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The New Covenant, Part 1

  

We have seen that the Kingdom of God is primarily referring to the reign of Messiah on earth in the age to come, and that there is an interim period of anticipation and preparation beforehand. During this time we can enter into a covenant with God. Jesus is called the mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 12:24) and of the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15). Both English words, “covenant” and “testament,” mean the same thing and are translated from the same Greek word, diatheke. A covenant is an agreement made between two parties.

There are a number of covenants mentioned in the Bible, including the one God made with Abraham (which was discussed in detail in a previous article). This covenant included land, progeny, and abundant blessings. Yet there was still the issue of man’s sin to be dealt with. The Old Covenant mentioned in Hebrews refers to the Law of Moses and is contrasted with the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ. The Mosaic Law included a sacrificial system that was a temporary “stand-in” which foreshadowed and pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

Hebrews 9:
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

That word “eternal” is the word we saw before, aionios, which means “belonging to the Age to Come.” In order to receive the inheritance of the coming age, man’s sin had to be dealt with. Because God is perfectly righteous and holy, no one who is unrighteous can inherit His Kingdom (Psalm 15:2; I Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21). The temporary solution for the children of Israel was a system of sacrifices and offerings which pointed toward the ultimate sacrifice which the coming redeemer would fulfill, and which would establish a new covenant.

This is explained in Hebrews 10. The sacrifices were repeated over and over again, because they were not able to provide perfect cleansing of sin. If they could have, there would have been no need to continue them. But God’s ultimate desire is for us to be made holy. The blood of bulls and goats could not do that, but the blood of our High Priest did. And now that he has done so, he is waiting for the time when all will be completed.

Hebrews 10:
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

He is now waiting until the time when “his enemies be made his footstool,” a quote from Psalm 110:1. On that future day, God will fulfill a promise, as Hebrews goes on to say.

Hebrews 10:
15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,
16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

The problem with the Old Testament law was that it could not change people’s hearts. Even with the great miracles and wonders that God did for His people, they still did not keep the covenant, because the human heart is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). This is discussed in Hebrews 8.

Hebrews 8:
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

The references to the new covenant in Hebrews 10:16 and 8:10 are quoting from Jeremiah. Isaiah also mentions this new covenant that God would make, in which He would put His Word into their hearts and His Spirit and words would not depart from them.

Jeremiah 31:
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 32:
37 Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:
38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
41 Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.
42 For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.

Isaiah 59:
21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

Jeremiah had said that in those days God would make a new covenant and put His Law in their inward parts and write it on their hearts. Similarly, Isaiah had said that the covenant would involve putting His spirit upon them and His words in their mouth. (Pouring out God’s spirit in a future time is also mentioned in Isaiah 32:15 and 44:3, although the word “covenant” is not specifically used.)  In addition, Ezekiel refers to the promise of God’s Spirit.

Ezekiel 36:
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Ezekiel 39:
26 After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid.
27 When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations;
28 Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there.
29 Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

The promise to pour out God’s spirit is connected in Jeremiah 32 and Ezekiel 39 with the future time when Israel would be restored to their land. Likewise Joel associates it with the signs in the heavens and the Day of the Lord.

Joel 2:
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.

We can see that the complete fulfillment of the New Covenant has not come to pass yet.  For one thing, not everyone knows God the way Jeremiah said they would.  And the verses above show that it will be at a time when Israel is restored to their land, and the Day of the Lord comes with signs in the heavens.  But the New Testament speaks of having a foretaste or down payment, as we shall see.

To Be Continued…

5 Responses to “The New Covenant, Part 1”

  1. on 12 Oct 2009 at 3:42 pmKen

    Mark C.
    Thank you for this 1st part of sharing on the understanding of the prophesied “new covenant,” with partial fulfillment now (the sacrifice being accomplished/ the fortaste of the spirit being given) and complete fulfillment to come in the future. Obviously, though we have had spirit outpoured, we still to teach one another at this time to “know the LORD” as we lack perfect understanding. (I Thessalonians 5: 14)
    I’m looking forward to the continuing of this presentation.

  2. on 14 Oct 2009 at 11:22 amrobert

    here is an article i found on the subject so we can have other views being considered.
    the truth might be a combination of several views

    What exactly IS the New Covenant
    God offers to man?

    Written by: Larry Walker

    Meaning of the word covenant

    The English word covenant means

    “a written agreement or promise . . . between two or more parties, especially for the performance of some action” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary).
    “Covenant” expresses the fundamental meaning of both the Old Testament Hebrew word “berit” and the New Testament Greek word “diatheke.”

