Criswell Theological Review 1.2 (1987) 295-308

                         Copyright © 1987 by Criswell College, cited with permission.



                   GENESIS 1-3 AS FOUNDATION

                       FOR BIBLICAL THEOLOGY



                                                  Eugene H. Merrill

                            Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas TX 75204



The thesis of this paper is that the key to a proper biblical her-

meneutic and theology is to be found in the covenant concept of both

the OT and NT, especially in the form that concept takes in Genesis.

The centrality of the covenant to biblical theology has, of course,

been recognized for years by biblical theologians,1 but only since the

relatively recent recovery of comparative covenant materials from the

ancient Near East have biblical covenant form and content been

reevaluated and tied in closely to the meaning and even structure of

the biblical message.2 M. Kline, in a publication entitled The Structure

of Biblical Authority,3 has argued, on the basis of his own previous

studies of biblical and ancient Near Eastern treaty and covenant

forms, that the entire Bible is formulated on the model of an extensive

and expansive covenant. That is, the Bible does not merely contain

covenant records, but is itself and in its entirety a covenant text.4


1 See especially W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (2 vols; Philadelphia:

Westminster, 1961) (first published in German in 1933). For others see G. Hasel, Old

Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (3rd ed.; Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1982) 138, n. 107; Henning Graf Reventlow, Problems of Old Testament

Theology in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 126-28. ,

2 V. Korosec, Hethitische Staatsverlrage. Leipzig, 1931; G. E. Mendenhall, "Cove-

nant Forms in Israelite Tradition," BA 17 (1954) 49-76; D. J. McCarthy, Treaty and

Covenant (An Bib 21; Rome, 1963); M. Kline, The Treaty of the Great King (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963); K. Baltzer, The Covenant Formulary (Oxford: Oxford Uni-

versity Press, 1971).

3 M. G. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,


4 Ibid., 75.



While this may be an overstatement, it does suggest the dominance 0

the covenant idea in certain segments of biblical scholarship.


I. Biblical Concept of Covenant


By "covenant" is meant "a written agreement or promise usually

under seal between two or more parties especially for the perform-

ance of some action."5 The Hebrew word used to express "covenant"

is tyrb a term that first occurs in Gen 6:18 and that apears about 285

times in the OT.6 It is translated by Greek 5ta8liK1l in the LXX and in

the NT. Though the terms are not exactly synonymous, the Greek

referring more to a "will" or "last testament," the concept of a legal

contract at least is common to both.7

Until the advent of 19th century archaeological research, very

little was known of covenants in the ancient East apart from the OT

and even these (including the biblical) were little understood. The

discovery, publication, and study of cuneiform tablets and other

inscriptional material, especially from Boghazkoy, the old Hittite

capital,. have shed considerable light on international treaty and cove-

nant arrangements from the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages (ca.

1400-1200 B.C.). This is particularly instructive to biblical scholarship

because according to the traditional dating the Mosaic covenants fall

within this period or a little earlier.

The Hittite treaties reveal that such contracts existed in one

of two forms:8 (1) The parity treaty between equals and (2) the

sovereign-vassal (or suzerainty) treaty which was drawn up by a

superior power and imposed upon an inferior. Both types generally

contain at the minimum certain clauses including a preamble, an

historical prologue, the list of stipulations, the witnesses, the curses

and blessings, and provision for deposit and public reading of the

covenant text. The major difference, of course, was that the superior

party in the suzerainty treaty coerced the vassal into acceptance of

the fidelity to the covenant terms while he himself had no such

obligations except as he voluntarily subscribed to his own stipulations.

The significance of all this to biblical studies is the fact that

biblical covenant form resembles almost exactly Hittite treaty form,

specifically the sovereign-vassal type. The Covenant Code of Exodus

20-23 and the entire Book of Deuteronomy are the most outstanding


5 Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield: G. & C. Merriam,

1976) 192.

