The Everlasting Covenants

Is the Old Law Binding Today?

Are the Ten Commandments Binding Today?

Does the Land of Palestine belong to the Jews?

Copyright 2002, David A. Duncan


There are at least 6 Great Covenants that are referred to as "everlasting" in the Old Testament:

1. Rainbow:

Gen. 9:16       
The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."

2. Covenant with Abraham:

Gen. 17:3 through Gen. 17:7 (NKJV) 
3Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4"As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. ... 7And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

3. Land of Canaan:

Gen. 17:8 (NKJV) 
8Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

4. The Law of Moses:

Lev. 16:34 (NKJV)
This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year." And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.

5. Priesthood:

 (Aaron and his sons) Ex. 40:15 through Ex. 40:16 (NKJV) 
15You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations." 16Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did.


 (to Phinehas) Num. 25:12 through Num. 25:13 (NKJV) 
12Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; 13and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’"

6. Throne of David (sure mercies of David):

Isa. 55:3 (NKJV) 
3And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—                The sure mercies of David.


Some key points in understanding these "everlasting" covenants is to understand what God means by the term everlasting, and the "terms" and "conditions" of the covenants.

From Strong’s Dictionary, the word translated "everlasting" is "owlam"(5769) which means "time out of mind (past or fut.), i.e. (practically) eternity; lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+ without end)."

The primary intent is "without end", although some writers have pointed out that it can mean "lasting, long" or "age lasting".  The meaning of our English word "everlasting" is the same: (1) lasting through all time – eternal, (2) continuing long or indefinitely.[1]  Therefore, the usual meaning ("lasting through all time") is indicated unless the context demands an understanding of simply "continuing indefinitely".

The "terms and conditions" (T&C) of any covenant will be a primary factor in determining whether the covenant is "eternal" or "continuing long or indefinitely".

The Rainbow

First, consider the covenant God made with man considering the flood.  After the flood was over God made a covenant with man that he would never destroy the world by water again (Gen. 9:15).  There are no T&Cs involved in this covenant – it is a covenant entered into by God without any response required of man.  This being the case, all agree that the nature of this covenant is just as everlasting as the everlasting nature of God.

The Throne and Priesthood

The everlasting covenant for the priesthood is linked to the covenant made with David – (i.e. the Sure Mercies of David) as is evident from Jer. 33:18.

Jer. 33:17 through Jer. 33:19 (NKJV) 17"For thus says the LORD: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.’"


From this passage, it can be seen that the promise of the priesthood is fulfilled in the same manner as the sure mercies of David.

A primary question concerning the covenant with Aaron and his sons then can best be understood by examining the promise made to David to see whether this covenant was unconditional.  These two are considered together:

Psa. 89:30 through Psa. 89:33 (NKJV)
30    "If his sons forsake My law
             And do not walk in My judgments,
31    If they break My statutes
             And do not keep My commandments,
32    Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
             And their iniquity with stripes.
33    Nevertheless My lovingkindness
             I will not utterly take from him,
             Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.

Furthermore, it was understood that there might be a time when a son of David would not rule because of transgression:

Psalms 89:12
          If your sons will keep My covenant
          And My testimony which I shall teach them,
          Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.

The fair implication is that if the sons of David did not keep the covenant, then they would not retain the throne.  This is stated plainly to Solomon:

2 Chr. 7:16 through 2 Chr. 7:22 (NKJV)
{16} For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
{17} As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, {18} then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.’
{19} "But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, {20} then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight,

The ultimate fulfillment of the Sure Mercies of David is in Jesus.  He does sit on the throne of David – not the literal throne – but the same throne as David (i.e. the rule over God’s people).

(Acts 13) 33God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. …
34And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’

Just as God has kept this everlasting covenant to the seed of David, so also he keeps his everlasting covenant with Levi.  However, just as the Sure Mercies of David are fulfilled ultimately in the New Covenant, so also are the promises to Levi.  With the Law of Moses done away with (Col. 2:14; Heb 7:12) then the fulfillment to Levi cannot be accomplished with literal priests after the Aaronic order (Heb 7:12).  However, Messiah is spoken of as the one in whom the two offices of king and priest would be combined.  In Zechariah (6:12-13), Jehozadak is crowned representatively for the "Branch" who would be a priest on His throne.  This could not happen under the Law of Moses, for a priest under the Law of Moses must be a son of Aaron (tribe of Levi) and the throne of David was promised to the seed of David (tribe of Judah).  However, in Jesus Christ, this is fulfilled.  Isaiah spoke of the "Branch" from the root of Jesse (the father of David), as the one whom the Gentiles would seek (Isaiah 11:10).  So, the intent of God’s everlasting purpose – that God’s people would have a king from the seed of David and that the service of the priests would never fail is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The fulfillment of these two covenants is spoken of as "unconditional".  For example, the two covenants are so certain that there is nothing that man could do to prevent their fulfillment, for God said:

