In the last two posts I’ve been making a simple observation: arguments defending a literal millennium that depend on the unconditionality of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are poor.  The reasons are twofold: (1) each of those covenants also have clear conditional elements, and (2) Both covenants may be viewed as fulfilled, though this second item is subject to debate. But that’s the point: the premillennial view cannot be defended as self-evident. Possible, yes; self-evident, no.

I’ll be hitting on the land fulfillment issue in subsequent posts, thus returning to the Abraham covenant. But before that, we need to look at one more important covenant that is typically viewed as unconditional and ultimately future, but which is subject to the same two elements above: it has conditions and it can be viewed as fulfilled.

The covenant I speak of is the New Covenant.  Here is the prophecy from Jeremiah 31:

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Let’s note the elements of importance:

1. The covenant is made with “the house of Israel” (v. 33).

2. The law of God is written on the heart of the believer/faithful person (v. 33)

3. “All” will know the Lord – How should “all” be taken? Premillers and pretribbers want to see this as millennial language, but in that case, “all” cannot mean “all” as in “every person in the kingdom” since Rev 20 tells us there are evil people in the millennium (the people who rebel with Satan after the millennium). Therefore “all” is really a subset. Amillers who would take this as already fulfilled in the Church would say this subset = believers (i.e., everyone who has the law written on their heart will know the Lord).  The “all” in this view = the true Israel of Paul — *any* and every believer.

4. The covenant with the house of Israel is made “after those days” (v.33). “Those days” refers to the time of exile, as any outline of Jeremiah 30-31 will make evident (meaning the question is “how long after the exile is the rest of this fulfilled?”). Here’s one (you can check your own Bible or study Bible too):

a.     Return from captivity (Jer. 30:1–3)

b.     “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (30:4–7) – note that this section is *assumed* to be future by premillers and pretribbers, but verses 4-7 could easily be viewed as a “flashback” to what the Lord had said *earlier* about Israel and Judah, prior to the promise of return. Again, a future interpretation is not at all self evident.

c.     Freedom from bondage to oppressors (30:8–11)

d.     Israel’s wounds healed (30:12–17)

e. Rebuilt Jerusalem and her ruler (30:18–22)

f.  Judgment, then blessing (30:23–24)

The new covenant (31:1–40)

a. God’s mercy for Ephraim (31:1–6) – Since the northern kingdom of Israel (“Ephraim”) no longer existed in Jeremiah’s day, *any* fulfillment view would be future to Jeremiah’s time. While the premill / pretrib view assumes this refers to a future regathering of Israel, it could also refer to the presence of Ephraimite tribes returning back to the land (there are such tribal affiliations mentioned after the returns of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the tribes are numbered at 12 after the return – see Ezra 6:17; 8:35; Luke 2:36 [Asher]; Neh 10:28ff. [Levi]). Nevertheless, the fact that this passage (see v. 4) talks about the rebuilding of Israel and Paul equates the true Israel with *any* believer, Jew or Gentile, may make the whole subject moot.

b.     The restoration of Israel in joy (31:7–14)

c.  Israel’s lamentable present (31:15–22)

d. Judah’s bright future (31:23–26)

e.     National increase in the future  (31:27–30)

f.  God’s new covenant (31:31–34)

g. The perpetuity of Israel (31:35–40)

Now for some discussion. The conditionality aspect with the new covenant is the law of God mentioned in Jer. 31:33. The law refers back to the Law of Moses. Thus the New Covenant relationship presumes obedience to the law. And yet the history of God’s people shows that they cannot keep it. God must do something that makes that possible.  He puts the law “in” their heart. In effect, the New Covenant is God’s way *not* of removing conditions to be his people, but of meeting the conditions for obedience he set long ago for the true children of Abraham (see my earlier post on the Abrahamic covenant) and any descendant of David who would sit on the throne (recall that they would be removed if they were ungodly, despite the Davidic covenant). God meets the demands of his own covenantal requirements through a remnant that he himself calls and instills his law.

So when is the New Covenant fulfilled? The New Testament uses the phrase “new covenant” several times:

Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

1 Cor 11:25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

2 Cor 3:6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Heb 8:8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,

Heb 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Heb 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Heb 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Clearly, the New Testament sees the New Covenant as fulfilled in the work of Jesus on the cross and through the Church — not in a future millennium. This is not to say that the idea of a millennial kingdom rises or falls on the notion that the New Covenant fulfillment must be yet future. It *is* to say that argument is lame.  There is only one way to get around a New Covenant fulfillment through the Church — one must argue that the new covenant in these New Testament passages isn’t the New Covenant of the Old Testament — but refers to a “new new covenant.”  Sound crazy? Then don’t read the Ryrie Study Bible or Ryrie’s famous book, Dispensationalism Today, since that’s exactly what he does to get around this problem (some would say to get around the New Testament).  As much as Ryrie deserves respect, what he does with the New Covenant is pure sophistry.
One last question — and this is the meaty one:  If one can argue so neatly, with plenty of New Testament evidence (see the last two posts plus the above new covenant references) that all three covenants — Abrahamic, Davidic, and New — are fulfilled through Jesus’s work on the cross and his Church, what need is there for anything else?  (or: Why be so resistant to fulfillment in the Church?  Or: What are you losing?)
I can’t answer this question for you.  I just bring it up to focus again on why I’m doing this series. Everyone brings their bias to eschatology. There are NO self-evident views. Anyone who says otherwise … well, you already know what I think about that from earlier posts.  The only way to escape the bias trap (and not really completely escape) is to junk the systems. That’s what I decided to do a long time ago. Granted, I have to make presuppositional decisions like everyone else. But I can say that I have far fewer problems (in part because I don’t go into defense mode when talking about eschatology — I don’t need to). When we get through all this I’ll tell you where I’m at, but we have a loooong way to go.