Friday, June 14, 2013

Top Bible Prophecy #7 The New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Previous Top Bible Prophecies and today's Top Bible Prophecy

We have been viewing what I term "Top Bible Prophecies" periodically throughout the past few months.  This series is designed to acquaint the reader with scriptures that deal with major themes of God's prophetic program.  I have included both the blog date entries and top prophecies we have looked at in the listing below:
1. Genesis 3:15 The Seed Promise 4/12

2. Genesis 12 God's Covenant with Abraham 4/18 and 4/19

3. Deuteronomy 30 The Promised Land 5/1

4. 2 Samuel 7:8-16 A Shepherd and a King 5/2

5. Psalm 110 5/24 and 5/25

6. Isaiah 53 The Lamb of God 5/29a

If the reader desires to view the entire series, just type in "Top Bible Prophecies" in the search browser on this blog site, and all six of the posts should appear in their chronological sequence.     

In continuing on with our study, we come to what will be the foundational passage of both the future of Israel and our current New Testaments: Jeremiah 31:31-34.  In this passage (as well as several others scattered throughout the Old Testament Prophets), mention is made to what the Bible calls "The New Covenant".  Thankfully there is ample scripture in the New Testament that explains what is meant by this term and prophecy and why it is important for Christian understanding today.

Hebrews 8-10 is the divine commentary on Jeremiah 31:31-34 serves to explain the similarities and differences of the Old and New Covenants
Whenever you turn to Hebrews 8, you are treated to a Divine commentary on the meaning and significance of the New Covenant articulated in Jeremiah 31 and other Old Testament passages.  In Hebrews 8:1-5 we see a summary section of Hebrews 1-7 that explains the author's purpose in presenting the superiority of Jesus Christ as the believer's Eternal High Priest.  After the summary of Hebrews 8:1-5, we see these words in 8:6 - "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises."  Those three underlined words serve to give the reader an outline of the remainder of Hebrews 8:7-10:25 in explaining the similarities and differences between what is called the "first" or Old Covenant and the "second" or New Covenant:

1. The New Covenant exceeds the Old due to a better ministry.  8:7-9:10

2. The New Covenant exceeds the Old due to a better Mediator. 9:11-10:18

3. The New Covenant exceeds the Old due to better promises. 10:19-25

The main point of the discussion about the Old and New Covenants
The conversation about the Old and New Covenants can be described as having to do with the ability to live the Godly life being commanded by God to His people.  The "Old Covenant" was given to the descendants of Abraham under Moses' administration in Exodus 19:5-24:8 as a temporary system for the people of Israel to use in their lives following their Exodus and salvation.  Though God revealed righteous principles to live by to His people, there was never any power promised through the Mosaic covenant revealed at Sinai.  Although the people stated their confidence in Exodus 19:8 "all that the Lord has spoken, we will do!", yet it was clear that the Old Covenant could not produce the needed power for Godly living.  Only after 40 days of time had passed, we find the people bowing themselves to a golden calf while Moses is on top of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 32.   

Like Noah, like Abraham and all the Genesis patriarchs, the nation of Israel was still saved by grace alone through faith alone - a truth that is spelled out in Exodus 19:1-4.  However as God began to reveal the Law of God from 19:4 onward, it was designed not to impart righteousness, but demand it.  The design of the Old Covenant was to show the people their continual need for God's grace. God knew when He had revealed the Law that there was going to need to be a New Covenant.  The Old Covenant parallels in function the original covenant of works given to Adam and Eve in the Garden that was broken by their disobedience.  Just as they needed God's second provision of the graceful covenant of Genesis 3:15-21, Israel would need a New Covenant due to their breakage of the Covenant at Sinai.   

Comparing the Old and New Covenants as seen in Hebrews 8:7-13: Power for Godly Living
As I noted earlier, the whole discussion about Old versus New Covenant has to do with the need to live the Godly life being demanded of the believer by God. As you read Hebrews 8:7-13, and particularly 8:10-13, you discover the following comparisons between the Old and New Covenant systems:

1. New Power for Living.  Hebrews 8:10a
The Old Covenant demanded godliness, but only the New Covenant can give the power to live the Godly life.

2. New Way of Knowing (God).  Hebrews 8:10b-11
In the Old Covenant God was unapproachable, however in the New Covenant God is relational.  In the Old Covenant the people could only know about God from a distance, in contrast the New Covenant the people can know God.

3. New Forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 8:12
In the Old Covenant system sin is shown as sin, whereas in the New Covenant sin is forgiven.

4. New Change of life.  Hebrews 8:13
The Old Covenant has no ability to bring about the necessary change of heart.  All the Old Covenant could do was demand change and point to the grace of God.  In the New Covenant change is expected, since the power of the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the heart at saving faith and begins the progressive, transforming work of sanctification.  

Final thoughts on the New Covenant Prophecy
We must remember that the original prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34 was given to Israel with the expectation of fulfillment in the future.  The only thing God did not reveal was in what manner he was going to begin the fulfillment.  The New Covenant's point was and is to bridge the promises of God to Abraham to the fulfillment of those promises in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ's first coming inaugurated the New Covenant era and promises to be experienced by grace-called believers in this age.  The church's current spiritual foretaste of the New Covenant blessings is based upon the guaranteed completion of it in Israel in the future.  Because of this prophecy, we in this age foretaste New Covenant blessings through the Gospel: power for Godly living, knowing God, forgiveness of sins and change.