New Covenant Theology’s Hermeneutic
NCT’s hermeneutic interprets the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. With this eschatological perspective it sees the chosen people of God of the Old Testament (physical Israel) as being composed mainly of unbelievers. Nevertheless, in the providence of God, according to the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19:5, 6 ), the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt and they inherited a literal land, the land of Canaan (Joshua 24:13). By contrast, New Covenant Christians (Matthew 26:28) are rescued from the slavery of sin and eternal hell (John 8:34 – 36; Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1). By the grace of God they inherit a spiritual land, bought and paid for by Jesus, through His death on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:20) and by His fulfilment of the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17).
Four hundred and thirty years before the Mosaic Covenant (Genesis 15; Galatians 3:17), God made a covenant with Abram [Exalted Father], whom He renamed Abraham [Father of a Multitude]. This covenant is known as the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:1 – 8) It was two-fold, involving Abraham and his offspring. The sign of the covenant was circumcision (Genesis 17:11). Every male person had to be circumcised; otherwise he would have to be put to death, which is the meaning of, ‘cut off’ (Genesis 17:10 – 14; Hebrews 8:7 – 13).
New covenant theologians see the Old Testament Israelites as a ‘figure’ or ‘picture’ of the New Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), i.e., the Church from Pentecost onwards. Members of Christ’s Church are spiritual citizens of God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus and His atoning death on the cross. New Testament believers in Christ inherit an everlasting ‘land’ through the blood of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:27, 28; 1 Corinthians 11:25) by faith. When they believe in Jesus and repent of their sins, they become spiritual citizens of God’s kingdom, and they all know Him and have His laws written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31 – 34; Hebrews 8:7 – 13).
By the grace of God, the OT Israelites inherited the physical land of Canaan, but only a few of them became inheritors of the spiritual land of God through faith. Notable examples were Joshua and Caleb who also inherited actual land in the land in Canaan. Like all believers, their justification was in Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. Believers of all ages are recipients of the everlasting, spiritual land of promise, but believers from the time of Pentecost onwards have the advantage of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1 – 4; Matthew 2:11 – 12; John 15:26, 27; Acts:2:17, 18).
NCT is based on Scripture alone – all 66 books of the Bible – not on man-made constructs, theologically contrived covenants, creeds, or confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith  and the Second London Baptist Confession . This is important, because such manmade edicts, doctrines etc can be off the mark, since they may not accurately and truthfully interpret the biblical texts they purport to be based on. A fundamental principle of NCT interpretation is to ascertain the meaning of the original Greek, Hebraic or Aramaic words within their contexts, and to compare them with the same words in other relevant passages. The Bible speaks for itself. It is accountable to no one, since it’s author is God Himself through the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20). It stands alone and authenticates itself. As stated in my introduction, the overarching principle of the NCT hermeneutic is to interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament – not the other way around. This follows the pattern of the Apostles and Christ Himself. Where passages and words are symbolic, or they take the form of metaphors, they are treated as such, and where they are literal, they are translated literally.
Progressive Revelation of Jesus Christ
NCT supports the view that God’s plan with mankind is one of progressive revelation of His nature and will, especially how man should relate to Him in light of His revelation. The climax and pivotal point of His revelation is Jesus Christ at the cross. Jesus is the express image of God (Hebrews 1:1 – 4).
Paul the Apostle, speaks of the ‘mystery kept secret since the world began ……… now made manifest by the Scriptures’ … obedience to faith … to God. (Romans 16:25), i.e., Jesus Christ.
The Bible reveals that God’s dealings and interactions with mankind are characterised by a covenantal relationship. Christ is central to the whole of Scripture, and the covenants play a big part in the relationships God has with mankind. God is Sovereign, and He determines the outcomes of His covenants (Deuteronomy 32:39). Nevertheless, man cannot abdicate his responsibilities of obedience to God (Romans 1 – 3:26; John 14:21). Adam failed by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden when he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16; 3:1 – 7), and since that time the whole of his offspring has been marred with the stain of sin which brings spiritual and physical death.
