Through Jesus Christ’s mission God enhanced his relationship with his people and the world. Two defining aspects of this new order are God’s new covenant with his own people and the kingdom of God.
As well as having instituted these two things in his mission, Jesus Christ continues to play a key role in both of them. Jesus Christ’s role as high priest is arguably the central aspect of God’s new covenant with his people. Jesus Christ’s reign as Lord of all things involves reigning over the kingdom of God. Additionally, his reign extends to reigning over all things that are as yet to be subjugated to God’s kingdom, which awaits consummation.
- God’s Covenant with Israel and the Law
- Release from the Law through Jesus Christ
- Jesus Christ as High Priest
For a discussion of the term “covenant”, see the introductory comment on Key Old Testament Covenants. Note that in addition to a number of the following subsections, the superiority of God’s new covenant with his people to that of the old covenant (or first covenant) which God made with Israel, is further illustrated in the following section – Jesus Christ as High Priest. It discusses in detail the advantages of Jesus Christ’s priesthood of the new covenant over the priesthood of the old covenant.
The first covenant (with its priesthood and law) was inadequate and superseded by the superior new covenant – through Jesus Christ . . .
Heb 8:6-7, 13 But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry [to the priests’ ministry], since the covenant that he mediates is also better [than the first covenant] and is enacted on better promises. 7For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one. … 13When he [God] speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear. NET
The covenant which God made with Israel proved inadequate as Israel could not keep the covenant (by obeying its law) and consequently could not be righteous before God. But God has abolished the old covenant and introduced a superior new covenant – mediated by Jesus Christ in his mission.
Heb 10:1 For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship. NET
Luke 22:20 And in the same way he [Jesus] took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. NET
At the “last supper” Jesus used a cup of wine to symbolize his blood that would be shed (cf. Matt 26:28). The shedding of Jesus Christ’s blood in his death made it possible for people’s sins to be forgiven and so opened the way for the new relationship/covenant between God and his people. As the new covenant is made possible and instituted through Christ’s death, the shedding of his blood in effect ratified the new covenant – just as the sprinkling of “the blood of the covenant” by Moses ceremonially confirmed the old covenant (cf. Ex 24:6-8).
Heb 13:20 Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, … NET
2Cor 3:5-6 [Paul:] Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. ESV
The “letter” denotes the law. One partakes of the new covenant not through obeying the law but through being transformed by and living by the Holy Spirit.
Jer 31:33a “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. NET
Under the new covenant God’s laws have become internal principles, not just commands from an external source. Bear in mind that the reference to “Israel” (cf. Heb 8:10 ⇓) is applicable to the new people of God, inclusive of Gentiles.
Heb 8:10-12 “For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people. 11And there will be no need at all for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ since they will all know me, from the least to the greatest. 12“For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.” NET
This is a quotation from Jeremiah 31:31-34 (cf. Jer 31:33a ⇑). Verses 11-12 show that under God’s new covenant, all God’s people know him and their sins are truly forgiven. Note that v. 10b speaks of the new covenant also fulfilling a primary aim of the old covenant – “I will be their God and they will be my people” (cf. Jer 24:7).
As referred to earlier, in the replacement of God’s old covenant with Israel by God’s new covenant with all who are now his people, the Levitical priesthood of the old covenant has been replaced by Jesus Christ’s priesthood of the new covenant. The following subsections highlight the superiority of Jesus Christ’s priesthood to the Levitical priesthood.
Jesus Christ is the high priest of God’s people – representing them before God in the superior heavenly sanctuary
Heb 8:1b-2 [The writer, to believers:] We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. NET
Heb 9:24 [The writer, to believers:] For the Messiah did not go into a sanctuary made by human hands and just a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in God’s presence on our behalf. ISV
The term “sanctuary” refers to the place of God’s presence. This was signified in Israel by the tabernacle and then later the temple, in particular by the Most Holy Place within them. In actuality God of course primarily dwells in heaven, and it is in this sanctuary that Jesus Christ ministers as high priest.
Jesus Christ was appointed by God as high priest forever, in the superior priestly order of Melchizedek
Heb 7:17 For here is the testimony about him: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” NET
Genesis 14:18-20 tells of Abraham meeting with Melchizedek, who was king of Salem (which would become Jerusalem). It refers to Melchizedek as “priest of God Most High”, indicating he was a priest and worshipper of the Lord. Hebrews 7:1-10 shows Melchizedek’s spiritual superiority to both Abraham and the Levitical priesthood of the old covenant that came from Abraham, the priests being Abraham’s descendents. One aspect of this is that because no account is given of Melchizedek’s ancestry, birth or death, he is understood to have an everlasting priesthood.
