The Jerusalem Council

A Global Association of Orthodox Jewish Disciples of Messiah Yeshua

Defining the Old and New Covenant

The difference between “old covenant” and “new covenant” is used by scripture to differentiate between the unregenerate sinner, and the regenerated saint. It is the difference between their individual relationship to the Torah.

The Torah is the full description of the Messiah, Yeshua ben Yosef mi’Netzaret. Thus by implication, and often by reference, the Torah of G-d (which he gave to Moses) is the Messiah, who is the Word of HaShem. Since the Torah is the Messiah in this sense that he is the Word of HaShem, then it is rightly said that he is also the Covenant G-d makes with all men. So then, when one rejects Torah, as they are inclined to do from birth, they reject the Messiah; and when one embraces Messiah, as they are inclined to do by G-d’s grace, they embrace the Torah. In summary, we can see this in the following descriptions of the difference between these relationships to the Torah (the relationships to the Messiah, the Covenant).

1st man:

Old man, unregenerate man, sinner, of the flesh, condemned, cursed, can’t help but sin against G-d’s Torah (which is spiritual). Since the Torah is spiritual, this man can not perceive the things of the Torah until the veil of his sinful nature which clouds his perspective of the Torah, is taken away. This man is fleshly and is guided by the lusts of the flesh. This man is cursed to die by the Torah for his sin, and is thus considered “under Torah,” a position of being cursed to death. This man is just like the fathers who broke the Covenant, and relies on his own righteousness, and therefore breaks the Covenant. The relationship this person has to the Torah is called the “old covenant.” This man is who dies to the Torah (Messiah), for the curse of sin brings death.

G-d remains faithful to his Covenant, and grants death, the consequence of the sin of this man.

2nd man:
New man, regenerate man, saint, of the spirit, blessed, not cursed, can’t help but keep G-d’s Torah (which is spiritual). Since the Torah is spiritual, this man can perceive the things of the Torah clearly because the veil of his sinful nature which clouded his perspective of the Torah, has been lifted. This man is spiritual and is guided by the Spirit of G-d. This man is blessed to eternal life by the Torah for Messiah’s righteousness, and is thus considered “not under Torah,” a position of being redeemed from its curse of death. This man is not like the fathers who broke the Covenant, and relies on Messiah’s righteousness, and therefore keeps the Covenant. The relationship this person has to the Torah is called the “new covenant.” This man is who lives to the Torah (Messiah), for the blessing of obedience brings life.

G-d remains faithful to his Covenant, and grants eternal life, the result of the righteousness of this man identified/clothed in Messiah’s righteousness.

You will find this understanding true all throughout scripture when it talks about old and new covenant, old and new man, etc.

For example, in Romans chapter 7, Paul uses these two “men” to show that the first man, as first husband, is put to death to the Torah, the Messiah, the wife; and therefore only then can the second man, the second husband be able to marry the wife, the Torah, the Messiah, and live in the Spirit, for the Torah is spiritual. See Understanding Romans 7 for an applicable understanding of this concept.

The old and new covenants are a state of condition, not a table of content, for the content remains the same since there is only one Covenant: the Torah, the Messiah. Who we are in relation to him is the only difference between “old” and “new” covenant. Let me state that again. WHO we are in relationship to the Perfectly Obedient Standard for Righteousness, the Messiah himself, is the only difference between what scripture calls old covenant and new covenant.

1. One party breaks it (by his own righteousness, which is nothing), and is cursed to death. (old man) (old Covenant that is broken)

2. G-d renews the Covenant to a different party (new man), while Himself remains faithful to the Covenant.

3. The second party keeps it (by Messiah’s righteousness), and is blessed with eternal life. (new Covenant that is kept)

We understand this from the account in the Torah concerning the two sets of tablets containing the Ten Words (Commandments). The first set of tablets were broken, but the second set were kept. The same content was on both, as it is written “I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets.” The entire account explains this: that the covenant was made with the people, then the first set of tablets were given, but the people sinned and the first set of tablets were broken; then G-d makes the covenant with them and then writes the Ten Words again on a second set of tablets and this second set of tablets is what is kept. The content remains the same. Notice also that the covenant is made (again) to the same people, yet now the difference is that the people are repentant, and their relationship with G-d is based entirely on his grace and mercy to not further judge them for the sin that led to the first set of tablets being broken. Same covenant, but renewed to a different kind of person – one who has made repentance.

