The New Covenant
It has been pointed out in a previous chapter that, in God's covenants with Israel, both the covenant of Horeb (Deut. 5:2,3) and the substitute thereof made in the land of Moab (Deut. 29:1) all the promises were expressly made to depend upon conditions to be fulfilled by the Israelites, which conditions however they utterly failed to perform. From which it follows that the Jewish people inherit under those covenants, not blessings, but curses only. How immensely important therefore to them (as well as to the Gentiles) is that "new covenant," also called the "everlasting covenant," whereof God gave promise through Jeremiah! I hope that every reader of this volume will be aroused as to the vast importance of the truth concerning that new and everlasting covenant, whereof Jesus Christ is the "Surety" (Heb. 7:22), the (Heb. 9:15; 12:24) and the "Covenant Victim" (translated in Heb. 9:16,17 by the word "testator," which, however, has a very different meaning in modern English).
These are God's words through Jeremiah:
"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 brake, although I was an 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 I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And... they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jer. 31:31-34).
The Epistle to the Hebrews contains (in Chapters VII-X) the Holy Spirit's comments upon this great prophecy; prominence being given to the truth that Jesus Christ is "the Surety" of this covenant, as well as "the Mediator" thereof (7:22; 8:6; 12:24); that it has been ratified "by His own blood" (9:12-24; 13:20); and that it is therefore "a better covenant, established upon better promises" (8:6).
Further it is revealed in those chapters that, when Christ had offered that "one sacrifice for sins forever, and sat down on the right hand of God," not only was the new covenant put into operation, but the old covenant and all its appointments - people, temple, priesthood, sacrifices, etc. - were forever abolished. Which things in fact were, even in their own era, nothing but "a shadow of good things to come" (10:1).
Moreover, God had never any pleasure in them, because "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." And surely, as we meditate upon the contents of Hebrews IX and X, we must perceive that God would abhor the very thought of setting up again that same system of vain sacrifices and ceremonies, which He abolished at the awful cost of the sacrifice of His own Son, and which had their complete fulfillment in the "one sacrifice for sins forever" offered at Golgotha.
And besides, we have in this connection the plain statement that Christ, in coming to do His Father's will by the sacrifice of Himself, "taketh away the first, that He may establish the second" (10:9); which words, in the light of the context, plainly signify the removal forever of the old covenant, and the establishment forever of the new covenant. Indeed it is manifestly an impossibility that the "shadows" should remain after the corresponding realities have come; and it is equally impossible that there should be at any time thereafter a return to the system of shadows again.
THE NEW COVENANT PEOPLE
Who then are the people with whom, and for whose benefit, this new and everlasting covenant has been "established"? By the Epistle to the Hebrews it is revealed in the clearest light that the blessings of the new covenant, that is the forgiveness of sins and all other benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ are bestowed upon those who are of the faith of Jesus Christ, those "that believe to the saving of the soul" (10:39); which blessed and holy company includes all those examples of saving faith mentioned in Chapter XI. These are "the heirs of salvation" (1:14). They are the "many sons" God is bringing "unto glory" (2:10). They are those whom the writer of the Epistle addresses as "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" (3:1), and concerning whom he says they are "made partakers of Christ," and "partakers of the Holy Ghost" (3:14; 6:4).
We have seen, however, that by Jeremiah God promised the new covenant to the house of Israel and the house of Judah." But there is no contradiction here, and no change in God's plans. For "Israel" and "Judah" were themselves but "shadows" of God's true Israel ("the Israel of God," Gal. 6:16). For God has now revealed that "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly;.. but he is a Jew who is one inwardly" (Rom. 2:28,29); and that "they which are of faith" - believing Gentiles equally with believing Jews - "the same are the children of Abraham," and heirs with Jesus Christ of the promises of God; which includes particularly the promises of the everlasting covenant (Gal. 3:7,29; 4:28,31; Rom. 4:13-16). Specially illuminating and to the point are the words of Philippians 3:3: "For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
Particularly should we recall in this connection that remarkable "allegory" of Galatians 4:21-31, to which reference has been made already in these pages, and which teaches in the first place the broad lesson that even such matters as the personal and family history of one of the patriarchs were "shadows" of the spiritual realities of this gospel era.
Specifically that allegory teaches that Abraham is the father of the one household of faith (see also Rom. 4:16, where he is called "the father of us all); that Hagar represents the old covenant of Mt. Sinai, and Ishmael the old covenant people (Abraham's natural seed); and that Sarah stands for the new covenant, and Isaac for the new covenant people, the miraculously born "children of Abraham." It further makes known (and this is the climax of the lesson) that the natural descendants of Abraham ("the son of the bondwoman") were to be "cast out," and to have no part with the spiritual seed in the promises of the new covenant.
IN THAT DAY
Let us now take a brief look at the prophecy of Zechariah, Chapters XII-XIV, for the purpose mainly of inquiring as to the meaning of the following predictions:
"And they shall look on Me whom they have pierced" (12:10).
"And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west; and there shall be a very great valley; and half (i.e. a part) of the mountain shall remove toward the north and half (part) of it toward the south... And it shall be in that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half (or part) of them toward the former sea and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord and His name one" (14:4,7-9).
