THE NEW COVENANT: Part 4 -Better Promises
In previous articles we have considered that we are no longer under the Old Covenant (including the Law of Moses) but are under a New Covenant and that the New is better than the Old. So far, we’ve seen that the New is more inclusive (anyone can be a part of it) and is based on faith rather than birth. These do make the New better than the Old, but there is yet another even greater reason. The New Covenant is built on “better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
The Old Covenant promised that Israel would have land to call their own. Additionally, they could avoid droughts and diseases. They could be victorious in war, even when severely outnumbered. The people of Israel failed to keep their end of the covenant so they didn’t get to enjoy these promises all that often or for very long. However, even if they had obeyed the Law of Moses perfectly and received the blessings in full, the New Covenant would still have better promises.
In the Old Covenant, the people could bring their sacrifices to a temple which was the house of the Lord. This was good, but having the sacrifices brought to heaven would be better. The temple could be, and was, destroyed multiple times. Heaven cannot be destroyed.
In the Old Covenant, the people could offer up sacrifices but were they truly forgiven? If they were, why did they keep having to offer up sacrifices year after year? In Hebrews, we learn that the sacrifices of bulls and goats “can never…make perfect those who draw near” and that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:1,4). The New Covenant, on the other hand, has a much better promise. “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12). Sin ruined the Israelites. It isn’t automatically the doom of Christians. While we can sin in such a way that no sacrifice remains (Heb. 10:26), as long as Christians come back to Jesus and are cleansed by His blood, then we are truly, fully clean.
In the Old Covenant, the people lived for a physical kingdom on physical land. That’s good. The New Covenant, however, promises a spiritual kingdom in a spiritual home. The Israelites weren’t able to keep their land or their kingdom. They were constantly conquered and oppressed. Their promise, as it turns out, was fragile because of their sinfulness. In the New Covenant, we receive a kingdom “which cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28) and is not of this world (John 19:36). The New Covenant is better than the Old in as much as heaven is better than Palestine. That’s not just better, it’s incomparable!
But suppose the Israelites hadn’t sinned against God and instead they enjoyed the fulness of the land and kingdom blessings. The Israelites would have lived their lives in blissful peace and died at ripe old ages. But they would have died. And yes, they would have passed on the blessings to the next generation, but that generation would die too. The promise in the New Covenant is not a short, happy life on earth but an eternal, unending life (Titus 1:2). Only in Jesus do we get to experience unending life. After all, He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25; 14:6). As a result, we do not yield our blessings to future generations. Instead, we ultimately get to enjoy these blessings with all generations under the New Covenant.
It would be a mistake to think of the Old Covenant as bad. It wasn’t (Rom. 7:12). It’s just that in many ways the New Covenant is much better. We have received promises from a God who can do “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Truly we have cause to lift our voices in praise and to be excited about the coming day when Jesus returns and all the blessings of the New Covenant are fully realized.
Until that day, we gather every first day of the week and remember the “blood of the covenant” while partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Mt. 26:27-28). As we think about the covenant, one word should echo unendingly.