Therefore, G-d makes his Covenant, and each time he makes it with another party, it is called “new.” That is all there is to understanding the difference between the old and new covenant.

If we have identified ourselves in Messiah, then it is our cursed nature that is considered dead for he died hung on a tree which is a condition of being cursed under the Torah. And if we have identified ourselves in Messiah, then our spiritual nature is considered alive for he rose to life from the grave.

The key here then is to understand the necessity to identify oneself with Messiah’s death and resurrection in order to be blessed by the Torah for eternal life. This requires our obedience to the Torah, the Messiah as it is written:

Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. (Ex 23:21)

and if one transgresses this commandment, then they are as:

When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. The LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. (Deut 29:19-21)

When G-d makes his Covenant with us as sinners, which was made on that day with all who where “there” and “not there” in Deuteronomy 29:14-15, our inclination to sin caused us to break it the moment we sinned (and all have sinned in Adam). So then when G-d renews his Covenant with us (as a new regenerated man alive to the Messiah, the Torah) it is therefore to us, renewed, and to the new man (that is, we who are the righteous in Messiah) it is “new.” Thus that is why it is called a “new” or “renewed” Covenant.

At the point of our obeying the Messiah (surrendering our life to Him which is an act of teshuvah, or known as our repentance to the Torah), we are then “born” again, into the new man to whom the Covenant is made new to us, by G-d implanting His Spirit within us, and by implication of this renewal and identification in Messiah, His righteousness is therefore upon us, and we are given eternal life in accordance with the blessing promised when one keeps the Covenant. We can therefore look back on the “old man” that we once were, back to whom the same Covenant was made but condemned him to death. We can look back on that old man and see that the Covenant G-d made with him ultimately was that which put him to death because of that sinful man’s own “righteousness,” which is really no righteousness at all on the level that the Torah demands. From our perspective of the new man, that is why we thus call the “old” Covenant “old” and the “new” Covenant “new”- for G-d has renewed to us, we as the new man, the same Covenant to us, but through identifying with Messiah we now keep it.

The differences between identifying the old and new covenant then is a matter of perspective of the relationships a sinner has to the Torah and the relationship a saint has to the Torah, for the perspective of the Covenant one has concerning it, is based on the old and new relationship one has to the Covenant (the Torah, the Messiah).

So how do we get this understanding?

Some Questions to Ask

When does the old covenant end, and the new covenant begin?

Jer 31:31-34
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,

32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.

33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people.

34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Brit Chadashah = Covenant Renewed

Questions to ask:
1. Who is this “new” covenant made with?
A: “Judah and Israel.”

2. Who is missing in this prophecy?
A: The gentiles, otherwise known as pagans.

3. What happened to the previous covenant?
A: It was broken.

4. According to the passage, what is unique to the previous covenant that is not said of the new covenant?
A: The previous one was broken. (That’s it! To insert anything else is eisegesis.) What is implied is that the new one is simply kept, meaning Judah and Israel don’t break the covenant G-d “renews” with them! A promised time of sinlessness!

5. How is it possible that the new covenant will not be broken and thus not be like the previous covenant which was “broken”?
A: Because only at the End of the Age will Sin and Death be cast into hell, and sin will be no more (meaning that those remaining will live perfectly sinless from that point on).

6. Who’s Torah is written on hearts?
A: “-Y -H -V and -H”‘s Torah. (The “New Covenant” Torah is not “Yeshua’s” laws, as if his laws are somehow separate from HaShem’s law. This passage makes it clear that HaShem’s Torah is what is written on hearts, not something else.)

7. When does this happen?
A: Some time in the future when “each man” “all know” G-d (same word for husband “knows” his wife). See also question 5.

8. At what time in the future will “each man” be the only “all” who “know G-d” which is defined as only “Judah and Israel”?
A: Only after the Judgment (Yom Kippor) at the End of the Age when the nations are judged and the damned are cast into the lake of fire, and only the saved remain.

So when was the old covenant broken?

Hosea 6:7
Like Adam, they (Judah and Israel) have broken the Covenant— they were unfaithful to me there.

There is only one covenant: the Covenant. It is simply renewed at the End of the Age since it has been broken – and all mankind through Adam have broken it.

What is the covenant Adam broke?
A: Gen 1:28

Gen 1:28
G-d blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Questions to ask:

1. What were Adam and Eve blessed with?
A. Eternal life (you can not lose something you do not have)

2. How then could Adam and Eve break it?
A. By not having faith in G-d’s word that they would keep eternal life if they kept G-d’s charge to “be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth, and subdue it.”

