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The Covenant in Revelation

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Part I: Comparison Between the Old Testament and New Testament Covenants

  1. In Hebrew the word for Covenant is Berith. In the Old Testament, people made covenants which served the purpose of a spoken agreement summarized by a ritual ceremony that took the place of a written agreement.

    A covenant is also a Sacred Agreement into which people entered and it was sealed by a sacred rite. Social covenants were made quite often in the Old Testament. The two parts of a covenant were (a) promise; (b) condition.

    The four principal covenants between God and His people are:

    1. The Covenant with Noah.

    2. The Covenant with Abraham, before the people of Israel- change of name from “Abram.”

    3. The Covenant with Moses (on Mount Sinai) containing God’s promises to His people and the conditions.

    4. The Covenant with David. (If the people would be faithful, then they would be the ones to proclaim the Messianic Kingdom to the world). As the Jewish people rejected Christ, as a result Paul was chosen.

  2. The revealed word Covenant in the Greek is Diatheke meaning two wills. This word is used twenty-five times in the New Testament.

    1. Christ calls His Blood of the Covenant. His part is His Blood. The Old Testament Covenant was only a preparation for Christ’s Covenant and there would be no other. Christ’s Blood in the New Testament is the sign that God has fulfilled His part, as the Blood of the Lamb saved the Israelites from physical death, so the Blood of Christ saved us from the death of sin.

    2. The apostles were chosen as the ministers of the New Covenant.

    3. Unlike the Old Testament Covenant, meticulous in details (over 600 regulations), the New Testament Covenant is not a covenant of the letter, but of the spirit, of the heart.

    4. The Old Testament Covenant was not abrogated, destroyed, but raised by Christ.

    5. The two covenants correspond to the two sons of Abraham. In the Old Testament the stress is on justice (infidelity followed by invasions). The New Testament does not exclude punishment but the stress is on love (perfect love casts out fear). We do what God wants from us not out of servile fear, fear of punishment, but out of filial fear.

    6. The New Testament Covenant is the covenant of the priesthood of Christ, i.e., of sacrifice. Christ’s part of the Covenant is sacrifice and so is our part. At Baptism we enter into Christ’s priesthood and so we not only attend the sacrifice of the Mass but we live it.

    7. Christ’s sacrifice, in which we participate, exceeds in promise the Old Testament Covenant. Christ’s promise to His people is greater.

    8. Christ is the mediator of the New Testament Covenant in telling us what God demands and promises and in bringing to God our sacrifices, prayer and petition.

    9. The word Covenant in the New Testament also means the Last Will and Testament made at the Last Supper and sealed on Calvary.

Part II: Meaning of New Covenant

  1. A contract in which the two wills are involved.

    1. The will of God.

    2. Our will.

  2. A sacred contract three times over.

    1. Because of its important partner—God Himself made man.

    2. Because we cannot keep our part without help from God.

    3. Because its purpose is union with God.

  3. It is a contract between the God-Man and us. He became man to make this covenant possible.

  4. It is a written and signed contract in blood. That is why God became man, in order to sign it in blood.

  5. It is a voluntary contract on God’s part (the grace which He gives). It is voluntary on our part by the response we make.

  6. It is a contract that requires supernatural light to recognize and supernatural strength for our will to accomplish. Without Divine help it is impossible to keep.

  7. The covenant on our side is a commitment.

  8. The New Covenant is a promise of mutual friendship, essence of sharing, giving.

  9. On God’s (Christ’s) side:

    1. He sets down the conditions.

    2. He tells us the promises, the blessing.

    3. He assures the grace we need to keep the conditions.

  10. On our side we promise to God (take an oath):

    1. To fulfill the conditions, under oath.

    2. We do so under oath. (Sacred promise made to God).

    3. To respond to the conditions. God sets the conditions: but our part is to bend our will to fulfill the conditions by using our will.

    4. To expect His help which will surely come

      • on our asking for it

      • on our cooperation with it and in this way we acknowledge our helplessness.

  11. The blessings promised are for this life and also for the life to come—to share in the joys of the Trinity.

  12. In the New Covenant, Christ is very specific about the conditions which are not just mere ideals to dream about, but conditions to be lived up to.

  13. In the New Covenant, Christ is very specific about the blessing He promises.

  14. In the New Covenant, there are two kinds of covenants with distinct promises.

    1. Promises to individuals (each single created being).

    2. Promises to groups (Churches, Parishes, Congregations, etc.).

  15. In the New Covenant, there are also two kinds of covenants with distinct conditions.

    1. Conditions to individuals.

    2. Conditions to groups.

  16. The synthesis of the Old Testament is the Decalogue.

    The synthesis of the New Testament is the Sermon on the Mount—Beatitudes.

    1. The Decalogue - the Ten Words (Statements) God gave Moses for His people on Mt. Sinai and through them for the instruction of the whole world.

      The Decalogue contains ten statements. The first three contain our duties towards God, enabling us to fulfill the virtue of justice towards God.

      1st Internal practice of the virtue of Religion, Prayer, Fidelity.

      Fidelity to the other commandments depends on how faithful we are to the first commandment. Self-idolatry is something to be watchful about.

      Verbal Communicationwith
       about God

      The first duty of the human being is to use our lips with God in prayer and about God in spiritual conversation. The more deeply God is on our mind the more freely we will talk to Him and about Him.

      3rd As social beings we must give God corporate worship and rest from servile work i.e., work in which the body is more occupied than the mind. Servile work is allowed only under two conditions—Necessity and Charity.


      The others: Justice, Duties to Neighbor

      4th Obedience to authority.
      The fourth commandment assumes they are basically established societies.

      • Natural society established on:

        • Family

        • State

        Both have authority from God. The purpose of civic society is temporal peace and prosperity. Unjust laws that go against God's law must not be obeyed. The authority of the state is limited by the law of God.

      • Supernatural Society established on:

        • The Church

        founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose authority was handed down to the apostles under Peter at the Last Supper when He ordained them priests.

      Consequently there are two kinds of authority within the Church.

      • Natural

        • Family

        • State

      • Supernatural

        • Ordinary (by ordination)

        • Delegated or Sub-delegated


      5th Forbids the taking of innocent human life.

      • Charity - I make sure I take what belongs to me to give to others.

      • Altruism

      • Justice - I make sure I do not take anything that belongs to someone else for myself.


      6th Thou shalt not commit adultery. Forbids sexual relations out of marriage or with another married person whose partner is alive. This Commandment also forbids all sins against chastity, i.e., all fully deliberate enjoyment of sexual pleasure by anyone except a husband and wife in legitimate marital intercourse. The amount or quantity in this matter has nothing to do with the guilt.

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica

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