By Philip Mauro
THE NEW COVENANT
It has been pointed out in a previous chapter that, in God's covenants
with Israel, both the covenant of Horeb (Deut. 5:2,3) and the substitute
thereof made in the land of Moab (Deut. 29:1) all the promises were expressly
made to depend upon conditions to be fulfilled by the Israelites, which
conditions however they utterly failed to perform. From which it follows that
the Jewish people inherit under those covenants, not blessings, but curses
only. How immensely important therefore to them (as well as to the Gentiles)
is that "new covenant," also called the "everlasting covenant," whereof God
gave promise through Jeremiah! I hope that every reader of this volume will be
aroused as to the vast importance of the truth concerning that new and
everlasting covenant, whereof Jesus Christ is the
"Surety" (Heb. 7:22), the
(Heb. 9:15; 12:24)
and the "Covenant Victim"
(translated in Heb. 9:16,17 by the word "testator," which, however, has a very
different meaning in modern English).
These are God's words through Jeremiah:
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that 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; which my covenant they brake,
although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the
covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith
the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their
hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And... they
shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith
the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin
no more" (Jer. 31:31-34).
The Epistle to the Hebrews contains (in Chapters VII-X) the Holy
Spirit's comments upon this great prophecy; prominence being given to the
truth that Jesus Christ is "the Surety" of this covenant, as well as "the
Mediator" thereof (7:22; 8:6; 12:24); that it has been ratified "by His own
blood" (9:12-24; 13:20); and that it is therefore "a better covenant,
established upon better promises" (8:6).
Further it is revealed in those chapters that, when Christ had offered
that "one sacrifice for sins forever, and sat down on the right hand of God,"
not only was the new covenant put into operation, but the old covenant and all
its appointments - people, temple, priesthood, sacrifices, etc. - were forever
abolished. Which things in fact were, even in their own era, nothing but "a
shadow of good things to come" (10:1).
Moreover, God had never any pleasure in them, because "it is not
possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." And
surely, as we meditate upon the contents of Hebrews IX and X, we must perceive
that God would abhor the very thought of setting up again that same system of
vain sacrifices and ceremonies, which He abolished at the awful cost of the
sacrifice of His own Son, and which had their complete fulfillment in the "one
sacrifice for sins forever" offered at Golgotha.
And besides, we have in this connection the plain statement that
Christ, in coming to do His Father's will by the sacrifice of Himself, "taketh
away the first, that He may establish the second" (10:9); which words, in the
light of the context, plainly signify the removal forever of the old covenant,
and the establishment forever of the new covenant. Indeed it is manifestly an
impossibility that the "shadows" should remain after the corresponding
realities have come; and it is equally impossible that there should be at any
time thereafter a return to the system of shadows again.
THE NEW COVENANT PEOPLE
Who then are the people with whom, and for whose benefit, this new and
everlasting covenant has been "established"? By the Epistle to the Hebrews it
is revealed in the clearest light that the blessings of the new covenant, that
is the forgiveness of sins and all other benefits of the sacrifice of Jesus
Christ are bestowed upon those who are of the faith of Jesus Christ, those
"that believe to the saving of the soul" (10:39); which blessed and holy
company includes all those examples of saving faith mentioned in Chapter XI.
These are "the heirs of salvation" (1:14). They are the "many sons" God is
bringing "unto glory" (2:10). They are those whom the writer of the Epistle
addresses as "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" (3:1), and
concerning whom he says they are "made partakers of Christ," and "partakers of
the Holy Ghost" (3:14; 6:4).
We have seen, however, that by Jeremiah God promised the new covenant
to :the house of Israel and the house of Judah." But there is no contradiction
here, and no change in God's plans. For "Israel" and "Judah" were themselves
but "shadows" of God's true Israel ("the Israel of God," Gal. 6:16). For God
has now revealed that "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly;.. but he is a
Jew who is one inwardly" (Rom. 2:28,29); and that "they which are of faith" -
believing Gentiles equally with believing Jews - "the same are the children of
Abraham," and heirs with Jesus Christ of the promises of God; which includes
particularly the promises of the everlasting covenant (Gal. 3:7,29; 4:28,31;
Rom. 4:13-16). Specially illuminating and to the point are the words of
Philippians 3:3: "For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit,
and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
Particularly should we recall in this connection that remarkable
"allegory" of Galatians 4:21-31, to which reference has been made already in
these pages, and which teaches in the first place the broad lesson that even
such matters as the personal and family history of one of the patriarchs were
"shadows" of the spiritual realities of this gospel era.
Specifically that allegory teaches that Abraham is the father of the
one household of faith (see also Rom. 4:16), where he is called "the father of
us all); that Hagar represents the old covenant of Mt. Sinai, and Ishmael the
old covenant people (Abraham's natural seed); and that Sarah stands for the
new covenant, and Isaac for the new covenant people, the miraculously born
"children of Abraham." It further makes known (and this is the climax of the
lesson) that the natural descendants of Abraham ("the son of the bondwoman")
were to be "cast out," and to have no part with the spiritual seed in the
promises of the new covenant.
IN THAT DAY
Let us now take a brief look at the prophecy of Zechariah, Chapters
XII-XIV, for the purpose mainly of inquiring as to the meaning of the
"And they shall look on Me whom they have pierced" (12:10).
