Understanding the New Covenant vis-à-vis the Old

A covenant is an agreement between two parties, often a suzerain and his subjects. In the Bible different covenants appear but the two most important are the Old or Sinai Covenant, and the New Covenant established by Jesus through His death on the cross.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11272

it’s really remarkable how kim is able to summarize such a comprehensive subject clearly in this short, readable article…one thing that i think is important to understand is that people under the OC approached god, and were forgiven, through the blood of christ in promissory form, even though they likely didn’t understand that…christ was the lamb of god effectively slain from the foundation, or beginning, of the world…the promise of god, who cannot lie, was always as good as the reality…and the blood of animals was always only a representation of a coming reality…it never had saving, or forgiving power, then or now…

i appreciate the inference in this article about the all-important imputing quality of christ’s perfection while we’re stuck in our sinful fallen nature…our obedience can only be perfect when it is covered by christ’s righteousness…that is, the HS isn’t strengthening us to render perfect obedience on our own…

Thank you for the article.

I have a difficult time to view the Ten Commandments as the center of Christian life. There is nothing wrong with them. They are just … inadequate. Where are the empases, which Jesus focused on, in them? Like forgiving each other? Where is showing mercy? Where is social caring for the widow, orphans, foreigners? Where is loving your enemies to the extreme that you die for them? If we truly love like Jesus, then this set of behavioral instructions doesn’t cover it. And any other set couldn’t as well because love as principle cannot be purely reduced to an instruction.

So, instead of two stone tablets with these good, but inadequate, instructions, we have a person living in our heart, the Holy Spirit. With this love orientation in our heart, we live our life. Situational ethics: person by person, situation by situation.

Another thing that we have to discuss: What is the difference between the shadow (OC) and the reality (NC) beyond animal blood (OC) and Jesus’ blood (NC)? In the OC, Jesus couldn’t even be a priest. In the NC, there is suddenly a new type of priesthood, that of Melchizedek. There is strong discontinuity because a change of priesthood isn’t a small detail. When Paul speaks about festival days (all of them) as shadows: What does this mean in concrete terms?

In other words, what is new in the new? How is the shadow (just a rough hint, not a clear picture) different from the reality in Jesus of all of the NC’s parts? How does the reality transcends the shadow? Please concrete examples. We have all experienced this new reality.

I know it may seem rude, but I don’t mean it this way because I ask out of sheer interest: Is it possible to have a follow-up article to address these specific questions, Kim? Thank you very much in advance.


As is typically the case, your comment provides a laundry list of illogical assertions and unprovable assumptions stated as if they were absolute fact.
For example, you have repeatedly claimed here and in previous remarks, that god cannot lie, this despite the fact that proving a negative is beyond the scope of what can be achieved by rational argument. Further, if the age old claim that reality is an illusion is eventually shown to be the case by modern science and, as Neils Bohr implied, matter is compromised of things that are too small to be considered real, then our existence is rooted in a whole bunch of little fibs created in the Big Bang!:wink:

You also state as if it were undeniably the case that our blood thirsty creator requires that some one or some thing must die in order to somehow correct, or at least cover up, evil. This may be scriptural but it is not only an unfalsifiable hypothesis, it is irrational to the point of near insanity to insist that there is a mysterious connection between sin and death. Such a claim assumes that a sheep devoured by a wolf, along with all the other individual animals who ever died and even entire species who have apparently come and gone extinct before man arrived on this planet, somehow did something to peeve their maker which resulted in their deaths. This is believable, of course, but then again, the same can be said of the story of the three little pigs.

Lastly, you audaciously denigrate—or blaspheme—the work of the Holy Spirit and “deny the power thereof”. Even if the Bible is a completely inaccurate record of what Jesus said, there is very good reason to conclude that in doing so you are in the hopeless position of having cut yourself off from any direct contact with the consciousness of your creator, effectively committing the only sin that is essentially and absolutely unforgivable, as without nature’s “still small voice”, you have no reliable means of separating fact from fantastic falsehood and must credulously rely on the necessarily inconclusive hearsay accounts and essentially incomplete assumptions of others.