Jesus came to restore the relationship of the elect (Romans 8:33), i.e., those chosen for salvation by God, and who were spiritually dead in Adam’s sin (Romans 3:21 -26). They are made alive and they are given new birth by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3 – 8). God sees them as He sees His Son, perfect in righteousness. Their sins He remembers no more (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).
Jesus is the Author of Creation (Genesis 1 – 2:3; John 1:1 – 3). From before the beginning of creation, God had His purpose and plan (Acts 2:23 – 33). He is the Sovereign, Universal King of heaven and earth (John 17:2, 3), and salvation comes exclusively through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8, 9) by Jesus’s atoning, sacrificial death on the cross. He satisfied and satisfies God’s righteous wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9), and He is the Mediator between the Father and His elect (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24).
Jesus will come to the earth again to bring about a physical resurrection of all who have lived, and He will judge them according to their deeds, words and inward thoughts (Revelation 20:12). Those who persevere in faith will be given new spiritual bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13 -16) and they will dwell with God eternally in a new heaven and a new earth [land] (Revelation 21).
The Abrahamic Covenant
Israelites of the Old Testament were largely disobedient and unfaithful, but they were given the physical land of Canaan (Joshua 24:13). The LORD God made a two-part covenant (Genesis 17:7, 8) with Abraham decreeing he would become the ‘father’ of many nations whose citizens would inherit an everlasting land. They would receive the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession, and the LORD would be their God (Genesis 17:8).
This Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:7 – 14) required obedience on the part of Abraham and his descendants. Every male had to be circumcised. Circumcision was the ‘sign’ of the covenant. (Genesis 17:11) It was a covenant of ‘works’. The penalty for disobedience was death. The disobedient would be ’cut off’!
Old Testament Israelites had no direct access to God (Exodus 19:12, 13, 21), and they never did, except for Moses, who was their intermediary. He spoke face to face with God (Exodus 33:11). In this respect he pre-figured Christ who is the Supreme Mediator between believers and God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24).
The Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant
At the mountain of Sinai (Exodus 19), God made a conditional covenant with Moses and the Israelites. This is known as the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19:5, 6), and by the keeping of it, the Israelites would become a ‘special’ treasure to God and a kingdom of priests, a holy nation – IF they faultlessly obeyed and kept their side of covenant! The people declared they would obey ‘all that the LORD had spoken’ (verse 8).
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1 – 17) were 10 of many laws in the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:7) – 613 in total, any of which, if broken precluded individual Israelites from entering the land (James 2; 9, 10). Of the original Israelites 20 years and above, only Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land (Numbers 14:30). God blessed Joshua with faith and perseverance. The others who entered were all born during 40 years of wanderings in the wilderness, but prior to entering Canaan it was required of them to be circumcised (Joshua 5:5 – 7). Moses, himself, never entered the promised land on account of his disobedience at the rock in the wilderness (Numbers 20:7 -12). Instead of speaking to the rock as instructed by the LORD, he struck it twice with his rod.
Every unbelieving Israelite, both before and after entering Canaan, died in their sins. They never entered the spiritual land of God’s rest, because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16 – 19) and because of being under the curse (Deuteronomy 28:15 ff). On account of sin inherited from Adam, they were unable to keep God’s law. The same applies to all people (Romans 3:23). By contrast, Jesus who was without sin (Hebrews 3:15) fulfilled the law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He inherited the everlasting land on behalf of His elect and thereby gives them His rest (Hebrews 4:1) Jesus was the only person capable of fulfilling the Mosaic law on account of his perfect obedience and sinless life (Colossians 1:28).
The great majority of OT Israelites never entered into Christ’s spiritual rest, but as a people, they were an unbelieving picture or figure of God’s new Israel, the Church. They foreshadowed or pointed to a new people of God who are mainly composed of Gentiles and some Jews. Together, these elect are the true ‘Israel of God’ (Galatians 6:16) who enter into His land and have spiritual rest (Hebrews 4:1 – 8).
