We can find two covenants or agreements between men and God, in the Bible. Jehovah established the covenant with Israel in the Old Testament, and Moses was his mediator. “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that Jehovah has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold, the blood of the covenant, which Jehovah has made with you in accordance with all these words.’” (Ex.24:7-8). The land of Canaan is the prize of this covenant of Jehovah with Israel. “And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned” (Ex.6:4). The disobedient were not allowed to enter in Canaan, and they died in the desert (Num.14:29-35). Jehovah promises to establish a New Covenant, by the mouth of Jeremiah, the prophet. “‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares Jehovah, ‘I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people’” (Jer.31:33). Jehovah says, in verse 31, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares Jehovah, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah’” (Jer.31:31). What was this new covenant? It was the removal of all captivity, in the very words of Jehovah, “‘Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; a great company, they shall return here, with weeping they shall come, and with supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born.’ Hear the word of Jehovah, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For Jehovah has ransomed Jacob…” (Jer.31:8-11). It gets very clear that the return of Israel to Palestine was the fulfillment of this second covenant. Israel returned and constituted a nation in 1948, therefore the second covenant happened without the rebuilding of the temple, without priests and sacrifices, as it was promised in Ezek.40-44.
In the book of Hebrews, chapter 8, the author of the book makes reference to these two covenants of Jehovah with his people, that is, Israel (Heb.8:8-10). Many Christians mistake this second covenant of Jehovah with the covenant of Jesus Christ. The one of Jehovah concerned the return to Canaan; it was, therefore, an earthly covenant. The covenant of Jesus Christ is not an earthly covenant. The covenant of Jehovah, because it was an earthly one, was based on material and temporal things, whereas the covenant of Jesus Christ is purely spiritual and eternal. Comparing the basis of the two covenants we can see that the covenant of Jehovah have nothing to do with the one of Jesus.
1. The covenant of Jehovah included the law. The obedience to it was the credentials to inheriting the land of the promise for many years of life; the covenant of Christ, though, does not include the law of Jehovah. Let us hear the words of the apostle Paul, “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Rom.7:6). In the letter to the Hebrews we read that the law of Jehovah was weak and useless, and cannot make anything perfect (Heb.7:18-22).
2. The covenant of Jehovah was made with men. By obeying and doing the law, men had life and the inheritance guaranteed (Lev.18:5; 26:24-25). Jehovah says that there is not one righteous man on the earth, who does good and never sins (Eccl.7:20; 1 Kings 8:46). “The soul who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:4; 24-26). If there are no righteous men that do not sin, Jehovah could not have made a covenant or agreement with men. This would be like definitively condemning them to hell. This would be like inexorably predestining men to condemnation and death, for there is no man who does not sin, and only if they did not sin they would have life and inheritance on the earth guaranteed to them. The covenant of the Father is not made with men, but with Jesus. The assurance of the Christian is not in his own perfection, but in the perfection of Christ, that is, Christ does everything for us, and we have only to trust and believe. Let us explain it better: I do not sanctify myself in order to be saved, but I am saved in order to be able to sanctify myself (2 Thess.2:13). The Christian does not do the good works of God in order to receive grace, but the Christian receives the grace of God to be able to, afterwards, do the good works of God (Eph.2:8-10). Christ is the guarantee of the covenant of the Father; if the Christian is not able to pay, Christ will pay (Heb.7:22).
3. In the covenant of Jehovah, it is impossible for men not to sin, as we already said, so it is impossible to obtain salvation through it (Eccl.7:20; 1 Kings 8:46; Ezek.18:4). In the Father’s covenant, with Jesus, the Christian has the power to not sin. “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9). “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18). The apostle John goes beyond that, “And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin, no one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him” (1 John 3:5-6). Does John say that whoever commits sin has not seen Him and has not known Him? Yes, because whoever commits sin is from the devil, and we read in the Old Testament that there is no man who does not sin, all of them belonging to the devil.
4. The covenant of Jehovah was the covenant of death and condemnation, but the covenant of Christ is the covenant of life, and, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:5-6). In the covenant of Jehovah man has life, and the covenant guarantees him death, for there is no man that does not sin. In the covenant of Christ, man has death, but passes into life. Let us hear the words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira