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THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS.

From Comments and Notes Discussed in Bible Classes and Compiled by F. M. Perry, 1978 Through 1998.

With many thanks to James Burton Coffman for his "Commentary on Hebrews" from which these notes have borrowed liberally.

CHAPTERS 7:11 THROUGH 8:13 - CHRIST IS AUTHOR OF A BETTER COVENANT.

CHAPTER 7 VERSES 11-28.

Up to verse 11 of chapter 7, the Hebrew writer has suggested many points of comparison between Christ the High Priest of Christianity, and the high priests of Judaism, and has clearly shown that Christ is superior in every way. And the writer has cleared up a special problem for Jews by proving by use of the Old Testament scriptures that Christ is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek and was never intended to be a priest after the order of the Levitical priesthood.

Now in the rest of chapter 7 and in chapter 8 the writer continues to discuss the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Melchizedek and Christ, but the purpose changes to show a comparison of the two covenants under which the different priesthoods served.

In chapter 7, verse 11, the writer starts referring to the characteristics of the covenants which came through the high priests rather than the characteristics of the high priests themselves. Verse 11 starts, "Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood ..." Perfection was a characteristic of the better covenant and was not achieved by the first covenant under the Levitical priesthood. Verse 12 says, "Of necessity, there takes place a change of the Law" as well as a change of the priesthood. So there is introduced the idea of two covenants: the first being the Mosaic Law and the second that was brought about by a change. In verse 22 it says, "Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant." Then chapter 8 speaks clearly of a "first covenant" and a second covenant, or a new covenant, which is always a better covenant. So you see the reason we have shown a break in the outline of the Hebrew letter here and why we outline chapter 7 verse 11 through the end of chapter 8 under the heading: Christ is Author of a Better Covenant.

"(11) Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? (12) For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. (13) For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. (14) For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. (15) And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, (16) who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. (17) For it is witnessed of Him, 'Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.' (18) For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (19) (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (20) And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (21) (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, 'The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, Thou art a priest forever'); (22) so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. (23) And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, (24) but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. (25) Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (26) For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; (27) who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (28) For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever." Hebrews 7:11-28. NASV.

The first characteristic of Christ's better covenant is mentioned in verse 11. That characteristic is "perfection." "Perfection did not come through the Levitical priesthood or through the Law which the Jewish people received under the Levitical priesthood. If it had, there would have been no need for another High Priest to arise according to another order of priesthood.

But God did raise up another High Priest, Christ, and the Law was changed (verse 12), and the conclusion is drawn in verses 18 and 19, "For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and, on the other hand, there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God."

The Law of Moses (or the first covenant) did not bring "perfection." But, the better covenant brings us to where we can "draw near to God." The better covenant makes possible something that the first covenant could not make possible. The better covenant makes it possible for one to draw near to God. The first covenant did not bring "perfection." The conclusion is, the better covenant did bring "perfection."

Let us note that without "perfection" we cannot "draw near to God". That's true. God is absolutely good and in Him there is no evil at all. No one who is evil or sinful in any way can come near God. No human being in his sinful state can draw near to God and live.

Remember in Exodus 19, when God came down on Mount Sinai, what precautions had to be taken to keep the people from drawing too near to God and being put to death. The Children of Israel were sinful human beings like we are today. However, God loved them for He was rescuing them from Egypt and He was leading them to the Promised Land. But they could not draw near to God. God told Moses to set bounds all around the mountain and warn to everyone not to touch the mountain lest they be put to death. And the Hebrew writer refers to this in chapter 12, verse 20-21, and says, "They could not bear the command, 'If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.' And so terrible was the sight that Moses said, 'I am full of fear and trembling.'" Under the Law of Moses they absolutely could not draw near to God. Instead, everything associated with the Law was calculated to keep men at a distance from God.

Verse 18 of chapter 7 says this former commandment (the first covenant) had to be set aside because of its weakness and uselessness. With respect to the new covenant, the first was certainly weak. It required perfect obedience to all its precepts under penalty of death. It required perfection but gave no help to achieve it. And it gave no assurance of pardon upon one's repentance in case of failure to achieve perfect obedience. It only offered death.

However, the Jews, throughout their history, had hope of salvation through a former covenant God made with Abraham and which was still in effect. That covenant stated that God would bless all nations through the seed of Abraham. The Jews who understood and accepted this could get ready to draw near to God in faith and repentance. But they could not actually be near to God until the promised seed should come.

