When Did the New Covenant Begin?
But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.”
Picture it. Your brow starts to look like a strip of miniature bubble-wrap as you perspire greatly. Shocked, while staring at a huge bill you just opened up, fear begins to grip your soul. Just the same as a rock falling from a cliff, your heart drops into your stomach, “Oh my goodness…I can’t afford this! What am I going to do?!”
Pacing through the house with your pulse racing and hands shaking, you glance up at the name and address on the notice–stopping dead in your tracks–“Bill and Jane Phillips? Oh thank God! Thank you, Jesus! This is not for me!”
The postman accidentally slipped your neighbors’ bills into your mailbox! You’re reading someone else’s mail and this debt does not belong to you! What an amazing relief!
For us, as Christians, when we read Old Testament Scripture–the rules, regulations, and debt of the Jews to God–WE ARE DOING THE SAME THING. It’s not our mail. Therefore, we too should feel a sense of respite once we realize such a deficit never belonged to us.
When Moses led the people group of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, they were split up into twelve tribes. The tribe of Levi was made up of priests. These priests were not allowed to have a regular job, instead, grain tithing by the other tribes was supposed to support them (see Numbers 18:26, Malachi 3:10). Many pastors today pull this verse out of context to claim we should tithe them, but this was for the Levitical priests only, and according to the Old Covenant–and it was so they could eat. Tithing was never meant to pay for a pastor’s trip to Paris. New Covenant believers are to give freely, from the heart, not under pressure (see 2 Corinthians 9:7).
Anyway, the priests were responsible for maintaining the debts caused by Israel for not obeying Moses’ commandments. Through their work at the temple, they were never allowed to sit down and were always presenting the blood of animals on the altar to atone for the sins of Israel–NOT CHRISTIANS. We were never invited to obey the commandments given to Israel, which were according to the Old Covenant. So, we never even needed to be forgiven for the commandments. On this side of the Cross, we enjoy the New Covenant of God’s grace!
Was there anything wrong with the Old Covenant that planet earth needed a new one? No. It was and still is perfect (see Romans 7:12, 1 Timothy 1:9). The fault was found in Israel’s inability to keep up their end of the bargain with our Creator:
“But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.” (Hebrews 8:8)
In that verse, the New Testament writer of Hebrews makes clear that the blame was on the people–not in the agreement. He (or she) then points out that a new Covenant will come from the tribe of Judah. To the Jews, the whole of Israel, this was crazy talk. “That would be impossible!” they’d retort, “A covenant can only come from the tribe of Levi because blood must be shed through a priest!”
The author of Hebrews–a former Jewish Law-follower–would have a comeback for that excuse:
“Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.” (See Hebrews 7:22)
This New Covenant–which would come from *gasp* the tribe of Judah and not Levi–were the ancestors of Jesus! Mary came from this tribe, as did Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph!
“But Matt, Joseph didn’t physically create Jesus through his sperm, so how can you say Jesus came from the tribe of Judah from his side?” an inquisitive person might ask.
Oh, my friend, even more importantly, God chose this man to raise the Messiah as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, while temporarily here on His very own creation! New, heavenly, godly-begotten blood would bring in the New Covenant! (See John 3:16, Hebrews 1:1-3). At the Last Supper, Jesus explains this epiphany as He raises His cup, looking into the eyes of each disciple:
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
God requires blood to not only forgive sins, but to bring in a Covenant. Even the first Covenant had to be sprinkled with blood and the people to establish it:
“When Moses had proclaimed every command of the Law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.” (See Hebrews 9:19).
Gross! I’m skipping that service!
Friend, God requires blood–not confession, not asking, not begging, not even repenting–but B.L.O.O.D. If there’s one thing you remember from this devotional, remember that God uses blood in His economy to pay for sins. Why do you think the hemoglobin of the Messiah was so important to the Jews? It’s because they knew God wanted blood for their Mosaic transgressions.
