Greater Blessings Through the New Covenant
“Jesus . . . is also the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant.”—HEBREWS 8:6.
1. Who proved to be the ‘seed of the woman’ promised in Eden, and how was he ‘bruised in the heel’?
AFTER Adam and Eve sinned, Jehovah pronounced judgment on Satan, the one who deceived Eve, saying: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River in 29 C.E., the Seed promised in Eden finally appeared. At his death on a torture stake in 33 C.E., a part of that ancient prophecy was fulfilled. Satan had ‘bruised the heel’ of the Seed.
2. According to Jesus’ own words, how does his death benefit humankind?
2 Happily, that wound, while excruciatingly painful, was not permanent. Jesus was raised from the dead an immortal spirit and ascended to his Father in heaven, where he offered the value of his shed blood as “a ransom in exchange for many.” Thus, his own words came true: “The Son of man must be lifted up, that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (Matthew 20:28; John 3:14-16; Hebrews 9:12-14) The new covenant plays a key role in the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.
The New Covenant
3. When was the new covenant first seen to be in operation?
3 Shortly before his death, Jesus told his followers that his shed blood was the “blood of the [new] covenant.” (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20) Ten days after he ascended to heaven, the new covenant was seen to be in operation when holy spirit was poured out on about 120 disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4) The bringing of these 120 disciples into the new covenant showed that the “former” covenant, the Law covenant, was now obsolete.—Hebrews 8:13.
4. Was the old covenant a failure? Explain.
4 Was the old covenant a failure? Not at all. True, since it was now replaced, fleshly Israel was no longer God’s special people. (Matthew 23:38) But that was because of Israel’s disobedience and rejection of Jehovah’s Anointed One. (Exodus 19:5; Acts 2:22, 23) Before the Law was replaced, however, it accomplished much. For centuries, it provided a way of approach to God and protection from false religion. It contained foregleams of the new covenant and, with its repeated sacrifices, demonstrated man’s desperate need of redemption from sin and death. Indeed, the Law was a “tutor leading to Christ.” (Galatians 3:19, 24; Romans 3:20; 4:15; 5:12; Hebrews 10:1, 2) However, it was through the new covenant that the blessing promised to Abraham would be realized in full.
Nations Blessed Through Abraham’s Seed
5, 6. In the basic, spiritual fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, who is the Seed of Abraham, and which nation was the first to receive a blessing through him?
5 Jehovah promised Abraham: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18) Under the old covenant, many meekhearted foreigners were blessed through their association with Israel, the national seed of Abraham. In its basic spiritual fulfillment, however, the Seed of Abraham was one perfect man. Paul explained this when he said: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.”—Galatians 3:16.
6 Yes, Jesus is the Seed of Abraham, and through Him the nations receive a blessing far superior to anything possible for fleshly Israel. Indeed, the first nation to receive this blessing was Israel itself. Soon after Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter said to a group of Jews: “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God covenanted with your forefathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ To you first God, after raising up his Servant, sent him forth to bless you by turning each one away from your wicked deeds.”—Acts 3:25, 26.
7. What nations were blessed through Jesus, the Seed of Abraham?
7 Soon the blessing was extended to Samaritans and then to Gentiles. (Acts 8:14-17; 10:34-48) Sometime between 50 and 52 C.E., Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia in Asia Minor: “The Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham.” (Galatians 3:8, 9; Genesis 12:3) Although many Christians in Galatia were “people of the nations,” they were blessed through Jesus because of their faith. In what way?
8. For Christians of Paul’s day, being blessed through Abraham’s Seed included what, and how many, finally, receive such a blessing?
8 Paul told the Galatian Christians, of whatever background: “If you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” (Galatians 3:29) For those Galatians, the blessing through Abraham’s Seed included their being participants in the new covenant and also being coheirs with Jesus, associates with Jesus in the seed of Abraham. We do not know the population of ancient Israel. We know only that it came to be “like the grains of sand that are by the sea for multitude.” (1 Kings 4:20) We do, however, know the final number of Jesus’ associates in the spiritual seed—144,000. (Revelation 7:4; 14:1) Those 144,000 come out of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” of mankind and share in administering to yet others the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant.—Revelation 5:9.
