When did the Old Covenant End?

temple_veil

The Bible is made up of two documents: the Old Testament and the New Testament. These documents roughly equate to two covenants: the old covenant and the new covenant. I say roughly because the old covenant did not begin in Genesis 1 and the new covenant did not begin in Matthew 1.

A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties characterized by promises and obligations. In a biblical context, a covenant describes how God relates to people.

The old covenant, which was based on law, was how God related to the nation of Israel. The new covenant, which is based on grace, is how God relates to everybody, including the Jews.
The old covenant came into effect at Mt. Sinai through Moses, Israel’s representative, while the new covenant came into effect at Mt. Calvary through Christ, humanity’s representative.

On the night before his death the Son of God announced a “new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). He was literally declaring his last will and testament, a new covenant that would come into effect when he died (Hebrews 9:16-17).

The new covenant was new

In every way, the new covenant is superior to the old.

– The old covenant failed because it hinged on your imperfect obedience, but new covenant endures because it is founded on Christ’s perfect obedience unto death.
– The old covenant says you will be blessed if you do good, but the new declares we are blessed because God is good.
– The old covenant warns that you will be punished if you do bad, but the new declares that in Christ you are eternally unpunishable.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. (Hebrews 8:7)

On the cross the sinless Savior fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law. The old covenant that had been so shabbily treated by the children of Israel could now be satisfactorily concluded. Thus, with his final breath, Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The old covenant began when Moses received the law; it ended when Christ fulfilled it.

Overlapping covenants?

Some say the covenants existed side-by-side for a generation. “The old covenant it didn’t end, it merely became obsolete. The temple sacrifices continued as before until God judged Jerusalem in AD70.”

Those who subscribe to overlapping covenants point out that David was anointed king while Saul was still on the throne. “The new and the old orders existed side by side, and this parallels what happened in the generation after Christ’s death.”

But David did not ascend to the throne of Israel until after Saul’s death. They were never king at the same time. Similarly, Jesus died (fulfilling the old covenant) before ascending into heaven to be crowned as king. There was no overlapping kingship and no overlapping covenant.

The old covenant did not end with the beheading of John the Baptist. Nor did it end with the disappearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. These were dramatic scenes in the final act of the old covenant play, but the curtain did not fall until the climactic sacrifice of God’s Lamb.

The cross changed everything

In the moment Jesus died the temple veil was supernaturally torn. It was rent from top to bottom signifying that God was done with the old covenant. The law was a shadow, but Christ is the reality. Jesus is the old covenant fulfilled.

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13, NIV)

Christ’s perfect sacrifice made the old covenant instantly obsolete. From God’s perspective it had served no further purpose. Yet after Christ died religious Jews continued bringing animals to the temple to be slain in ritual sacrifice.

Imagine how offensive those sacrifices must have been in the eyes of heaven. Each sacrifice declared, “Jesus died for nothing.” Every priest and penitent was essentially saying, “God, your Son’s death means nothing to me.” What an insult! What blasphemy!

Yet no lightning bolts fell from heaven. The ground did not open up and swallow these blasphemers.

Unauthorized sacrifices

Contrast that with what happened to Aaron’s sons when they brought an unauthorized offering into the tabernacle: Fire from God consumed them (Leviticus 10:1-2). Nadab and Abihu died as screaming, burning testimonies to the seriousness of sin. But that was under the old covenant which was no more.

Now in the new covenant, priests who brought unauthorized sacrifices went home unharmed. They didn’t know it but they were living testimonies of God’s grace. Had the old covenant still been in effect, there could have been fire and screaming. There would have been one animal sacrifice and no more. But the old covenant was finished, so unauthorized and blasphemous sacrifices continued for years.

But he, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12)

Jesus sat but the Jews stood for there are no chairs in the temple. For forty years they carried on with their religious rituals as though nothing had changed, but everything had changed. This is why God never judged them, not in AD30, nor in AD70.

How could he when their sin had been borne by the Savior they rejected?

___________

Extracted from chapter 29 of Paul Ellis’s new book AD70 and the End of the World.

70 Comments on When did the Old Covenant End?

  1. Leland Pollock // February 16, 2017 at 1:06 am // Reply

    Amen, I enjoyed the teaching, beings that I did not get saved until age 27 I built my foundation on The New Testament mainly on the red letter type set, ( what Jesus said )

    • I know what you mean. You might be interested in this article on the red letters of Jesus.

