And God's Covenants
A discussion of God's
covenants with Abraham,
A Bible study from
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him."--Proverbs 9:10, 3:13, 18:13
(Page numbers are those in 64-page printed book, free on request.)
(All quotations are from King James
This article considers the Biblical expression of God's covenants and the promises which they include, particularly as they pertain to human salvation. The study includes explanations touching many Scriptures which discuss various topics within the subject. It has several goals:
Footnotes at the end of the article contain related thoughts, quotations and Scriptures pertinent to the discussion, put separately to provide the reader a more orderly flow of thought. Because everything written can be improved, either in expression, in logic, or in doctrinal content, it is realized that this is not without deficiency. But it is hoped that conclusions expressed will benefit students of Scripture interested in the subject in their continuing search for a complete understanding of God's precious, dependable Word. The Holy Scriptures require no change to make their testimony harmonious, reasonable, and true. This extensive study into many lines of Biblical evidence connected with the subject, goes forth with the prayer that its considerations will bring a blessing to all those who carefully read it, even its suggestions which all students may not now see alike.
MAN'S quest for knowledge has at all times engaged his attention. The desire to more fully understand various subjects, the reasons for things which occur, and the principles directing various actions have kept busy many human intellects. Some have occupied themselves with minor questions, while others have sought to solve immense problems. Some have dealt only with natural things that can be seen or heard, while others have endeavored to explain higher subjects: morality, life and death.
The power of thought over the lives of men is recognized by all. Some were taught from childhood concerning the control which the mind directs. Thoughts received often express themselves in actions. Actions form habits. Habits make up character. Character determines destiny. The beginning of this process, which has so widespread and enduring an influence, is in the mind. How important, therefore, that right thoughts on all subjects, particularly right thoughts about God, His purpose and His plan of action, should be received and entertained by all Christians. Thoughts of truth derived from the Bible have the power to transform and sanctify the believer, causing the divine likeness to be more and more manifest in him. The unbeliever, on the other hand, groping about in a condition of moral ignorance, appreciates not the divine likeness, and does not grow in it. How can he, being ignorant of it? It is surprising that the remnants of the divine image remaining in the hearts of various individuals have not been more marred than they are.--John 17:17, Rom. 12:2, 2 Cor. 3:3,18, 1 Cor. 1:20,21, Rom. 1:20-22, Eph. 4:17,18
The subject of salvation and God's covenants is worthy of attentive consideration by everyone because it affects their eternal interests and the divine program in respect to them. The result of such investigation, when conducted in a reasonable manner with submission to the holy spirit and the divine word, cannot be other than beneficial to him who seeks with the key of knowledge to unlock the treasures of wisdom.
All who accept Bible testimony recognize the necessity for salvation, and the fact that God has provided a way for men to obtain it--through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. All of Adam's descendants were involved by him in sin and death. The wisest and best of the race have made laws and suggested remedies, but have been unable to eradicate the disease of sin or hinder its result. Nevertheless, the remedy has been arranged for by God, and eventually sin is to be eradicated, and death destroyed by Him who by the grace of God tasted death for every man. (1 Cor. 15:26, Heb. 2:9) The opportunity to gain not only freedom from sin but also everlasting life is to be presented to every child of Adam, and only those who wilfully oppose the Lord after they have been enlightened will be destroyed in the second death.--John 1:9, Rev. 20:9, 21:8, 20:14
The ultimate conditions of life and being, to be enjoyed by those who avail themselves of salvation from sin and death, are seen in the Bible to be of two kinds. There is heavenly salvation for those who will have walked and served in faithful obedience to the divine will, in denial of earthly privileges and honor, and against the power and influence of Satan, having regard for the promised reward. And there will be earthly salvation for the obedient of mankind who serve and obey God's will by choice and delight during the world's judgment day when Satan is bound and God's grace is everywhere manifested. It should be clearly understood that while these two results of salvation<1> are provided, the one condition of faith and implicit obedience--full consecration--is necessary to be observed in order to obtain either. The difference in reward is according to the diversity of God's invitation, His eternal purpose, and the conditions under which faith is exercised and obedience rendered.--John 5:22-29, Rom. 8:19, Rev. 22:14
A covenant is an agreement or compact entered into by two or more persons. An agreement or contract usually consists of mutual promises to fulfill certain prescribed conditions in return for mutual concessions or benefits. Thus in a building contract or covenant one party promises to build a house according to certain plans and specifications, and the other party promises on the completion of the work, or at specified dates, to pay a certain amount of money.
Many covenants are mentioned in Scripture, most of which originated with God as promises, and became covenants or agreements when the persons to whom they were made complied in them or fulfilled certain conditions. When Noah and his sons emerged from the ark, and after Noah built an altar and offered burnt offerings from which "the Lord smelled a sweet savour," God established a covenant with them, that the earth should no more be destroyed by a flood of waters. The rainbow was set as a token of this divine promise, which secures the earth as the everlasting home for all flesh, both man and beast. (Gen. 8:20,21, 9:8-17) No conditions were stipulated; no 'ifs' were interposed.
God also made a covenant with David, and it promised that his house should be established forever. It too was graciously offered by God, and was made without conditions. (2 Sam. 7:15-29, 2 Chron. 13:5, Psa. 89:3,28,34,39) David had implicit faith in this promise, and in his last words referred to it as "all his desire." (2 Sam. 23:5) This covenant is elsewhere called "the sure mercies of David" (Psalm 89:20- 37, Isa. 55:3, Acts 13:34), and David's Son and Lord, Christ Jesus, who was raised from the dead, now no more to return to death and the grave, has inherited its promises. The tabernacle or house of David fell when Zedekiah was dethroned. (2 Chron. 36:11-21) The Lord said, "A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it; there shall not be even a trace of it until He comes whose right it is; and to Him I will give it." (Ezek. 21:25-27 RSV)<2> The investiture of the Lord Jesus as king at His resurrection meant, therefore, that God had rebuilt or re- established the tabernacle or house of David. This was done in order that both Jew and Gentile might seek after the Lord.--Acts 15:14-17
In the revival under King Josiah, he and his people entered into a covenant to observe faithfully all the requirements of the Law Covenant. (2 Kings 23:2,3) Jehoiada, the priest, made a similar covenant at the accession of Joash. (2 Chron. 23:16,17) The orderly succession of day and night is called a covenant of the Lord.-- Jeremiah 33:20-22
The three covenants of God which particularly have to do with the divine arrangement for salvation from sin and death are now considered. Each of these covenants was a contract or agreement, each was instituted or established over a sacrifice, each had a sign or token, and each had conditions.
The first of these covenants was the promise made by God to Abraham, and confirmed to Isaac and to Jacob, that his seed should be great, that all the families of the earth should be blessed in him, and that his seed should possess all the land shown to Abraham. (Gen. 12:1-3,7, 13:14-17) The condition of obedience was attached to this covenant. (Gen. 12:1, 13:17,18, 18:17-19, 22:16-18), and it was confirmed, that is, ratified over an animal sacrifice after the manner usual in those times. (Gen. 15:3-18, Gal.3:15,17) Circumcision was the sign or token of God's covenant with Abraham. (Gen. 17:9-14,23, Rom. 4:11,12) When God's last instruction to Abraham was carried out, God swore by an oath. Attention is called to this in the epistle to the Hebrews that "after he had patiently endured," that is, fulfilled all the conditions required of him, "he obtained the promise." (Gen. 22:15-18, Heb. 6:13-18) The statement, "By Myself have I sworn..." draws attention to the fact that the covenant had no mediator. God Himself assumed the responsibility of the fulfillment of its promise pertaining to the seed.--Acts 3:25,26, Gal. 3:16,19
The second great covenant was the Law Covenant. This was made between God and Israel over sacrifices at Mount Sinai. Of the blood of the animals there sacrificed, half was sprinkled on the altar; and of the other half, some was sprinkled on the book of the law and some on the people, thus establishing the bond. Moses had the honor of mediating this covenant between God and the children of Israel, and its sabbaths were its sign or token.--Exod. 19:1-8, 24:1-8, 31:12-17, Deut. 5:12- 15, Ezek. 20:12,20, Gal. 3:19
The third great covenant is styled the New Covenant. It is a better covenant than the Mosaic one, being instituted upon better promises. Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant. His flesh is the sacrifice over which the New Covenant is ratified, He being the "covenant victim"; and His blood is "the blood of sprinkling." (Heb. 9:15, 8:6, 12:24) It is a ministration of the Spirit, and through it is done the writing on the believer's heart, not of the letter, that is, not of the Law Covenant written on stones and in books. (2 Cor. 3:3,6,7) The New Covenant has for its sabbath the perpetual rest of faith in the finished work of Jesus, and its circumcision is that of the heart.-- Heb, 4:1,9-11, Rom. 2:29, Col. 2:11
The line of thought to be followed in our study concerning these covenants is that the Abrahamic Covenant is the expression of God's purpose to bless all the families of the earth. The Law Covenant demonstrated the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and proved that none under condemnation could, without redemption therefrom, qualify to be of the kingdom of priests through which others would be blessed. It is through the New Covenant that such a kingdom of priests is developed to be joint-heirs with Jesus to the blessing of the remainder of all the families of earth.
The particular covenant feature in which Abraham was involved was that, if he would be obedient to God, the seed should be born of his line. Abraham secured the honor of having the blesser in his line, as proposed, because he was obedient. But Abraham's obedience did not secure the promise of a blessing for all the families of the earth. This had been determined and expressed in an obscure promise long before. God had said to the serpent, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15) Abraham's obedience or disobedience could not alter it, though he did by his faith and obedience secure for himself the honor of being the one in whose line the blesser should come.
