Bible Answer

Explain Covenant Theology

What does the term "Covenant Theology" mean? 

First, covenant theology is a term that generally refers to people who have a view of eschatology (End times), Israelology (Israel) and ecclesiology (the church) that are all heavily shaped by teaching that the reformers gave us in about the 16th century and beyond.

The reformers, men like Martin Luther and John Calvin, had some very good theology in certain areas, and unfortunately some very poor theology in other areas. But that is par for the course; we all have things we do well and things we don’t. These we were no different from the rest of us in that respect.

When it came to their understanding of Israel and end times, the reformers had a strong streak of antisemitism. We see that in their writings even now. That antisemitism colored their view of scripture. It caused them to believe that God had turned His back on the Jewish people, so God looked for another people on which to place the promises He had previously given to Israel.

The reformers believed the church, the New Testament believer, has now received all the things God promised to Israel. That in effect, we are now a replacement for Israel.

So all the things that God promised Israel now belong to us, and not to Israel at all.

One of the outcomes of this poor theology is a view that the promise of Israel back in its land, ready for the tribulation, to endure a time of judgment so then Israel would ultimately turn back to God and enter into the kingdom (what the Old Testament promises), when the reformers saw those promises, they had to make sense of them in light of their new thinking which said the church is the replacement of Israel.

Well if we are the replacement of Israel, then that must mean this (today) is the kingdom, they claim. That we are now past tribulation – that happened already in AD70 say the reformers. So the world we are living in right now is the fulfillment of the promised kingdom that God said Israel would one day have. That, my friends, is covenant theology – that you are now living in the kingdom.

But friends, if this is the kingdom, it is the most disappointing promise in all the Bible.

Thankfully, this is not the kingdom, and far from it. We know that because when you look at what the kingdom is said to have in it, this world is nothing like it.

But covenant theology is so wedded to its historical roots and its teaching that it finds no way to distance itself from that teaching on the idea of Israel being replaced, and it tries to make sense of everything else they read in the Bible from that perspective.

It is not a correct view of scripture, it leads to a lot of misconceptions, and is a disappointing effect on the hope of a believer as we are to look on these days as preparation for the kingdom, not the fulfillment of it.

This is an important perspective as it reminds us to get ready for that kingdom, to be in service to Christ now, so that we might be counted as worthy of more responsibility in that coming kingdom.

If you think this is the kingdom, you have little more to do than coast and wait for Jesus to come back.