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Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 8: The Distinction of Old and New Covenants
Presenting the most recent chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews, which are chapters 6 and 7, through the Scriptures we hope to have established as fact that the Adamic patriarchs of the line of the first-born sons were charged with the responsibility of being preachers of righteousness, as the first-born sons are the natural priests of the Adamic family. In turn, we also hope to have elucidated how this helps to reveal for us the nature of the Melchizedek priesthood, and that the story of Melchizedek in the Genesis account was written in the manner that it was so that Melchizedek would serve as a prophetic type for the true and coming Melchizedek priest, which is Yahshua Christ. He is the heir of the Melchizedek priesthood because, being God incarnate, He is the ultimate first-born Son and He is the legitimate patriarch of the entire Adamic family.
So in Hebrews chapter 7 Paul of Tarsus had explained that the Levitical priesthood had passed, and that Christ was the high priest of an older order which was therefore of greater authority, which is the order of Melchizedek. To prove that this older priesthood was of greater authority, Paul illustrated the fact that Abraham, the ancestor of Levi, had made tithes to this Melchizedek, who was therefore greater than Abraham and who in turn had blessed Abraham. Doing this, Paul hoped to impress upon the Hebrews that their Levitical priesthood was never meant to perpetuate, as that was the original plan of God for the Melchizedek priesthood. The Melchizedek priesthood is eternal and transcends the Levitical priesthood which was only implemented for a more particular purpose: for the maintenance of the Old Testament kingdom which had also come to pass. So Paul had also explained that the Levitical priesthood and its continuous sacrifices were peculiar to the Old Covenant, and now they were eclipsed in Christ, who made one sacrifice which has an indefinite efficacy to absolve the sins of the people. Furthermore, Paul had also explained that while the Levitical high priests were temporal and they died, Christ is eternal and He lives, so there is absolutely no need for the people to have any other priest.
Here in Hebrews chapter 8 Paul continues with his explanation of the priesthood of Christ, and while he further discusses its relationship to the sacrifices which were made for sins, he will then discuss its relationship to the covenants of God. Doing this, Paul informs us that his intent is to summarize things he had already explained in the previous chapters. Here we shall commence with this 8th chapter of Paul’s epistle:
1 Now a summary of the things being spoken. We have such a high priest, who has sat at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens; 2 a servant of the saints and of the true tabernacle, which the Prince [or the Lord] has pitched, not man.
Where we have saints in verse 2, the King James Version and others have sanctuary. But in all of the extant manuscripts, the Greek word ἅγιος is plural, and that is the form which is commonly translated as saints. We can only suspect that the denominational translators may have been deceived by the Jews, since the true temple of Christ is the body of His people. The first temple of Yahweh was built by the hands of men. During the time of the old kingdoms of Israel and Judah, that stone-and-mortar temple represented the presence of God on earth. The same was true of the tabernacle in the wilderness which preceded it, and the temple of Zerubbabel which followed. But this is not the model for the temple of the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ.
Rather, as Christ had explained during His ministry, the true temple of God is His body. So He is recorded as having said in John chapter 2: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Judaeans did not understand Him, and the apostle wrote in explanation that “he spake of the temple of his body.” Before the incarnation of Christ, material temples were the abode of Yahweh on earth. After His incarnation, the body of Christ is His earthly abode. This is the tabernacle to which Paul refers, but that is not all. As Paul said in Hebrews chapter 2, “11 For both He sanctifying and those being sanctified are all sprung from one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying: ‘I will announce Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.’ 13 And again: ‘I will be confident in Him.’ And again: ‘Behold, I and the children which Yahweh has given me.’” So Paul explains to Christians in several places that the Christian people are the body of Christ. One such place is in chapter 1 of his epistle to the Ephesians where he had written of Christ that “22... all things He placed under His feet, and has given Him a crown over all things in the assembly, 23, which is His body, the fulfillment of that which all things in all are being fulfilled.” With this the apostle Peter agrees where in chapter 2 of his first epistle he referred to his readers as “as lively stones ... built up a spiritual house”.
Of course, Peter was speaking to Christians who were descendants of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” for whom Christ had come, and that is evident where speaking of the promise of salvation in chapter 1 of that epistle he says “10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you...” There are no promises of grace in the prophets for anyone but the ancient children of Israel. So we read in Isaiah chapter 43 where the Word of Yahweh says “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” So the true tabernacle and the Body of Christ are Yahweh incarnate as a man as well as the people of Israel for which He has taken credit as having formed and created, and it those exclusively which He had come to redeem.
