What are the Old and New Covenants?

Richard Anthony

Many people believe that the Old Testament was abolished at the cross, when Christ was crucified. This article will show, from the scriptures themselves, that the Old Covenant was not abolished at the cross, and that it was still being practiced many years after Christ died, not only by Jews but by all the apostles and Jewish converts to Christianity. But first, let us define exactly what a "covenant" or "testament" is. In simple terms, a covenant (or a testament) is an agreement between two parties, spelling out what kind of relationship they have.

A "covenant" and "law" are two completely different things. Many believe that by the "Old Covenant" being done away with, that automatically refers to "God's Law" being done away with. This is not true. A "covenant" or "agreement" is not synonymous with "law." To illustrate, here is a use of the word "covenant", which cannot possibly refer to law:

Genesis 9:12-17, "And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you...a covenant between me and the earth...And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh...that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth."

The above is a covenant, or an agreement, between God and every living thing on earth. The animals were not bound to obey any law on penalty of death, this was simply an agreement. Now, there may be agreements, or covenants, in which people agree to obey certain laws in exchange for blessings, which is what the Old Covenant did, but this does not mean that if the agreement to obey certain laws are done away with, that the laws themselves are done away with as well.

For example, from the beginning, it was a sin to steal, murder, and commit adultery. Now, if at a later time, there is a covenant, and this covenant includes the promise to obey those laws in exchange for something else, then when that covenant has been fulfilled, it does not mean those laws are done away with now. It does not mean we are free to murder, steal, and commit adultery, just because a covenant, which was based upon those laws, have been abrogated.

What Was the Old Covenant?

God called Moses up into the mountain before He gave the law and proposed a covenant between Him and His people (Exodus 19:3-6). Notice how God asked Moses to present His offer to the people. Here are all the elements of a true covenant. Conditions and promises are laid down for both sides. If the children of Israel accept God's proposal, a covenant will be established (Exodus 19:7,8).

Just as soon as that answer went back to God, the basis for the Old Covenant was set up. But before it could go into formal operation there had to be a sealing or ratifying of the pact. This ritualistic service involved the sprinkling of the blood of an ox on the people and is described in Exodus 24:4-8:

We are reminded in this passage that this covenant was not the law itself, but was made "concerning all these words." The Ten Commandments were the basis for the agreement. The people promised to keep that law, and God promised to bless them in return. The crucial weakness in the whole arrangement revolved around the way Israel promised. There was no suggestion that they could not fully conform to every requirement of God. Neither was there any application for divine assistance. "We can do it," they insisted. Here is a perfect example of leaning on the flesh and trusting human strength. The words are filled with self-confidence. "...All that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Exodus 19:8)

Were they able to keep that promise? In spite of their repeated assurances, they miserably broke their word before Moses could even get off the mountain with the tables of stone. Do we begin to see where the poor promises lay in the Old Covenant?

God is reported as "finding fault with them." (Hebrews 8:8). He said, "Because they continued not in my covenant ... I regarded them not." (Verse 9). The blame is placed squarely upon the human side of the mutual pact. Not God's side, not God's Law. Thus, we can see exactly why Paul wrote as he did about this Old Covenant in Hebrews 8. It did gender to bondage, it proved faulty, had poor promises, and vanished away - all because the people failed to obey their part of the agreement. Putting all these things together we can see why a new covenant was desperately needed, which would have better promises.

How were the New Covenant promises better? Because God made them, and they guaranteed successful obedience through His strength alone (Hebrews 8:10-12). How was the New Covenant ratified? In the same manner that the Old was confirmed - by the shedding of blood. But instead of an ox having to shed its blood, the sinless Son of God would provide the blood of sprinkling (Hebrews 13:20, 21).

Some Christians claim that in the Old Covenant, the laws are external and written in the laws of Moses, while in the New Covenant, the laws are internalized, written on the heart. This is not completely true, because the Laws during the Mosaic Covenant were written on the heart as well:

Deuteronomy 30:14, "But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
Isaiah 51:7, "Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law"
Psalms 40:8, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."
Psalms 37:31, "The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide."
Proverbs 3:1, "My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:"
Ezra 7:10, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments."
Job 22:22, "Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart."
(See also Deuteronomy 30:10, Joshua 22:5, 2 Kings 10:31; 23:25, 2 Chron.31:21, Psalm 119:34).

Did the Old Covenant include the Ten Commandments?

