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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:In Hebrews Chapter 8, we encounter one of the most misconstrued teachings in modern Christianity: the New vs. the Old Covenants. Fundamentally, the idea that we are now (post-Calvary) in the New Covenant and that the Old Covenant(s) are done away with the Death of Christ gives legitimacy to the teaching that God's Law was nailed to the Cross and is no longer valid.
Because I plan to spend the time in today's blog on the New vs Old Covenant(s), I won't address the subject of God's Law and how we know that it wasn't nailed to the Cross, in today's blog... But, because that is the root system of the New Covenant/Old Covenant teaching, I would at least like to give a video link (from our Livestream archive) to address it: https://livestream.com/lightedway/events/6935055. This link was part 1 of my Sabbaths and the Law Series, which is titled: "Why the Law Wasn't Nailed to the Cross", which was aired on Livestream on January 28, 2017.
(Note: we only keep our past talks in our Livestream archive for about 3-6 months, so if you are reading this blog posting after that time period, you will likely no longer be able to watch this talk on Livestream. However, we do still have the talk on DVD. If you're interested, please contact me to request a copy of this DVD)
Now, I'd like return to the topic of the New vs. the Old Covenant(s), which many use Hebrews Chapter 8 to promote. In popular Christian belief, there were several Old Testament Covenants. First, there was the Covenant was Adam (known as the Adamic Covenant). The Adamic Covenant ended when the next Covenant, which is called the Noahic Covenant (the Covenant which God made with Noah after the Flood). Next came the Abrahamic Covenant, followed by the Mosaic Covenant, and finally, after the Death of Christ, we entered the time of the New Covenant. The belief is that with each new Covenant, the prior Covenant came to an end. Thus, it is believed that we are now in the NEW COVENANT (of Hebrews 8), and that all the prior Covenants are now done away.
But is this commonly-held view of the past Covenants Scriptural? Is this concept of Covenants what was meant in Hebrews Chapter 8 - or in any other part of the Bible, for that matter? To answer this, we must carefully and prayerfully examine past Covenants, culminating our examination with an in-depth look at the New Covenant to which Hebrews Chapter 8 refers.
First, it should be noted that a Covenant is very different from a contract. A Covenant is ratified in blood - a contract is ratified to prevent blood. A Covenant is a promised to do "good" for the other participant in the Covenant. A contract is a promised focused on what is good for oneself. A Covenant vow is swearing (promising) to fulfill the terms of the Covenant on the other's behalf, even if so doing is to one's own hurt. But a contract is entered into to prevent any harm from coming to oneself.
The next point which bears notice, at the start of our Covenants study, is that each of the Covenants in the Old Testament was called an "Everlasting Covenant". What does it mean to be an "everlasting" Covenant?
Not only does the term "everlasting" (which is always associated with each of these Old Testament Covenants) always mean "eternal", it is also notable that God Himself tells us He never changes His Covenants, nor alters anything which He has said or agreed upon. In fact, God goes so far as to say that He will not alter, even when mankind fails to hold up our end of the "bargain":
Psalm 89:34 "My Covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My Lips."The statement that God doesn't change or alter His Word is repeated over and over, in Scripture. Nothing is repeated in Scripture unless it is very important, and God wants to make sure that we don't forget it.
Malachi 3:6-7 "For I Am the LORD (Yahweh), I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from Mine Ordinances, and have not kept them..."
With that background, let's begin our examination of each Old Testament Covenant. The one called the "Adamic Covenant" is never called this in Scripture, so we will not take any further time with that idea. Sticking only to the Covenants mentioned in Scripture, we will begin with Covenant God made with Noah (and his seed, of which we all are).
Genesis 9:8-17 "And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish My Covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish My Covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the Covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a Covenant between Me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember My Covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the Everlasting Covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the Covenant, which I have established between Me and all flesh that is upon the earth."God initiated this Covenant with Noah - and with all his descendants after him. And since all mankind alive today are descendants from the Flood survivors, we are all the descendants of Noah. God stated plainly that this Covenant would pass down to all successive generations (Genesis 9:12), perpetually. He also plainly stated that it was an Everlasting Covenant, which means, as we have already seen, that it is eternal and without end.
