What is a Covenant?


A divinely initiated contract which God makes with man in which God obligates himself to the parties named in the contract. A covenant may be unconditional (God says, “I will. . .”), or conditional (God says, “I will, if you will …”). It is important to note the difference. J. Dwight Pentecost says, “The covenants contained in the scriptures are of primary importance to the interpreter of the Word and to the student of Eschatology. God’s eschatological program is determined and prescribed by these covenants and one’s eschatological system is determined and limited by the interpretation of them. These covenants must be studied diligently as the basis of Biblical Eschatology.” His book, Things to Come, covers the covenants in depth and I encourage you to study it for detailed information.

The following is an outline of the major covenants having to do with prophetic truth:


This is the foundation of all the succeeding covenants to Israel in which God promises unconditionally to raise up a seed unto Abraham and to give him and his seed an everlasting possession (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:121; 17:1-22). In this covenant, God promises:

  1. To make of Abraham a great nation, to multiply his seed exceedingly and to make him a father of many nations
  2. To bless Abraham and make him great
  3. To make Abraham a blessing to all the families of the earth
  4. To bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him
  5. To give Abraham and his seed forever all the land which he could see, later specified with definite boundaries
  6. To give him a sign of the covenant (circumcision)

This covenant is partially fulfilled and will not be fully realized until Israel enters into the millennial kingdom.



This covenant with Israel was conditioned upon their obedience to God’s commands (Exodus 19:4-6).

In this covenant, God promises:

  1. To make Israel His special possession among the people of the land
  2. To make Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation

God followed it up with requirements and laws.

Although Israel said, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do;’ they soon forgot their promise. This covenant did not supersede the Abrahamic Covenant (Galatians 3:17, 18) and even though Israel failed to heed God’s commands, the promises of the unconditional, eternal covenant to Abraham were still in force.



An unconditional covenant enlarging upon the Abrahamic Covenant promising the seed of Abraham eternal possession in the land (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

This covenant says:

  1. Israel will be dispersed among the nations
  2. Israel will repent and turn to the Lord
  3. Israel will be regathered from its dispersion

In this covenant, God promises:

  1. To bring them to the land which their fathers possessed
  2. To prosper them above their fathers
  3. To restore them spiritually so that Israel will love the Lord with all their heart and soul
  4. To put all the curses upon their enemies

Pentecost maintains: “It should be observed that the only conditional element here is the time element. The program is certain; the time when this program will be fulfilled depends upon the conversion of the nation. Conditional time elements do not make the whole program conditional, however.”



An unconditional covenant which God made with David reaffirming the Abrahamic Covenant and adding that the blessings would be attached to the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:1-16; 23:1-5; Psalm 89:34-37).

In this covenant, God promises:

  1. To make David’s name great
  2. To provide a permanent, undisturbed home for Israel
  3. To establish an eternal kingdom with David and his offspring



An unconditional covenant God made with Israel to replace the Mosaic Covenant which the people had failed to obey. He promises Israel a spiritual restoration (Jeremiah 31:31-40).

In this covenant, God promises:

  1. To put His law in their hearts and minds
  2. To be their God and make them His people
  3. To forgive their wickedness and not remember their sins any more

The moral problem posed by the failure of the Mosaic Covenant will, under the new covenant, be met by God’s own sovereign grace and power. It is in the gracious spirit of the earlier Abrahamic Covenant, rather than in the legalistic spirit of the Mosaic Covenant which it replaces.