The cross stands at the center of every covenant (including the covenant of revelation) because it, more than anything else, shows us the Lord. We see His patience in submitting to death, His mercy and tolerance when refusing to destroy those who mocked Him, and His condescension in saving a terrorist as He died. We see the depth of divine wisdom in turning death, Satan’s weapon, into our means of life.
The cross shows us God as holy, just, wrathful, joyful, passionate, gracious, loving, merciful, and grand in measures beyond comprehension. Considered in and of itself it’s so magnificent that the mind is unable to grasp it, which is why we were given the covenants beforehand to provide a proper framework for understanding it.
The Proto-evangel pointed to the cross. The promise to Satan, “He shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise His heel” was fulfilled when Christ suffered and died to crush the devils rebellion. It was the moment when the true man, born of a mother, without a father, changed places with sinners to rescue them from eternal destruction. Because of this, He’s the clothing of righteousness foreshadowed by the animal skins Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with.
From the cross comes the rest Lamech hoped for, the respite from the painful world. In bearing the curse of man as a crown and enduring the world ending wrath, Jesus makes peace with God possible. His turning aside God’s fierce anger enabled Him to offer salvation to men in love rather than throw them all into hell in accordance with His justice. It is the rescue foreshadowed by the Ark, the sweet smelling offering foreshadowed by Noah. It is the reason God can hang up His bow.
The cross is the blessing which Abraham foresaw, the moment the eternal life became available. It is the grounds of justification for sinners. Because our guilt was counted to Him that day (and also because upon belief His righteousness is counted to us) God can in a very real way pronounce us righteous. By the blood of His Son God pulls His elect into His loving presence for all eternity, and adopts them into His family as co-heirs with Christ. The cross is the grounds for faith, since nothing needs to be added to Christ’s perfect work, and it’s the reason for faith, since it alone is sufficient to break the power of sin.
The cross is the moment the world saw Jesus as the eternal King, for it was there He purchased a people, a kingdom, indeed the whole city of man, as His inheritance. It established the house of the Lord, the temple where He would dwell forever. His victory over death shows how He is the roaring lion of Judah who overcomes His prey, the true David, who conquered his enemies on all sides to usher in peace.
But most of all it’s the new covenant which explains how the cross is our deliverance from bondage, the rescue from oppression pictured by the exodus. The righteous law had cursed us for breaking it, for as it is written, “Cursed is the man who keeps not the law.” But Jesus bore the curse by becoming the curse for us, since the law also says, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal 3:13). The sacrifice offered by the high priest in the tabernacle was the shadow which found it’s reality in His once for all atonement made in the true heavenly temple. The priesthood found it’s fulfillment in Him, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, appointed by divine oath (Ps 110:4). He entered the most holy place in heaven to purify us at His death, and after He did so the curtain of the temple ripped from top to bottom to indicate the way to God was now opened (Mat 27:51). He is the offering who was counted as unrighteous and banished outside the camp. He’s the priest who takes off his fine clothes and puts on humble garments to make a sacrifice for the people. He oversees the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of refuge where the guilty may flee for mercy. Having finished His work He serves as our Sabbath rest, our peace, and the prince who rules over all things (Ezek 34:25, Hos 2:18).
The new covenant is the convergence of all the other covenants; it’s their nexus, their telos. There is nothing that now needs to be added to the story, nothing new that must be said. From now on God will expand the covenant of revelation by explaining the significance of what Christ has done. He no longer needs to provide fresh revelation, only individual illumination.
Some Final Thoughts
Before God laid the foundation of the world, He purposed that creation should know and delight in Him. As a consequence, the explicit and implicit covenants, the flow of history, the objects, people, and phenomena in the Bible all teach us about who He is. As Jesus Himself said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me” (John 5:39, ESV). The people in it foreshadow Christ. The narratives regard Him, their words given to manifest His glory.
He’s positively identified in both the Old and New Testaments as being at the center of the prophecies. He’s the one born of a virgin (Is 7:14), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He’s the king who rides in on a colt (Zech 9:9), sent to heal the broken (Is 61:1-2), betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:12-13). He’s the cornerstone which the builders rejected (Ps 118:22-24), the suffering servant (Is 53), the one who would be seated at God’s right hand forever (Ps 110:1). He comes on the clouds with His holy ones just as Enoch predicted (Mark 14:28).
