WHY A UNIVERSAL COVENANT HAS BEEN ELUDED

The eluded covenant of life

Following on from my last post I am well aware that the Church’s theologians cannot rely on a single passage in Genesis but must compare scripture with scripture, and the concept of an inclusive covenant for fallen humanity implicit in the Cain and Abel story (explicit when utilising the Masoretic text) hardly fits in with much else as it has been historically and universally interpreted ever since Christian doctrine was systematised. Moreover, the Greek Septuagint (LXX) renders the key verse about God’s warning to Cain somewhat differently and that is the version to which most of the apostles and the early Church will have referred. The Hebrew (Masoretic Text) is just as dependable as the LXX but it simply was not utilised by the apostolic Church, the Greek language being lingua franca for the Roman Empire and therefore the Greco-Roman Church. It is therefore no surprise that the apostles do not make direct reference to this verse (Gen4:7) whilst the early Fathers always quote from the LXX, which intriguingly refers to Cain’s incorrect division of his offering and that he should “be at peace and rule over him”; somewhat meaningless and surely a corruption of the Hebrew, presumably the “him” referring to the devil. I understand such obscurity to be an intentional veiling on God’s part regarding an understanding of a Universal Covenant, yet it is not dependant on this verse alone but can be deduced from Cain’s punishment and curse in which he became excluded from the nature of the relationship with God that his brother, his parents and indeed Cain himself experienced before the fratricide, which surely is the point (Gen4:11-14).

However, the principle reason for what might in a dual sense be termed “the Lost Covenant” concerns the nature of the Bible itself which was never intended to be a detailed story of God’s creation. For example we know relatively little about the angelic realm from which evil had sprung and with which mankind will one day participate; rather scripture’s focus is the salvation history for the world centred on Christ, His cross and His peculiar peoples (the Jewish nation and the Church). Hence Abraham is a vastly more significant figure than Abel; both had “faith” and were justified by it, being representatives within covenants, but Abraham initiated the EXCLUSIVE covenant from which his own son Ishmael who had been blessed by God and circumcised by his father was not admitted (Gen17:20,23: cf. 21:20). Such a covenant was formed to provide the royal priesthood through whom God might enlighten and reconcile the world to Himself (cf. Deut4:5,6; Ex19:5,6; 1Pet2:9).

The inclusive covenant into which Abel was declared to be righteous and Cain defaulted does not have a direct role in that salvation story, firstly because it pertains to that which is intuitive (so is not dependant on special revelation or a specific creed) and secondly because individuals are not “saved” through it, i.e. they are not purged of their sin and spiritually empowered to experience a living, transformational relationship with Christ whilst still in the body so as to be fitted to be His corporate Consort in the ages to come. That is the true nature of gospel salvation and it requires “the exceedingly abundant grace which is in Christ Jesus” to accomplish it (1Tim1:14).

GENESIS 4 – THE ELUDED COVENANT OF LIFE

As considered in some detail in chapter two of my book, God’s munificent providence has been obscured by a foundational error in traditional western biblical theology – the failure to distinguish between disobedient Adam and his psychopathic eldest son. The latter’s relationship with God radically altered after his extraordinary act of defiance towards His creator and the murder of his brother (vv11-14), the theological consequences of which have been eluded. The following verse from Genesis is unquestionably covenantal in form, though most theologians for the last two thousand years have chosen not to regard it as such:

“If thou (Cain) doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” 

The translation of this verse from the Hebrew is problematical: “Will you not be accepted?” (Hebrew: seeth) could equally be “will your countenance not be lifted?” which is utilised by some versions of the Bible. The KJV quoted above recognises “sin” to be a person (the Sinful One), which makes sense since it or he is lying or crouching (Hebrew: rabats) at the door and “desires” to control Cain. Sin per se could hardly be “at the door” in Cain’s case, it’s already in Cain’s heart and about to wreak havoc. Cain is described elsewhere as “OF the evil one”, confirming that the Sinful One was indeed at the door and was able to master Cain and thereby control and own him (1Jn3:12). From the human perspective, that would not have been so if Cain had responded differently to the challenge Yahweh presented to him in Gen4:7, so the verse effectively reflects a Universal Covenant for fallen humanity; for Abel was fallen but he was accepted.