      • Hello Mr. Ellis. I have a question, hope you don’t mind. You say that Jesus honored Moses’ law and that He fulfilled it. Or rather the bible says it – I believe it, but I guess I don’t understand what honoring and fulfilling mean in this context. Didn’t Jesus do works on the sabbath, which according to the law was wrong? I’m just trying to understand. Can you please help?

      • The religious leaders accused Jesus of breaking the law because he healed on the Sabbath and said God was his Father, but they were wrong. What did Jesus say? “I have kept My Father’s commandments” (Joh 15:10). Jesus never sinned (Heb 4:15). Because he was perfectly obedient unto death, “Christ is the end of the law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the law leads up to him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on him” (Rom 10:4, AMP).

  2. I agree. Would you care to comment on Paul’s epistles as the most relevant teachings for new covenant believers. I am inclined to think that the other Gospels except that of John’s relates to Israel under the Old Covenant.

  3. Thank you for this teaching. It is very powerful.

  4. Anna DeCanio // February 16, 2017 at 1:47 am // Reply

    Perfect! I agree!
    Done so clearly and accurate.
    Well put and easy to understand and use to help others to see the love of God. I got more insight into a few things also. Well done!

  5. I have learned a lot from you and I am asking the Lord to magnify your ministry. I perceive His gift in you to help us receive revelation about the glorious grace of our savior Jesus Christ and I think everyone should sit under your teaching.

    In return for blessing me, I am praying that our Father God gives you a burning desire to receive revelation on the Old Covenant. There is gross misunderstanding about it and it’s because the “church” has assumed that it is based on the “Law”. It is the same God that was motivated by the same hyper grace that ratified the Old Covenant just as the New one. It was cut with Abraham and sworn to both Isaac and Jacob without the “Law”. The Torah (which became flesh and dwelt among us) is not synonymous with the commandments which were introduced at Sinai (because of transgression). The Torah is spiritual (Rom 7:14) and it will never become obsolete: it is in our hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10) but Christ redeemed us from the CURSE of the Law.

    • There are several covenants mentioned in scripture. The covenant cut with Abraham (grace-based) is distinct from the old covenant made with the children of Israel (law-based). Under the Abrahamic Covenant God blessed the descendants of Abraham because of their pedigree. Under the Mosaic Covenant, God blessed the Israelites on the basis of their performance.

  6. They simply judged themselves and opened themselves up to the devil

  7. Hey Paul,

    Thanks for this. As a New Covenant Theology proponent, I heartily concur.

    I liked the line about the curtain not falling until Christ’s sacrifice.

    The only part which might need tweaking would be your phrase: The old covenant, which was based on law, was how God related to the nation of Israel. The new covenant, which is based on grace, is how God relates to everybody, including the Jews.

    We know that grace predates the rent curtain, that Abraham was justified by faith, and that Old Testament saints who trusted in God’s grace and coming Messiah as well as law-keeping were made part of verus Israël.

  8. My brother Paul, It is so exciting to read each one of your articles in which you put out. I love the freedom of knowing that God is not beating me up all the time. Your writing continue to hold up the Apostle Paul’s New Testament revelations from the risen Savior. From my beginnings in Christianity there were the “beat em up” Scripture expounders that I just hated. I knew this wasn’t correct and when I’d read Paul’s writings I’d come back to center but it was a life of back and forth……….back and forth……..”crazy”!!! When God moved me from that town in WA to NM, I felt a freedom to discover and know the love of God for me. When I heard Joseph Prince for the first time state that Jesus took the curse for me and died in my place…a whole new freedom emerged. I found you and your writings as well and here I am setting others free. But, the lawyers/Pharisees do not want people set free to live the life of Christ in the Spirit and be a branch and rest in Jesus!!! Oh what things you write that agrees with our beloved Apostle Paul as given to him by our Jesus!! Keep up the good work

  9. Brandon Petrowski // February 16, 2017 at 3:56 am // Reply

    Many people still try to live by the old covenant and believe it is still valid despite contrary evidence. There is no life there, only death. Many professing Christians say we still need to follow the principles of the old even though the “format” has changed. God’s character has never changed. He has always wanted us to live a life that reflects His love. Now we are empowered to do so without having to live in fear of the times we get it wrong. I am still grieved when I fail, but I don’t live in fear or condemnation and shame. God uses those failures to shape me and bring growth.