It must be remembered that the true 'seed' of Abraham promised to him was not Isaac, but Jesus, whom Isaac pictured. (Gal. 3:16) Considerable space in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 is used to give the genealogies that show (particularly that in Luke) our Lord to have been the descendant of Abraham and of David, and therefore entitled to be considered the heir of the promises made to those worthies. And just as Isaac was obedient, so was our Lord tried and tested that He might learn obedience. (Heb. 5:8) Isaac was received back from the dead "in a figure"; our Lord actually died and was actually received back from the dead. (Heb. 11:17-19) Thus was shown the necessity for our Lord's death, before He, as the 'seed,' could fully enter into His exalted office and begin, as He did on the day of Pentecost, the High Calling Age work of selecting and preparing the 'multiplied' seed. (Acts 3:25,26) Those "blessed with faithful Abraham" through the gospel (Gal. 3:8,9) during the High Calling Age have the additional privilege of following in their Master's footsteps with a view to becoming joint heirs with Him of His glory, and with Him blessers of the remainder of the families of the earth in the Earthly Kingdom Age. These, because they are Christ's, are also called "Abraham's seed."-- Gal. 3:29
The promises in the Abrahamic Covenant regarding the seed must be considered in two parts: (1) promises to the seed, and (2) promises through the seed. It should be especially noted that the Abrahamic Covenant contains no provision for the eradication of sin and the destruction of death, even though such would be brought to pass in fulfilling the promise, "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." The securing of and use of blood was neither stipulated in God's covenant with Abraham, nor enacted by God in regard to it, yet we are explicitly taught that "without shedding of blood is no remission," no purging away, of sins, guilt, iniquity or defilements. (Heb. 9:22) Inasmuch as all of the associates of the 'seed' Christ Jesus, were to be chosen from the fallen race, some provision to forgive sin and conquer death would be absolutely necessary before this gracious design of the Lord could be accomplished. (Gal. 3:16,29) The multiplied 'seed' must be prepared first. As it pertained to the 'seed,' the Abrahamic Covenant did nothing more than to promise that it would be of Abraham's line. How the multiplied 'seed' should be developed, and how it should get life, so that it might be a blesser indeed, was not expressed in the covenant. Therefore, some other arrangement must be made, so that the promise to Abraham might become effective in each of its parts. At this point enters the Law Covenant, proposing to prepare that 'seed.'
No other purpose was mentioned at the time of its making but that of developing a nation or kingdom of priests by obedience to that Law Covenant. But it did serve other purposes. The Law Covenant was typical and its arrangement was instructive: to those with whom it was first made (Deut. 6:5-7,18, 30:11-14); to their succeeding generations (Psa. 37:18,28-31); and to the High Calling Age church. (1 Cor. 10:2- 11, Heb. 9:11-28) Its perfect law manifested sin in the earth by establishing a standard which, however, none could keep. This revealed that none could be justified through it. (Rom. 3:20, 5:20, Gal. 2:16, Psa. 130:3, 143:2, Deut. 27:26, Gal. 3:10,11) The Law Covenant offered reward for obedience. God instructed Moses to say unto the people, "If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." (Exod. 19:4-6) This outstanding proposal was put before the people. Deut. 7:6-11 explains that they received God's special dealing and opportunity "because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers." But Israel as a nation was never found worthy to inherit that station.
When the Law Covenant was mentioned to the people, they unanimously and most willingly entered into it. Moses was its mediator in that he served both parties,<3> God being on the one side, and the people on the other. (Deut. 5:5) The Greek word translated mediator in the New Testament is mesites, and according to Dr. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, it has two shades of meaning. It is defined as "a go- between; that is (simply) an internunciator, or (by implication) a reconciler (intercessor)." Both in its negotiation and in its administration, Moses was mediator (Gal. 3:19) in the primary sense of internunciator, or mutual friend and spokesman. When the people sinned, he exercised the office of mediator in the sense of reconciler, or intercessor. He pled their cause, acting as their advocate before God. They were the covenant people, the agreement having been made only a short while before their grievous sin and worship of the golden calf. That first disobedience required the intercession of Moses. The two shades of meaning of mediator are clearly and beautifully represented in these two capacities in which Moses acted--first, as spokesman or messenger on behalf of the parties to the covenant; second, as intercessor, on behalf of the transgressing party, that the covenant just ratified might be allowed to go on, the people being forgiven their iniquity.<4>--Exodus 19:1-8, 24:1-8, 32:30-32
Commandments had been given, ten of them written on tables of stone and the remainder, equally important and moral, written in books. These were to be carefully observed. Respect for this perfect law, and meditation upon its counsel caused a searching of its spiritual meaning. This law could take hold of both the heart and the will (as it did for some--Psa. 119:97-100), and no doubt for this reason the Apostle refers to it as 'spiritual.'--Rom. 7:14
The question is raised, "Did the LORD promise that eternal life was then available to the Jews if they could keep His perfect law?" Leviticus 18:5 may at first glance seem to contain such a promise. It reads: "Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD." That expression also appears in Neh. 9:29 and Ezek. 20:11,13,21, and is noted in Luke 10:25-28, Rom. 10:5, and Gal. 3:11,12. Galatians provides a point of reference in which the apostle's answer to the above question may be seen. In it he affirms that "the just shall live by faith." Such life by faith is a life in divine favor and approval, but it does not bring literal escape from Adamic death. On the other hand, the Apostle wrote, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident." We must therefore conclude that it was and is faith in God, not endeavors to do things external to the heart, which alone brings life in God's sight. Israel could have had that relationship, as promised in Lev. 26:1-13 and Deut. 28:1-14, if they would have done their best in response to God's commandments. Moses did not represent that God would extend their human lives everlastingly if they kept a law they were incapable of keeping. Even the lawyer did not hope to escape death; his inquiry was about inheriting life. (Luke 10:25-28) And the expression and instruction of John 5:39-40 is in harmony with the foregoing conclusions.
For many centuries the Jews were allowed to try to keep the Law and gain its righteousness. (Deut. 6:25) Sad experience proved to some few of them their inability and the fact that the Law which they thought would approve them and commend them to God was really a ministration of condemnation to them, and that it could never be anything else. It was beyond their abilities. They were all born in sin and shapen in iniquity; their tendencies were toward unrighteousness. Their very being was imperfect, and the perfect standard of the Law was unattainable by them. (Rom. 7:10,12-19; 8:3, 2 Cor. 3:7) Had they been favored with some arrangement by which the sinful tendencies of the fallen flesh could have been set aside, and not counted against them, it would have gone much better with them. But there was no such provision in the Law Covenant. The offerings for sin were of only temporary value, both the private sin and trespass offerings and the public atonement day sacrifices. The natural depravity of the flesh was a constant and insurmountable obstacle to their efforts at keeping the Law. Though with their minds some of them delighted in the Law these could not bring the flesh into subjection, and therefore those Jews who realized the situation were in a state of despair, described by the Apostle's words, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?"--Rom. 7:24
The Law Covenant could not develop the seed promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. (Gen. 22:17) It was a shadow of good things to come, not having the substance. (Heb. 10:1, 8:5) Though it could not deliver the prisoners of sin and death, the law did serve to make manifest the exceeding sinfulness and strength of sin. (Gal. 3:19, Rom. 7:13, I Corinthians 15:56) And whereas it did not fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant, neither did it interfere to prevent the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, so as to make the promise of none effect.<5> (Gal. 3:17) Unable to fulfill the divine purpose expressed in the promise to Abraham, the Law Covenant has been set aside "for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." (Heb. 7:18,19, 8:7) Even in Jeremiah's day the limitations and inadequacies of the Law Covenant were pointed out which required the making of a New Covenant.--Jeremiah 31:29-31<6>
God's promise of the New Covenant must have been a ray of hope to those who loved God. (Deut. 6:5) It was also promised through other prophets. See Isaiah 42:6<7> and Ezek. 16:60-62. The Law Covenant and the sacrifices instituted by it could "never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins."--Heb. 10:1-4
One Jew--Jesus the Messiah--was approved of the Law, and therefore it was His 'righteousness' (Deut. 6:25), but He had come into the world for the express purpose of dying for our sins. (Heb. 2:9) He therefore relinquished His right to eternal earthly life or fleshly kingship. God raised Him from death, and conferred upon Him the dual office of king and priest, as the 'seed,' as He had before sworn to do, saying, "Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec."--Psalm 110:4, Heb. 7:11-18, Zech. 6:12,13
The effect of setting aside the Law Covenant, as weak and unprofitable through the flesh, was to leave the Abrahamic promise as it had been before the Law was introduced. It remained a grand promise of a seed to bless all the families of the earth. The privilege of having the blesser in his line had been made sure to Abraham by the divine word and oath. (Heb. 6:13-18) But this promise, grand and glorious though it was, contained no means or provision for its own fulfillment; for the removal of sin and the destruction of death are essential to a permanent blessing. The inability of the Law Covenant to accomplish these had been so fully demonstrated that fault was found and its termination was determined. (Jer. 31:31, Heb. 8:7) Some other activity must be initiated to overcome the difficulties of sin and death.
God, who knows the end from the beginning, never experiments. He both foreknew and foretold the inabilities of the Law Covenant and its sacrifices. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second," said the Apostle, who also said of Jesus, "He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second." (Heb. 8:7, 10:9) The sacrifice of Jesus, antitype of Israel's sin-atonement sacrifices, is stated in Scripture as beginning with His consecration baptism. This makes evident that the first, that is, the Law Covenant, was to pass away because the law of that covenant established the ineffective typical sacrifices which would no longer be recognized. The completed sacrifice of Jesus therefore introduced
<8>This covenant was instituted on better promises than those of the Law Covenant. (Heb. 8:6)<9> The New Covenant has Jesus as the covenant- victim, His death as its ratifying sacrifice (Heb. 9:16), and it has Himself, by virtue of that sacrifice, as its Mediator.<10> (1 Tim. 2:5,6, Heb. 9:15) As He is Mediator of the New Covenant, instituted upon better promises, His priesthood is correspondingly better than was Aaron's. So much better is it that He is able to "save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."--Heb. 8:6, 7:16,20,22,24,25
The Law Covenant called for strict compliance with the letter of all commandments that applied to the conduct of the people, although contrary to their imperfect abilities. By contrast, the better promise and provision of the New Covenant is that the law of God can be written in the hearts and minds of its beneficiaries, so that, eventually, it becomes part of their very being. The Law Covenant had no provision for giving mercy to those who slipped on account of weakness of the flesh. Rather, it declared their unrighteousness. However, we see that the better promise of the New Covenant is that God will be "merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins will I remember no more." Under the old covenant the people were only involved the more in death, its law defining their sin as transgression and especially deserving of condemnation. "The letter," meaning the Law, killed them. Under the New Covenant, the believers' disposition and desire of heart to do right are acceptable (Matt. 5:21-30), and by the processes of this Covenant their characters gradually become established in righteousness. "The spirit," meaning the New Covenant, gives life; and this is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which makes free from the law of sin and death. --2 Cor. 3:3,6-8,18, Heb. 8:8-12, 10:16,17, Rom. 7:6,25, 8:1-4
It was customary to ratify covenants over a victim. The covenant with Abraham, concerning his seed and the possession of the land, was ratified with the cutting of animals. However, blood of those covenant victims was not used to seal or ratify the Abrahamic Covenant. (Gen. 15:8-18) But the Law Covenant was ratified with the blood of its covenant victims, the people and the book of the law being sprinkled with it. (Exod. 24:5-8) The New Covenant must also be attested by the death of a victim, and it was so done. But as this was to be a better covenant than that of the Law, and was to be the means of doing away with sin and death, and thus of bringing in a permanent blessing (Rom. 4:13-16, 22-25, 5:1,2, Heb. 9:15), it must have a better sacrifice than that of the Law Covenant. Jesus was that victim or testator of the New Covenant. He died in order that the covenant might be of force, valid, firm.--Heb. 9:16,17
It has been explained in the epistle to the Hebrews that Jesus' sacrifice was the antitype of the bullock and the goat sacrifices offered on the Jewish Day of Atonement. This is specifically stated in Heb. 9:12. "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once [Greek ephapax, "once for all"] into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption." As the antitype, Jesus entered one time only with His perfect life value, which had been represented by the typical bloods, to make but one atonement for the entire race of Adam. Ephapax is also used in Heb. 7:27 and 10:10, the former making apparent His purpose in entering "once for all." He did not need, as "those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people's: for this He did once for all, when He offered up Himself." This 'once for all' offering was made in heaven, as explained in Heb. 8:1-4. Concerning our "high priest," it is written, "For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; whence it is necessary $bofor$bc this priest also to have something which He may offer. If therefore He were on earth, He would not be a priest."
