The Real Parties to the New Covenant
“Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant . . . for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.”—Jer. 31:31-34, AS.
1. According to the New York Post, the founding convention of the United Nations in 1945 was the most important gathering since what ancient event, and so what questions arise?
TWENTY years ago, when the United Nations organization was founded, a newspaper (the New York Post) described the founding convention in San Francisco, California, as being “the most important human gathering since the Last Supper.” That founding convention brought forth an agreement between fifty-one nations in behalf of international peace and security. But what did the Last Supper bring forth to make it superior to any gathering held during the past nineteen centuries till the founding convention of the United Nations? Did it also have to do with any agreement? It did, even though the New York Post may not have had this agreement in mind as an outstanding thing of importance back there.
2. When was the “Last Supper” held, where and in what way?
2 The United Nations founding convention was held in San Francisco, California, U.S.A., in 1945. The “Last Supper” was held in the Middle Eastern city of Jerusalem in the year 33 of our Common Era. At the opening of the Supper thirteen men were present in a large upper room in the Holy City. Before the Supper was over, one of the thirteen men had been dismissed by the master of ceremonies. They were celebrating the yearly passover supper along with all the other faithful ones of their nation, eating from a literal roast lamb along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread or matzoth and red wine. The passover supper continues to be held by certain religious groups down to this year. Why, then, should that one in 33 C.E. be called “the Last Supper”? Whose last supper was it?
3. For whom was that the “last” supper, and what supper has been held since on the same anniversary night?
3 It was the last earthly supper of that kind for the master of ceremonies. To the men at supper with him he said: “I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it again until it becomes fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” This also turned out to be the last passover supper that the men spoken to celebrated, for, as matters worked out, they afterward celebrated a supper of a different kind, although it was held on the anniversary date of that same night. It came to be called “the Lord’s supper,” because it was introduced by their Lord, the master of ceremonies, that very night in 33 C.E. It has continued to be celebrated by the faithful followers of the Lord till this year, on the anniversary date of its introduction.—Luke 22:12-16; 1 Cor. 11:20, AS.
4. When was the Lord’s Supper introduced, to whom, and with the use of what things emblematically?
4 After dismissing the undesirable man from their midst, the master of ceremonies introduced the Lord’s Supper to the remaining faithful eleven, using the unleavened bread and the red wine that were still available at the table. He used these two things emblematically. Thus the loaf of bread symbolized his perfect human body that he would allow to be put to death, and the wine symbolized his lifeblood that he would shed when suffering an innocent man’s death at the hands of his enemies. It was to become a yearly celebration in memory of a perfect human sacrifice offered to God in behalf of the sins of the world of mankind.—Matt. 26:26-30.
5. When serving the wine cup, what new thing did Jesus Christ mention, and how long has it been in force?
5 When he handed to them the cup of wine to pass from one to another and to drink from, he said: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.” (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25) Ah, here we have the mention of a covenant. Jesus Christ, the speaker, called it a new covenant. It was to be a new one, in contrast with another covenant that would thus become old and pass away. It is possible and likely that the eleven men who drank from the cup of wine remembered the ancient prophecy of how God would make a new covenant with his chosen people. This, of course, had nothing to do with the famous covenant of the year 1919-1920, which “Covenant” was the Constitution of the League of Nations, which was established after World War I but is now dead together with its “Covenant.” The prophesied “new covenant” continues in force until now, and its’ benefits are spreading to people of all nations. What is it?
6. In law, what is a covenant, according to The Americana?
6 “Covenant, in law,” says The Encyclopedia Americana (edition of 1929), is “an agreement between two or more persons, entered into by deed, whereby one of the parties promises the performance or nonperformance of certain acts, or that a given state of things does or shall, or does not or shall not, exist.”
7. What is the Hebrew word for covenant, and what may be the appropriate derivation of this word?
7 Inasmuch as the prophesied “new covenant” is first mentioned in the sacred Hebrew Scriptures, The Encyclopædia Britannica (eleventh edition) says very appropriately:
Covenant . . . a mutual agreement of two or more parties, or an undertaking made by one of the parties. In the Bible the Hebrew word ברית berith, is used widely for many kinds of agreements; it is then applied to a contract between two persons or to a treaty between two nations, such as the covenant made between Abimelech and Isaac, representing a treaty between the Israelites and the Philistines (Genesis 26:26 . . . ); more particularly to an engagement made between God and men, or such agreements as, by the observance of a religious rite, regarded God as a party to the engagement. Two suggestions have been made for the derivation of berith: (1) tracing the word from a root “to cut,” and the reference is to the primitive rite of cutting victims into parts, between which the parties to an agreement passed, compare the Greek [to cut an oath] and the account (Genesis 15:17) of the covenant between God and Abraham, when “a smoking furnace and burning lamp passed between the pieces” of the victims Abraham had sacrificed, . . .
