Easter: Why We Celebrate the New Covenant

March 27, 2024

By Andrew Heart

We celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ, and so we should. But if our Lord had only lived here with us on the earth, but had not died for our sins as the sacrificial “Lamb of God” and risen from the grave, He would not have defeated death (Romans 6:10; 2 Timothy 1:10), and we would not be redeemed. Jesus introduced His new covenant “in His blood” to His disciples during the Last Supper. But what did that mean? His Jewish disciples would have been well acquainted with the covenant God made with Moses on Mount Sinai. But what was this new covenant all about?

Simply put, a “covenant” is a contract or an agreement. Under the “old” agreement, the Mosaic covenant, Israel was called to obey God and keep the Law, and in return, God would protect and bless them. The “new” agreement was between God and all mankind, with Jesus as the mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:22).

Whereas under the old covenant the shedding of blood of a sacrificial animal was repeatedly required for the atonement of sin (Hebrews 10:1–4), the new covenant was written with the blood of Jesus, who was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). His blood was shed “once, for all” on the cross, as He “died to sin,” and “we know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9–10).

If the “new covenant” is genuinely new, that must of necessity make the “old covenant” old. And if it is old, is it then still valid and in enforcement? Can the old and the new coexist? Or with the introduction of the new, is the old then set to “vanish away,” as Paul explains in Hebrews 8:13?

We know that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), and that of course includes the Old Testament. But the Old Testament must be interpreted in light of the New Testament, not the other way around.

The book of Hebrews is extremely important to this understanding and was written to explain to the Jews, who up until that point had only known the Law, that a new and better covenant had now come (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Hebrews 8:6–8). The entire book of Hebrews is about Jesus and how He is the guarantor of the new and better covenant. This is essential for every Christian to understand. Paul explains that many of the forms and rituals of the Old Testament were types and shadows of the better things to come (Colossians 2:16–17; Hebrews 8:5, 10:1).

When Jesus presented Himself to His disciples after His death, the disciples asked Him if He would now restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). The Greek word for “restore again” in Strong’s Bible Dictionary is “apokathistemi”—to reconstitute, restore. Up until that time, the disciples could not envision any other sort of kingdom than a physical kingdom restored to Israel.

He answered their first question by telling them it was not for them to know about times and seasons, but that they would receive power by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses, first locally, and then to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:7–8). He then answered their second question regarding a restored physical kingdom by rising up into the heavens to sit on the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9). And it was from that vantage point, sitting on that throne, that He would rule, not on an earthly throne in a physical temple on earth. Christ’s ascension confirmed the new covenant.

When Jesus was comparing “new wine” to “old” in Luke 5:36–39, He said, “No one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” In this parable the Lord was explaining how the old guard (the scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish religious leaders) longed to cling to the “old way” (or covenant) rather than receive the “new wine” that He was pouring out. That’s why the new wine had to be poured into new bottles that could receive it (Matthew 9:16–17). This was shown clearly in how the Jewish religious leaders responded to the man in John 9 who had been born blind but had been healed by Jesus: “They reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (John 9:28–29).

In conclusion, the new covenant was initiated at the Last Supper and confirmed through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into glory. The reason Paul spent so much time focusing on it was because it represented a monumental change for his Jewish audience, and it was difficult to understand—much less accept.

The study of Scripture is important to understand why we celebrate Easter and the ushering in of the new covenant. The disciples in Berea received the word with eagerness and searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul and Silas were teaching was the truth (Acts 17:10–11).

With so many voices and so much deception in the world today, it’s more important than ever to be anchored in the truth of God’s Word, and not tossed about by every “wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20–21).

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