Jesus was also the antitype of the Passover Lamb. (1 Cor. 5:7) And His sacrifice was the sole antitype of the "calves and goats"<11> whose blood ratified the shadowy and typical Law Covenant. (Heb. 9:18,19, Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25) When 'sprinkled' on the repentant one who desires to enter into a covenant with God (Exod. 24:8, Heb. 9:19,20, 12:24, 1 Pet. 1:2), the blood of Christ Jesus becomes the bond of union between God and the other party. The shed blood of Christ is a 'surety'<12> (Heb. 7:22) to God on behalf of the one who repents of sin, in that it is at the same time a price suitable for his redemption. That blood is also surety on God's behalf to one who repents of sins, because, being a price suitable for redemption, it allows God to be the justifier of him who believes in Jesus, in respect of all sins and weaknesses traceable to the Adamic transgression. (Rom. 3:22-26) The "sprinkling" is effected by the believer accepting it and by God's recognition of it as applicable in the individual case.
Neither the Law of Moses nor the New Covenant is properly described as a 'testament' or 'will.' Moses, as mediator, did not die in order that His 'will' might be enforced. Neither did Christ die in order that His 'property' might be left to 'heirs.' But He did die to give Himself a ransom, and to supply the blood for the ratification of the New Covenant, as typically represented in Exod. 24:5-8. (Heb. 9:20) The word 'testator' in Heb. 9:16 should therefore be 'covenant-victim,' as should also the word 'men' in verse 17, there being no Greek anthropos in the text. See Young's Literal Translation, Emphatic Diaglott, Companion Bible notes, and Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by Vine, which well explains the principle followed in the translations they approve.
Moses was mediator of the Law Covenant. (Gal. 3:19, Deut. 5:5) The Lord Jesus is Mediator of the New Covenant. (1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 8:6, 9:15, 12:24)<8>,<13> As Moses was mediator in the simple or primary meaning of that word, namely, an internunciator, so is Jesus referred to as the "messenger of the covenant." (Mal. 3:1) Moses was mediator between God and a people who were entirely willing to enter into the Law Covenant.<14> Jesus is Mediator between God and those who, when the New Covenant for forgiveness of sins is proposed to them, and they realize it, are entirely willing to enter into it. Nothing is more obvious than that a covenant cannot be arranged between parties not wishing it.
Moses probably did not personally communicate the message of God's covenant to all the host of Israel, but to the elders of the people who passed the word on to the others. Similarly, Christ Jesus does not, in this age, and need not in the next, personally impart the message of the New Covenant to every individual of the race. He has sent forth His messengers to speak in His name on the subject. The message has been widely proclaimed throughout all the world (Rom. 10:18, Col. 1:6,23, Matt. 24:14, Isa. 49:6, 52:10) during the High Calling Age, and it will be delivered to the remainder of men during the Earthly Kingdom Age.--Luke 24:47-49, 2 Cor. 5:18-6:3, 3:6, Acts 13:38-42, 1 Tim. 2:5-7, John 1:9
The negotiation of the Law Covenant did not fulfill all of Moses' obligations in respect to his office as mediator. He did not leave the people to their own devices, but was still interested in them, and continued to be spokesman for God to them, and for them to God. So much was he devoted to them that he continued to function as mediator in the sense of reconciler or intercessor with God on their behalf.<4>,<10> The first occasion for this came soon after the covenant had been ratified. (Exod. 32:30-32) Similarly our Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, does not leave to their own devices those who have entered into that new arrangement, but continues to be interested in their welfare, so that it is written, "If any man sin, we have an advocate [or helper, intercessor, consoler] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."<15> (1 John 2:1) He ever lives to make intercession for them that have come unto God by Him (Heb. 7:25), and is therefore able to save them to the uttermost, being the surety of this better covenant.
It is necessary to be remembered, too, that our Lord's priestly office of intercessor is based on His mediatorship of the New Covenant, just as Moses' intercession for fleshly Israel was based on his mediatorship of the Law Covenant.<16> (It had been the divine suggestion to vest the two offices permanently in Moses, but on his demurral [Exod. 4:10-16] Aaron was given him for spokesman, and Aaron subsequently occupied the office of high priest, thus becoming thereafter the type of Christ as intercessor. [Heb. 7:20-26]) And as Moses did not intercede for other people outside the covenant relationship, neither does Jesus act as intercessor for any outside the New Covenant relationship. "Now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant."-- Heb. 8:6
According to the apostle, Jesus is the Mediator
because He gave Himself "a ransom for all." (1 Tim. 2:5,6)<10>
Of course His intercession as intercessor is part of His "more excellent
ministry" which He hath obtained, and "by how much also He is the Mediator of a
better covenant." These offices of our blessed Savior are interdependent, and it is
the authority to function in all of them which assures the success of the others. The
ransom is the foundation. The mediatorial office for the negotiation and administration of
the New Covenant is based on that foundation. (Rev. 5:9) The mediatorial office for
intercession is the third responsibility which has been delegated to our Redeemer.
Three conditions needed dealing with if the blessing of all the families of the earth promised in the Abrahamic Covenent (Gen. 22:18) were to become a reality: (1) the "sins of the past," both of Jews under the Old Covenant and of Gentiles being without covenant; (2) sins committed, whether through weakness or wilfullness, after the past sins have been remitted; (3) the tendency toward sin in all the race.
For the first two of these conditions the Law Covenant made some provision in various offerings, such as those of the Day of Atonement which were for the whole nation, and the individual sin and trespass offerings from time to time brought by transgressors. All of these, however, never took away sin, but they did serve as reminders of the sinful conditions. (Heb. 10:1-4) For the third condition there was no provision in the Law Covenant. Its arrangements could not meet any of these needs, nor could it overcome the difficulties of those who desired to lead righteous lives. (Gal. 2:21, 3:21) However, the New Covenant makes ample provision to deal with all three of these conditions.
The New Covenant provides a sacrifice having the power to produce the desired effect--redemption--which has not only redeemed believing Jews (Heb. 9:15, Gal. 4:4,5), but which is also a satisfaction to God to conciliate Him regarding the sins of all believers (Rom. 3:22-26, Gal. 3:13) and of the whole world. (John 3:16, 1 John 2:2) "This is My blood of the covenant" $bocompare to Exod. 24:8 and Heb. 9:20$bc, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is shed for you," "drink ye all of it," said our Redeemer when offering the cup to His disciples at the memorial supper. "And they all drank of it."<17>-- Matt. 26:28, Luke 22:20, Mark 14:23,24, 1 Cor. 11:25
This cup represents His blood shed for "the many" (all in Adam, the entire race) for the remission, that is, the forgiveness of sins. The disciples, being of sinful men and of the condemned race of Adam, must eat His flesh and drink His blood, else they would have no life in them. (John 6:47-58) So must all do who would have life. All who would have everlasting life must believe on Him, for no other way has been provided by which God can justly remit the sins that are past, of any or of all of Adam's family.--John 3:36, Acts 5:31, 13:38-49, Luke 24:47, Rom. 5:1
The New Covenant has made possible not only remission of past sins, thus passing the believer from death to life (John 5:24), but also the clearing away of such future transgressions as shall result from the weaknesses and imperfections of our fallen nature. This is all provided for in the blood of Jesus. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:9,7) Here is manifest the intercessory work of the high priest on behalf of all who have entered into this covenant relationship with God through His mediation. "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 'We' who have the Advocate are not the uncovenanted. He ever lives to make intercession for those that come unto God by Him, those who have made a covenant with God over the sacrifice of His Son, and so have come into the household, being no longer aliens and strangers.--Heb. 7:25, Eph. 2:12,13,19
Moreover, the presence of the holy spirit in the believer's heart also constitutes an intercession for him in such a time of need. (Rom. 8:23,26,27) If God is accepting the will and effort, notwithstanding the weakness of the flesh, the fact that he has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:12,16, Phil. 2:5) must, under "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus," constitute a powerful intercession on behalf of the believer who has been overtaken in a fault to which the mind of Christ in him gave no consent.--Rom. 8:2, Gal. 5:25, 6:2
The New Covenant deals effectively with sins committed wilfully by those who have come into the relationship with God which it provides. The principles governing correction for wilful sins were outlined by our Lord at the close of a general parable. "That servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him will they ask the more." (Luke 12:47,48) Our Lord makes just and equitable distinctions in respect to all wilful transgressions. No doubt the master of the house takes into account that some of the wilfulness which needs correction, and which is corrected by nothing else than painful experience, is due to our coming from imperfect parents through Adam, and is to that extent, when confessed, covered by the precious blood. He knows the hearts of His people, and correction is therefore suited to the need.
Lessons for those perfected through the processes of the New Covenant may be identified by noting the severity of God's dealing under the Law Covenant as compared to His dealing with His sons under the present New Covenant. "God, having spoken to the fathers of old in many portions and in many ways by the prophets, in the last of these days spoke to us in a Son." "For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?" "For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven." (Heb. 1:1,2, 2:2,3, 12:25) The last quotation above represents the type and antitype relationship between the Law and New Covenants, and it applies to God's sons of the High Calling Age.
The sacrifice of Jesus does not cover the intelligently wilful transgressions--small or great--of those who have entered into the New Covenant arrangement and have been sanctified by its blood. "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." This tells of the extreme measure of wilfulness, speaking of a "knowledge of the truth" far beyond the merely having-heard-it stage. "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:26-29) The shed blood of Jesus, which is the blood of the New Covenant, and which alone is able to make the comers thereunto perfect, is here referred to. In Hebrews 10:10,14, the atonement blood is described. "By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified," literally, 'them being sanctified.' Believing the words of our blessed Master, that the blood of the New Covenant is 'My blood,' let us hold to that precious truth.
When the disciples drank the cup handed them by our Lord at the institution of the memorial supper, that ceremony represented how they shared among themselves the benefits of the 'one offering.' This is made plain by the fact that our Lord did not drink of the memorial cup.<17> And our Lord's concluding words are significant also. He said not, this do in remembrance of yourselves, but "This do in remembrance of me."
