CHRISTIANS have always been interested in God's ancient promise of a 'new covenant.' A covenant is an agreement between two parties. These questions call attention to points that touch the subject, and help disciples of Jesus understand New Testament teachings of it.
1. Why did Jesus mention the new covenant as being 'in' His blood when He requested the disciples to drink of the cup in remembrance of Him?
The words of Jesus were: "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you"; "drink ye all of it"; "this do ye...in remembrance of me"; "and they all drank of it" (Luke 22:20, Matt. 26:27, 1 Cor. 11:26, Mark 14:23). Our Master said the new covenant was 'in' His blood. That covenant was dependent upon His death. The instruction that they drink of the cup meant they were to partake of the blessings and privileges which that covenant promised. It was a ceremonial act to convey a truth. Every observance is to be in remembrance of the gift of His life, upon which all our hopes of blessing depend.
Jesus had a full understanding of all of God's arrangements with Israel. That understanding brought His teaching that "this cup is the new covenant in my blood." He knew that an old covenant had been put in force after animals had been slain, and that the blood of those animals was used in a prescribed manner (Exod. 24:5-11). He also understood that God's promise through Jeremiah of a new covenant (Jer. 31:34) made the former covenant old. This fact was later plainly stated in Hebrews. "When He [God] says 'new' He has made old the first; and the thing being made old and growing aged is near vanishing."Heb. 8:13 Marshall Interlinear
But there was even more intended by our Master's words following that eventful supper. God had said that through the new covenant He would "forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." And Jesus knew that the words, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities:...for He shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:5,11) prophesied of Himself and were written for His instruction as well as for the instruction of all who have faith. He was to be the victim by which the new covenant would be firm; that covenant would be dedicated, inaugurated, ratified, put into effect as a result of His sacrifice (Heb. 9:16-18). The blessing of sonship and fellowship with God was about to reach others. Jesus would have all believers acknowledge and remember His sacrifice, its purpose, and the new arrangement through which their new life and spiritual relationship with God become a reality.
2. Of whom did David prophesy in Psalm 110:4, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek," and when did He become that priest?
Heb. 6:20 answers the first part of the question: "Jesus, made ["who has become" or "having become"] an high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec." The quotations in Heb. 5:5,6 and Acts 13:33 from Psalm 2:7 and 110:4 indicate that Christ Jesus became such a priest at His resurrection. "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee." "As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec." "He became the author [the cause or the source] of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Heb. 5:9,10). He has been made so "after the power of an endless life" in fulfillment of God's oath given centuries before.Heb. 7:16-21
3. What did Jesus provide which qualified Him to become the Melchizedec priest?
Jesus is a priest for ever because His sacrifice provided the blood which sealed the new covenant. The several lines of logic written regarding Melchizedec in Hebrews 7:5-21 prove that even before the law established the Levitical priesthood, God planned to terminate what He foresaw would be an ineffectual ministry. The first reference in Hebrews to the new covenant is made immediately following the last reference to Melchizedec in that epistle: "By so much ["to that extent also" or "because of this oath"] was Jesus made a surety of ["Jesus has become the guarantee of" or "Jesus has become the one given in pledge of"] a better covenant" (Heb. 7:22). That arrangement of the epistle, in which its last mention of Melchizedec was immediately followed by its first mention of the new covenant, is as though the writer anticipated that a recognition of Jesus as priest in the higher order would lead them to discern the reality of the new covenant and its blessings.
Furthermore, this is suggested by a summary of the chief points in the first seven chapters of Hebrews. The writer affirms that Jesus is "a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man." In the type, the Levitical priest ministered on earth; in the antitype, Jesus ministers in heaven. Regarding the ministry of Jesus, it is written: "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by so much as He is mediator of a better covenant [the new covenant], which has been enacted on better promises."Heb. 8:1-6 NAS
4. The blood of what covenant is referred to in Heb. 10:29?
The reference to blood in vs. 29 is to that of the new covenant. "...the blood of the covenant" expression in Heb. 9:20 refers back to the blood of beasts similarly mentioned in Exod. 24:8; "...the blood of the covenant" in Heb. 10:29 refers to the blood of Jesus. Vs. 29 contrasts the punishment of transgressors in the old covenant with punishment of such in the new. Both covenants were put in force by blood, but blood of such merit as to bring eternal redemptionthe blood of Jesusis identified only with the new covenant. The "sorer punishment" would come upon one who "was sanctified" by "the blood of the covenant" but who came to consider it as common or unholy, as not alone the only blood efficacious to remit sins. Note that there would have been no warning to the Hebrews (vs. 25-35) of punishment for disrespect of "the blood of the covenant" if the covenant ratified by His blood were not in operation.
