The Relationship between the Old and New Covenant

Posted Feb 25, 2015 by Adrian Ebens in The Covenants Hits: 3,681

This article is a follow on from the article “Introduction to the Covenants: A Historical backdrop.” Please read this first if you have not read it.

To establish a correct pattern of thinking on the covenants, I want to study the pattern the Bible gives us of how we receive eternal life.

1. Pattern of Receiving Eternal Life

1 Cor 8:6  But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

The worship of the Father and Son establishes the pattern of Father as Source (Of Whom) and the Son as Channel (By Whom). It is the Spirit of Life that comes from the Father and through the Son. This pattern of source and channel affects all areas of Bible truth.

…To the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col 2:2, 3 

We contrast this with the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4) who said I will be like the Most High Isa 14:13. Satan wished to place himself as one who was the same as the Father. Not a Son who is a channel for the Father but a co-source who exactly the same as Him creating a natural tension between the first and second beings of the universe. For more information on this see the booklet Divine Pattern of Life.

Yet Christ is the Image of God and not a second independent source. How does this affect our thinking?

Divine Pattern

God of this World

Process One leading to Process two

Process One Versus Process two


The key difference is that where there are two related entities, the Divine Pattern flows from one to the other without tension between the two entities. The god of this world pattern places the two entities in opposition to each other. This is especially important when talking about the law and the covenants for there are two laws and two covenants. The pattern of thinking we naturally have will determine how we understand the relationship between them.

Divine Pattern

God of this World

Covenant one leading to Covenant two

Covenant one Versus Covenant two

Law of Moses leading to Ten Commandments

Law of Moses Versus Ten Commandments

 

So how do we receive eternal life?

John 12:24-25  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  (25)  He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Note the Two Phases:

True

False

[1] Death then [2] Resurrection. 
[2] Planting then [2] Spring forth

Obviously not Death versus Resurrection
not Planting versus Springing Forth


Let us put on our Father and Son Divine Pattern glasses. It’s like being in the IMAX theatre. If you don’t put the special glasses on, the screen is all scrambled..

How does the seed bring forth life? It is buried and dies and then comes forth to life. Let’s trace the [1] and [2] sequence in Scripture.  

Rom 6:3-5  [1] Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  (4)  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: [2] that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  (5)  For if we have been [1] planted together in the likeness of his death, [2]we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Gal 2:19-20  [1]For I through the law am dead to the law, [2] that I might live unto God.  (20)  [1]I am crucified with Christ: [2]nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

Rom 7:11-13  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.  (12)  Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.  (13)  Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. [1] But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Rom 8:2  [2]For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free [1]from the law of sin and death.

Joh 16:8  And when He has come, [1] He will convict the world of sin, and [2] of righteousness, and of judgment:

Gal 3:24  Therefore [1] the law was our tutor to bring us to [2] Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Now let’s summarise these verses and then contrast them with the other pattern of two sources.

2. Divine Pattern of the Covenants

Let us notice carefully the relationship between old and new with Divine Pattern Glasses on.

Channel  - Old Covenant

Action

Source – New Covenant

Visible

Leads to

Invisible

Letter

By death opens to

Spirit 2 Cor 3:6

Tables of Stone

Brings to

Tables of the heart 2 Cor 3:3

Kills

Leads to

Gives Life2 Cor 3:6

Law of Sin and death

By death opens to

Law of the Spirit of Life Rom 8:2

Convicts of Sin

then

Convicts of Righteousness John 16:8

School Master

Brings to

Christ Gal 3:24

Baptised into death

then

Raised to live Rom 6:4

Ministration of death 2 Cor 3:7

Leads to

Ministration of Life 2 Cor 3:8

Ministration of Condemnation

Much more

Ministration of Righteousness 2 Cor 3:9

Glory

Prepares way for

More Glorious

With “God of this World” Glasses 2 Cor 4:3,4

Source - Old Covenant

Action

Source – New Covenant

Visible

Versus

Invisible

Letter

Versus

Spirit 2 Cor 3:6

Tables of Stone

Versus

Tables of the heart 2 Cor 3:3

Kills

Versus

Gives Life2 Cor 3:6

Law of Sin and death

Versus

Law of the Spirit of Life Rom 8:2

Convicts of Sin

Versus

Convicts of Righteousness John 16:8

School Master

Versus

Christ Gal 3:24

Baptised into death

Versus

Raised to live Rom 6:4

Ministration of death 2 Cor 3:7

Versus

Ministration of Life 2 Cor 3:8

Ministration of Condemnation

Versus

Ministration of Righteousness 2 Cor 3:9

Glory

Versus

More Glorious 2 Cor 3:9

 