6 BDB 136-37.

7 M. Weinfeld, “tyrb,” TDOT 2 (1975) 256.

8 For the following, see especially Mendenhall, BA 17 (n. 2 above).

Merrill: COVENANT AND THE KINGDOM                    297


examples of this type. It is quite apparent that Moses undoubtedly

utilized already existing treaty formulas in the construction of biblical

treaty contracts between God and individuals or God and Israel. And

the comparison does not end with the literary correspondences. An

essential feature of certain ancient Near Eastern treaty-making was

the slaughter of an animal, often an ass, as, perhaps, an example of

the fate to be expected by the covenant party who violated his treaty

obligations.9 There was also the sense of the binding together of the

contracting parties through the mutuality of the animal sacrifice and

the sprinkling of its blood upon the treaty participants or their repre-

sentatives. The importance of slaughter and blood to biblical cove-

nants is, of course, well known.

The reader of the OT who examines it from this covenant stance

will see that covenant texts occupy a very significant portion of

biblical composition. Deuteronomy, for example, is recognized as

being almost entirely covenantal in its form and content,10 as are

substantial parts of the rest of the OT. And, if Kline is correct, the

entire Bible might be so analyzed. What is important now is to see

that these individual covenants, far from being isolated and unrelated,

are parts or successive elaborations of a basic covenant theme. All

covenant references in the Bible are then but progressively revealed

modifications and explanations of that motif. This, we feel, is the

interpretive key to Scripture, a key which, applied consistently and

skill fully, will unlock the mysteries of God's Word to one who sin-

cerely wishes to understand and communicate God's redemptive mes-

sage with authority and conviction.11


II. Covenant in Genesis 1-3


Let us turn now to a systematic examination of the covenant

theme in the early chapters of Genesis with the end in view of

establishing our thesis that it is at the heart of divine revelation and

that it can provide the organizing principle around which a consistent

and comprehensive biblical theology may be developed. Because

Genesis is the book of beginnings it is not surprising that covenant

should first be found there, and, in fact, found in more specific


9 M. Held, "Philological Notes on the Marl Covenant Rituals," BASOR 200 (1970)


10 For an excellent commentary structured along covenant lines see J. A. Thomp-

son, Deuteronomy (TOTC; Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1974).

11 This notion has been picked up and published recently by W. J. Dumbrell,

Covenant and Creation (Exeter: Paternoster, 1984).



instances than anywhere else in the Bible.12 So fundamental is the

covenant theme there it is not an exaggeration to say that Genesis

provides the principal statement of God's purposes of which the

remainder of the biblical witness is an enlargement and interpretation.

The understanding of his creative and redemptive ways must issue

from their initial statement in Genesis and not from a stance that

considers Genesis to be only prolegomenon or retrojection.

The climax of God's creative work as revealed in Genesis 1-2 was

the creation of man, an event reserved for the last part of the sixth

day. In conjunction with the creative act appears the statement by

God concerning its meaning and purpose. "Let us make man in our

image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and

the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all

the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his

own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he

created them. God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and

increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of

the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that

moves on the ground" (Gen 1:26-28, NIV).

In its broadest sense, this mandate is a greatly abbreviated cove-

nant expression in which the sovereign (God) outlines to his vassal

(man) the meaning of the vassal's existence and the role that he is to

play in the sovereign's eternal plans. Man was created, then, to serve

as the agent of God in implementing God's sovereign will and sway

over the universe.13 His subsequent fall into sin made him incapable

of adequately fu1fil1ing the covenant requirements, as we shall see, so

he was forced to attempt to do so with great difficulty and struggle.

The history of the human race is testimony to the miserable failure of

man to accomplish the covenant mandate, a failure overcome only by

the Second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, who perfectly demonstrated

on earth the authority that was inherent in the Adamic covenant and

who, moreover, by his perfect obedience to it has guaranteed the

ultimate restoration of redeemed man to the original covenant privi-

leges. Let us consider several ramifications of this covenant statement.


Mankind as God's Vice-Regent


That man is to serve as vice-regent of God is seen clearly in the

fact that he is the "image" and "likeness" of God. The former of these

terms, Mlc, is the word ordinarily used in the OT to speak of an idol


12 In all its forms tyrb occurs twenty-seven times in Genesis or about one-tenth of

all the OT uses.

13 G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology (2 vols; New York: Harper & Row, 1962)

1. 146-47.