This is the true tabernacle of Paul’s statement here: the body of the children of Israel who were promised salvation in Christ. This body was already being spread abroad as the prophet Isaiah had written in reference to them. And as Paul says here that Christ is a servant to the saints and to this true tabernacle, which are one and the same body of the children of Israel, he also informed us in Hebrews chapter 6 that the duty of all Christians is found in “ministering and having ministered to the saints”, and that that is the task which Christians should perform in His Name. Paul’s ministry to the saints was to bring them the Gospel of Reconciliation, as he himself attested in his epistles.
Returning to Paul’s discussion of the priesthood of Christ:
3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, in which manner it is necessary also for this one to have something which He would offer.
Not only Levitical priests, but even the pagan priests had the custom of accepting gifts and making sacrifices on behalf of their gods. But without the interpolation which we will discuss in verse 4, in verse 5 it is evident that Paul’s words are meant to remain within the scope of the Levitical priesthood. Paul’s analogy is that Christ would offer Himself, which is a much greater sacrifice than any of the priests before Him.
4 So if indeed He was on the earth He would not even be a priest, there being those who offer gifts in accordance with the law,
Paul asserts that if Christ were still on the earth, or if perhaps He had not died, he would not yet have performed the function of His priesthood and therefore would not be able to assume the role of a priest. The Majority Text has the end of the verse to read “there being those of the temple who offer gifts in accordance with the law”. The text here, wanting the words “of the temple”, follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B) and Claromontanus (D). Paul continues to speak in reference to the Levitical high priests and says:
5 those who serve being a pattern and shadow of those in heavenly places, just as Moses was advised being about to commission the tabernacle: “See that,” He says, “you shall make all things according to the example which was shown to you on the mountain.”
Here Paul quotes from Exodus 25:40, and the instruction was given in relation to the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness, and the functions of the priests, at the time that the Levitical priesthood was instituted and the sacrifices of the law were initiated. So Paul is using the mountain upon which Moses had received the instructions as an analogy for the heavenly places to which Christ had ascended, implying that the one is a type for the other. He also implies that the ordinances and rituals of the Levitical priesthood serve as a model of heavenly concepts which, ostensibly, are not fully revealed to men, so we will not conjecture as to what they may be. Contrasting Christ to this Levitical priesthood he then says:
6 But now He has obtained a more distinguished office, and by so much better a covenant is He mediator, by which better promises are ordained by law. 7 For if that first was faultless, a place would not have been sought for a second [B has “for another”].
Under the Old Covenant, when the children of Israel sinned they were required to make propitiations according to the law. Under the New Covenant, nothing is required of them since Christ is their propitiation for sin. All Israel is promised salvation, and all Israel is cleansed of their sins. So the New Covenant is indeed the better covenant for the children of Israel.
The first covenant was not without fault, ostensibly because it relied on the obedience of men. The first covenant should have therefore taught man a lesson, that he cannot gain salvation by the works of his own hands, but only by the mercy and grace of God. This is a recurring theme throughout Paul’s epistles. When the children of Israel were disobedient under the first covenant, Yahweh promised them a second, and demonstrated that in that they should voluntarily seek to be obedient to His will. Thus Paul concludes in his examples of sin and obedience in Romans chapter 3 and says “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” In his conclusion of that epistle Paul reminded his readers of the necessity for the “obedience of the faith”, which is the very purpose of the Gospel for Israel.
Christians have never really understood the transition from the Old to the New Covenants in the overall theme of the Bible. Neither have they understood the need for that transition. Therefore the Jews have taken advantage of them in order to give themselves an appearance of legitimacy which they certainly do not deserve. Even today, Jews claim to be offended by the use of the term “Old Covenant”, and they claim that the original covenant made at Mount Sinai is still in effect in relation to them, but nothing could be further from the truth.
