First, more correctly would be for us to refer to the two covenants as the “Earthly/Fleshly/Temporary OLD COVENANT” and the “Spiritual/Better/Eternal NEW COVENANT.” Hebrews 8:6-13.
A brief overview of the New (Spiritual/Better/Eternal) Covenant:
Gen. 12:1-3 (The promise of the eternal covenant with Abraham of the blessing that would be to all the families of the earth – would also include the Gentiles)
Gen. 17:1-7; 19, 22:15-18The covenant of “promise” would be established through the child of “promise,” Isaac.
- Very key to notice that the “promises” of the Genesis 12 and 17 everlasting covenant were “not” made to the physical nation of Israel, but to “Abraham” and his “Seed” – meaning “Christ.”
Gal. 3:16-18; 22-23 The Holy Spirit through Paul helps remove the mystery of these Genesis verses and provides light into what those Old Testament promises meant.
- Paul shows a clear distinction between the eternal covenant promise to Abraham “about Christ” and “all the spiritual children of faith,” and the Old Covenant nation of Israel and those physical descendants. Old Covenant Israel would not begin until 430 years after the time of Abraham when they would be brought out of Egypt and receive their covenant of law at Mt. Sinai.
Rom. 4:1-18 (The covenant of Grace/faith more expounded)
- At the end of verse 11 notice again that Paul again makes a clear distinction of who the “true Israel” descendants of Abraham are – “…all those who believe.” (Those of faith, not those who were born physically from his seed).
- And verse 13, “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law [not through being physically born an Old Covenant Hebrew], but through the righteousness of faith.”
- Paul is saying that no one is able to say “I was born from the lineage of Abraham therefore I am of the true seed of Abraham,” but he is saying that the only “true descendants” are those who are by the righteousness of faith.
- And verse 16, “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants [seed], not only to those who are of the Law [believing Old Covenant Hebrews], but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”
- Paul says that “the promise,” the “all the seed” and the “us” were the Christians in the church in Rome to whom he was writing –> the “true seed (descendants)” –> only the “believing” Jews and “believing” Gentiles.
Rom. 8:3-6 and 12-13 (Life in the Spirit [born again new man walking according to the Spirit] vs. life in the flesh [living satisfying the lusts and desires of the old man])
Gal. 4:22-31 (Explains the two covenants: Abraham: Promise thru Sarah = Isaac vs. Bondage thru Hagar = Mount Sinai)
Gal. 3:6-9 (eternal covenant promise to Abraham: gospel in Christ) then 13-18 (“the promise” was to all “Jew or Gentile” and this was the first covenant he is referring to) then 23-29 (those in Christ are the “spiritual true Israel” as we just saw in Gal. 4:26)
Read all Hebrews 8 (notice in particular vs. 8:1-2, 5-10, 13. The chapter is a contrast of the earthly vs. the spiritual, or Old/physical Israel covenant vs. New/spiritual Israel [all believing Jews or Gentiles] covenant)
Heb. 9:8-11 at the end of vs. 10 the NKJV has the English word “reformation.” The Greek word used here is “diorthosis.” This word can be understood in a medical way to “put a broken bone back in place.”
- Strong’s NT 1357 – properly, in a physical sense, a making straight, restoring to its natural and normal condition something which in some way protrudes or has got out of line, as (in Hippocrates) broken or misshapen limbs.
- Christ’s coming was to put back in place the entire cosmological order of the heavens and earth which had become broken since the fall of Adam and sin.
- Verse 11 says that Christ was to come with “the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.” Clearly indicating that the reformation/restoring by Christ being spoken of would be with a tabernacle/temple “not made by hands.” (Which nullifies a future literal rebuilding of an earthly temple).
Hebrews 8 –> The Old Covenant could not bring salvation and a New Covenant was needed because:
- It could not write on the heart the desire to be obedient to the Tablets of the Covenant.
- It could not change the heart: Rom. 8:7 says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
- It could not conquer sin in the flesh nor cleanse the conscience from the guilt of sin.
The greater glory of the New Covenant is not that the standards or laws have been done away with, but that the Lord has given us a “new” heart, and has written His laws on this new heart, and given believers His Spirit and we now have both the ability and desire to obey God.
Added to that, here also is the greater glory of the New Covenant: there is now NO obedience at all required of us in terms of “being saved,” simply because the very terms of the Tablets of the Covenant have been finally and fully met in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ to all of those who believe in faith. The glory of the New Covenant is in the words, “IT IS FINISHED.”
See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:
Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 4 The Old Covenant and the Law”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 3b”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 9 Rev. Chapter 21”]