A Prophecy Fulfilled
9. How do those in the new covenant have Jehovah’s law within them?
9 When foretelling the new covenant, Jeremiah wrote: “‘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.’” (Jeremiah 31:33) It is a characteristic of those in the new covenant that they serve Jehovah out of love. (John 13:35; Hebrews 1:9) Jehovah’s law is written in their heart, and they fervently desire to do his will. True, in ancient Israel some faithful individuals loved Jehovah’s law intensely. (Psalm 119:97) But many did not. Yet they remained part of the nation. No one can remain in the new covenant if God’s law is not written in his heart.
10, 11. For those in the new covenant, in what way does Jehovah “become their God,” and how will they all know him?
10 Jehovah further said regarding those in the new covenant: “I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33) In ancient Israel many worshiped the gods of the nations, but they remained Israelites. On the basis of the new covenant, Jehovah created a spiritual nation, “the Israel of God,” to replace fleshly Israel. (Galatians 6:16; Matthew 21:43; Romans 9:6-8) However, no one remains a part of the new spiritual nation if he ceases to worship Jehovah and him alone.
11 Jehovah also said: “They will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them.” (Jeremiah 31:34) In Israel, many just ignored Jehovah, saying in effect: “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.” (Zephaniah 1:12) No one remains part of the Israel of God if he ignores Jehovah or pollutes pure worship. (Matthew 6:24; Colossians 3:5) Spiritual Israelites are “the people who are knowing their God.” (Daniel 11:32) They delight to ‘take in knowledge of the only true God and of Jesus Christ.’ (John 17:3) Knowing Jesus deepens their knowledge of God since, in a unique way, Jesus “is the one that has explained [God].”—John 1:18; 14:9-11.
12, 13. (a) On what basis does Jehovah forgive the sins of those in the new covenant? (b) As to the forgiveness of sins, how is the new covenant superior to the old covenant?
12 Finally, Jehovah promised: “I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34b) The Law of Moses included hundreds of written regulations that Israelites were called on to obey. (Deuteronomy 28:1, 2, 15) All who broke the Law offered sacrifices to cover their sins. (Leviticus 4:1-7; 16:1-31) Many Jews came to believe that they could become righteous through their own works according to Law. Christians, though, realize that they can never earn righteousness by their own works. They cannot avoid sinning. (Romans 5:12) Under the new covenant, a righteous standing before God is possible only on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice. However, such standing is a gift, an undeserved kindness from God. (Romans 3:20, 23, 24) Jehovah still demands obedience of his servants. Paul says that those in the new covenant are “under law toward Christ.”—1 Corinthians 9:21.
13 Hence, for Christians too there is a sacrifice for sin, but one of far more value than the sacrifices under the Law covenant. Paul wrote: “Every priest [under the Law covenant] takes his station from day to day to render public service and to offer the same sacrifices often, as these are at no time able to take sins away completely. But [Jesus] offered one sacrifice for sins perpetually and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:11, 12) Since Christians in the new covenant exercise faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, Jehovah declares them righteous, without sin, and thus in a position to be anointed as his spiritual sons. (Romans 5:1; 8:33, 34; Hebrews 10:14-18) When they do sin because of human imperfection, they can beg Jehovah’s forgiveness, and on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, Jehovah forgives them. (1 John 2:1, 2) However, if they choose a course of deliberate sin, they lose their righteous standing and the privilege of being participants in the new covenant.—Hebrews 2:2, 3; 6:4-8; 10:26-31.
The Old Covenant and the New
14. What circumcision was required under the Law covenant? under the new covenant?
14 Males in the old covenant were circumcised as a sign that they were under the Law. (Leviticus 12:2, 3; Galatians 5:3) After the Christian congregation began, some felt that non-Jewish Christians should also be circumcised. But the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, guided by God’s Word and by holy spirit, perceived that this was not necessary. (Acts 15:1, 5, 28, 29) A few years later, 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.” (Romans 2:28, 29) Literal circumcision, even for fleshly Jews, had no further spiritual value in Jehovah’s eyes. For those in the new covenant, the heart, not the flesh, must be circumcised. Everything in their thinking, desires, and motivation that is displeasing or unclean in Jehovah’s eyes must be cut out.* Many today are living testimony to the power of holy spirit to transform thinking patterns in this way.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:22-24; Ephesians 4:22-24.