Actually, while the author makes what appears at first glance to be a clear comparison between the OC and the NC, it is a faulty conclusion. He is conflating the sacrificial system with the over-arching covenant at Sinai and that is really like saying, ‘Do you walk to work or carry your lunch’. The sacrificial system was not the main focus of the covenant with Israel.

God’s covenant with the children of Israel at Sinai was primarily temporal, or materialistic in nature…it was ‘conditional’ and it was not salvific. God had saved them already (from slavery in Egypt). And it was specific to the Israelites (Deut. 5:2-3). The SDA Bible Commentary give a really good outline of the differences on p. 594 ‘My Covenant’. The Sinai covenant was like pre-K, because that’s all the people could understand.

Deut. 7:12-14 says, “If you listen to these regulations and obey then fully, the Lord your God will keep his covenant of unfailing love with you as he solemnly promised your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and make you into a great nation, He will give you many children and give fertility to your land and your animals When you arrive in the land he swore to give your ancestors, you will have large crops of grain, grapes, and olives, and great herds of cattle, sheep and goats. You will be blessed above all nations of the earth. None of your men or women will be childless, and all your livestock will bear young.” (NLT) It was the original ‘prosperity gospel’.

Read the blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28 for a particularly visceral description. This covenant was specifically for them, in terms of God’s purpose to make them His ‘special treasure’ (Deut. 14:2), and the role he intended for them as a witness to other nations. Deut. 4:6b says, “When they (other nations) hear about these laws, they will exclaim, ‘What other nation is as wise and prudent as this’”. (NLT)

The NC is unconditional, in that God makes a divine promise to unfaithful Israel to forgive their sins and write His law on their hearts (Jer. 31:31-34). It is a covenant of pure grace. And it was given at the time they were about to be expelled from the promised land in fulfillment of the most extreme curse (Deut. 28:36-37).


Kate…I really appreciate and agree with the questions you raise. It always amazes me that while we have the benefit of the Gospels, and the knowledge of how Jesus took the ‘10 words’ to a whole other level , i,e., ('if you look at a woman…", etc.), we still revert back to the very basic tables of stone, as if they were some sort of gold standard for our spiritual lives today.

The lesson author (although we really don’t know who that is) states, “The Ten Commandments define comprehensively and fundamentally the divine-human and human-human relationships”. Really… comprehensively? If someone’s Christian experience only includes the first four commandments, I am sorry for that person. And you can do a world of hurt to someone and not violate the last six. Jesus offers us so much more. And let’s not forget that there was a class of people in Jesus’ day whose entire job was to ‘keep the commandments’. The Pharisees did a great job of that, but you know what Jesus had to say about them.


Thank you, Linda. You made so many valuable contributions and I am grateful that you share much of what you present in your SS class previously and now.

Jesus is the new covenant: “I give You as a covenant to the people” (Isa 49:8 NKJV). He didn’t just inaugurate the NC; he is the NC. Our beloved Isaiah(s?) wrote this about the future servant in his wonderful book. The NC is all about Jesus and not about a set of stone instructions, not even if someone wrote them down in a little modified “New Covenant-ish” language version. It’s about Jesus’ life, actions, teachings, death, resurrection, reign, His power, love, mercy, wisdom, peace. We cling to Him: Jesus.

Again a big thank-you, Linda. I had to laugh at “original ‘prosperity gospel’”. Classic.


I’m afraid that this covenant business isn’t as simple as we may wish.

God told the Israelites you do what I’m going to tell you and I will be your God. But there are more difficulties than most SDAs know. Gods spoke the first two commandments but someone else wrote the rest. Sound absurd? Beginning with the third commandment, God is spoken of in the third person!

God didn’t say the covenant required their obedience to Exodus 20. He didn’t call anything in Exodus 20 the “ten commandments”, anyway. In fact the only place In Exodus that we find the words “ten commandments” is Ex 34:28:

27 And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou THESE words : (Ex 34:14-26) for after the tenor of THESE words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel . 28 And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And HE [Moses!] wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

How much of this is revealed to us in Patriarchs and Prophets ? Our idea of what happened on Mount Sinai matches EGW’s writings pretty well, but the Bible…not so much?


Thanks Kate…I like to say that the 10 Commandments are really a low bar, in society generally…and especially when you think of them in the context of “Love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself”!

Jesus is indeed the covenant for us.