Since the Jews did have hope under the covenant God made with Abraham, why was the Law of Moses (what Hebrews calls the first covenant) added. Gal. 3:19 tells us it was added because of transgression, until the seed could come to whom the promise had been made. (That is, until the Messiah should come.) The Mosaic Covenant then became the tutor or schoolmaster to lead the Israelites to Christ so that they might finally be justified by the faith that they had exhibited in their lives.

So, although the first covenant here is called weak and useless, there really was much good about it. It was good in that it led toward fulfillment by a Messiah, a greater King and High Priest, and a better covenant under which they could be made perfect and thus could come into God's presence.

Let us pause for a moment and note this: Hebrews teaches about two specific covenants - the first covenant made through Moses which is also referred to as the Law and Judaism - and the second better covenant which was made through Christ which we call Christianity. However, there really is another covenant obliquely referred to and that is the covenant God made with Abraham, often referred to as "The Promise." This covenant made with Abraham encompasses both Judaism and Christianity.

Long before the Mosaic Covenant was made at Mt. Sinai, God made a covenant with Abraham promising that through Abraham's seed all the nations of the world would be blessed. In bringing about the fulfillment of the promises of this covenant God saw fit to choose a special people, the Israelites, through whom the Seed should come to bless all the nations. The Mosaic Law was added because of the transgression of this special people (because of human nature of which the Jews were representative). This Mosaic Covenant is the covenant which the Hebrew letter speaks of as the "first covenant." Christ, the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant, was the promised Seed of the covenant made with Abraham. So the "better second covenant" spoken of in the Hebrew letter is the result of the covenant God made with Abraham, and the Mosaic Covenant was simply a step or a phase of God's plan in bringing His Promise to fruition. This Mosaic Covenant therefore, being just a step in God's plan, expired in accordance with God's predetermined limitation when Christ was revealed as that "Seed" so long anticipated.

Under the "better covenant," the Hebrew letter tells us men can draw near to God. But no one can draw near to God who is not perfect. How do sinful men become perfect? In Christ they are counted as perfect as Christ is. How do sinful men get opportunity to draw near to God? Under the better covenant God gives them opportunity to come into Christ. That is why and how Christ blesses all nations. He gives sinful men opportunity to come into Him. Christ, the High Priest, has taken His seat at God's right hand. Verse 25 of chapter 7 says, "Hence ... He is able to save forever (completely) those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."

Under the better covenant the good news is that we can get "into Christ." And although we are sinful human beings, "in Christ" we will be counted as "perfect" or "without sin" and we can draw near to God without fear of perishing.

It is tragic that in this world there exist millions of sinful human beings who have not come "into Christ" yet, who still live in their sins, yet who have no fear of perishing. They go through life ignoring God's warnings about "approaching the mountain," and have no fear of perishing. They have not been made perfect in Christ, yet somehow they think they can draw near to God without perishing. God desires to bring humans near to Him. However, if one does not choose to accept God's salvation which counts him perfect, then he can never draw near to God. He must forever be cut off from God, and, by definition, that is perishing. If one is not "in Christ," He absolutely cannot draw near to God. The only thing left for an imperfect man is to perish in the fullest Biblical/spiritual sense. This is a much more complete death than mere death of the body. It is a separation from God for eternity - separation of spirit and soul and body, being cast into the lake of fire prepared for the Devil. The prospect of being called near to God in judgment when one is still in his sins should fill one with fear and trembling as the children of Israel trembled before Mount Sinai. The world is full of people who have not grasped salvation - yet do not even have the motivation of fear, the fear of perishing.

The great patience, righteousness, and love of God is exhibited to us in that He allows us a sojourn on earth before we are called to His throne. He does not allow us to ignorantly wander into His presence with our imperfections and be struck down. He gives us a sojourn on earth during which He offers us the services of His own Son, the great High Priest, who has once for all offered up Himself and has been made perfect forever and is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him. Without our High Priest, and without God's patience with us during our sojourn on earth during which time we can get acquainted with Him and be counted as perfect in Him, we simply could not take our place near God in the real life to come.