Preceding verses are very significant. "For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the holy spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 'This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,' then he adds, 'I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.' Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin" (Heb. 10:14-18 RSV). The holy spirit which communicated prophecy to Jeremiah also testifies to those who are having God's law put on their hearts, and written in their minds. It testifies that the entirely effective and sufficient, and by no means common or unholy offering for sins made by Jesus, who offered the "one sacrifice for sins," is that which sanctifies. The apostle's words"the blood of the covenant"relate to those of Jesus: "this cup is the new covenant in my blood."Luke 22:20
5. God promised to make the new covenant "with the house of Israel" (Jer. 31:33). Why, then, did the Hebrews' writer quote that prophecy and write of the new covenant that "a better covenant...has been enacted" (Heb. 8:6,10 NAS), putting its enactment in past time?
The inspired author wrote of the new covenant, that it "has been enacted," because he accepted the witness of the holy spirit. He recognized the meaning of Jeremiah's prophecy. God had indeed enacted the new covenant "with the house of Israel." For about three years it was made only with members of that house, only with Jews. God worded the promise that way because He foresaw that respective remnants of the house of Israel and the house of Judah would be together following their captivities (Ezek. 37:18-22). People of those two houses were together throughout and following the ministry of Jesus; and He addressed them as the "house of Israel" (see Matt. 10:6, 15:24). However, only a relatively few of that 'house' accepted Jesus as Messiah so as to be received into the covenant. But that is no cause to conclude that God did not keep His promise to make it with that house. The fulfillment of his promise is affirmed: "As many as received him [Jesus], to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name [the name of Christ Jesus our Lord]."John 1:11,12
Cornelius and his group were the first Gentiles received into the new covenant (Acts 10). They too believed into Jesus. Paul shows that Gentiles "wert graffed in among them [the natural olive branches], and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree" (Rom. 11:17). Believing Gentiles become of the one true Israel (Rom. 11:26), and are counted among the 12,000 numbered in each of the 12 tribes.Rev. 7:3-8
6. To what period does "these days" refer (Jer. 31:33), after which the new covenant would be made?
The period, "those days," extended from the beginning of Israel's desert wanderings through the ministry of Jesus. "Those days" began when God found fault with Israel (Heb. 8:8). Their acts of disobedience in the wilderness were so grievous and frequent as to be recalled by the simple expression, "as in the provocation" (Heb. 3:8,15). See Exod. 16:2, 17:2, 32:1-29, Num. 11:1,6-33, 13:1-14:39, Ezek. 20:14,22,44. Because the first covenant was not faultless, place was "sought for the second." Israel frequently "continued not in My covenant" during the many centuries before Jeremiah prophesied of the new covenant, and God therefore "regarded them not" (Heb. 8:7-9). But He kept His covenant, and visited them with necessary adversity, affliction, and punishment (Amos 3:2). The years after Jeremiah were also part of "those days" mentioned by the prophet. When the meaning of the prophecy is misunderstood, an opening is given to the mistaken idea that "those days" refer to the years during which the gospel has been preached. And that precludes perception that the new covenant began to bless believers at Pentecost.
7. Is Jesus alone the mediator of the new covenant?
Yes. There is no statement in Scripture that any but Jesus is mediator of the new covenant. The apostle Paul indicates clearly who is mediator. "For there is one God, also one mediator of God and of man, a man Christ Jesus, the one having given Himself a ransom on behalf of all, the testimony in its own times" (1 Tim. 2:5,6 Marshall Interlinear). It was the giving of Himself as ransom for all mankind that enables Him to be mediator of God and of men. He alone was the ransom; He alone is mediator. No other person or entity is mentioned in Scripture as sharing that office with Jesus.