    “The covenant . . . is an act of grace on God’s part for reconciling man to himself, but man’s response should not be overlooked” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, article “covenant”).
    Covenants and God’s plan

    God created man with the potential to have a relationship with Him (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, He has initiated many agreements with man–some conditional, some unconditional. Since God wants us to obey Him, many of these covenants stress the necessity of obedience as a condition to receiving what He promises.

    The first scriptural mention of “covenant” is found in Genesis 6:18. God promises to spare Noah and his family from the impending worldwide deluge. This “covenant” was primarily an act of God’s grace (Genesis 6:8). But Noah’s responsiveness to God was also a significant factor (Genesis 6:9).

    God established another covenant with Noah after the Flood, promising to never again destroy the earth with water (Genesis 9:11-17). This covenant was unilateral and fundamentally unconditional. It was simply an expression of God’s grace.

    Some claim God’s covenant with Abraham mentioned in Genesis 15:18 is the main covenant He made with Abraham. But this account is more like an oath that He would fulfill what He promised. Genesis 17 describes the formal institution of the covenant. Here God spells out the terms and conditions of this historic pact. God’s promises are conditioned upon Abraham’s obedience (Genesis 17:1, 26:3-5). This covenant was also extended to Isaac and his descendants (Genesis 17:9, 24:60, 27:28-29, 28:10-14). Circumcision was the “sign” or physical brand of identification of the human participants (Genesis 17:11).

    Genesis 22:16-18 describes the “seed” promise which Paul refers to in Galatians 3:16. Again, although fundamentally based on God’s grace, the context clearly ties God’s offer to Abraham’s obedience.

    God delivered Israel from Egypt due to His prior covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 2:23-25, Exodus 6:2-8). God then makes a covenant with Israel (through Moses as mediator) (Exodus 19:1-8). Israel glibly accepts the offer, not realizing they don’t have the nature to fulfill God’s requirements (Exodus 19:8, Deuteronomy 5:28-29). The terms and conditions of this covenant are spelled out in the remainder of the book of Exodus and reiterated in Deuteronomy.

    Exodus 31 expounds yet another covenant to emphasize the monumental importance of the Sabbath as an identifying sign of God’s people. Some erroneously claim the Sabbath is a sign of the old covenant, which the text simply does not say.

    A “new covenant”

    Jeremiah 31:31-34 prophesies about a new covenant. The book of Hebrews provides the main New Testament commentary on this new covenant.

    Why is it called new? The New Testament uses two different Greek words for “new”: Neos means new in contrast to old. Kainos means “new” in the sense of “unique”. Hebrews 12:24, which identifies Jesus Christ as the mediator of the new covenant, is the only scripture where neos is used in reference to the new covenant. Every other passage uses kainos. So the “new covenant” is unique.

    How is the new covenant unique and better than the old?

    Hebrews 8:6 tells us the new covenant is better than the old because it contains better promises. Promises which were never before offered and thus unique to the new covenant. Hebrews 8 enumerates three such promises.

    Change of Nature — Internalization of the Law Of God
    Israel didn’t have the heart or nature to obey God (Deuteronomy 5:29). The old covenant contained no provision for internal motivation to obey God (Hebrews 8:7-8, Romans 8:3). In the new covenant God promises to put His laws into the mind and write them on the heart (Hebrews 8:10). What does this mean?

    David wrote,

    “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is in my heart” (Psalm 40:8).
    Delighting in God’s law is not a normal human response (Romans 8:7). The new covenant promises the power to obey God. How? Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-4, 9), a unique feature of the new covenant.

    The fundamental basis of the new covenant is simply the conversion process. Writing God’s laws in the mind and on the heart poetically describes how God, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, helps us internalize His laws.

    But conversion does not put the brain on automatic pilot. Nor is it like a sudden brain transplant. It is a daily process (2 Corinthians 4:16) of renewing the mind (Romans 12:2). Christ is being “formed in you” (Galatians 4:19) as “God works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV).

    This change of nature results in an intimate relationship with God (Hebrews 8:10).

    Forgiveness of Sins
    Forgiveness of sins, also necessary for a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2), is another unique benefit of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:12). The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins (Hebrews 10:4. Therefore, forgiveness of sins was unique to the new covenant. The Passover wine represents the new covenant in Christ’s blood, which was shed for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:27-28).