In the second table the conflict between the two elements actually opens the door to avoiding the death and resurrection process. We simply declare we are in the New Covenant and minimize the critical role of repentance, sorrow and spiritual death to self. We simply emphasise the new life in Christ and speak very little about repentance and death.  Whereas Paul says:

1 Cor 15:31  I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

2 Cor 4:10  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

Paul was always bearing in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus. The work of death giving way to life was a continuing ongoing process. As long as we are in this world, we need a constant reminder of our complete dependence on Christ and the power to fulfil that need.  

God has given man a complete rule of life in his law. Obeyed, he shall live by it, through the merits of Christ. Transgressed, it has power to condemn. The law sends men to Christ, and Christ points them back to the law. RH Sep 27, 1881

3. The Two Women are the Two Covenants

Gal 4:22-24  For it is written that Abraham had two sons: [1] the one by a bondwoman, [2] the other by a freewoman.  (23)  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise,  (24)  which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—

These two women tell of the one experience of Abraham as he passed from death to life. It is the two covenants in one life time. Married to Sarah first, and joined to Hagar second, yet Hagar produced the first fruit and then Sarah second when it was humanly impossible.

The two marriages of Abraham reveal the nature of the covenant within the individual and that it occurs in one person’s life time. We walk in his steps

Rom 4:12  And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

God promised Abraham a son. The assumption would be through Sarah but Abraham asks for Eliezer his servant. Gen 15:2 God promises it will come from his seed. Gen 15:4. Sarah takes Hagar her servant and gives her to her husband for the purpose of a child.

A miracle occurs for Abraham when Sarah his wife becomes pregnant even while he is married to Hagar. When the new birth miraculously takes place, Hagar and her fruit Ishmael feel displaced and express contempt for the fruit of the new covenant.

The bond woman has to be cast out and the pain of separation caused by union with the efforts to fulfil Gods plan in his own way causes Abraham to be humbled.

The two marriages of Abraham reveal the nature of the covenant within the individual and that occurs in one person’s life time. We walk in his steps

Rom 4:12  And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

Abraham walked from Old Covenant to New Covenant through several steps. These steps are repeated by his children. As we are all born as sons of the first Adam, we must become aware of our sinful condition and our great need in order to receive grace.

4. Relationship between the Two covenants

How we view the relationship between the two covenants is critical. If we take a source and source approach to them then one of two things will have

1. Each element will polarize the other and they will not be able to co-exist
2. One or the other will be destroyed that only one will exist or their will be a blending of both as one so that neither clearly exists but a confusion and confounding of both.

Matt 6:24  No man can serve two masters:[sources]  for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.

Notice the following diagrams:

5. Stepping through Process of Old to New

Paul tells us that Israel possessed both covenants. Both worked together to transform us into the completion in Christ.

Rom 9:4  Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;  

Ellen White details the step by step process on how the Lord would use the first covenant to lead them to the second in the book Patriarchs and Prophets in the chapter the Law and the Covenants. We will step through a large portion of it to develop this transition process.

(1) Married to Sarah – New Covenant comes first

The covenant of grace was first made with man in Eden, when after the Fall there was given a divine promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. To all men this covenant offered pardon and the assisting grace of God for future obedience through faith in Christ. It also promised them eternal life on condition of fidelity to God's law. Thus the patriarchs received the hope of salvation.  {PP 370.2} 

This same covenant was renewed to Abraham in the promise, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Genesis 22:18. This promise pointed to Christ. So Abraham understood it (see Galatians 3:8, 16), and he trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It was this faith that was accounted unto him for righteousness. The covenant with Abraham also maintained the authority of God's law. The Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, "I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect." Genesis 17:1. The testimony of God concerning His faithful servant was, "Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." Genesis 26:5. And the Lord declared to him, "I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee." Genesis 17:7…  {PP 370.3} 

(2) Married to Hagar – Old Covenant develops.

