Editor's Note: This is a transcription of my recorded Bible study at Truthtellers.com. Please take this link to hear it and an intriguing, much more extensive discussion of this topic among our Bible study members.
In the Bible, God offered two covenants to the Jews, both conditioned on obedience. Both remain today. In Romans 9 the apostle Paul describes the first: the Abrahamic/Mosaic covenant. It said if the Hebrews obey God He will reward them with racial, territorial and spiritual blessings on earth. This covenant also promised the reverse: curses on those who violate His law and denial of all blessing. The Book of Hebrews in chapter 8 describes a second covenant, a “better” spiritual one, offering a pure heart. It is provided by Jesus to all Jews who trust in Him.
Does the new covenant in some way replace the old or make it void?
To answer that question, we must understand both the physical and spiritual covenants which Scripture says still apply to the Jews. Let’s start with the old, largely physical covenant, considered in Romans 9.
Paul describes his unbelieving Jewish kinsmen for whom he has “continual sorrow,” desiring that they be saved. These, he confirms in Romans 11:28, are “enemies" of the Gospel. Yet the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants still apply to them!
To them "pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises” (Rom. 9:4). “Pertain” in the original Greek is in the present (continuous action) tense. Paul says God presently has a long-range agenda and investment in the Jews that He is going to see fulfilled.
The old covenant God made with Abraham and at Sinai invited obedient Jews to be His “chosen people” and inherit unique blessings. Their favored position was testified to by Abraham, Moses and Balaam (Num. 24).This covenant was made only with Jews who obeyed, not Gentile Christians. Gentiles indeed become children of Abraham spiritually through obedience and faith in Christ; but they do not share the racial and territorial promises given to obedient Jews. Such covenant promises “remain,” Paul says, despite the spiritual promises that apply to all people regardless of Jewishness. For, "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Rom. 10:12).
God’s first promise of blessing on a nation of obedient Jews must endure. It is a promised light at the end of the tunnel of apostasy and depravity in which Jewry languishes today. If God's covenant toward Jews had ended at Calvary, He would be guilty of making lavish promises, as well as direct threats, then abandoning them just because Jews were disobedient. Instead, Paul says those promises continue. They anticipate a time when a remnant of Jews will repent and believe. In that day the old covenant will at last be both spiritually and nationally fulfilled by Jesus. “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." As a result, "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26).
Let’s now give more attention to the second “better" covenant, as described in Hebrews 8, as it speaks of Jesus:
"But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." (v.6)The Book of Hebrews was probably written by Paul in 61 A.D. to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem while the magnificent temple still stood. It was given that name because its message and arguments are largely directed to Jews, people who have been under Abraham’s covenant. Chapter 8 argues there is now a better covenant for Jews, mediated by Jesus, that makes keeping God’s laws not a rule but an instinct.
"For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." (v.8)
In contrast to Hebrews, Galatians was written not primarily to Jews but to the Gentile saints of Galatia. It says the old Abrahamic covenant produced Jesus, the singular “seed” of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Jesus brought salvation to the Gentiles. But such was not a “new covenant” to Gentiles because, as “wild branches,” we Gentiles never had a covenant in the first place. Gentile believers receive lavish blessing and status with God equal with any faithful Jew under either the old or new Jewish covenant. Such divine favor is possible only by trusting and obeying Jesus daily.
“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…For ye are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus…And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:7, 26, 29)All of this comes to the church through grace, not covenant. Neither the church nor Gentile Christians receive new covenants from God.
Out of the spiritual darkness of Babylon the Great, the exhausted and confused Jewish survivors of the Great Tribulation will, as Christ comes in the clouds, at last comprehend the full depravity of the Talmudic Judaism their forefathers the Pharisees created. “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced and mourn…” (Zech. 12:10) The Holy Spirit will be poured out on the remnant.
“I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28)
Obedient to Christ at last, they will return to His Holy Land as the true sons and daughters of Abraham, rightful owners of Palestine. The covenant and promises and law will be fulfilled as the natural branches are grafted back into the true Branch, Jesus. At that time, the old covenant, now fulfilled, will no longer be ready to vanish away but will actually do so. It will be swallowed in the grace and joy of the better covenant, written on the hearts of believing Jews.
It is vital that, like the Hebrew prophets, Gentile Christians be free to criticize evil Jews and injustices of the state of Israel. Our Lord Himself set such an example by His fiery denunciations of the Pharisees. Yet until that day the remnant repents, it is the solemn duty of every Gentile Christian not to “boast against the (Jewish) branches” (Rom. 11:18). We must never succumb to the temptation to believe that, while spiritually we have become the children of Abraham, our adoption entitles us to claim God is done with the nation of Israel.
Jesus fully intends to finish what He began with the Jewish people. Through salvation of the remnant, He wants to demonstrate to all mankind His willingness, ability, and determination to save even the vilest sinner, or race, if they turn to Him. It is a fearful thing to get in Christ’s way and teach that He has abandoned His promises to make even the wrathful Jews praise Him.
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