As with all Covenants, there were terms for mankind and terms for God. The terms of the Covenant with Noah are given in the following graphic:
One of the most powerful demonstrations that God's Covenant with Noah is still in effect is that God Himself is still keeping it! How do we know this? The Earth has never again been judged with a global flood, just as God Promised. And in addition, we can plainly see the token of this Covenant is still being given, even today. Rainbows aren't just pretty sky events. The rainbow is the token of the Covenant between God and Noah. If rainbows are still seen, which are the token of this Covenant, the Covenant is still in effect.
Notably, the Covenant is still in effect, even though mankind has not kept up our end of the Covenant.
In summary of our evalution of the Covenant between God and Noah, the following evidences show that the this Covenant did not end, rather it is still in effect today:
- God repeatedly tells us that He never alters anything which comes out of His lips. He also specifically says that He doesn't change His Covenants.
- The Covenant between God and Noah is called an Everlasting Covenant (which means it is eternal).
- The Covenant between God and Noah has been repeatedly broken by sinful mankind, but God still has not punished the Earth with a global flood, according to His Promise.
- God established the rainbow as a token of the Covenant He made with Noah. Rainbows can still be seen, showing that the Noahic Covenant is still in effect in God's Eyes.
2. The Covenant Made with AbrahamSo, since the Covenant God made with Noah is clearly still in effect, how can there be a Covenant with Abraham? There isn't a rule that only one Covenant can exist at the same time. This teaching is counter to Scripture, which shows Covenants being layered upon Covenants, one after the other. God didn't end His Covenant with Noah, but He did give another Everlasting Covenant - this time with Abraham and his seed.
Genesis 17:1-9 "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD (Yahweh) appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I Am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect. And I will make My Covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly... And I will establish My Covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an Everlasting Covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations."In this Everlasting Covenant with Abraham, God promises to give Canaan (the Promised Land) for an Everlasting Possession. This is the ultimate Promise, where only the spiritual seed of Abraham will inherit the New Earth - the ultimate Promised Land. What were the terms of this Covenant?
Just as we broke the terms of the Covenant with Noah, so we have broken our side of the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant. But does this mean that the Covenant with Abraham is no longer in effect? No. We can be certain of this because God is still going to give His People the New Earth as an Eternal Inheritance. He still keeps His promise to be our personal God. And of course, He doesn't alter His Covenants - once He puts them into effect. The Abramic Covenant is called "Everlasting" because it is everlasting.
But what makes this Covenant come into question, in our minds, is its token. The token of the Abrahamic Covenant was circumcision. Unlike the rainbow, which can plainly be seen as evidence that the Noahic Covenant is still in effect, physical circumcision (involving the shedding of blood) is now optional,rather than mandatory, after the Cross. Seeing this, some argue that the Abrahamic Covenant must no longer be in effect since the token of circumcision is believed to have come to an end. But has it really? Has the token of circumcision come to an end? Since this Covenant is everlasting, and God doesn't change, we are left a bit confused at first. Maybe we don't really understand this token of the Covenant very well. Let's take a closer look at the token of circumcision.
The Hebrew word which is translated as "circumcise" in Genesis 17:9-10 is Strong's Concordance number H4135. But what isn't often understood is that this term has both literal and spiritual (figurative) applications (as it says in Strong's). From the beginning, circumcision was always predominantly a heart-condition. For this reason, it was possible for a physically circumcised person to still be uncircumcised in God's Eyes. For this reason, when the Sacrifice of Messiah ended all shedding of blood, the primary form of circumcision still remained - being the circumcision of the heart.