15. How do fleshly Israel and the Israel of God compare as to kingly rulership?
15 In the Law covenant arrangement, Jehovah was King of Israel, and in time he exercised his sovereignty through human kings in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 33:22) Jehovah is also King of the Israel of God, spiritual Israel, and since 33 C.E., he has ruled through Jesus Christ, who received “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossians 1:13, 14) Today, the Israel of God recognizes Jesus as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, which was established in 1914. Jesus is a far better King than were even Hezekiah, Josiah, and the other faithful kings of ancient Israel.—Hebrews 1:8, 9; Revelation 11:15.
16. What kind of priesthood is the Israel of God?
16 Israel not only was a kingdom but also had an anointed priesthood. In 33 C.E., the Israel of God replaced fleshly Israel and became Jehovah’s “servant,” his “witnesses.” (Isaiah 43:10) Jehovah’s words to Israel recorded at Isaiah 43:21 and Exodus 19:5, 6 henceforth applied to the spiritual Israel of God. God’s new spiritual nation was now “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession,” responsible for ‘declaring abroad Jehovah’s excellencies.’ (1 Peter 2:9) All in the Israel of God, men and women, form a collective priesthood. (Galatians 3:28, 29) As the subsidiary part of the seed of Abraham, they now say: “Be glad, you nations, with his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43) Those of spiritual Israel still remaining on earth make up “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Only in association with them can acceptable sacred service be rendered to God.
God’s Kingdom—The Final Fulfillment
17. What birth do those in the new covenant experience?
17 Israelites born after 1513 B.C.E. came into the Law covenant at birth. Those whom Jehovah takes into the new covenant also experience a birth—in their case, a spiritual birth. Jesus mentioned this to the Pharisee Nicodemus when he said: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) The 120 disciples at Pentecost 33 C.E. were the first imperfect humans to experience this new birth. Declared righteous under the new covenant, they received holy spirit as “a token in advance” of their royal inheritance. (Ephesians 1:14) They were “born from the spirit” to become adopted sons of God, which made them Jesus’ brothers and thus “joint heirs with Christ.” (John 3:6; Romans 8:16, 17) Their being “born again” opened the way for wonderful prospects.
18. Being born again opens the door to what wonderful prospects for those in the new covenant?
18 When mediating the new covenant, Jesus made an additional covenant with his followers, saying: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (Luke 22:29) This Kingdom covenant put things in place for the fulfillment of a remarkable vision, recorded at Daniel 7:13, 14, 22, 27. Daniel saw “someone like a son of man” being given kingly authority by “the Ancient of Days,” Jehovah God. Then Daniel saw that “the holy ones took possession of the kingdom itself.” Jesus is the one “like a son of man” who, in 1914, received the heavenly Kingdom from Jehovah God. His spirit-anointed disciples are “the holy ones” who share with him in that Kingdom. (1 Thessalonians 2:12) How?
19, 20. (a) For those in the new covenant, what final, glorious fulfillment will Jehovah’s promise to Abraham have? (b) What further question needs to be considered?
19 After their death, these anointed ones are like Jesus raised from the dead as immortal spirit creatures to serve with him as kings and priests in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53; Revelation 20:4, 6) What a glorious hope! “They are to rule as kings over the earth,” not merely the land of Canaan. (Revelation 5:10) Will they ‘possess the gates of their enemies’? (Genesis 22:17) Yes, and in a conclusive way, when they witness the destruction of the inimical religious harlot, Babylon the Great, and when these resurrected anointed ones share with Jesus in shepherding the nations “with an iron rod” and in crushing the head of Satan. They will thus have a part in fulfilling the final detail of the prophecy at Genesis 3:15.—Revelation 2:26, 27; 17:14; 18:20, 21; Romans 16:20.
20 Still, we may ask, Do the Abrahamic covenant and the new covenant involve only these 144,000 faithful souls? No, others who are not directly in these covenants will be blessed through them, as will be seen in the following article.
See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, page 470, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Do You Remember?
□ When was the new covenant first seen to be in operation?
□ What was accomplished through the old covenant?
□ Who primarily is Abraham’s Seed, and in what order were nations blessed through that Seed?
□ For the 144,000, what is the final fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant and the new covenant?
[Picture on page 15]
Forgiveness of sins has deeper meaning for those under the new covenant than for those under the old covenant