3. How were they to “be fruitful, increase in number, fill the earth, and subdue it?”
A. They were to avodah, and shamar the Torah of G-d.

Gen 2:15 The LORD G-d took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (avodah) it and take care (shamar) of it.

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan phrases this verse to mean that Adam was put into the Garden to serve G-d and obey the Torah.

5. What does it mean to avodah?
A. IT means to observe, serve, worship, as in to “serve” and “worship” the Lord, and “observe” his commands, as this Hebrew word shows up in many other places later in the Torah.

6. What commands where they to serve, worship, and observe?
A. The one’s prior in Gen 1:28: to be fruitful (fruits of obedience), multiply (make disciples) (not just procreating), fill the earth (with knowledge of the Truth, with Messiah), and subdue it (teach obedience to everything commanded) – sounds a lot like the Great Commission, and it is! They were to obey the entire Torah of HaShem as taught by the Messiah, make disciples through their children, teach them about the full knowledge of Messiah, and subdue the entire world with obedience to Him.

6. How do we know that to shamar the Garden of Eden means not to guard it with an Uzi?
A. Because at this point, no adversary is yet introduced.

7. What does it mean to shamar?

A. It means to create a hedge, or fence as in to “shamar the Shabbat” or “guard the Sabbath” also means to “serve” but in the sense of preparation, to protect one’s obedience and service to the commandments of G-d.

Gen 2:16-17
16 And the LORD G-d commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

1. Did G-d lie, was HaSatan right?

A. No.

This negative commandment given to Adam and Eve to be cursed with death versus being blessed with life, sounds like what positive commandment in the Torah?
A. Sounds like “choose life.”

Deuteronomy 30:19
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

The promise of the renewal of the covenant G-d made to Adam and Eve is found in the promise of the Promised Seed. It does not have have its fulfillment until the End of the Age.

It is by faith alone in the Promised Seed that Abel is righteous, so too is Enoch, Noach, Avraham, the fathers, Moses, Rahab, Judges, David, Solomon, the Prophets, etc. Not by works are we saved.

From a certain perspective, the old covenant was a covenant of works of obedience to the Torah because Adam and Eve had eternal life, but they failed to keep the covenant G-d made with them, and thus lost eternal life.

The Torah still remains, and always has (because Messiah, the Living Torah has always existed, is forever, and will be written on our hearts at the End of the Age when we will no longer sin against him).

Since the new covenant is not yet realized (we still die), then the old covenant is still in force, and it is true: we all break it, and we all die. Only at the End of the Age do those who had faith in the Promised Seed receive resurrection to Eternal Life in the restored Garden where once again we are to work (serve, worship, obey), and keep (guard, prepare to obey) the Messiah, the Living Torah, who is also our husband who we had “desired” from since the Fall, and who has always “ruled over” us – even though we once broke His covenant with us “although He was our husband.”

It is in that future day we will finally, and perfectly, “be fruitful (have fruits of obedience to the Living Torah), multiply (make disciples), fill the earth (with the fullness of Messiah), and subdue it (engage the whole of the earth to the commandments of G-d),” for it is for this we were created.

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5 Responses to “Defining the Old and New Covenant”

  • Israel says:

    Email from reader:
    Under the Old Covenant, the blood of bulls was an ongoing offer by the high priests for the atonement of sin;

    Under the New Covenant, the Blood of Yeshua HaMashiach became the acceptable offering once and for all and He is now our Eternal High Priest.

    If the content does not change between old and new covenant, but only the parties change, then the “blood of bulls” is found even in the new covenant! How is this so? Because Messiah’s work does not compete with the “blood of bulls” because his blood was never offered in the earthly Temple. He always was the High Priest in heaven, always was the Lamb Slain Before the Foundation of the World, for that is what the High Priest on earth is a model of, and the tamid sacrifices are a model of. Because there is no competition, both the heavenly tabernacle and the earthly temple co-exist! So too the High Priest in heaven co-exists with the High Priest on earth! So too the sacrifice brought into the heavenly tabernacle co-exists with the sacrifice brought into the earthly tabernacle. So then, this is why the writer of Hebrews clearly says that if Messiah were on earth, he would not be a priest since there are already priests (on earth) who offer sacrifices!

