by Ken Symes |
The primary passage promising the New Covenant is Jeremiah 31:31-34.
31. 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:
32. 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:
33. 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.
34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for 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.
Moses alluded to this new covenant in Deuteronomy 30:5-6 as he spoke of the second regathering of Israel:
“And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thine soul, that thou mayest live.” The New Covenant guarantees Israel a converted heart as the basis of all her blessings, Jeremiah 31:33-34.
WHAT KIND OF COVENANT?
As they relate to Israel, there are two kinds of covenants, which are easily discernable. Biblical covenants are not agreements ironed out at the bargaining table. They are unilateral; from God to man. Covenants are legal documents. Thus, they have a clear formula. There are two kinds of covenants: conditional covenants and unconditional covenants. In the conditional covenant, God says, “If you will, then I will.” The Mosaic Covenant is an example of a conditional covenant as, in Deuteronomy 28 for example, God lays out the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. The formula for an unconditional covenant is when God simply says, “I will.” In relation to the New Covenant God states four times, “I will,” and not once does He say “If you.” Thus, this is an unconditional covenant solely dependent upon God fulfilling it.
TO WHOM WAS IT GIVEN?
The amillennialist and those who teach replacement theology teach that this covenant was given by God to the church. Is this, though, what God says? Consider His statement: “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 I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.”1 God clearly states that this covenant was given to the two houses that constituted Israel in Jeremiah’s day, the northern and southern kingdoms. So that there would be no confusion, God also stated this covenant was given to the seed of those whom He brought from captivity out of Egypt. When was the church ever delivered by God from bondage in Egypt and given land in the Middle East? And how could God make a covenant with the church which did not even exist at this time? The scripture is clear. This covenant was given to the Jews, to the whole nation of Israel.
THE FEATURES OF THE COVENANT
The scripture unfolds eight features related to this covenant. They are for Israel and promise: regeneration, restoration to favor and blessing, forgiveness of sins, the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to indwell and teach, material blessings, the Temple rebuilt, universal peace established, and the blood of Messiah shed. The Jeremiah 31:31-34 promise amplifies the third part of the Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 12:3, “…in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
THE INSTITUTION of THE NEW COVENANT
It is interesting to note that, though not all covenants are instituted with a blood sacrifice, all of the major covenants are instituted with a blood sacrifice. This covenant guarantees Israel a converted heart as the foundation of her blessings.2 Both the institution and fulfillment of this covenant are tied to Israel’s Messiah. The scriptures teach two comings of the Messiah. God has never put anything into His word that was not important. Why two comings?
First, He must come as the suffering servant in accord with Isaiah 53 to make the acceptable payment for sin to all who would call on His name. But, what is His name? Isaiah tells us His name in Isaiah 62:11. “Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.” Notice that “salvation” here is not a concept. It is a person. The Hebrew word is “yasha” or “yesha” and is the root for Yeshua which literally means “Jehovah saves.” The Messiah had to come first as “Messiah ben Joseph,”3 the suffering servant.4 According to Old Testament teaching, this type of conversion, that of a new heart, cannot be permanently affected without the shedding of innocent blood.5 The innocent blood was that of Messiah, Isaiah 53. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be delivered.” 6 If you read the context of this promise in Joel 2, you will see that it relates to the ultimate fulfillment of the New Covenant.
Some years ago, I was a guest on a TV broadcast in Clearwater, FL with a Rabbi (his broadcast). We were talking about Jesus when he asked me: “If Jesus is our Messiah, why was he not named in our scriptures?” After I read Isaiah 62:11, I asked, “What is the Hebrew word translated “salvation?” He immediately replied, “Yeshua.” Then I asked him who was the “his, him, his, him” of this verse pointing out that the antecedent to these pronouns could not be a concept but a person. He understood that Jesus and Yeshua were one and the same. Isaiah 12:2 and Psalm 118:21 teach the identical truth about salvation.
It was some time after that incident that I learned he testified of receiving Jesus as his Messiah/redeemer just before his death. It was Jesus, the Messiah, who became the “lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” 7 And, consider Paul’s words as he spoke saying: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” 8
When Jesus was celebrating Passover with His disciples for the last time, “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 [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” 9 You may also want to read Hebrews 7:18-19; 8:7-13; 10:19. The new replaces the old.10 As the New Covenant was instituted with the blood shed by Messiah on Calvary it follows that the old covenant (Mosaic),11 is today null and void in God’s economy. Only the New Covenant is now operational. And, it is through this covenant that the church is included.
THE ULTIMATE FULFILLMENT OF THE NEW COVENANT
But, you say: “Israel is not yet saved!” That is true. The ultimate fulfillment of this covenant awaits God’s final judgment of Israel. Note the words of the prophet Zechariah: “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say the Lord is my God.” 12 This judgment of Israel will begin with the time of “Jacob’s trouble,”13 the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week of years,14 the great day of the Lord.15 The fulfillment of the New Covenant brings about the promise of Paul’s statement found in Romans 11:26. There, he wrote, “And all Israel shall be saved,” that is all Jewish people who survive the Tribulation will see their Messiah return, recognize Him for who He is, and, confessing their national sin of having rejected Him, they will receive Him as their Messiah, Redeemer and King. They will then enter into the Millennial Kingdom a redeemed people completing the fulfillment of these covenant promises. Thus, the fulfillment of the New Covenant for Israel involves both Messiah’s first and second coming.
1. Jeremiah 31:31-32a
2. Jeremiah 31:31-34
3. Raphael Patai in The Messiah Texts, 1979, pages 165-70, identify the concept of Messiah ben Joseph being developed by the Rabbis in the Talmudic era (70 – 500 AD)
4. Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12:10
5. Leviticus 17:11; Exodus 12:21
6. Joel 2:32
7. John 1:29
8. 1 Corinthians 5:7
9. Matthew 26:27-28
10. Hebrews 8:13
11. Jeremiah 31:31-32
12. Zechariah 13:8-9
13. Jeremiah 30:7
14. Daniel 9:24-27
15. Zephaniah 1:14-18
Rev. Ken Symes
National Field Representative