Let's look at what this Old Covenant included. First of all, the Old Covenant had some poor promises in it. The New Covenant, we are told, "was established upon better promises." (Hebrews 8:6). Has anyone ever been able to point out any poor promises in the Ten Commandments? Never. On the contrary, Paul declares that they were very good (Ephesians 6:1-3). This declaration alone is sufficient to show that the writer of Hebrews was not charging the moral law with any weak promises. The Old Covenant, whatever else it might be, could never be the Ten Commandments.

The second thing wrong with the Old Covenant was that it was faulty (Hebrews 8:7). Let me ask you a question: Has any man ever been able to find a fault or a flaw in the handwriting of God? The psalmist declared, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Psalm 19:7. Paul wrote, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Romans 7:12. No law could be perfect and faulty at the same time.

Thirdly, it was to be abolished! (Hebrews 8:13). Now we can ask a serious question that should settle every doubt on this matter. Did the great moral law of Ten Commandments vanish away? Anyone who has read the New Testament must answer, Absolutely not. Paul affirms the exact opposite about the law. He asked, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Romans 3:31.

Does the Bible contradict itself? Can something vanish away and be established at the same time? Did the same writer say opposite things about the same law? Just to be certain that Paul was not saying that the Old Covenant was the law, let us insert the words "Old Covenant" instead of the word "law" into Romans 3:31:

"Do we then make void the Old Covenant through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Old Covenant."

That doesn't sound right at all, does it? We know that the Old Covenant could never be spoken of in this way. We can see that the Old Covenant which came to an end could not have been the Ten Commandments.

Another place in Hebrews that describes the first covenant is in Hebrews 9:1. This chapter talks about the priestly duties and sacrifices. Hebrews 7:12 also explains how there is a change of the law concerning these sacrifices and priestly duties. Hebrews 10:1 says the law was a "shadow". But are the 10 Commandments also a "shadow"? Certainly not! Why? Because this verse specifically explains that only laws with sacrifices are "shadows." Hebrews 8:3-5 confirms that only sacrificial laws are shadows. Again, the 10 Commandments do not fit into these descriptions of the first covenant either, because the 10 Commandments have nothing to do with priestly duties, sacrifices, offerings, or shadows.

What is the New Testament?

Much of what professes to be "Christianity" calls the last part of the Bible the "New Testament", and in so doing, it blinds most people to what the " New Testament " really is. If you read the book of Hebrews, and especially the ninth and tenth chapters, Paul the apostle states (as was prophesied by the prophets of ancient Israel and Judah) that the New Testament began with the death of Jesus Christ. This speaks of a period of time and a manner of God’s dealings with man, rather than a part of the Bible itself. Notice especially the words of Hebrews 9:15-17.

When verse 15 says that Jesus is the "mediator of the New Testament", it does not mean that Jesus is the mediator of the last part of the Bible. The books of Matthew through Revelation are not the New Testament. In fact, most of the events described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John took place before the New Testament era, and all of the events mentioned in our Bible took place before the full end of the Old Testament era.

Verses 16 and 17 will help us to see what the "testaments" are if we look carefully and thoughtfully at what Paul has stated. The word "testament" and the word "covenant" mean basically the same thing. The "new testament" is really a "new covenant" or a new "will" (to use today's modern terminology). I'm sure the reader realizes that it is normal for a "will" to be read and to begin to be brought into effect after the one who has made the will has died. Verses 16 and 17 tell us that a testament or will goes into "force" after the one who is its maker (testator) is dead. This tells us that the "New Testament," or new "will," of God for his children was able to be put into effect because of the (and at the time of the) death of Jesus Christ.

Was the Old Covenant still in existence after Jesus died on the cross?

Paul states in Hebrews 8:13 that the reason for the new covenant is because God had made the first covenant old by the bringing in of a better one. Then comes the "key words"; he says, "Now that which decayeth and waxeth old (which in the context speaks of the old testament era) is ready to vanish away." Notice that the Old Testament did not vanish away yet, but was ready to vanish away 35 years after Jesus' crucifixion!

Study the context of that statement, and it will begin to open up the fact to you that when the book of Hebrews was written, the New Testament was in effect, as Jesus' death and resurrection was many years past. Yet the Old Testament was not yet fully removed. Here are other verses that show the Old Covenant did not end at the cross, but was still in existence after Jesus died. It was still binding upon the Apostles and Jewish converts, but not the Gentile converts, because the gentiles were not under the Old Covenant. It was not necessary for Gentiles to become Jews before being Christians (Acts 15:5-11; 21:21, Gal.2:14).