  • Israel says:

    Email from reader:
    The writer of Hebrews is referencing the now resurrected Yeshua being on earth. In other words, when Yeshua HaMashiach is back on earth during the Millennial reign, what position will He have? Do you think there will be a need to have Temple high priests offering blood of bulls at that time?

    Until there is no more death, yes. Ezekiel is clear as to what the Messiah does during that time – himself even offering sacrifices as King of Israel.

  • Israel says:

    Email from reader:
    On another note: There was also a change in the “priesthood” because of Yeshua’s atonement as described in Hebrews. Thus, with the Old Covenant, the Levitical priesthood is superceded by the New Covenant Melchizedek Priesthood, an eternal one which Yeshua is our Eternal High Priest:

    If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

    For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law (Hebrews 7:10-12)

    The “change” is a change in area of application, and is not a change of replacement or nullification. After all Jesus does not replace the High Priest on earth and thus serve in the earthly Temple. And obviously the priest on earth can not officiate in heaven. Both can and did co-exist, even 40 years after Messiah’s ascension (and will co-exist in the future). The earthly tabernacle exists as the co-existing copy of the Heavenly tabernacle, and thus so does the earthly High-Priest exist as a co-existing copy of the Heavenly High Priest. When you realize that both co-exist, then you will understand what is meant by the writer’s use of the word change is emphasizing more on “where there is a change in law…” than on “where there is a change in law.”

  • Israel says:

    Email from reader:
    The Old Covenant:
    Exodus 20:1-26 (Moral)
    Exodus 21:1-24 (Civil)
    Exodus 25:1-40 (Ceremonial)

    What right do you have to call Exodus 21:1-24 and Exodus 25:1-40 not moral? If G-d commands something, is it not moral? If Jesus says all the Law hangs from “love G-d” and from “love your neighbor” then what commandment or instruction in the Torah is not found in both of those categories?

    The New Covenant:
    Jeremiah 31:27-37
    Hebrews 8:7-13

    This does not work as a definition for new covenant diametrically different than what you posted as the old covenant, because the Torah is what is written on hearts at the End of the Age. By definition you can’t exclude Exodus 20, 21, and 25 from the Torah and still have the Torah in the new Covenant. Therefore your definitions for old and new covenant are contradictory. You can’t exclude the Torah from the new Covenant, for you can’t exclude the Covenant from the Covenant.

    Moses Law, including the Temple & Levitical priesthood is forever-an everlasting statute, a statute forever, and til the end of generations.

    Messiah Jesus was a prophet during His first coming, a Priest between His two comings, and a King when He comes again.

    You are correct.

  • Israel says:

    Paul uses these two “men” to show that the first man, as first husband, is put to death to the Torah, the Messiah, the wife; and therefore only then can the second man, the second husband be able to marry the wife, the Torah, the Messiah, and live in the Spirit, for the Torah is spiritual. See the Messianic Apologetics Reference Project called “Understanding Romans 7” for an applicable understanding of this concept: viewtopic.php?f=29&t=495

    You will find this understanding true all throughout scripture when it talks about old and new covenant, old and new man, etc.

    The old and new covenants are a state of condition, not a table of content, for the content remains the same since there is only one Covenant: the Torah, the Messiah. Who we are in relation to him is the only difference between “old” and “new” covenant. Let me state that again. WHO we are in relationship to the Perfectly Obedient Standard for Righteousness, the Messiah himself, is the only difference between what scripture calls old covenant and new covenant.

    1. One party breaks it (by his own righteousness, which is nothing), and is cursed to death. (old man) (old Covenant that is broken)

    2. G-d renews the Covenant to a different party (new man), while Himself remains faithful to the Covenant.

    3. The second party keeps it (by Messiah’s righteousness), and is blessed with eternal life. (new Covenant that is kept)

    In short, I guess you could say that G-d makes his Covenant, and each time he makes it with another party, it is called “new.” That is all there is to understanding the difference between the old and new covenant.

    If we have died in Christ, then we are dead. When G-d makes his Covenant with us, to us (as new man) it is new. Thus that is why it is called “new” or “renewed,” because we are the new man to whom the Covenant is made and are given eternal life because of Messiah’s righteousness, and look back on the old man to whom the same Covenant was made and put that old man to death because of that sinful man’s own righteousness, which is really no righteousness at all – that is why we thus call that the “old” Covenant. The definition of “old” and “new” then is a matter of perspective, based on our new relationship to the Covenant (the Torah, the Messiah).