The New Covenant

“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.” —Jeremiah 31:33

SINCE Adam’s transgression in the Garden of Eden, God has looked forward to the time when his wonderful creation, man, would be reestablished here on the earth, in all the perfection and glory that was first enjoyed by father Adam. This purpose was expressed by God through his servant David and was quoted in part by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 2:6-9: “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

It is through the sacrificial death of Jesus that the means was provided to bring mankind ultimately back into harmony with God, and this great work of reconciliation will be accomplished under the operation of the New Covenant.

The expression “New Covenant” implies that there was an old covenant, and indeed there was—the Law Covenant. (Heb. 8:13) It was inaugurated with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. Our purpose is not to explain the meaning of this covenant, except to point out that according to the Apostle Paul many features of the Law Covenant were typical of the New Covenant.—Heb. 8:5

The New Covenant promises have their root in the Abrahamic Covenant, in which God promised Abraham that his seed would bless all nations of the earth. (Gen. 22:16-18) This promise to provide a seed lay dormant for approximately two thousand years, during most of which time the Law Covenant—which was added to fill up the time (Gal. 3:19)—was effective. But the activation of the Abrahamic Covenant, marked by the consecration and spirit begettal of Jesus at Jordan, and subsequently by his death and resurrection, was a guarantee that in God’s due time the long-promised blessings under the New Covenant would become a reality. In Hebrews 7:22 the Apostle Paul states, “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament [covenant].”

In Galatians 3:16 the Apostle Paul assures us that Jesus is the promised Seed of blessing. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Then he reveals one of the great mysteries of the Bible; that is, that the seed of blessing, the Christ, Is composed of many members. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:27-29) Then again in I Corinthians 12:12 the apostle states, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”

The Scriptures tell us that it is Christ and his body members that will be used to bring blessings to all the families of the earth under the terms of the New Covenant. In II Corinthians 3:6 we read: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament [covenant]; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The Apostle Paul tells us also, in Galatians 4:22-31, that these body members of Christ are developed down through the Gospel Age under the Abrahamic Covenant, but under a special feature of that covenant, as pictured by Abraham’s relationship to Sarah. She was the free woman, or Abraham’s real wife, who, after many years of barrenness, bore Isaac, the child of promise. The apostle states: “But Jerusalem which is above [that is, the Sarah feature of the Abrahamic Covenant] is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. … So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” The bondwoman in this allegory was Hagar, who in her relationship with Abraham pictured the Law Covenant.

In God’s arrangement, the Sarah feature of the Abrahamic Covenant, was to produce and develop the seed of blessing that would be used to bless all the families of the earth. This work of blessing was to be accomplished under another feature of the Abrahamic promise—the New Covenant—which seems to be pictured by another of Abraham’s wives, Keturah.

In the closing verses of Genesis 24, we are told that Isaac, who in the type represented Christ, was married to Rebekah, who represented the body members of the Christ. The chapter concludes with verse 67 stating that “Isaac was comforted after his mother’s [Sarah’s] death.” Since Sarah represents the feature of the Abrahamic Covenant that is operative during the Gospel Age (the development of the seed of blessing), her death implies the end of the Gospel Age. The stage is then set for the beginning of the next age—the New Covenant age, or the Millennium.

In Genesis 25:1 we read that after Sarah’s death “Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.” Apparently, from I Chronicles 1:32, Keturah was Abraham’s concubine prior to the death of Sarah. Also, according to this text, Keturah had six sons by Abraham during that time. These same sons are confirmed to be Abraham’s sons in Genesis 25:2. It seems reasonable to conclude that these six sons of Keturah and the one son by Hagar—a total of seven sons—could represent the earthly seed, who, by means of the New Covenant, were to receive the blessings assured in the Abrahamic promise.

