Recently, as I read Luke’s account of the Last Supper, I pondered the Old Covenant vs the New Covenant in my mind. What’s new about the New Covenant? Then, the Holy Spirit revealed something new to me, something I hadn’t realized in 50 years of continuous discipleship.
As I read Luke 22:20 the Spirit prompted me with a question… “Who were the two parties that made the New Covenant?“ Then I understood the New Covenant is not between us and God. We had no part in it.
The New Covenant is between Almighty God and His Son. This revelation has major implications for our faith. It means:
- Since the New Covenant is between and Jesus and His Father, our failures and imperfections cannot affect it. We’re relying on Jesus’ righteousness, not our own.
- The New Covenant is unconditional and eternal. Since the Lord’s resurrection it is forever settled in heaven. Nobody can ever break this covenant between the Father and the Son. It’s sealed forever by the Son’s blood.
- The New Covenant is by faith, not works. Our only work is active belief.
If you’re not familiar with Biblical covenants, here’s a 5-minute video overview of God’s covenants.
As the video shows, there are many covenants in the Bible, but three (Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New) are important and foundational for every Christian to understand.
The Abrahamic Covenant
Genesis 15:1 the Word of the Lord (Jesus) came to Abram in a vision. (In John 1:1 Jesus is “the Word of God.”)
In Genesis 15:10-18 the Lord (again, the pre-incarnate Jesus) Himself walked between the sacrificed animals while Abram was in a deep sleep.
Since Abram didn’t walk between the sacrificed animals himself, this meant Jesus alone would bear the penalty of death if Abram (or his descendants) violated the covenant.
On that day the LORD made a covenant with AbramGenesis 15:18
The covenant between God and Abraham was unconditional on Abraham’s part. Abraham was sleeping, so he did not participate in this covenant ceremony. Therefore, Jesus alone took full responsibility for punishment if anyone broke the covenant.
The Mosaic Covenant
When discussing the Old Covenant vs the New Covenant, most people today default to the Mosaic Covenant as the Old Covenant.
In contrast with the Abrahamic covenant, notice below that (1) God’s (Mosaic) covenant with Israel was conditional, and (2) the elders of Israel actively participated in the covenant ceremony.
A Conditional Covenant
Now if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you will be My treasured possession out of all the nations—for the whole earth is Mine. And unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites.”Exodus 19:5-6
Israel Agreed and Participated
Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people, who replied, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” So Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. Under His feet was a work like a pavement made of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. But God did not lay His hand on the nobles of Israel; they saw Him, and they ate and drank.Exodus 24:6-11
As you can see in the two passages above, God’s covenant with the nation of Israel (the Mosaic covenant) was different from the Abrahamic covenant in at least five ways:
- It was conditional, depending on Israel’s obedience to obeying God’s voice and keeping His covenant
- Moses functioned as a mediator between God and Israel
- The people agreed to obey. Israel took responsibility for punishment if they broke the covenant
- Moses sprinkled sacrificial blood on the people
- On Mount Sinai Moses and Israel’s 70 elders ate a covenant meal in God’s presence. They saw God and yet lived.
The New Covenant
This covenant closely resembles the Abrahamic covenant.
- It’s unconditional. There’s no work Jesus’ disciples can do, except believe.
- During the Last Supper the disciples had no clue what was happening, or what would happen to Jesus within the next few hours. Unlike Israel, they didn’t agree to do anything in the New Covenant.
- The covenant parties who finalized the New Covenant were Jesus and His Father. No other human or angel participated.
- Jesus’ disciples (from 33AD to today) are the beneficiaries of the New Covenant. Our only work is to exercise what the late Dr. Michael Heiser called “believing loyalty.”
- As in the Abrahamic covenant, Jesus alone took full responsibility for punishment if we break the covenant. This means that–as long as we are in covenant with Him–our past, present, and future sins are on Him.
- Since 33AD, the Passover feast is a remembrance of this covenant between Jesus and His Father. Jesus is our Passover Lamb.
The New Covenant explained in 4 minutes:
The New Covenant is the Everlasting Covenant
At least 21 times, starting with Noah in Genesis, the Bible speaks of God’s “everlasting covenant.” I believe the New Covenant is the everlasting covenant. It’s the pinnacle of all the covenants.
Everything in the Bible leads up to it.
The verses below teach us that, before Adam was created:
- God knew His plan of redemption through Jesus’ blood
- God’s kingdom was already established
- God knew every saint by name.
God’s kingdom has been prepared for them since the foundation of the world.Matthew 25:34
And all who dwell on the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb who was slain.Revelation 13:8
The Abrahamic Covenant Points to the Everlasting Covenant
God knew Abraham’s descendants would break the covenant, so (in the Abrahamic covenant) God showed them that He Himself would suffer the penalty for their sin.
Jesus fulfilled this obligation when He died on the cross.
The Mosaic Covenant Points to the Everlasting Covenant
Before Moses could bring the two tablets of the 10 Commandments down from Mount Sinai, Israel had already broken the Mosaic covenant by building and worshiping the golden calf.
