What is the Covenant? Part 2

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

 

In Part 1 of this series, we showed how the term, “old covenant” (or, “old testament”) related only to the specific covenant given to Moses and the then formed Nation of Israel.   The Scriptures mention other covenants as well.  Before we dive into those, we have to first define this term, which in Hebrew is berith, and Greek, diatheke.  The Latin is testamentum.  The King James Bible (1611) has both testament and covenant for words in Hebrew and Greek.

If I may be allowed to quote from work a Professor of mine edited: “The etymology of the word is uncertain. It may be related to the Akkadian word burru which means “to establish a legal situation by testimony with an oath” (CAD baru, p. 125); but some (O. Loretz, VT 16: 239-41) tie it to the Akkadian word birtu “a fetter” which is a derivative of the word meaning “between.” L. Kohler claims the word was related to the root brµ which has to do with the food and eating involved in the covenant meal (JSS 1: 4-7). The root is nowhere used as a verb in the OT nor is any other derivative of this root used, but the action involving covenant making employs the idiom “to cut a covenant” (Gen 15:18; etc.), that is making a bloody sacrifice as part of the covenant ritual, Kohler then would have the animal eaten in the covenant meal” (Theological Workbook of the Old Testament, Harris, Archer, & Waltke).  The article is rather detailed and shows the extremely voluminous works on the subject.

Be that as it may, when we survey the occurrences of the word itself, it is a form of a pact, or contract, or treaty.  Often times blood is associated with it.  Commandments come with it as well (stipulations).  There are promises for honoring it, and penalties for breaking it.  When we come to the total occurrences of the term, well over two hundred times in the Hebrew Scriptures, and over a hundred in the Greek (ESV has 319 total), we can see that this is an important term.  Indeed, foundational for understanding biblical mentality.

The very first occurrence of the word in the Bible is Genesis 6.18, “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.”  This is a covenant between God and a man named, Noah.  Presumably the readers understood what this word meant, as well as Noah.  So, in the following verses god “commands” Noah to bring animals with him on the Ark, and Noah obeyed.  If he didn’t, he would die.  If he did, he would survive the holocaust and live (a little while longer).  In other words, the covenant is made with the assumption that Noah would eventually die (as all do), and so when we read threats like this: “you will die” and “you will live” we must understand that life and death are here spoken of “living longer than you would if you disobeyed.”

The second time we see this word is again between God and Noah, “And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you” (9.9).  Now, according to the biblical story, Noah and his three sons with their wives repopulate the earth.  And, of course, Noah is a descendent of Adam.  This is what makes this passage interesting, because “your seed” is directly alluding to the promise God made to Eve: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (3.15), which many understand that through the genealogical descendents of Eve, One would come who would bruise the head of the corrupt deceiver, the “beast-serpent”.  Therefore, it is very important that the “seed” continue.  God could have destroyed all flesh, but did not because he promised Eve that in time the One would come.

Now, this brings us to an interesting point, for many think that God established a covenant with Adam (though without using this actual word).  Hosea 6.7 reads, “But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me (ASV).”  All the ingredients that make a covenant a covenant are there in the first chapters of Genesis with Adam.  I tend to think that this is a plausible view.

As God establishes his covenant with Noah, he himself promises that he would no longer decimate all mankind with a flood (which makes it very hard to view this as a “local flood” since those have been devastating mankind for thousands of years).  The Yellow River Flood in 1887 China killed an estimated 9,000,000 people.  It is hard to estimate that 9,000,000 people even existed in the days of Noah (1,656 years between Adam and Noah).  Some estimates based on statistical population computations (don’t ask) bring the number to around 50,000. Other estimates to over 1 billion.  It is not a great feat, mathematically speaking, to get the 7 billion total population today from three women (Noah’s sons’ wives), if we take the years from the time of the flood to 2017 AD.  Nonetheless, the Ark story was a success and we are here today.

Apart from that small digression, if God made a covenant with Adam, a great deal (“all but eight”) perished of Adam’s “seed.”  Yet, the covenant was kept; man did not entirely perish.  I don’t think we appreciate the magnitude of how many were killed in this flood due to their sins.  The covenant appears to be made in order to preserve mankind.  In other words, a covenant is established by God on an oath that he himself takes, binding himself to it for the benefit of mankind.  He swore that a “seed” would come from Eve.  He had every right to destroy all of the creation that was his to begin with.  Yet, before he does this he makes a covenant with Noah and preserves the Seed.  It is through covenant that God saves mankind in spite of mankind.  A covenant, then, is the demonstration of a merciful God who is not obligated to show mercy, yet does.  To signify his mercy, he establishes a covenant which is not for his benefit, but the benefit of mankind.  A covenant will always have a tangible, visible signa reminder.

And, this, of course is what we get in the Story of Noah: “And God said, This is the Sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: My bow I have given in the cloud, and it hath been for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth.” (9.12, 13).  And, in verse 15 the bow is for a “remembrance”.

The first things we should take away from this is that God establishes covenants.  Covenants are pledges, or oaths.  They are accompanied with a visible sign so that whenever seen, it should serve as a reminder of the covenant.

Up to this point, we have not really seen any “blood” involved.  However, if one takes into account that Eve was taken from the side of Adam, blood must have been involved.  When God clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of an animal, blood must have been shed.  Likewise, when Abel offered his animals, there must have been blood.  Finally, in the vast annihilation of the population of Mankind, there was certainly blood involved.  In each of these instances, a sacrifice was made.  Indeed, “And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8.20).  The blood of mankind was shed in order to preserve mankind.  In return, the blood of animals was shed in response to God’s mercy (as with Abel for the offering God provided for Adam and Eve).  So, blood was involved.  It will continue to be involved as we go on in this series.

 

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington, who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS and graded exams in Hebrew. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or "hyper" Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent "full" Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the "hyper" Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the "hyper" Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to "hyper" Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly sold out its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (Kindle/Amazon, 2019); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse) working directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon.  He also is working with Redemption Life Bible Church with Pastor Tyler Jackson in New Castle, Indiana.  Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church. Samuel has four children, one step-son, ages sixteen to twenty-eight and has worked part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for over five years.  He has a solid reputation in the community, and has performed marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle.

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