Promise and Fulfillment
A Study of New Covenant Theology
The first mention of the word “covenant” is found in Genesis 6:18 where we find God giving Noah instructions regarding the upcoming flood.
I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.
The full statement of the covenant God made with Noah is found in Genesis 9:8-11.
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.
The Noahic Covenant is a covenant of preservation. It is not a salvation covenant, but it does guarantee that our God will not destroy this world until his plan to save a people has been accomplished. This is a covenant made with all living creatures. It is like going to a football game where the game is being played on the field. The field is not the game, but you cannot have a game without the field. The Noahic Covenant could be described as the guarantee that there will be a field for the game of salvation to be played.
One writer, Peter Gentry, who embraces New Covenant Theology, has described the Noahic Covenant as a restatement of the covenant made with Adam in the garden.
When God says that he is confirming or upholding his covenant with Noah, he is saying that his commitment to his creation, the care of the creator to preserve, provide for, and rule over all that he has made, including the blessings and ordinances that he initiated through and with Adam and Eve and their family, are now to be with Noah and his descendants.
Peter Gentry seeks to make his case for a covenant in the garden by saying that the word for covenant in Genesis 6 and 9 assumes an understanding that the covenant with Noah is a renewal of a previously established covenant that God made with Adam. I will let you read his extensive argument in his book in order to understand his perspective. My disagreement with Peter Gentry is one of interpretation or hermeneutics. The value of the original languages is that they will tell us what are the possibilities of what something might mean. But it is the context that is the final determiner of the meaning of a word as the author is using it. If the Noahic Covenant is a reaffirmation of an earlier established covenant then we would expect to find some evidence that this is so. Instead, we find no mention of a covenant in the garden and a very specific detailed discussion of a covenant made with Noah and all creation. It should also be mentioned that the restatement of the call to populate the earth which was first mentioned in Genesis 1:28 and then restated in Genesis 9:1 does not necessarily mean that there were two covenants or the restating of a covenant in the garden. Since there is no mention of a covenant in the garden the simple explanation is that there was an obvious need to populate the earth after the flood.
In Genesis 6:18 the only thing that is mentioned is that God is establishing his covenant in order to preserve the life of Noah and his family and all the animals in the ark. In Genesis 9:8-11 the covenant only focuses on the promise to never destroy the earth again. In Genesis 9:14-15 the rainbow is designated as the sign of the covenant.
Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.
The covenant made with Noah referred to the preservation of all life on the earth. For there to be more to this covenant one would have to find other Scripture to speak to this issue. One such verse is found in Isaiah 24:5.
The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.
The context of this passage does refer to the Lord’s destruction of the earth at the end of time. Therefore we cannot limit it to Israel under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was introduced at Mount Sinai and it came to an end at the cross (Hebrews 8:13). The covenant that is mentioned is said to be an everlasting covenant. The term everlasting covenant is exactly how the Noahic Covenant is described in Genesis 9:16.
Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.
The Noahic Covenant is everlasting in the sense that it is in force until this present heaven and earth are destroyed (2 Peter 3:10-13). Once that happens the Noahic Covenant has fulfilled its purpose and it comes to an end. Isaiah 24:5 also states that mankind has broken the Noahic Covenant. This would mean that there are other things that are a part of the Noahic Covenant other than the preservation of the earth that can be broken. Here is a list of what is included in the Noahic Covenant:
- The command to repopulate the earth (Genesis 9:1).
- The animals will now fear mankind (Genesis 9:2).
- God gives meat and fish (everything that is on the earth or in the water or in the air) as food for mankind (Genesis 9).
- Mankind is not allowed to eat anything that still has its blood in it. (Genesis 9:4).
- Since man is made in the image of God he must give his life if he takes the life of another who is also made in the image of God (Genesis 9:5-6).
Like all other laws the attachments to the Noahic Covenant were also not followed by mankind and therefore contributed to their being cursed by a holy and righteous God. It should also be noted that there does seem to be evidence that other laws were given to mankind that are not mentioned in the creation account. But these laws are never mentioned as tied to any particular covenant.
Peter Gentry also agrees that the Isaiah passage refers to the Noahic Covenant. Here are his comments on this passage.
Since the reference is to all humans breaking the “everlasting covenant,” the Mosaic covenant given to Israel at Sinai is hardly in view. The most probable referent is the covenant made with Noah, which in reality reestablished and upheld the covenant with creation in Genesis 1, reaffirming the commitment of the Creator to his creation and the responsibilities placed upon humans at that time. Isaiah’s oracle predicts complete desolation upon the earth because its people have violated the instructions and terms of the Noahic covenant.
In order to comment on Peter’s argument we must first of all make some observations about Adam in the garden. As we have stated before Adam was only given one command beyond the instruction to populate the earth with Eve as his wife and to rule over all living creatures (Genesis 1:28). There are no other laws mentioned and there is no covenant mentioned. Therefore, it seems to me that there is no evidence before the fall of any covenant being established and there is no basis for saying that the Noahic Covenant is a restatement of the an earlier covenant made with Adam in the garden. I would certainly agree with Gentry that Isaiah 24:5 refers to the Noahic Covenant.
The sign of the covenant is the rainbow in the sky. This is the perpetual reminder that there will be no premature ending of this earth until all those for whom Jesus died are brought to saving faith (Matthew 24:31). This is a covenant of preservation. This earth will come to an end when it is burned up and a new heaven and a new earth is created (2 Peter 3:10-13). Our Father’s plan will be fully accomplished and nothing can stop it (Hebrews 10:14).
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
 Genesis 6:17-21 NIV
 Genesis 9:8-11 NIV
 Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant, published by Crossway, 2012, clothbound, page 156.This volume is written from a New Covenant Theology perspective but it does not share the same point of view on whether there is a covenant in the garden as the author of Promise – Fulfillment.
 Read pages 155-165 for a full treatment of Gentry’s argument regarding his understanding of the meaning of “covenant” in the account of the Noahic Covenant.
 This would not be referring to the final destruction of the heavens and the earth. The final destruction of the earth will only take place when God’s plan to save a people has been accomplished. 2 Peter 3:10-13
 Genesis 9:14-15 NIV
 Isaiah 24:5 NIV
 Genesis 9:16 NIV
 This particular command is also included in the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 17:10-14). In the account in Leviticus it is mentioned that blood represents the life of the animal.
 This is the biblical basis for capital punishment. Please take notice that the reason for the taking of a life has nothing to do with deterrence but has only to do with the value of the human life, since all mankind is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
 Instruction regarding sacrifice (Genesis 4:1-5) and the introduction of the concept of clean and unclean animals (Genesis 7:2) is found in Scripture but we have no passage that talks of God giving additional laws to mankind.
 Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, page 172.
 Genesis 9:12-17 NIV