The Holy Assembly and the Everlasting Covenant
By: Jeff A. Benner



TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

PART ONE: THE FIRST COVENANT

1 - What Is A Covenant?

2 - The Covenant with Israel

3 - The Holy Assembly

4 - The Torah

5 - The Sabbath Covenant

6 - The Feasts of the Lord

7 - Other Nations Enter the Covenant

8 - The Desecration of the Covenant

9 - The Promise of A New Covenant


PART TWO: THE NEW COVENANT

10 - The New Covenant

11 - The Holy Assembly

12 - The Torah

13 - The Sabbath Covenant

14 - The Feasts of the Lord

15 - Gentiles Enter the Covenant

16 - The Desecration of the Covenant


CONCLUSION

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10 - The New Covenant

In the last chapter we looked at Jeremiah's prophecy of the coming New Covenant. The Jeremiah passage is quoted in the New Covenant book of Hebrews, not as a prophecy, but as the fulfillment of it.

"The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:8-12)

In a moment, we will look at when this new covenant prophecy was fulfilled. First I want to examine a couple of words in the above passage.

The first is the word "new" in the "new covenant". Here we have the Greek word "kainos" which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "chadash", which we looked at in the last chapter. Does this Greek word also support the concept of "renewed", as does "chadash"? There are several passages we can look at to show this, but I think 2 Corinthians 5:17 is a good one, it says; "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new (kainos) creation; the old has gone, the new (kainos) has come!" When someone comes to Christ, is he recreated? Or given a compactly new body? Of course not, this passage would read better if we translated kainos as renewed; "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a renewed creation; the old has gone, the renewed has come!" Even the New Testament supports the idea that the New Covenant is a renewal of the original covenant.

The second word is "laws". The Greek culture had no concept of the Hebrew Torah, and therefore had no word equivalent for the word Torah. The Greek writers of the New Covenant used the Greek word "nomos", which means law, to translate the Hebrew word "Torah". The chapter on the Torah will discuss this further, but for now we should recognize that "nomos" is "Torah" and I will use the word "Torah" in its place as I did in part one of this book.

 

The New Covenant Fulfillment

Yeshua sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover."...[During the supper, Yeshua] took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you". (Luke 22:8,19,20)

During the time of Yeshua, the Passover meal had become an elaborate ceremony to celebrate the redemption of Israel from Egypt by the hand of God. This ceremony is done much the same today as it was in the days of Yeshua. The supper would have occurred in the evening at sundown. After the Passover supper, Yeshua was arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced and executed, all before nine o'clock the next morning. The events I have briefly described here, which I will expand on, led to the redemption of Israel and the forgiveness of their sins as prophesied in Jeremiah 31. Let us now examine the renewal of this covenant.

The Parties

"I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." (Jeremiah 31:31 & Hebrews 8:8)

God has brought to Israel the Savior Yeshua, as he promised. (Acts 13:23)

God was not finished with Israel. They failed to keep the first covenant. God in his grace and mercy gives Israel a better covenant, a renewal of the original.

We will be looking at Yeshua' ministry and the beginning of the "church". It is not what most of us have been lead to believe. To begin with, the covenant was with the Jews, Yeshua was a Jew, Yeshua' ministry was to the Jews, Yeshua' disciples were Jews, the first ten years of the "church" consisted of Jews alone. In fact, the church was not a Gentile church, as many believe, but a sect of Judaism. This will examined closer in a later chapter.

The Promises

I will put my Torah in their minds and write them on their hearts, I will be their God, and they will be my people.... I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Jeremiah 31:33,34 & Hebrews 8:10,12)

The three promises found here are,

1. God will be Israel's God, and they will be his people.

2. God will forgive Israel.

3. God will write his Torah on Israel's heart.

The first promise states that he will be their God and Israel will be his people. This promise is the same as in the first covenant, for God said in Leviticus 26:12, "I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people". This first covenant promise is the same in the new covenant. Leviticus 26:12 is quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:16 showing that the very promise from the first covenant is carried over into the renewed covenant connecting the two covenants together. The second promise is that God will forgive all of Israel's sins. This promise is accomplished through the work of Yeshua' ministry and through his sacrifice on the cross.

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins". (Matthew 26:28)

God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. (Acts 5:31)

The third is God will write his Torah on Israel's mind and heart. This promise will be covered in chapter 12. Remember in the first covenant, God required Israel to put his Torah on their own minds and heart. They failed to do this most of the time. Now God promises to do this for them.

