The Old Covenant
The New Covenant as contained in Jeremiah 31.
An Explanation from the Writer to the Hebrews, NT, Ch. 7-9, for Jer. Ch. 31. 30-33.
Hebrews 7 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
7 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3 without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. 5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: 6 but he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. 7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. 8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16 who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (for those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
Hebrews 8 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
8 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. 3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. 4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: 5 who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. 6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
7For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 9 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;4 which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein wasthe golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, andfor the errors of the people: 8 the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;10 which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on themuntil the time of reformation.
11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. 18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, 20 saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. 21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Reformation Study Bible
9:1 worship . . . holiness. This verse begins a lengthy comparison of Old Testament sacrifice and the sacrifice of Christ, that continues into ch. 10. The first part is a summary of the Old Testament sanctuary and its activities.
9:3 curtain. This curtain, or veil closed off the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence among His people was most intensely revealed (6:19). With Jesus’ death, this curtain was torn in two (10:20; Matt. 27:51).
9:4 golden altar of incense.Although this incense altar, was just outside the curtain (Ex. 40:26), its function was so closely associated with the inner chamber and the ark therein (Ex. 30:6) that it was considered to belong there (1 Kin. 6:22). When the high priest entered the Most Holy Place, he burned incense, producing smoke to hide the mercy seat on top of the ark of the Testimony, shielding himself from the Lord’s burning purity (Lev. 16:12, 13).
Aaron’s staff. The staff that budded to show that priestly privilege comes only by God’s appointment (Num. 17:10), as taught in 5:4, 5.
9:5 cherubim of glory. The “mercy seat,” comprising the lid of the ark, had on it two figures of cherubim facing each other, representative of God’s heavenly courtiers, who serve constantly in His presence.
Of these things . . . cannot now speak in detail. First-century Jewish writers such as Philo gave great attention to the symbolism of the sanctuary furniture. The author of Hebrews, however, desires to address what took place in the tabernacle, and he says no more about the furniture, whatever symbolic value it might have.
9:11 good things that have come. See text note. Cleansing of conscience and confidence to draw near to God were still to come while the first covenant’s sanctuary and sacrifices were in force (10:1), but they have arrived through Christ. The author of Hebrews views the benefits of the age to come as already experienced (in part) by the church (6:5; 12:22–24).
blood of goats and calves. This was used by the high priest on the yearly Day of Atonement to cleanse the Most Holy Place (Lev. 16:11–16).
eternal redemption. A redemption is a purchase by payment of a price or ransom. The effect of Christ’s redemption is permanent because it was by His own blood.
purification of the flesh. They became eligible again for their duties of worship.
9:14 how much more. As in2:2, 3, the writer uses an argument from the lesser to the greater. The lesser is the blood of animals offered by the high priest on earth; the greater is the blood shed by Christ. The lesser had ceremonial power; the greater can take away guilt from the conscience.
to serve the living God. The goal of forgiveness is ultimately God-centered—not merely to free us from the fear of judgment, but to qualify us to worship before God in a way that brings Him pleasure (12:28; 13:15, 16, 21).
redeems. A payment to release someone from captivity (cf. v. 12). Violation of God’s covenant creates a liability to condemnation that can only be satisfied through the violator’s death, or by redemption through a substitute.
9:16 where a will is involved.The Greek word for “will” (diatheke) is the same word translated “covenant” in this passage and elsewhere. The point being made is that a death is required in order to secure what God promised to do. If the writer is not speaking of a last will, he is probably referring to the ratification of a covenant by means of a representative sacrifice such as is found in Gen. 15.
9:19 Moses . . . took the blood.The immediate reference is toEx. 24:4–8. In this ceremony God, the author of the scroll, and the people of the congregation were sworn to the covenant with its penalties.
9:20 This is the blood. The covenant was written down on the scroll, but it had to be ratified with the offering of blood. This blood was not shed by those who might have broken the covenant, but by animals that substituted for them (cf.Gen. 15:9–18; Jer. 34:18–20). All this was a vivid demonstration that the ultimate sanction, or penalty, of the covenant was death.
9:21–24 The sanctuary, the meeting place of the holy God with sinful people, must itself be purified through sacrificial blood, the only means of forgiveness. This is true not only of the earthly tent of the old covenant (vv. 21, 22) but also of the heavenly reality (vv. 23, 24), which was purified by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (v. 23note).
9:22 almost everything. The tent and its furniture were so closely identified with the worshipers who met God there that the sacrificial blood needed for the worshipers to be forgiven (10:18) was also required to cleanse the instruments and environment of their worship (Lev. 16:16).
without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. This is the fundamental principle (Lev. 17:11), now restated after being introduced in vv.16–18. Having established it, the writer turns his attention from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly.
9:23 the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices. The heavenly sanctuary itself does not need to be purified from defilement by human sin. However, just as the earthly sanctuary was purified by sacrificial blood and set apart as the place where sinful humans could approach God, so also the true, heavenly sanctuary has now been set apart by the sacrifice of Christ as a meeting place for sinful people to enter, drawing near to God through the blood of Jesus (10:19–22;12:24).
9:25 repeatedly. The same Greek word is in v. 26 and in10:11. The repetition of sacrifices was evidence that they were not effective to remove guilt (10:2), and it was a recurring reminder of sins (10:3). The author earlier stressed that the Day of Atonement ceremonies took place only once a year (v. 7); here the emphasis is that they are repeated again and again (10:1).
blood not his own. The high priest’s offering contrasts with Christ’s offering of Himself. As one who himself needed atonement (v. 7), no Levitical high priest could offer himself as an unblemished substitute for others (v. 14).
9:26 foundation of the world . . . end of the ages.These phrases set forth a vast span of time, during all of which Christ had to offer Himself only once. The “end of the ages” is the same as the “last days” (1:2), a period ushered in by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
9:27 to die once, and after that comes judgment. Thus both reincarnation and the belief that physical death is the end of personal existence are excluded. Christ suffered the common human destiny of death and judgment (v. 28), but for Him the judgment consisted in resurrection and vindication (1 Tim. 3:16). This vindication will be fully manifested when He comes again (1 Thess. 1:10). See “Death and the Intermediate State” at Phil. 1:23.