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The Old vs. New Covenant

21 The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am trembling with fear. 22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:21-24)

Last week, we read of the account from Exodus when God was giving the Law to Moses and the Israelites, and how they were both in awe and fear of God as the covenant was being established. Continuing on, in verse 21, we see that “the appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trebling with fear.” Now, although there is no direct quote of Moses stating this phrase in the Old Testament, we can see this fearful attitude in Deuteronomy 9:19.

When we arrive at verse 22, “instead” of fear within the old covenant, there is approachability towards “the living God.” Instead of Mount Sinai, where God gave the Law, the people “have come to Mount Zion,” a symbolic representation of true worship with God being in community with Him, where “myriads of angels” and “a festive gathering,” is happening.

Verse 23 describes the Father and the church. The word “assembly” here is ekklesia, which is usually translated as “church.” The “assembly of the firstborn who names have been written in heaven,” then, are the believers who have experienced salvation through Christ Jesus, forming the church. Through this saving relationship, their names will be found in the book of life in heaven. The “Judge, who is God of all,” refers to the Father, who will one day, judge the entire world. In that regard, the believers are to live in obedience to the Word of God. The final group mentioned in this verse is “the spirits of righteous people made perfect,” who are those mentioned in Hebrews 11, believers that believed that God would fulfill His promises and the coming Messiah that they never got to experience being revealed.

Finally, in verse 24, we have Christ Jesus, “the mediator of a new covenant.” Through Christ, believers can have a restored relationship with God and can come to Him directly without fear. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, His “sprinkled blood” paid the penalty of sin once and for all, offering forgiveness to those who believe.

The old covenant had the ability to show the sinful nature of the individual, but did not have the ability to restore the spiritual condition of the individual. Yet, the new covenant, through Christ’s death and resurrection, has the ability to transform the individual if they believe in Him. The old covenant brought about awe and fear of God. The new covenant still has those aspects, but, God can now be directly accessed through Christ as our Mediator.


Isaac De Guzman


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