These promises we have just looked at are God's promises to Israel. What is Israel's promise to God? In the first covenant, Israel promised to obey God. Nowhere in the New Covenant do we find Israel or anyone else for that matter declaring a promise to God in reference to the new covenant. Does this mean that Israel has no requirement in keeping the covenant? I don't think so. A better answer would be that since this covenant is a renewal of the original, the original promise to obey God is still in effect. After all, God's promises have neither been eliminated, only added to, not taken away. Let us see if Israel is still required to obey God.

Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!"..."We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." (Acts 5:29)

Once made perfect, [Yeshua] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:9)

The man who says, I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Yeshua did. (1 John 2: 4-6)

Yes, God's people are to continue to obey God. Anyone who chooses a life of disobedience is not part of God's people or the covenant, just as it was in the first covenant.

The Conditions

In the first covenant the promises were given on the condition that the Torah be kept. It was recognized that no one was able to keep the whole Torah completely, so when sin was recognized in the community or individual, a sacrifice was made to God asking for forgiveness. They knew that salvation could not come from the Torah because no one could keep it. Salvation comes from God alone. The individual's response from the heart to the Torah determined the entrance into the assembly of God's holy people. If the person's heart was to keep the Torah, they were a part of the assembly. If the person's heart yearned against the Torah, they were cut off from the assembly and the covenant. Such is the case for all the community, Jews and Gentile alike.

The renewed covenant still depends on the individual's obedience to God. The difference in the renewed covenant, God has written his Torah on their hearts. We now have the ability to obey. Not by our own effort, but by the help of the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.

Israel was required to keep all of God's Torah in order to remain in the first covenant. Israel was not able to keep this promise to keep the Torah. Yeshua (the mediator of the new covenant) came to fulfill the requirements of the Torah for Israel.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18,19)

Yeshua not only kept the Torah for them (since this couldn't), he also took the punishment for their disobedience of the Torah, and therefore they are no longer under the curse of the Torah.

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Torah by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)

We must understand that although Yeshua removed the curse of the Torah, he did not remove or abolish the Torah as was shown previously in Matthew 5:17. Yeshua also said in John 14:15, "If you love me, you will obey what I command". Paul also said in Romans 3:31, "Do we, then nullify the Torah by this faith? Not at all, we uphold the Torah." In chapter 12 we will discuss the relevancy of the Torah within the new covenant, but for the purpose of this discussion we must understand that even though the curse is removed, the Torah remains and all believers are to obey. A command such as "You shall not kill" is just as relevant in the renewed covenant as it was in the first covenant.

Because of Yeshua' sacrifice on the cross, we can say that the conditions of the covenant to keep the law were fulfilled by Yeshua. We then have an unconditional promise in the new covenant.

Deuteronomy 27:26 said, "Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this Torah by carrying them out". When Yeshua was sacrificed he took on himself the curse for disobedience of the Torah even though he himself kept it 100%.

Having canceled the written code, with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14)

The Greek word used for written code is "cheirographon" which is two words put together to make the one word meaning "handwriting". This word is only found once, here in this passage. Notice that this passage does not say that the Torah has been taken away, instead it says that the handwriting against us has been taken away. The Torah was never against anyone, so what handwriting was against us? The only thing that was against God's people was the curses for disobedience of the Torah; therefore, the courses were against Israel. Yeshua sacrifice on the cross removed those curses. This will be discussed at greater detail in chapter 12.

The duration

The first covenant given to Israel is an everlasting covenant. If it is everlasting, then it remains today just as the everlasting covenant with Noah and its sign of the rainbow, remains today. The covenant between God and Israel remains to this day as the renewed covenant. Even the new covenant is identified as an everlasting covenant.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Yeshua. (Hebrews 13:20)

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (Jeremiah 32:40)

The sign

The "contract" of the covenant that we looked at in chapter two, is the Torah. As we will see in chapter 12, the Torah also remains to this day.

You show that you are a letter from Christ the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3: 3)

In the renewed covenant, God gave his Spirit to his people, the Spirit then writes his Torah on their heart. With this Torah now written on our hearts, rather than just on a stone tablet, we have the desire to do his Torah out of love, rather than obligation.

Also mentioned in chapter two, as one of the many signs of the covenant was the annual feast of the Passover. Yeshua used this sign also as the sign of the renewal of the covenant, which was made by his sacrifice. The bread and wine which Yeshua gave his disciples at his last Passover meal (Last Supper) were the signs he used for the new covenant and he told his disciples to remember him through these signs of the Passover meal.

The Lord Yeshua, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26)

The dedication

Just as the first covenant was a covenant of blood, so is the new covenant. At the dedication of the first covenant, Moses sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice onto the people. In the renewed covenant, it is the blood of the ultimate sacrifice, the perfect man Yeshua Christ.

