The New Testament Church Part 3: Blood of the Covenant
The Significance of the Blood Sacrifice
In part two we considered the words of Jesus given at the end of the Passover meal. He instructs the disciples to drink from the cup which is “my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26).
Some would say that because the Lord’s Supper is given to the church, and Jesus performs the Lord’s Supper before his disciples then the disciples must constitute a church. However, they are ignoring the main point of the text. Jesus says that the covenant is united with His blood. He has not poured out His blood yet. Is Jesus giving this to His church or His Jesus modeling what the church will do in the presence of those who will become the Apostles after His death? I argue for the later.
Hebrews 9 contrasts the Old Covenant animal sacrifices with the New Covenant sacrifice of Christ and explains precisely what was accomplished by His sacrifice.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (v.11-12)
The theme of the book of Hebrews is that the Old Covenant was mere foreshadowing for the reality that would be revealed in the death of Christ. Just as the earthly, Old Covenant high priest entered into the Holy of Holies every year with the blood, now Christ enters into the Holy of Holies in heaven with His own blood. I believe the author is using figurative language to illustrate his point. The point being that without the blood sacrifice of Christ the sins that were temporarily overlooked in the Old Covenant could not have been atoned for. Now, with the death of Christ, those sacrifices are no longer necessary. The worship elements of the Old Covenant are also no longer necessary.
who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. Hebrews 8:5-6
This passage makes it clear that the sacrifice of Christ begins His mediation of the New Covenant. Without the shedding of blood, there could be no remission of sin. The promise of the New Covenant is that God “will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12; Jeremiah 33:34). Without the blood sacrifice of Christ, the Old Covenant would remain in force. The animal sacrifices, which could not take away sins, would continue.
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Verses Verses 15 and 16)
The Old Covenant must be done away with before the New Covenant can be established. Without His death, there would be no mediation. Without His death, those Old Testament saints would still be under the Old Covenant. It was the death of Christ which freed them from the Law and the Old Covenant (Galatians 3:10-14 and Romans 7:1-6). Without freedom from the Law, the Old Covenant would still be in place and valid.
For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. Hebrews 9:16-18
The writer of Hebrews compares the New Covenant to a testament or will. The beneficiaries of the will do not receive the promised inheritance until the testator has died. New Covenant promised permanent mediation and the expiation of sin. This New Covenant replaced the previous “testament” and retroactively forgave the sins of the elect who were under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant was made in the blood of Christ. His blood was shed at His death. It was the death of Christ and His ascension into heaven that inaugurated the New Covenant.
The New Covenant included the forgiveness of sins, once and for all. The New Covenant provided for a permanent mediator. Neither the forgiveness of sins nor mediation could have been possible without the shedding of Christ’s blood and His ascension into heaven as the Great High Priest. This makes it impossible to place the foundation of the Church prior to the death of Jesus. While Jesus demonstrates the observances of the Church to the Disciples while He is alive, in order to establish Himself as the authority for the observance, it does not follow that the Disciples constitute a church. The question that settles this once and for all is, were the Disciples of Christ in the New Covenant prior to His death? The answer must be a resounding no, because without the shedding of blood and the death of the testator, the testament/the New Covenant, could not be enacted. Without the New Covenant, there can be no New Testament Church.
This can only mean that the Disciples were in the Old Covenant during the life of Christ. It would be completely without Biblical warrant or witness to create some intermediate state between the Old and the New Covenant.