Merrill: COVENANT AND THE KINGDOM                    299


or other object carved or fashioned to resemble the deity that it

presents.14 The Greek, both in the LXX and NT, usually translates it

ei]kw<n, from which English "icon" is directly derived.15 The word

translated "likeness" in our versions is tvmd a term that is equally as

common (25 occurrences), and that appears occasionally as a synonym

for Mlc (Gen 1:26; 5:3; Ezek 23:14-15).16 In our text the two words

seem to be in a parallel relationship, indicating their synonymity.

that this imago dei represents is, of course, a matter of divergent

opinions, but at the least it is that quality in man that makes him

different from and superior to all else in the created universe.17 It is our

judgment that much more is involved, for the context of the passage is

quite suggestive in this respect. For example, the first person plural

pronoun is used by God consistently throughout the narrative. This

cannot be explained by reference to the plurality of Elohim, for that

plural of the divine name is nearly universally interpreted as the pluralis

maiestatis or plural of majesty.18 Moreover, ordinarily the name Elohim

occurs with singular personal or relative pronouns. The appearance of

us," then, rather than "me" is a clue that points to a plural of number,

a plural that suggests the divine Godhead-Father, Son, and Spirit.19

The Spirit had already been introduced as that person of God who

moved" (better "hovered" or "brooded") over the face of the deep

(Gen 1:2). It would appear appropriate that the Son should here be

identified as that divine person of whom man is the image. The OT

speaks elsewhere of Wisdom who is hypostatized and described as at

least a co-Creator with God (cf. Prov 8:30). And, of course, the NT

specifically identifies Jesus Christ as the Creator an 1:1-3; Col 1:16;

Heb 1:2). There is clearly a straight line of development from OT

hmkH to Mishnaic xrmm to NT Logos.20

There is, furthermore, explicit evidence that both the Father and

the Holy Spirit are invisible, spiritual entities and that only the Son is

attributed with any bodily manifestation. This may be seen in the aT

appearances of God as the Angel of the Lord or as the "Son of Man."

Most fully and unequivocally, it is seen in the NT incarnate Christ.


14 C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11. A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984)

15 BAGD 222.

16 H. D. Preuss, "hmADA" TDOT 3 (1978) ~7 -00.

17 A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: Judson, 1970) 514.

18 GKC #124g.

19 E. H. Merrill, "Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Implied in the Genesis Creation

Ccount?" The Genesis Debate (ed. R. Youngblood; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986)


20 J. B. Payne, The Theology of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids:




We would suggest, therefore, that the image of God entails also a

phenomenal aspect, a relationship between man and the Son of Man

so close that the former could be said in the strictest sense of the term

to be the image of the latter.21

If man of the covenant is to fulfill his covenantal mandate, we

must attempt to discover how this fulfillment is described. Unfortu-

nately, the evidence is sparse because man sinned before realizing the

potentialities involved. We do learn, however, that he was to cultivate

the ground (2:5, 15), that he had access to everything in Eden but the

Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (2:17), and that he had the

incredible ability to name all the animals (2:19), a feat that pre-

supposes either the skill of writing and recording or the possession of

a phenomenal memory! Tragically, however, sin marred the image in

at least the area of man's covenant capacities, so that we can only

guess at the powers that man could have exercised had he been

obedient. Or need we only guess? Paul on several occasions refers to

a Second Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14-17; 1 Cor 15:22, 45). This

Second Adam presumably was more than one who came to undo the

work of sin in human life; He came also to demonstrate the possibili-

ties inherent in sinless man. In other words, Jesus Christ, often

described as the Son of Man, was not only God but was man par

excellence, the man whom God intended Adam to be. Should we not

seek in the life of Jesus, the Perfect Man, some insights into the type

of man created by God to carry out the Adamic covenant?


Jesus as Second Adam


A few examples from the Gospels must suffice. In the story of

Jesus' calming of the stormy sea, the disciples are so amazed at what

they see that they ask incredulously, "What kind of a man is this, that

even the winds and the sea obey Him" (Matt 8:27; cf. Mark 4:36-41;

Luke 8:27-75)? Or one is reminded of the need for the payment of

taxes to Caesar. Jesus on one occasion told Peter to go to the sea,

throw in a hook, and find a coin in the mouth of the first fish caught

(Matt 17:24-17). When Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem in triumph

at the beginning of Passion Week, He first of all amazed His disciples

by riding on an unbroken donkey (Matt 21:7) and then proceeded to

show His lordship over a fig tree by cursing it so that it withered

immediately (Matt 21:18-22). These evidences of power over nature

are usually attributed to His deity, but there is every reason to believe


21 For the view that human-form theophanies are limited to Christ see J. A:

Borland, Christ in the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1978) 65-72. Borland correctly;

does not limit man as the image of God to the physical appearance of the Son

(pp. 106-7) for, as he suggests, Christ did not exist permanently in human form in

OT times.