Since the Apostle Paul, however, did not include Keturah as a part of his allegorical picture in Galatians the 4th chapter, we of course cannot be certain about this interpretation. But it is interesting to note that the Law Covenant was pictured by a concubine—Hagar. Her seed, Ishmael, did not receive the promise, for God, speaking to Abraham, said: “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”—Gen. 17:19

The Law Covenant was added to accomplish a feature of God’s plan, and the New Covenant is likewise an addition, or an extension of the promise God made to Abraham. The two concubines were apparently meant to represent phases of the development of God’s plan. But the real wife, Sarah, represented the covenant arrangement that would provide the real heirs of the promise. In Genesis 25:5,6 we read: “And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts.”

The promise of a better day has been held out to the fathers from the time that God first began dealing with them. In Hebrews 11:9-16 we read, in part: “By faith he [Abraham] sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” A city in the Bible represents a government, just as in the reality the city of Jerusalem represented the government of Israel to the Jews. The thought of foundations is that of strength, stability, permanency; and this, translated into the reality, would mean that the foundations are the righteous principles of love and justice. The only Builder who could give these qualities to a kingdom is God. Jesus, speaking through the Revelator, said, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2) And then, of course, follows the beautiful account of the work that will be accomplished by this kingdom arrangement, which will function under the terms of the New Covenant.

The Apostle Paul, in Hebrews the 8th chapter, speaks about the establishment of the New Covenant. “But now hath he [Jesus] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” (vs. 6) The comparison is with the Law Covenant, for under its terms the nation of Israel was required actually to perform perfectly in fulfilling the terms of the covenant in order to receive the reward, which was actual justification and life. But because of their fallen condition, the nation was not able to keep those terms, and therefore none were able to attain life.—Rom. 3:19,20

The apostle continues in verses 7 and 8 of Hebrews 8: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 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.” The first covenant was a measure of a perfect man’s ability to keep it. Only Jesus was able to do this, because he alone was perfect. (Matt. 5:17,18) The Law Covenant, under its terms, did not permit the mediator to act on behalf of the individual transgressor and make provision for him eventually to perform perfectly. The covenant itself made no provision for the eradication of evil influences, which were the great deterrent to perfection of performance. Because of the proven imperfection of the people, a different covenant was required in order to bring them into covenant relationship with the Father.

The apostle, then, in Hebrews 8:9, continues to quote from Jeremiah 31: 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.” In this text the Lord, through the prophet, confirms that the New Covenant will not be like the old covenant, but that it will be fashioned to meet the needs of an imperfect fallen race. It will provide for a better mediator—Christ and his church. (Heb. 8:6; Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30) This group will, by experiences, have developed love, patience, understanding, long-suffering; and as a result they will be sympathetic administrators of the terms of the New Covenant. (Heb. 2:16-18) The New Covenant also provides that Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:1,2) so that he will not be able to deceive the people.

With all these advantages, we read: “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.” (Heb. 8:10) Using the instruments at his command, the Heavenly Father is going to (1) put his laws in the minds of the people, and then (2) write those laws in their hearts.

The Scriptures teach that the instrument God will use to actually carry out the work and to be the physical earthly representation of the new arrangement will be the Ancient Worthies, that is, the resurrected holy ones of olden times, from John the Baptist back to Abel.—Matt. 11:11; Luke 13:28; Isa. 1:26; Ps. 45:16

These Ancient Worthies will be resurrected perfect men, since they have already been tested and tried. The Apostle Paul states: “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”—Heb. 11:37-40

The thought of this revealing text is that these wonderful men of God, who endured so much, were not heirs to the great Abrahamic promise—that is, to be the seed of blessing. Even though they had received a good report from God because of their faith, they still went down into the grave to await the time when Christ and his church would be complete and the New Covenant would be inaugurated with the blood of the covenant. It is then that perhaps the first act of the Christ will be to resurrect these Ancient Worthies. They will be brought back perfect, as Adam was perfect in the Garden of Eden. With their perfect minds and abilities, they will be examples to the people, instructors, and visible administrators of the laws of the kingdom.