The purpose of the Cain and Abel story, however literally one might choose to take it, is drawn upon in the New Testament. It is not to show how Abel “got saved” but how Cain became reprobate (rejected), indicated by the vital yet typically glossed references to “this day” and “now” with regard to the elder brother’s fate. The day he killed his brother he was cursed and entirely alienated from God and not before that day. When God told Cain to “do well”, He was not seeking perfection but to do what the young man intuitively knew to be right: offer like Abel the first-fruits of his crop and preferably not go on to slaughter his innocent brother in cold blood. For no one is born devoid of at least one “talent” (the light of conscience) but some choose to bury it in the ground and they will be condemned (cf. Mt25:14-29; Jn1:9). Cain, an agricultural farmer (4:2) was not expected to steal from his livestock farmer brother Abel in order to sacrifice an animal in offering for his sin, as some would dissemble (e.g. the Youngs Literal translators). Comparing scripture with scripture we see that Cain and his sacrifice were not accepted because his works were evil whilst his brother’s works were righteous (1Jn3:12). That was because the one exercised faith and the other didn’t, for one was a child of God, the other as confirmed in later scripture was or had become satanic (1Jn3:12).

As third century Irenaeus had expressed the matter precisely in this context: “It is the conscience of the offerer that sanctifies the sacrifice when (the conscience) is pure and thus God is moved to accept the sacrifice as from a friend”. Abel showed by his works and a good conscience that he had “faith” so was justified by that faith with reference to his works (offering the best of his flock), not by achieving a standard of worked merit (justification by works). Why was perfection not required by either of them? – it was in view of the Sacrifice of atonement effectual throughout human history (Rom3:25 Greek).

Through the faithfulness of Christ (Greek: ek pisteos christou), which more theologians and the more recent bible translators are recognising needs to be distinguished from cognisant faith in Christ (pisteos en Christo), expiation has been provided for the faults arising from human weakness for those who themselves seek to be faithful to God, i.e. to the light He provides to them through their conscience. In Paul’s language (when rightly translated) they become a law for themselves and do by nature the things contained within the law; indeed fulfil the heart of it which is to exercise compassion towards their fellow man – cf. Rom2:14; Gal5:14.

The understanding of some that Cain and Abel were expected to anticipate a future Sacrifice for sin by sacrificing an animal is unsustainable; cultic sacrifices were not clearly established as a religious system until the Law of Moses. Paul, James and the writer to the Hebrews make it quite clear why Abraham was counted as righteous, being a belief in the God he had encountered evidenced by obedience, in his case that he would be rewarded with a great family (cf. Gen15:1). Abraham, nor indeed anyone in the Old Testament is declared to be justified by means of offering an animal sacrifice. As will be demonstrated from scripture, Old Testament folk and indeed all “people of good will” were and still are accepted by God through the merits of the Atonement achieved through Christ’s faith/faithfulness. Its benefits are applied to those who fear God through their positive response to the divine enlightenment they have received (cf. Jn1:9KJV), resulting in humane behaviour towards their fellow man in need (a.k.a. Christ Mt25:40).

[These posts are intended to complement my book by identifying “glosses” in OT narrative which have impacted upon traditional Christian perspectives on divine providence].

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THE PROTOEVANGELIUM

I pointed out in earlier posts that Adam and Eve were not cursed by God (cf. Gen3:14,17). That divine pronouncement was given to the arch-instigator of mankind’s downfall represented by the serpent (the devil) and later at an individual level to Cain. Thankfully for humanity, Adam is the federal head, not Cain. Adam’s offspring were nevertheless condemned to a life of toil, aging, decay and death, for the soil was cursed for man’s sake (Gen3:17-19). Through Satan’s victory, he was granted control of the world order (Greek: archon tou kosmou Jn12:31), yet as will be shown it was all for the greater good.

Amidst the apparent debacle, a ray of hope appears: God tells the snake (representing the Evil One): “I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; it will bruise your head and you will strike its heel” (Gen3:15). This is the so-called protoevangelium, a foreshadowing of the Good News concerning a coming Messiah (the woman’s offspring). Our omniscient God had already envisaged His plan of salvation for humankind, the central event of which would be the sending of His Son to be the Saviour of the world (1John4:14). Satan would strike Christ’s heal through his apparent victory at Calvary, but the death and resurrection of Jesus would prove to be the bruising of the snake’s head, assuring Satan’s ultimate defeat.

