The prophet Ezekiel, successor to the prophet Jeremiah, foretells a time when the Lord’s people will be regathered from the nations of the world and placed back into their own land. Hardened hearts of unbelief will be replaced by softer hearts of flesh. At that time, God will no longer reside in buildings or temples, but through His Spirit, will live in the hearts of all believers.
24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:24-27 NIV
This cleansing and forgiveness of sins will come through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead on the third day. As Jesus announced at the Last Supper Passover meal with His disciples, these all-important events will begin a new and better covenant between God and His people. Through this covenant agreement, eternal life becomes available to all who would receive it and embrace it in their hearts.
The prophet Jeremiah also referenced the new covenant.
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 … “For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” Jeremiah 31:31,33,34b NIV
Jesus Christ came as Messiah and King in the line of David, living a sinless life to fulfill the law of Moses for each of us who are unable to successfully fulfill it on our own. After a three-year ministry of teaching, healing, and miraculous signs, He was betrayed by one of His followers named Judas, then turned over to the Romans by the religious leaders to be beaten and crucified. But in dying, Jesus atoned for all of our sins and shortcomings, and by rising from the dead, He led the way for all believers into an eternal joyful life in His presence.
The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus was seen by over five hundred of His followers after He rose from the dead. Following their three days of intense grief, His disciples were overjoyed to see Jesus alive again in a new and glorified body. They began to wonder among themselves if the time had come for Him to reign as King over the Roman Empire and the entire world, as the prophets had foretold. The Messiah was here among them now, with so many prophecies about His coming kingdom yet to be fulfilled. This seemed like the perfect time for Jesus to step up to take the earthly throne. They would present this question to Him the next time they assembled together.
Forty days after the resurrection, 120 of Jesus’ disciples were gathered in Jerusalem to continue to receive their ministry instructions. He had been teaching them about the coming kingdom, and their role in preparing for it.
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6 NIV
Jesus answered that the timing of His coming to reign on the throne was in the Father’s hands and was not something they needed to be concerned with. Instead, He told them to wait together in Jerusalem and to pray, for in not many days, they would receive new power from God to help them spread the good news of the kingdom throughout the entire world. Then Jesus ascended into heaven before their eyes. Two angels were suddenly there to tell them that one day Jesus will return to earth in the same way He had just left them.
Ten days after Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit was given and distributed to believers, beginning with the 120 disciples gathered in Jerusalem, and then to a very large crowd of worshipers who were faithfully assembled there to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. This feast had been established under the Old Testament law given to Moses, and all who were gathered there to celebrate it were being obedient to God’s law. These devout individuals were among the first to receive God’s Holy Spirit, the first fruits of the universal Church of Jesus Christ. God’s new and better covenant had begun.
When old ways do not succeed, a new and better method is often required. God had held up His side of the old covenant, but people were unable to hold up theirs, and something better was needed. In the new covenant of Jesus Christ, God is able to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. That is great and wonderful news for all who would reach out to seek Him to participate in His generous offering of grace and mercy.
Father, thank You for the gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We lean upon You, totally dependent upon Your grace and mercy. Help us to reach out to take hold of this new and better covenant. Hold onto us and never let us go, keeping us close to You now and forever. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.