Jesus, having fulfilled the Mosaic law through obedience and faith (Matthew 5:17), and having triumphed over sin and death at the cross, made the Old Mosaic Covenant obsolete and replaced it with the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7 – 13; Matthew 26:27 – 28; 1 Corinthians 11:25). From that momentous moment, access to the Father was opened to all who believe. The temple veil was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51) symbolising access to the kingdom, i.e., access to the spiritual land where Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father. It is a glorious kingdom inhabited by kings and priests (Revelation 1:6) who have the law of Christ written on their hearts (Hebrews 8:10). They are members of Christ’s church, and they are in-LAWed (ennomos) to Him (1 Corinthians 9:21). They are not ‘under law toward Christ’, as most Bible translators interpret this verse. Practitioners of New Covenant Theology are not antinomians, as critics would claim, because they obey the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, 16).
Believers are not restrained by a law of works, i.e., the Mosaic law, but they are beneficiaries of the law of perfect freedom in Christ, i.e., the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) – laws taught by Him (Matthew 5:2 ff) and His apostles, as recorded in their inspired writings (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). Christians are not chastised into obeying the Mosaic law, to which John Calvin would have had them yoked – particularly to the Ten Commandments for sanctification. The law of Moses, written on tablets of stone, has truly become obsolete! (Hebrews 8:7, 13). The law of Moses could only bring death (Romans 8:2), but John Calvin, great man of God that he was, mistakenly taught that Christians should be whipped by it, as ‘idle and balky (stubborn, obstinate) asses’.* On the contrary, Christians love God more than sin, and they seek to serve and please Jesus, because the law they obey is written on their hearts (Hebrews 9:10, 11). They never want to grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).
- “The Law acts like a whip to the flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even in the case of a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened with the weight of the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth.” John Calvin (The Institutes of the Christian Religion: 2.7.12 – English Version first published in 1845)
The Davidic Covenant – God’s Promises to King David and his Seed
The significance of God’s promises to King David concerning his ‘seed’ who would build a house for God’s name must not be overlooked (2 Samuel 7:12 – 16). This direct seed was David’s son, Solomon, who built the temple (1 Kings 6:1, 14), but the ultimate Seed to whom the promise pointed was God’s Son, whose throne and house has been established forever (1 Chronicles 22:10). Without actually stating the word ‘covenant’, to all intents and purposes God’s promises to David constituted an unconditional covenant, and in 2 Samuel, chapter 23, verse 5, David himself confirmed it was a covenant by the use of the word ‘covenant’. Isaiah prophesied there would be a Son who would sit on the throne of David of which there would be no end. See, also, Isaiah 9:6, 7 and Luke 1:30 – 33. Matthew’s Gospel outlines the legal ancestral lineage between the lesser and greater David (Jesus) by spelling out the genealogy of Christ, the Son of David. He starts with Abraham and ends with Joseph, who was the legal, but non-seminal father of Jesus (Matthew 1:1 -16), since Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26 – 35).
A mention of this ultimate Seed is found in Genesis, when the LORD God spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden saying He would put enmity between the serpent’s seed and Eve’s Seed. Her Seed would ‘bruise’ satan’s head, and he would ‘bruise’ the Seed’s heel (Genesis 3:15). This was a prophetic passage pointing to Jesus Christ, who would overcome and destroy satan and his seed. Jesus triumphed over satan at the cross. Christ, the Man, truly born of a woman, and yet without sin, made full atonement for Adam’s sin and that of the whole of God’s elect. The Messiah was victorious. He accomplished what He came to do. Moments before completing His mission of salvation by dying on the cross He breathed His last, and said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
Satan, however, continues to ‘walk about like a roaring lion’ (1 Peter 5:8), but he is restrained (Revelation 20:1 – 6) until the Day of the Lord, i.e., the day of Christ’s second coming to judge the nations at the end of a ‘thousand years’ (Revelation 20:11). Meanwhile, His Church is [spiritually] resurrected in power with Him as He sits on His throne at the right hand of His Father. This understanding of Scripture most lends itself to an a-millennial view of the thousand year reign, i.e., a belief that Christ has brought about the ‘first resurrection’ by fulfilling the law and the Prophets when He died for His elect. He raised and raises His enlivened saints, born of the Spirit (John 3:3 – 6) to live with Him in His kingdom. His New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7 – 13; Matthew 26:27 – 28; 1 Corinthians 11:25) has been established, and He has created a spiritual kingdom of priests and kings (Revelation 20:6) i.e., Christ’s church came into being at Pentecost, and continues today.