It is not just Satan but his offspring who are to be at enmity with the woman’s offspring; nor is the latter referring exclusively to Jesus but His people (Rom16:20). Satan’s seed pertains both to the outcome of Gen6:1-2 (considered shortly) and also the human seed adopted by Satan, who following their own free choice to usurp the innate light and law of Christ referenced by the conscience is permitted to gain their mastery

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THE NATURE OF DEATH RESULTING FROM THE FALL

The “death” referred to in God’s warning to Adam (Gen2:17) was clearly not physical death, he continued for centuries; nor did God say (as some bible translation inaccurately infer) that Adam was “doomed to die”. The “death” he would experience would occur the very day he ate the forbidden fruit and is the “death” that every man and woman experiences as a consequence of the Fall. That is the disruption of their vital relationship with God – the ultimate purpose for which they were created but cannot experience whilst “in the flesh”. This is the death Paul is referring to in his writings where at one point he asks “Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Greek: somatos tou thanatou toutou – Rom7:24).

“This death” is referring to the condition that the unregenerate man he was depicting in that passage was currently experiencing such that he desired to do good but constantly gave in to the desires of the flesh (“the law of sin that is in my members” – previous verse). It is that absence of “Life” that Jesus spoke of when He said “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you have no life in you” (Jn6:53). He means “eternal life” (literally, age life) being the present-day experience of “knowing God” (Jn17:3), which by its nature will also be everlasting. Paul’s reference to death in this context neither refers to a person’s mortality nor that he is “damned” but the loss of the vital communion which our first parents brought about the day they ate the forbidden fruit. But thankfully “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive”. Cain though is another kettle of fish… (to follow).

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THE FALL AND ITS UTILIZATION WITHIN DIVINE PROVIDENCE

The garrulous snake representing Satan

Having acknowledged in my previous post that the Genesis account could not be expected to incorporate a scientific account of the creative processes, moving on to chapter 3 and the “Fall”, many Christians will be content to take references to trees of knowledge and a garrulous snake literally. Those who regard the whole account as allegorical or symbolic must nevertheless take stock of the events and what they are intended to symbolize, given that all the key players in the saga are frequently referred to in New Testament writing.

Adam and Eve disobeyed God, but that is only a third of the story, and the smallest third at that, once understood from a more enlightened Christian perspective such as that possessed by the apostle Paul (cf. Eph6:12; Rom8:20,21). In Ephesians Paul refers to evil principalities and powers extraneous to mankind whilst in Romans Paul identifies Whom he regards as ultimately taking responsibility for the Fall. Mankind is third in the pecking order, which is not to say he is not culpable and deserving of the punishment which he has received. But the consequences outlined for mankind in Genesis are temporal, not eternal in nature, and (believe it or not) the punishment devised is ultimately beneficial for the recipients. By temporal I do not mean merely physical in nature; the “death” referred to in God’s warning to Adam pertained to his vital relationship with God which would be broken (cf. Jn17:3). Damnation will be a reality for some, but that is not what this “death” (or indeed Pauline “death”) is referring to. Hell has been prepared for the devil and his messengers/agents (Greek: aggelos), many of whom are human (Mt25:41) – we will shortly encounter their archetype in Genesis 4.

The chief culprit at Eden was the snake representing Satan, whom it should be noted alone was cursed by God in the post-incidental exchanges (as later was Cain). Nevertheless, man’s Adversary would appear on the surface to have achieved a mighty victory, gaining control of the world order and seemingly ruining God’s plans for the elevation of its human inhabitants so that they may come to share in the divine nature – the cause of Satan & his minions’ rebellion in the first place.

The Adversary had played right into God’s hands and has actually facilitated the process! I will say no more about that here, merely offer a textual clue, which taken in the context of the above offers a solution to the mystery of evil. It explains why a sovereign God described by the apostle John as Love personified (1Jn4:8) permitted events to take the course they did at Eden; also, why this will ultimately be beneficial for mankind, whilst at the same time immensely costly to the Godhead: it is Heb2:10, and it is Love beyond human imagining –

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” [Heb2:10NKJV]

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LET’S START AT THE VERY BEGINNING

“Creation made in an instant” according to the deuterocanonical Old Testament book of Sirach

Few if any Christians these days will regard the opening chapters of Genesis as in the remotest sense a scientific account of the creative processes. Even fifth century Augustine was unsure about the six days of creation, siting the deuterocanonical book of Sirach which referred to creation being made in an instant (Creavit omni simul – Big Bang?!); apart from which a “day” is of course a measurement derived from the heavens which were deemed to have been created on “day” #4.

