The New Covenant
In Lesson 14, we discussed that God made man as a physical image of Himself. Man was physically complete—but spiritually, he was woefully incomplete. God’s overall plan of salvation called for man—in the order He has predetermined—to receive the Holy Spirit in order to become spiritually complete.
Professing Christianity fails to recognize that both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are based on the same central theme—obedience to God’s laws, set in motion for the benefit of mankind. The record of ancient Israel bears testimony that mankind, using the best of his own abilities and initiative, falls miserably short of obeying God’s laws. The New Covenant proposes just how mankind can harmonize with God’s laws, as they become written in our hearts, causing our very nature to undergo a dramatic change.
When the following events have been fulfilled, we will know that the New Covenant is in effect: “Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:31-34).
In short, people today do not have the Law of God written in their hearts. Neither do they know God. Yet, the time when the New Covenant will be in force is fast approaching. Meanwhile, we read, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). We see the Old Covenant phasing out, to be replaced by the New Covenant—a marriage between the glorified Christ and His bride.
Why a New Covenant?
(1) What was wrong with the Old Covenant, that it needed to be replaced by a New Covenant? Hebrews 8:6-7.
Comment: A better covenant (whose Mediator was Christ—see also Heb. 12:24) was referenced in contrast to the first covenant—the first not being “faultless,” signaling the need for the second.
(2) Hebrews 8:7 shows that a fault existed with the Old Covenant. What was that fault? Hebrews 8:8.
Comment: Verse 8 begins, “For finding fault with them…” The fault was with Israel for failing to obey. The fault was never with the law upon which the Covenant was based.
Concerning the Law of God, Psalm 119:172 states, “My tongue shall speak of Your word: for all Your commandments are righteousness.” Also, the apostle Paul wrote that “…the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12).
(3) In Hebrews 8:8, God proposed a New Covenant with Israel and Judah. How was this Covenant defined? Hebrews 8:9-10.
Comment: This covenant was not to be on the same terms as the covenant with ancient Israel, who “continued not in the covenant.” Rather, God proposed to put His laws into their minds and write them in their hearts. Hebrews 8:8-10 is clearly a reference to Jeremiah 31:31-34.
The New Covenant, or marriage agreement, applies to those qualifying for the First Resurrection by internalizing the principles of God’s Law into their minds and hearts in this physical life through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
The life of a true Christian—one of growing and overcoming—is merely a preparation phase to enter into the New Covenant with Christ at His Return. Unlike ancient Israel, with whom God ratified the Old Covenant quickly, we are to first qualify through many years of overcoming—having been thoroughly tried and tested before even coming under the New Covenant. Only then will anyone be accepted as part of the collective bride to take part in the Marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7).
The New Covenant and Testament
(1) What was the will or testament that Christ left at the time of His death? Hebrews 9:15-17.
Comment: In Lesson 14, we learned that a testament is “a will; a formal declaration, usually in writing, of a person’s wishes as to the disposition of his property after his death.” In verse 15, “testament” first appeared in context with Christ being the “Mediator of the New Testament.” The fact that this pertains to the definition of a will or testament is verified by verses 16-17, which shows that the death of the testator is necessary for the will to be in force. This testament reflects back to the promise of an eternal inheritance.
The second mention of “testament” in verse 15 is in context with “the redemptions of transgressions that were under the first testament.” Both references derive from the Greek term diatheke, which can be translated as “testament” or “covenant,” depending upon the context. Although the first reference in verse 15 most decidedly means “testament,” the second reference should have been translated as “covenant.” The later part of the verse refers to “…transgressions that were under the first covenant.” As pointed out in Lesson 14, the Old Covenant was not a testament, as the death of anyone was not at issue.
In fact, the references to “covenant” in Hebrews 8 all derive from the same Greek term diatheke.
(2) Is the promise of an eternal inheritance through Christ tied to the promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through the seed (singular) of Abraham? Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:29.
(3) Did not the New Testament come into force at the time of Christ’s death? Hebrews 9:17.