In Zechariah chapter 8 the Word of Yahweh says “And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.” Presenting our commentary on that chapter here just a few months ago, one of the conclusions we made was that “Beauty and Bands refer to the Old Covenant and the Possession of Israel and Judah, so this prophecy is also describing the overall relationship which Yahweh has had with the children of Israel.” So the Word of Yahweh a little further on in that chapter also says “10 And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.” So we see that the Old Covenant was officially dissolved by Yahweh and that dissolution was announced by the prophet. This was not a prophecy of some future event, but an accomplished fact, as in the very next verse of that same chapter, speaking in the past tense, it says: “11 And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.”
Ostensibly, the breaking of the Old Covenant was announced by Yahweh because the people had already broken their own obligation to keep it. Referring to the Old Covenant of Sinai in the promise of a New Covenant, Jeremiah had written nearly a hundred years before Zechariah, and there we see a reference to “my covenant [which] they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD.” So the need for a New Covenant is explained in the words of the prophets, because the Old Covenant was broken by the people, and then consequently by Yahweh God Himself. For that reason we also see a promise of a new covenant in Ezekiel, who wrote around the same time as Jeremiah. First, in Ezekiel chapter 16, the Word of Yahweh refers to the breaking of the old covenant, where it speaks of Judah and says “59 For thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.” Then in Ezekiel chapter 34, which speaks of the lost sheep who had wandered over all the mountains, we read: “24 And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it. 25 And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.” This is a prophecy of the new covenant with Christ, and if the old covenant still stood, there would be no room and no need for another. Under this new covenant the people dwell in the wilderness, because that is where scattered Israel is, as they are depicted as the woman which was taken into the wilderness in Revelation chapter 12. So they were in the wilderness when they received the Gospel.
Likewise we read a promise of a new covenant in Ezekiel chapter 37, where David stands as a type for Christ and the tabernacle is a reference to the body of Christ: “25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 And the nations shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” Once again, if the old covenant had not been dissolved, there would be no mention of a need for a new covenant.
Here we should make a digression, because this topic was brought up in our conversations last week when we visited the Fellowship of God’s Covenant People in Kentucky. There is an idea in Christian Identity circles that Judah was not divorced by Yahweh. However in the Old Testament the putting of a wife out of the house was the act of divorce, and the paper, or bill of divorcement that the law required was only a record of the act. So a divorce can happen without a notice that the paper was issued. Therefore Israel had a law requiring the issue of the paper if a husband put away his wife. The bill records the act, but the bill is not the act in itself. We explain this according to the law in Scripture and the Greek words used to describe these things in a brief article at Christogenea entitled Divorce in the Bible.
In Ezekiel chapter 23 we read where the Word of Yahweh speaks of Judah and says: “So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.” The reference to “her sister” was an allegorical reference to the kingdom of Israel, as opposed to Judah. It says further on in that same chapter: “31 Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand.” With this we see that Judah suffered the same fate as Israel. In Jeremiah chapter 33, after the promise of a New Covenant and a further promise that Israel would always be a nation, we read an allegorical question attributed to the enemies of Israel where it says “24 Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them.” So we see in these three passages that Yahweh was alienated from and had cast off both Israel and Judah, so technically both kingdoms were divorced, having drank from the same cup. The return and preservation of the remnant 70-Weeks Kingdom at Jerusalem is a separate matter entirely.
If both Israel and Judah were not equally divorced from God, then only Israel would have required a New Covenant by which to be reconciled to God. Why would Paul say of both the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision, as he explained in Ephesians chapter 2, that both groups needed to be reconciled to God? Reconciliation is only necessary where there has been an estrangement. But in Zechariah, the prophet must be referring to Judah as well as to Israel since Zechariah was a prophet of Judah who made no distinction when he said that Yahweh had broken His covenant which He had “made with all the people”. Rather, the New Covenant was needed by the people of both houses, Israel and Judah, so therefore both houses were equally divorced. In fact, in Zechariah chapter 8 the Word of Yahweh says “13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.”
Here Paul continues in the assertion that there is a New Covenant which is fulfilled in Christ, and proceeds by citing the prophecy of that new covenant as it is found in Jeremiah chapter 31:
8 Censuring them He says: “Behold, days are coming, says Yahweh, and I will consummate for the house of Israel and for the house of Judah a new covenant.
The King James Version has make, rather than consummate. According to Liddell & Scott, the Greek verb συντελέω has a variety of uses in different contexts, but primarily it means to bring quite to an end, complete, accomplish. From that same source it is said that one of the uses of the corresponding noun, συντελής, is used to describe one who is united to a state. Since the covenant relationship of the nation of Israel to God is often described in Scripture as one of a wife to a husband, here we chose the word consummate in the sense of bringing something to completion.