  10. Great approach.

    • Many people not only continue to try to live by the old covenant, but they try to drag back into it those who have realised their freedom. How’s that for blasphemy? 😉

  11. Well done Paul. That’s the best I understood it that the covenants changed at the cross. However when I was a babe I thought the old and new testaments were the dividing line. But then I thought man Jesus is saying some pretty scary stuff that I will never be able to live up to. And that was exactly it. Christ was born under law and before the cross a lot of what he said was according to law. I am thankful to Father God for this much much better covenant. It’s no longer do good to get good or bad to receive bad. We get good because like you said he is good. That precious blood changed everything

  12. Would appreciate your comments on Annanias and Saphira in the context of this post

  13. creativegirl7 // February 16, 2017 at 5:36 am // Reply

    Wonderful, Paul! Can’t wait to read your AD70 book! God’s grace and peace be with you!

  14. I wonder what went through the religious Jesus-the-Christ-denying priests minds when that curtain to The Most Holy Place was torn (on THAT same Day, & the graves gave up their dead!), and well .. nothing happened, or when the ark was touched, moved or stolen and .. nothing happened. Or today when there are NO more sacrifices (What?!) without the Temple and well.. still nothing happens. Hello!!? Anyone home?

    • Exactly! I am astonished too. That torn curtain just hung there, and that was just one of many supernatural signs they saw. It just goes to show you the veil that covers the heart “whenever Moses is read” is indeed strong.

  15. I have seen that the old covenant was bilateral (between God and man) but that the new is unilateral – it was not between God and man, but between Jesus and the Father. Is this what Hebrews 7:20-22 is saying? (Same as the unilateral Abrahamic Covenant?)
    Is this why it is no longer what we do or don’t do, it is what Christ has done that matters?

  16. Andrew Manuel // February 16, 2017 at 8:34 am // Reply

    Great teaching Paul. We need to understand the new covenant so that we are not getting sucked into the old ways of the old covenant, such as finding fault with people. In that Jer 31 declaration of the new covenant to come, he says that under the old covenant, God found fault with the people. And so today, we still see the church operating in the old and finding fault with people, which then means they can judge, and condemn, and punish. Sad isn’t it. But thanks be to Jesus we are now under a new law, a singular law of love and grace. As Romans says for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

    • You are right, Andrew Manuel, that “the church [is] operating in the old and finding fault with people. . . .” I have heard it preached that if you don’t warn people about “their sin” then “God will require their blood at your hand.” This kind of doctrine turns people into proud meddlesome rude jerks who go around confronting people about “their errors.” All done in fear of God “requiring their blood.” I guess the belief is that if you don’t point out someone’s “fault” to them, they’ll go to hell, and you’ll be guilty. In other words, “Do it to them [i.e.find fault] before God does it to you. Instead, Instead the Apostle Paul says: “Who are you to judge the servant of another. He will stand because God is able to make him stand.”

  17. Jesus had an extreme Revelation for the Pharisees and religious leaders during his time leading up to the cross: basically his message to them was that your perception of God and consequently the life that you are leading and demanding that others live also is a product of being under the persuasion of the father of Lies. that is a huge difficult pill to swallow. it is also the truth that mainstream religion needs to digest today. this is why so many of us are drawn to escape to reality and other alternate sources. the search for untainted truth is somewhat like searching for a needle in a haystack – but with the Holy Spirit teaching the needle becomes as clear as the blue sky

    • I like your comment, Jason b, that “the life that you are . . . demanding that others live also is a product of being under the persuasion of the father of Lies.” I’ve been in churches where there was no toleration for any kind of individualism. You HAD to refrain from dressing in a certain manner. You HAD to donate to a specific missions project, when maybe you would have preferred to help out a needy acquaintance instead. You ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT marry an unbeliever, even though you were in love, he was not opposed to Jesus, and he was a really nice guy who potentially could come to faith one day, etc. etc. Such bondage.

      • Dear Beatrice, we are not under law in the New Covenant, but the sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ’s sacrifice receives New Covenant instructions and the resident Spirit to empower him to keep them. The New Covenant law of Christ includes not making alliances with unbelievers (2 Co 6.14-18).