Comment: Although the will or testament is now in force, Christians must meet certain conditions named in the testament in order to inherit the promises made. This also fulfills the definition of a covenant. These conditions must be met in order for one to receive the inheritance—being born again into the God Family.
In Lesson 14, we also learned that the most accurate name for the first part of the Bible is the “Old Covenant,” rather than the misapplied name of “Old Testament.” It was a covenant in which Israel agreed to obey God’s laws in return for material blessings. By extension, the second part of the Bible would naturally be called the New Covenant, since it reveals the terms and conditions of this better covenant as referred to in Hebrews 8:6. Yet this second section of the Bible explicitly addresses the testament that Christ left at His death. Thus, the most accurate name for the second part of the Bible should be “The New Covenant and Testament.”
Who is Included in the New Covenant?
(1) Was Jesus Christ prophesied to bring the message of the New Covenant first to Israel? Hebrews 8:10; Malachi 3:1.
Comment: The first part of Malachi 3:1 pertains to John the Baptist, who prepared the way before Christ. Then it discusses the appearance of the Lord, the Messenger of the covenant. We have already seen that Christ was the Messenger or Mediator of the New and better Covenant with Israel. Christ’s physical, 3 ½-year ministry was confined to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24). But that ministry later expanded well beyond Israel. (The context of Malachi 3:1-3 mainly addresses the Return of Christ.)
(2) Does the New Covenant include Gentiles as well as Israel? Ephesians 2:11-13; Galatians 3:27-29; Romans 9:24.
Comment: The New Covenant is open not just to Israel, as was the Old Covenant, but to those whom God calls from all nations. At this stage, only a small number are being called to rule with Christ in the kingdom of God. The vast majority (including the masses of Israel) will be offered salvation in the millennium, as well as in the general (second) resurrection. The New Covenant will ultimately include all humanity, whose minds will be opened at that time to understand and accept God’s truth.
New Covenant Ministry Yet to be Completed
(1) Do the Scriptures indicate that Christ will (future tense) make a covenant with Israel? Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:10.
(2) Was Christ prophesied to confirm the Covenant for one week? Daniel 9:26-27.
Comment: Verse 27 also indicates that Christ was cut off “in the midst of the week.” Detailed historical facts prove that His ministry on earth lasted for 3 ½ years and that He was crucified on Passover A.D. 31, in the midst of the literal week (on a Wednesday) and also in the midst of the prophetic week of seven years. Yet, at His Return, He will confirm the covenant for an additional 3 ½ years, completing the prophetic week. In this case, each day represents a year prophetically (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:3-6). Then Jeremiah 31:31 will come to pass: “Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” This covenant will extend to all nations, beginning with those already called.
Christ Free to Marry Again
(1) Was the Lord’s marriage to ancient Israel undermined by their treachery? Jeremiah 3:20.
(2) Did the Lord (who later became Jesus Christ) have to put Israel away for this treachery? Jeremiah 3:8, 14; Isaiah 50:1.
Comment: Israel committed spiritual adultery by following the customs of the nations around them. They worshipped their idols and adopted their pagan practices instead of what God instituted.
(3) Did the putting away of Israel lead to the dissolution of the marriage or was the marriage terminated by another event? I Corinthians 7:39; Romans 7:2.
Comment: As the death of the husband or the wife ends a marriage covenant, so did the death of Christ free Him from the marriage contract with ancient Israel. His death also served to establish the testament of eternal inheritance for those whom God would call.
(4) Will the marriage of Christ (the Lamb of God) take place shortly after His Return? Revelation 19:7-9.
The Old and New Covenants Based on God’s Law
(1) What should we learn from the experiences of ancient Israel? I Corinthians 10:6, 11.
Comment: True fulfillment can only come as mankind gets into harmony with the Ten Commandments and all of God’s laws. Yet, the saga of Israel’s experience shows that, of and by themselves, human beings are incapable of keeping God’s laws.
(2) Did Christ come to enlarge or expand upon the law? Isaiah 42:21.