But what must not be regarded as purely figurative or symbolic in the Genesis account is the fact that man was made in God’s image (Gen1:26,27). Yet as Paul affirms God is invisible (Col1:15; 1Tim1:17), so that “image” must relate at least in part to God’s character or nature. Even fallen man is to be regarded in such a way according to Genesis (9:6). Of course, that image has been besmirched by the Fall but not obliterated. And for the Christian, potentially he/she may attain the mind of Christ (1Cor2:16). God’s nature then cannot be entirely unfathomable to human reason for faithful Christians already partake of the divine nature (2Pet1:4) – it’s God’s ways and methods that the Bible indicates are inclined to be incomprehensible, and so they have been according to this disclosure.

Returning to the divine nature, if man has been made in God’s image, and that is being restored in the Christian such that he/she may have the mind of Christ, it follows that such noble qualities that mankind at his best can possess must mirror, in measure, those same qualities possessed by God as they are delineated in Scripture, and  have also been acted out in the earthly ministry and Passion of Jesus, the incarnated Word. God’s love, compassion and forgiving nature combined with His hatred of injustice, debauchery and cruelty may be different in degree but cannot be different in nature from how man understands such qualities, contrary to the teaching of certain influential theologians of the past in order to justify their paradoxical conceptions of God’s “love” within their theology and the dire cosmic outcomes that derive from it. When on the other hand nature and outcome are seen to tally, regardless of the means to attain it and Scripture finally coheres such that the teaching of Yahweh, His Son and each apostle coalesce, then shall not the mystery of God have been completed? (cf. Rev10:7-8)

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THE CHURCH’S ROLE WITHIN DIVINE PROVIDENCE

There are aspects concerning broader providence that have eluded Christian theologians ever since a comprehensive biblical framework was first established, especially through the influence of Augustine (Hippo) in the fourth/fifth century. He more than any other individual has impacted upon the subsequent course of theological thought in the West. Consequently, many Christians have understood that the Church and faithful Israelites before her are the exclusive groupings that God intended to reconcile to Himself or could benefit from His saving purposes. l show in my book that whilst Israel and the Church were indeed to be set apart from the world, that was in order that God, as it were working from within, would enlighten and bring healing to His world through His chosen people, not exclusively for them. Like Israel before her, the Church was to be His royal priesthood, but the latter would consist of individuals drawn from every nation elected on the basis of free grace into an exclusive covenant sealed with Christ’s blood. By participating in the sacred mystery (Christ in me, the hope of glory) such could be purged from sin even whilst their souls inhabited “the body of this death”, as Paul aptly described the temporary “vessel” the soul inhabits whilst on Earth.

The Church would serve as Christ’s mystical Body on earth in the present and its faithful adherents were destined to share in their Master’s eternal reign as His corporate Spouse. What Paul refers to as the fellowship pertaining to the mystery hidden in God through the ages (Eph3:9) was that Israel that had been foretold in earlier prophecy to fulfil such a priestly and kingly destiny was to be supplanted (or in effect augmented) by an international assembly we know of as the Church (cf. Rom11:25). Such was Paul’s gospel (cf. Rom16:25) which even fellow apostle Peter had scarcely grasped for it cannot have been clearly explained to him or any other disciples who had accompanied Jesus during His earthly ministry that the Gentile nations were not only to be enlightened by the Good News of the risen and glorified Jesus but receive an “identical spiritual gift” to that of believing Jews (Acts11:17,18) so as to share in the “inheritance reserved for the sanctified” (Acts26:18), a fact which itself has radical implications to overall providence.

That is the overall picture. I intend in subsequent posts, complementing the methodology employed in my book* in which I started with Paul’s revelation regarding the role of the Gentiles and considered its past and future implications, here to go more concisely and sequentially through the Old and New Testament, identifying the various interpretative “glosses” that have led to the mystery of God’s munificent providence being sustained for so long. This will appear subversive to conservative Christians, at least until it is recognised that such has been God’s intended journey for the Church, i.e. that the mystery I am alluding to and its final resolution is itself cryptically inferred in certain scriptural prophecy, including, I believe, “The Little Book” of Revelation chapter ten.

