The New Covenant

The New Covenant

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With reference to the New covenant, Jeremiah was writing between 585-580 BC and he chronicled life in Judah from the time of King Josiah until Jerusalem was overthrown by Babylon in 586BC. Ezekiel’s messages were delivered between 593-597 BC and he was among the captives taken by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylonian exile in 597 BC.

Using Jeremiah 31:31-40 as a base text for the promises of the New Covenant, I shall now examine some of those promises and their application. A new covenant was promised with the house of Israel and Judah (v31) not according to the one the Lord made with their fathers when they came out of Egypt which they broke (v32). It is unequivocal that this passage is referring to literal Israel because of the language used of geographical groups of people and location that are applied in its context.

‘And they shall teach no more each man his neighbour saying, and every man his neighbour 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.’(v34) In this present age outreach is still necessary as not everyone knows the Lord and therefore the passage must be relating to a future event! Concerning the sun, moon and stars (v36)’If those ordinances depart from me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before me for ever.’ Those ordinances are obviously still present, and the New covenant therefore is unconditional and everlasting.

‘Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that the city shall be built to the Lord from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner. And the measuring line shall go forth over against it upon the hill of Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.’ (Jer. 31:38-39) ‘The rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem will be the first sign of the fulfilment of the new covenant in the last days. (Jeffery p846) At the time of writing, this would have appeared most unlikely due to the description of the area mentioned ‘And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all of the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the Lord; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down anymore forever.

Ezekiel 40-48 maps out in tremendous detail the new temple arrangements and specifically in Chapters 47-48 partitions the exact allotments of the land according to the tribes of Israel in the millennial kingdom. It is apparent that the Lord hasn’t completed his purpose for Israel and substituted them with the church. As Paul writes in (Rom. 11:1) ’I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I am also an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin.’ Also in (Romans 11 :26-27) ‘ And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.’ As Israel hasn’t become unanimous as believers as a nation, these events are still to happen. Lastly the name of the city shall be called ‘Yh-h-Shammah’, meaning the Lord is there. (Ezek. 48:35) It is appropriately named as Jesus shall set up His kingdom and reign from there! As mentioned, Jesus is currently in the heavens (Heb. 4:14) and if an earthly reign were not required then there would be no need for a new city and temple.

There is a wealth of other scriptures commenting on Israel and the New Covenant and its fulfilment. Ezekiel 20 explains how Israel is to be purged and then accepted (v34) ‘and I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the nations where in ye are scattered,’ and ‘I will also cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;’(v37)

Isaiah 61:8 affirms that the new covenant will be an everlasting one ’ for I Lord love judgement, I hate robbery for burnt offering, and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make their covenant with them.’ Dwight Pentecost adds ‘It will also provide for a new heart, as the prophets clearly state (Isa. 59:21; Jer. 31;33;32:39,41; Ezek. 36:26).

Micah prophesied of the arrival of law and peace and where war wouldn’t be necessary in Chapter 4 verses 1-8 and in particular (v3) ‘And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. This passage parallels Isaiah 2:4 also speaking of a future event in an earthly kingdom. ‘And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’

The Amillennialist here has difficulty interpreting the above passages within their system of interpretation. If the new covenant is being fulfilled in its entirety now, and if we are currently living in the millennium, then these verses quoted above concerning the absence of war and peace on the earth present a serious problem. The peaceful conditions of the millennium include the restoration of the animal kingdom (Isaiah 11:6-8, 65:25). Increase in life expectancy is similar to that of the early Genesis record. ‘There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child die an hundred years old, but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed (Isaiah 65:20) There will be no sinners either sinning or dying in heaven. Neither are people living for hundreds of years so these events must relate to future fulfilment of new covenant promises and the millennial reign of Jesus the Messiah.

However we must provide an answer to the question, what is the purpose of the church with respect of the New Covenant? Although it is true that the New Covenant was made with the house of Israel and Judah (Jer. 31:31) the blood of Jesus shed for all made it possible. At the last supper Jesus proclaimed, ‘ this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.’ Also, (1Cor. 11:25; Luke 22:20) agree ‘this cup is the new testament in my blood’. Therefore Gentile believers are under the New Covenant too, but specific geographical and ethnic promises pertaining to the land and people of Israel are not applicable to the church in the same manner.