It should be clearly understood that this commandment which was annulled by the Lord was not simply a commandment which was to be obeyed by man, obedience to which is righteousness, but an institution designed to effect the atonement for men’s sins. This law, which was according to a carnal commandment, was unable to accomplish such an atonement and expiation of sin and guilt by its own inherent weakness. It had reference only to the flesh and could not apply to the cleansing of the conscience from guilt and pollution of sin. (Hebrews 9:9, 10, 13, 14; Hebrews 10:2)
This law made nothing perfect! We should notice the word “nothing.” Perfection was indeed not by the Levitical priesthood. As law this Levitical priesthood only pointed to the better hope. However, if nothing more had happened, and Christ had not come to suffer and die as the great Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, we would still be in our sins. God saw that this Levitical priesthood had accomplished nothing toward our perfection to bring us near to God. We still stood afar. There still was a middle wall of the partition. The way into the holiest was still not opened, according to the testimony of the Holy Ghost. (Hebrews 9:8; Ephesians 2:14, 15)
But now God has abolished this commandment of the Levitical law by his official annulment. It could be annulled because of two reasons. The first reason was that it was weak; it was characterized by “weakness.” It was powerless to help; it could not bring about any aid to the wounded conscience. It did not really deal with and touch the souls and hearts of men, and, actually save. It was weak and for this reason it was also without any profit. It had in it the principle of unprofitableness. It fell by reason of its own incapacity to save. When it was discarded nothing was discarded but what was weak and unprofitable. The Hebrew Christians should take this to heart, and should not look back to the shadows and types as to the lost paradise. With Paul they should glory in nothing but the Cross of Jesus Christ, through which they are crucified to the world and the world is crucified to them.
For this annulling of the commandment had another light side to it. It was that when the vail is rent in twain, from top to bottom, at that very moment Christ has brought about (ginetai) the realization of a better hope. This “hope” is the hope set before us. It is the hope which we have as an anchor for our soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that which is within the vail, whither the forerunner for us in entered, even Jesus! (Hebrews 6:19, 20)
The term for “bringing in” is very significant in the Greek. It was something which God brought in afterwards, that is, after he had given a commandment which went before. The two are connected in the divine thought and plan as type and fulfillment, the shadow and the body, the earthly tabernacle and the heavenly sanctuary. Writes Calvin “by the word bringing in, on introduction, he means a certain preparation made by the law, as children are taught in those elements which smooth the way to that which is higher.” Thus God has brought us to a better hope.
This hope is “better”, incomparable better!
For this is an entirely new dispensation of grace, a new legal basis in Christ’s blood by which we draw near to God. We are now justified in him who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised for our justification. Thus we have peace with God in Him. In Him we have constantly, up to the present moment, access by faith. In this grace we stand as an abiding possession in Christ. And herein we rejoice in the hope of the glory which God has revealed in His saints. What a blessed hope, sure and steadfast in the holy place! (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12.)
Yes, now we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. No, we do not merely have an earthly High Priest who enters into the holiest for us once every year; we ourselves draw nigh into the holiest. We do this not once every year, but we now constantly draw nigh to God. The verb in the Greek is in the present tense. (eggizomen) It can be translated in the sense of the progressive action in the present:we are drawing nigh! We are drawing nigh into the very presence of God, before whom the angels cover their faces as they sing their trisagion: holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty!
A poor sinner, guilty in himself, now walks where angels cover their faces!
Yes, annulment of the foregoing commandment!
But, it is now standing in a better hope, by which we are drawing nigh to God!
Jesus did not become a high priest without a confirmation by the oath of God. It was not without oath. It was therefore quite different than the priesthood of Aaron. Here is a glory and a solemnity than which there is none greater. The oath is the end of all contradiction. It is God swearing by His own holiness and exaltedness, by the incomparable greatness of His rich mercy and eternal love, the panoply of His own immense Being and endless goodness.
