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22 November 2018

New Covenant and New Creation

SYNOPSIS:  There is no genuine life apart from the Spirit of God. His promises of everlasting life, renewal, and a new covenant find their fulfillment in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit.

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash
By Benjamin Voros on Unsplash
The history of Israel is riddled with examples of national idolatry and similar sins that culminated in her expulsion from the land of Canaan and the loss of nationhood. But all was not lost. Yahweh foresaw her fall and made plans to restore Israel AND to redeem the nations. The New Creation becomes the ultimate hope and inheritance of His covenant people, not Palestine.
  • (Deuteronomy 30:3-6) - “Then will Yahweh thy God bring back thy captivity and have compassion upon thee,—and return and gather thee from among all the peoples whither Yahweh thy God hath scattered thee. Though thou be driven out unto the utmost part of the heavens, from thence will Yahweh thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee; and Yahweh thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it,—and he will do thee good and multiply thee beyond thy fathers. And Yahweh thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed,—to love Yahweh thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Two things are especially noteworthy from this passage. First, God would “multiply Israel beyond her forebears”; that is, something greater than what any preceding generation had known was to be realized.  “Multiply” is the same Hebrew verb in the call to Adam: “Be fruitful and multiply,” as well as in the promise to multiply Abraham’s seed ([rabah – Strong’s #7253] - Genesis 1:2817:2).

Second, the restoration would occur when Yahweh “circumcised Israel’s heart” and inscribed His law upon it, an internal change that is integral to the New Covenant promised in the Hebrew scriptures:
  • (Jeremiah 31:31-34)  “Lo! days are coming, Declareth Yahweh,—When I will solemnize—With the house of Israel and With the house of Judah, A new covenant: Not like the covenant which I solemnised with their fathers, In the day when I grasped their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt,—In that, they brake my covenant, Though I had become a husband unto them, Declareth Yahweh. For this is the covenant which I will solemnize with the house of Israel after those days, Declareth Yahweh, I will put my law within them, Yea, on their heart will I write it,—So will I become their God, And they shall become my people. Then shall they no longer teach Every man his neighbour, and Every man his brother, saying, Know ye Yahweh,—For they all shall know me, From the least of them Even unto the greatest of them, Declareth Yahweh, For I will forgive their iniquity, And their sin will I remember, no more.” - (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Ezekiel 11:19-20)  “And I will give them another heart, And a new spirit will I put within you,—And will take away the heart of stone out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh: To the end that in my statutes they may walk, And mine appointments they may keep and do them,— So shall they become my people, And l will become their God.” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Yahweh promised a restoration that would be far more expansive and glorious than anything ancient Israel had ever known.  It would be an act of sheer grace when He enabled His people to fulfill the covenant by giving them a "new Spirit." This would be nothing less than a new creative act, one that would impact all the nations:
  • (Isaiah 65:17-18) – “For behold me! Creating new heavens and a new earth,—And the former shall not be mentioned, neither shall they come up on the heart, But joy ye and exult, perpetually, in what I am about to create,—For, behold me! Creating Jerusalem an exultation and Her People a joy.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Revelation 21:1-3) – “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. And the holy city, new Jerusalem, saw I coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying—Lo! the tent of God is with men, and he will tabernacle with them, and they shall be his peoples, and he shall be God with them.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
A key theme in the New Testament is the fulfillment of God's promises in Jesus. The promise gives way to fulfillment as God actualizes His new covenant in him, including the covenant promises made to Abraham:
  • (Mark 1:14-15) - “And after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the glad-message of God, [and saying]—The season is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God hath drawn near,—Repent ye, and have faith in the glad-message.” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Jesus came to fulfill both the Law and the Prophets. Jews who saw him experienced something “greater than Jonah,” “greater than Solomon,” “greater than David,” and greater than the Temple in Jerusalem. The kingdom of God was inaugurated in him and began its advance in the world. The age of fulfillment had dawned and, thus, it was vital that all who heard the Good news repented in preparation to enter the kingdom (Matthew 12:612:28, 12:41-42).
In his death, Jesus established the promised “New Covenant” and began to build his community (“The new covenant in my blood”), only, now it was a people constituted and centered on him, not the tiny land of Canaan or the Temple "made-with-hands" in Jerusalem.

In Christ, God had 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 3:24-26Acts 10:42-4313:18-33).

Likewise, for the Apostle Paul, “All the promises of God find their ‘Yea’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus” - He ascended on high “that he might fulfill all things.” The jurisdiction of the Law or Torah was only for a set time; that is, “Until Christ came,” the true “seed” of Abraham (2 Corinthians 1:20Galatians 3:24Romans 10:4).

Jesus 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 made to Abraham is found in Jesus, not in the Torah, Temple, Territory, or the nation of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3).
  • (Romans 15:8-9) – “For I affirm Christ to have become a minister of circumcision in behalf of the truth of God,—to confirm the promises of the fathers, And that, the nations, for mercy should glorify God:—even as it is written—For this cause, will I openly confess unto thee among nations, and, unto thy name will strike the strings.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
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 now, in Jesus, “those who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” God’s purpose from the beginning was “to sum up all things in Christ in the fullness of the times,” including the redemption of the nations and His created order (Ephesians 1:10, 2:11-13).

World Map Photo by Jack Stapleton on Unsplash
Photo by Jack Stapleton on Unsplash

With reference to the 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 has accomplished in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and to the new covenant community formed in him. Jesus is the true heir of Abraham and of all things (Matthew 21:38, Matthew 28:18, John 13:31 Peter 1:3-5).
  • (Colossians 1:12-13) – “Giving thanks unto the Father that hath made you sufficient for your share in the inheritance of the saints in the light, Who hath rescued us out of the authority of the darkness, and translated [us] into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
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.” Jesus is Abraham’s “seed.” As partners with him, we also are “heirs according to promise.” The Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession” (Romans 8:16-17, Galatians 3:29, Ephesians 1:13-14).

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.” He 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 (Hebrews 8:6-13, 9:15).

Because Israel failed to keep His covenant, Yahweh promised to establish a new one, a covenant not like the one given at Sinai. Jesus inaugurated this promised covenant and its benefits are found in him, and in him alone. Thus, he 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 26:28Mark 14:24Luke 22:201 Corinthians 11:25). As Paul explained to the churches of Rome:
  • (Romans 11:25-27) - “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.”
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 freshly "circumcised" hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6Jeremiah 31:34Ezekiel 11:19-20 2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

Jesus became the “surety of a better covenant” and established the promised new one. 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 7:22, 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16).

The bodily resurrection of Jesus was an act of new creation.  God did not simply resuscitate a dead body but gave him a glorious new one no longer subject to death and decay. His resurrection founded 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” (1 Corinthians 15:42-502 Corinthians 5:17).

And a new creation means a redefined and vastly expanded “land promise.” As Paul stated in the Book of Romans, Abraham is to "inherit the world,” not just a puny strip of land in the Middle East (Romans 4:13).
New Jerusalem
Christians are joint-heirs with Christ. Their future hope finds realization in the promised bodily resurrection and the 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, that is, the resurrection (Romans 8:17-23).

Jesus is the “beginning of the creation of God,” a reference to the New Creation that commenced with his Resurrection, not to the original creation. Thus, he is the “firstborn from among the dead” and the “firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15, Revelation 3:14, 1:5).

The New Creation is the ultimate hope and inheritance of believers, not Palestine. Instead, “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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