This reinforces a sense of meaning which we see in the promises of Yahweh to Israel which were made in Hosea, after He issued His divorce to the nation, that after she is punished for her iniquities, at some point in the future she is restored, and He says “19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.” Paul understood this aspect of the New Covenant, and used a similar analogy where he told the Corinthian Christians that “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
Next we have an assurance, that by saying house of Israel and house of Judah, the new covenant is to be made to the descendants of the same people with whom the old covenant was made, as Paul continues this citation from Jeremiah chapter 31 and writes:
9 Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day [B has “days”] of my taking hold of their hand to lead them out from the land of Egypt; because they did not abide by My covenant, I then disregarded them, says Yahweh. [We found a typo in the very last part of verse 9 today, where an ‘s’ was omitted.]
There is a difference with the Masoretic Text here which is noteworthy, where the King James Version ends Jeremiah 31:32 with the words “...My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.” However in the Septuagint the corresponding passage ends with the words, from Brenton’s English: “...for they abode not in my covenant, and I disregarded them, saith the Lord.” In any event, Jeremiah treats both groups equally, and Paul informs us with certainty, following the Septuagint here, that Yahweh disregarded both the house of Israel and the house of Judah. The word for disregarded may also have been translated as neglected.
The confusion over whether Judah was divorced in part arises over Jeremiah chapter 3, where it is said that Israel was given a bill of divorcement, and it is not apparent that such a thing was ever explicitly recorded of Judah. But we shall contend that it was indeed recorded, but that men have simply not noticed it. First, at that time that Jeremiah chapter 3 was written, Judah was still a kingdom being given an opportunity for repentance, and was not yet put away by Yahweh. However when Ezekiel chapter 23 was written, which we have cited above, and when Jeremiah chapter 31 was written, the same judgement which Israel had suffered was pronounced upon Judah, and Zechariah, writing much later, testified that both Israel and Judah were a “curse among the heathen” and in need of the salvation of God.
Here I will go one step further, and assert that the confusion over whether Judah was divorced in part arises because the charlatans of the early British Israel sect and certain similar and still extant sects in America have attempted to cover for the Jews. Accepting the lie that the Jews are of Judah, they manufacture another lie as an excuse for their not having accepted the New Testament in Christ, by claiming that they were never divorced and are therefore still under the Old Testament. If that were the case, Zechariah would not have announce that the covenant – referring to the Old Covenant – was broken by God Himself, and Jeremiah would not have announced that a new covenant was being made with the house of Judah as well as with the house of Israel. In truth, Judah was divorced, and the Jews are not Judah, but rather the Jews are Canaanite-Edomite pretenders falsely claiming to be of Judah and holding up a pretense of being under the old covenant when they are truly anti-Christ beasts awaiting the Lake of Fire as they endeavor to destroy the Creation of God one unlawful marriage at a time. Judah was divorced, and the bill of divorcement is in our Bibles. Although it is not labelled by that name, that does not mean that it does not exist in substance.
Let us cite Ezekiel chapter 23 once more, where the Word of Yahweh speaks of Judah and says: “So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.” It must be noted that in the Septuagint, this word for alienated in Ezekiel chapter 23 is the Greek verb aphistami. The noun form of this word is apostasion, and that is the word which is used to signify “divorce” where it speaks of the piece of paper that records the divorce. This is the case on all four occasions where the phrase “bill of divorcement” appears in the Greek Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments. So if the noun apostasion is used to describe the piece of paper which makes an official record of the event, then the verb aphistami must describe the act itself. Therefore, since a bill of divorcement is a public announcement that a husband has put away a woman who was his wife, then Ezekiel chapter 23 is Yahweh’s public announcement that he has divorced Judah, where the word aphistami was used, and the act followed the record of Jeremiah chapter 3 where Judah had not yet been divorced! So we can take Ezekiel chapter 23 and label it “Yahweh’s Bill of Divorcement from Judah”, and Jeremiah chapters 32 and 33 along with Zechariah chapter 8 all serve as second and third witnesses.