One of the soldiers pierced Yeshua' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. (John 19:34)

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called, may receive the promised eternal inheritance - now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:13-15)

To Yeshua the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24)

 

The First Covenant before Yeshua

Those who disobeyed the Torah were required to offer sacrifices to atone for their sins. Hebrews 9:22 states that "without the shedding of blood their is no forgiveness of sins." Leviticus chapters 1 to 7 give all the details for the offering of sacrifices. After the description of each sacrifice we read "and they will be forgiven". This act had to be consistently renewed each year, for a complete covering was not yet revealed.

Israel knew they could not keep the Torah, so God provided the sacrificial system as a visible symbol to see God's forgiveness. I would then ask, if the sacrifice can remove sin, what was the purpose of Yeshua' sacrifice? Let me answer that question at the end of this section.

We read in Hebrews 10:4, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." How is it possible that Israel' sins are forgiven when the blood of the animal cannot take away the sins? The answer is on the cross and the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua.

Such a high priest meets our needs - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:26-27)

In the above passage, it says that Yeshua was "sacrificed for their sins"; That is, the sins of the priests. All of Israel who lived under the covenant with God and died were taken to "Abraham's Bosom" (Luke 16:22) and held there until Yeshua' sacrifice which would then forgive them of their sins as promised.

"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Yeshua (Jeremiah 31:34)

She will give birth to a son. And you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:26)

When Yeshua came out of the grave, "he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8) Yeshua' sacrificed removed the sins of Israel who then could be released from the grave, and since his sacrifice was "once for all", his sacrifice also removed all future sins of Israel. The same grace that we experience today is the same grace given to those under the Old Covenant.

Our previous question was; If the sacrifice of animals could remove sin, what was the purpose of Yeshua' sacrifice? The animal sacrifices did not take away the sins of the people. They were only symbols of the coming redemption of all of Israel, past, present and future through Yeshua. Without the sacrifice of Yeshua there would be no forgiveness today or in the past.

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

God recognized that the animal sacrifices were not required for the forgiveness of sin for he said.

For I desire mercy (the Hebrew word here, chesed, means love), not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

God's ultimate redemption plan for Israel and the forgiveness of their sins is through the sacrifice of Yeshua, not in animal sacrifices. Yeshua' sacrifice removed all sin, once for all, throughout all eternity, past, present and future.

[Yeshua] did not enter by means of the blood of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption...Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance - now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:12,15)

 

The First Covenant after Yeshua

Although the new covenant is a renewal of the first, we can look at the original and its renewal as two covenants coexisting side by side. Most people believe that when the new covenant came, the first was removed, but this is not the case.

By calling this covenant "new", he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3: 13-16)

Hebrews 8 says that the first covenant is obsolete, (meaning not needed because it has been renewed) and we know that it has not been removed because it says that it is "aging and will disappear", future tense.

Those who keep God's covenant but do not believe in the Messiah, lives under the first covenant, whereas those who keep God's covenant and do believe in the Messiah love under the renewed covenant.

There are those in Israel who still live under the old covenant not recognizing the sacrifice of Yeshua as their means of forgiveness, and have taken the Torah of God and put it in their hearts and keep it faithfully. Will these people also receive the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Yeshua?

"All of Israel will be saved... As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. (Romans 11:26,28-32)

We must determine what "Israel" means in the passages above. Romans 9:6 says, "not all of Israel is Israel". This appears to be contradictory, but if we read it in light of our past discussions on the community of Israel and the assembly of Israel, we can see that those who are faithful to the covenant and the Torah are of the assembly of Israel. But those who reject or despise the covenant and the Torah may still be a part of the community of Israel but are cut off from the assembly of Israel and the covenant. Therefore we could read Romans 9:6 as; "Not all of Israel (the community) is Israel (the assembly).

Therefore, those who are still living under the first Covenant are part of the assembly of Israel and are saved by the Grace of God and his promise to Abraham. These people, who do not accept the new covenant, do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them making the way difficult since they must write the Torah on their hearts themselves.

 

Chapter Summary

  • Yeshua' sacrifice is the ushering in of the renewed covenant.
  • The six parts of the renewed covenant according to the New Covenant are,

  1. The parties; remains between God and Israel.
  2. Promises; God promises to forgive Israel and continue to care for her, to write his Torah on their hearts for them. Israel is still required to obey God.
  3. Conditions; Yeshua took the curse for Israel's disobedience to the Torah, removing the condition of the covenant.
  4. Duration; Remains as everlasting.
  5. Sign; the Torah and Passover remain.
  6. Dedication; The blood sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross.

  • The sins of Israel while under the first covenant were ultimately forgiven by the blood of Yeshua and not the sacrifices performed while under the first covenant.
  • The first covenant still remains for those who do not accept the sacrifice of Yeshua.

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Copyright © 2004
Jeff A. Benner

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