The reason the Old Covenant was still binding upon Jews and Jews who were converted to Christ (like the apostles) was because they had an agreement (covenant) with God. This covenant was to last for a specific period of time. The Old Covenant was to last until 70 A.D. Therefore, the reason the Old Covenant was still binding upon them was because their agreement did not end yet. Whereas the gentiles were not under this Covenant; the Old Covenant did not apply to Gentiles, only the New Covenant applied to Gentiles. And Gentiles did not have to become Jews and learn all the temporary sacrificial laws first, before they could enter the New Covenant. Why learn something which would pass away in a few years anyway? The Jews were already familiar with this Covenant, they were already practicing it, because the Jews were the only ones who were bound under this Old Covenant.

Scriptural Proof that the Old Covenant was not abolished at the Cross

The Scripture shows the Apostles still kept the Mosaic Law many, many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. For example, in all their accusations against Paul (Acts 24:13), the Jews never charged him with disregarding the law. Why did they not if Paul did not keep it (as some claim)? But Paul himself expressly declared that he had kept the law of the Jews, and the law of the temple (Acts 25:8). How could this be true if Paul had not kept the Mosaic law? [Acts 25:8 is the only verse where this term for "sin" is translated as "offended." It is translated as "sin" in 38 other verses].

Acts 18:19-21 is very instructional. Here, Paul was preaching God's Truth to some people. These people asked Paul to stay longer and keep preaching God's Word to them, Paul refused! Why did Paul refuse? He replied, "...I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem" (Acts 18:21), and then promised he would return to them afterwards, which he did (Acts 19:1). Now, a serious question must be asked. If the Jewish feasts were abolished at the cross, and the apostles of Christ were no longer bound to the Jewish feasts, why did Paul say he "must by all means keep this feast"?

And at a later time, Paul made haste to keep another Jewish feast. In Acts 20:16, "For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost." Wasn't the day of Pentecost fulfilled when the Holy Spirit descended upon everyone in Acts 2? Yes, it was. But it does not do away with the law. Scripture is clear that none of the law would pass until all is fulfilled.

The apostles still went up together into the Jewish temple at the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1). Paul physically circumcised the apostle Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Paul cleansed himself and others from sin by entering the Jewish temple and participating in the "days of purification" (Acts 21:26). This purification was "...according to the law of Moses " (Luke 2:22), and involved sacrificing animals (Numbers 19:9,17). Paul observed an Old Covenant Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18). The apostle Peter never ate unclean meats (Acts 10:14; 11:8). All the apostles kept the Sabbath (Mark 16:1-2, Luke 23:56, Acts 13:14,44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4,11). All these events took place after Jesus died!

Paul, in speaking to the Gentiles, commanded to them the following in Acts 15:29, "That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well." Now, most people claim that we do not have to avoid "meats offered to idols, blood, and animals strangled" today, since these laws ceased at the cross. But the command to avoid "fornication" is still binding. My question is this. If these laws ceased since Christ's death on the cross, why did Paul command these gentiles to avoid all these things after the death of Christ took place? The answer can be found a few verses earlier:

Acts 15:19-21, "...the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day."

The reason Paul commanded these Gentiles to obey these laws, is because the law of Moses did not cease at the death of Christ! And the fact that these four laws are all lumped together (three meat laws and one fornication) is because these are all moral laws. These meat laws are not temporary laws, but are for our health, as are the laws regarding fornication.

The word "assembly" in James 2:2, and the word "congregation" in Acts 13:43, is translated from the Greek word sunagoge, which is translated as "synagogue" in all 56 other places that it appears in the New Testament books. Christ's followers were still using "Jewish" forms of worship as late as 70AD. The phrase "assembling together" in Hebrews 10:25, and the phrase "gathering together" in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, is translated from the Greek word episunagoge, which is very interesting: . The prefix epi means "upon", and the rest of this word is sunagoge, the exact same word used for synagogue everywhere else in the Bible. You see, the apostles were all still worshipping in Jewish synagogues! How can anyone possible say the Old Covenant was abolished?

Hebrews 8:13 says the Old Covenant was "ready to vanish away". It did not vanish away yet. In Hebrews 10:1 the Law is spoken of in the present tense as "having a shadow of good things to come." These verses declare, without a doubt, that the Old Covenant was still present. If these shadows pointed to the death of Christ at the cross, why did Paul say they were a shadow of things to come in future? Why did he not say they were a shadow of things in the passed (referring to the cross)? The reason is because these shadows did not end at the cross, but were still being observed in Paul's day, and were a shadow of things to yet come. If they were a shadow of things to come, then these shadows could not possible have been of the cross! Hebrews 10:11 says "every priest standeth daily…offering oftentimes the same sacrifices." This is in the present tense, which means they were still offering sacrifices at the time the book of Hebrews was written (65 A.D.).