"And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is
before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the
midst thereof toward the east and toward the west; and there shall be a very
great valley; and half (i.e. a part) of the mountain shall remove toward the
north and half (part) of it toward the south... And it shall be in that day
that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half (or part) of them
toward the former sea and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and
in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in
that day shall there be one Lord and His name one" (14:4,7-9).
This passage has been referred to already in the previous pages, but
we propose now to give it a more extended consideration.
The question that concerns us for the moment is this: Are these
passages to be understood as predictions of the national conversion of the
Jews in a coming "day," as some now teach? Or are they prophecies of the
gospel, having their fulfilment in this present "day," which has been always
held (as I understand it) until quite recent times?
In the first place, we call attention to the fact that the context
makes it clear that the oft-recurring phrase, "in that day," refers to this
present day of grace, and not to the succeeding day of judgment. Thus, the
words, "Awake O sword against My Shepherd" (13:7) are certainly a prophecy of
the cross. For our Lord Himself cited the words of the same verse, "Smite the
shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered," as having their fulfilment on the
eve of His crucifixion (Matt. 26:31). That same passage, moreover, begins with
the words, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David
and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness" (13:1); which
surely is, as it has been always esteemed, a most precious gospel promise. It
follows that "the House of David" is a symbol for the royal house, that is for
Christ and those whom "He is not ashamed to call brethren" (Heb. 2:11,12);
"Whose house we are" (Heb. 4:6); Christ being the true "David."
There is a striking correspondence here with the words of John in the
"Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
and hath made us kings and priests unto God" (Rev. 1:5,6).
For observe that here we have the reigning house ("kings and priests,"
answering to "the house of David"); and these are "washed in His own blood,"
which answers to the promised fountain for cleansing from sin and from
uncleanness. (See also 1 Pet. 2:9). And of course "the inhabitants of
Jerusalem" are those who now "are come to Mount Sion, and to the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22), "the Jerusalem which is
above, which is the mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26).
Observe too that in the immediate context we find the prediction, "And
they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced." The sense of this passage is
clearer when we read "look unto Me," instead of "look upon Me." For the same
expression occurs in Isaiah 45:22, where our A.V. renders it, "Look unto Me
and be ye saved."
Most assuredly therefore the fulfilment of this prophecy takes place
in this "day" of the gospel, and began from the day of Pentecost. For then
Peter, standing up with the eleven, set forth before a great concourse of
Jews, Christ crucified and risen; to whom also he addressed these memorable
words: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath
made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified" (compare the words, "whom they
have pierced") "both Lord and Christ (Ac. 2:36). Thereupon some three thousand
did look repentantly and believingly unto Him whom they had pierced.
Moreover they also mourned for Him, as the prophecy foretold. For it
is recorded that "they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to
the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?" That was indeed
"a great mourning in Jerusalem"; for it resulted in the conversion of "about
three thousand souls."
It should be observed further that, according to the prophecy, every
family was to mourn apart, and their wives apart. Which signifies that
"repentance unto life" and the "godly sorrow" that leads to it, were to be a
personal and individual, and not a national affair, as the Jewish rabbis
taught (and as some Christian teachers wrongly teach today).
Then as to the passage (quoted above) beginning, "And His feet shall
stand in that day upon the mount of Olives," I would first point out that what
goes before is evidently a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem by the
Romans, when the city was "taken," and the other horrors recited in verse 2
were perpetrated by the Roman armies, which were made up literally of "all
nation." This further tends to fix the time referred to by the phrase, "in
that day." (It should be remembered also that in Bible prophecy any period of
special judgment is spoken of as "the day of the Lord.")
Now this prophecy declares, by a series of figures and metaphors,
after the usual prophetic manner, how the Lord would "go forth" for the
deliverance of His own people in those days. "The mount of Olives" is a symbol
of the nation Israel, to which He was to come (John 1:11). For in Bible
prophecy a mountain is the common symbol of a nation; and the mount of Olives
is a most suitable figure to represent the nation of Israel. The result of His
coming to that nation was that it was divided in twain ("cloven in the
midst"). For "there was a division because of Him" (John 7:43; 9:16, etc.).
And that rift was truly a "very great valley" - deep and wide. "One part" of
the divided nation (for the word rendered "half" means merely one of two
parts, which may be very unequal in size) was removed (speaking figuratively)
"toward the north," the region whence Israel's enemies came, and whither they
were taken into captivity (Jer. 1:14,15, etc.); a region that stands for the
place of light and warmth and blessing - that is, the place of acceptance with
And lastly, the words, "And it shall be in that day that living waters
shall go forth from Jerusalem," etc., most certainly are being fulfilled in
this day of grace and salvation. For living water is a familiar figure of the
word of the life-imparting gospel. And upon the day of Pentecost and
subsequently it went forth from Jerusalem, both "toward the former sea" (the
nations of the east), and "toward the hinder sea" (the nations of the west);
both "in winter and in summer," that is at all seasons. And moreover from that
time Jesus the risen One was proclaimed as the crowned and glorified Christ
(God's King) to whom has been given all power in heaven and earth, "the King
invisible," the "One Lord," whose is the "one Name given under heaven among
men whereby we must be saved."
From all of which the conclusion must needs be that "the hope of the
gospel" is the one, the only, and the all sufficient hope for all mankind;
that apart from it there is no hope for any, whether Jews or Gentiles; and
that there will be hereafter no salvation of any sort whatever for those who
"obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Further references to the new covenant, and additional proof of its
commanding place and importance in God's dealings with all mankind, Jews and
gentiles alike, will be found in the next succeeding chapter.