Another description of wilful sin punishable by the second death is given in Hebrews 6:4-8. "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the holy spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." The powers of the coming age are those arrangements which God has made through His Son for the bringing of mankind to an accurate knowledge of the truth, the eradication of sin, and the conquering of death. All these are enjoyed by the saints now in sufficient measure to bring full responsibility. They taste Jesus, the heavenly gift, they are passed from a death unto a life standing, they partake of the holy spirit, and they feed on the good word of God. All these are realities of their experience now. Hence the reasonableness of the penalty of the second death upon those who sin wilfully. Even were they to come up for probation in the Earthly Kingdom Age, when progress toward physical perfection will be possible to those who then accept the terms of the New Covenant, they could expect no change of verdict. Therefore, any such finding against them in the High Calling Age would stand.
God provided for all the necessities required to benefit each and every one coming under the New Covenant in Jesus' blood, so that full reconciliation may be received through the processes of experience, stripes, and sincerely desired forgiveness except for absolute wilfulness after full enlightenment. (Matt. 12:31-37) The Lord alone is competent to judge how much wilfulness is associated with an individual's transgression, and He alone can say whether few stripes, many stripes, or destruction in the second death would be the appropriate punishment. In His love and mercy, He would no doubt administer "few stripes" at the first. If these did not suffice to cause a change in the course of the transgressor, "many stripes" would follow. If the sinner continued obstinate in wilfulness, even after all the loving discipline of the Lord, "that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned." "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." No sacrifice has been offered or promised to provide atonement for the wilful sin of an absolutely wilful sinner.--Heb. 6:4-8, 10:26- 31
How is the law of God 'written' into the hearts and minds of God's people now blessed by the New Covenant? The Scriptures clearly answer that it is by the ministration of the Spirit, and the sanctifying power of the truth. (Acts 2:1-4, 16-21, 2 Cor. 3:3,8,9,18, John 17:17) As the consecrated believer in the "one offering" (Heb. 10:14) submits to these influences, his character is gradually transformed into the divine likeness. "With open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord," he realizes himself being "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."--2 Cor. 3:18
The New Covenant is so furnished as to thoroughly remove from those who at any time come under it, and continue faithful in it, all tendencies to evil doing, developing in their place a character established in righteousness. The Old Covenant had the law of God written on tables and in books, and required the people to obey. Those writings defined required conduct and practice which were beyond their abilities, and were thus condemnatory, becoming a ministration of death to the people. The New Covenant not only puts out of God's remembrance the past sins and iniquities (Jer. 31:34), and manifests God's mercy to present and future unrighteousness, but it also puts God's laws into the hearts and minds of those who have accepted its blood. This means more than learning in a mechanical, routine way. It means that obedience to God becomes part of the very being of all who are blessed through the New Covenant. Their 'stony' hearts are displaced by hearts of flesh, that is, naturally stubborn and rebellious 'stony' dispositions are gradually transformed to become charitable, loving, god-like.
It had been prophesied of God's people, "They shall be all taught of God" (Isa. 54:13), and Jesus was set forth as God's representative to be the Teacher, as well as the Savior. (John 6:27-29, 44-47) Of course this applied only to those who would believe into the message of their Redeemer. It was His mission to reveal the Father. (John 14:7-11, Matt. 11:27) Those who become pupils of the meek and lowly Jesus learn to love Him for His character as well as for His offering of Himself as their Savior. They are also made acquainted with the character and plans of the Heavenly Father. They know Him not by hearsay only, and not by merely observing what He is to others, but each one for himself. As he understands more and more of God's character and disposition, and as he imitates that character, he is transformed more and more into the same image. He thus comes to know God through experience. A person lacking in conscientiousness cannot understand or know a conscientious person, for the reason that the principles on which a conscientious person acts are unknown to him. So one in alienation from God, and living in sin, cannot know God, His character, or the principles governing His acts. (Eph. 4:18) But those who repudiate sin and accept the terms of the New Covenant are so transformed by the renewing of their minds that they are able to prove through experience and understanding what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:2) In them is our Lord's prayer fulfilled: "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."--John 17:3
Those who now know God in this way need none to say to them, "Know the LORD," for each one knows Him for himself.<18> (Jer. 31:34) And as the gracious terms of the New Covenant are widely circulated during both the High Calling Age and the Earthly Kingdom Age, this blessed experience will be the portion of the vast majority of mankind. It is written concerning the New Covenant ministry during the High Calling Age, "Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, 'I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord; and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters,' saith the LORD Almighty." (2 Cor. 6:16-18) This passage contains portions of three prophecies which assure this relationship, Lev. 26:2-12, Ezek. 37:27, and Jer. 31:31. All of them promise that God will make or establish a covenant--defined in Jeremiah as a New Covenant--with the reverent. The Apostle's use of those prophecies indicates his understanding not only that they promised the New Covenant, but also as to when it opened. The blessedness of this New Covenant relationship is appreciated only by those who experience it.--Jer. 31:1,9,33, Isa. 43:6, Hos. 1:10, Heb. 8:10<19>
Similar language is used in connection with the New Covenant ministry of the Earthly Kingdom Age. "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."--Rev. 21:3
To what purpose, and to whom, does the New Covenant apply? The New Covenant was instituted to supersede the Law Covenant (Heb. 8:7,8), for the purpose of accomplishing what the Law could not do on account of weakness of the flesh. (Rom. 8:1-4) Bearing in mind that the Law Covenant proposed to prepare Israel to become "a kingdom of priests" (Exod. 19:5,6), which it could not do, it should be expected that the first task of the New Covenant would be to develop this kingdom and priesthood, to be associated with Christ Jesus, the high priest and king. (Rev. 1:6, 20:6) This harmonizes with what is written. "And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Covenant, that...they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."--Heb. 9:15, Rom. 9:24, 1 Pet. 1:4
The "allegory" of Gal. 4:22-31 sets forth the same teaching. The Galatian brethren had become confused, and were drifting towards the bondage of the Law. The Apostle's letter to them contrasts the Law with the Spirit (Gal. 3:1-5), as does also his epistle to the Corinthians. (2 Cor. 3:3,8,9) Now, by the figure of Sarah and Hagar, he teaches that believers were not under the ministration of the Law, which bound, but of the Spirit, which liberates. (Gal. 5:1) In a word, they and all who looked upon themselves as Christ's and therefore Abraham's "seed," were not children of God by the Law Covenant, but by the New Covenant; they were not of Hagar, but of Sarah.
In the first paragraph under "The New Covenant Victim" subhead, foregoing, it was noted that of the animals cut to ratify God's covenant with Abraham, no blood was used. And the only covenant ratified with blood of redemptive quality is the New Covenant. This means that some further arrangement beyond His promise to Abraham was foreseen by God, necessary to free from the condemnation of "the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2) those who would be developed by faith and promise, and become children of "Jerusalem which is above." The Scriptures clearly indicate that this further arrangement is the New Covenant, and its blood is the blood of Jesus Christ. "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is shed for you" (Luke 22:20) and "which is shed for many." (Mark 14:24) From these considerations, can it not be seen that the New Covenant is one of the most advantageous and vital covenants which God has entered? Did not our Master clearly express that His blood of the New Covenant was shed for His disciples?
The ministration of the Spirit is not confined to the High Calling Age. The Bible makes no mention, it extends no promise, of any other covenant to be established or built upon the blood of Jesus Christ, the only blood of redemptive value. The New Covenant is thus seen to extend through the two ages of God's plan following its ratification by the blood of Jesus. "After those days"<20> during which the Law Covenant had been found unsatisfactory (Heb. 8:10,7,8), the Lord Jesus came and gave Himself as the sacrifice for sin. With that sacrifice as a foundation, a New Covenant was instituted, and the holy spirit testifies to us that our sins may now be freely forgiven. (Heb. 10:14- 23, 2 Cor. 6:16-18, Jer. 31:33) Again, when the Lord will deal with mankind in the Earthly Kingdom Age, He will do so through the only covenant that really can take away sin
But why does the Scripture name Israel and Judah in connection with the New Covenant?--Jer. 31:31
The reason is that at the time Jeremiah prophesied, the posterity of Jacob was still divided as a consequence of the secession of the ten tribes many years before. Those ten tribes became known as 'Israel,' and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin which continued to worship at Jerusalem were called 'Judah.' Judah was also often called Jacob and Israel (Ezek. 20:3, Isa. 48:1,2,20), because the instructed worship and the God-ordained government for the whole of Israel still resided at Jerusalem. Similarly, Israel, that is, the ten tribes, was often called Samaria and Ephraim. (Isa. 9:9, Hosea 5:5, Ezek. 16:46) The promise of a New Covenant to be made with Israel and Judah indicated, therefore, that a time was coming when the breach between the two would be healed. That time came after Judah had also been rejected, and punished with seventy years' captivity under Babylon.--Jer. 25:1- 11
The worship of God under the Law Covenant would again be established at Jerusalem in Judea. Opportunity was given for the return of as many descendants of the twelve patriarchs as still retained faith in the promises of God pertaining to the seed. (Ezra 1:2,3) Even if they did not return to live in Palestine, they could observe the three annual feasts if their means permitted them to make the journey. Thus in Palestine a people was segregated and a faith remnant preserved generation by generation, from among whom John the Baptist afterward made ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:16,17) Those living in Palestine at the time of our Lord's ministry, though consisting mainly of the two tribes, were called by Him "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 10:6) Israelites of all tribes and from many nations, gathered at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, heard the Apostle Peter proclaim the New Covenant for the forgiveness of their sins. Residents were called, "Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem," but the whole assembled multitude was addressed as "Ye men of Israel." All heard the one message of the crucified and risen Lord, and all believers received of the pouring out of the holy spirit, as foretold by the holy prophets.--Joel 2:28,29, Acts 2:9- 11,14,22, 4:8,10, l3:16,23, 26:7
After expressing in terms which indicated that none of God's people would be left out, mentioning both "the house of Israel" and "the house of Judah," Jeremiah then worded the promise of the New Covenant in language which accurately identifies the circumstance which actually maintained at the time of the beginning of its fulfillment. It reads, "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days..."<20> (Jer. 31:33) That is the language which Jesus used when He indicated to whom His mesage of the New Covenant should first be directed--"the house of Israel." (Matt. 10:6) Addressing the gathered multitude of Jews from Asia, Europe and Africa on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:9-11,36) See also Acts 4:8,10, 5:35, 13:23. And the same expression was used--"with the house of Israel"--in documenting that the New Covenant had begun. (Heb. 8:10) No Scripture teaches that the New Covenant is to be made with any on a collective or national basis. Though sometimes quoted to read 'between God and man,' as though Jesus would function as a Mediator on behalf of a nation or group, 1 Tim. 2:5 clearly reads, "...one God, and one Mediator between God and men..."
