The New Covenant agreement

Heb. 9:1-14     The author compares the first covenant agreement (literally, the ‘old testament’) with the new covenant agreement (literally, the ‘new testament’).

 

The New Covenant

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews compares the first covenant agreement (the ‘old testament’) with the new covenant agreement secured by Jesus Christ (the ‘new testament’).

The old covenant was a solemn agreement arranged between God and the Jewish partiarch Abraham (see Genesis 17:1-14). In this covenant, God promised to bless the descendents of Abraham and to be their God and protector when they entered the land of Canaan. In return, the Jews promised to be faithful to God and to worship no other gods. As a sign of the covenant, all Jewish males were to be circumcised.

Over time, the covenant was renewed on many occasions, and an elaborate system of religious laws emerged to emphasise the Jewish people’s acceptance by God. Under the old covenant, for example, there were strict regulations about entering the ‘tent of the Lord’s presence’ and about the sacrifices of animals that were made by the priests to ‘pay’ for the sins of the people (see Exodus 40:1-16 & Leviticus 4:13-35).

The new covenant agreement (or ‘new testament’) was secured by the death of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. This agreement superceded the first covenant, as Jesus ‘paid the price’ of people’s sin by offering his own life as a perfect sacrifice. Under the new covenant, Christ did not take the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a burnt heifer to offer as a sacrifice (see Numbers 19:1-10 & 17-19). Instead, he offered his own body and blood to secure forgiveness for all believers.

 

Garlanded bull at Ephesus

Bulls and goats were offered as a sacrifice

 

Christ ‘seals’ the new covenant agreement

Heb. 9:15-22   In the same way as Moses sprinkled blood onto the scroll of the Jewish law (the ‘Torah’) with a sprig of hyssop to ‘seal’ the first covenant (see Exodus 24:6-8), so Christ has ‘sealed’ the new covenant with his own blood.

Heb. 9:23-26   The author reminds the believers that, while the Jewish High Priest enters a man-made tabernacle in the Temple – which represents a copy of God’s dwelling place (see Leviticus 9:1-7) – Christ, on the other hand, has entered the real thing – heaven, the presence of God – where God actually lives.

Heb. 9:27-28   In short, Christ was offered as a sacrifice once and for all to take away the sins of many. He will come again, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are waiting for him.

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