Another compact--called in Scripture the "old" covenant--was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the "second," or "new," covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant. That the new covenant was valid in the days of Abraham is evident from the fact that it was then confirmed both by the promise and by the oath of God--the "two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie." Hebrews 6:18.  {PP 371.1}

But if the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption, why was another covenant formed at Sinai? In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant. In delivering them from Egypt, God sought to reveal to them His power and His mercy, that they might be led to love and trust Him. He brought them down to the Red Sea--where, pursued by the Egyptians, escape seemed impossible--that they might realize their utter helplessness, their need of divine aid; and then He wrought deliverance for them. Thus they were filled with love and gratitude to God and with confidence in His power to help them. He had bound them to Himself as their deliverer from temporal bondage.  {PP 371.2}

But there was a still greater truth to be impressed upon their minds. Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God's law, and their need of a Saviour. All this they must be taught.  {PP 371.3} 

     God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: "If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then . . . ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize [372] the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God's law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, "All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient." Exodus 24:7. They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant.  {PP 371.4} 

Ready for the New Covenant Experience. Isaac is born

6. The Mosaic System

Is the Sanctuary system of the Old Testament part of the Old or New Covenant?

Yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. PP 371

There was no forgiveness offered under the old covenant. They could not hope for any favour under that covenant. Forgiveness could only be found in the new covenant.

How much more shall the blood of Christ, 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 cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, [covenant] they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. Heb 9:14, 15 

So when a person in the Old Testament obtained forgiveness for their sins they had connected to the New Covenant. Wherever grace was given to men in the Old Testament it was by virtue of the New or Everlasting Covenant.

Gen 6:8  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Grace only comes by Jesus Christ and Noah obtained grace from the Lord.

Exo 32:13  Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.

Exo 32:32  Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

Exo 33:17  And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.  

When Israel had sinned, Moses appealed to the covenant made with Abraham and asked the Lord to forgive the people. Israel remained His people and they were pardoned through the grace of Christ found only in the New Covenant.

Lev_4:20  And he shall do with the bullock as he did with the bullock for a sin offering, so shall he do with this: and the priest shall make an atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.

Lev_5:16  And he shall make amends for the harm that he hath done in the holy thing, and shall add the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest: and the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.

The sacrifices of rams, bulls and goats had no merit in themselves but partaken in faith connected them to the reality of the New Covenant. As EGW says

…they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. PP 371

The Abrahamic or new covenant was shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Most people simply assume that the sacrifices and offerings were part of the Old Covenant. When people approached God with offerings believing that there was merit in them they did not connect to the New Covenant rather they remained in the Old Covenant. When men offered sacrifices without a broken and contrite heart feeling sorrow for their sin, they turned the blessed shadows into a curse and found no forgiveness at all.

Therefore the sacrificial system could be part of either the Old Covenant or the New Covenant depending on how it was approached. When Christ came to this world and died, these shadows were no longer required to point to the death of Christ. The Gospel story told in reverent tones aided by the Spirit was more than able to bring the sinner to repentance and feel their need. The meaning of the slain lamb now shone with a much brighter clarity as to the meaning of the love of God in giving His Son. The power of the gospel increased and was magnified in the light of the shed blood of Christ.

So the earthly sacrificial system was connected to the heavenly reality. In order for Melchisedec in the Old Testament to be a king of righteousness and peace, he had to have righteousness and peace to offer those who came to him like Abraham. The mediatorial work of Christ on behalf of men from the time of the fall was a mystery to men.

Rom 16:25-26  Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,  (26)  But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

Listen to what A.T Jones says on this point

There, too, was a priesthood of the earthly temple on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. There was a priesthood of the sanctuary at Shiloh, in the wilderness. That, it is true, represented the priesthood of Christ, but did that represent any priesthood of Christ before A. D. 1? Shall we say that that represented a priesthood of Christ that was afar off?—No. That priesthood in Jerusalem, in the sanctuary in the wilderness, represented a priesthood that was already in existence after the order of Melchisedek?—Thou shalt be a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek?—No, No. "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek." Was not Melchisedek a priest in the days of Abraham? And is not the priesthood of Christ forever after the order of Melchisedek?