A further answer to the question why Israel and Judah are both named by Jeremiah in connection with the New Covenant is indicated in Romans 9:4 and 11:17-32. The olive tree represents the promises and consequent favors of God which on certain conditions 'pertained' to Israel. They pertained to Israel by virtue of the fact that Messiah the Deliverer, the great Prophet, would be of that nation, and would offer deliverance and blessing to that people first of all nations. (Acts 3:26, 13:23) Hence: a) the limitation of our Lord's ministry to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel"; b) the restriction of the Pentecostal message for a brief period to the Jews; and c) the preference given to the Jews subsequently, "to the Jew first."--Rom. 1:16, Acts 13:26,46
In Romans 11 the Apostle cites himself and others as evidence that natural Israelites still had opportunity to receive the high calling, and that all who did were to be considered part of the "Israel of God." The same teaching is expressed in Rom. 2:28,29--"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly." On account of the hardness of heart prevailing in many individuals, Israel was reduced to a 'remnant.' The "olive tree" was thus deprived of nearly all of its "natural branches," and required other branches to replace those broken off. For the purpose of finding such, the Lord visited the Gentiles, or "wild olives," to gather branches to be graffed into the places vacated by the natural branches which had been cut off. In describing this process, the Apostle improves the opportunity to impress upon the Gentile believers a lesson in humility. Assuming that some might be so high-minded as to consider themselves in some way superior to the cut- off branches, he reminds them that those cut off were so treated on account of unbelief, and as for the newly-graffed-in branches, they could retain their position only by the continual exercise of faith. "Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee."--Rom. 11:18-23, Heb. 3:19, 4:1-3, I Peter 1:5
The Apostle established that Gentile believers do not constitute a separate community from Jewish believers. Both have been incorporated into a new true Israel having heavenly hopes. They have become members of that which the Apostle described as "the Israel of God." (Gal. 6:16) Gentiles are thus numbered with the sealed ones of the twelve tribes, the 'seal' being the holy spirit. (Rev. 7:1-4, Eph. 1:13) It is necessary to bear in mind that the faith 'remnant' of fleshly Israel became free from the Law Covenant, and believing Gentiles have never had any relationship to that departed, vanished-away arrangement.--Heb. 1:10-12, Psa. 102:25-27, Isa. 51:6
The Law Covenant, because it could not take away sin, was not able to develop this new true Israel. Not even those who were most sincerely attentive to its requirements could be made members by means of its processes. At most it could but prepare them, as it did prepare some (Rom. 7:22-24), to realize their undone condition under it and to realize their need of one who could and would save them under a New Covenant or arrangement. "The law was our schoolmaster [or child leader] to bring us unto Christ." (Gal. 3:23,24) In the New Covenant, which is based on the sacrifice of Jesus, judgment is according to the law of the holy spirit, and not according to the holy and good Mosaic Law which was weak through the imperfections of the flesh, having been written only on tables of stone and in books. (Rom. 8:1-4, Heb. 10:14- 23) Of these twain--the Jewish remnant and the added Gentile believers--the Lord is making a "new man" by the processes of the New Covenant. In harmony with this it is written, "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."--Gal. 6:15, Eph. 2:12-15
The Apostle concludes his argument by saying: "And SO [that is, in this manner, by the selection of Gentiles to fill the places of unbelieving Jews] all Israel shall be saved," or delivered--not all the old Israel, but all the new Israel, who are "Israelites indeed." The unbelief of some Jews did not frustrate God's purpose to have a new Israel by the New Covenant. (Rom. 11:26) But this salvation and deliverance depended upon their acceptance of the Deliverer, who came "out of Zion," and through whom alone they should receive the forgiveness of sins as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.--Isa. 59:12,13,19,20; Rom. 11:26,27
Since this New Covenant was designed and prophesied to take away sin, and since it is the only one of God's several covenants that can do so,<21> every reference to the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ must be taken as a reference to the New Covenant.<22> Repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. This command makes clear that the New Covenant provisions were, are and will be applicable to Gentiles as well as to Jews. (Luke 24:47, Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14,21,22) The Sermon on the Mount was the first introduction to the New Covenant, and showed its advantages over the old. "Ye have heard that it was said,...but I say unto you." (Matt. 5:21,27,31,33,38,43) That sermon set forth the New Covenant arrangement as being of a higher morality than the old covenant. In it God condemns evil thoughts and desires, even though the physical acts may not be actually performed.--Matt. 5:2-12,22,28
The New Covenant is thus seen in its deserved light, as an instrument fully able to clear away the disadvantages of sin, and to form a character of righteousness and holiness in all who are blessed through it. This character is to be endowed by God with everlasting life. Those who have followed in the footsteps of Jesus in the High Calling Age are to be exalted to joint heirship with Him. Those who obey under the easier conditions of the Earthly Kingdom Age, when the call and privilege to sacrifice unto death will no longer be open and when Satan will be bound, will receive as their reward human perfection and everlasting life on the earth.
The New Covenant itself does not specify as to the nature of the everlasting life acquired under it, or of the plane of being on which it shall be enjoyed. Thus it is able to operate for the benefit of both the spiritual and the earthly classes.
The "dispensation of the fulness of times" covers the two ages of the New Covenant operation.<23> (Eph. 1:10, Gen. 49:10, Gal. 4:4, Phil. 2:9,10) The New Covenant processes serve to develop faith, obedience and loyalty in those blessed thereby during both the High Calling and the Earthly Kingdom ages. This becomes evident through a consideration of its promised work and results as indicated in various scriptures.
"I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts." (Heb. 8:10) Fulfilled in the High Calling Age--2 Cor. 3:3,9,18, Heb. 10:14-16; in the Earthly Kingdom Age--Rev. 21:27.
"I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people." (Heb. 8:10) Fulfilled in the High Calling Age--2 Cor. 6:16-18; in the Earthly Kingdom Age--Rev. 21:3.
"They shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know Me from the least to the greatest." (Heb. 8:11) Fulfilled in the High Calling Age--Eph. 2:19, John 17:3, 14:7-10, 1 John 3:1,2, 2:13; in the Earthly Kingdom Age--1 Tim. 2:4, Psa. 46:10, Rev. 21:24,27, 22:5,17.
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. 8:12) Fulfilled in the High Calling Age--Heb. 10:17-20, Eph. 4:32; in the Earthly Kingdom Age--Rev. 21:4-8, Psa. 86:5, 103:17.
Bible students have seen that there are many parallels between the Law and the New Covenant. These extend to particulars connected with the inaugurations of both. The first item of the Law was the Passover. The first item of the New Covenant was the antitype of this--"Christ our Passover was sacrificed." This antitype superseded the type at the Passover season. Christ was crucified just a few days after he had been received enthusiastically by the people when he rode into Jerusalem. (Zech. 9:9, John 12:1,12-16, 1 Cor. 5:7,8) The Day of Pentecost (fiftieth day) festival established in the Law and observed by Israel as instructed by Moses (Lev. 23:15-17, Deut.16:9-12) is marked by the Jews as the festival of the giving of the Law. On the day of Pentecost which followed our Lord's death, resurrection and ascension, the New Covenant had its formal beginning in the ministration of the Spirit, which was to supersede the ministration of the old 'letter.' The Law Covenant was introduced with signs and wonders. (Exod. 19:16-18) Special manifestations were promised at the inauguration of the New Covenant (Joel 2:30), and the Apostle documented their happening. (Acts 2:16-19) And in connection with the Mediator of the New Covenant, it was also written: "If they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven."--Heb. 12:18-25
At the inauguration of the Law Covenant the mountain shook. Just prior to the inauguration of the New Covenant, Jesus promised the removal of what he referred to as "this mountain," and that its happening could be an answer to their prayer. (Mark 11:20-24, Matt. 17:20) Similar language was used when he suggested that "the sycamine [fig] tree" would be plucked up. (Luke 17:5,6) The fulfillment of these was the "vanishing away" of the Law Covenant with all its institutions. Other shakings have occurred, and shall continue to the complete passing away of the present evil world, composed of the symbolic 'earth' and the ecclesiastical and political 'heavens.' But we who have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.--Heb. 12:25-29
When the New Covenant shall be proposed to the world generally, there will be more signs and wonders. As Pharaoh and his host were overthrown, so will Satan and his evil spirits be rendered powerless, for a thousand years, and ultimately destroyed.
Several of the covenants which God made are styled 'everlasting.' This does not mean that they are all to be considered endless, but rather that they should remain uninterrupted or perpetual until such time as may have been appointed for them to expire. The covenant with Noah (Gen. 9:9-17), that with Abraham (Gen. 17:7,13,19, Psalm 105:8-11), that of the Law (Exod. 31:16, Lev. 24:7-9, Num. 18:19, Isaiah 24:5), that with David (2 Sa. 23:5, 2 Ch. 13:5), and the New Covenant (Isa. 61:8, Jer. 32:40, Ezek. 16:60, 37:26, Heb. 13:20,21), are all called everlasting, although it is well understood that the Law Covenant was strictly limited as to time.--Gal. 3:19
Throughout the epistle to the Hebrews, the Law and the New Covenant are continually contrasted, with a view to showing the superiority of the New--its permanence as against the temporary character of the other. Just at the close of the epistle, considering his case proved, the author refers to the covenant whose superiority he has sought to demonstrate, and calls it the "everlasting covenant," as noted above. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will."--Heb. 13:20,21
Only one of all God's covenants is identified as having blood of redemptive quality and ability. And regarding the Bible's teaching of which covenant it is there can be no doubt. Jesus said that His blood was the blood of the New Covenant. Therefore it is inescapable that the 'blood' and the 'covenant' we are taught of in Heb. 13:20,21 is Jesus' blood of the New Covenant. Not only is it true that Jesus became qualified to be the "great shepherd of the sheep" because He poured out His perfect life unto death, but also it is true that it is His blood, through our faith in His sacrifice, which enables us to be acceptable to God as living sacrifices and be involved in the development and perfecting of ourselves as New Creatures and in the doing of the will of the God of peace.--Rom. 12:1,2, 15:16, Eph. 5:1,2, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 4:18, Heb. 13:15,16
Our blessed Redeemer has become the chief Shepherd because He shed His blood of the New Covenant for many for the remission of sins, and His people are made perfect by that "one offering" which He gave. (Rom. 14:9, Heb. 10:10,14, 1 Pet. 2:24,25) His blood belongs to only one covenant, it never being mentioned in Scripture as associated with any but the New Covenant.--Heb. 9:14,15
The epistle to the Galatians was to convince of the error in returning to the practice of Mosaic rites and customs. The allegory presented in Gal. 4:21-31 continues the lesson begun in previous chapters that the Law and its Covenant was a child-leader to bring them to Christ and the deliverance from it which His death made possible. The comparisons and contrasts conclude a chapter designed to show the effect of being under the Law and the inconsistency of accepting that kind of bondage in view of the freedom which the gospel bestows to the true children of God. An heir of minority age was no different regarding the inheritance than a servant. Only under the gospel of Christ could full freedom be received. Christ came to redeem those who were under the law, and to open the way to sonship. It was as unreasonable for them to try to conform again to the Mosaic rites and customs as it would be for the heir of full age who has entered on his inheritance to return to the condition of minorship and be placed again under tutors and governors, thus treated as a servant. (Gal. 4:1-5) God had sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their hearts. Now, being no more servants, but sons, and heirs of God, they should avail themselves of the privileges of heirs, verses 6-7. Having the privileges of this relationship, such should be retained, not forfeited by returning to the bondage which the various aspects of the former dispensation would bring.