But all this about a better covenant could not mean much to a Jew who had not yet been convinced that the first covenant needed to be changed, or had been changed. So, after proving that Christ is a High Priest belonging to a different order than the Levitical priesthood, the writer shows in verse 12ff that the change in priesthood of necessity requires a change of the Law or the Covenant. The Law of Moses, with the priests from the tribe of Levi, had to be terminated with the coming of a priesthood after an entirely different order. First of all, Christ, the new High Priest, was descended from Judah, and Moses spoke nothing about the first covenant functioning under a High Priest from the tribe of Judah. Therefore, under the new High Priest, the first covenant under Moses could not be in force any longer, but had to be terminated in favor of a new covenant.

And verses 15-16 of chapter 7 say, it is clearer still that the first covenant (the Law of Moses) is terminated because the new priesthood is in the likeness of Melchizedek, whose likeness is not on the basis of physical, fleshly descendants as the Mosaic Law commanded, but according to the power of an indestructible or endless life. There was no endless life involved in the priesthood of the Mosaic Law. The priests of the Mosaic Law (verse 23) over all the years existed in great numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But the new High Priest, Christ, abides forever and holds His priesthood permanently. There was no provision in the first covenant for a priesthood that abides forever. Therefore, with the new eternal priesthood there must be a new covenant. And, since this new priesthood is better, the new covenant is a better covenant.

Verses 20-22 of chapter 7 make another point to show that the new covenant through Jesus is a better covenant. This point is based on the fact that God swore with an oath when He plainly announced the High Priesthood of Christ. Verse 21 points out that the Levitical high priests under the first covenant became high priests without an oath, but Christ was shown to be the eternal High Priest with an oath by God Himself. The main point seems to be that when the Lord has sworn, He will not change His mind (or He will not repent Himself).

A commentator, Milligan, says, "When God is said to repent, the meaning is that he simply wills a change; and when it is said that He will not repent, it means that He will never "will" a change. And consequently, there is nothing beyond the priesthood of Christ to which it will ever give place as a means of accomplishing God's purposes in the redemption of mankind."

God, therefore, will never set aside the priesthood of Christ, as He did that of the Levites. The proof of this is that the Levites were made priests without an oath of God, whereas Christ was made a priest forever, with an oath of God and with the further promise that God will never change His mind about it.

Based on this, verse 22 says, "so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant." Christ will not be changed as the High Priest of the covenant, so the covenant will not be changed. Christ is a priest forever under a covenant that is forever.

Let u s consider verses 26-28 of chapter 7. Verse 26 says that under the better covenant we have a "High Priest ... separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens." When Christ was living in the flesh on earth, He was not separated from sinners but was continually vexed by them until they literally caused His death. Is it any wonder God will not allow sinners in His presence any longer? Now He is separated from sinners, no longer vexed by evil men in His presence. He has ascended where they cannot go. Under the first covenant the Levitical priests dwelt apart in a separate house for a week prior to the day of atonement. Then, after a week of separation from sinners, they offered sacrifices to God. There may be a comparison here in the fact that Christ is separated from sinners not merely for a week but for all eternity. Christ will confront sinners only once more on the great and dreadful day of judgment when all men shall appear before Him for the assignment of their individual destinies.

Verse 27 says that Christ, our High Priest, offered up a sacrifice for our sins which sacrifice was Himself, and He did it "once for all." This little phrase "once for all" is a single Greek word in the original (HAPAX). It means "once, without need or possibility of repetition." This Greek word is used several times more in Hebrews.

For instance, Hebrews 9:12 says Christ, "Through His own blood, entered the holy place once for all ..." Hebrews 9:26 says Christ "now once for all at the consummation ... has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Hebrews 9:27-28 says "it is appointed for men to die once (for all), and after this comes the judgment ... so Christ also, having been offered once for all to bear the sins of many . .." 1st Peter 3:18 says the faith was once for all delivered to the saints. That is, the faith was delivered once, without need or possibility of repetition. And finally, Hebrews 12:26-27 says God once for all (without possibility of repetition) will shake the earth and the heavens, that is, remove them. So, unlike the Mosaic Covenant, the things Christ does are done once for all without repetition.

In verse 28 the writer still stresses the point that God swore an oath to bring in Christ as the Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and He did this a long time after the Law and the Levitical priesthood had been in operation. "The word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever." These words sum up the previous arguments that the new covenant is a better covenant.

We have noted in chapter 7 the following ways in which the new covenant is better than the first covenant.

    1. There was imperfection and weakness in the first covenant but not in the new covenant.

    2. The new covenant has a High Priesthood that was instituted with God's oath, whereas the first covenant did not.

    3. The first covenant had a high priesthood that had to be changed frequently because of the death of the high priests. But the High Priest of the new covenant lives forever to intercede for His people and to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him.

