.

In summary, we can say the following: the covenant of grace (a) was protologically determined in God’s self-determination to be God for us in Jesus Christ, (b) was proleptically established with the creation of humankind generally as God’s covenant partner and with the nation of Israel specifically as a people uniquely belonging to God, (c) was definitively constituted in Jesus Christ himself as the historical actualization of God’s self-determination, and (d) is teleologically ordered toward the eschatological consummation of the covenant for all humanity.