In my opinion, this denomination tends to tie itself into a mental pretzel - and not a stick pretzel - to try and keep the 10 commandments in the new covenant somehow, and to minimize its dramatic difference. Why? The Sabbath. We just love that legal command to use on target people. So we try to crunch together the old and new somehow. In a nutshell, that’s just dumb. Old is old. New is new.

Here’s the thing. Hebrews 8:7 says the first covenant was flawed. A second was needed. Verse 9 says the new covenant will not be like the old. 2 Corinthians 3:7 talks about the old covenant chiseled in letters on stone as “the mininstry of death.”

Now you can stick with the ministry of death if you want to, but I’m outta here. Jesus totally redefined “law” when he talked about loving God and man as the highest art form.

For goodness, sake, are we too weak minded to let go, to quit trying to be half-Jews? The only thing the new covenant says about law is that whatever it is will be written on our hearts, not in Exodus.


Thanks, @Kate.

I’d say the Ten Commandments are what you do so that you don’t have to be forgiven or or have someone be merciful to you, and so you don’t create widows, orphans, foreigners, or enemies.


Thanks, @juge .

The lesson’s author is the late Gerhard F. Hasel.

Would you please give some examples of ways one might inflict “a world of hurt” on someone, yet not violate the last six commandments?


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Thanks, @NY_G_Pa.

That “proving a negative is beyond the scope of what can be achieved by rational argument” is not true.

Here’s one:

There are no Muslims in the U.S. Senate.

Here’s another one:

There are no living pterosaurs on Earth.


There are no time machines in your house.

Regarding God, we can say He doesn’t lie because a lying God would be a contradiction; i.e., self-refuting.

The idea of “A God who lies” is negated by the definition of God: A Maximally Great Being.

I’m kinda down with @vandieman, here, unless I’m missing the point: The connection between sin and death is that, if you sin, you die, and/or, if you sin enough, someone is going to want you dead.

I don’t think anyone would argue the flora made God angry, since they, like the fauna, die, too.

I think God just said, “This is a place where death reigns,” and left it at that. I mean, that would correspond with His pairing death with sin. It would also correspond with the idea that the entire ecosphere was about to be in revolt, because of Adam’s sin.

I don’t find anything so hard to understand or believe that, on a world where human primevals sin, God turns over the entire planet to sin’s effects.

But, again, perhaps I’m missing subtleties of your points.


Harry…on p. 1 of my Teacher’s Quarterly, under Principal Contributor, it reads “based on previous work of Gerhard F. Hasel”. This is pretty ambiguous, in my view, especially since Dr. Hasel has been deceased for a really long time.

Happy Sabbath!

Kim, great article overall, I do have a concern with the way you describe the covenant “having a problem” or being deficient, because the blood of the animals cannot cleanse sin. Did God not know this to be case? Was Grace not applied to the many Israelites who entered it accepting in faith and with the expectation of the promise made to Adam & Eve (Gen 3:15) of the real savior?

Great point, thank you for this clear explanation

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so bruce, this may seem incomprehensible to you, but i actually accept that the bible is inspired, and that its statements, when correctly understood, are factual…this issue of god not being able to lie is a fact presented in the old and new testaments - it’s one of the longest running teachings in the bible:

“God is not a man, that he should lie.” Numbers 23:19.

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” Titus 1:2.

as usual, egw takes things up a notch by saying that god “cannot err.” Evangelism:115.

the logic here is that

1…god is the sole source of life:

“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1John 5:12.

2…sin separates us from god:

“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God.” Isaiah 59:2.

given these two teachings, which i accept as fact, it’s obvious that sin causes and requires death…the gospel isn’t about the removal of this logical reality…it’s about jesus offering his death as a substitute for the death sentence we’ve inherited because of adam and eve’s choice to sin…the single death of jesus, who was and is god, is equivalent to all the deaths of every human who has ever lived,
1Jn 2:2…because jesus has certainly given his life, we no longer need to remain under the death sentence we’ve inherited…we no longer need to remain separated from god…

to say that the HS doesn’t strengthen us to render perfect obedience on our own isn’t denying his power…it’s affirming the tragedy of the sin problem we’re born into and the fact that sin is still being dealt with in the heavenly sanctuary…when all of sin is indeed dealt with, and christ returns to earth, the HS’s power will translate us into immortality, which enables us to render perfect obedience on our own…


Thank you for answering one of my questions. Great.