Jer. 33:20 through Jer. 33:21 (NKJV)
20"Thus says the LORD: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, 21then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers.

However, as pointed out above, there were T&Cs concerning the obedience of the sons of David.  Even so, the disobedience of the sons of David could not prevent the ultimate fulfillment of God’s purpose, for the purpose of God in this matter is eternal.

Eph. 3:11 (NKJV)
11according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

The Law of Moses:

Its Statues and Ordinances are spoken of as "everlasting":

Lev. 16:34 (NKJV) 34This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year." And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.

Even though the Law and its statutes are described as everlasting, yet we know that God did not intend for it to continue without end.  Even by the mouth of Jeremiah, God spoke of a time when the Law would be superseded:

Jeremiah 31:31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, …

The Law was established by covenant.  From God’s perspective, the covenant was without end (indefinite) – that is, God would be faithful to the covenant without end.  However, like any covenant, for it to be of effect, it must be kept by both parties.  Israel’s failure to keep the covenant caused it to be of none effect, and so it was replaced.

Many today believe that the Mosaic Law is still in effect even today.  It is evident that the ceremonial portions of the law cannot be kept today (i.e. the animal sacrifices) since there are no priests who can trace their lineage back to Aaron.  Most agree that the ceremonial portion of the Law of Moses has been superseded or done away with, but some argue that the moral portion of the Law (i.e. the Ten Commandments) is still binding today.  It is argued that the Sabbath commandment even is still valid, but that the Christian’s "sabbath" is Sunday.  A passage often cited is the following statement of Jesus:

Matt. 5:17 through Matt. 5:18 (NKJV)
17"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

What did Jesus mean by this statement?  He did not say that the Law would continue to be in effect until heaven and earth passed away – but rather that it would not pass away until it "all was fulfilled".

What is the difference between "destroying" and "fulfilling"?  The word translated destroy (kataluo) means the same as to "demolish".  The word translated fulfill (pleroo) can mean to satisfy, finish, end, etc. 

4137. pleroo, play-ro'-o; from G4134; to make replete, i.e. (lit.) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (fig.) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.:--accomplish, X after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.

An "end" is still implied, but a different kind of an "end".  To demolish, or destroy, would imply a destruction of the purpose and goals of the law.  To fulfill it implies a completion of the goals and purposes of the law. The goal of the law was to bring man to a right relationship with God (and therefore provide "life") – as Paul said about the Law:

(Rom 10:5 KJV)  For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

As Paul said about the current state of the Law after the death of Jesus:

(Gal 3:24-25 KJV)  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. {25} But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Notice back in Matthew 5:18 that "heaven and earth shall not pass away… from the law till all is fulfilled." Some have taught that the law will not pass away until the "earth" does.  However, what the text says is that the law would not pass away until all was fulfilled (i.e. by implication, all that was promised in the law).  In other words, its purpose will not be destroyed.  It would continue until its purpose was fulfilled – which is what Jesus came to do.  Since its purpose was completed in Jesus, Paul would speak of the Law as the schoolmaster, that we are no longer under (Gal 3:25).

When was "all fulfilled"?

It is evident from the New Testament writers that all was fulfilled at the death of Christ since Paul writes that the Old Law was nailed to the cross of Jesus:

Col. 2:13 through Col. 2:15 (NKJV) 
13And you, being dead in your trespasses … He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The "handwriting of requirements" is a phrase used to refer to the Law of Moses, as also Paul referred to the Mosiac Law in the Corinthian letter as the "Ministry of Death":


2 Cor. 3:7 through 2 Cor. 3:11 (NKJV) 
7But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? …  11For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

Paul speaks of the Mosaic Law as "passing away", and the Law of Christ as that which remains.  It is important to notice that the "ministry of death" is that which was written and engraved on stones.  That portion of the Law which was written and engraved on stones was the Ten Commandments – and it is precisely this that Paul refers to as "passing away", and the Law of Christ as that which "remains".