    4. The new covenant has a High Priest who is sinless and thus does not have to offer sacrifices for Himself. He was perfect and, therefore, made offering of Himself once for all for His people.

Now in chapter 8, verses 1-5, the Hebrew writer proves the new covenant is better because of the exalted position of the High Priest and the exalted sphere of His ministry over that of the high priests of the first covenant.

CHAPTER 8

"(1) Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, (2) a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. (3) For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. (4) Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; (5) who serve a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, 'See,' He says, 'that you make all the things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.'" Hebrews 8:1-5. NASV.

Verse 1 pictures our Lord as seated ("has taken His seat") whereas verse 2 says He is "a minister" (that is, a servant) in the sanctuary. So our Lord is both seated and serving in the sanctuary. (The sanctuary, incidentally, is just another word for the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle - type - and in Heaven - anti-type.) Now the high priest of the first covenant found no chair in which to be seated in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle and they were never permitted to remain in that place but a very short time once each year. On the other hand, now, the seated and serving Christ abides forever in perfect and eternal control of the ministry on behalf of men. And He does not have to continually offer gifts and sacrifices, for His sacrifice is completed, and only His presence upon the throne of God is required to assure the perfect administration of that sacrifice in behalf of men. We have under the better covenant a High Priest who is also a part of the Majesty in the heavens to whom the sacrifice has been offered. Not only is Christ the High Priest who offered the sacrifice but also the King who received it and serves to administer it to do the utmost good for mankind.

We see from these first five verses of the 8th chapter that there is a great heavenly tabernacle or temple which is called the "true tabernacle," which the Lord pitched. It is contrasted with the tabernacle that Moses pitched, which is called a "copy" or "shadow" of the true heavenly tabernacle. The true tabernacle is referred to as one of the heavenly things and it is "in the heavens" for there is where the Lord is as He serves in it. This language surely takes the location of the true tabernacle completely out of the earthly atmosphere or environment. In fact, verse 4 indicates that as the Lord serves in the sanctuary of this tabernacle, He is not on earth. It says, "If He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all." For the earth had the Levitical priesthood who served under the Law or the first covenant. And they served a mere copy and shadow of the heavenly things.

And the true heavenly tabernacle is far more than a confining material building but rather it exists wherever God and Christ are - for John said in Rev. 21:22 in a figure of the Holy City, "And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb are its temple."

To many of the Jews of the first century, verse 4 must have been the statement which either opened their understanding to whom Jesus really was, or turned their eyes away from Him completely. Its implications are that the great priestly Messiah of God's prophecy was never intended to serve His priesthood on earth.

Why did the Messiah come to earth? It had absolutely nothing to do with being a priestly Messiah on earth as most of the Jews believed and desired. And we can also see from these first 5 verses that it had absolutely nothing to do with Christ reigning on earth as a secular monarch as many of the Jews desired. The reign of the Lord as King, and His service as High Priest was always intended by God to be "in the heavens" and not on earth. But Hebrews 9:26 puts in exact words why He came to earth - it was "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." This the Jews needed to learn well and so do we all today. We today are not unlike the Jews in that we too want to think of everything in terms of this earthly life only. But surely our greatest service to the Lord will come when we reign with Him in heaven for ever and ever (Rev. 22:5). And this life on earth is simply a brief sojourn for the purpose of perfecting us so that we can enter the heavenly life hereafter.

In verse 5, the writer quotes Exodus 25:40 when God warned Moses, "See that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain." As you know, Moses was instructed by God to make an earthly tabernacle. But nothing was left to Moses own discretion or choosing in the design or detailed construction of that tabernacle. God gave him a pattern for it and told him he must follow the pattern exactly. We can see why it as so important for Moses to follow the exact pattern, can we not? The tabernacle was to be an earthly copy of a heavenly thing. Only, God knows the heavenly thing. If we are to build a copy or a shadow of a heavenly thing on earth, then God must give us the pattern for building it. Using our own patterns which we might devise from our own minds, we haven't got a chance of building a copy of a heavenly thing. We have never seen the real heavenly thing. How could we build a copy of it on earth except God give us the pattern and we follow that pattern exactly.

So God gave Moses a pattern for the earthly tabernacle and He required Moses to adhere to it strictly. And there were many other things under the first covenant which were copies and shadows of heavenly things. These things could only serve their purposes on earth if they were made or enacted in accordance with God's pattern. These earthly copies were used to get the Jews ready for the coming of the true heavenly things.

