The Old and New Covenants: Hebrews 8-10

The priestly ministry of Jesus Christ appears to change the biblical religion of the Old Testament. If everything is changing, then what happens to the promises made to Israel? The author addresses this question throughout chapters 8-10 by quoting or alluding to the new covenant passage from Jeremiah 31. These references to the new covenant lead some to believe that the church has replaced Israel as the recipient of the new covenant, while others hold that the church is enjoying only the spiritual blessings of the new covenant, namely, forgiveness of sin.

The point of Hebrews 8 is to guarantee that no work of Christ is replacing the new covenant promised to the nation Israel. To Israel, the same promises apply, namely the promise of the land and the special relationship the people with enjoy with the LORD. Truly, Christ’s sacrifice guarantees that the new covenant will be made with Israel because Christ is the mediator of it (8:6).

Through Hebrews 9 and 10 the author explains the greater significance of Christ’s sacrifice compared to Israel’s sacrificial system. A better sacrifice was needed for two reasons. First, the old sacrifices never brought forgiveness of sins at the level of salvation. Secondly, the sacrifices were specific to Israel, and they could not atone for those before, outside of, or after the covenant.

Thus, the new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31 will come to pass as prophesied. Jesus himself is the mediator of it, and his sacrifice guarantees it. Also, forgiveness of sin for salvation is possible under any dispensation on account of the work of Christ—it is not an integral part of the new covenant. The sacrifice of Christ allows God to save anyone from Adam to the end of the kingdom.

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