To enforce the whole subject, and to further reveal the true nature of conformity to the law compared with the liberty of the gospel, Paul brings to mind an allegory from the Mosaic history, regarding two sons of Abraham. "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants." (Gal. 4:21-24) The Greek text literally reads, "...for these are two covenants..." That 'these' refers to the two women mentioned is indicated by the RSV reading: "these women are two covenants." That 'are' means 'represent' is indicated in the Weymouth translation: "for the women represent two covenants." The two sons are first mentioned in the allegory because the object of the lesson was to show the comparative status of the children brought forth by the two mother covenants represented by the two women. It was to evidence the divine foreknowledge of the better relationship with God which a new arrangement would bring, and to impress the availability of that better relationship upon the Galatians, that Paul brought into the epistle Abraham's relations with the two women.
It is good to observe that the Apostle teaches the women represent covenants. God made no covenant with Hagar, and he made no covenant with Sarah. No Bible passage contains the expression "Hagar covenant" nor "Sarah covenant." Whenever either expression is seen or heard, reference can be only to the covenant which the respective woman represented, "answereth to," or "is in the same rank with." Aside from the allegorical representation, Hagar was but the mother of Ishmael, his 12 sons, etc., and Sarah was the mother of Isaac, his son Jacob, his 12 sons, etc. It was God's promise to Abraham concerning Sarah which contained all of His promises regarding the seed. Now to be considered are the covenants which the women represented.
The bondmaid is mentioned first of the two, no doubt because she was the first to bear child. She represents the covenant from Mount Sinai, because its children were under bondage and Hagar was the bondwoman whose son "was born after ["according to"--RSV, NAS, Marshall Interlinear; "in the common course of nature"--Weymouth] the flesh," that is, not after special heavenly promise, verse 23. The covenant identified with Sinai is the Law Covenant (Exod. 19:1-24:18), and Paul wrote that that Law Covenant represented by Hagar "answereth to ["corresponds to"--RSV, NAS, Marshall Interlinear; "is in the same rank with"--marginal reading] Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children." According to verse 25, "Jerusalem which now is" has "children," from which Paul concludes that that Jerusalem, "Jerusalem which now is," relates to her children as a covenant in the same rank with Hagar and her child. Her child was in bondage because born to a mother of servitude, as were the children of "Jerusalem which now is" in bondage due to their belief and practice of the rites and customs of that city. But such was not the case with all who had become free in Christ. The child born by promise to the freewoman was free, even as are the children of "Jerusalem which is above," because that Jerusalem "is free, which is our mother."--Gal. 3:26
Consider the divine arrangement seen in the preceding paragraph by which cities have been linked to covenants. In the days of King David God expressed his choice of Jerusalem in Palestine as the place that should become the center of worship under the Law Covenant. In that capacity, it being the capital city, Jerusalem stood for the Law Covenant, and with the activities which belonged to it prefigured the "New Jerusalem," or New Covenant. Our Savior had come to offer Himself, to shed His blood for the purpose of ratifying the New Covenant, so that sins might really be taken away--not merely figuratively, as under the Law. (Matt. 26:28, Heb. 10:1-18) "Jerusalem which is above" is a New Jerusalem, and stands for the New Covenant. Those who come under the New Covenant are called the children of the New Jerusalem, just as the Jews under the Law Covenant were the children of old Jerusalem.
All of this figurative language in Galatians is to show that we cannot be under both covenants. It is not strange to speak of the New Covenant or the New Jerusalem as a mother. In modern, everyday language many things are spoken of under the symbol 'mother.' When the New Covenant is spoken of as a mother, the idea is that it will produce, it will bring forth results. According to Galatians, the church is the present results, the children of the New Covenant and its merciful arrangements. Galatia's believers in Jesus were the free children, not citizens of old Jerusalem, but of the "New Jerusalem," the New Covenant arrangement. And because "New Jerusalem" is "above," not yet having come "down" to rule over the affairs of earth (Rev. 21:1-3), the Apostle says that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20 ASV), that God has "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," and that we are made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 1:3, 2:6) Our covenant "city" being "above," we have set our "affection on things above, not on things on the earth."--Col. 3:1,2
To support his teaching, the Apostle quoted from Isaiah regarding Israel's former misconduct, and God's promise of subsequent blessing to follow their prophesied corrective punishment. The language of Isaiah 54 was given for the instruction and encouragement of the people first to hear it. But Paul saw in the prophecy language which specially mirrored the experience of Sarah and God's promise to Abraham regarding her. The verse he quoted, Isa. 54:1, would fittingly support his teaching to the Galatians. "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD." This and succeeding verses indicated to the Apostle that the experiences of Abraham with the two women contained spiritual meaning as an allegory. And Paul realized that what Isaiah prophesied, that Jerusalem would accept Gentiles as her own seed or children (Isa. 49:6,22, 52:10,15, 54:2,3,11-13), was already having fulfillment under the New Covenant.
God intended from the foundation of the world that a New Covenant be ministered which would bring life (Rev. 13:8, 17:8), and produce the free children of God. But for a long time it was delayed, even as Sarah's barrenness (Gen. 17:17) made it appear that she was not the married wife. Meanwhile the Law Covenant represented by Hagar produced children, but they were not such as could be recognized as heirs of God. From Pentecost onward the New Covenant represented by Sarah began to produce children, and then the Law Covenant and its progeny were definitely disowned, cast out of the divine household, for they cannot be heirs with the children of the New Covenant, represented by the freewoman.
That the New Covenant is meant in Isaiah 54:1-8 is indicated by verse 13 of the same chapter. "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." Our Lord refers to this very prophecy and applies it to those who heard His teaching: "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man [i.e., every Jew] therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." (John 6:45) Jesus was the Teacher whom God sent to teach the deeper truths set forth in the Gospel, and thus give them the "great peace" referred to by the prophet. Under the New Covenant a peace is given which the Law could not give--"peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) And Jesus specially assured believers of this effect of his ministry. "My peace I leave unto you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."--John 14:27, 16:33, Acts 10:36
During the High Calling Age, that New Jerusalem remains above, and the children it bears are blessed with a heavenly calling. But after the Church is all chosen and glorified with the Lord, the New Jerusalem is to come down. Will she then have more children? Or are we of the High Calling Age to be the only children of the New Covenant? The vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21) shows that the purpose in coming down at the beginning of the Earthly Kingdom Age is to bear more children. The saved in the Earthly Kingdom Age will be the product of that arrangement which God will set up in authority in the earth, where tears, sorrow, and sin shall be forever washed away. When the work of the High Calling and Earthly Kingdom ages is completed, the children of the New Covenant will be seen to be more, many more, than were the children of the Law Covenant.--Gal. 4:27, Isa. 54:1
The latter of the two covenants mentioned in Gal. 4:24 is not specifically titled, but several clues in the epistle enable its identification. By means of the "Jerusalem which is above" covenant, "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts," and they "received...the spirit." (Gal. 4:6, 3:2) Believers received the promised Spirit through faith, and those thus brought forth "after the Spirit" were persecuted by those who sought relationship through fleshly works. (Gal. 3:14, 4:29) "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." Being "led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit," so that "the fruit of the spirit" will be manifest. (Gal. 5:5,16,18,22,25) These realities, considered together with the same Apostle's teaching in 1 Corinthians 3 regarding the New Covenant, prove that these activities of the Spirit and the fruitage which they promote exist within "our mother" the New Covenant. It (allegorically she) is the covenant which creates this relationship, the Apostle teaches. "You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not by ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts...Our sufficiency is from God, who has qualified us to be ministers of a New Covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life." "To this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.
Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." Thus does the same Apostle who verified "Jerusalem which is above" to be "our mother" unmistakeably identify the relationship and activities of the New Covenant to be that wherein we live, walk and prosper in the Spirit.-- 2 Cor. 3:3,5,6,14-18
The fact that Christ "has qualified us to be ministers of a New Covenant" (2 Cor. 3:6 RSV) is the basis of Paul's continued encouragement. "Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart." "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 4:1, 5:18-20 RSV) Reconciliation to God brings deliverance from sin and death and evil, and because that deliverance is through the Son, "ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36) Because of these realities, Paul wrote in his conclusion to the allegory, "So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." In that summation, the Apostle concludes the allegorical representation with its two ranks:
God had promised Abraham that in addition to having given him a son by Hagar, He would give him "a son also of her," that is, of Sarah, referring of course to Isaac, whose promised Seed would eventually be Christ Jesus. But God promised Abraham more than that from Sarah. "...yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her." Inasmuch as Isaac is referred to in the statement, the nations and kings refer to either the 12 tribes or their two kingdoms and their respective kings. The firstfruit believers since Pentecost which 1 Pet. 2:9 calls "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people" would also be represented in that promise. They are the "children of promise" mentioned in Gal. 4:27,28. Believers in Jesus receive their freedom through Christ and the only covenant which His blood enables--the New Covenant.
The Abrahamic covenant contained no statement as to the means to be employed by the promised Seed in order to secure to all the families of the earth a blessing, nor was it stated in what that blessing should consist. The pouring out of the holy spirit on the disciples at Pentecost was a New Covenant blessing. This is certain, for the Apostle calls the New Covenant "the ministration of the spirit," and says it is more glorious than the Law Covenant, which he calls "the ministration of condemnation." Neither Jew nor Gentile were born free. The freedom of all who have it is attributable to the life and instruction in "Jerusalem which is above" in contrast to what was called "Jerusalem which is now" of Paul's time. It is the New Covenant and its Mediator which provide the processes by which life and eternal inheritance reach believers.