Comment: Ancient Israel was only required—and only able—to keep the Law in the letter. Christ raised the standard by requiring the Law to be kept also in the spirit, according to the spiritual intent. To review, consider Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Christ made the law more binding according to the spirit and intent of the law.
(3) Did Christ come to confirm that God’s Law can be obeyed? Matthew 5:17.
Comment: God’s Ten Commandments were in effect before the creation of man. Christ made it clear that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. By fulfilling the Law, Christ demonstrated that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Law could be obeyed. Although He had God’s Spirit in full measure and we have much less, we are expected to grow with time and experience.
(4) Are true Christians to aspire to the standard that Christ set? I John 2:4-6.
Comment: As each of us who are now called by God to grow and overcome, it is the Holy Spirit that sets in motion the changes that must take place in our lives before we are ready to be resurrected as spirit beings. Only then can we enter into the New Covenant with Christ.
Future lessons will cover the topic of the Holy Spirit, as well as the requirements to receiving it: Repentance, belief in Christ, and baptism.
First, repentance involves being sorrowful for having lived contrary to God’s laws, with vehement desire to change—to obey and live in harmony with God’s laws from that time forward. Secondly, one must believe that Christ’s blood will cleanse his past sins and that Christ will put His Holy Spirit into the mind as promised. Finally, baptism is the symbolic burial of the old self in water and the emergence into a new life of overcoming with the power of God’s Spirit—received by the laying on of hands after baptism.
Where to Look for Guidance
In order to inherit eternal life, one must strive to enter into the New Covenant relationship with Christ. After having learned about this truth, from these lessons and other literature, one must decide where to look for guidance. Christ does reveal that His true Church does exist.
(1) If one sincerely seeks God’s true Church, can it be found? Matthew 7:7.
Comment: In order for one’s mind to be opened to truly seeking God’s truth and the Church teaching it, God has to call the individual (John 6:44).
(2) Is everyone called by God destined to succeed in this calling? Matthew 22:14.
(3) What is one of the most vital attributes of those who succeed in their calling? Jude 3.
Comment: In order to seek the teachings that Christ gave the original apostles, one must “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Otherwise, accepting what the world believes makes error inevitable. Even during the time of the original apostles, the mystery of iniquity was already at work (II Thes. 2:7) and false apostles were counterfeiting themselves as the apostles of Christ (II Cor. 11:13).
(4) But did Christ say that He would establish His own Church? Matthew 16:18.
Comment: When Christ stated, “upon this Rock,” He was referring to Himself. The word “Rock” derives from the Greek term petra, which means a mass of rock or massive rock. The name “Peter” is derived from the Greek term petros, which means a piece of rock, considered much smaller than a massive rock, though larger than an ordinary stone (lithos).
Christ clearly showed that He, not Peter, was the foundation of His true Church (I Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:19-20). The true Church of God traces its roots back to the apostolic Church and the small, scattered, persecuted “called out ones” for nearly 2,000 years—never part of the great false church that has reigned over nations.
Christ clearly states that “the gates of hell (the grave) shall never prevail against” His true Church. Since Christ does not lie, His true Church is still in existence today, doing the work of preaching the gospel.
It is from the true Church that one will come to understand the true meaning of the New Covenant and how it pictures the Holy Spirit as the missing element through which mankind can have the laws of God written in his heart.
It is critically important to understand the meaning of the New Covenant and how to enter into it. Understanding such truths and seeing the result of being in harmony with God’s perfect laws constitute the very keys to the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:19).
To better understand the identity of the true Church through which God is now working, read our booklet Where Is God’s Church?
We have seen how the marriage of Christ to spiritual Israel is central to the meaning of the New Covenant. For an overview of God’s purpose for marriage and how it directly relates to Christ’s marriage to spiritual Israel, read our booklet The Purpose of Marriage – Ever Obsolete?
Lesson Sixteen: What Is the Holy Spirit?
God’s Holy Spirit is the crucial element that makes the New Covenant workable, in contrast to the Old Covenant that failed because of Israel’s disobedience. Hebrews 8:10 (which quotes Jeremiah 31:33) states, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.”
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