According to the Old Covenant, the Jews felt a sense of relief each time they left the annual Day of Atonement. After handing off their best animals to be sacrificed at the temple by the priests from the tribe of Levi, they could exhale. That priest was their middle-man, their go-between, their mediator. But Christ has become the new Mediator! The better, final Priest!
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Even the Levitical priests had to present blood for their own sins, their own messing-up-of the Law! (See Hebrews 5:3). Jesus didn’t! Now, as New Covenant believers, we don’t need human priests. The hierarchies are obsolete and we are one! We are all a royal priesthood! Peter tells the early church:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
But back to the Last Supper for a moment, as they drank Jesus’ new blood of the New Covenant, symbolically, He was being poured out into each person. Nothing magical was happening here, but instead a foretelling of Christ’s Holy Spirit supernaturally entering the body of each believer. His spiritual lifeblood would now be in every human who would ever believe in His bloody forgiveness.
This was done not to achieve forgiveness, or to harp on the stuff we “still” need forgiveness for. Instead, the Lord’s Supper is only for remembrance of His forgiveness. Today’s church has turned this celebration into an emotional event of remembering our sins–but Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Dimming the lights and evaluating our sin-management success, or lack thereof, is wrong. “I better clean up my act or I’m not worthy to drink this grape juice and eat this cracker” is poppycock!
If you think about it, when was our forgiveness available as Gentiles, non-Jews? The divider in your Bible before the book of Matthew might say The New Testament but that’s not when it actually began. Was it when Jesus was born? Was it at the Last Supper?…No.
THE NEW COVENANT BEGAN AT THE DEATH OF THE MESSIAH! When Jesus’ blood was shed! Just look!
“In fact, the Law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
What Law required blood? Moses’! The mail written to the Jews! Israel’s inbox! 613 debt notices in which they could never pay in full, so they had to keep sacrificing their best animals to get annual forgiveness for sin! But this animal blood only covered, or atoned for their sins for a year. It reminded them of how badly they kept breaking the commandments given by Moses! (See Hebrews 10:1-4).
Yes, it paid off the debt, but more debt would be accumulated later that year as they continued to sin! They never confessed to a Levitical priest to be forgiven so what makes us thinks we have to? I’ll tell you! Poor interpretation of Scripture! Pride! Extortion! Greed! Religion! Fear! Manipulation! Error! Their many words never forgave them! Instead, they handed off their cattle to the priest on the unholy side of the curtain in the temple to be slaughtered to gain atonement where only the Levite had access at the altar!
What a cluster of difficulty, stress, strain, and hard work to gain forgiveness of sin! Christ, however, would take away all of their sins–FOR GOOD! No more temple sacrifices! No more annual treks! But how?!…By grace through faith in Jesus’ blood, His final sacrifice (see Ephesians 2:8,9, John 3:16, Matthew 27:51, Hebrews 10:18-22).
Messiah would not atone for, or cover, but banish their sins into oblivion–as far as the east is from the west–which was foretold in the Psalms (see Psalm 103:12). He is not bound by time (see Hebrews 7:3, John 8:58), so their past, present, and even future sins were forgiven by God, and chosen to be forgotten forever.
It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me” (Hebrews 10:4,5)
Then he (Jesus) said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first (Covenant) to establish the second.” (Hebrews 10:9, my notes added)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)
This wasn’t even written to us, but Israel. These sins were not the type of sins the modern church normally likes to point out. Instead, they were religious sins. Sins of unbelief. The Jews were the most well-behaved people on earth. They were constantly seeking righteousness through the dangling carrot of Law observance (see Romans 3:11,20,28, Galatians 2:16). So this wasn’t about repenting from skipping church, drinkin’, smokin’, and bar-hoppin’–but even still, they suffered from the worst sin of all, the unforgivable sin: unbelief in Christ as their Messiah, rejecting His grace (see Hebrews 10:26-29). They wanted to continue following the 613 commandments of Moses. But we, as New Covenant believers, get to follow the two new commandments of Jesus Christ:
- Believe He’s forgiven us.
