22 November 2018

New Covenant and New Creation

New Jerusalem
The history of Israel is riddled with examples of national idolatry and other sins that culminated in expulsion from the land and loss of nationhood. But all was not lost; Yahweh foresaw Israel’s fall and made plans to restore her.
     When Israel truly repented “then Yahweh will bring back your captivity and have compassion on you, and gather you from among all the peoples whither Yahweh your God has scattered you…and bring you into the land which your fathers inherited, and you will inherit it, and he will do you good and multiply you above thy fathers…And Yahweh will circumcise your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).
     Two things are noteworthy. First, God would “multiply Israel beyond her forebears”; something greater than what preceding generations had known would be realized.  “Multiply” is the same Hebrew verb in the call to Adam to “be fruitful and multiply” and in His promise to multiply Abraham’s seed exceedingly ([rabah] Genesis 1:28; 17:2).
     Second, the restoration would occur when Yahweh “circumcised Israel’s heart” and inscribed His law upon it, which was integral to the New Covenant predicted by Jeremiah:  “this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days; I will put my law in their inward parts and in their heart will I write it” (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 11:19-20; 37:21-26).
God promised a restoration destined to be far more expansive and glorious than anything Israel had known.  It would be an act of sheer grace as God enabled the people to fulfill His covenant by giving them a new Spirit. This would be nothing less than a new creative act that would affect all nations (Isaiah 65:17-19; Revelation 21:4).
     A key theme in the New Testament is that of fulfillment in Jesus.  The promise gives way to fulfillment as God actualizes His covenant commitments in Christ, including the promises made to Abraham. “The season has been fulfilled, the kingdom of God has drawn near; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus came to fulfill both the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 1:22-23; 2:15-17; 2:23;3:15; 4:14-15; 5:17;8:17; 12:17; 13:14;13:35; 21:4; 26:54-56;27:9; Luke 4:21). Jews who saw Christ experienced something “greater than Jonah,” “greater than Solomon,” “greater than David,” and greater than the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 12:6; 12:41-42).
     The kingdom of God was inaugurated in Jesus and began its advance in the world (Matthew 12:28). The age of fulfillment had dawned and it was vital that all who heard him repented and prepared to enter the kingdom.
     In his death Jesus established the promised “New Covenant” and began to build his community now centered on him, “the new covenant in my blood” (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). In him, God fulfilled “what things he had before declared through the mouth of all the prophets…the covenant that God covenanted with your fathers, saying to Abraham, in your seed shall be blessed all the families of the earth’” (Acts 3:24-26; Acts 10:42-43; 13:18-33).
     Likewise for the Apostle Paul, “all the promises of God find their ‘Yea’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus” (2 Corinthians 1:20); he ascended on high “that he might fulfill all things” (Ephesians 4:10). The jurisdiction of the Law or Torah was only for a set time “until Christ came,” the true “seed” of Abraham (Galatians 3:24, Romans 10:4). Christ became a servant “to confirm the promises to the fathers so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Thus the fulfillment of the promised blessing for the nations is fulfilled in Jesus, not Torah, Temple, Territory (Romans 15:8-9; Genesis 12:1-3).
     Gentiles were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” but have now “those who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13). God’s purpose from the beginning was “to sum up all things in Christ in the fullness of the times” (Ephesians 1:10).
With reference to possession of the land, the Old Testament employs the terms “inheritance,” “inherit,” “heir” and “promise.” In the New Testament, they are applied to what God accomplished in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
    Jesus is the true heir of Abraham (Matthew 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 20:14), indeed, the heir of all things (Isaiah 9:6-7; 53:12; Matthew 28:18; John 13:3; Romans 8:17; Hebrews 1:2). He is appointed to rule all nations and given all authority in heaven and earth to do so (Psalm 2:6-9; Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-22; Revelation 1:5-6; 11:15; 11:15; 12:1-5).
     In him, God has provided “sufficiently for our share in the inheritance of the saints” (Colossians 1:12). He “according to his great mercy has regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead for an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you…ready to be revealed in the last ripe time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
     The gift of the Spirit confirms that we are the “children of God and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). Jesus is Abraham’s “seed” and as partners with him, we are “heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).  The Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Greek noun rendered “possession” or peripoiĆ©sis is the same one used by Peter in his quotation of Exodus 19:5:  “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
The Abrahamic inheritance is bequeathed to those who are in Christ, those who “are no longer bondservants but sons; and if sons, then heirs through God” (Galatians 3:29, 4:7, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 6:17).
     Jesus declares to all who respond to him in faith, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Not only do disciples inherit the kingdom, but this was also God’s original intent. To the largely Gentile churches of Asia Christ promised that “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son,” the last clause from a promise given to David (Revelation 21:7; 2 Samuel 7:14).
     Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15). Christ inaugurated the New Covenant by becoming the true “seed” and heir of Abraham. Consequently, all who are “in Christ” are joint-heirs with him and destined to receive the promised inheritance.
     Because Israel failed to keep His covenant Yahweh promised to establish a new one, a covenant not like the one given at Sinai (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Jesus inaugurated this promised covenant and its benefits are found only in him. Thus, Jesus declared that the cup of wine he offered symbolized “the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins”; the wine represented his lifeblood poured out on Calvary. Paul is more explicit, “this cup is the new covenant in his blood” (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
     Paul explained to the churches of Rome “that a hardening in part has befallen Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, and in this manner all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: And this is my covenant to them when I shall take away their sins,” alluding to Jeremiah’s predicted the New Covenant (Romans 11:25-27; Jeremiah 31:34). Jews find salvation from the same Messiah and in the same way as Gentile converts.
     Paul and the apostles are “ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit”, another allusion to the promised New Covenant when God would write His laws in circumcised hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 31:34, Ezekiel 11:19-20, Ezekiel 37:21-26; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11).
Jesus became “surety of a better covenant” and established the promised new one (Hebrews 7:22; 9:15; 10:16; 12:24). Because he established a “new covenant,” logically “he has made the first obsolete. But that which is becoming old and aged is nigh unto vanishing away” (Hebrews 8:6-13).
     The bodily resurrection of Christ was an act of new creation.  God did not simply resuscitate a dead body but gave him a glorious new one not subject to death and decay (1 Corinthians 15:42-50). His resurrection began the New Creation, though there is an overlap between the existing age and the one to come. Therefore, “if any man is in Christ, a new creation, the old things are passed away; behold, they have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
     And a new creation means a redefined “land promise.” As Paul stated, Abraham is to inherit the “world,” not just to a puny strip of land in the Middle East (Romans 4:13).
     Christians are joint-heirs with Christ and their future hope also finds realization in the bodily resurrection and New Creation. At present creation itself “sighs and travails in birth pangs” as it “ardently awaits the revelation of the sons of God.” Both mankind and creation are subject to decay, death, and bondage, which God will reverse when we receive the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection (Romans 8:17-23).
     Jesus is the “beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14), a reference not to the original creation but the new one begun in his Resurrection.   Thus he is “firstborn from among the dead” and “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15; Revelation 1:5).
    The New Creation, not Palestine, is the ultimate hope and inheritance of believers, for “according to his promise we look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness,” and “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven.” In the New Creation “God will tabernacle with men and they shall be his peoples.” He will wipe away every tear and death will be no more, for “behold, I make all things new” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-7).

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