Old vs New Covenant

 

One of the Key teachings of Yeshua that has continually remained a difficult concept for the greater number of believers to comprehend is his statement pertaining to the coming of the Kingdom: "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21 KJV).

The Pharisees asked this question because they were expecting the coming Messiah to be a warrior who was imbued with the Power of God to conquer the enemies of the Jews, inaugurate the Kingdom upon the earth, and rule the world.  The problem is that Yeshua's answer deeply troubled them because he said that the Kingdom of God will never come upon the earth in the manner that you predict, because it is within you!   

When the Apostle Paul spoke of the New Covenant, in his words we can see an affirmation of this same statement which had been previously spoken by Yeshua: "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them" (Heb 8:10-11 NKJ).  Not only do we see the important teaching that the Kingdom is within us, but that man possesses the innate ability to enter the Kingdom and learn directly from the Logos (aka Son of God and True Prophet).   And the whole of the Gospel teachings is the mindset and lifestyle necessary to enter the Kingdom, and learn from what the original followers of Yeshua portrayed as The True Prophet -- who Yeshua commanded to be the One Teacher that all his followers much seek out (see True Prophet).

When James (Jacob), the brother of Yeshua and first leader of the Jerusalem Congregation spoke of receiving the Word of God, he did not speak of it as something which was written in the scriptures or preached by men: "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (James 1:21 NIV).  What is James saying to us?  That the Word of God is planted in us, and if we rid ourselves of all "...moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent" among the masses of people, this indwelling Word "...can save you"! 

In the previous article on the Sower and the Seed (see Sower) we saw Yeshua's teaching on who would be the acceptable people of God.  Once again we see this same important message in his words: "The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts" (Mark 4:14-15 NKJ).  Thus, what we are presented with is the teaching that the Word of God has been planted within us, and the genuine disciples of Yeshua are those who live in such a manner that they become the "good ground" which permits the Word to multiply a hundredfold from what was received.  More importantly, though, is the constant assertion that the Word of God exists in our hearts, and it is the manner in which we live the permits the Word to manifest in our life.

Throughout the scriptures there is a constant assertion that we must enter through a door -- but what is the meaning?  "Then one said to Him, Lord, are there few who are saved? And He said to them, Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity'" (Luke 13:23-27 NKJ).  What both the majority of Jews and Christians fail to realize is that the door is within us, and is shut when we physically die.  Thus, the door which Yeshua speaks of must be opened and entered while we are still alive in the physical body.

One only has to open the pages of the Bible to see that the whole of the New Testament teachings is concerned with ethics, morality, and the manner in which each of us treats our brothers and sisters.   The requirement is that we must not judge -- we must turn the other cheek -- we must forgive our enemies -- we must never return evil for evil, but do good to those who persecute us.  In the timeframe of when the New Testament was written, the Pharisees were the Jewish sect who attempted to live the Word of God continually throughout every aspect of their lives.  Yet, the followers of Yeshua are told that they must be more righteous than the Pharisees (Mt 6:20) -- and Yeshua teaches that those who desire to be his disciples must be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48).  This state of perfection is referred to as the fulfillment of the Royal Law of God, and is measured not only in our desire to dwell in the Truth and the Light, but also in our forgiveness, acceptance and love of our fellow man regardless of how our brothers and sisters treat us.   From a New Covenant perspective, whatever is divisive, and not in accord with the Royal Law, is of this world, and is an obstacle to our birth into the Kingdom.   It is from this perspective that the requirement in the Book of the Revelation is set before us in the words: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful” (Rev 21:27 NIV).   This same truth was expressed by Isaiah where it is written: “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it” (Isa 35:8 NIV).  And this same truth is expressed in the words of Yeshua when he warned: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt 7:13-14 NIV).  

The problem is that the people who are sense-bound and controlled by the elemental things of this world, do not even comprehend that there is a door within us through which we must pass in order to escape this world which is referred to by Jesus as the "outer darkness" of mind and being (see Outer Darkness).   This great truth is especially seen in the parable of the wedding feast where a man was found without a wedding garment: "So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt 22:12-14 NKJ). 

The wedding garment indicates a manner of living and thinking that permits the Holy Spirit to enter and sanctify.  The feast is on the other side of the inner door within us.  This world is the "outer darkness" that is ruled over by the god of this realm.  Understanding that it is our lower beastly nature that inhibits our entrance into the Kingdom, the Apostle Paul commanded the followers of Yeshua to Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col 3:5 NIV).  