THE PARTIES THERETO
8, 9. (a) Who are the two parties to the new covenant? (b) What prophet was used to foretell this covenant, and what question as to parties thereto does the wording of it raise?
8 Who are the parties to the new covenant, and how may we know whether any of us today are party to the new covenant? Evidently, according to what Jesus said when starting off the Lord’s Supper, the parties to the new covenant are (1) his own faithful congregation as represented by those eleven apostles and (2) God, to whom Jesus Christ was offering the sacrifice of his human life. Those faithful eleven apostles were circumcised Jews, and so we ask, Is the new covenant made between God and only Jews? Moreover, does not the prophecy of the new covenant, by its wording, indicate that it is made with only Jews or Israelites in a fleshly way? The prophecy of the new covenant was spoken by Jeremiah the Jewish priest in the seventh century B.C.E., and it reads:
9 “‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, “which covenant of mine they themselves broke, although I myself had husbandly ownership of them,” is the utterance of Jehovah.’ ‘For this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people,’ ‘And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother, saying, “Know Jehovah!” for they will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.’”—Jer. 31:31-34.
10. According to its wording, Jehovah God would at least offer to make the covenant with whom?
10 That prophecy was delivered by Jeremiah to the natural-born, circumcised tribesmen of Judah and Israel of his day. With their forefathers Jehovah God had made a covenant when he delivered them from Egypt more than eight hundred years previously. And according to the wording of Jeremiah’s prophecy, Jehovah God would at least offer to make the promised new covenant with the literal, natural, circumcised Jews of the tribes of Judah and of Israel.
11. To what extent was the old Mosaic covenant adopted by the Israelites, and what question arises as to acceptance of the new covenant?
11 Yet the question is, Would the whole Jewish nation, all the tribes of Judah and of Israel, accept the new covenant and agree to enter into it according to the conditions laid down? When God entered into the earlier covenant with them at Mount Sinai in Arabia, he used the prophet Moses as his mediator. When God then proposed the covenant of the Law to the nation of Israel, “all the people answered unanimously and said: ‘All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.’” And later, when the covenant was actually put in force between God and Israel over the sacrifice of animal victims, “Moses came and related to the people all the words of Jehovah and all the judicial decisions, and all the people answered with one voice and said: ‘All the words that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do,’”—Ex. 19:1-8; 24:1-3.
12. To whom did Jesus offer the wine cup with mention of the covenant, and in what covenant do the Jewish people today claim to be?
12 Today the Jewish people number 12,867,000 throughout the earth. Do these claim to be in the new covenant? No; but, under the leadership of their rabbis, they stoutly declare that they are still under the old covenant of the Law mediated by Moses at Mount Sinai. Well, then, what about their forefathers nineteen hundred years ago, when Jesus Christ set up the Lord’s Supper? To only his apostles he offered the cup of wine, saying: “Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” Those apostles were all Jews. They accepted this invitation into the new covenant that was to be put in force over the sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ. But what about the Jewish nation as a whole?
13. Back there in the days of the apostles, how many or who of the Jewish nation accepted the new covenant?
13 Did all Jews there at Jerusalem for the celebration of the passover join in accepting the new covenant as introduced by Jesus Christ? Did their high priests and underpriests, their scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees, enter into a new covenant with Jehovah God, accepting the shed blood of Jesus Christ as the “blood of the covenant” for putting it into force? According to history, not all the Jews did so; only a remnant of them did so.
14. To whom first was the opportunity to undertake the new covenant offered, and how many are reported as becoming believers?
14 All the nation, “all the house of Israel,” were offered the privilege of undertaking the new covenant. The opportunity was offered first to them to do so. This offer was in full, literal agreement with the wording of the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34. And on the day of Pentecost after Jesus set up the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Peter said to a crowd of over three thousand Jews in Jerusalem: “Let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:36) The number of believers then became three thousand that day. Shortly afterward the number rose to five thousand.
15. Who of the millions of Jews back there also became obedient to the faith?
15 Before the persecution broke out in Jerusalem under the Jewish Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, “the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7) But, out of millions of Jews back there, only some thousands accepted the shed blood of Jesus as the “blood of the covenant” and were taken into the new covenant.
16. According to The New Jewish Encyclopedia, what kind of relationship to God do the Jewish people claim, what was the purpose of this relationship, and how has it been fulfilled?
