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The new covenant implies that there was an old one. The old one is the foundation for the new one. The old one had faults, so there is a need for a new one. Understanding the old covenant is necessary for learning the new one.
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” — Heb 8:7
New Covenant VS. Old Covenant: What Remains?
First, the two parties associated with the covenant remain the same. The new covenant is still between God and Israel.
Secondly, the agreement doesn’t change. If Israel obeys God’s law, God will bless them; if they break the law, God will punish them.
Last, the promises don’t change. God promised the fathers of Israel that they will be a nation among other nations. All nations will have to get blessings from God through them.
The agreement part is the cause for a new covenant. The history of Israel has proved that they can’t obey God’s law. God told them not to worship idols, but Israel worshiped a golden cow and Gentiles’ gods. God told them not to commit adultery, but even their king took the other one’s wife. God told them not to bear false witness, but they falsely accused God’s chosen prophets, apostles, and the Messiah and killed them.
To make God’s promises come true, Israel has to obey the law and there is no hope for this to happen. However, God is faithful. He will not swallow his words. He will make the promises true.
Therefore, a new covenant is needed.
“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.” — Jer 31:31
New Covenant VS. Old Covenant: What Is Updated?
First, a new heart. Israel used to learn God and his law by teaching from brothers and neighbors (Heb 8:11). Under the new covenant, God will write his law into their hearts. The new heart will help all of Israel, from the least to the greatest, to know God. The new heart will also help them to keep God’s law(Eze 11:19-20).
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” — Heb 8:10-11
“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them…” — Eze 11:19-20
Secondly, a new spirit(Eze 36:26-27). It used to be that only God’s chosen prophets would have the holy spirit in them. Meanwhile, if the prophet sinned against God, the holy spirit would leave the prophet. King Saul was an example (Sam10:9-10, 16-14). Under the new covenant, the remnants of Israel will have the Holy Spirit in them. For example, Peter and other disciples in Acts 2 and Acts 6 all had the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4, 6:2-3, 5). Because the sin is redeemed by their new priest, the holy spirit will not leave Israel anymore (Heb8:12).
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you…And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” — Eze 36:26-27
Last, the new priest has an eternal position(Heb 7:16, 23-25), and his sacrifice has an eternal effect(Heb 7:27). Israel had to sacrifice animal blood when they broke God’s law according to the rules of sin offering(Lev 4). Israel couldn’t stop sinning, and their sin offering never ended. However, animals’ blood can’t pay for men’s sins (Heb 10:4). Jesus is the eternal priest. He sacrificed himself as the sin offering(Heb 10:12). His blood paid for Israel’s sin(Heb 9:12-14, 25-26). Therefore, there is no need for Israel to sacrifice sin offerings(Heb10:10).
“And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” — Heb 7:23-24
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God…” — Heb 10:12
The new covenant makes up for the fault of the old one so that Israel can see their fathers’ promises come true. In Revelation, we can read that the new Jerusalem will come to the new earth from heaven(Rev 21:2), and all nations will go to Israel for God’s wisdom(Rev 21:24). The covenant between God and Israel will be fulfilled.