You likely noticed that this lesson’s inScribe passage is nearly identical to the one in lesson 2, but with one important addition, Hebrews 8:13. “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
Of the eighteen comparisons that Hebrews 7:1–10:18 makes between the historical old and new covenants, only one was not a contrast, but an exact similarity between the two. As you have studied the full passage, have you noticed what that similarity is?
Just prior to the divine announcement that the ritual system of the historical old covenant is “obsolete” (8:13), God repeated for His New Testament audience His definition of “the new covenant,” namely, the four divine promises that make the new covenant the new covenant (8:10–12; see lesson 2). He repeated them because those promises were not new! Their first explicit expression occurred, of all places, in the historical old covenant, the Sinai covenant (see lesson 3). The promises were implied prior to Sinai and reiterated numerous times post-Sinai in various Old Testament contexts (MacCarty, In Granite or Ingrained, 304). God wanted to remind or inform His New Testament children that the essence of His covenant, the gospel, had not changed, because He Himself had not changed! His “everlasting covenant,” which had originated in the divine heavenly council of the Godhead from eternity past, which He first announced to Adam and Eve after their fall in its protoevangelium (first gospel), proto covenant-of-grace form (Gen. 3:15), had been progressively, stage by stage, revealed in fuller detail through subsidiary covenants with humanity until now . . . now. Jesus, the God of the Old Testament, had come among us, and the covenant promises had become “Yes” in Him (2 Cor. 1:20), which made them “new”—not different, but “new.” In the same way that John said the commandment to “love one another,” which mankind had “from the beginning,” became “a new commandment” once we saw it lived out in Jesus’ life (1 John 2:7, 8; 2 John 5, 6)—it was the same commandment, but new!
Once Jesus came in history, the covenant of grace upon which the covenants with Adam, Abraham, and Israel were crafted became a “new covenant.” The gospel is the same throughout, the promises are the same, and the moral law—the transcript of God’s character which He promised to rewrite in the heart of every believer in history—all remain the same in every covenant God ever made with humankind. And yet when Jesus came in history, the divine covenant became something “new” and “better.” Beyond the obsolescence of its Old Testament ritual system, the divine covenant had become something “new.”
Because of Jesus’ life among us in unselfish servant-ministry to humanity and in perfect obedience to God, an obedience “unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7), the covenant of grace—the explicit expression of God’s love for sinners and His commitment to redeem them that had been latent in His archetypal everlasting covenant from the beginning of time—had become a “new covenant,” “a better covenant, which was established on better promises” with a “better hope” (Heb. 7:18–22; 8:6, NKJV).
How so? Because the covenant and its promises had now been ratified by Jesus’ blood, which Hebrews dared to call not only “the blood of the covenant” (10:29), but “the blood of the everlasting covenant” (13:20)! “Though this covenant was made with Adam and renewed to Abraham [and Israel, and confirmed provisionally by the death of animals in each case], it could not be ratified [ultimately, finally] until the death of Christ. It had existed by the promise of God since the first intimation of redemption had been given; it had been accepted by faith; yet when ratified by Christ, it is called a new covenant” (Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace, 133, emphasis supplied).
The death of Christ, His “blood of the everlasting covenant,” had the effect of making the same divine covenant with the same moral law, the same promises, and the same everlasting gospel “new,” even while they remained the same. We had not only seen the covenant promises and law lived out in His life, but also the covenant itself had now been “ratified,” meaning it was made irrevocably binding and effective, by the sacrifice of Christ.