How can we hold fast to the doctrine that believers are saved by faith apart from actions, when they are commanded to "put to death... their earthly natures"?  What we fail to realize is the fact that the Apostle was speaking from the vision of man's higher reality -- i.e., the works of the Sadducees and Pharisees could not open the inner door to the Kingdom!  This was true.  But if one lives a life as that prescribed by Yeshua, and seeks the Word of God within themselves, then it would be their faith in the Son of God that will save them.  If, on the other hand, they are unwilling to live in accordance with New Covenant teachings, then they could not rightfully even be called a believer.

This same thought that we must overcome the desires of our earthly natures, is fundamentally the essence of what Paul attempted to express in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians.   “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law”, writes Paul, “but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (Rom 7:22-23 NIV).   What Paul was conveying to us is that those who pick up their own cross and follow Messiah Yeshua into the Kingdom are the recipients of God’s grace, and are able to enter into Life.   What this means is that, unless you have followed Yeshua into the Kingdom, then you are still possessed by the works of the flesh that obstruct your walk with the Lord -- and as such, the Apostles states that you are spiritually immature.   From the perspective of Paul’s Epistles, life only exists in the Kingdom -- everything outside the Kingdom is death, and belongs to the god of this world.  

The Old Covenant, then, is indicative of that condition when man either learns about God from the written word, or from other men.  It has nothing to do with believing in Yeshua, if one is not willing to do what Yeshua Commanded: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matt 7:21-23 NKJ).  

We can again see this same message in the words of Yeshua when he warned: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete" (Luke 6:46-49 NIV).  

When it is realized that Yeshua consistently taught about the inner Kingdom, we can then begin to get a sense of his words: "I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock."  That rock is the inner Kingdom that we must uncover deep within ourselves.  Whereas, the person who builds a "...house on the ground without a foundation", is one who attempts to build their house on the doctrines, traditions and carnal thinking of men.  Those who put Yeshua's words into practice, and seek to walk in the "narrow path" that leads to the inner door of the Kingdom, do not need either the written word, a church or synagogue of this world, or the preaching of other men which is all indicative of the Old Covenant -- because having gained access to the indwelling Kingdom, they learn directly from the Lord. 

What happened, you will rightly ask? In the fourth century the most carnal of believers who called themselves Christian, entered into a covenant with Constantine, the Emperor of Rome.  The rest is history -- i.e., in an institutionalized church ruled over by politicians and a quasi-secular group of government appointed priests, the spiritual essence of New Covenant teachings were quickly replaced by a series of creeds and manmade doctrines.  

To what degree the church had fallen under the control of blind carnal men can perhaps best be envisioned in the words of Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, when he wrote: “It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous, that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us; because we make creeds arbitrarily, and explain them as arbitrarily.  The Homoousion is rejected, and received, and explained away by successive synods. The partial or total resemblance of the Father and of the Son is a subject of dispute for these unhappy times.  Every year, nay, every moon, we make new creeds to describe invisible mysteries.  We repent of what we have done, we defend those who repent, we anathematize those who we defended.  We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and, reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other's ruin” (Quoted by E.Gibbon; The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).

Led by religious politicians, the Christian world became immersed in a sea of manmade doctrines -- doctrines that attempted to explain spiritual concepts that was beyond their ability to comprehend.   The result was that for over a thousand years the prediction of the Apostle Paul came to pass and Satan ruled the church that is today known as Christian.  How can this be, you will ask?  It has been said that the greatest deception of all time is seen in the success of Satan in his ability to convince man that he does not exist.  If this is so, then Satan's second deception is perhaps even greater than the first -- in that, he has fooled the very elect -- i.e., the very religious authorities of the church who have been warned and taught of his existence.   In total disregard of the admonition of the scriptures themselves, the greater majority of Christians believe that the church is beyond the reach of Satan -- that God somehow drew a line that Satan cannot cross over -- and because of this force of Divine protection, Satan has not immersed himself in every aspect of their lives!  Yet, to their own detriment, the leaders of the modern church ignore the warning of the Apostle: “let no man beguile you in any wise: for (it will not be,) except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God” (2 Thes 2:3-4 ASV).

What the Apostle is herein very clearly predicting is that there would come a time when the god of the Christian Church will be a false god.   Historically speaking, it has been almost universally recognized that the period in time that the Apostle was referring to was in the fourth century when the church made a covenant with the Roman Emperor Constantine.   With regard to this falling away, the Adam Clark Commentary writes of this passage of Paul's Epistle: “[Except there come a falling away first] We have the original word apostasia in our word apostasy; and by this term we understand a dereliction of the essential principles of religious truth, either a total abandonment of Christianity itself, or such a corruption of its doctrines as renders the whole system completely inefficient to salvation. But what this apostasy means is a question which has not yet, and perhaps never will be, answered to general satisfaction” (from the Adam Clarke Commentary).