The remnant 70-Weeks Kingdom is another matter, and it was prophesied in Daniel chapter 9, after Judah was already divorced and in captivity and Jerusalem lay in ruins. But we must also consider that the 70-Weeks Kingdom was under foreign rule for most of its existence, so it too was suffering the same captivity as the scattered children of Israel, being subject to the same beast empires. Just because some Judahites stayed under the law does not mean that Judah as a kingdom was not divorced, because there were also Israelites in Judaea who remained in the law, the example being Anna the prophetess, of the tribe of Asher, who is mentioned in Luke chapter 2.
This 70-Weeks Kingdom is also relevant to our discussion here in Hebrews chapter 8, because it is also a prophecy which portends the end of the Old Covenant: “24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. [All of this was fulfilled in the passion of the Christ.] 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. [This is a prophecy by which we know with all certainty that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, as a Messiah was being expected by the Judaeans in fulfillment of the period of time described here.] 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince [that same Messiah the prince] that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. [The Romans were the people of Messiah the prince who destroyed Jerusalem.] 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease [The Old Covenant was brought to an end in a process, and finally there was no more need for a Levitical priesthood to perform such rituals, as the Old Covenant had failed], and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. [This final passage is a Hebrew parallelism, explaining that after Christ confirmed the promised New Covenant, then for its abominations Jerusalem would ultimately be destroyed.]”
The history of the 70-Weeks Kingdom reveals that in that very period, Judaea was infiltrated and wholly subverted by Edomites and other assorted Canaanites, the enemies of ancient Israel who had adopted a corrupt version of Judaism over a hundred years before the birth of Christ. During the Roman period, the Edomites had managed to take over political control under the emperors, who were apparently oblivious to the differences between Edomites and true Israelites. That was why Paul had promised Roman Christians in 57 AD that Satan would be crushed under their feet, referring to the impending destruction of Jerusalem in Romans chapter 16. Here in Hebrews chapter 8, none of Paul’s intended readers are Edomites, whom he calls vessels of destruction in Romans chapter 9. Rather, his intended readers are the true Israelites of Judaea, his “kinsman according to the flesh” who descended from Jacob, as he also explains in Romans chapter 9 that they alone are the vessels of mercy who have the promises of God.
So Paul informs us that the promise of the New Covenant was made as God was censuring the people who were once under the Old Covenant. Their sin, and not Yahweh’s error, was the reason why fault was found in the first covenant. Then Paul repeats the promise itself, from Jeremiah chapter 31, which says that this New Covenant would be made with the very same people, the House of Israel and the House of Judah, the children of the fathers with which the Old Covenant was made, the descendants of those very people who were led by Yahweh out of Egypt but who failed to abide in the first covenant. Paul never claims that anyone other than the house of Israel and the house of Judah may be party to the New Covenant, and in fact, in Galatians chapter 3 he says that “a validated covenant of man no one sets aside, or makes additions to”, referring to that same New Covenant. So no man may force himself into an arrangement, even a contract, which was not originally and expressly made with him in the first place, and the New Covenant is made with none other but the people of the Old Testament houses of Israel and Judah. Paul continues explaining this same thing from that same part of Jeremiah:
10 For this is the covenant [A and D have “My covenant”] which I will devise with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: giving My laws into their minds, I will also inscribe [P46, B, and 0285 have “write”] them upon their hearts, and I will be for a God to them, and they shall be for a people to Me.
In all of the manuscripts which we employed in our translation, the word for minds here is singular in the Greek, where we have taken a liberty. This number mismatch occurs often when the writer refers to a group, this happens throughout Paul’s writings, and it is not always noted in our commentaries . [So it is when the singular word χριστός refers to a group.] Likewise, the word for hearts is in the singular in the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B), although they do not agree with one another concerning the Case of the noun, and the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Claromontanus (D), the 6th century Codex 0285 and the Majority Text.
11 And by no means shall they teach each his fellow countryman and each his brother, saying ‘know Yahweh’, because they all shall know Me, from the small unto the great among them.
