The Relationship of the Church to the New Covenant -- By: Russell L. Penney

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 02:7 (Dec 1998)
Article: The Relationship of the Church to the New Covenant
Author: Russell L. Penney

The Relationship of the Church
to the New Covenant

Russell L. Penney

Professor of Missions
Tyndale Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX


What is the Church’s relationship to the New Covenant? The way one answers this from his understanding of God’s Word has tremendous implications on his view of eschatology. For instance, if someone takes the view that the Church is fulfilling the New Covenant, as covenant or replacement theologians believe, then there is no pretribulational rapture. In fact, there is no rapture at all since this system is amillennial. Or, if one holds the position that the Church is partially fulfilling God’s New Covenant with Israel, as progressive dispensationalists hold, then it substantially weakens the pretribulation position and, as several writers have pointed out, leans more toward a posttribultional rapture position.1 The two remaining views—the two new covenants view, and the “we only receive the benefits” view—hold that there is no fulfillment occurring in the Church’s relationship to the New Covenant. These two views most strongly support a pretribulational rapture.

The consensus among modern dispensational theologians today, at least among those who have published works, seems to be the view that we are in no way fulfilling the New Covenant, but are somehow “receiving the benefits” from the New Covenant. If this view is the correct one, and this author believes that it is, it is incumbent upon us to show clearly how this can occur especially since all would agree that the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34) was clearly made with “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31).

The goal of this paper is to show from Scripture that there is a relationship between the Church and the New Covenant, and show this

relationship clearly. We will see how the Church can receive spiritual benefits from a covenant to which she is clearly not a party.

One of the things that has caused confusion, as far as the Church’s relationship to the New Covenant is concerned, is not keeping in mind the continuity of God’s overall covenant program. To understand the relationship between the Church and the New Covenant, one must first understand God’s covenant program, starting with the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Abrahamic Covenant

As Couch states:

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