16 The New Jewish Encyclopedia, by Bridger, Wolk and Eban, published In 1962 in New York City, does not discuss any “new covenant,” but under the heading “Covenant” (Berit) it says:
Jewish tradition looks upon the relation of the Jewish people with God as covenantal. God has imposed certain obligations on and made certain promises to Israel. Israel, in turn, has accepted these obligations and has been confident that He will fulfill these promises. In general, the purpose of the covenant was to spread among the people of the world knowledge of the true God, and to formalize the ritual and ethical requirements of the Law. The promise made by God was that the Jewish people were to be a blessing to all mankind, and a light to the nations. . . . That the western world has accepted the Jewish Bible as a foundation for its thinking, and considered the cultural contributions of the Jews so great as to refer to our civilization as Judeo-Christian is considered to be evidence of the promise partially fulfilled that the Children of Israel were to become a blessing to all humanity. Orthodox and other branches of Judaism to a varying degree accept the doctrine of covenant as well as the “chosenness” of the Jewish people as an eternal fact, in the literal sense of an agreement between God and Israel. It may be noted here that historical Christianity considers itself the inheritor of this covenant doctrine.—Pages 98-100.a
17, 18. (a) Well, then, with God on one side of the covenant, is the party on the other side just some thousands of literal Jews? (b) All those brought into the new covenant are brought in as what kind of persons, and how is this made possible?
17 Well, then, does the new covenant have as the party on the one side only a few thousand Jews of the tribes of Judah and of Israel in a literal sense? Not at all! Jehovah God is the party on the other side of the new covenant, and he let the special, exclusive offer of the privileges of the new covenant continue to be held out to the natural, circumcised Jews for about three and a half years after that Pentecost of 33 C.E. Then the opportunity to be taken into the new covenant was extended to the non-Jewish, non-Israelite nations, and the Italian centurion at Caesarea became a believer in the blood of Jesus Christ as the “blood of the covenant.” (Dan. 9:24-27; Acts 10:1 to 11:18) From then onward Jehovah God poured down his holy spirit on the non-Jewish believers and they became his spiritual children, spiritual Israelites.
18 In that same way, from the day of Pentecost onward, God has poured down his spirit upon the Jewish believers and they have become his spiritual children, spiritual Israelites or Jews. All the believers, whether natural Jews or Gentiles, were brought into the new covenant as spiritual Jews, spiritual Israelites.
19 So, after the Italian centurion Cornelius was converted in 36 C.E., a believer did not have to be a natural Jew or Israelite to be taken into the new covenant through the Mediator Jesus Christ.
20 This was why the Christianized Jew, the apostle Paul, said: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code.” Consequently, after expressing sorrow because his Jewish brothers according to the flesh came short of their privileges regarding the “adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants,” Paul says: “However, it is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all who spring from Israel are really ‘Israel.’ Neither because they are Abraham’s seed [according to the flesh] are they all children, but: ‘What will be called “your seed” will be through Isaac.’ That is, the children in the flesh are not really the children of God, but the children by the promise are counted as the seed.”—Rom. 2:28, 29; 9:1-8.
21. Who, then, the real parties to the new covenant, and how does Paul indicate this in Galatians 6:14-16?
21 These spiritual Jews, these spiritual Israelites, are now the real Israel with whom the new covenant is made. These spiritual ones and Jehovah God are the real parties to the new covenant. The apostle Paul definitely says so. After talking to the congregation of believers in the Roman Province of Galatia, he says, near the close of his letter: “Never may it occur that I should boast, except in the torture stake of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been impaled to me and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything nor is uncircumcision, but a new creation is something. And all those who will walk orderly by this rule of conduct, upon them be peace and mercy, even upon the Israel of God.”
22. By what expression in introducing his letter does the disciple James indicate with whom God makes his new covenant?
22 In harmony with that rule in Galatians 6:14-16, the disciple James opened up his letter to fellow believers scattered about the earth by saying: “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes that are scattered about: Greetings!” (Jas. 1:1) In addressing them as “the twelve tribes” James proves that he regards these Christian believers as the real “Israel of God,” the whole Israel of God as foreshadowed by the house of Judah and the house of Israel. (Jer. 31:31-33) Members of this spiritual “Israel of God” in the new covenant continue on earth till this day.
a At Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 25. the third day of the five-day triennial convention of the B’nai Berith, according to special dispatch to the New York Times, “Former Premier David Ben-Gurion said today that there was a need to revitalize the covenant of the Bible in which a united Jewish people would serve as ‘a light to other nations.’ In an address that was essentially a dissertation on the meaning of the covenant, Mr. Ben-Gurion gently warned the B’nai B’rith convention of the dangers to American Jews of assimilation. ‘There is a great danger to the survival of the Jews in the Diaspora,’ Mr. Ben-Gurion said, ‘unless Jews everywhere remember the covenant. . . . Our secret weapon as a people is our moral, intellectual and spiritual superiority, which we inherited from the Bible.’”—New York Times, May 26, 1965.