Not to depreciate or make less the significance of any one of the individual statements presented in the above words, what the modern believer must recognized is the far-reaching totality of the statement: But what this apostasy means is a question which has not yet, and perhaps never will be, answered to general satisfaction”.   Ultimately, what this means to the modern believer is that each and every church authority from the fourth-century to the present, as well as every single preacher of the gospel, speaks from the position of concession -- which concession is that there is a great void in their knowledge of the truth.   Thus, one of the core presumptions upon which our present-day doctrine of faith is based, is that these words of the Apostle Paul are not true.    What the average person of faith fails to realize, is that this presumption which is widely embraced today, is truly dangerous to each and every Christian’s spiritual well-being!   

In our quest to restore the pure Word of the Gospel, it is important for us to question just what these words of the Apostle mean to the modern believer?   It means that the church today is doing the best that it possibly can, under the circumstances that it has been forced to function under.   If both historians and biblical experts are unable to tell us with certainty to what degree these words of the Apostle effect our perception of the gospel today, then we cannot be sure of a single thing!   While we have faith that our beliefs are authentic, when it is recognized that our faith requires us to physically die before we can be sure of the validity of anything that we presently believe, we may be playing Russian Roulette with all the cylinders loaded -- and hoping for a misfire.

The question that every believer must ask today is how corrupted and contaminated has the message of Yeshua become after it had been placed in the hands of mankind?  In a letter to Pope Leo X on September 6th, 1520, Martin Luther wrote of the Christianity of his day, that the church, “…once the holiest of all, has become the most licentious den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, death, and hell. It is so bad that even Antichrist himself, if he should come, could think of nothing to add to its wickedness” (Quoted in: The Great Thoughts; compiled by George Seldes). 

Many Protestants -- or non-Roman Catholics -- will readily admit that the Church had become very corrupt during its long residence upon the earth.   One of the problems is that, even though Luther and the reformers knew this fact, this knowledge alone did not mean they possessed a clear and pure vision of the essence of the original teachings of Jesus.   In fact, it can easily be demonstrated that they did not, and this was the true reason why Luther rejected over half the New Testament as being inferior and even spurious.

When the church eventually emerged from the pit of darkness in the Middle-Ages, it had been reduced to a mere shadow of the genuine church that was annihilated by the very Pagan Christians of the fourth century.   The result was that these doctrines that formed the foundation of this very Pagan church were then adopted by the Middle-Age reformers, and have continued as foundational doctrines right up into our present time.   While it is true that during the time of the Reformation there was a break with the mother church that had become seated in Rome, the problem still existed that because the reformers themselves did not possess the spiritual foundation of the original Messianic movement of the first century, and they continued to embrace many of the doctrines that had been infused upon the teachings of Yeshua by the emperors and religious politicians of the past thousand years, it was beyond their ability to re-establish what the Apostle himself warns they were incapable of understanding -- and ultimately beyond even their comprehension.   Because they lacked the spiritual vision and knowledge of the original followers of Yeshua, the many churches that emerged from the Reformation continued to be established upon the very carnal mindset that was instituted by the Pagan Christians of the fourth century.

No doubt the majority of Christians today will reject the idea that the modern church has been turned out of The Way.   As an article of faith they will reason that God would not permit such a thing to happen -- i.e., He would safeguard His Church from being overcome by Satan.  Yet, as demonstrated above, this article of faith is in conflict with the very words of the Apostle at 2 Thes 2:3-4, wherein the Adam Clarke Commentary explained that what Paul is predicting is “…a dereliction of the essential principles of religious truth, either a total abandonment of Christianity itself, or such a corruption of its doctrines as renders the whole system completely inefficient to salvation…”.   If the Apostle predicts the “total abandonment of Christianity”, and a further “corruption of its doctrines as renders the whole system completely inefficient to salvation”, then our present-day assertion that God will safeguard the church is in total conflict to the warning of the Bible itself.

Did God abandon His flock?  The answer is no!  Throughout all time those who followed in the footsteps of Yeshua -- became the seed sown on good ground -- and sought the Kingdom within themselves, inherited the blessing of the New Covenant and were able to enter into the Life that was promised by the Lord to all those who put Yeshua's words into practice, and seek to walk in the "narrow path" that leads to the inner door of the Kingdom.  Some of these Anointed men and women were called Jews -- others were called Christian -- and still others were not of a church or synagogue of this world, but were merely faithful to the Word that was sown in their hearts.  While they lived in the world and not of it, those who were of an Old Covenant mindset -- i.e., those who received the Word of God external to themselves and clung to the doctrines and traditions of men -- continued to be of this world.