[We suggest you read Dispensationalism first]
Note: The Endtimes web page has articles on the covenants as they relate to Endtimes prophecy, and as they relate to Covenant theology. (See the Old Testament section)
The term Covenants may bring confusion and/or division to the mind of some Bible readers, both trained theologians and the lay person. The Old Testament covenants themselves, and the debates that are spun off historically from attempting to understand their significance in Bible prophecy has had a tendency to make the issue complicated, or at least to seem complicated. We're going to try to make it easier to learn by giving a good overview, and then touching on the key issues instead of trying to exhaustively investigate each and every area of debate. The debate over the Old Testament covenants and their relevance to Biblical Prophecy takes us to into a discussion about ...
Most importantly for the Endtimes web page is how our understanding of the covenants affect our view of Endtimes prophecy, or Eschatology in general. This section is an overview. The Old Testament section has in-depth articles related to the Covenants and their significance to the Endtimes.
The pivotal issue as most Bible scholars and students understand it, is to whether or not God's promises to Abraham (Abrahamic covenant) and David (Davidic covenant) were conditional or unconditional. What does this mean in plain language? Here it is:
The answer to these questions will undoubtedly change your view of Endtimes events. Why, you might ask? Because, if any New Testament reference to Israel in regards to Endtimes really refers to 'spiritual Israel', or the Church, then we wouldn't be looking for a national Israel that would have any significance in Endtimes prophecy, since supposedly God has replaced them with the church. If Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks in chapter nine now refers to the Church, and not Israel, maybe we are going through the tribulation, or maybe there is no literal tribulation. If Matthew 24 is talking to the Church, and not Israel, it might seem that the Church would go through the tribulation.
Of key importance is the 1000 year Millennium spoken of in Revelation 20. For those Christians that don't see covenant promises made to national Israel being fulfilled in the future, with Christ reigning over an earthly Kingdom, there is no desire to see the Millennium as being literal. In fact, most in that camp see the Millennium as being spiritual and not literal. This would mean that at the second coming these Christians would expect us to go directly into eternity, and not a 1000 year reign of Christ on earth. They also see us as already being in the Kingdom of God, with Jesus Christ sitting on the throne of David right now.
We Dispensationalists see the church as separate and distinct from Israel and see the following in contrast:
Ezekiel 39:25 - Therefore thus says the Lord God, "Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I shall be jealous for My holy name. 26 "And they shall forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid. 27 "When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. 28 "Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. 29 "And I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," declares the Lord God.
Using the above debate as a distinction, churches that have come from a reformed, or Calvinistic, Zwinglian background normally hold the Amillennial view, that the Church has displaced Israel in God's plan, and won't see a future fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, with the Messiah sitting on the throne of a future earthly kingdom. This includes Presbyterians as the largest group. Let me interject once again that a Christian's views on this is not an issue that divides us as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is not an issue of orthodoxy, or fundamentals of the faith. It is a complex issue that goes back many years, and will not be settled until the second coming. It has nothing to do with how one becomes a Christian, so people have the freedom to decide which viewpoint they agree with, and go to a church that teaches this viewpoint. Many Christians feel comfortable going to a church that doesn't completely agree with their view of the covenants, or Endtimes.