Deuteronomy 10:12-16 "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD (Yahweh) thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD (Yahweh) thy God, to walk in all His Ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD (Yahweh) thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul. To keep the Commandments of the LORD (Yahweh), and His Statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? ...Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked."Considering that the spiritual circumcision of putting off the sins of the flesh was always the primary meaning of circumcision, we see that the token of the Abrahamic Covenant is also very much still in effect.
Deuteronomy 30:6 "And the LORD (Yahweh) thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD (Yahweh) thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."
Jeremiah 4:3-4 "For thus saith the LORD (Yahweh)... Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD (Yahweh), and take away the foreskins of your heart..."
Romans 2:28-29 "For he is not a Jew (seed of Abraham), which is one outwardly (meaning that one is physically circumcised); neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew (the true seed of Abraham), which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Colossians 2:11 "In Whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ."
3. The Covenant Made with MosesContrary to popular belief, Scripture doesn't teach that God made a unique Covenant with Abraham, adding another Covenant to the two prior Covenant layers. Rather, the Covenant given with Moses is a renewal of the Covenant given to Abraham and his seed (every saved person). We know this because the Bible refers to the Covenant with Abraham being remembered in God's communications with Moses:
Exodus 2:23-25 "And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them."
1 Chronicles 16:15-18 "Be ye mindful always of His Covenant; the Word which He commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the Covenant which He made with Abraham, and of His Oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an Everlasting Covenant. Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance."
With Moses, God did write the terms of the Covenant, which were given in His Law. Because keeping the Law of God was our part in the terms of the Covenant - first established with Abraham, and remembered and written with Moses - God's Law is called the Words of the Covenant (Exodus 34:28). And breaking God's Commandments and Statutes, contained in His Law, was breaking the Covenant (Leviticus 26:15-16).
We can be certain that the Covenant with Abraham/Moses is still in effect today. We can know this because it was given as an Everlasting Covenant and we are told to remember it - especially in the Last Days (Malachi 4:4-6).
So, since the Covenants God made with Noah and with Abraham and Moses are all still in effect, why does Hebrews 8 refer to a New Covenant? Covenants are layered upon Covenants. So, even when the New Covenant goes into effect, it will not nullify the past Everlasting Covenants.
The questions to answer regarding the New Covenant are:
- Has the New Covenant already gone into effect?
- When did or will the New Covenant go into effect?
Timing of the New Covenant - When Does it Go Into Effect?Let's begin with the timing of the New Covenant. As we will be quickly able to discern, the New Covenant did not go into effect at the Cross, as many have been lead to believe. Rather, the Blood needed to ratify the New Covenant went into effect at Calvary.
In Hebrews 8, there are a couple of powerful clues to reveal that the New Covenant is yet future. One is the reference to it going into effect "after those days". This is a Hebrewism which is used to refer to the Last Days, or End of Time.
Additionally, we read an often-overlooked New Covenant detail - one which hasn't yet happened. Once the New Covenant goes into effect, all the missionaries will be able to be recalled from duty. There will no longer be a need of them anymore, because everyone will know God when the New Covenant goes into effect:
Hebrews 8:10-11 "For this is the Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord (Yahweh); 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: 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."The Prophet Ezekiel gives a bit more information about when the New Covenant will go into effect. Ezekiel reveals the name of the coming New Covenant. He calls it the Covenant of Peace. According to Ezekiel the New Covenant of Peace will go into effect when God brings His Temple and Throne to Earth, which happens at the time of the New Earth, as it says in Revelation 21.
