Old Covenant Rendered Obsolete in the Son

SYNOPSIS The arrival of the superior “word” in the Son means that the jurisdiction of the Law given at Sinai has been superseded by the “word” spoken in Jesus.

airplane flying against sky

The book of Hebrews is structured around a series of comparisons that demonstrate the superiority of the revelation given in Jesus to that of the legislation given to Israel at Mount Sinai. The purpose is not to denigrate Moses or the Law, but to stress the superiority of the final “Word” spoken by God in His Son.

The word spoken in the Son is complete and “better than” the partial revelation that was given through the “prophets.” The Son, “having achieved purification of sins,” sat down at God’s right hand and was “appointed heir of all things.” This means the old word spoken “in the prophets” did not achieve “purification of sins” (Psalm 110:1, Hebrews 1:1-2).

After demonstrating the superiority of the Son over angels, the Author warns that if the previous incomplete word given through angels included “just recompense” for disobedience, so we will not escape far worse punishment if we ignore the superior word spoken through the Son (Hebrews 2:1-4).

In chapters 7-10, the Author continues to demonstrate the superior “word” revealed in Jesus by contrasting his priesthood, covenant, and one-time sacrifice with the Levitical priesthood, covenant, and repeated animal sacrifices.

The fact that God promised a future priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” proved the Levitical priesthood could not achieve the “purification of sins.” Under the previous regime of multiple priests, the people received the law, but a change in the priesthood meant, also, a “change of law” (Hebrews 7:11-12).

The Levitical priesthood, due to human mortality, was dependent on lineal descent and multiple generations of priests; in contrast, the priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” is perpetual because it is based on an endless resurrected life (Hebrews 7:15-17).

Unlike the Levitical priesthood, the priest after the “order of Melchizedek” was installed by God’s declared word and oath (“The Lord swore and will not regret, You are a priest everlastingly”); therefore, Jesus holds the priesthood “un-transmissible.” Moreover, he became the “guarantor of a better covenant” and is able, therefore, to save to the uttermost everyone who approaches God through him, because he “lives evermore to intercede in their behalf” (Hebrews 7:19-25).

Unlike the Levitical priests, Jesus “sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” becoming the minister of “the Real Tabernacle” rather than a one assembled and pitched by man. The Levitical priesthood and its sacrificial system constitute “glimpses and shadows of the heavenly realities,” just as Moses was told to make the earthly Tabernacle “according to the pattern he had seen in the mountIn saying, ‘Of a new sort’, he has made obsolete the first” (Hebrews 8:1-13).

Since Jesus attained a more distinguished ministry, he also is the mediator of a better covenant legislated upon better promises. If the “first covenant” had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second one.  However, having found fault with it, the Lord announced the coming days when “I will conclude a new covenant.”

This promised new covenant is expressly stated NOT to be “according to the covenant” made at Sinai; it is not a “renewed” or modified covenant but an entirely new one.  This was necessary because the old legislation instituted at Sinai was unable to achieve the “purification of sins.”

The new covenant in the Son enables all citizens of the kingdom to know God and establishes all of them as His people, His righteous requirements having been written on their hearts. Moreover, unlike the covenant at Sinai, the new one does achieve purification of sins (“I will become merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins will I remember no more”); it succeeds where the previous one failed.

By establishing the promised new covenant, the Son “has made the first obsolete” and it is even in the process of disappearing. This means the covenant established under Moses at Sinai has ceased to be in effect. Anyone who wishes to place himself under the old legislation chooses that which is obsolete and incapable of achieving the “purification of sins.”

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