Inasmuch as the better covenant "has been enacted" (Heb. 8:6 NAS), it is evident that Christ Jesus functions as its mediator, for without a mediator there could be no new covenant and it could not have been enacted. The holy spirit's testimony to us regarding the writing of God's law in our hearts (Heb. 10:15-18), which writing affirms the remission of our sins, is further assurance that Jesus is mediator of the new covenant.
Moses alone was mediator of the old covenant (Gal. 3:19), and, as interpreted by the Apostle Peter soon after the day of Pentecost, Jesus Christ is the greater than Moses prophesied of in Deut. 18:15,18. He quoted that prophecy to the Jews in Jerusalem, together with its warning that "every soul, which would not hear [so as to believe and obey] that prophet would be destroyed [Greek, #1842, exolothreuo; Strong, "to extirpate," a word which Webster defines as "to pluck up by the stem or root; to eradicate"] from the people [of God, because not worthy to enjoy fellowship with God's true Israel]." The Apostle affirmed that all prophets from Samuel on who had spoken, had all "foretold of these days," the days of Peter's time; and that "God, having raised up His servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your iniquities."Acts 3:22-26
8. What blessings do those in the new covenant enjoy?
Those in relationship with God in the new covenant have peace with God, sanctification, inner joy, and all other spiritual blessings as new creatures in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:15,16). Such have come to God through the name and power of Jesus. "But you have come...to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24 NAS). This reference to the antitypical covenant and its ratification is drawn from the typical arrangement. After Israel heard and accepted "every commandment of the law," it was "the blood of the covenant"animal blood literally sprinkled on "all the people"--that brought them in covenant with God at Sinai under Moses, its mediator (Exod. 24:8, Heb. 9:19,20). But there is no need that blood be literally sprinkled upon those who spiritually "eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood," and who receive life thereby; who hear instruction and endeavor to obey God's will (John 6:53). Their hearts are sprinkled from a consciousness of evil as they trust and obey.1 Pet. 1:2, Heb. 10:22
Hebrews 9:14,15 verify a blessing received by Jews who had already come into the new covenant. "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritancenow that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Certain elements in the Greek text not disclosed by that NIV rendering are seen in the Marshall Interlinear translation: "By how much more the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, will cleanse the conscience of us from dead works to serve the living God. And therefore He is mediator of a new covenant, so as death [His death] having occurred for redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, the ones having been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." That blessing is also for Gentiles, none of whom transgressed the first covenant because never having been in it, but all of whom nonetheless missed the mark of keeping God's law.
9. Why does Heb. 12:24 use a different Greek word for 'new' than used elsewhere in the New Testament and in the Septuagint (Greek O.T.) for 'new' covenant?
To indicate that the new covenant was then in effect! The Greek kainos, Strong #2537"that which is unaccustomed or unused,...new as to form or quality, of different nature from what is contrasted as old" (Vine)was written of the new covenant when prophecy of it was made, quoted, or referred to (Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:8,13, 9:15, Jer. 31:31). God promised an arrangement "of different nature" than the covenant which had been made old and was vanishing away. Kainos denoted the difference between the old and newa new covenant, of different nature than the old.
But when the writer in Heb. 12:22-24 (NAS) encouraged their spiritual relationships, the promise had become reality. Thus he wrote that "you have come...to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant" [Greek neos, Strong #3501, "new in respect of time, that which is recent"Vine's]. It is fitting, in this last appearance in the Bible of the words 'new covenant,' that those believers were instructed that they had come to a new, recently-made covenant for forgiveness of sins, mercy to their unrighteousness, and everlasting life.
10. Do disciples have part in the new covenant other than being blessed in it?
Yes, indeed! Though they cannot be its mediator, they can surely be ministers of the new covenant. The glory of its reality is due to God who planned it, and to Christ whose blood has ratified the new covenant. Paul said of believers that it is "being manifested that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, having been inscribed not by ink but by the spirit of a living God, not in stony tables but in tables which are fleshy hearts...the competence of us is God, who also made us competent as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit, for the letter kills, but the spirit makes alive" (2 Cor. 3:3,6). "And all things are of God, the one having reconciled us to Himself through Christ and having given to us the ministry of reconciliation, as that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning to them the trespasses of them, and placing in us the word of reconciliation. On behalf of Christ therefore we are ambassadors as God beseeching through us; we beg on behalf of Christ, Be ye reconciled to God."2 Cor. 5:18-20 Marshall
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