Paul also argues in Romans 7 concerning the Law, and uses one of the Ten Commandments as an example (Rom. 7:7) "… I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’", and then goes on to say that (v. 10) "the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death."  In contrasting the Mosaic Law with the Law of Christ, Paul said that the Law of Moses could not make man free from sin, but that this was accomplished in Jesus (Rom. 8:3) "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son…"  In this context Paul says that we have been "delivered from the law, having died" to it, and therefore not serving it.  It is clear from the context (Rom. 7:7) that this involves all of the law and not just a portion of it, since he quotes one of the ten commandments as an example of the law.

(Rom 7:6 NKJV)  But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Paul wrote to the Galatians about the danger of attempting to keep the Old Law after having received Christ.

Gal. 4:21 (NKJV)
21Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?

Paul argues that one who attempts to keep one aspect of the Law (e.g. "circumcision"), and to be "justified" by it, is indebted to keep it all (i.e. you cannot split the Law of Moses up and take some but not all).  This same argument is valid for those who attempt to pull the Ten Commandments out of the Law and say they are still valid – those that do this are debtors "to keep the whole law".  This same argument can be made about any covenant of man – you either keep the whole covenant (i.e. all of the T&Cs) or it is broken.

Gal. 5:1 through Gal. 5:4 (NKJV)
1Stand£ fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Perhaps the simplest summary of all is that given by Paul in this same context where Paul plainly says that we are not under the Law of Moses any longer:

Gal. 3:24 through Gal. 3:25 (NKJV)
24Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Are the Ten Commandments Binding Today?

It is evident then that the Law of Moses was taken out of the way (nailed to the cross), and that we are no longer under it (no longer under a tutor), and that this means the whole Law, and not just a portion. 

However, it is true that the moral principles of 9 of the 10 commandments are required of those who follow Christ since these same moral principles are taught by Christ and the inspired New Testament writers (see table below).  However, it cannot be said that we follow the Law of Moses any more than it can be said that we follow British Law (e.g. the British Law condemned murder, and so does our Law today).  It could only be said that we keep British Law today if we kept the entire body of British Law (i.e. the same argument that Paul made in Galatians 5:3)

Mosaic 10 Commandments

Teaching of the N.T. writers

Exodus 20:3

Acts 14:15

Exodus 20:4

1 John 5:21

Exodus 20:7

James 5:12

Exodus 20:8

No Corresponding Commandment

Exodus 20:12

Ephesians 6:1-2

Exodus 20:13

Matthew 5:21-22

Exodus 20:14

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Exodus 20:15

Ephesians 4:28

Exodus 20:16

Colossians 3:9

Exodus 20:17

Ephesians 5:3-5


For more information on "Should we keep the Sabbath today" see the FAQ on this topic at keep_the_sabbath.html.

It should also be noted that the Mosaic prohibition against murder was not a "new" law, but a statement of what was already a law of God (Gen. 4:10-11), and is also true of other moral principles of the Law of Moses.

It is important to note that when a controversy arose in the early church concerning whether or not the Gentiles should be required to keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1), the Jerusalem Council of Apostles and Elders agreed that this was not right and referred to the Law of Moses as a "yoke … which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear"  The consensus of the council was to admonish the Gentiles concerning prevalent sins in the Gentile world, but concerned principles which existed even before the Law of Moses:

Acts 15:19 through Acts 15:20 (NKJV) 
19Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from £sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

The council did not require circumcision, nor even the Ten Commandments – except as those moral principles were taught by the doctrine of Christ.  The Old Law was simply not binding to Christians.  The covenant had been broken by Israel, and the Old Law was taken out of the way – its purpose having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The Old Law was an everlasting covenant in the sense that God made an "indefinite, long lasting" commitment with Israel (I will be your God, and you will be my People).  However, this was not a covenant without T&Cs.  This covenant had a long list of blessings and cursings – blessing to Israel if they kept the law and cursings if they did not (Deut. 30).  These consequences are often referred to by God as justification for his rejection of Israel:

Jeremiah 31:31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, …

Therefore, the covenant was "everlasting" as far as God’s commitment was concerned, but that does not mean that the Law was to be without end.  God purposed before the foundation of the world to save mankind through Jesus (Eph. 1:4), and since Jesus could NOT be a High Priest under the Law of Moses (Heb. 7:12-14), it was evident that the Law would be replaced:

Heb. 7:12 (NKJV)
12For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

Therefore, it is evident that the "annulling" of the Law was envisioned from the foundation of the world:

Heb. 7:18 (NKJV)
18For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness,


Heb. 8:13 (NKJV)
13In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The "everlasting" covenant was to be "long lasting", and there is no indication that God limited His commitment to it (i.e. an everlasting commitment), but as with any covenant it can be broken by one of the participants (i.e. Israel).

