New Covenant Vassal Treaty

Question

Can we see in the New Covenant the same vassal treaty structure as found in Deuteronomy and the Old Covenant of Sinai?

Answer

Yes, the new covenant is also a suzerain-vassal treaty. We don't have it laid out as explicitly in all its details, at least not in updated form, but it has all the same parts. Also, it's important to remember that the new covenant is a renewal of the old covenant found in Deuteronomy, Exodus, etc. Because this is true, Deuteronomy itself is the new covenant (just without its current updates).
The Bible often speaks about different covenants, and so do theologians. But properly speaking, God only has one covenant with us, which has been variously administered under different covenant heads throughout history. Whatever was true about prior administrations continues to be true about the current administration under Christ, at least in principle. Some of the ways we observe those principles change, such as our current reliance on the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ to satisfy the continuing requirement for an atoning sacrifice. But all the stipulations continue in force, as do the blessing and curses. Those who are saved inherit the blessings, and those who are in the church but who are not saved inherit the full covenant curses. Those in the third community, those outside the church, also fall under covenant curses (Adamic and Noahic), but the curses are not as terrible as those suffered by the unsaved in the visible church. Also, unbelieving Jews are under worse curses than the rest of the world, but not as bad as unbelievers in the church. This is because they are under the Old Testament administrations of the covenant through David.

If we look for them, we can also find in the New Testament such details as would normally be included in the ancient Near-Eastern suzerain-vassal treaties: description of God, history of redemption, God's Law, blessings of salvation, curses of damnation, ratification, and succession (Jesus is the final and permanent covenant head). The difference between the New Testament and Deuteronomy is that I don't think we can find all these aspects in one place. Probably the closest we come in the New Testament is the book of Hebrews, which makes it an extremely important book to this discussion.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.