About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Centerpiece of The New Covenant


Jesus reclined on the floor with the Israeli men His Father chose to further His cause once He was gone.  Eleven of them had no clue of what would soon transpire.  This particular Hebrew Passover would be both memorable and historic.   


Men are men, and when men get together there's often some frivolity.  John could have easily poked Peter in the ribs in the hope of a jovial response to lighten the mood, but it wouldn't have worked.  The mood was becoming more subdued by the minute.  "Take this and divide it among you", Jesus said.  "For I tell you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until the Kingdom of God comes". (Luke 22:17)  This statement was sobering.  It sounded so final.  Things intensified after the meal.  "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you", Jesus said. (Luke 22:20)  A deathly eeriness must have silenced all in the room.  


These men were Jews.  They understood the concept of covenant.  The promises of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenant, would have been burned into their Hebrew brains; but what about this new covenant?  Did anyone recall Jeremiah 31:31?  "The days are coming says the Lord when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel".  Was Jesus linking His new covenant with Jeremiah 31:31?    


The new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31 is directed specifically to Israelis, not to Gentiles.  The disciples would have known this.  They would have also known that the Jeremiah 31:31 new covenant was part of a prophecy that spanned a few chapters.  These chapters predicted Israel's final judgment and subsequent restoration of land and nationhood.  If Jesus was linking His new covenant to Jeremiah 31:31 as the majority of Evangelicals believe, and, as Hebrews chapter 8 confirms to be so, we've got to understand Jeremiah 31:31 in its proper prophetic context.  If we don't, we'll misunderstand Jesus. 


The context of Jeremiah 31:31 goes back to Jeremiah 30:1 to 3 where God said that He would gather Israelis to the land He had promised their forefathers.  This promise of land was originally made to Abraham in Genesis 15:18.  "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates".  Historically speaking, Israel has never possessed all of the stated land.  Geographically speaking, this land includes present day Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, the West Bank, and Gaza.  If we're to understand this promised land as Abraham would have understood it, and as Jeremiah confirmed, Israel will possess more land than it now possesses.


As Jeremiah's prophecy continues to predict, before the promise of land is realized, Israel will suffer more than any time in its history.  It's the time of Jacob's trouble as stated in Jeremiah 30:7.  When this horrific suffering ends, Israel's domination by its enemies will be broken, and as Jeremiah 31:33 predicts, God's laws will be written on their hearts and minds.  Of course, all this is yet to be fulfilled.


To make a long prophecy short, the new covenant as seen in Jeremiah 31:31 is an integral component of the prophecy that predicts the ultimate restoration of Israel's land and its international supremacy among the nations.  So, if we're to link Jesus' new covenant with Jeremiah 31:31 as Hebrews chapter 8 states we should, we must conclude that one fundamental aspect of  Jesus' blood sacrifice was to confirm the promise of land and nationhood to Israelis as predicted by Jeremiah, and was promised by God to Abraham.  No wonder the disciples asked Jesus; "are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel"? (Acts 1:6)  Many have thought this question to be untimely and foolish, but once knowing prophetic history, it makes perfect Biblical sense.  I suggest that the disciples would have anticipated drinking the covenantal cup of wine with Jesus after the Kingdom of God came, which just might take place at the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:9)


I'm not negating the fact that Jesus' blood sacrifice provided forgiveness of sins for every human.  His supreme sacrifice had to be made before Jews or anyone else could benefit from every aspect of the new covenant.  I'm merely pointing out an aspect of the new covenant that is often missed. 


John 1:11 tells us that Jesus came to minister to the Jews.  The gospel accounts show that He didn't ignore Gentiles, but His priority was to Israelis.  "To the Jew first and then to the Gentiles", as Romans 1:16 states. 


Jesus introduced the new covenant to 12 Jewish men in the context of the Jewish Passover.  It was the next covenantal step in the prophetic process that would eventually give Israel its promised land and nationhood.  This doesn't exclude Gentiles from participating in the new covenant.  As far back as Deuteronomy 32:21, in the Mosaic Covenant, God predicted the day when Gentiles would be included in His plans.  Thus, believing Gentiles have been grafted into a Jewish tree that is rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant. (Romans 11:17)    


I just wonder one thing.  Why do so many Evangelicals who believe in the prophetic significance of Israel overlook God's promise of land and nationhood to Israel that is an essential element of the new covenant?  Might we still have traces of the old Roman Catholic anti-Jewish sentiment hiding out in our theology?        



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