Understanding which covenant we live under today is one of the most important aspects of being a good Bible student. Doctrinal error prospers when we fail to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV).
In Exodus 24:8, God establishes a covenant with his people. Moses reads the law of God and then says, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.” The first covenant applied to those who lived under it, and they were judged by the statutes of that covenant. Likewise, those under the new covenant live under Christ who is the “Mediator of a new (better) covenant” built on “better promises” (Hebrews 8:6;9:15).
The writer of Hebrews realized the importance of discerning the covenants. He wrote in Hebrews 9:9-14 that under the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses had the tabernacle, Levitical priesthood and a system of animal sacrifices. Reading through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and later Hebrews clearly establishes the distinctions between the old and new covenants.
The author of Hebrews then makes three crucial points that we must understand.
First, the new covenant is established in Christ’s blood (Hebrews 9:13,14). The new covenant did not come into effect until Christ’s blood was shed on the cross (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). Therefore, after Jesus died on the cross, we were under a new covenant and were subject to a new set of criterion in matters of doctrine, worship, and salvation.
Second, two covenants cannot be in force simultaneously (Hebrews 9:16,17). This is very significant, and a lack of understanding of this key point is at the root of much false doctrine.
Paul illustrates this point by looking at marriage. A man and woman marry. He dies. Accordingly, she is no longer married to him and has the right to remarry. She then marries another man. The previous husband is now deceased and has no bearing in her new marriage. His memories, ideas, and lessons are still with her, but he no longer has control over her (Romans 7:1-4).
The writer of Hebrews explains, “For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives” (Hebrews 9:16,17).
The New Covenant exists today and we serve under its teachings. The teachings of the prior covenant, while useful, have no bearing on us today in matters of doctrine, worship, or our eternal home (Romans 15:4).
Third, Christ is the High Priest of the new covenant (Hebrews 9:23-28). Since Jesus cast away the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant, God has instituted him as the new High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
Under the Levitical priesthood, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place once a year to offer sacrifices for the children of God. Jesus, on the other hand, became the sacrifice once and for all time (Hebrews 9:25).
Without the new covenant, we have no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). If we will utilize selected passages out of the old covenant as binding on us today, we must be willing to accept all of it, because it is now done away with. And to accept the old covenant as our law today is to regress to a covenant where the remission of sins does not exist. That is a scary proposition!
We must realize which testament we live under and follow it with the best of our abilities. Jesus is the High Priest of the new covenant and with it comes extraordinary blessings and opportunities.
Why Are The Covenants So Important in Understanding The Bible?