This passage has been referred to already in the previous pages, but we propose now to give it a more extended consideration.
The question that concerns us for the moment is this: Are these passages to be understood as predictions of the national conversion of the Jews in a coming "day," as some now teach? Or are they prophecies of the gospel, having their fulfilment in this present "day," which has been always held (as I understand it) until quite recent times?
In the first place, we call attention to the fact that the context makes it clear that the oft-recurring phrase, "in that day," refers to this present day of grace, and not to the succeeding day of judgment. Thus, the words, "Awake O sword against My Shepherd" (13:7) are certainly a prophecy of the cross. For our Lord Himself cited the words of the same verse, "Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered," as having their fulfilment on the eve of His crucifixion (Matt. 26:31). That same passage, moreover, begins with the words, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness" (13:1); which surely is, as it has been always esteemed, a most precious gospel promise. It follows that "the House of David" is a symbol for the royal house, that is for Christ and those whom "He is not ashamed to call brethren" (Heb. 2:11,12); "Whose house we are" (Heb. 4:6); Christ being the true "David."
There is a striking correspondence here with the words of John in the Apocalypse:
"Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God" (Rev. 1:5,6).
For observe that here we have the reigning house ("kings and priests," answering to "the house of David"); and these are "washed in His own blood," which answers to the promised fountain for cleansing from sin and from uncleanness. (See also 1 Pet. 2:9). And of course "the inhabitants of Jerusalem" are those who now "are come to Mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22), "the Jerusalem which is above, which is the mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26).
Observe too that in the immediate context we find the prediction, "And they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced." The sense of this passage is clearer when we read "look unto Me," instead of "look upon Me." For the same expression occurs in Isaiah 45:22, where our A.V. renders it, "Look unto Me and be ye saved."
Most assuredly therefore the fulfilment of this prophecy takes place in this "day" of the gospel, and began from the day of Pentecost. For then Peter, standing up with the eleven, set forth before a great concourse of Jews, Christ crucified and risen; to whom also he addressed these memorable words: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified" (compare the words, "whom they have pierced") "both Lord and Christ (Ac. 2:36). Thereupon some three thousand did look repentantly and believingly unto Him whom they had pierced.
Moreover they also mourned for Him, as the prophecy foretold. For it is recorded that "they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?" That was indeed "a great mourning in Jerusalem"; for it resulted in the conversion of "about three thousand souls."
It should be observed further that, according to the prophecy, every family was to mourn apart, and their wives apart. Which signifies that "repentance unto life" and the "godly sorrow" that leads to it, were to be a personal and individual, and not a national affair, as the Jewish rabbis taught (and as some Christian teachers wrongly teach today).
Then as to the passage (quoted above) beginning, "And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives," I would first point out that what goes before is evidently a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, when the city was "taken," and the other horrors recited in verse 2 were perpetrated by the Roman armies, which were made up literally of "all nations." This further tends to fix the time referred to by the phrase, "in that day." (It should be remembered also that in Bible prophecy any period of special judgment is spoken of as "the day of the Lord.")
Now this prophecy declares, by a series of figures and metaphors, after the usual prophetic manner, how the Lord would "go forth" for the deliverance of His own people in those days. "The mount of Olives" is a symbol of the nation Israel, to which He was to come (John 1:11). For in Bible prophecy a mountain is the common symbol of a nation; and the mount of Olives is a most suitable figure to represent the nation of Israel. The result of His coming to that nation was that it was divided in twain ("cloven in the midst"). For "there was a division because of Him" (John 7:43; 9:16, etc.). And that rift was truly a "very great valley" - deep and wide. "One part" of the divided nation (for the word rendered "half" means merely one of two parts, which may be very unequal in size) was removed (speaking figuratively) "toward the north," the region whence Israel's enemies came, and whither they were taken into captivity (Jer. 1:14,15, etc.); a region that stands for the place of light and warmth and blessing - that is, the place of acceptance with God.
And lastly, the words, "And it shall be in that day that living waters shall go forth from Jerusalem," etc., most certainly are being fulfilled in this day of grace and salvation. For living water is a familiar figure of the word of the life-imparting gospel. And upon the day of Pentecost and subsequently it went forth from Jerusalem, both "toward the former sea" (the nations of the east), and "toward the hinder sea" (the nations of the west); both "in winter and in summer," that is at all seasons. And moreover from that time Jesus the risen One was proclaimed as the crowned and glorified Christ (God's King) to whom has been given all power in heaven and earth, "the King invisible," the "One Lord," whose is the "one Name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved."
From all of which the conclusion must needs be that "the hope of the gospel" is the one, the only, and the all sufficient hope for all mankind; that apart from it there is no hope for any, whether Jews or Gentiles; and that there will be hereafter no salvation of any sort whatever for those who "obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Further references to the new covenant, and additional proof of its commanding place and importance in God's dealings with all mankind, Jews and gentiles alike, will be found in the next succeeding chapter.
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© 2013 Tentmaker Ministries . All rights reserved.