There is a provision in the law of God which permits any person, an escape from the penalty of their sins. God has promised to punish all sin and because He is a just God, He will carry out the sentence that He has guaranteed. Incredibly, the mercy of God also allows a guilty party an escape from judgement, if that party will obey the provisions of the law.
The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, describes the “covenant” which God formerly made with Israel, a covenant based on a sacrifice for sins. Unfortunately, Israel did not obey what God commanded and therefore, this covenant was broken.
Jeremiah 31:31-32 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 that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke…
When Jesus arrived in Israel 2,000 years ago, He describes a New Covenant, which God will make with anyone who will conform themselves into what God requires. This New Covenant is based–not upon the sacrifice of animals, but the sacrifice of God’s Son.
Matthew 26:28 (Jesus Speaking) For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Paul later quotes the precise text of Jeremiah, in his assessment of how salvation operates in the real and practical applications of God’s law.
Hebrews 8:6-10 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 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.
Hebrews 8:13 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.
In confirming the fulfillment of this 296th prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-32, Paul directly quotes the exact same words of the prophet in describing the work of Jesus Christ—to accomplish our complete salvation, by the shedding of His blood on the cross.
Jeremiah: 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. —Jeremiah 31:31
Paul: 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 —Hebrews 8:9
According to the covenant of the Old Testament, a person who had sinned could have his sins “covered” (not removed) by the blood of an innocent. These sacrifices for sin had to take place every time a sin was committed.
For more information on why and how the new covenant has fulfilled and eliminated the old covenant, see Prophecy 284.
A large part of the plan of God in allowing Jesus to suffer for the sins of all people was so that God would have a righteous basis to forgive sin. The pronouncement of God is: the soul that sins will die.
Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.
The Basis for Salvation
In order for God to be seen as Just, He must punish sin by the death of the guilty. God does not ever overlook sin; He always judges all transgressions and punishes every sin, just as He said that He would. There is, however, a provision in the law of God that an innocent who has done no wrong could substitute his life for the guilty and take the punishment that was due. This was accomplished by the provision in the law of God.
The Old Covenant
In the Books of Exodus Chapter 29 and Leviticus Chapter 4, the Lord describes a process whereby a person who has committed sin may have those sins atoned for by the death of an innocent animal. This sacrifice did not remove the sin of the persons who committed them; it simply acted as a kofar—a covering, until the Messiah would come and make His one perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people. God was illustrating the seriousness of sin and the cost involved to have those sins judged. If no sacrifice was made—if there was no shedding of blood, then sins could not be atoned for.
Hebrews 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
The New Covenant
In this new covenant that the Messiah will make by the shedding of His blood, He will not cover man’s sins. He will permanently remove them as though they never existed. The Messiah will impart to those who take His sacrifice for their sins—His righteousness. The sinner will become perfect in the sight of God and is therefore ready for heaven.
Hebrews 9:11-15 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Paul’s argument, as stated in Hebrews Chapter 10: If these innocent animals who shed their blood could take away the guilt of the offending sinner and by their death they could allow the one who offered the sacrifice to continue in worship to God, how much more can the precious blood of the Son of God completely remove our sin and our guilt forever?
The Old Testament sacrifices had limits in what they could accomplish:
Although the sacrifice of these animals served as an illustration for what God would do later through the Messiah’s perfect sacrifice for all sins, these animals could not permanently remove sin’s penalty and make a person perfect before God.
Hebrews 10:1-4 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
The Sacrifice that Jesus made for us, as described in the New Testament, is without limits in what it has accomplished:
Jesus death on the cross, fully vindicates all those who look to His sacrifice as the final payment for their sins. These sins were completely removed at Jesus death, and they no loner remain on the account of those who receive Jesus by faith.
Hebrews 10:10-14 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
The purpose of the many Old Testament laws was to serve as a shadow of the good things to come. If the Old Testament sacrifices were perfect, then they would not need to be offered continuously. Once the person who made the sacrifice completed the ritual, then his sins would have been completely removed. This was not the case however—the sinner who made his sacrifice understood that his sins were still present. God was allowing a temporary provision to cover the guilt of the sinner until the promise of God through His Messiah could come and permanently pay for these sins, and thereby remove them forever.
This is the topic of this 296th prophecy by Jeremiah 31:31-32, that God will make a “new covenant” with Israel, and finally to the whole world. In this new agreement, the sacrifice that Jesus made one time for all of us, is the only means by which God is ready to save us all.