Merrill: COVENANT AND THE KINGDOM                    301


(“What kind of man22 is this?") that Jesus was exercising the God-

given authority of Adam, an authority designed for the entire human

race, forfeited by sinful Adam, and restored in and through Christ (cf.

also Ps 8), That man will once again possess these powers may be

seen in the beautiful eschatological pictures of the OT prophets in

which, for example, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard

will lie down with the goat, the calf and the young lion and the

yearling together; and a little child will lead them" (Isa 11:6, NIV).


Mankind as Nature's Sovereign


Another feature to note in the covenant of Gen 1:26-28 is that of

the command to rule over the fish, the birds, and large and small land

animals (1:26) and to "subdue" the earth (1:28). The verb "to rule" is

hdr usually used in connection with the absolute domination of one

party by another (Lev 25:43, 46, 53; 26:17, 1 Kgs 5:4, 30; Isa 14:2;

Ps 110:2).23 "To subdue" is wbk which means "to tread down." The

same word is used in Mic 7:19 to speak of God treading iniquities

underfoot. In, another form it occurs in Jer 34:11 in the sense of

bringing one into bondage or subservience.24 Hence, these two verbs

are practically synonymous. This prerogative of man was seen, of

course, in his naming of the animals and his care of the garden. And

we have already suggested that Jesus, the perfect Son of Man,

demonstrated in his own life on earth His ability to dominate the

various aspects of the natural world. Moreover, man, when fully

redeemed, will resume his covenant responsibilities and privileges, by

the grace of God, and forever will reign over the universe as God's

agent in fulfillment of the reason for his very creation.

In stark contradiction to the idealized situation of the covenant

stipulation of Genesis 1 is the reality of human existence vis-a-vis the

covenant after the fall. Man now knows that he is naked, an under-

standing which not only derives from his possession of the knowledge

of good and evil, but which makes him acutely aware that he cannot

fulfill the covenant terms.25 He was told to have dominion over all

things, but he failed to govern even his wife and his own appetites.

He has forfeited the right to reign and therefore does not have the

ability to reign. His attempt to undo his nakedness and, hence, recover

his dignity and lordship is frustrated by the Lord who shows him, by

covering him with the skins of a slaughtered beast, that another


22 No explicit word for "man" is used in Matt 8:27 but the Greek  potapo<j ("sort,"

"kind") is a common substitute for the term "person" (see BAGD 694-95).

23 See W. WhIte, “hdARA”, TWOT 2 (1980) 833.

24 J. N. Oswalt, “wbAKA," TWOT 1 (1980) 430.

25 T. C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell,

1958) 209-10.



way--a super-human way-must be found. God must do the cover-

ing and the restoring or there is no hope at all.


The Fall and Covenant Modification


But to move more directly into the covenant terms as they are

modified for fallen man in Gen 3:14-19, we observe that the original

mandate ("to reign, to multiply, to subdue") is preserved but in an

obviously qualified way. That is, man still has the rights and obliga-

tions of the original covenant, but will accomplish them only with

pain and arduous labor. And, moreover, even this pain and labor

could not bring about the desired ends for which man was created

were God not to intervene in history in the seed of the woman and to

fulfill in this seed His sovereign purposes. The second Adam was to

do what God had required of the first, and impute to every Adam of

every age the perfect obedience of the mandate which he achieved

by his life, death, and resurrection.

In the first place, because an animal (the serpent) was the vehicle

of man's temptation and fall, animals must, in general, be condemned

for insubordination though the serpent is especially cursed (3:14).

Man the sovereign had become the slave, a monstrous imbalance

which must be righted.