Now today, under the new covenant, great spiritual things have been built by God of which the Mosaic things were but copies and shadows. The tabernacle of Moses was a foretelling of a coming spiritual reality, the true tabernacle in the heavens which exists now. God has pitched it already now and the Lord serves in it now. So the Mosaic tabernacle as an earthly type has been fulfilled. No one any longer assembles a material tabernacle on earth after the pattern of God. But we, like the Jews, do live on the earth in the flesh. Obviously, with the fulfilling of the Mosaic Law, we are no longer to build Mosaic things after God's old Mosaic patterns. But, we live on earth and have not been brought to realize our full spiritual potential in heaven. While we live on earth under this better covenant, has not God given us patterns which we must follow in building copies of heavenly things on earth? If God required Moses to proceed exactly according to the pattern God showed him, is it not required of us today to do all things in accordance with the new covenant pattern God has revealed?

From God's warning to Moses we conclude that God is a pattern-minded God. Does not our observation of God's continual creation confirm this? Whatever God creates, a divine pattern is followed. All lions are created after God's lion pattern. All monkeys are created after His monkey pattern; all mosquitoes are created after His mosquito pattern. The tiniest bird is constructed according to an invariable pattern. Brother Leonidas T. Holland, who was a teacher whom I knew at David Lipscomb College 50 years ago, discovered after 35 years of study that all South Carolina wrens that God ever made (and there have been billions and billions of them), every single one of them sang in the key of G! If God takes such care in the things that He makes, how could it be thought that God does not care about how man shall live for Him on earth or worship Him? One of the great delusions of modern worshipers is the fallacy that there is no pattern and that it makes no difference what men do religiously, just so they are sincere in it. If God cared about the pattern of the altar that Moses set up, does He not care, for instance, if the prayers today, of which that altar was only a type, shall be offered through the one mediator God established, and not through some human saints that men have tried to substitute.

Applying the principle of divine patterns for everything we do on earth under the better covenant, we can be certain that there is a pattern for salvation for that is one of the great distinguishing characteristics of the better covenant. Salvation can be received by men so we must look for God's pattern of how to receive it. And so in the examples of conversions in the scriptures we discover the pattern for conversion. Every person converted under the teaching of the Apostles and inspired evangelists, without exception,

    1. heard the word of God, the gospel of salvation,

    2. believed in the Lord Jesus Christ,

    3. repented of their sins,

    4. confessed the Savior's name before men,

    5. were baptized into Christ,

    6. accepted from God "' membership in the Body of Christ (His church), and

    7. received the Holy Spirit, continuing steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine and in breaking of bread and in prayers.

If there is any other pattern to follow to salvation from one's sins, the scriptures have no record of it.

We today are to live our fleshly lives as copies or shadows of heavenly things, ever looking forward to our coming lives in heaven. For instance, Ephesians 5 teaches us that the marriage of a Christian man and Christian woman is to serve as a copy or shadow of the heavenly relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. How many other things in our fleshly lives can you think of that God has given scriptural patterns for us to use so that they can serve as shadows here of heavenly things to come?

Now Chapter 8, verses 6-13, show that the second covenant was better than the first covenant because there were faults in the first covenant but no faults in the second covenant. It doesn't mean that God made some mistakes when He gave the first covenant to Moses. It did not have faults in it from the standpoint of mistakes by God. The faults in the Old Covenant were there by design and they served a purpose, exactly the purpose that God intended them to serve. So really, the "faults" were not faults at all. As Paul said in Romans 7:12, "The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." But it was designed with the characteristic that it could not take away sin. And so the purpose of the Law, Paul said, was not to take away sin, but was that sin might be shown to be sin by effecting "my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful" (Rom. 7:13). God designed the Old Covenant with what the Hebrew writer implies are faults, so that He might teach His people something they needed to learn. In short: "Don't fool around with sin! Don't try to merit salvation for you only have sin to offer." This, in itself, shows us the temporary nature of the Old Covenant. God never intended that it be permanent but that it be fulfilled and re placed with a faultless covenant when the proper time should come. Actually, where were the faults? We will see in these verses that God designed certain things into the old covenant because of the faults in the Israelites themselves.