Heb 10:11 And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again — sacrifices that can never take away sins. NET
Heb 10:12-14 But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. 14For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. NET
Heb 7:25 So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. NET
1Jn 2:1 [John, to believers:] I am writing this to you, my children, so that you will not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have someone who pleads with the Father on our behalf—Jesus Christ, the righteous one. GNT
In his ongoing priestly ministry for God’s people, Jesus Christ continues to intercede before God for them, speaking to God on their behalf.
Heb 7:26 [The writer, to believers:] For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. NET
Heb 4:15-16 [The writer, to believers:] For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 16Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. NET
Jesus Christ is a high priest who is himself perfect (cf. Heb 7:26 ↑; 4:15b ↑). As such Jesus Christ was able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice and is able to remain always in God’s presence to represent his people. On the other hand, Jesus Christ is also a high priest who can identify with his people’s humanity (cf. 4:15 ↑). As such, being perfect yet empathetic, Jesus Christ is a high priest who will meet his people’s needs (cf. 4:16 ↑).
NT teaching on the kingdom of God (or the kingdom of heaven) follows on from OT teaching on God’s reign or kingship (cf. God Reigns Supreme). It indicates that Jesus Christ’s coming inaugurated a more far-reaching, spiritual dimension of God’s reign. Its domain is in the hearts and minds of those who submit to God. This kingdom of God also has both a present and future dimension – existing now, but only being fully consummated at the end of the age. Then God’s authority will be fully imposed in all spheres of existence – once and for all.
Note that the kingdom of God is often spoken of as Jesus Christ’s kingdom (cf. Note: The kingdom of God is also the kingdom of Jesus Christ).
Matt 12:28 [Jesus:] But when I force out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, it proves that God’s kingdom has already come to you. CEV
Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was imprisoned, Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God. 15He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!” NET
With Jesus’ mission, the time had come for the kingdom of God to “come near” (NRSV).
Luke 21:31 [Jesus, to his disciples:] So also you, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. NET
The phrase “these things” refers to signs of the end of the age.
Luke 17:20b-21 [Jesus:] “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. 21No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.” GNT
The final clause of v. 21 probably means that God’s kingdom is within the hearts of its people (cf. CEV text note), indicative of its spiritual nature.
Mark 4:26-29 He [Jesus] also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. 27He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.” NET
The growth of God’s kingdom is not dependent on human effort (v. 28a) and is in fact beyond human comprehension (v. 27b). This illustrates its dynamism and power.
1Cor 4:20 For the kingdom of God is demonstrated not in idle talk but with power. NET
God’s kingdom “consists of and is based on” (AMP) spiritual power – not talk.
Matt 13:44-46 The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field. 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it. NET
Although some commentators have a somewhat different understanding, both these parables seem to be essentially illustrating the absolute cost of the kingdom of God; one must be prepared to forgo everything for it. Note the joy in doing so that is apparent in v. 44.
Matt 7:21 [Jesus:] Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. NET
Matt 18:1-4 At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a child, had him stand among them, 3and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven! 4Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. NET
Similarly in Mark 10:15 Jesus says, “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” These verses refer to the humility, trust and receptiveness of little children, characteristics which are required to believe Jesus’ message and enter God’s kingdom.
Eph 5:5 For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. NET
As shown in the following section, Jesus Christ as Lord of All, God has granted authority over all things to Jesus Christ. This includes authority over his kingdom (cf. Luke 22:29). Thus the kingdom can be referred to as being of God and also as being of Jesus Christ.
God has made Jesus Christ Lord of all things, to rule over all creation on God’s behalf.
The NT speaks of Jesus Christ’s lordship as being initiated or affirmed, in him being pronounced Lord of all upon his post-resurrection exaltation to God’s right hand. However, note that some verses suggest that in some sense at least he was Lord of all things prior to this, speaking of his prior power or authority over all things. This point is discussed further in the comments under Luke 2:11 and Colossians 1:15-18 in . . . and God made Jesus Christ Lord of all.
Eph 1:20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms … NET
In seating Jesus Christ at his right hand, God exalted Jesus Christ in honor and authority above every other being.
Acts 10:36 You know the message he [God] sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. GNT
Phil 2:9-11 As a result [of Jesus being obedient and dying] God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. NET
Verses 10-11 speak of all people in the future acknowledging Jesus Christ’s status, which itself is a current reality.
Matt 28:18 Then Jesus came up and said to them [his disciples], “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. NET
Phil 3:20b-21 Our Lord Jesus Christ 21has power over everything, and he will make these poor bodies of ours like his own glorious body. CEV
John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has put everything in his hands. ISV
Heb 1:1-2 [The writer, to Jewish believers:] Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. ESV
Col 2:10 [Paul, to believers:] And you have been brought to fullness in him [Christ], who is the head of every ruler and authority. ISV
Rev 1:18 [Jesus:] I am the One who lives; I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to death and to the place of the dead. NCV™
As the holder of the keys of death and the place of the dead, Jesus Christ has total authority over their domain – including authority over who goes in and out of them, and when.
Heb 10:12-13 But when this priest [Christ] had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. NET