Hebrews 12:28 says they were "receiving a kingdom", they did not receive it yet, but were in the process. Which indirectly shows that the Mosaic Law was in the process of passing away. 2 Corinthians 3:11-12 is speaking about the Old Covenant passing away. Notice verse 12, "we have such hope." What hope was that? It was the passing away of the Old Covenant! Paul, twenty years after the death of Jesus on the cross, called the passing of the Old Covenant a hope!

1 Corinthians 13:10 says, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (It was not done away yet). Colossians 2:17 says the Old Covenant days "are a shadow of things to come." (Not were, but are. The Old Covenant was still present at the time Colossians was written). It refers to things "to come", These "things to come" are the fulfillment of Old Covenant shadows. Please note those things were still viewed as coming! They had not fully arrived yet.

The scripture says all things are placed under Christ feet (Ephesians 1:22). Hebrews 2:8 says "…But now we see not yet all things put under him." This plainly tells us that when Hebrews was written, all things were still not in subjection to Christ. They were sill in the Last Days of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant was gaining power and awaiting the appointed day it assumes full power.

The apostle Paul kept stressing that the law of Moses was written for their well being. 1 Corinthians 9:9-10, "For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn…For our sakes, no doubt, this is written." Obviously, Paul did not look at the Mosaic Law as abolished after Jesus died.

Hebrews 9:1,8-10, "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary…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: 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; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."

This time of reformation, or refreshing, came at the second coming of Christ (Acts 3:19-21). The Old Covenant had not yet been abolished, at the time of the New Testament! So long as the temple still stood, and the sacrifices were continually offered, the plan of redemption was incomplete (Hebrews 9:8-9). Christ Himself declared that His victory at the cross was not complete, and would only find its fulfillment in judgment (Mat.12:20), and the apostles taught the same thing (Romans 2:5-8; 9:22-23; II Thessalonians 1:7-10; I Corinthians 15:54-57); Therefore, the plan of redemption's fulfillment must occur after the cross, and after Pentecost.

Christ, in his parable of the marriage dinner, revealed that the marriage between Jesus and His servants (Matthew 25:1-13, Ephesians 5:22-32, I Corinthians 6:17; 12:27, II Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 19:9) would happen when the city of Jerusalem was finally burned: Matthew 22:6-8, "And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready," Jerusalem was burned to the ground in 70 A.D., within their generation.

In Luke 24:44, Jesus said, "all things must be fulfilled." these words are construed by those who insist the Law fully passed at the Cross to mean that Jesus was saying his death was the fulfillment of all things necessary for the passing of the Law. One thing that should immediately strike the reader is the fact that Jesus is not even speaking of the passing of the law and the prerequisites for that. He is speaking of the necessity of the fulfillment of the law to be sure--but in contrast to those who appeal to this text he is not saying "now here is all that is necessary for the Old Covenant to pass away; I must suffer". In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus is speaking of the prerequisites for the passing of the Law, and he says it must ALL be fulfilled. In Luke 24, Jesus was saying that his passion was one of the constituent elements of the Law that had to be fulfilled, not the only thing in the law that had to be fulfilled!

But in Luke 24:27, Jesus taught his disciples: "And beginning at Moses and the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Notice the reference to all the scriptures. Verse 22 expected ALL things that are written to be fulfilled. Now read verse 26, "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter his glory?" In expounding the scriptures and the need for him to fulfill all things, Jesus did not stop at the cross, he spoke of the glory to follow the cross! Even those who believe the Law ended at Calvary do not believe Jesus entered his glory at the Cross; they place that at Pentecost.

Now, since Jesus was expounding on the need to fulfill all things written in the Law and the Prophets, and since he did not stop at the Cross but spoke of the glory to follow, it must be true that the fulfillment of all things written in the Law and Prophets had to include Christ's entrance into the "glorious things" and this was sometime after the cross! These thoughts are corroborated in Acts 3:18ff. In verse 18, Peter says Jesus fulfilled all things written concerning his suffering. But notice verses 21 and following. Peter tells them Christ would remain in heaven until all things foretold by the prophets i.e. the restoration of all things, were fulfilled. In addition, in Luke 24:44-47, Jesus said that not only must he suffer and enter his glory, but that "remission and repentance of sins should be preached in all nations beginning at Jerusalem." The fulfillment of all things did not happen at the cross or at Pentecost.