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PERCEIVING GOD’S MUNIFICENT PROVIDENCE

Once a certain mystery of the apostle Paul has been apprehended, the rest of the Bible can fit into place. That mystery pertains to the fact that a multi-racial fellowship (the Church) has been established to replace a nation (Israel) to act as God’s royal priesthood for the world (Ex19:5&6 cf. 1Pet2:9). Many Christians will be aware of that but less so the fact this was entirely new revelation, a subversion of Old Testament prophecy and most importantly that gospel salvation as we have come to understand it had not been envisaged for the Gentile nations in the current epoch.

Paul actually spells this out in Romans chapter 11 but no one appears to have taken him at his word (especially vv11,12,15&30). The providential implications are immense and the fact that they have been eluded has impacted on how the rest of Scripture has been interpreted since the time of Augustine (4th/5th century). These are the providential mysteries and biblical/doctrinal tensions I will be identifying and resolving, working systematically through the Bible. These posts are intended to complement what has been set out in topical form in my book, a free PDF of which is available HERE

the little book of providence

The final book of the Bible “Revelation” is allusive and mysterious, none more so than chapter ten regarding “The Little Book”, not least because John the Divine was not permitted to write down the meaning of the prophecy. The little book I am promoting in this website does not claim entirely to resolve the mystery but does provide insights into the likely subject matter of the book or scroll John was instructed to consume. That subject is divine providence and how since a Bible-based theology was first systematized in the 4th/5th century its munificence has been diminished through some erroneous doctrines that were incorporated.

Along with some radical insights of my own, which in view of what I experienced during the writing I believe to have been directed to me by the Holy Spirit, I draw upon the testimony and biblical interpretations of the more significant pre-Augustinian Christian writers and theologians to show that the fruits of Christ’s Passion extend beyond Israel and the Church. The providential outcome is worthy of a Creator defined in Scripture as Love personified – a providence one might even describe as sweet as honey.

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JOHN 9 – GOD DOES NOT CONDEMN THE IGNORANT

And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. (Jn9:39-41NASB)

Jesus’ reference to the blind seeing and those who see being made blind is almost certainly a prophetic reference to the contrasting fortunes of Jews and Gentiles. The former’s fortune was to be chosen as God’s special people and provided with the light of Torah – God’s Law for divine worship and humane living. Most Gentiles remained in the dark about the former (divine worship) but were never entirely in the dark concerning the latter. That was in view of “natural law” through which they received an innate sense of right and wrong provided through the spiritual faculty of conscience. As Paul asserted (when rightly translated) many Gentiles although not having the Law did by nature the things contained within it, thus becoming a law for themselves (Rom2:14-15). 

But the main point to be drawn from this passage is the fact that the Man Christ Jesus (and He is the only Person that matters in this context -Jn5:22) will never condemn a person for what he is ignorant of – not least the true Gospel: “If you were blind, you would have no sin…”  In view of historical cultural and religious formation exacerbated by division amongst the churches and the doctrinal confusion resulting from it , the vast majority of people who have ever lived (including some who believe themselves to be Christians) are blind to the Gospel and, unless spiritually aided, can never apprehend the true Faith.

Yet that vital concession to ignorance does not mean that wickedness will go unpunished. For as was better understood and articulated by the earliest Christian writers such as Justin Martyr, Clement, Irenaeus and Origen ( but later rejected by Augustine and some of his contemporaries), through a principle of natural law, those who wilfully and wholeheartedly reject the innate light of reason they have received (Jn1:9), resulting in a total indifference towards the promptings of their conscience and the needs of their fellow man will be condemned to post-mortem punishment (Mt25:31-46).

That teaching of Jesus recorded by Matthew is the definitive passage in the Bible on final judgement yet it is a narrative in which religious faith is not mentioned. Those who have grasped what I have been saying above will already discern why that should be, whilst those who have followed more of my blogs or read my book* should also discern that this concession in no way detracts from the vital role of the Christian Gospel within divine providence and salvation history. For only those who respond to that true Gospel can be saved from what Paul describes as “the body of this death” so as to know Life of an eternal nature, even at the present time in order to serve and worship the living God in spirit and in truth. And in terms of the soul’s eternal destiny, only the disciples of Christ will be spiritually cleansed renewed and prepared to participate in Christ’s glorious reign in the ages to come: “The ones who are to receive royal authority are the saints of the Most High and their kingship will be for ever and ever and ever” (Dan7:18).

  • A free PDF of which is available HERE

Exploring the mystery of divine providence