A result of this imbalance was a hostility between man and

animal, an antagonism suggested here but explicitly spelled out later

on in the Noahic covenant (Gen 9:2). Animals would be docile only

by training and discipline, not as a matter of course.26 Only with the

reestablishment of the paradise world could there be the compat-

ible relationship between man and animals that God had originally


Satan, incarnate in the serpent, is, of course, the real object of the

rebuke of the Lord, for it was he who had attempted to subvert the

covenant arrangement, possibly because he himself had originally

served as vice-regent of God (cf. Isa 14; Ezek 28). The enmity

between man and the serpent was only an illustration of the more

profound and consequential enmity between man and Satan, and

indeed, between the Seed of the woman and Satan. The underlying

cause of the disruption of the covenant would be its chief victim

when the covenant was renewed and perfected by the Seed of the

woman, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the second act of insubordination, that of the woman to the

man and both to God, the result would entail the on-going covenant

stipulations but with the added ingredients of pain, a powerful attrac-


26 G. Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954) 64.

Merrill: COVENANT AND THE KINGDOM                    303


tion of wife to husband,27 debilitating labor, and death. Man must

carry out the mandate but the cost would be high-too high in fact

for him actually to bring it to completion himself. The promise of the

seed and the evidence of divine grace in the garments of skin pointed

to a covenant completeness that would be a future reality.

In the meantime, the command to be fruitful and multiply would

be complicated by the pain of the woman in childbirth. The injunc-

tion to man and woman to rule over all things would be tempered by

the rule of the man over the woman, by the subordination of her

desires to his. The earth which was to be subject to man and the

ready source of his nourishment now would yield its riches only with

toil. And the very soil which he tilled, and from which he originated,

would eventually master him and cover him in death.


Fallen Man's Covenant Capacity


We are still left, however, with the intriguing question of the

extent of unredeemed man's ability and right to pursue the covenant

stipulations of Gen 1:26-18. At the outset we must be reminded that

unregenerate man is generally not even aware of a covenant mandate,

except possibly “intuitively," to say nothing of a command to pursue

it.  But it cannot be argued that he does pursue it even in his blindness.

Man's environmental struggles all represent his endeavors to

fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it." Ironically (or perhaps

even predictably) he appears to be waging a losing battle as the

present-day ecological concern so eloquently testifies. Man carries

out the mandate, but as is true with every thing else that he does as

fallen creature without divine orientation, he perverts it, misunder-

stands it, exploits it, and finally seems to be in danger of destroying it.

But this is not to be, for the Adamic covenant was without condition-

man was created to fulfill it and he will, both partially and imper-

fectly as fallen first Adam, and fully and perfectly in and through

Second Adam. The ecological crisis is not, fatal, but only witnesses to

the inadequacies of rebellious man. Christ has triumphed not only

over death and sin but over the environment. He will undercut the

ecological peril by bringing in the fruits of His redemptive work,

even a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness.

One thought that is staggering in the face of man's inability to

the Adamic covenant perfectly is his sheer accomplishment


27 This seems to be the best understanding of the phrase jtqvwt jwyx lx ("unto

your husband [will be] your desire"). So W. C. Kaiser: Jr., Toward an Old Testament

Ethics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983) 204-5. As Kaiser points out, the wrong m this

is that in turning in such a way to her husband the woman will turn from dependence

on God.



scientifically and technologically in spite of his limitations. He has, by,

dint of creative and imaginative genius, risen to heights of achieve

ment undreamed of by his predecessors of only a century ago. He has

not only been able to dominate this planet with his superior intel-

lectual powers, but has now planted his feet on the moon and his

implements of discovery on the planets as well. All this, we feel, is

part of the mandate, but only its superficial, external part. The factor

that is missing is the ascription to God of the glory and praise due His

name. Man fulfills the covenant, even to a remarkable degree, but at

the same time he does not fulfill it at all for he does not operate as the

conscious agent of God. Part of the meaning of the image of God is to

act for God and represent God, but man will not have God to rule

over him.


III. The Prospects of Covenant Fulfillment


The Christian man, on the other hand, is able to understand the

covenant and even largely to fulfill it in points. And where he cannot

fulfill it or overcome the liabilities built into it because of sin, he can'

at least await with patience and perseverance the redemptive day:

when these liabilities will be removed in fact and when he will enter

into the covenant relationship with the saints of all the ages, and with

them pursue its goals and purposes eternally. Christ, who showed by

example what it meant to keep the covenant and whose obedience

retrieved it and made it a viable vehicle of divine intercourse wit4

man, has pioneered the way that all men can follow. He is the first-

fruits not only of them who sleep but of them who will in the day of

His glory share with Him the joy of covenant-keeping, the joy of

reigning forever and ever as the agents of the Mighty God, the

Everlasting Father.