In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus said none of the law will pass from the law (Old Testament law) until ALL is fulfilled. Obviously, all prophesies were not fulfilled at Jesus’ death, so nothing passed from the law at his death. I mean, if all was fulfilled at the cross, how is it that on Pentecost, 50 days later, Peter said that Joel 2:28 was fulfilled in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16)? How is it that James in Acts 15:14 is speaking about how God had visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name declares, "And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written...?" It was fulfilled after the cross. The abomination of desolation as spoken by Daniel is said to be unfulfilled (Matthew 24:15). The great tribulation as prophesied in Joel 2:2, Daniel 12:1, and Jeremiah 30:7 is said to be yet future by Jesus (Matthew24:21). In Luke 21:22 Jesus said, "for these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled," so they could not have been fulfilled at the cross.

Many try to negate the force of Matthew 5:17-18 by saying what Jesus really meant was that he would fulfill all the legal and moral mandates of the Old Law and the Old Law would then pass; but he did not really mean all prophecies had to be fulfilled. Thus, in this interpretation there is a distinction between the Law and the Prophets. This interpretation flatly contradicts Luke 24:44! Luke 24 speaks about the law, the prophets, and the Psalms and Jesus said all these things had to be fulfilled! Jesus said "the law" was predictive in nature. In Matthew 11:13, our Lord said "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John." Did you catch that? Jesus said the Law and the prophets prophesied! How, then, can one delineate between the prophets and "The Law"? Simply put, he cannot Biblically do so! They are one and the same.

John 10:34, "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" Jesus was quoting Psalms 82:6. Why is he calling Psalms 82:6 the law? Because the law is a generic term for the teachings and instructions of God. Most people think the “law” is only the first 5 books of scripture, but it begins at Genesis 1:1 and end at Revelation 22:21.

Further, the prophets are very clearly called "the law"! In I Corinthians 14:21-22, Paul quotes from Isaiah 28 and specifically calls it "the law." A quick check of Romans 3:10ff will reveal that Paul quotes from the Psalms, Jeremiah, Proverbs and Isaiah and calls all of them "the Law" (verse 19). In addition, as noted above, the law prophesied (Matthew 11:13). Now since the prophets are called "the law", and since "the law" prophesied, one cannot delineate between the law and prophets in Matthew 5.

In Acts 6:14, Philip is accused of saying that "this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place and shall change the customs which Moses delivered unto us", this was not fulfilled at the cross. Jesus said none of the law would pass until all was fulfilled. But the view that the Law passed at the Cross makes Jesus to say all the Law would pass when some of it was fulfilled! But Jesus said all the Law and prophets had to be fulfilled; not just one specific prediction! Jesus not only said he had to suffer, he said he had to enter his glory; he said the gospel had to preached in all the world. Fulfillment of all things positively entailed more than the cross, thus the Law could not pass at the Cross since Jesus said all of it had to be fulfilled before any of it could pass. Peter says that "the end of all things is at hand." I Peter 4:7. What does the term "all things" refer to?

I would like to ask you a question: If a law or covenant has been abrogated, are any of its penalties or promises applicable anymore? If the Old Covenant was abrogated at the Cross does this not mean that all Old Covenant promises and penalties were either fulfilled or abrogated at that time? If not, why not?

The apostles wrote from different perspectives depending on the particular context. In one place they would write using the future tense because the completion of the transformation was not consummated until the destruction of the Temple (Hebrews 13:14), in another place he would write of the actual place where they were during the transformation: (Hebrews 12:28), and finally in another place he would write of the status once all would be said and done under the New Covenant: (Hebrews 12:22). There is one Jerusalem from above, but there were different perspectives from which Paul was writing.

Paul emphatically says that truth is taken directly from the Old Covenant (Acts 24:14ff; Acts 26:21ff). Specifically, he tells us that the promise of the resurrection was an Old Covenant promise made by and to Moses and all the prophets. But Paul was speaking about this promise several years after the cross where, we are told, the Old Covenant was taken away. But if the Old Covenant was taken away at the Cross, how could Paul, years afterward, still be preaching Old Covenant promises?!? You see, if the law was nullified at the Cross, then all of it was nullified! Remember, Jesus said none would pass until all was fulfilled. If all was not fulfilled then none of it passed!