While an assortment of very late manuscripts have πλησίον (Strong’s # 4139) here, a word which is usually translated as neighbor in the King James Version, none of the early manuscripts attest to that word. Rather, the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text all have the Greek word πολίτης (Strong’s # 4177) here instead, which is “a member of a city or state...a citizen, freeman...a fellow-citizen”, according to Liddell & Scott. The word comes from the Greek word πόλις, for city, and in the Roman world it was rare that people of diverse races ever dwelt in any one city, as the Greek geographer Strabo fully attests in Book 17 (17.1.32) of his Geography, where he marvels that different races of people were dwelling together in certain cities of Egypt. So it is apparent that in Paul’s world, one’s fellow citizen was also one’s racial kinsman, and therefore the descriptions of “fellow countryman” and “brother” here are a Hebrew parallelism, and the terms are synonymous. That is the same manner in which words were used in the original passage of Jeremiah from which Paul is quoting, and once again he quotes the Septuagint, where the Masoretic Text has neighbor rather than fellow citizen.
Here Paul is continuing to quote from the passage of Jeremiah chapter 31 which promises a new covenant to the houses of Israel and Judah. When Paul of Tarsus wrote his epistle to the Romans, he did not tell them to “know the Lord”. Rather, he admonished them because they had the truth of God and had turned it into a lie. On that account, he beckoned them to obedience in Christ. But he also commended them in Romans chapter 2, for keeping the law found written in their hearts. There he said in part “14 for when the Nations, which do not have the law, by nature practice the things of the law, these, not having law, themselves are a law; 15 who exhibit the work of the law written in their hearts, bearing witness with their conscience, and between one another considering accusations or then defending the accused”. Only the children of Israel were promised by Yahweh God to have His law written in their hearts. So Paul explained in Romans chapter 4 that the nations to which he had brought the Gospel were the very nations from Abraham’s seed, in fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham that his seed would become many nations.
When Paul of Tarsus brought the Gospel to the Corinthians, he did not tell them to “known the Lord”. Rather, he beckoned them to obedience in Christ because, as he said in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, “1 Now I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all had passed through the sea. 2 And all up to Moses had immersed themselves in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all had eaten the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of an attending spiritual rock, and that rock was Christ.” So apparently the Corinthians had already known Yahweh at some time in their collective history. Likewise, when Paul brought the Gospel to the Galatians, he wrote and told then that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” and that “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law”.
We make these analogies to show that all of the people to whom Paul had brought the Gospel were of the houses of Israel or Judah. He informed them of this knowledge on many occasions in his epistles. In Acts chapter 26 he attests that the promises of God in Christ are for the twelve tribes of Israel, and in Acts chapter 28 he asserts that he is bound for the hope of Israel. The Gospel message is consistent, and the New Covenant was made with the same exact people whom the Old Covenant had been made with.
So the denominational churches which teach people that they must “know Jesus” or “know the Lord” have no foundation for such a teaching, and are in contradiction to the Scripture.
Paul continues to quote from Jeremiah in this same regard:
12 Because I will be propitious with their unrighteousness, and their errors [or sins, A, D, 0285, and the MT have lawlessness while the text follows P46, א and B] I will not at all remember hereafter.”
The Greek word ἵλεως (Strong’s # 2436) is either propitious or merciful. We chose the former, because propitiation for sin is the mercy which Yahweh God had showed to the children of Israel, promised to them throughout the Old Testament. That is the entire context of this verse, as God promises to forgive Israel of their sins as the purpose of His new covenant with them.
Here Paul ends his citation of Jeremiah 31:31-34. The New Covenant was a promise made by God for the houses of Israel and Judah in spite of their sins and their unrighteousness. The 147th Psalm attests that the laws of God were given only to the children of Israel, where it says “19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. 20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” Of course, the entire history of the Old Testament shows that to be true. Paul had said that where there is no law, sin is not imputed, in Romans 5:13. Therefore only the children of Israel can be included within the context of the New Covenant, as it was made only with them. By quoting this passage of Jeremiah without qualification, Paul also agrees with that assessment. Paul attempts to add nothing to the promises of God, but only reinforces them throughout his teachings.