He’s the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, the one who speaks for God, and who must be worshiped as God. He appeared to Abraham (Gen 18:1), Hagar (Gen 16:10), Jacob (Gen 32:30), and Moses (Ex 3:2). He stood over Joshua (Josh 5:13-15), Gideon (Jud 6:22), Samson’s parents (Jud 13:21-22), and walked with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 3:23-25).
And He’s of course in the gospel narratives healing (Mark 3:5), preaching (Luke 4:43), raising the dead (John 11:43), and claiming divinity for Himself (John 10:33).
But He’s not only seen in Scripture, He’s also the key to unlocking it. Who was God talking to when He said “Let us make man in Our image?” (Gen 1:26). Clearly not the angels since God created the heavens and the earth by Himself (Job 9:8). It must be then that He was speaking to Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Why did the Lord ask Abraham to ascend Mt. Moriah and make a sacrifice of his beloved son? Why did a lamb appear with its head caught in the thorns at the last second and take his place? Because it foreshadowed the sacrifice of the Son.
Why did God instructed half of Israel to stand on Mt. Ebal and shout the curses for breaking the law, and half on Mt. Gerizim to shout the blessings for keeping it (Deut 11:29), and then not record the blessings (Deut 27:15-26)? Why were the curses the only thing written down? So it would be easier to see the significance of Jesus shouting the blessings to the people from the mountain (Matt 5:1-11). The old covenant could only say “cursed is” but in Christ the words are “blessed are” for, “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
He’s seen in people. Not just in the general sense of “we’re made in Gods image, after His likeness, and because we’re personal, communicative, imaginative, responsive, living, real, emotive being, we know He is too,” but the specific sense that the men and women in the Bible show us who He is. They are—all of them—copied from Him. Noah the carpenter-preacher, Abraham the blessed patriarch, Moses the humble prophet, David the righteous King, and Solomon the wealthy and wise ruler foreshadow Him. He is the new and better Adam, the head over humanity. But whereas Adam brought judgment and condemnation to all, Jesus brings justification to many for their offenses against God (Rom 5:18). He’s the new and better Boaz, the kinsman redeemer who loved, provided for, and married a widowed foreigner from an idolatrous people. He’s the new and better Sampson who pulled off the gates that held Him, and gave his life to defeat God’s enemies. He’s the new and better Hosea, the righteous man who wooed an unfaithful wife back to himself. He’s the new and better Nehemiah, the right-hand man of the king who left a palace to go and save his people from distress. He’s the true Esther who interceded for her people, the better Job who suffered to show the world who God is. He’s seen in rising on the third day like Jonah did, in ruling the world and providing for His family like Joseph. He’s Isaac, Ezekiel, Joel, Jonah, Daniel, Elijah, Asaph, Aaron, Zerubbabel, Joshua. He’s the fulfillment of the shadows of rabbi, judge, savior, intercessor, deliverer, prophet, priest, and king.
Some might object and say the Bible doesn’t always teach us about God; that I have taken this idea too far. They might point to out that Genesis 36 is not only a boring list of names, but it’s a boring list of names regarding an unbeliever, and surely if anything is evidence to the contrary that the Scriptures everywhere teach us about God it’s this, for Esau rejected both his birthright and the God who gave him life.
But consider the list for a moment. Esau had sons and daughters, wives, cattle, livestock, servants, money, and companions in such abundance that he had to move to mount Seir where it wasn’t so crowded. He had riches of every kind in life, and a legacy after death. What more could God have given him apart from salvation? The list is proof that God is a gracious and generous God, a God who loves to bless so much that He will not withhold good things from those who are impenitent and unfaithful to Him, whom He hates (Rom 9:13), whom He will ultimately condemn to hell for perpetual rebellion against Him. This list like no other indicates just how consistently good and longsuffering God is. Far from disproving it, this establishes the principle more firmly than ever.
Before I close this series out, I have one final observation to make which is relevant to the church today.