In Acts 13:40-41, look the significance of Paul's words. They are taken from Habakkuk 1:5. Paul, in Acts 13, years after the Old Covenant was supposedly taken away, was threatening Israel with Old Covenant wrath! National destruction for violating the Covenant was part and parcel of the Law delivered to Israel, in Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28-30. But if that covenant was abrogated at the cross, how could Paul still be threatening Israel with an Old Covenant wrath?

Since all of the nation of Israel had not yet had opportunity to hear the gospel (that Jesus was truly the messiah for which they had waited), God gave them a judgment period of one generation (forty years) to repent.

The Transition period of the Testaments

at age
on Jerusalem
in 70AD
Old Testament Age
Transition Period
New Testament Age

The transition period was to bring Old Testament Israel (God’s Old Covenant people) to the knowledge that their Messiah had come. This is GOD'S way of doing things. For example, Revelation 2:21 says, "And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not." In this scripture, the Lord is saying that He:

1) Gives "light" or understanding to expose their sin.
2) Then gives a "space" of time for the person to quit and make restitution for their sin.
3) God goes on in the context to show that if they do not repent, then He brings severe judgment against them.

God not only worked in this manner for the Jewish people (literal Israel), but also did the same in other cases as well. For example, God gave Nineveh 40 days to repent, and Jesus realized that was a "type" of what God was doing to literal Israel. Jesus also knew that literal Israel would not repent as did Nineveh (Matthew 12:38-41).

Was Salvation complete at the Cross?

Salvation did not come when Jesus died at the cross, but complete salvation came only at the second coming of Christ, in the last days.

Acts 3:19-21 "That your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ.. whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things (cf. Luke 21:22,32), which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (cf. Revelation 10:7)."

Sins were not blotted out at the cross. This passage says sins will be blotted out at the "second coming" of Christ! Hebrews 8:12-13; 10:16-17 confirms that God will not remember our sins anymore, but the new covenant must come in full force before this could happen. Redemption was not at the cross, but was looked at as still future:

Here are many other passages that specifically state salvation was a yet future time for those living before Christ's "second coming."

Acts 15:11, "But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."

Notice Peter says that we (believers in Christ) "shall" be saved. Notice that it was yet future. They were not saved yet, apart from the bondage of the law. This did not happen until 70AD when God destroyed Old Covenant Israel forever.

1 Thessalonians 5:8, "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation."

Salvation was a "hope," it was not a reality yet.

1 Peter 1:5, "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

Salvation was "ready" to be revealed, but was not revealed yet.

Romans 13:11, "…for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."

Many years after the cross, the apostles did not say they had salvation yet, but that their salvation was "nearer" than they believed. If they had salvation already, they would not say it was "near." Salvation, to them, was something they looked forward to at Christ's return.

Hebrews 1:14, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
The apostles were to inherent salvation. You can't inherent something you already have. And they said they "shall" be heirs of salvation, pointing to sometime in the future.

Philippians 1:19, "For I (Paul) know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."

Again, it "shall" turn to Paul's salvation, it was yet future to him.

1 Peter 1:9-10, "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:"

During the first century, salvation was something that "should come" unto those believers in Christ. They did not have it yet.

Hebrews 9:28, "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."

This passage says Christ shall appear the second time, and this is when salvation will be realized.

Revelation 12:10, "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night."

The book of Revelation revealed what was to happen in the future, from the perspective of those living at the time it was written. Notice it says that when the Kingdom of God comes, which is the power of Christ's second coming, it says "now" is come salvation. You see? "NOW." The apostles looked forward to salvation, and this book says it is "now" come, when Jesus comes.

Luke 21:28, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."

Their redemption was "drawing near," it was not something they had yet.

Romans 8:23, "...even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (the dominion of the body of sin - Romans 6:6-9).

They were "waiting for" their redemption, they did not have it yet.

Question: But doesn't the blood of Christ cleanse us from our sin? (Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5)

Answer: Yes, it does. Let me ask you a question. In the Old Testament, did the blood of an animal cleanse their sin? Yes, it did (Leviticus 17:11). Hebrews 9:6 explains how the high priest, once a year, would make a blood sacrifice. But it was not until the high priest returned to the people that they received salvation (Leviticus 16:16-18). Likewise, Jesus, our high priest, has to return to us before we receive salvation.

In the Old Testament, it was the blood that cleanses, but not at the time the blood was shed. It was only after the high priest returned. Likewise, the blood of Christ cleanses us, but it didn't happen at the time it was shed. It was only after Jesus, our High Priest, returned.

Hebrews 9:28, "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."

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