Ezekiel 37:25-27 "And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and My servant David shall be their prince for ever (this is reference to Messiah, Who is of the lineage of David). Moreover I will make a Covenant of Peace with them; it shall be an Everlasting Covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set My Sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My Tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people."Finally, there is yet one more indication that the New Covenant is yet future - to begin after the destruction of the sinful world and in with the establishment of the New Earth. the idea that a New Covenant is coming was first foretold in both the writings of prophets Ezekiel (s we have seen) and in Jeremiah. In fact, Hebrews chapter 8 is actually quoting from Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Revelation 21:1-4 "And I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven saying, Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come (an End-time reference), saith the LORD (Yahweh), that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 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 (Yahweh). But this shall be the Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days (another Hebrewism referring to the End of the World), saith the LORD (Yahweh), 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. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD (Yahweh): for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD (Yahweh): for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."There are two New Covenant blessings which only take place after the Final Day of Atonement - in the future. The first is that God promises to write His Law in our inward parts and in our hearts. This is something that many have wrongly believed has already fully occurred. Now, we certainly recognize that God gives us consciences, which alert to violations of His holy Law. In this way, His Law is written within us. But, in the fullest sense, this is a future blessing. How so? When His Law is fully written in our hearts, we will be like Adam and Eve before the Fall. In other words, we will no longer have a carnal heart, or a natural propensity towards sin!
To demonstrate this, let's look at the Example of Christ. Scripture tells us that we are to have the "mind" of Christ in us. It also tells us that Jesus (Yahshua) "knew no sin!" Now, we know that Christ was God come in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16, Philippians 2:5-11). God knows everything! In fact, it was God Who first warned Adam and Eve what would happen if they ate of the Forbidden Fruit. God certainly knew what sin was. He fully understood it and its consequences. So, what does it mean to say that Yahshua "knew no sin"?
In Hebrews 10:1-2, we find the answer. Here it states that once we have experienced the final purging work of ultimate Atonement, we will have no more "conscience of sins". (Remember, according to the prophetic shadow picture of Atonement given in Leviticus, the final Day of Atonement is the day, on which the devil, who is represented as the Scapegoat, will be taken out into the "Wilderness" and is no longer able to tempt anyone). The first part of Atonement has happened (Yahweh's Sacrifice was slain), but there remains yet the final work to be completed in the Judgment of the Azazel goat (Satan). And it is on this Day that God's people will finally have two blessings - both of which are mentioned in Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8:
1) They will have no more "conscience of sin" - Conscience = "knowledge" gained by partaking in it. Once we are ultimately purged of our sins, on the Great Day when the New Covenant goes into effect, we will no longer have a nature that is sinful. We will be restored to the unfallen natures of Adam and Eve! But this is just one of the big promises relating to the New Covenant...
2) The second promise is that God tells us HE will no longer remember our sins and iniquities anymore. Now some wrongly claim this happens when we confess our sins and repent. And it is true that when we confess our sins and repent, our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). But, we cannot say that from this point of Forgiveness God never remembers our sins and iniquities ever again. That is certainly the Plan, but there is a condition in which our sins and iniquities can still be remembered by God - and those things which He has taken from us, can be put back upon us. Under what condition can this occur? When we fail to forgive people for their "trespasses" against us, our own sins become unforgiven and are visited back upon us.
To demonstrate this, Christ told the parable of the King who forgave his servant a huge debt. When the servant failed to forgive his fellowservant a relatively tiny debt, the King unforgave the unmerciful servant and threw him into a debtor's prison where he would remain until he paid everything he owed the King. Also, the Saviour said:
Matthew 6:12 "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."Matthew 6:14 "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
So, when is our sin so completely gone that to us and to God it will never again be remembered? On the final Day of Atonement, which is fulfilled at the End of the World. This fits the timing of Ezekiel and Jeremiah who both stated plainly that it was a future, End-Time Blessing.
Evidences that the New Covenant is not now in Effect, but is yet future:
1) The New Covenant will go into effect when New Jerusalem sits on the Earth.
2) The New Covenant will go into effect when everyone knows God (no more missionaries will be needed).
3) The New Covenant will go into effect "after those days" - a Hebrewism for the End.
4) The New Covenant will go into effect when God's people no longer have a carnal nature.
5) The New Covenant will go into effect when God will never again remember the former sins of His people - after the Final Day of Atonement.
6) The New Covenant will go into effect when God's people are sinless and sin no longer even tempts them anymore - this is what it means to have His Law fully written in our hearts.
7) The New Covenant will go into effect after the first Heaven and Earth pass and the New Earth is made.