The authority of the New Covenant is anchored upon the blood of Christ, the Mediator of the covenant (Heb. 8:13). Because of this fact, Christ is called by the writer of the book of Hebrews to be now the Mediator of the New Covenant, “He is the mediator of a better covenant” (Heb. 8:6). The Lord’s Supper demonstrates this - “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood which is shed for you” (Lk. 22:19). As Christians, we are identified with the glorious Mediator and enjoy the spiritual privileges and blessings of the New Covenant, but it is essentially a covenant with Israel. Its final consummation awaits the time when “the Deliverer will come out of Zion, and...turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:25). Afterwards, this covenant will be fully realized by Israel in the Millennial age.
REFORMED THEOLOGY AND DISPENSATIONALISM
However, this dispensational understanding of the New Covenant is seen by Reformed-Amillennialist teachers as a weak link in traditional dispensational theology. Reformed literature seeks at every turn to attack traditional dispensational teaching concerning the New Covenant. A leading Reformed theologian, Professor Keith Mathison, writes:
|The New Covenant is perhaps the clearest example of a promise made to national Israel that is now being fulfilled in and by the church. Dispensationalists have consistently taught that the church cannot fulfill the new covenant of Jeremiah 31...Dispensationalists insist that the church cannot fulfill the new covenant because such a fulfillment would undermine the doctrine of Premillennialism... (1)|
A PROBLEM PASSAGE: HEBREWS 8:6
Critics of Dispensationalism are quick to point to Hebrews chapter eight as support for their view that the provisions of the New Covenant are fulfilled in the church. In Hebrews chapter eight we read, “...by how much also He is the Meditator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6). Calvinistic writers place emphasis on the phrase “He
is the Mediator of a better covenant.” They argue that Christ presently
is the Mediator of the terms of the New Covenant. They contend that since Christ is now the Mediator of the New Covenant, then the Covenant is now fulfilled by the church, and not by Israel in a future Millennial kingdom. They teach that Israel has no future Millennial hope, nor should they expect any future fulfillment of the New Covenant. Some Reformed leaders seem to believe that this viewpoint is the most convincing interpretation of this verse. Reformed theologian Keith Mathison, writes:
|Hebrews 8:6-13 tells us that Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant now. Hebrews teaches repeatedly that the old covenant has been abolished and that the New Covenant has been inaugurated by Jesus Christ through the shedding of His blood. (italics mine) (2)|
Elliot Johnson, a professor of New Testament at Dallas Seminary explains:
|The distinction between the institution and the fulfillment of a covenant must be clarified further. To institute a promissory covenant is to introduce provisions of the agreement which are now available to be received. To inaugurate fulfillment is to keep all of the provisions of the agreement. The new covenant was instituted only after the death of Christ, the Mediator of the covenant; then He and the provisions of the covenant were offered to the nation, following His resurrection and ascension. Some of the provisions were then made available as given to the remnant gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost. The new covenant will be inaugurated in fulfillment when Israel as a nation will accomplish her national destiny.” (3)|
Theologian Dr. Dwight Pentecost, a former professor at Dallas Seminary, adds:
|There is a marked and critical difference between the institution of the covenant and the realization of its benefits. By Christ’s death, Christ laid the foundation for Israel’s new covenant—but its benefits will not be received by Israel until the second advent of Messiah.” (4)|
The New and Old Testaments provide support for the idea that national Israel will still inherit the spiritual and temporal provisions of the New Covenant. If this is true, then it is a powerful argument against the view that the church replaces Israel and inherits all of the provisions of the New Covenant. As we look more closely at this subject, the Holy Scriptures must be our only standard and guide. There are two main categories into which the biblical evidence can be arranged:
Clearly the context of this passage is that these are blessings which flow out of God’s New Covenant relationship to the nation of Israel. Notice some of the provisions:
(1) Wild animals will be removed from out of the land so that the inhabitants may sleep in safety in the fields and woods (v. 25).
(2) There will be a supernaturally abundant harvest of farm crops and other agriculture from the land (v. 27).
(3) Israel will not receive any threats and insults from other nations (Ezekiel 34: 28-29). All of these provisions mentioned by Ezekiel have not taken place today in the church nor in the land of Israel; they are provisions of the New Covenant that will be fulfilled in the future.
(4) In Jeremiah 31:34, the prophet mentions that “they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’: for they shall know Me from the least of them unto the greatest of them.” This is one of the spiritual provisions in the New Covenant that is certainly reserved for the future. Clearly, this is not true today, even in the church. Instead of seeing a growing knowledge of the things of God, we are presently seeing a sharp decline in the knowledge of the Lord and of spiritual things.
The New Covenant is expressly promised to both the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It is a better covenant than the one God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, as it provides for the future salvation of the nation and endows the people with the ability to walk in God’s laws and statutes (Heb. 8:10). Under these conditions, the nation of Israel will be able to safely dwell in her own land under the shelter of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews. The church, on the other hand, is the Body and espoused Bride of Christ. As such, she bears witness on earth to the fact that Christ, as Meditator of the New Covenant, has shed His blood for the remission of sins.
(1) Keith Mathison, Rightly Dividing the People of God?, (Phillipsburg, PA: P & R Publishing, 1995), p. 28
(2) Ibid., p. 29
(3) Elliot Johnson, (Grand Rapids, Contemporary Dispensationalism, MI: Kregel, 1999), p. 146
(4) Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1995), p. 173