"(6) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. (7) Fir if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. (8) For finding fault with them, He says, 'Behold days are coming., says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; (9) not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. (10) 'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (11) 'And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. (12) 'For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.' (13) When He said, 'a new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." Hebrews 8:6-13. NASV.

The Hebrew writer uses the Old Testament scriptures in a masterful way to prove that the new covenant is better than the old, that the faults of the old covenant were made faultless in the new covenant. The first fault of the Old Covenant, implied in verse 10, was that it was written on stone. The New Covenant is written on the minds and hearts of God's people. Hence the New Covenant is far better in forming the character and controlling the lives of the people than the former covenant. It really doesn't help to have the truth written on stone if we don't take that truth into our understanding and engrave it upon our hearts. Under the Old Covenant the people were born into God's Kingdom as babies and many of them did not have the truth in their understanding, even when they grew older, because they did not learn it. Under the New Covenant, one does not become a member of the Kingdom until he has truth in his understanding. He learns it first.

A second fault of the Old Covenant, growing out of the first fault, was that many of the subjects of God's Kingdom of Israel did not know the truth and were really alien to God in their understanding. They had never been taught or they had never learned from their teaching. But not so with the subjects of the New Covenant. They must all of necessity learn of God before they enter the Kingdom, and must all serve Jehovah as their God, for He says in verse 10, "I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

Another fault of the Old Covenant was that the subjects became such by a fleshly birth. But the subjects of the New Covenant must all be born "of water and the Spirit" (John 3:4-5). Under the New Covenant all must be begotten of the Holy Spirit through the word of truth, the good seed of the Kingdom, before they can be admitted to the new institution. Hence, as verse 11 says, they must all know the Lord, "from the least to the greatest of them." We are begotten by the Holy Spirit when we become Christians.

A Biblically supported corollary to remember is this: No life comes without the giving by God of spirit. The fleshly life comes through God's giving a personal spirit to each person during the process of conception and birth. This is the only birth the Jews experienced under the Old covenant. But the spiritual eternal life comes through the Holy Spirit given to each person when God creates a new spiritual life in him. No Jew could experience this birth under the Old Covenant.

Finally, the Old Covenant was faulty in that it could not take away sin. No matter how many daily, weekly, and monthly sacrifices were offered under Judaism to make purification for the sins of the people, these sins were all called into remembrance again on the Day of Atonement. But not so under the New Covenant. The blood of Christ procures for all its faithful and obedient subjects, free, full, and everlasting forgiveness. Hence on the day of judgment, the faithful in Christ will all be treated as if they had never sinned. God says through Jeremiah and through the Hebrew writer in verse 12, "I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."

Hence, verse 13 says, the Old Covenant is obsolete and near to disappearing, or ready to disappear from the earth. We, of course, know that there were still those who were claiming to live under it and observe its commandments, even at the time the Hebrew letter was written. Most of the Jews had not accepted the New Covenant and that is still true even to this day. Many commentators seem to think that the language "nigh unto vanishing away" (or ready to disappear) has reference to the fact that the Hebrew letter was written while the Temple worship in Jerusalem was still being observed, before the time in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple along with it. They see in verse 13 a prophecy that the Temple worship will be done away with entirely but had not been done away with by the time of writing. There is some reasonableness to this. However, the full sense of these verses is that the Old Covenant is obsolete now that the new has already come. The Old Covenant was abolished in the sense that it was obsolete even though the Jews were still observing Temple worship in Jerusalem. The Old Covenant could not be abolished any further than it already had been abolished when Christ fulfilled it as He died on the cross. When the Temple was literally destroyed in 70 AD it brought no Jew into the fold of Christianity merely because of that fact. And now that the Temple has been and remains destroyed, there are still people trying to live under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant still does not provide salvation and one must turn to the New Covenant for salvation.

I must point out as we conclude this 8th chapter, that we have learned from the Roman letter that law in a general sense has not been done away with in every aspect. All law has been fulfilled and abolished for those who have come into the New Covenant, but the power of its smoldering remains can still kill those of us outside the New Covenant! Some still try to follow the remaining embers of the Mosaic Law. As always, it can and will kill those who do not come to an understanding such as the Hebrew writer is trying to teach us here. Or, in the advent of Christian teaching, law can lead us, even now, to the New and better Covenant. Let us hope, then, that in the lives of those who are not yet Christians, law will teach them that sin is utterly sinful, and that God's yoke of law is ready to disappear from their lives as they embrace the New and better Covenant that forgives their law breaking.

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