Jesus came to redeem us from the consequences of the fall – Part 15
HEB 8-10 also show how these various aspects in the old covenant foreshadow or prefigure the ministry of Christ, the One Who inaugurated the new covenant. This article summarises the relationship between these two covenants. (1) Under the old covenant, salvation and a right relationship with God came through a faith expressed by obedience to His law and its sacrificial system. Sacrifices in the OT had three main purposes: (a) They taught God’s people the gravity of sin. Sin separated sinners from a holy God, and they could be reconciled to God and find forgiveness only through the shedding of blood (Ex 12:3-14; Lev 16; 17:11; Heb 9:22;). (b) They provided a way for Israel to come to God through faith, obedience and love (cf. Heb 4:16; 7:25; 10:1). (c) They pointed forward to or foreshadowed (Heb 8:5; 10:1) Christ’s perfect sacrifice for the sins of the human race (cf. John 1:29; 1 Pet 1:18-19)
(2) Jeremiah prophesied that in the future, (from his place in history) God would establish a new covenant, a better one, with His people (see Jer 31:31-34; cf. Heb 8:8-12). The new covenant would be far superior because: (a) It would be internalised as heart reality: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Heb 8:10). God’s holiness and righteousness are internalised in the believer by the Holy Spirit, imparting a new heart and nature wherewith to passionately love and joyfully obey God.
(b) The new covenant would be personal: “for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (Heb 8:11). Knowing God is both a community experience and a personal knowing by each individual member of the covenant community. Christ, as our High Priest, with His blood makes possible direct access into the Most Holy Place of God’s presence (Heb 4:16; 7:25; 10:19-22; cf. 12:22-24).
(c) The new covenant would thoroughly deal with sin: “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (8:12). New covenant believers know fully the reality of God’s forgiveness through a cleansed conscience (cf. Heb 9:14). Whereas the blood of bulls and goats could only cover one’s sins, the blood of Christ enables sin to be blotted out, so that God remembers no more.
(3) Jesus is the one who initiates and establishes the new covenant or New Testament (both ideas are present in the Greek word diathêkê), and His heavenly ministry is far superior to the ministry of OT earthly priests. The new covenant is an agreement, promise, last will and testament, and a statement of intention to bestow divine grace and blessing on those who respond to God in sincere repentance and faith. Specifically, it is a covenant of promise for those who through faith accept Christ as God’s Son, receive His promises, and commit themselves personally to Him and to the obligations of the new covenant.
(a) Jesus Christ’s position as mediator of the new covenant (Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) is based on His sacrificial death (Mat 26:28; Mark 14:24; Heb 9:14-15; 10:29; 12:24). The promises and obligations of this new covenant are embodied in the entire NT. Its purpose is (i) to save from guilt and condemnation all those who believe in Christ and commit their lives to the truths and obligations of His covenant (Heb 9:16-17, cf. Mark 14:24; 1 Cor 11:25), and (ii) to form them into a people who are God’s very own (Heb 8:10; cf. Ezek 11:19-20; 1 Pet 2:9).
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