Thursday, 20 December 2018
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. Hebrews 8:13
Before reading this analysis, read the verse again. Now, putting aside any presuppositions you have about the Mosaic Covenant, ask yourself what is the clear, obvious, and intended meaning of these words? The “first” is speaking of the Mosaic Covenant. The author is neither vague nor ambiguous in what he says. Trust God’s word and not man’s flawed attempt to deny what is clearly stated.
There are two major points of interest in this one verse. The first is of two parts. 1) As has been repeated several ways already, the author makes a clear and obvious statement concerning the end of the Old Covenant – it is obsolete. He begins with, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant.’” That is referring to the words of verse 8:8 which is the quote from Jeremiah 31 concerning the Lord’s promise of a New Covenant. He is restating the thought to introduce the second part, which is 2) that in the giving of the New Covenant, “He has made the first obsolete.” Miriam Webster defines the word obsolete as, “no longer in use or no longer current.” The Greek word is palaioó, and it carries that same meaning. It is “worn out,” and declared obsolete.
The law, meaning the entire law received at Mt. Sinai, and which is also known as the Law of Moses (or the Mosaic Covenant), became obsolete when Christ introduced the New Covenant in His own blood. Why would the author repeat this in several different ways and hint at it in several more?
Remember that he was writing to first century Jews who had spent their entire life under the Old Covenant. Giving up all of its rituals and formalities would be exceptionally hard, particularly when facing the pressure of returning to it by family and community. For this reason, the author brings up the superiority of the New Covenant in so many ways. By the time he’s done writing his epistle, they will have no doubt about the supremacy of Christ, His work, and the covenant He established through His cross.
With this obvious statement, he then says, “Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish.” The word translated as, “ready to vanish,” is used only here in Scripture, aphanismos. It signifies being obliterated or abrogated. It is set to disappear.
People argue over the dating of New Testament books. If someone wants to discredit them, he will generally tend to assign a much later date to the book. The logic is that the more time between Christ’s ministry and the dating of the letter means either 1) more time for myth to be introduced, or 2) a more solidified doctrine will result – thought up by man through contemplation and not by a mere understanding of the work of Christ.
In the case of Hebrews, there is no need to fret over a later date – such as a second or even a third-century document. Why? Because the temple was still standing and the nation of Israel was still practicing its rituals. It wasn’t until 5 August AD70 that the temple was destroyed – a little over 38 years after the cross. By stating that the Old Covenant would “soon disappear,” it confirms that the temple was still standing and being used.
However, there is actually more to this thought than is realized. If one understands the prophecy found in Daniel 9:24-27, it is certain that Israel still has seven more years allowed under the Old Covenant to come into a right relationship with the Lord in the New. This, once again, validates the dispensational model, and it shows that the doctrine of replacement theology is incorrect. Hebrews, being placed after Paul’s church-age epistles, reveals this model more clearly. It shows what God is doing in redemptive history. The church age will end at the rapture, and that will be followed by the seven years of the tribulation. These seven years correspond to the final seven-year period in his prophecy.
It is during these seven years that Israel will go through the horrors of the tribulation period, all because they have either rejected, or clung to the Old when they should have accepted the New. But those seven years will bring them to the point where they will, as a nation, call out to God through their Messiah. When they do, He will return to them. Marvelous things lie ahead in God’s redemptive plan.
Life application: If you claim you believe in Christ Jesus, then what are you doing adhering to precepts from the Old Covenant? It is obsolete. All you are doing, by working out deeds of the law, is telling God that you feel what Christ did for you was insufficient and that you can do it better. Good luck with that! Come to Christ, trust in Christ alone, and get out of whatever mindset you are in that says you can do a better job than God can in earning your salvation.
Yes Lord! We have a sure word! Every word in the Bible was carefully selected for our edification, and we can assuredly rest in all it contains. Praises to You, O God, for giving us clarity in what was accomplished by Christ Jesus. Now, through faith in His work, we can be eternally safe! Amen.