- Love as He has loved us.
These two aren’t added to the Old’s 613, becoming the New 615. The Old is now obsolete! The New is all that’s available to both the Jew and the Gentile! (See Hebrews 8:13, Galatians 3:28). Jesus explains His new, easy commandments, in the book of John, and John explains it in 1 John:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34,35)
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” (1 John 3:23)
John, a Jew, said these commandments are not burdensome (see 1 John 5:3). The commandments from Moses were burdensome. The Jewish people wanted freedom from such a burden, which would only come through the Messiah prophesied about in Isaiah 53–the same freedom Jesus claimed to have access to:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
“NOPE! I’m not buying it, Matt! Jesus said we are to love God with everything we are! He said we’re supposed to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind!”
Friend, I know He said this. But when He said this, He was just asked a Law-based question by a Moses-following, legalistic Jew. So, He gave a Law-based answer to a Moses-following, legalistic Jew, based on the very commandments to which that man was supposed to be obeying. This person was trying to trick Jesus and said, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (See Matthew 22:36, my emphasis added).
Christ knew that every commandment was equally and evenly important (see Deuteronomy 4:2, Galatians 3:10). Because of this, He pulled out the commands about them loving God, because He knew these slimeballs were not doing anything remotely close. Loving God with “everything we are” is Old Covenant love. It’s burdensome because how do we know if we’re pulling it off?…We don’t.
And what happens if we don’t pull it off? Punishment? That can’t be true because Jesus was already punished. Do you see it?
For years, I looked at this passage in Matthew 22 as I gotta love God with everything I am! It’s the least I can do! But that’s not the gospel. Anything that leaves us with the option of us failing God, is not the truth of the New Covenant. What is a failure according to our Creator? A sin. And what did Jesus do with our sins? HE’S TAKEN THEM ALL AWAY.
On this side of the Cross–as those who have placed our faith in Jesus–God is counseling us with love, not punishing us with torment or less blessings. He is inspiring us from within to live out our heavenly heritage! The gospel is this: God loves me with everything He is–so much so, He allowed Jesus to shed His blood to bring in the New Covenant so that I could receive His Spirit into my own, therefore making me just as righteous as Him! (See 1 Corinthians 5:17-21, 6:19, Romans 6:6-10, Colossians 3:3).
As I come to understand His love more and more–a love He has poured out into me, from the moment I first believed–this relational love matures and grows into me loving Him back without pressure or effort.
The truth is, His love actually is the Holy Spirit in us!
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
So today, my friends, know this: The New Covenant began at the Cross, when Jesus died. His willingness to take on the brunt of humanity’s sin, in Himself, was a torturous thing to do. But He wasn’t focused on such shame! He was focused on the joy set ahead of Him! A joy that would come to all who would ever believe in His forgiveness! (See Hebrews 12:2). Christ isn’t dying again and again for each of our sins in heaven! He’s relaxing! It’s finished! The New Covenant is here! (See Hebrews 7:25, 10:10,12,14, John 19:30). Do you want to be a part of it? Do you want to receive the benefits of supernatural perfection today? Then simply believe Jesus has taken away all of your sins once and for all time–and He’ll do just that!
A prayer for you: Dad, thanks for Jesus. Thanks for the New Covenant. Thanks for the revelation of total forgiveness through the Blood of the Cross. Take me even further into the halls of your grace! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. So many of them have been taught “If Jesus said it, I gotta do it!” But that’s not always true. A lot of Jesus’ teachings were meant to bring hypocrites to their knees, and as believers, we’ve already done that. Now, we can stand tall and be confident as your kids! We can enjoy being members of your household! Teach us even more about what Christ has done FOR us and TO us, so that He can live THROUGH us! In His amazing name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!