But what about the Land Promise?

As can be seen in the example of the Law of Moses, a covenant referred to as "everlasting", may be limited by the failure of man to keep the covenant. The land promise was an everlasting promise (Gen. 13:14-15), but it also involved terms and conditions.  The gift was unconditional, but retention was conditional.  This much is stated many places:

Leviticus 18 26You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, …28lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

Deut. 28 58"If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, … 59then the LORD will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues… and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.  64"Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other,

This scattering is likewise spoken of by Hosea:

Hos. 9:17 (NKJV) 17 My God will cast them away, Because they did not obey Him; And they shall be wanderers among the nations.

History records that this is indeed what happened.  After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Jews continued to be rebellious such that in 120 A.D. they were banished from the land of Canaan and the land was renamed Palestine.  Until the 20th century, the Jews were wanderers among the nations, and even today only a small percentage live in the land of Palestine.  The Jewish nation that lives there today is not the theocratic nation which was given the land: It has no king, no Law of Moses, no Temple, no Priesthood, No sacrifices, no tribal identities, etc.

God gave the land as an unconditional promise, but retention was conditional.  All of the promises concerning the land have been fulfilled, and we should not look to any future fulfillment.



Land Given (Gen. 13:14-15)

Joshua 23:14-16 … And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.

A Return Promised – Jer. 30: 3For behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the LORD. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.’"

Neh 9 36  "Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants in it!


A second return promised – Isaiah 11:11 It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time To recover the remnant of His people who are left, …


The day spoken of is the time of the "Branch" of Jesse – the Messiah, and this was fulfilled in the time of Christ.  Consider in this context the testimony of Paul (Romans 15:12), where Isaiah 11:10 is quoted by Paul and applied to the Christ.

All of the promises in the Bible concerning the Land have been fulfilled, and there is no promise concerning the Land which is yet to be fulfilled.  There is no prophecy which speaks of a future return.  Thus, there is no biblical basis for arguing that the land of Palestine today belongs to the Jews.

Just as the Old Covenant has been done away with, so the theocratic nation of Israel has been done away with, and replaced by the "heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22).  Those who are "Jews" today are not those who are Jews outwardly:

(Romans 2) 28For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

Thus the "people of God" (using the term Jew figuratively) today are Christians, and the "promised land" is heaven itself (Hebrews 4; 10:19-21; 9:24).  There is no future promise for the physical nation of Israel.

God made some "everlasting" covenants which are not conditional, and are therefore eternal, but he has also made some in which his commitment is eternal, but which involve Terms and Conditions.  God is ever faithful to his commitments, but man has ever been unfaithful, and as a consequence these covenants have been broken by man and are no longer in effect.


Many Premillenialists today look for a literal reign of Christ on earth for 1,000 years, and believe that by supporting Israel today, they are helping to usher in the future kingdom.  However, it is clear from the scriptures that Christ will not reign on the earth.  Acts 2:33-35 says that Christ has been exalted to the right hand of God to reign (from the right hand of God) until all enemies have been made his footstool:

(Acts 2:33-35 NKJV)  "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. {34} "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, {35} Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'

Furthermore, it is stated by Paul that the last enemy to be placed under his feet is "death":

(1 Cor 15:25-26 NKJV)  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. {26} The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

It is evident that Christ is now reigning:

(Eph 1:20-21 NKJV)  which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, {21} far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

Thus it is clear that since Christ is now reigning (he is over all things not only in this age but also in that which is to come), he is at the right hand of God, and he will remain there until death has been conquered – and after this the judgment – that there is no place for a literal earthly reign.  In fact this is what Jesus himself said:

(John 18:36 NKJV)  Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."

For more information on Premillenialism, see our FAQ section on Premillenialism at faq.html.

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary