The Vanishing Old Covenant

“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

- Hebrews 8:13

Continuing our study of Hebrews 8 and its use of Jeremiah 31:31–34 to prove that the new covenant has come in Christ, we now need to consider the sense in which it has not yet come. We are so used to saying that we live under the new covenant that it might seem strange to speak as if the new covenant has in some sense not yet arrived. Yet, that seems to be what the author of Hebrews assumes. For instance, today’s passage speaks of the old covenant as “becoming obsolete and growing old” (Heb. 8:13). These verbs are in the present tense, indicating that the old covenant is in the process of disappearing but has not yet done so fully, and thus that the new covenant is not yet fully realized. At the very least, this was so at the time of the writing of the letter to the Hebrews in the first century.

Coram Deo

Because the new covenant has not been consummated, it is possible to belong to the new covenant outwardly by profession of faith and baptism and yet not have the substance of the covenant, which belongs only to those who trust in Christ alone. This is why we must exhort one another continually to trust in Christ. We want everyone who professes faith in Jesus to actually possess it in their hearts.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 2:1–4
Ezekiel 36:22–38
Acts 1:6–11
Hebrews 3:7–4:13

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