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Using a computer assisted word search of the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV), the term “new covenant” shows up in these eight verses (mouse over to read the passages): Jer 31:31; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 6:8, 8:13, 9:15, 12:24. Since the truths of the Apostolic Writings (NT) are rooted in the theology of the TaNaKH (OT), I will comment on the Jer 31:31 passage first. God says this “new covenant” will not be “like” the “old covenant” (2 Cor 3:14) in this very important way: this new covenant with National Isra'el will not simply be articulated to the entire nation as external written letters (2 Cor 3:6), rather, God will put his covenant laws and promises into their hearts as a matter of national election (Jer 31:33). The effect is that “they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD” (Jer 31:34). Also, New Covenant states that God will forgive their sins as a people, since their consciences will have been cleansed via their faith in Yeshua’s sacrifice (Heb 9:15, 10:14, 17, 18). In plain English, Jeremiah is prophesying about the day when the people of Isra'el will be characterized as “saved” on a national scale, and this salvation will result in permanent forgiveness of sin, and true covenant-keeping obedience on their part (Ez 11:19; 36:27). In once sense, because this New Covenant is made exclusively with National Isra'el, it awaits future fulfillment. For indeed, everyone in National Isra'el obviously does not yet know the LORD in the truest covenantal sense described by the Bible (Rom 10:21). And yet, at this very moment, Gentiles are being brought into Isra'el’s New Covenant via faith in Yeshua (Rom 11:19, 20). The New Covenant has been appropriated by anyone who has placed their genuine faith in Yeshua (Jesus)—the mediator of the New Covenant (Lk 22:20; Heb 9:15). In fact, since Yeshua is the sole mediator of the New Covenant for salvation, personal or corporate (Jn 14:6), this means every person, in every age, from Adam until we enter Eternity, must participate in the New Covenant via Yeshua’s mediation if they wish to be saved from the wrath of God. This implies that the New Covenant is not something that is “time bound.” All of salvation history revolves around the Cross Event of the 1st century (Gal 4:4-7). Conclusions: What is the New Covenant? Borrowing terminology from Messianic Jewish author Tim Hegg, I will summarize my answer: • Jeremiah’s “new covenant” is the fullness and internalization of the Mosaic Covenant on a national scale, for it is characterized by the phrase “I will write the Torah upon their hearts.” The very Torah that Israel failed to keep will, in the “new covenant,” be written on Israel’s heart by the Spirit (Jer 31:33; Ez 11:19; 36:27). • What is “new” or “unique” about this covenant is that its future fulfillment will mark the only time in history when the nation as a whole walks by genuine forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:15) and genuine faith in the Messiah (Rom 11:26, 27). • Paul makes it clear that a remnant of true believers has existed in every generation (Rom 11:1-6). They must have, therefore, participated in the faith that Jeremiah prophesies for the whole nation in the future. • This remnant, including Gentiles who have been attached to Israel through their saving faith, thus participate in the “new covenant” as the first fruits of the final Harvest (Rom 8:23). • Because Yeshua has always been the ONLY way to salvation (Acts 4:12), the “new covenant” reality cannot be something that awaited His coming (though surely His saving work is the means by which the “new covenant” is realized, read Lk 22:20). The “new covenant” is therefore not time-bound. Wherever there is genuine faith in Yeshua, whenever the Torah is written on the heart, there the “new covenant” is active.
