Authors note: As I was preparing this article for the May issue of “Thy Kingdom Come” it was brought to my attention that Pastor Jory Brooks had submitted an article on the same subject for the April issue and thus I decided to shelve this article but the Spirit has at two separate occasions persuaded me to complete this article and submit it for publication, telling me that there is room for both. If there are any differing views brought forth it is in no means meant to be critical or corrective. It is the Lord’s Spirit that has laid on both our hearts what to write and I hope that both articles will be instructive.
“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)
In several recent Bible studies we have been looking at both the Old and New Covenants and in light of the above scripture verse the question is this, is the Old Covenant completely done away with? Some of us believe that that is in fact so, whereas some others believe that parts of the Old Covenant are still and always will be valid and in effect. It is this writer’s belief that in fact the Old Covenant was and is terminated. So let us look at the what, when and why.
We all know that the Old Covenant was established and commenced at Mt. Sinai, after Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage. It was at Mt. Sinai that the twelve tribes were welded and formed as a nation under and unto God. It is there where they were given the Law and the Statutes of God by Moses. Now these Laws and Statutes were not something new, for Abraham knew and lived by them already some four hundred years prior to this event. But besides the Law and Statutes Israel was given strict rules to live by, not just civil rules, but rules of compliance as to their conduct and obedience to God. It was a conditional covenant, subject to Israel’s obedience and compliance. It was a covenant of fear, fear of the consequences for not following through with the set rules, in other words, it was a covenant of works. Israel was incapable of living under these Old Testament rules, because the law and the love of God were not in their hearts but instead on tablets of stone and hearts of stone. “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you: and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh.” (Eze. 11:19) “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: 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, saith the Lord; but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel. After those days, saith 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.” (Jer. 31:31-33)
In these verses we see that God was thus determined to replace the Old Covenant with a New Covenant. The question is when was this to take place? And to what extent was the New to replace the Old? Jesus Christ Himself tells us when the changeover was to take place. We read, “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:27,28) Thus we can see that the New Covenant as promised by God in Jer. 31 commenced and came into being at the time of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Picture if you will the Hill of Calvary, where our Lord was crucified. Picture on one side the Old Covenant, like an old and dying man slowly crawling up that Hill, where at last, at the foot of the cross, he collapses and dies, and where at that same moment, from the blood that drops on the rocks from our Saviour’s body, is born like a new child, a new Covenant which gathering speed rolls down that same Hill, encompassing mankind, all who are willing to claim Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
In Hebrews chapter 8 we find the same promise as made in Jer. 31 about this New Covenant and then in the last verse we read about the fate of the Old Covenant. “In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and growth old is ready to vanish away. [Die] (Heb. 8:13) So you can see that we have a new Covenant, not a revised Covenant. All things pertaining to the Old are terminated. We went from a Covenant of works to a Covenant of Grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9)
Although the Covenant was terminated the Law and Statutes of the Lord our God remain, for they were from the beginning of time until the utmost ends of time, but everything else has come to an end. When we look at the first Passover we see the deliverance of the bondage of slavery through the sign of the blood on doorposts and lintels. That Passover predates the Sinai Covenant. We still commemorate that Passover in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour. He was and is our Passover Lamb, and by His blood we are delivered of the bondage of the Law through sin. Everything between these two events is terminated and done away with. There are in the Israel Identity circles those that insist on keeping the Old Covenant Feast days, and that is their prerogative, but if we look at all the Feasts we will see that they all culminate in a burnt offering and blood sacrifice for sin, a price that our Lord paid in full at Calvary. Furthermore we read in Hosea, “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her Sabbath, and all her solemn feasts.” (Hos. 2:11) Thus you can see in this prophecy of Hosea, that it was the Lord’s intention to abolish the Feast days and the Sabbaths because Israel in her sinful state was incapable of honouring these Feast days to their fullest. It was for that reason that the Lord God abolished the First Covenant, a Covenant of works, and replaced it in its entirety with the New Covenant, a Covenant of Grace, with no strings attached, no restrictions but totally free.
Under the Old Israel perished, under the New Christianity flourished. Under the Old God dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the inner part of the Temple, under the New the Lord dwells within the heart and being of every believer, who will open his or her heart to the Lord. All this was made possible by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as per Acts 2. That Spirit enabled the fulfillment of Jer. 31:33 and the confirmation of Heb. 8:10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith 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.”