  18. Understanding that we have a new covenant now is so helpful to enable me to enter that rest Hebrews talks about.
    Thank you for this post.

  19. Emmanuel Obi-yeboah // February 16, 2017 at 9:09 pm // Reply

    Thanks so much for these teachings. More revelations .

  20. Totally agree

  21. Too bad your attractive new site doesn’t display most avatars. Your commenters look rather pale and ghostlike.

    Whereas, in reality, your grace teaching makes us look very robust. 🙂

  22. I’m looking forward to reading your AD70 book!

  23. Paul, thanks again for sharing the wisdom and clarity of the gospel. Unfortunately, I have seen some people go very extreme with the AD 70 stuff. Basically, they are sweeping everything under the “AD 70 rug” and using the events of Jerusalem’s destruction to explain away many scriptures (although some definitely prophesy the AD 70 events).

    It would be very weird if God only had wrath for the people:

    1) living post cross AND
    2) living in Jerusalem BECAUSE
    3) The Old Covenant really had not ended yet

    But I have heard that very thing preached.

  24. Dear Paul Man of God,

    Ihabe been blessed by your posts for a long time. I gain a lot of understanding eveytime I read from your updates. Today’s post was amazing. Many churches especially the hypergrace haters do confuse these covenants. If they read your post it ask the holy Spirit to teach them thus hidden clue, thir lives could surely be saved.
    I have a problem by the way. We learned that the new testament says decrees that we won’t be punished ever; then I get confused when I read Revelation 3.19. would you make a comment on that punishment mentioned there and those sins said to be turned away from?!

    Thanks

  25. Wow! Great stuff Paul! My spirit was stirred as I read this post!
    Excellent, excellent teaching! 👌
    In my view, the grace community needs people like yourself to plot a straight course!
    It needs captains to steer the ship!
    I defo see you as such a person and am very glad we are connected by grace!
    Thank you for the great work you are doing! 👌😊

  26. Paul, great writing my friend, your awesome !! 😁

  27. Josef Hauner // February 18, 2017 at 1:17 am // Reply

    Paul I love your understanding of Christianity and your posts and I read and share them. Have you dealt with the three days and nights that Jesus was disowned by His Father and Him being in Sheol with unbelievers during that time. I do not believe Satan was in Sheol nor do I believe Satan is in Sheol now. It seems to me that until Jesus Sonship was restored (after the three days and three nights) the new covenant was not fully in effect and really when you think about it it was not until Jesus ascended and was seated on the right hand of God that Jesus operated as the high priest of the new covenant.
    Isaiah 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

    10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

    11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

    • When did the new covenant come into effect? You make an interesting point, yet I can’t help but notice that Jesus went around forgiving sinners before the cross and that the kingly glory of Jesus was apparent to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration before he ascended. I’m not disagreeing with you; I’m saying that the God who sees things from the perspective of eternity and whose heart has always been full of grace, was revealing the new covenant even before Jesus died.

      But if we must pick a start date, then I go with the one we celebrate at communion: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” I’m remembering Jesus dying on the cross and bearing my sin and shame. And I’m remembering Jesus rising from the dead, proving that no sin-claim remains and that grace conquers all. The cross changed everything, and the message Jesus preached on the night he rose was very much a new covenant one.

  28. Jesus preached grace to the weary and burdened but law to the self righteous. Grace was available long before the law came into effect. There were many things that the disciples were not ready to hear or receive while Jesus was alive before the crucifixion but Jesus revealed these things to Paul later for the church.

    • I believe that grace, only as a result of God’s omniscience and ability to know the end from the beginning, has always been at the heart of God’s plan for man. However, ‘salvation’ through His grace, could not be extended to believers until Christ’s finished work on the cross. In other words, those trusting in their redeemer prior (old covenant believers) had to wait until that time where Christ proclaimed His victory over hell and death to those in sheol. Incidentally, this was not a second chance for those who died without faith! Now when it’s our time to cross that river, provided we have placed our faith in His finished work on the cross, we enter straight into His glorious presence. Praise God.

  29. First time contributor here… and I have to say that I’m very happy to have come across your website ‘Escape to reality’ ha! love it!! I particularly relate to your comment about those continuing to sacrifice as being completely insulting to God… blasphemy even! Got me thinking about the unpardonable sin. Would you agree Paul that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is total rejection of God’s irresistible gospel of grace?