We are told by the Apostle Paul that the things of the Law serve as an example and shadow of heavenly things. (Heb. 8:5) And in the 9th chapter of Hebrews the inauguration of the Law Covenant is given as an example of the implementation of the New Covenant. In verses 16,17, the apostle brings out the fact that an agreement, or covenant, with God, such as the Law Covenant and the New Covenant, must be sealed with blood. “For where a covenant exists, the death of that which has ratified it is necessary to be produced; because a covenant is firm over dead victims, since it is never valid when that which ratifies it is alive.” (Diaglott) He then continues, “Hence not even the first [that is, the Law Covenant] has been instituted without blood.” (vs. 18, Diaglott) This foreshadowed in the antitype the death of Christ, who provided the efficacious blood of the covenant. In Matthew 26:28,29 Jesus said to his disciples when he asked them to drink of the cup: “For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus indicated by this that his death would provide the means to inaugurate the New Covenant. The disciples, and also the subsequent followers of the Master, were invited to drink of the cup, symbolizing their partaking of the merit of his sacrifice: thus being justified by their faith they are meet to participate with him in his suffering and death in order that they might share with him the privilege of administering the blessings to the people under the New Covenant.

The account of the inauguration of the Law Covenant is related by the apostle in Hebrews 9:19,20: “For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the Book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament [covenant] which God hath enjoined unto you.” In this typical picture the blood of the animals represents the blood of Christ and his church. It is well to note here that the blood of the church has no efficacious merit of its own. They add nothing, nor do they take anything away. They are simply counted in as part of Christ’s body.

It is noteworthy that in the type the blood was sprinkled upon the Book, which was the sealing of the Law Covenant. This pictured in the antitype the sealing of the New Covenant with the blood of Christ. Afterward the blood was sprinkled upon the people. In both the type and antitype this is a picture of the blessings to be brought to the people by virtue of their coming into harmony with God’s arrangements under a covenant.

In the 23rd verse the apostle continues: “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” In this text the Apostle Paul explains that the “patterns”, or pictures of reality under the Law, had to be cleansed and purified with animal sacrifices, but the “heavenly things themselves”—the New Covenant and its arrangements—with better sacrifices. These better sacrifices are Christ and his church.

The Apostle Paul, in Hebrews 12:18-28, brings all these thoughts together. In verses 18-21 he recounts the circumstances under which the Law Covenant was inaugurated at Mount Sinai. The account states: “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.” The lightning and fire and smoke and quaking had a symbolic meaning; for just as these things preceded the establishment of the Law Covenant, so shall a great time of trouble on the earth precede the inauguration of the New Covenant. It is evident by the fulfillment of prophecies and by the signs of the times that this time is drawing near.

The apostle, we believe, is pointing to this very time, when in the succeeding verses he states: “But ye are come [approaching] unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”—vss. 22-24

In these few verses the apostle has summarized God’s arrangements for the recovery of his human family. First, he notes that the footstep followers of Jesus are approaching the kingdom arrangement of God. Part of this arrangement is the heavenly Jerusalem, or the spiritual; and part is the earthly phase of the kingdom. In the heavenly phase of the kingdom will be the footstep followers of Jesus, who down through the Gospel Age have been faithful and have been resurrected to become part of the firstfruits, or firstborn from the dead. (Rev. 14:4) Among those in the New Covenant arrangement will also be “the spirits of just men made perfect.” These are those whom the Apostle Paul speaks of in Hebrews 11:39,40—the Ancient Worthies—who will be resurrected as perfect human beings and will be the visible earthly representatives of the New Jerusalem. Then, of course, Jesus will be there as Mediator of the New Covenant, and because of its operation the blood of sprinkling will be applied to the world of mankind. This pictures the blessings that will come to the people because of being under the New Covenant. The apostle states that this blood speaks of better things than the blood of Abel. The blood of Abel spoke of condemnation and death, while the blood of sprinkling speaks of peace, reconciliation, and life.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |