Most Christians automatically assume that we are living in New Covenant times, mostly because of the manmade way the Bible was divided into Old and New Covenant (Testament) sections. Everything beginning with Matthew is regarded as referring to the time of the New Covenant. Yet, when looking at the wording of the new covenant, you’ll find two startling facts: 1) the language is all future tense, despite Hebrews 8 having been written well after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, and 2) the events that define the new covenant are events that have not yet occurred.
Let’s take a closer look at Hebrews 8:8-12 (parentheses mine): For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will (future tense) make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (notice there is NO covenant with the Gentiles, you must be grafted in): Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will (future tense) make with the house of Israel (again, not with the Gentiles) after those days (future tense), saith the Lord; I will (future tense) put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts (God’s laws are the central focus in the new covenant): and I will (future tense) be to them a God, and they shall (future tense) be to me a people: And they shall not (future tense) teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall (future tense) know me, from the least to the greatest. (No more atheists, no need of a great commission or missionaries.) For I will (future tense) be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I (future tense) remember no more.
Every single phrase Paul writes of the new covenant, the language is given in future tense. Paul copied these words from Jeremiah, yet when Paul wrote them it was well after the resurrection. He did not correct any of the wording as to indicate that this time had been fulfilled. Rather, he maintains the same future tense wording. If he believed and taught that the new covenant was now in effect, would he not have said things like “now that those days have come…” and “God has now…”, etc?
Secondly, when we look at each of the events that define this new covenant, we see that none of them have yet occurred.
1) “I will put my law in their mind and write them in their hearts” (vs 10). Not only does it make it absolutely clear that the law is not done away with when the new covenant does take effect, but it is quite evident in our world today that God’s law is not in the hearts of those who murder, steal, lie, or break any other commandment from God’s law.
2) “All shall know me, from the least to the greatest” (vs 11). Do all know him now? Atheists and agnostics still abound on this earth, so all do not know him now. Furthermore, if Yeshua (Jesus) taught and believed the new covenant took effect with his death and resurrection, then why, forty days later, did he give the “Great Commission” at the end of Matthew just as he was about to ascend to heaven? Commanding his disciples to go into all nations teaching about him would have been unnecessary had this phase of the New Covenant already been in effect by his sacrifice. And if this is in effect, why do churches still send out missionaries? If all know him, there would be no need to teach and evangelize.
3) “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” If someone goes out today and robs a business and then kills the witnesses, is God going to remember that? Don’t stake your eternal salvation on the answer to this question being “no”.
Nothing in this passage gives any indication that the time of the new covenant will occur prior to the second coming of Yeshua and the creation of the new heavens and new earth. At that time, those of us blessed enough to be part of the new earth will all know him, we will have his law in our hearts so that we will never sin again, and our sins from the old earth he will remember no more.
So the obvious implication is that we are still under the first covenant. The only thing that changed with the death and resurrection is what we offer for the sacrificial system. Instead of the blood of bulls we claim the blood of Yeshua. It is only those who accept His sacrifice that receive forgiveness of sins. Those who don’t accept His sacrifice have no part of forgiveness. Clearly a need for sacrifice still remains.
The next implication is that those who try to throw out any of God’s law under the guise of now being under a new covenant need to rethink their theology. Meanwhile, I can only long for the day when we are living under the promises of the new covenant, but clearly, we aren’t there yet.