Centrality of the Son in the Kingdom of God is a 5-part series. You can find others here:
- Introduction, Summary, and Promulgation of the Kingdom (8/27/18)
- Enthronement of Son (9/3/18)
- Qualities of the Kingdom of God – Heb 2:1-4:13 (9/10/18)
- The Restoration Ministry of Jesus (9/17/18)
- Kingdom and Covenant Relationship & Hebrews as God’s People (9/24/18)
- Promise & Oath: First Covenant Incomplete (10/1/18)
- New Covenant Complete, Summary & Conclusion (10/8/18)
New Covenant Complete (Heb. 7:15-813)
This perfect covenant is not founded on the same legal restraints as the former one but is established by God on an eternal principle i.e., in Son (ἐν υἱῷ). God reveals himself in the man Jesus. Through his victory over death Jesus assumes an eternal priesthood. This is reiterated in 7:17 by requoting Psalms 110:4. The temporal priesthood based on descent yields to a heavenly one based on God’s promise.
The law of the former covenant is annulled according to Hebrews 7:18. This negative action against the law is taken because, as we have seen, it is not able to accomplish God’s ultimate purposes in redeeming mankind and all creation. It could not make perfect or accomplish the goal (ἐτελείωσεν). However as the law is negated, a corresponding positive hope is ushered in. The concept of this “better hope” was introduced under the section on Hope Restored where we saw it related to the removal of the fear of death. Romans 5:14 tells us “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam…” At the inauguration of the Abrahamic covenant, death was reigning. And even under the Mosaic law, Paul tells us, sin increased (Rom 5:20). However, the Spirit tells us all that is changed in Christ (Rom 5:17). This is the “better hope” introduced by the Melchizedek priesthood.
Confirmed With an Oath
In Hebrews 6:13-20, we are told that God’s covenant with Abraham was confirmed with an oath. Now the writer assures us that the Melchizedek order does not lack in this respect. It also is confirmed with an oath. In Heb. 7:17, he quotes again Psalms 110:4 about the Melchizedek priesthood. However, this time he adds the first part of the verse which intensifies God’s action in establishing the priesthood of the new covenant. The fact that God will not change his mind about the oath highlights the eternal aspect of the priesthood: “thou art a priest forever” (Ps 110:4). The finality of this oath confirms the covenant (Heb 7:22).
Based on Son
This new covenant is based on Son. Hebrews 7:28 contrasts the action of the law with God’s initiative. Whereas the law appoints imperfect men as priests, God appoints Son who is perfect forever (υἱὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωμένον). Like Hebrews 1:2, this verse does not use the definite article with Son, indicating the nature and character of God is intended. Indeed, the completeness of the new covenant is based on this One who is Son. He is perfect because his nature is divine. From Hebrews 7:23-28 we see how Son compares with the priests of the former covenant. They were many because they died and thus needed successors. The service of Son is unbroken. This is reinforced by four phrases in verses 24-25, that is “permanently,” “continues for ever,” “for all time,” and “always lives.” His perfection (v. 26) sets him off from other priests. They must offer sacrifices daily. He makes one perfect offering, which because of its perfection, needs no encore. The priests of the law are weak because they are human (v.28). This Son is able to accomplish all God’s eternal purposes. The Kingdom of God is based on him.
After showing how the new covenant is complete because it is eternal, has a better hope, is confirmed with an oath, and is based on Son (Heb 7:15-28), the writer uses chapter eight to further describe the superiority of the new covenant. In verses 1-2, he underscores the enthronement of Jesus. The new covenant is administered by a high priest who sits “at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” This One we saw first in Hebrews 1:1-4 as the heir of all things because all things were created through him. He accomplished the “purification for sins” required to re-establish the Kingdom of God among humankind. Now this enthroned One ministers in heaven in what is called the heavenly sanctuary or the true tabernacle.
Fulfills Reality of Which the Old Testament Was a Copy
Under the old covenant, the priests offered gifts and sacrifices as a copy and shadow of the heavenly pattern shown by God to Moses (Heb 8:5). Jesus, on the other hand, offered himself, once for all (Heb 7:27) in the heavenly reality and thus excels the earthly priests. They function on earth. He ministers in heaven. Their two spheres of activity are radically different. The priests follow the pattern given to Moses whereas Jesus executes the genuine service which that pattern copied. The old covenant pointed to the restoration of humankind. The new covenant accomplishes it.
The final aspect of the new covenant completeness is given in Hebrews 8:6-13. The writer explains how the new covenant is based on God’s judgment that the old was imperfect. Hebrews 8:6 tells us the new covenant is better because it is enacted on better promises from God. We see the character of these better promises in the quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Heb 8:8-12). Through the prophet, God promised he would establish a new covenant which would enable mankind to know the Lord in a greater way. God says his new covenant will not be like the former one. It will deal permanently with sins and will result in putting God’s laws in people’s hearts.
Final Chapters of Hebrews
Through his discussion of how the Kingdom of God relates to the covenant, the writer of Hebrews has shown clearly the perfection of the New compared to the imperfection of the Old. In chapters nine and ten the two covenants are contrasted more fully to further explain to Jews how Jesus perfects all that the law symbolized. This theme of perfecting or bringing to completion dominates (Heb 9:9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 26; 10:1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 12, 14, 22). Finally, in the last three chapters the book of Hebrews re-emphasizes the necessity of faith in receiving divine approval. He urges the readers to go on in Kingdom living and gives some practical advice to the church. It is not necessary here to trace the motif of Hebrews through the last five chapters because the purpose of this article has been accomplished.
Through the first eight chapters we see how the Kingdom of God is a cohesive theme which integrates all aspects of the book. By making chapter one an enthronement pattern, the writer cues us to his purpose. Then, in chapters three and four, he outlines the restoration ministry which enables Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God. Finally, we see how chapters five through eight show the relationship of the Kingdom of God to the Covenant unique to the Jewish people. (Chapters nine and ten refine that discussion). The Kingdom of God is a perfect new covenant which fulfills the old. This is accomplished through the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
In conclusion I feel this study would be of value to anyone working in a culture where people believe in the immediate activity of the spirit world. Christ’s victory over Satanic powers and his active reign as Lord of God’s Kingdom is a great hope for all people. Hebrews’ understanding of the world is also the vehicle of a new cosmology which can release people from their bondage to the “elemental spirits of the universe.” As the full impact of Christ’s exaltation is realized, people will be drawn to Him. A great deal of study has yet to be done to develop a Christian cosmology that will speak to non-Christian peoples and I believe Hebrews gives us a framework of reference in its Kingdom of God motif.