The "new covenant," first prophesied in Jeremiah 31, is in fact the 8th and final covenant that God established throughout biblical history. Each covenant stands unto itself as a binding agreement, and close examination reveals that there are no conflicts of interest between them. In ancient times, any blood covenant was a binding agreement that could only be dissolved by the death of one of the covenanting parties. With the first 7 covenants that God established, each one included the descendants of whoever God was covenanting with, so the only way a divine covenant could be abolished was if EVERY descendant of the covenant recipients were wiped off the face of the earth. The first 7 covenants, each of which only applies to this life in this world (as opposed to resurrected life with the new heavens and the new earth) includes: 1) Adam (the word covenant - berit in Hebrew - does not occur in Genesis 1 or 2, but God refers to it in Hosea 6:7) The terms of the covenant (agreement) included multiplying and filling the earth and abstaining from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We all know how that worked out. An animal, presumably a sheep, was killed to supply Adam and Eve with clothing, since apparently their fig leaf britches were inadequate. This animal that died set the precedent for animal sacrifices and for atonement, which literally means covering. 2) Noah - Genesis 9:9 After the flood and sacrificing the "clean" animals, God established a covenant with Noah and his descendants. The sign of this covenant is, of course, the rainbow. The terms of the agreement include abstaining from eating/drinking blood and shedding blood (murder). The terms also include an unconditional promise from God that he will never again destroy every living thing by a flood. 3) Abraham - Genesis 15:18 God invites Abraham to enter into a covenant relationship with him, promising innumerable descendants and a "promised land" for his descendants to dwell in. The sign of this covenant is circumcision. This covenant is further confirmed with Isaac and Jacob, but I regard it as the same covenant, since it has to do with descendants and the promised land. God tested Abraham's fidelity to the covenant by commanding him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, and Abraham subsequently passed the test, with God offering a substitute ram in place of Isaac. This occurred on Mt. Moriah, where Jesus was crucified some 2000 years later. I personally believe this location to be the same location where Adam ate the forbidden fruit, although this is obviously speculation on my part. 4) National Israel under Moses' leadership - This covenant is the one typically referred to as the "old covenant." This covenant is ratified in Exodus 24 and the terms of this covenant are numerous, which are essentially all of the precepts, ordinances, and commandments which comprise "the law." 5) In Numbers 18:19 Aaron and his descendants receive all of the "heave offerings" from the children of Israel. 6) In Numbers 25:12-13 Phinehas, Aaron's grandson, is given "an everlasting priesthood" by way of a covenant. 7) In 2 Chronicles 13:5, God's covenant with David to always have a descendant as the legitimate king of Israel is spoken of. 8) The "new covenant" established in Christ's blood, is the only covenant that has the power to transcend death and bestow resurrected life to one who accepts the invitation to the covenant, which Christ inaugurated during what is commonly called the last supper. Unfortunately, I'm quickly running out of space, but I believe these 8 covenants to mimic the pattern of the 8 appointed times, or feasts, of God in Leviticus 23. Many people believe there to be 7, but I would argue that the 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles is simultaneously the 8th annual appointed time, as God repeatedly refers to the Feast of Tabernacles as 7 days long. Many significant events occur on the "8th day" throughout the Torah.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah (Jer 31:31, Heb 8:8). Note that the new covenant is for the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, not you or I. Biblical Israel's new covenant will be established when Christ returns for His millennial reign on Earth (Rev 20:4-6). We today live under God's dispensation of grace (Eph 3:2), not under a covenant. Believers will be "caught up" with Christ in Heaven prior to His earthly return (1 Thes 4:17). Many confuse the bible's "New Testament" as being the new covenant, but God's new covenant remains prophetic as it has not yet been established or even meant for believers today, who are members of the church the body of Christ (Col 1:24, Eph 5:23). God now sees us in Christ, and not who we see when we look in the mirror! We have something much greater than a covenant as we are not under law, we live under God's grace (Rom 6:14). Our salvation simply requires faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross on our behalf (Rom 3:28, 1 Cor 1:23). Christ paid for all of our sins (Rom 3:28, 1 Cor 15:3, Gal 2:20, Col 2:13, 2 Cor 5:19), and was buried and rose again for our justification (2 Cor 1:9, Rom 4:25). It is the free gift of God made possible by His grace (Rom 5:18), and our belief is acceptance of His free gift (Eph 2:8. Eph 1:13). Rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15), the gospel of our salvation (Eph 1:13), means to separate the gospel given to Paul from the gospel given to biblical Israel when studying the bible. Jesus' message while living and that of the 12 apostles were only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not us (Mat 10:5-6, Mat 15:24). Our doctrine is found in the 13 epistles of Paul, Romans through Philemon (Rom 3:21). Biblical Israel was required to do works under their covenant with God in 'times past' (Rom 11:6, James 2:24). Works today, with the belief that it is to obtain or maintain salvation, actually puts us in debt with God as this shows lack of faith in what Christ's death, burial, and resurrection means for us (Rom 4:4). True believers don't work in order to be saved, they work because they are saved (Eph 2:10, Eph 4:12). They desire to work for God once they realize what Christ did for them. When you’re a passenger in a vehicle, you have faith that the driver will safely get you to your destination. Jesus Christ is our ‘spiritual driver’ (Rom 5:10, Rom 8:32), and the holy Spirit, our 'spiritual seat-belt' (Eph 4:30), that seals our souls until the day of redemption at the moment of belief (Eph 1:13)! We can’t lose our salvation, but living as we should as Christians can still be difficult at times (Rom 7:23). We will certainly fail on occasion while Satan reigns in this present evil world (Gal 1:4, 2 Cor 4:4, Rom 7:24-25), but our resolve should never waver (2 Cor 7:1), as God’s love for us becomes more evident in our daily walk (2 Cor 13:14).
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