If God is immutable; if the covenant of Gen 1:26-28 is inviolable,

unconditional, and eternal; if Christ as Second Adam has showed

His earthly life and ministry what it meant to keep the covenant

perfectly-all of which is true-then we should expect some biblical

statement about the fulfillment of the Adamic covenant by redeemed

man. But before such an investigation is undertaken some considera-

tion of the biblical view of time must be made.


Biblical View of Time


Basically, there are two ways in which time can be understood--

the linear and the cyclical.28 The former sees time plotted on a non-


28 For an excellent discussion of the matter see Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and,

History (New York: Harper & Row, 1959) esp. 62-92.

Merrill: COVENANT AND THE KINGDOM                    305


ending straight line with only accidental or coincidental repetitions of

events and these only of an insignificant nature. The latter, however,

interprets time as occurring in series of repeatable, nearly identical

events. It is measured in terms of aeons which, though lasting for

thousands of years, have decisive -and dramatic beginnings and end-

ings. Time in the linear sense, an understanding that originated in the

17th century,29 views history as a continuously ongoing process with

little or no theological significance. The religions and philosophies of

the ancient world, particularly those of the Graeco-Mesopotamians,

conceived of history as a cyclical phenomenon. Worlds and men are

created to live, interact, and die, only to be recreated time and time

again. Reincarnation is only one feature of such a world view.

Biblical notions of time are not properly either linear or cyclical,

but a combination to be described, perhaps, as a "loop." Eternity is

linear while the parenthesis that we call time, a sort of interruption of

eternity, is cyclical in nature, though only unicyclical.30 God, eternally

existent, created all things to serve his own interests. His creation,

however, through its disobedience, has temporarily intersected the

continuum of eternity, but through Christ the promise of a resump-

tion of the linear has been made. When history has run its course, the

Kingdom of God will be established, the cycle now having swung full

turn. In one sense, time will have been blotted out, and the linear

aspect of the divine historical process will appear as never having

been broken at all. Or, to put it another way, the establishment of a

new heavens and a new earth will be nothing more or less than a

reconstitution of the pristine heavens and earth known by sinless

Adam. Because human history since the fall has been characterized by

sin, and since sin will be eradicated .completely from the universe: it

follows that the cycle of human history between the fall of First

Adam and the advent of Second Adam is to be as a bubble on a

string--when the bubble is pricked, the string alone remains.


Redeemed Mankind and the Age to Come


In order to visualize what qualities will be characteristic of man

in the Age to Come, we need only refer to the Paradise setting of the

original covenant of Genesis once again. Man will be in the un-

impaired image of God and will exercise lordship, under God, of all

the universe. Specifically, however, it is instructive to search out the

eschatological teaching of the prophets, for there they detail man-to-

man, man-to-nature, and man-to-God relationships that are only sug-

gested in Genesis. There will be no war (Isa 2:4; MIC 4:3; Joel 3:10),


29 Ibid., 145-46.

30 Ibid., 136-30.



but justice and righteousness will prevail (Isa 9:7). The "natural"

animosities between animals and between men and animals (which,

after all, are not natural) will end (Isa 11:6-9; 65:25; Ezek 34:25; Hos

2:18). There will be no death or sorrow (Isa 25:8) and even the desert

lands will come alive and produce abundance (Isa 35:1-2; Joel 3:18).

Man will then rule with God and for God over all things (Dan 7:27;

Rom 5:17; 1 Cor 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2; Rev 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4). In Paul's

great exposition of the truth concerning human redemption in Romans

8, he goes on to speak of the redemption of the creation as a whole.

He suggests that "the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons

of God to be revealed" (8:19, NIV). This revealing is certainly to be

understood as the full, final restitution of the elect to their position as

partners with God in the covenant plan (cf. 1 Pet 1:7,13).

The Apostle continues by showing how that all creation was

"subjected to frustration" or made to partake of the divine curse

because of man's sin (cf. Isa 24:6; Jer 12:4). There is hope, however,

for nature, a hope that will be realized following the completion of

the redemption of man. The corruption of the earth (suggested by the

thorns and thistles of Gen 3:18) will be undone and nature will be set

free from its bondage (cf. Acts 3:21). In the meantime, Paul says, "the

whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth. . ." (Rom

8:22). This Image suggests that from the old will come something

new. The cursed universe will give birth to a new one, a birth

associated with the rebirth of the redeemed ones in their glorified

state.31 Can it be that the violence and upheavals associated with the

last days of this era, those signs of the end of the world, are at the

same time the birth throes of nature which agonizes to deliver a new

heaven and earth worthy of the King and his subjects who reign with

him (cf. 2 Pet 3:10-13; Rev 21:1)?