The Mosaic law (and covenant) were always designed to be conditional and temporary–until Abraham’s promised seed (the Messiah) came. Regarding the temporary nature of the Mosaic law as compared to the permanent Abrahamic promise, Paul wrote:
What I mean is this: The law that came 430 years later does not revoke the covenant previously established by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God freely granted it to Abraham through a promise. Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the seed to whom the promise referred.Galatians 3:17-19
Moses’ writings (Leviticus 23) gave us the Passover and Pentecost festivals. These are types and shadows of what Jesus accomplished as the Passover Lamb, and then how the Spirit would fill believers.
Looking forward from today, the autumn festivals in Leviticus 23 similarly provide us types and shadows of what Jesus will accomplish in our future when He returns as the conquering King of kings.
‘God’s Rest’ is in the New Covenant
Entering into God’s Rest is a major theme in the Bible. Chapters 3 and 4 in the Book of Hebrews tells us the 7th-day Sabbath and the Promised Land are both symbols of this Rest.
Knowing that the New Covenant is between the Father and Jesus is key to entering God’s Rest. How?
Old Covenant vs New Covenant
The New Covenant Cannot be Broken
Since the New Covenant is between Jesus and His Father, there’s never going to be anything that anyone can do to affect their covenant with each other. After Jesus overcame the world, the flesh, and the Devil, He died as our perfect sacrifice. Three days later, when the Father resurrected the man Jesus into immortality and eternal glory, the New Covenant between the Father and Jesus was forever sealed as complete. Nothing can ever invalidate it. “It is finished!”
We are Beneficiaries by Faith
Since Abel (Adam and Eve’s son, the first believer) all believers appropriate the benefits of this divine, everlasting covenant simply by faith in the Savior God provided. Before the cross believers looked forward to a coming Savior, while after the cross we look back in time to Jesus. But, Hebrews 4:3 tells us “His works have been finished since the foundation of the world,” so time doesn’t really matter.
Metaphysics aside… the point is, since none of us is sinless we can do absolutely nothing that contributes to our redemption.
Each of us has become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy ragsIsaiah 64:6
We can only trust in our Savior, who redeems us in accordance with the Everlasting Covenant between Himself and His Father. If we believe, He covers our sins with His blood and shares His immortal life with us.
Nothing Can Separate Us From His Love
As long as we believe in our Savior and in His work on our behalf, nothing (no man, no devil, not even our own failures and sins) can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:37-39
In the New Covenant our relationship with God isn’t based on our obedience or holiness. We can never become ‘good enough’ to face God and stand unashamed in His presence. But, clothed with Christ’s righteousness that’s credited to us when we believe in Him, we can face God and stand in His presence, not trusting in our good works but trusting only in Christ’s righteousness.
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now the wages of the worker are not credited as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.Romans 4:3-5
On a practical level, while I strive to be holy, like Jesus, I must readily agree with the Accuser (Satan) that I’m not perfect yet. But, with that said, as long as I’m trusting in Christ’s righteousness as my only defense, the Accuser is powerless to bring any accusation against me in the court of heaven.
We Can Rest in Faith
Therefore, since the covenant between the Father and Jesus can never be altered or broken, and is completely independent of anything anyone else does, we can rest in faith that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
We are completely and eternally safe. We now dwell securely, together with Jesus in the bosom of the Father. (John 1:18, KJV)
New Covenant or Renewed Covenant?
When comparing the Old Covenant vs the New Covenant, many Messianic Christians insist on calling the New Covenant the ‘renewed covenant.’ They believe God renewed the Mosaic covenant by giving us hearts of flesh, enabling us to keep the Mosaic law. So, they teach, the New Covenant isn’t really new. It’s simply been ‘added-on’ as a renewed (Mosaic) covenant.
Apart from all the ways the Apostle Paul (and the Book of Hebrews) refute this ‘renewed covenant’ doctrine, I encourage my Messianic brethren to consider how Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount reveals His heart. He expects His disciples to be more holy and loving than the Mosaic law requires. For example,
- Not only should we not commit adultery, but we shouldn’t lust.
- Not only should we not kill, we shouldn’t be angry with our brother
- Jesus told us to love our enemies, and pray for our persecutors.
Carnal obedience to Mosaic laws cannot produce this kind of character, but abiding in Christ (John 15) and walking in His Spirit (Romans 8) does. For more on this topic see my article on the Law of Christ.
In contrasting the Old Covenant vs the New Covenant, here are the major advantages of the New Covenant.
- The New Covenant is not between us and God. The New Covenant is a covenant between Almighty God and His Son. Believers are the beneficiaries.
- The New Covenant is unconditional. Since Jesus’ resurrection, this everlasting covenant between the Father and Son is forever settled in heaven.
- The New Covenant is by faith, not works. We enter into this covenant solely by faith. Therefore, as beneficiaries of the everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son, we can confidently enter God’s Rest.