In our first installment, we noticed that eschatology drives revelation, and revelation, in turn, drives the illumination of that covenantal structure by which our God has deigned to communicate His will to us in an ever-increasing manner of promise, via the historic covenants, which promises find their final form in that which we call the ratified Covenant of Grace, which is the New Covenant.
In our second installment, we noted that God relates to us, in His revelation, by covenants. We also noted that “covenant” is not a construction superimposed upon the Scripture, and so revelation, but that it is imbedded within it by our God from before the world began, so it behooves us to pay attention.
Creation came before God instituted covenants with man, and this is, necessarily, founded in the eternal transaction between the Father and the Son which we have, with covenant theologians from Paul, the apostle, to the Reformers, to the post Reformation scholastics in the 17th century, and on into the present day, among those who hold to the orthodox, Reformed faith (which is to say, Biblical Christianity), called, variously, the Eternal Covenant, The Covenant of Peace, or the Covenant of Redemption (as noted in our last installment, all these designations are found within Scripture).
Here, however, we note this: Man was created prior to the covenantal structure of Scripture being revealed. We see, first of all, the creation of all things and all other living creatures, then man (Genesis 1:26). Man was not immediately in covenant with God through virtue of God creating him, but was placed in the Garden of Eden and given that moral law to obey God (Genesis 2:7-8; 15-17). Thus, the first covenant we have in Scripture has come to be known, by covenant theologians, as “The Covenant of Works,” for it required Adam’s perfect obedience to God in cultivating the Garden and keeping himself from eating of the forbidden fruit. We call this the first publication of the Moral Law of God in that the entirety of obedience to God is encompassed by both the positive and the negative aspects of the commandments given. Although it is not said, in precise words, that the Lord our God commanded Adam to cultivate the Garden, the implication of positive obedience is strongly implied, while the explicit negative obedience – “do not eat” was given, with consequences. The implications of keeping (and the Hebrew word may also mean “guard,” as it is used of the tabernacle and temple duties of the priests) the Garden has consequences to the way man will relate to the world God created, which in turn has reference to the second table of the Moral Law (last 6 Commandments of The Decalogue), while the explicit command to refrain from doing that which God has forbid has direct relation to the first table of the law (first 4 commandments of The Decalogue). Thus, in both a positive and negative sense of obedience, in order to not only retain the righteousness/goodness with which he was created (and attain to a still higher righteousness/goodness in the eternal state), Adam must obey God by doing that which he was commanded to do (cultivate/guard the Garden) and not doing that which he was forbidden (disobey God), with the consequence that failing to obey God perfectly would result in the loss of life. Scripture reveals, as it unfolds, that this loss of life was first spiritual communion with God, and secondarily physical loss of life (Romans 5:14; cf. Galatians 3:21).
In noting that creation comes before Covenant, we are merely affirming that which was given in our first post in this series, which is that fact that eschatology not only drives Covenant Theology, but drives that very vehicle which gives rise to our ability to understand Covenant Theology, which is revelation. Without the decree of our God, we would have none of the building blocks of revelation, and those building blocks invariably resolve themselves into the covenantal structure by which God has been pleased to communicate His decree (and so His revelation), to mankind.
May we be blessed to understand that this communication of covenantal dealings has, as its model, that first covenantal dealing before time and creation began, in the Covenant of Redemption within the counsel of our God with Himself, and by disclosure, He has deigned to reveal His pleasure in that counsel to we who are His created creatures, to our benefit, and His glory. The unfurling of redemptive history echoes both the dealings of God with His elect in Christ Jesus, and His dealing with those who will not have Him as their king. These are the two main themes which we will find again and again throughout the history of mankind, which is to say, quite simply, redemptive history.
May God use these inadequate words from an inadequate disciple to bless and nourish those who are considering these truths.