    The old covenant was made at Sinai when Israel accepted its terms. The new covenant is made at baptism when we accept Christ’s sacrifice and commit ourselves completely to God and His will.

    Eternal Inheritance
    Eternal inheritance is a third unique and better promise offered in the new covenant (Hebrews 9:11-15). Eternal life is more than a chronological event and change of composition. Most importantly, it is a never ending relationship with God (John 17:3). What meaning would eternal life have apart from God? We are heirs of God through Christ (Galatians 4:6-7, Romans 8:16-19). The change of composition is only a means to that end. And the chronological aspect of eternity simply “goes with the territory.”

    Future fulfillment

    The main fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy will occur when the new covenant is made with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31, Hebrews 8:10). After He returns to set up the kingdom of God, Christ will establish the new covenant with all Israel and ultimately all mankind. So Malachi 3:1 calls the returning Christ the “messenger of the covenant.”

    Under His rule, the Law will be taught from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). This shows the Law remains an integral part of the new covenant.

    Ezekiel 11:17-20 prophesies that God will give them a new heart and new spirit to motivate them to obedience. Mercy and forgiveness of sin will be extended to all (Isaiah 59:20-21). As result, Israel will enjoy an intimate relationship with God (Hosea 2:16, 19-20, 23).

    What is OBSOLETE?

    Some wrongly assume that all Old Testament laws are obsolete unless repeated in the New Testament. The New Testament is a record of members living by the terms of the new covenant. But nowhere does the Bible say all new covenant laws are recorded in the New Testament. Rather, the laws of the new covenant are written in the minds and hearts of God’s people.

    The new covenant renders the old covenant obsolete. The old covenant is not the same as the Ten Commandments. A covenant is an agreement; commandments are laws or terms of the agreement. The Ten Commandments are the words [terms, Jewish Publication Society translation] of the covenant not the covenant itself (Exodus 34:27-28). The covenant or agreement became obsolete, not the laws within it.

    The word “obsolete” (Greek: palaioo) means “things worn out by time and use” (Vine’s Dictionary of Biblical Words). Hebrews 10:9-18 shows Christ’s sacrifice made animal sacrifices obsolete. But the old covenant was not suddenly discarded or forbidden in the New Testament Church. It simply faded into disuse as people became aware of the superiority of the new covenant and came under it. But the law of God will never become obsolete (Matthew 5:18).

    Summary of new covenant features (present and future)

    The new covenant is really quite simple. God wants us to have a relationship with Him. Obeying His laws is fundamental to that relationship. The way God has communicated His laws has varied, but the laws remain the same. He related His laws verbally to the patriarchs (see Genesis 26:5 where God said Abraham obeyed his voice).

    To Israel, God wrote them on stones and in the book of the law. In the new covenant, He writes them in the mind and on the heart.

    The new covenant provides the motivation to obey His laws, extends forgiveness when we don’t, and results in an intimate relationship with God for all eternity. We all look forward to the time when we will fully experience the benefits of the new covenant as eternal spirit members of God’s family.

  3. on 14 Oct 2009 at 2:11 pmMichael

    Mark C writes… diatheke. A covenant is an agreement made between two parties.

    Response- Diathēkē or covenant-Disposition, arrangement, of any sort, which one wishes to be valid, the last disposition which one makes of his earthly possessions after his death, a testament or will

  4. on 15 Oct 2009 at 4:07 amMark C.

    Michael,

    I have that definition as definition #1 in the Online Bible Greek Lexicon. But definition #2 says, “a compact, a covenant, a testament.” The word diatheke occurs 33 times in the NT, and in every case is translated either “covenant” or “testament.”

    While the word can be used to refer to a person’s “last will and testament” dealing with his earthly possessions after his death, in virtually all of its NT occurrences it is referring to God’s covenants, that is, His agreements, or arrangements, which He made with people.

  5. on 15 Oct 2009 at 1:16 pmMichael

    Mark C writes… While the word can be used to refer to a person’s “last will and testament” dealing with his earthly possessions after his death, in virtually all of its NT occurrences it is referring to God’s covenants, that is, His agreements, or arrangements, which He made with people.

    Response-Yet Paul is speaking of a will in Hebrews with a testator, mediator and an inheritance.

    God is the testator of the new covenant… Hebrews 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

    A will is not in force while the testator is alive… Hebrews 9:17 For a testament (Diathēkē) is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

    The testator of the new covenant could not die and we could not inherit its promise so a mediator was needed to put the covenant into force… Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

    The death of Jesus was the mediation of the covenant.

  

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