By such an oath did God swear.
And God will not repent. That which God swears eternally in His counsel of peace, he swears in time and presently in all eternity. The purpose of God is unchangeable. His promise cannot fail, and all the hosts of hell cannot thwart His purpose of election in Christ. The Son of God, who is called Jesus, is the designated Person in the Divine trinity, to come to save His people from their sins. His counsel shall stand.
And this is the Word which God spoke through the prophet David, when David speaks of what the LORD said unto his Lord, the Christ. All the promises of God and His oaths are yea and Amen in Jesus, to the glory of God, the Father!
This Jesus is the “surety of a better covenant!”
Here we must pause a bit and reflect on what the Scriptures in general mean with the term “covenant” and in the letter to the Hebrews in particular. A comparison of the translation of the KJV and that of the Holland translation will show that in the minds of both of these translators there is a difference indicated between the terms “covenant” and “testament.” What is striking concerning the usage of the term “testament” in the New Testament scriptures is that it is the term which is the translation of the Greek term “diatheekee” in both the KJV and the Holland, where the Gospels speak of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. In the phrase “this cup is the new testament in my blood” we see that the term “testament” is employed in both the aforementioned translations. (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20) Here we do not read “the new covenant in my blood”.
Even a hasty perusal of the usage of the term in the letter to the Hebrews will show that both the KJV and the Holland translation translate diatheekee with the term “testament” in Hebrews 9:15-17. The reason for this translation here seems rather obvious. It is to show that the salvation is as a testament requiring a testator, who must die in order to make the testament of force. No testament can be of force to be executed and the heirs to receive the inheritance except the testator have died. Thus also here. The term refers particularly to the death of Christ, as he has brought the perfect sacrifice for our sins, making atonement and the expiation of our guilt, so that God can be propitious to the heirs of the promise.
The term testament refers to the work of Christ in connection with the judicial basis in the blood of Christ. There are passages in the book of Hebrews where the Holland translates “testament” and where the KJV translates “covenant.” Thus in Hebrews 10:29 the Holland reads (translated) “blood of the testament” and the KJV reads “blood of the covenant.” The same holds true of the usage in both translation in Hebrews 13:20. On the other hand in Hebrews 10:16 both translations read “covenant” in the phrase “This is the covenant which I will make in those days . . .”
From the viewpoint of language and meaning of the terms themselves this, distinction is already somewhat obvious. Both terms come from the Latin. Covenant is derived from the Latin convenire to come together, to meet together. Tropically it refers to an agreement with wishes and decisions, to have a consensus, accord, covenant. The term linguistically is akin to the term “verbond” in the Holland. On the other hand the term “testament” is a transliteration of the Latin “testamentum.” And in Latin a testamentum is a legal will, document of the testator. This accounts for the several usages and translations in the Bible.
However, the meaning of the terms “covenant” and “testament” must not be derived from the classical Latin usage and made to determine the Biblical meaning of the term. The Holy Ghost put His own meaning in the term in the Bible. This is abundantly clear from the Greek verb which is used for to make a covenant. Literally this means “to covenant a covenant.” The term in the Bible for to covenant in the New Testament Greek is a verb which means: to appoint, to consign what belongs to one’s self. In the New Testament this verb is only in the middle voice: to arrange or dispose for one’s self! (E. Robinson) This ought to point up that whether the term “covenant” is used or the term testament it is even a disposition of God which is brought about by God alone for Himself. The term in the Greek is not “suntitheemi” but it is “diatitheemi“! It is not the term used in Luke 22:5 where we read “and they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.” Here the term is “suntitheemi” (our english; synthetic), which means to come to a mutual agreement. The wills and the minds met! Such is never the term for God’s covenanting as the great Testator! God ever raises up His own covenant. He does this whether the term is “covenant” or whether it is “testament!”
This has some very important implications for the term here in Hebrews 7:22 which speaks of Jesus having become the surety of a better covenant (testament)!