The Thousand Year Reign and the End Times
Regarding the thousand year reign spoken of in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 20, verses 1 – 3, it is my belief that most new covenant theologians understand this period as figurative. They do not believe it to be a precise, literal one thousand years. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and He is infinite; He lives both in time and beyond time. He exists eternally beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8, 9). He said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14), i.e., the One who is and will be. A day for Him is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). These things would seem to indicate a ‘figurative’ understanding of the thousand year reign, unlike the dispensational hermeneutic that employs a literal, grammatical-historical interpretation of Scripture, implying an actual one thousand year period when Jesus will rule in Jerusalem. [The MacArthur Teaching Bible, Overview of Theology, page 2192, The Holy Scriptures, paragraph 2, 3rd line.]
As I see it, the majority of those who subscribe to NCT believe they are already living in the millennial reign with God who is Spirit (John 4:24).
At the end of this figurative one thousand year period Jesus will return a second time to the earth to judge both the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). The dead in Christ will rise, and their souls will be united with their new resurrected bodies. Believers who are alive at the time will be caught up together with the resurrected saints from their graves to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16 – 18). The bodies and souls of all unbelievers throughout history will rise for their ‘second death’ (Revelation 20:6, 12), i.e., at their resurrection they will be judged ‘according to their works’, and they will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13 – 15) to join the devil, the beast and the false prophet (Revelation 20:10) where their torment will never cease (Mark 9:44).
Afterwards, all things will be made new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, citizens of which will be the bride of Christ, i.e., the resurrected Church (Revelation 21:9 – 11) and the Lord God Himself. They will dwell together forever (Revelation 21:1 – 3).
The Bible also speaks of a Covenant God made with Noah (Genesis 9:8 – 11). The sign of the covenant was a rainbow (Genesis 9:13, 17). It was an ‘overarching’ covenant that continues today, guaranteeing preservation of the world until Christ’s second coming.
All of the above is a summary of my understanding of New Covenant Theology. None of it is set in concrete, and I think the authors of the books below would go along with that.
Books and Authors
What is New Covenant Theology by A. Blake White
New Covenant Theology by Gary D. Long
New Covenant Theology and Prophesy by John G. Reisinger
Tablets of Stone by John G. Reisinger
Abraham’s Four Seeds by John G. Reisinger
New Covenant Theology by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel
Christ is All David by H. J. Gay
Grace Not Law by David H. J. Gay
Believers Under the Law of Christ by David H. J. Gay
Understanding the New Covenant by Frederick Serjeant
David H J Gay Ministry – YouTube Channel
Peter Ditzel – Word of His Grace:
Cross to Crown Org (Sound of Grace and Desiring God Org)
New Covenant School of Theology
IDS ORG – Geoff Volker22
New Covenant Theology – A Challenge or a Threat by Frederick Serjeant
Leaders of this movement include the following theologians: John Reisinger, Jon Zens, Peter Ditzel, Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells, Gary Long, Geoff Volker and Steve Lehrer.
The writings of Douglas Moo, Tom Schreiner, and D.A. Carson on the relation of the Christian to the law reveal their sympathies with NCT. However they have not wanted themselves to be so labelled.
John Piper also has many points of contact with this movement, but an article at the Desiring God Website carefully distinguishes his position from Covenant, New Covenant and Dispensational theological systems.