Do you not see, then, that this whole system of services given to Israel was to teach them the presence of the Christ then and there for the present salvation of their souls, and not for the salvation of their souls eighteen hundred years, or two thousand years, or four thousand years away?—Surely, surely, it is so. A.T Jones, 1895 GCB, Sermon 25 p 477, 478.

Ellen White speaks of Christ as the mediator of the covenant from everlasting and also that Christ commenced His priesthood from the fall of man.

But while God's Word speaks of the humanity of Christ when upon this earth, it also speaks decidedly regarding his pre-existence. The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with his Father. From everlasting he was the Mediator of the covenant, the one in whom all nations of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, if they accepted him, were to be blessed. "The Word was with God, and the Word was God." Before men or angels were created, the Word was with God, and was God.  {RH, April 5, 1906 par. 5}

The priesthood of Christ commenced as soon as man had sinned. He was made a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The order had fallen and [they were] under the dominion of death, but they were made prisoners of hope; they were not left to become extinguished. 1 Cor. 2:7, 8. See Rom. 16:25-27. {Ms43b-1891 (July 4, 1891) par. 5}

All blessings, forgiveness, grace, and power that came to people before the cross was by virtue of the mediation of Christ through the New Covenant. Was Christ able to understand the needs and challenges of humanity before the cross?

Isa 63:8-9  For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.  (9)  In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

Christ felt all the affliction of His people before the cross. He understood their trials and their difficulties and was able to pity, love and redeem them. He understood intimately the trials of men because that all men receive their temporal life through Him.

John 1:9  That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

Col 1:17  And he is before all things, and by [through]him all things consist.

Those who allow Christ to live in them, allow Christ to fight for them and overcome Satan in them. He has known the weaknesses of man from the beginning for He has carried man through all the days of old as we read in Isa 63:9

This means that the entire Sanctuary system on earth was an image and channel of the true tabernacle in heaven. It was the visible expression of the heavenly reality. In their feebleness most men did not look beyond the earthly to the heavenly and so the mediatorial work of Christ remained a mystery for most. When Christ came to earth, died, rose again, and went to heaven again, He opened the way into the heavenly so that we could realise what God had provided from the beginning.

Heb 9:8  The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, [rendered apparent] while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:  

In the same manner that it was important for Christ to return to heaven that He might send the comforter to them, the earthly sanctuary service must also cease that men might turn their eyes towards the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man. While Christ was on earth, men would seek Him on earth, but when it was known He was in heaven to send His Spirit, then it would be known clearly that Christ was abiding with all men. As it was for Christ, so it was for the Sanctuary. While the first or earthly Sanctuary was still standing, men did not naturally think to look to the heavens for their salvation.

Heb 6:19-20  Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;  (20)  Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

So we see that the grace of Christ was available from the foundation of the world and as time has continued the understanding of the plan of salvation has expanded.

Beginning with the first gospel promise, and coming down through the patriarchal and Jewish ages, and even to the present time, there has been a gradual unfolding of the purposes of God in the plan of redemption. PP 373

In light of the Father and Son relationship, the two covenants acts as source and channel. The first covenant ministers death to us in order that we might be born again of the Spirit and come into the New Covenant. This work has been the same from the foundation of the world and has continued to expand and grow till this present day.

If we could understand our true condition and wickedness from the start we would not need to pass through the Old Covenant we could simply claim the grace of the new. Yet due to our blindness and self-confidence, we need to be brought to the point of realising our need.

As the subject of the covenants is complex, it is probable that I have missed some aspects or not expressed the issues clearly. This is a learning journey and I realise my inexperience in some of these things. I present before you my thoughts to encourage further study and feedback to obtain a better understanding of the blessings of the gospel.

There are several other things that need to be considered in this subject but we shall deal with these in future articles and also after much needed feedback.