    • My article on the unforgivable sin may interest you.

      • Kev Ngawhau // March 1, 2017 at 8:30 am //

        Thank you for that insightful article Paul. It is so encouraging to know that there are others who see God’s word in this light. I came to faith at the age of 32 while working on the set of Lord of the Rings (2000). It was an incredible work of the Holy Spirit… I would often say that I came to know the Lord of Lords and King of Kings while working on the Lord of the Rings (has a catchy ring to it – excuse the pun). I was then placed into fellowship with the Open Brethren and the intimacy I first had with the Lord diminished slightly. However, in the last 5 years I’ve been entering deeper into our relationship and the Lord has been revealing to me more of His character and it’s all grace! Praise Him!!

  30. Cecilia Villanobles Lim // February 25, 2017 at 1:28 pm // Reply

    Pastor Paul, few words you used I don’t like. The word actors and play. For me actors are portraying a role and playing a part of a role. After the play the actor could turn back himself from a funny guy to a gloomy guy(his reality self) whereas Jesus is always the same yesterday, today and forever more. Jesus never been an actor. I have to stop here Paul I hope you know what I mean. Regardless still love your post. Honestly speaking. I hope you’re not offended. Shalom

  31. Cecilia Villanobles Lim // February 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm // Reply

    Post related to “Transition of Covenants”

  32. Mark A Perkins // March 26, 2017 at 3:20 am // Reply

    Paul, love your “Hyper Grace Gospel” book especially after reading Michael Browns “works” book. I guess you are not a limited atonement or particular redemption guy? You say Jesus died for everyone but how can that be? If He died for those who will be eternally punished for rejecting the only remedy for their sin (Jesus), how can they be punished and Jesus be punished for the same sin? It’s double jeopardy, right? Looking forward to your next book “AD 70 and the end of the world!”
    Sincerely, Mark

  33. I agree that Paul Ellis’s books are a welcome relief after reading Michael Brown’s doom & gloom.

  34. Hi Mark . . . though I’m not Paul and I hope he can answer your question . . . I would like to say something about it:

    Jesus died for everyone and forgave everyone, but forgiveness doesn’t mean or imply salvation, salvation comes when we are born again . . . when we put our faith and trust in what Jesus did for us, the Holy Spirit comes giving us life and right then and there we are born again . . . the Spirit gives life . . . people don’t go to hell because they haven’t been forgiven, they go to hell because they haven’t believed in Jesus and they haven’t been resurrected to a new life . . . that’s why we can read:

    Joh 16:8 And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
    Joh 16:9 of sin, because they believe not on me;

    Joh 3:18 He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    People will go to hell if they don’t believe in Jesus, if people went to hell because of their personal sins, I would be the first one to go.

    Hope this helps!!!

    Grace, peace and mercy!!!

  35. That is why I asked the question a month ago (but you all quickly dismissed it) about the stark differences between the “Gospel of the Kingdom” That Jesus preached under the old Covenant to the Jews and the “Gospel of Grace” under the new Covenant. To me it seem very clear that there is a difference especially on how you are saved. As Paul said in 1 Cor 15 “By this gospel you are saved”. Not by on believing Jesus was the Son of God or repenting and being baptized which are all from the Kingdom gospel to the Jews before the cross (old Covenant).

    • There is only one gospel. The old covenant is not good news; indeed, it is bad news. Jesus preached the bad news of the law (“Be perfect. Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees…”) to prepare people for the good news of grace (“Righteousness is a gift from God”).

      • Thank you Paul and yes there is only one Gospel what Paul preached. There are just two many major differences for there not to be a difference between the Kingdom and Grace gospels. The biggest being on how people are saved.

  36. I believe that 70 ad. IS a kind of judgment that unbelieving Jews had brought on themselves because 40 years earlier hadn’t embraced Jesus & cross. Time between resurrection and 70ad, as I see it, is a transition period, like 40 years in the desert AFTER release from bondage in Egypt. Was it God’s “judgment” or “will” for them to fall in the desert never to enter the promised land? No. It was their persistance in unbelief, of which the staying “out” was a consequence. The same goes for 70 ad. Cross-transition (desert)- staying out of the promised land.

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