This is what Christians fail to understand most in reference to the New Covenant. The New Covenant supplants the Old, but it was not meant as an addition to the Old, or to exist alongside the Old. Rather, the Old Covenant was made so that Yahweh could suffer the children of Israel and keep the promises which He had made to Abraham. So Israel was organized for many centuries into the form of a kingdom, that they may have a common law and morality by which the people as a nation would be preserved. In their sin and the resulting punishment, the greater promises made to Abraham would be fulfilled, and Israel, Abraham’s seed, became many nations. They were the nations to whom Paul and the other apostles had brought the Gospel, which is the good news of the New Covenant. The New Covenant does not extend the Old, as the Old was broken both by men and by God. The New Covenant supplants the Old, as Yahweh God had planned a path by which Israel may be preserved in spite of the sins that He knew they would commit from the beginning, even before the foundation of the world. That is how Christ was the Lamb slain fgorm the foundation of the world. The New Covenant was not necessary because God failed, but because God had known all along that the people would fail, and He nevertheless had to keep the promises which He made to Abraham.
So the New Covenant was made, as it says in Luke chapter 1, because “Yahweh the God of Israel” had “visited and brought about redemption for His people... just as He spoke through the mouths of His holy prophets from of old” to effect “preservation from our enemies and from the hand of all those who hate us” and “to bring about mercy with our fathers and to call into remembrance His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father….” And as Paul also wrote in Romans chapter 15: “8 Therefore I say, Yahshua Christ came to be a minister of circumcision in behalf of the truth of Yahweh; for the confirmation of the promises of the fathers; 9 and the Nations for the sake of mercy honor Yahweh; just as it is written, ‘For this reason I will profess you among the Nations, and I will sing of Your name.’ 10 And again it says, ‘Rejoice, Nations with His people.’ 11 And again, ‘Praise Yahweh, all the Nations, and commend Him, all the people.’ 12 And again, Isaiah says, ‘There shall be the root of Iessai, and He is arising to be ruler of nations: upon Him the Nations have expectation.’" The nations being the scattered Israelites and the nations which Yahweh had promised would come from the seed of Abraham, the New Covenant was made for the express purpose that God would keep His promises and the people would be granted mercy in spite of their sins. Without mercy, Abraham’s seed would never be as the stars of heaven for multitude, because all men sin and fall short of the glory of God.
If the people under the New Covenant are not the same people who were under the Old Covenant, then Paul has lied in all of his epistles, and the Gospel of Luke has lied, Peter and John have lied, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel have also lied about the New Covenant when they prophesied. But if the people of the New Covenant are indeed scattered Israelites, to whom Paul had brought the Gospel, then all of these writings are true, and Christian Israel Identity is certainly true as well. So to refute our Christian Identity faith is to refute the entire Scripture and seek to nullify the promises of God. Paul goes on to tell us once more that the Old Covenant had been brought to an end:
13 In saying “New,” He has made the first Old, and that which is growing old and aged is near vanishing.
Of course, Paul is referring to the covenant, and not to the history and the law and the prophets which recorded the covenant. Otherwise, he would not have written in Romans chapter 15 that “4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Paul may have made the allusion that the Old Covenant was near vanishing, because while it was broken in the Spirit, there were still some who were practicing it in reality. Ostensibly, the practice continued until Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, perhaps 12 years after Paul wrote this epistle.
But Paul’s point is to assert that the Old Covenant was no longer in effect in the eyes of God once the promise of a New Covenant was made. Likewise, perhaps as little as seventy years after Jeremiah, Zechariah explicitly states that the covenant which Yahweh God had “with all the people” was broken. All Christians must realize that there is only one covenant with God by which men may be absolved of sin and promised salvation, and that is the New Covenant in Christ. No one approaches the Father except through Him, and He only accepts those who are of the lost sheep of Israel and Judah. The strait gate is strait indeed.
While the precise term, new, in reference to the promise of a new covenant, is only found in the Old Testament in Jeremiah, we have seen other prophecies in Ezekiel that speak of a covenant to be made in the future, which must also be a reference to that same New Covenant, so Jeremiah does have another witness. And not only do we see the prophesied demise of the Old Covenant in Zechariah, but also in Daniel chapter 9, where the end of it is described in a manner which can only be a prophecy of the ministry of Christ. Since the events Daniel describes of the rebuilding and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem come with the end of the sacrifices and oblations, the Old Covenant was completely nullified by 70 AD, and the Jews have never had a covenant to stand upon. Even according to Daniel, reconciliation for iniquity can only be in Messiah the Prince, who had to come before the city was destroyed. So the Jews have no Messiah to await. It is inexcusable, that the denominational Christians have ever made excuses for the Jews. Once we understand the true distinction of the covenants of God, no room for excuses could possibly be available.