The Ten Commandments as foundation for preventing social injustice and poverty etc.? That is an interpretation that goes beyond the textual record. For example, they do not address poverty at all unless one interprets “Do not steal” or “Do not murder” along these lines. One may see them as one step in the direction towards more justice etc., but someone could keep all the 10C, like the rich young ruler, and still lack love and focus on the neighbour. On the other hand, it all depends if you read them literal or with a broader principle perspective.

Furthermore, if I understand you correctly, you interpret the commandments not in a prescriptive sense. Is the difference for you between the OC and the NC that you see the 10C as prescriptive in the OC and descriptive in the NC? Kinda like on stone vs. in the heart? Where do you see Jesus in this view? Thanks.

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As I understand scripture (as well as the chapter “The Law and the Covenants” in Patriarchs and Prophets), the new covenant is the everlasting covenant God made with Adam and Eve - “I will put hatred against sin between you and the woman” - (the reason, scripture indicates, is that God wants to bring us into harmony with Himself, so there will be no sin we cling to that would destroy us when we stand in God’s unveiled glory). God is the only one who can write His laws on our heart. Christ’s death ratified this covenant when Christ died - that is, made it effectual by winning the hearts of us, as well as the universe, to trust God when He said that sin causes death (Colossians 1:19-20, 1 Peter 3:18). In Gethsemane and on Golgotha, Christ revealed what the second death - the natural consequence of sin - entailed: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Christ’s death didn’t serve to appease God’s [we might as well say Christ’s] wrath. Christ’s death didn’t make either Christ or our Father willing to save us. Christ said “I and the Father are one. . . . If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” Blood doesn’t save us. Faith doesn’t save us. Only God can save (heal) us - the Greek word for “save” and heal” being the same - “sozo.”

This everlasting covenant is “the new” or “the second” covenant in that, due to misconceptions about God, it was something brand new to people Jeremiah and the author of Hebrews wrote to. Case in point: Christ said, “A new commandment I give to you - love each other.” God had been saying that for centuries, but the commandment had been obscured by narrow, self-serving teachings of the 7th Day Adventists of Christ’s day - teachings that made God out to be a self-aggrandizing, arbitrary, sadistic monster who wanted blood and demanded obedience to His commands - not a person who longed to see His children loving each other. To the 7th Day Adventists of Christ’s day, the instruction to love each other was a “new” commandment.

As for the 10 Commandments - both David and Christ taught that they were “exceedingly broad.” Adultery encompasses a desire to possess someone for “self at the expense of others” purpose - a desire that “would if one could.” Murder (a completely different Hebrew word than the Hebrew for “kill),” includes anything that takes away life from a person - i.e. traumatizing someone emotionally, destroying health, etc. As I see it, it’s not that the instructions are inadequate - our perception of what they entail is.

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It doesn’t say, “not in Exodus.”

In other words, the promise to have the law written in our hearts doesn’t mean the law cannot be explicated. It’s still written. That’s why Christ could summarize it, doing so in the manner you noted: Loving God and man as the highest art form.


Thanks, @juge.

The Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide is frequently generated from existing content.

So, even though Dr. Gerhard F. Hasel (1935-1994) is no longer alive, the lesson quarterly he wrote, twelve years before his death, for the fourth quarter of 1982, God’s Great Gift: The Everlasting Covenant, has been reused, thus far, twice.

In the first quarter of 2003, it was republished under a slightly different title, The Promise: God’s Everlasting Covenant.

In the 2nd quarter of 2021, it was republished under the title that had been used 18 years before: The Promise: God’s Everlasting Covenant.

In 1982, the credit reads, “Lesson Author: Gerhard F. Hasel.”

In both 2003 and 2021, the credit reads, “Based on previous work of Gerhard F. Hasel.”

This may be due to the fact that, though substantially Dr. Hasel’s writing, these later editions, published after his demise, may have been edited, or even, to some degree, rewritten, and the editors sought to acknowledge their debt to his original contribution.

Also, you said:

Again, would you please give some examples of ways one might inflict “a world of hurt” on someone, yet not violate the last six commandments?

Happy Sabbath, in kind!