The Scriptures nowhere authorize the consideration of Keturah as a figure of a covenant. So far as Keturah herself is concerned, she was never a wife, as Sarah was; she was not even a servant of a wife, as Hagar was the maid of Sarah, and as the Law Covenant has been in some sense a servant of the New Covenant. (Gen. 16:1-3, Heb. 8:4,5, 10:1, I Cor. 10:1-11, Gal. 3:24) Since the New Testament does not teach us to regard Keturah as a type of a covenant, it is best for us not to take it upon ourselves to do so. It is best to take the Apostle's beautiful allegory in Galatians 4:22-31 as he gave it.
The Hebrews author taught that it is the blood of Christ which purges consciences "from dead works [which includes works of the flesh of both Jew and Gentile] to serve the living God. Therefore He is the Mediator of a New Covenant so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant." (Heb. 9:14,15 RSV) Here again is direct, plainly stated teaching of a blessing made available to Jews called to the eternal inheritance. Their redemption from the Law Covenant and its ministration of death and condemnation was purposed and provided by God in His New Covenant and its Mediator Christ Jesus. Its glorious success had begun at Pentecost, a number of years before Hebrews was written. Heb. 12:22-24 provides a summary of the spiritual realities which were blessing believers. The words "a city of the living God, a heavenly Jerusalem" in its list of entities to which "ye have come" (NAS) is that which in Gal. 4:26 is called "Jerusalem which is above."
It has been seen that salvation from sin and death, the prime necessity of our race, has been provided in the divine purpose. (Gen. 3:14,15) Pursuant to the accomplishment of his plan, God covenanted with Abraham that the blessing of all the families of the earth should be through him and his seed. The Abrahamic Covenant was an agreement that the honor of extending an opportunity to all the families of the earth to "bless themselves"<24> (Gen. 22:18) should be granted to Abraham's seed, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:16) Those who become Christ's during the High Calling Age are also counted as members of "Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise."--Gen. 22:17, Gal. 3:29
The Abrahamic Covenant did not contain within itself the provision for the fulfillment of it gracious promise. God arranged two other covenants--the Law Covenant as a demonstration of the frailty and imperfection of men, and the New Covenant as a demonstration of his power.--Rom. 8:3
Hagar, the bondmaid, brought forth a seed, but her child was not the seed promised. The Law Covenant sought to bring forth the promised 'seed,' but could not. It brought forth a seed unto bondage, just as did Hagar in the allegory. (Gen. 15:15-21, 21:9-12, Exod. 19:5,6) In due time, Sarah, the freewoman, bore Isaac, the promised son, who represented Christ Jesus our Lord, the promised seed. (Gal. 3:19) Through faith in his sacrifice, the many-membered seed, "the children of promise," are being brought forth as children of their mother, "Jerusalem which is above."--Gal. 4:26,28,31, Rom. 9:8, Gal. 4:5-7, 3:26, Eph. 1:5, Rom. 8:1-4, Heb. 10:20, Gen. 15:5, 22:17
Although the Apostle instructs us to regard Hagar and Sarah as illustrations respectively of the Law and New covenants, he says nothing as to Keturah being the representation of any covenant whatsoever; neither does any other inspired writer.
The Law Covenant was ordained unto life, but it was found inadequate, gendering only to bondage. The New Covenant, its antitype, contains a provision for salvation from sin and death, based on the blood of Jesus. His blood was shed for the sealing and ratification of the New Covenant and for the remission of sins. Its provision is entirely adequate for the forgiveness of past sins and of future ones, as far as they arise out of Adamic weakness.--Gal. 3:29, Heb. 10:1-10, Rom. 5:6-11, 1 John 1:7-9, 2:2
Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant, a truth which God's word repeatedly affirms, and He is also high priest on behalf of all who come into the New Covenant. (Heb. 7:22-28, 8:6, 9:15) He both reconciles God to us and us to the Father, and, after we have entered into this covenant relationship with God, He intercedes on our behalf when we confess our sins. (Rom. 12:1,2, 8:34) Moses was a type of Christ, both as messenger of a covenant and as intercessor for those infracting its law.--Exod. 19:1-8, 24:1-8, 32:30-32
Those who submit themselves to the ministration of the New Covenant have now the 'better hope' that they shall inherit perfect eternal life (Heb. 7:19)<25>, glory, honor and incorruption. (Rom. 2:7) It is the ministry of the Spirit which gives life, whereas the 'letter,' that is, the Law Covenant, brought condemnation and death. (2 Cor. 3:3,6,8-11,18)<26> The New Covenant operation is for the formation of character, and the life granted as a reward to those who are faithful under it will be on the appropriate level. The New Covenant does not in itself stipulate the kind of reward or life to be attained by obedience in it. (Heb. 8:6-13) Christ, its Messenger and Mediator, has brought both life and incorruption to light through the gospel, which is the New Covenant message.--2 Tim. 1:10,11, 1 Tim. 2:5,6, Eph. 1:20,21
Those who are reconciled to God during the High Calling Age are honored with the privilege, and entrusted with the duty, as ambassadors for Christ, of extending the message concerning the New Covenant and its Mediator. (2 Cor. 5:18-6:3) Each one, being reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus, has the opportunity and responsibility to follow in His steps. (1 Pet. 2:21) Such should be actively engaged in all proper ways as they are able, to proclaim this present saving grace of faith, and its hope for all mankind in the Earthly Kingdom Age.--Luke 24:47, 1 Tim. 2:4,7
The Apostle in Galatians 4 wrote that Hagar was a representation of "Jerusalem which now is," of his time, which stood for the Law Covenant, whose children were in bondage. He also wrote that Sarah was a representation of the "Jerusalem which is above," the New Jerusalem, figuratively called the "mother of us all," referring to God's people during the High Calling and Earthly Kingdom ages. This Jerusalem, now "above," is to "come down" to earth and reign over men during the thousand years. As other Scriptures show that the affairs of men are to be governed by the New Covenant arrangements during the thousand years, it is seen that the heavenly Jerusalem, our "mother," which is to "come down" (Rev. 21:23), is the New Covenant.
The blood of the New Covenant is that of Jesus alone. (Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25) The church is invited to follow in His footsteps of suffering, that she may share His glory; that as He overcame and inherited a throne, so she may overcome and sit with Him in His throne. The sharing of His sufferings is not to be viewed as participating with Him in the payment of the 'ransom,' or in shedding the blood with which the New Covenant was sealed, or in His "once for all" offering for sin. By His own sacrifice He did all these things, the perfect human body offered on the cross having been specially 'prepared' for the purpose.--Heb. 10:5,10,14
(Page numbers are those in 64-page printed book, free on request.)
The greatest possible privilege was opened to Israel by their long- promised Messiah. Not only did Jesus bring salvation, but also opportunity for sonship, spiritual glory, and service in a heavenly kingdom. The opening to Israel of "so great salvation" was the focal point of the message of God's law and prophets. (Heb. 2:3) Jehovah promised it. (Gen. 22:17,18) The typical sacrifices for sin foreshadowed atonement. Moses wrote of Him who would effect it. (Deut. 18:18-20) Through Nathan, God promised David's son an everlasting throne. (2 Sam. 7:12,13) David recorded the oath of God which bound a priesthood to that throne. (Psa. 110:1-4) Isaiah prophesied of the servant. (Isa. 42:1, 49:5, 53:11) But it was given to Jeremiah to call "new" the promised covenant through which sin would be put away.
Moses wrote that God led Israel, humbled them, and proved them, having in view to "do thee good at thy latter end." (Deut. 8:16) This again defined the focus of God's leading--the great heavenly invitation to open under their Messiah. Thus Israel properly sought the chief blessing. (Rom. 11:7, Acts 26:7) They were the fleshly seed of Abraham, through whom God had promised the seed should come. But God had always in mind those of faith according to grace, not those by law or according to the flesh. (Gen. 18:17-19, Rom. 4:11) The Apostle Paul explains that God foresaw an end to preferential dealing according to natural generation. The "remnant according to the election of grace" obtains the privilege once sought by flesh through works. (Rom. 11:5- 10) This was foreshown by God's blessing of Isaac who came by promise, over Ishmael born after the flesh. "And not only this," but did not God's answer to Rebecca concerning those in her womb prove God's purpose of election according to grace? Paul says it did.--Rom. 9:5-18
A faith remnant within Jacob's posterity was required for God to continue His dealings with that people. (Isa. 41:8,9, 42:18-25) 1 Kings 19:18 affirms the existence of a remnant according to faith in the time of Elijah, and a remnant also existed when our Lord Jesus appeared. (John 1:11,12, Rom. 11:5) Had there been no true remnant in Israel having the faith which would result in their inheritance of God's promise to Abraham, Israel would have been cut off as were Sodom and Gomorrah.--Isa. 1:9, Rom. 9:27-29
In the time of Jeremiah, there were few of faith among the twelve tribes. "The LORD of hosts [armies]," "the Lord of Sabaoth [armies]," had already brought punishment upon Israel, also sometimes referred to as Samaria or Ephraim. Visitation upon Jerusalem and Judah was due. In an early vision the LORD assured Jeremiah that he would 'hasten' that which had been shown him. (Jer. 1:11-16) Judah and Jerusalem must be warned of imminent desolation, but at the same time informed that it could be avoided. (Jer. 3:11-13) "Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah." (Jer. 4:4) "Find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it." (Jer. 5:1, 18:8) But they would not! (Jer. 7:22-28) Therefore, "Go up through her vine-rows and destroy, but make not a full end; strip away her branches, for they are not the LORD's. For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly faithless to Me, says the LORD."--Jer. 5:10,11 RSV
The book of Jeremiah contains many burdens. It inquires and indicts; it pleads and it warns; it assures and condemns. Important promises preview the safety, peace and confidence which Jesus as King would establish in their hearts. Consider the promise of our Savior, Jesus, recorded in Jer. 23:5. Verse 6 portrays what his kingly power would bring to those of Judah and Israel who would submit to His government. "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'" (RSV) 'His days' here promised commenced at his resurrection. (Acts 2:30-34, 3:26, 13:33-35) Although fleshly Israel refused our Lord's assurance of spiritual comfort, shelter, salvation and deliverance (Matt. 23:37), His faithful followers have thoroughly prospered under His love and guidance.--Psa. 91:1-16, 23:1-6, 16:1-11
In view of the spiritual blessings of truth and redemption which would be extended under the exalted Jesus, their protection and regathering in preparation for 'his days' would be more praised than their past deliverance out of Egypt. That event would be so overshadowed as to cease from their tongue. "Therefore, behold the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land." (Jer. 23:7,8) This promised the return of the faith seed within the nation. The promise is the more remarkable because it assured a return into a land once given to them by God, and controlled by them and their fathers (1 Kings 8:48, 2 Chron. 6:31, Josh. 21:43, 23:14, Neh. 9:8), but which they had lost or were losing to Gentile power through idolatry and unfaithfulness at the very time the promise of a return was given. The prophecy limited and defined the dimension of God's promise to regather--it promised only a regathering after the 70 years' punishment and Babylonian captivity.
