For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 08:07-13, NKJV).
Christ is the Mediator of a better covenant established on better promises. In fact, that better covenant is the faultless replacement of the first covenant that was not kept by Israel throughout its long and checkered history.
It was during the time of the Exodus from Egypt that God through Moses gave the nation His Law. In effect, it was a contract: do these things and live; disregard these things and suffer the consequences. Israel repeatedly suffered the consequences.
But God - the two most encouraging words in Scripture - in His mercy gives that nation (and through them the world) a second chance, a second covenant not founded on frail human performance, but on the faithfulness and obedience of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Knowing beforehand that Israel would fail, God declared in the beginning, long before Abraham or Jacob, that He would send the Promised One to crush the head of Satan (Ge 3:15). Provision would be made for Israel's future failure, and in their failure, salvation would come to the whole planet.
And it was not the Law itself, but those under the Law that proved weak and insufficient. Fault was found with them again and again, and they did not continue in that first covenant. The result: God disregarded them - a truly horrible fate. But even as He did so, allowing Babylon to conquer them, He, through the prophet Jeremiah, declared that there would be a new covenant, a better contract, not founded on faulty human works, but on the magnificent and faultless Son of God.
That long ago promise of hope foreshadowed so many things; the reuniting of the Divided Kingdoms (the house of Israel and with the house of Judah); the radically different nature of the new covenant - written not on hard tablets of stone, but put in the minds and written on the hearts of the people; the abolition of the priesthood (“None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them."); and the incredible mercy and forgiveness of God through His Son (“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” ).
So radically different and infinitely superior is this new covenant over the old, that it was possible only through the Savior's obedient death on the Cross.
The gospel of justification by faith is as far above the conditional promises of the law as the Heavens are above the earth, which makes the agent of that new covenant, Christ, far superior than Abraham or Moses or Joshua or angels or anyone.
Now, [in] that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete is also an important facet of the revelation of Hebrews, this obsolescence of the Old Covenant. That which is obsolete is necessarily incompatible with what replaces it.
No rollback is possible. Reliance on what God has done away with, on what He has purposely abrogated, is merely another form of rebellion, as disobedient as any other sin, and even more so, since it is not just codices of law, but the Son of God who is being disregarded. It is not a matter of benign preference, but of belief and obedience.
To believe that all roads lead to Heaven is to say that Christ did not have to die. To question whether or not God would condemn "good" non-Christians to the eternal punishment of Hell, is to question the veracity of God Himself, and to cast doubt on His judgment in sending His Son to die in the first place. In fact, to disregard this New Covenant is to declare that God's plan of redemption was faulty from the start.
It is saying that you know better than the Infinite Intelligence who designed your finite intelligence, and made your thinking anything at all possible. It is equivalent to you, a mere creature, placing yourself on the throne of your Creator and decreeing in your mortal foolishness what is right and wrong.
I can think of nothing more arrogant.
To reject this New Covenant on any grounds at all is to cement your rebellion against God, and ensure your eternal damnation. These are not just words, but an unthinkably hopeless destiny, the horror of which cannot be rightly conceived by the human mind.
One final thing to notice, indicative of the many treasures hidden in Scripture, and it's this: Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
When was the letter to Hebrew penned? Some say one date, others say another date, but to me this last phrase is a clue that it was written just a bit before 70 A.D., and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, making formal continuance of Jewish practice impossible.
In anticipation of that final closed door back to the old ways, God inspired this marvelous letter as a profound encouragement, and a solemn warning.
Truly we serve and worship a God who cares for us in ways we cannot fathom.