We would not suggest, of course, that the new heavens and new

earth will be identical to those described in Genesis. There are many

factors which would necessitate differences. For example, Adam lived

in a garden, a life of pastoral, agricultural pursuits. The citizens of the

New Earth will live both in this kind of environment and also in a

great city, New Jerusalem, come down from God out of heaven. We

are led to speculate, however, as to whether or not such might have

been the case in the original Paradise as well if sufficient time had

elapsed for a population large enough to be conducive to urban life

had emerged. For Adam and Eve to have lived by themselves in a

city as extensive as that described in Revelation would be little short


31 C. Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1955) 274-75.

Merrill: COVENANT AND THE KINGDOM                    307


of absurd (cf. Rev 21:16), And yet it is important to note that the Tree

of Life, central to the Garden of Eden, is also a major feature of New

Jerusalem (Rev 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19). The externals of the setting are

different, but the underlying and essential content is the same.

Also, there is no sun or moon in the world to come, for the Lamb

is the light thereof (Rev 21:23). Let us remember here also that there

was sunless light on the earth before man was created (Gen 1:3), and

that the function of the heavenly lightholders was not only to give

light on the earth, but to serve as time indicators (Gen 1:14-18). They

may have been prepared for this latter function in anticipation of the

interruption" of time mentioned previously, a kind of proleptic indi-

cator that day and night, summer and winter, are testimonies to the

continually alternating pattern of life in time, life as lived by fallen

man. As we see later, part of the Noahic Covenant is the promise by

the Lord that day and night shall not cease ''as long as the earth

endures" (Gen 8:22). Is it too much to propose that the sun would

have become unnecessary and therefore nonexistent even in Eden had

man successfully passed the probation of the Tree of the Knowledge

of Good and Evil? The absence of a sea in the renewed earth might

also be explained on this basis. Perhaps it had been reserved by the

Lord as a means of judgment and not as a necessary part of the

creation (cf. 2 Pet 3:5-7).32

A third contact is that of God's dwelling among men. Rev 21:3

states explicitly that the tabernacle of God will be among men and

he will live with them. . . . But Genesis also describes man’s fellow-

ship with God in terms that suggest that he was among them in a

unique way, a way not paralleled after man s exile from the Garden

(Gen 3:8-10).

Finally, John the Apostle visualizes the fact that there will be no

curse in Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 22:3), a decided contrast to the

curse of Genesis 3, but nonetheless a reminder that the resumption of

the covenant relationship will hark back to the perfect, uncursed state

of affairs that formed the backdrop of the original declaration of the


III. Conclusion


The proposition that covenant is a dominant theme of the Bible

has, we trust, been at least partially demonstrated by this brief look at


32 For the sea as a symbol of chaos out of which came (comes) the created order

see B. K. Waltke, Creation and Chaos (Portland: Western Conservative Baptist Seml-

nary, 1974) 13-15.



early Genesis. It is much more than mere coincidence that Genesis

and Revelation, the first and last books of Scripture, should share in

common the idea of man in contractual relationship with God, the OT

book rehearsing the covenant command to rule over all things, and

the NT prophetically revealing that man shall indeed fulfill that cove-

nant requirement perfectly and eternally.33 Everything in between--

from Genesis 4 through Revelation 20--speaks of sin and redemption

the violation of the covenant by First Adam and its obedience and

fulfillment by Second Adam. By the grace of God we may now exult

with David who exclaimed:


What is man that you are mindful of him,

The son of man, that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

And crowned him with glory and honor?

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;

You put everything under his feet. . . .

(Ps 8:4-6, NIV)



33 See now the stimulating and provocative connection of Revelation 21-22 to the

OT by N. J. Dumbrell, The End of the Beginning (Homebush West, Australia: Lancer,

Books, 1985).



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            The Criswell College

            4010 Gaston Ave.

            Dallas, TX 75246

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