The fathers mentioned three times in Jer. 16:11-13 are all the same kind--unfaithful fathers--who had forsaken the LORD just as did the people of Jeremiah's time, but whose punishment had not been in such distant lands as would the imminent punishment of which Jeremiah prophesied. But God promised no return from subsequent dispersions which might follow their return from Babylon. (Jer. 17:4, 30:11, 46:28) Jeremiah 16:15 promised only a regathering after that punishment, a regathering after the LORD recompensed "their iniquity and their sin double." To enforce this punishment, He promised to take the people captive. This was expressed under the symbol of fishers. Fishers then fished with drag nets. The Babylonian armies first swept through the land, taking captive all that lay before them. Then hunters would follow, as they did, seeking out those who hid themselves in mountains, hills, and caves--because "their iniquity is not hid from mine eyes."
False prophets continually challenged Jeremiah's message. One contended that God would return the captives two years hence. (Jer. 28:2-9) This contradicted the announcement that their captivity in Babylon would be 70 years. (Jer. 25:11,12) But Jeremiah was the true prophet. He encouraged submission to their captors, contentment in the foreign land, and prayer for the peace of the city. They must build, dwell, plant and eat; marry and have families (Jer. 29:5-7, 27:12), in expectation of their important regathering.--Jer. 29:10-14
Would the coming distresses be so consuming as to void God's promise? Indeed not! God assured the use of His power to deliver from their most frightening terrors. Jacob would be saved out of his troubles. "Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity: and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished." (Jer. 30:7,8,10,11) The faithful accepted the punishment, and when the 70 years were fulfilled, the remnant returned. Only the "good figs," individuals having faith, were promised a return. God set His "eyes upon them for good." Every promise was fulfilled to those. They were brought, planted, and built; never again were they pulled down or plucked up. (Jer. 24:6,7, 42:10) The faithful continued in their faith, generation by generation, until "Shiloh come; and unto Him" was the gathering of the people.--Gen. 49:10
Chapter 31 is now considered. Its important promise of the New Covenant, the blessings of which the holy spirit witnessed as received by the church (Heb. 10:15), is preceded with succinct promises pregnant with spiritual meaning. Note a few:
"Save thy people, the remnant of Israel," vs. 7. "The seed of Israel shall not cease from being a nation before Me for ever," vs. 36. Surely such promises of a remnant, of a seed, speak of "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people."
They will "plant, and shall eat," vs. 5. Having received through Jesus freedom from law restrictions (Lev. 19:23-25, Deut. 20:6, 28:30 margin), they would "in His days" (Jer. 23:6) eat and grow as new creatures from their spiritual labors in the vineyard. Isa. 62:9 verifies the higher meaning intended by those simple words. "They that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of My holiness." Note another promise of spiritual meaning in that chapter. "Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name," vs. 2. Compare Rev. 2:7, 3:12, Isaiah 65:15. These Old Testament "exceeding great and precious promises" were written to Israel. Only them did God instruct, bless, and punish in a special or covenant way. (Amos 3:2) Being addressed to a natural people, all the promises were expressed in natural terms. But to those whose faith gives hope of a heavenly country, these natural terms were intended to convey spiritual meaning.
"My people will be satisfied with My goodness," vs. 14. Compare to Psa. 65:4, 17:15, 22:26. What a promise! It was made to encourage faith in God's assurance that they would return from captivity to a land once owned, but now lost. It was essential that faith survive, that a remnant be preserved to the coming of their Messiah.
A three-verse inset intensified hope in the promises of God. (Jer. 31:15-17) Rachel was mother to Joseph and Benjamin. From Joseph descended a very large proportion of the kingdom of Israel; and from Benjamin, numbers of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The desolations of Israel and Judah therefore made immense havoc among Rachel's descendants. She is here poetically introduced as rising from her grave, looking around, becoming inconsolable in her sorrow at seeing none of her offspring, supposing them all utterly rooted out. To carry on the allusion, the LORD calls on her to "refrain from weeping." Her sorrow and labor in bearing and bringing up her children should not be lost, or be without recompense, since those descendants who were scattered among their enemies would come again to the land. The primary fulfillment of this prophecy was the return of her descendants having faith, which return was announced under Cyrus. The murder of the children in the coasts of Bethlehem, by Herod, was an event which in some measure fulfilled this prediction, but it could not be the primary meaning of it. And Matt. 2:16-18 does not consider the prophecy's third verse. A further meaning in this prophecy, "that thy children shall come again to their own border," promising resurrection, should not detract from its primary promise that Israel would return from Babylonian captivity.
Let not multiple meanings implanted in prophecies detract from their obvious primary meaning, nor obscure their evident spiritual significance, nor be used to force a meaning foreign to the true promise of the New Covenant. The promise of a return in preparation for Messiah's coming to them is the focus in Jer. 31:15-17, and it complements its accompanying assurances. "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer. 31:31-34, 32:40) It was to announce this blessing that John the Baptist was born and commissioned: "To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins." (Luke 1:77) Praise be to God, for His mercy endureth forever!
In Jeremiah 32 God asks the prophet to enact an example of faith in their promised return. Having legal right of redemption, Jeremiah was to buy a field from his cousin Hanameel, whose offer to sell indicated his lack of faith in God's promise. The transaction was subscribed and the 17 silver shekels paid while Jeremiah was "shut up in the court of the prison," even as was most of the nation shut up in captivity.-- Jer. 32:2,6-15
The captivity and desolations were necessary (Jer. 32:24-36), but blessings came to all the faithful. (Jer. 32:37-33:26) Partial fulfillment came in a temporal way, but the prophecies portended blessings of a spiritual, eternal kind. David's Branch would "reign upon His throne." God's mercy would be extolled by "The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD." (Jer. 33:11, Heb. 13:15) The symbols used represent more than simple happiness. Who cannot identify this language as representative of the High Calling Age gospel invitation? (John 3:29, Rev. 18:23, Heb. 13:15,16, Psa. 116:17, 107:22) Those early believers then rejoiced in freedom from the law, and in being accepted and acknowledged as of those who claim "The LORD is our righteousness."-- Jer. 33:16 (RSV, Leeser), Isa. 45:24,25, 1 Cor. 1:30, 2 Cor. 5:21, Phil. 3:9, 2 Pet. 1:1
"Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice." Psalm 50:5
The question is raised from the foregoing text if individuals can, by their own devotion while yet unjustified and under condemnation, without being cleansed by the blood of Christ, enter covenant with God and claim His blessing, direction, and protection by sacrificing their lives to Him? But such is surely not the thought in the above passage, nor does His word anywhere contain such teaching. However, all who now repent and receive forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ through the New Covenant made possible by His blood see the privilege of serving God, and do sacrifice earthly hopes and endeavors. Full devotion entails the presentation of their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, being but a reasonable service.--Romans 12:1,2
But Psalm 50 presents a teaching entirely different from the wholesome admonition of the Apostle Paul. Through the Psalmist, God commanded His saints, fleshly Israel, his 'holy ones' among mankind, to draw near. They were the only people God knew "of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2, Psa. 148:14), and they were to assemble to hear his testimony against them, vs. 7. "Gather ye to Me My saints, Making covenant with Me over a sacrifice." (Young's Literal Translation) God would judge them because they professed covenant with Him through national and individual animal sacrifices stipulated in their Law Covenant. But their worship so displeased the LORD that "our God shall come, and shall not keep silence," verse 3. Their evil and deceit would not be tolerated forever, vs. 19. "A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him." He would "call to the heavens above, and to the earth," vs. 4 (RSV). The heavens would testify to God's righteousness in His controversy with Israel, vs. 6. The earth would testify to the wickedness of those among them who hated his instruction and cast his words of correction behind them, vs. 17, while at the same time professing to fulfill his requirements and be His representatives in the earth.--Psalm 78:10
My declaration against you is not because you offer animal sacrifices, because I instruct and require them of you, vs. 8. My purpose in them has not been to impoverish you, nor to satisfy My own needs, for all the cattle and fowls are already Mine, and you know I surely wouldn't eat their flesh, vs. 9-12. I only ask you to be thankful for My love and care, and respond with a humble heart, vs. 14. "...what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8) When you "call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me," vs. 15. But your conduct is not deserving of My gracious response. You do such terrible things. You work with thieves, and you participate in adultery, vs. 18. I know I have kept silent and suffered your evil so long you thought I was such as thyself, vs. 21. But I certainly do not deal treacherously with you. My decision is to reprove you, and I will make your punishment so open that it will be plain before thine own eyes, vs. 21. I may tear you in pieces, in which case there will be none to deliver you out of it, vs. 22. But every last one of you will not be destroyed. To him that ordereth his conduct and worship properly will I shew the salvation of God, vs. 23. So offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most high: And call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me," vs. 14,15.
The inspiring promises seen in Psa. 50:14,15,23 are intended to encourage God's faithful servants of any age to acceptable worship and service. And what servant is it that never needs encouragement, as well as counsel, reproof, or correction? But any explanation of Scripture which distorts its meaning is injurious, and must always be avoided. The context of Psa. 50:5 establishes: 1) who are the 'saints' there referred to, 2) the moral condition of their majority, 3) what covenant they were in, 4) what sacrifices maintained them in that covenant, 5) how God regarded them, 6) the purpose for which they were summoned, 7) their sins which required judgment, 8) the righteousness of God, and 9) the severity of the judgment.
Spiritual gatherings can be very beneficial to the sons of God, and some Christians use Psalm 50:5 to commend them. But its context indicates that its testimony was not provided to urge God's faithful devoted children to assemble together for mutual edification and encouragement. Any sacrifice of one's self in God's service does not in itself effect a covenant with the Father. The concept that believers do not need the New Covenant and the mediation of its Mediator because they "have made a covenant with the LORD by sacrifice" is invalid and reflects lack of appreciation for the wondrous arrangement which God has purposed for the forgiveness of sins. It also hinders appropriate thankfulness and the humble walk with God which our Heavenly Father so much desires of us. However, God is very gracious to the repentant and contrite in heart. He knoweth our frame, that we are of dust. He knows how difficult it may be to openly consider viewpoints upon which disgrace is heaped. May the LORD give his people grace and courage to believe His truths and confess them in thankfulness.
These questions are provided to encourage topical study in Scripture as outlined in this book. To indicate that page 9, par. l through page 10, par. 2 holds a discussion pertaining to question 22, the numbers 9:1-10:2 have been placed at the end of that question. A mere reading of the questions will prove spiritually stimulating. Seeking answers to specific questions may facilitate a quicker study, but further important aspects of the subject are sure to appear through extended and repeated consideraton of the text and notes. When every Scripture is read with the text in which it is cited, this study will convey greater spiritual blessing to the reverent.
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