What Has Happened To The New Covenant?

by Joseph Hunting

Israel is unique among all the nations of the world in that it is the only nation with whom God has entered into a covenant relationship. Indeed, Israel's destiny for either good or ill has been determined by these Divinely appointed agreements.

Among the many covenants that God has made with Israel it is interesting to observe that some were unconditional and others were conditional upon Israel's obedience.

The Unconditional Covenants

One of the three unconditional covenants in which Israel's obedience was not required was the Abrahamic (Genesis 12:1-3), where God chose Abraham and his descendants to be a great nation through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

The unconditional nature of the Davidic Covenant is expressed by Jeremiah: "Thus says the LORD, 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then my covenant may also be broken with David my servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne ...'" (33:20-21).

Jeremiah also promised that God would make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah that was likewise unconditional, when "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (31:33 ff).

The Conditional Covenants

Two of the important conditional covenants that God entered into with Israel were the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, where the Eternal said: "IF you will indeed obey my voice, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people; for all the earth is mine" (Exodus 19:5), and Israel's occupancy of the Promised Land, which was also conditional. "And it shall come to pass, IF you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all his commandments which I command you this day, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth" (Deuteronomy 28:1). Then Moses enumerated the blessings and the curses which would follow depending upon Israel's obedience or otherwise to the terms of the covenant. Israel's long and chequered history is a graphic account of God's faithfulness to His Word.

The New Covenant

Whereas one can see the tangible results of the above-mentioned covenants, there is one exception, the New Covenant. Because the terms of this covenant are so extraordinary I'll quote it in full. "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- 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, my covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them," says the LORD.

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days," says the LORD, "I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

"No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD, for they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

"Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is his name): 'If those ordinances depart from before me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before me for ever.'

"Thus says the LORD: 'If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD'" (Jeremiah 31:31-37).

The New Covenant, the Ultimate Experience for Israel

Jeremiah foretold that at some future unspecified time God would make an unconditional covenant with Israel unlike the conditional one made at Sinai which had been broken. This new covenant would have the remarkable effect of totally transforming the nation of Israel when, "I will be their God, and they will be my people." Furthermore, so wide-sweeping, and universal will be the effect of this covenant that "they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them."

And in order to emphasize God's eternal relationship with Israel, He declares that if day and night fail to follow each other, then He would sever His relationship with Israel. And if that did not convince the sceptic, let him try to measure the expanse of the universe or plumb the foundations of the earth, because only then would He cast off Israel for ALL they have done!

At no time in the past two thousand five hundred years since Jeremiah announced the terms of the New Covenant has Israel enjoyed the universal benefits promised by it. On the other hand, the opposite has been Israel's sorry experience. Following the return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, Haggai, Joshua and Zechariah, the Greeks, Syrians and finally the Romans controlled Israel's national and political life. 70 AD saw the end of the Second Commonwealth, the destruction of the Temple and the commencement of the great Dispersion that was to last nearly nineteen centuries, and culminate in the most heinous of all crimes against humanity, the Holocaust. Only in our life-span have we seen Israel reborn as a nation on the soil of its ancient homeland. Surely, the blessings outlined in the New Covenant are yet future.

But before we arrive at any conclusions, can we be sure that God has not at some time in Israel's past concluded the covenant? Remember it is to be a NEW covenant. I find it fascinating to discover that the Bible records that Israel observed eight Passovers. Of course they probably observed many more, but only eight are recorded. Of these, seven are recorded in the Tenach (Old Testament) and the eighth in the New Testament. Most Bible scholars agree that seven is the Biblical number for completeness, whilst eight denotes a new beginning, just as the seventh day completes the week and the eighth day commences a new one.

It is not without significance that the eighth recorded Passover was also the setting for the introduction of the New Covenant, as recorded by Luke. "And when the hour was come he (Yeshua) sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. Then he said to them, 'With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer' ... And he took bread and gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me.' Likewise he also took the cup after supper saying, 'This cup is the NEW COVENANT in my blood, which is shed for you'" (22:14-20).

The Question Answered

The question may be asked, "What has happened to the New Covenant, and why then did not the promised blessings follow on?" Luke's account of the eighth recorded Passover in Scripture sheds light on what must surely provide part of the answer to the question under our scrutiny. Yeshua's announcement, that "this cup is the NEW COVENANT in my blood, which is shed for you" has startling implications.

And if what He said is the case, and I believe it is, then the covenant has already been ratified. What then of the promised blessings that have not yet been fulfilled in Israel? Does the following prophecy by Zechariah provide a clue to this vital question? "I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look unto me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a first-born ... in that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness" (12:10, 13:1). That the future fulfilment of this prophecy is certain is without question.

The Letter to Hebrews in the New Testament succinctly puts it this way: "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason he is the mediator of the new covenant ..." (9:13-15).

Most assuredly, as long as day follows night, God will fulfil every "jot and tittle" of the glorious promises of the New Covenant. It will also be a source of blessing to the Gentiles, for the ultimate blessing in the Abrahamic Covenant is: "In you shall all the families of the earth be blessed."