The Mystery of the Covenant of the Holy Land Explained
by John Thomas
originally published in 'Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come' Volumes 5 & 6 1855/6
this page contains the first part which appeared in August 1855 Volume 5 pages 197-203
ACCORDING to the law ordained by angels in the hand of Moses, and styled "the word spoken by angels" (Heb. 2:2), mankind are separated into the holy and the unclean. It constituted the twelve tribes of Israel "a holy nation," a special and peculiar people (Ex. 19:6; Deut. 7:6; 14:2), while it left all other nations mere "sinners of the Gentiles" (Gal. 2:15), as all men were originally constituted by the disobedience of Adam (Rom. 5:18), from whom they derive their descent. The national holiness of Israel was constitutional, not inherent. The nation was composed of a stiff-necked, perverse and intractable people who were more disposed to the wickedness of other nations than to the practice of the law of Yahweh, their King. But the holy seed of Abraham was the substance in the nation's loins, on account of whom, and the things affirmed respecting him, it was not consumed (Isa. 6:13; 65:8, 9; Rom. 11:16) but carefully preserved, as having a "blessing in it," even "an inheritor of Yahweh's mountains," who shall cause his servants to rejoice, and the nations to shout aloud for joy.
Anything separated by Yahweh from things in general for His own special use is holy, irrespective of the nature or character of the thing. Hence, things animate and inanimate, animal, vegetable and mineral, solid and fluid, etc., have all been constituted holy by the law. Thus there were holy utensils, holy and most holy places of worship, holy mountains and cities, and holy officials, though oftentimes very unrighteous men. The holiness of this kind was the national holiness of the twelve tribes—a holiness conferred by the law of Moses, "which could make nothing perfect." It bestowed upon things a relative external holiness, a sort of halo of holiness confined to the surface, which left the mind and disposition, or heart of its subject untouched.
Let us look into the matter a little more minutely. A babe, though born of Israelites, was unclean (Job 14:4; 25:4), which is the same thing as unholy, until its circumcision, and after presentation to the Lord. "Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." This was the law, but how great the number so called were wicked men, Israel's history shows abundantly. Some, however, desired to keep the law. They grew up "blameless" (Phil. 3:6), observing all the precepts of the decalogue, conforming to the temple worship, and abstaining from contact with all legally unclean and interdicted things. This was a man's own righteousness acquired by working according to the law (Phil. 3:9). This was the righteousness Israel followed after, which they sought to establish in opposition to the righteousness Paul preached (Rom. 9:31; 10:3), and styled by the prophets "filthy rags." Many such men were ignorant. They had the token of the covenant in their flesh, but they were "children in whom was no faith," and "without faith it is impossible to please God." Thus an Israelite might be legally blameless, but if without faith, his legal righteousness could entitle him to no more than length of days in the land which the Lord had given His people. The twelve tribes inherited the land under the law of Moses, which could confer upon their generations only a temporal life interest in the country.
Covenants are of no force until purged. "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood." To purge anything in the Scripture sense, is to cleanse it from legal or from moral defilement; and to impart to it a virtue co-efficient with the detergent or cleansing principle. This is general definition which may not apply in every case, but it is sufficiently precise for the subject in hand. The covenant made with Abraham was confirmed with Yahweh's oath, saying, "Know of a surety," and by the consumption of sacrifices by fire from heaven (Gen. 15). This was confirmation, not purgation. It was not purged until two thousand and eighty-nine years after, when a virtue was imparted to it co-efficient with the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel; that is, the blood of Jesus, which he says is "my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins". The history of the death and resurrection of Jesus is that narrative which relates the story of the purging, or the rendering effective of the testament or covenant through which remission of sins, eternal life, and an everlasting possession of the land, with all its inseparable attributes, may be obtained by every one who believes the things promised therein.
Four hundred and thirty years after the confirmation of the New Covenant (styled new because of its coming into force at a time when that of Moses had waxed old), and sixteen hundred and fifty-nine years before its incipient enforcement, Moses dedicated or initiated "the law ordained by angels." This he did with blood. "For when he had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the Book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined upon you" (Heb. 9:18-20). Here was a solution of blood in water, into which a sprinkler of scarlet wool and hyssop was dipped, and the Book and people sprinkled by the hand of Moses. These materials were purification emblems. "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission," or sending away, as if sin and uncleanness were sent away into a land not inhabited (Lev. 16:21, 22). This is a first principle of God's religion under both covenants. Blood is therefore regarded as purging, purifying, or cleansing. The only answer that can be given to the question, why is there no expiation without blood-shedding?—is that Yahweh wills it. The blood of the living creature is the life thereof; and as it has come under sentence of death, God wills that life shall make satisfaction for sin (Lev. 17:11, 14). "It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." Water is also cleansing. Hence, "Wash you, make you clean" (Isa. 1:16). The water and the blood with which Moses sprinkled the Book of the Covenant and the people, find their antitypes in the blood and water that issued from the pierced side of Jesus, with which he sprinkled the new covenant.
But the efficacy of a covenant depends on the virtue of the blood with which it is purged. This principle is fatal to the idea of perfectability by the law of Moses; for "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). Hence it was weak and unprofitable, and made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:18,19). This defectiveness of the law, which even faith in the unpurged Abrahamic covenant could not remedy (Heb. 9:15) was referable to the nature of the sacrifices with whose blood it was dedicated; and to the weakness of the flesh (Rom. 8:3), which it could alone sanctify (Heb. 9:13) without reaching the inward man. Calves and goats were as destitute of righteousness as they were devoid of sin. Their blood therefore was a negative principle, and could impart no virtue to a covenant by which those who were sanctified under it could obtain a title or justification to eternal redemption. And furthermore let it be observed, that besides this defect, their blood was unprofitable for everlasting results, as being the blood of the dead, and not of the living. It was therefore ceremonially incommunicative of any kind of vitality. Even the blood of the innocent and righteous Jesus would have been as unprofitable for covenant purposes as the blood of Moses, Abel, or calves, if he had not been raised from the dead.
This is the doctrine taught concerning him by David. The thirtieth Psalm is prophetic of Messiah's death and resurrection. "All things must be fulfilled that are written concerning me in the Psalms" (Luke 24:44), said Jesus. In the third verse of the Psalm quoted, the spirit which afterwards dwelt in him and spoke by him, says of him and for him, "O Yahweh, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; thou hast kept me alive (or preserved from corruption), that I should not go down into the pit (or be reduced to dust)." In the eighth verse he says he "cried unto the Lord, and made supplication." This occurred before his soul went down into the grave. In view of its hypothetical continuance in that gloomy place, he inquires in his supplication, "what profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit (or become dust)? Can the dust praise thee? Can it declare thy truth?" This interrogative argument teaches the doctrine of the 15th of I Corinthians, that "if Christ be not raised" from the dead, or in other words, be mere dust in the pit, "faith is in vain;" sins are not remitted; and dead believers are perished; which is equivalent to saying "there is no profit in his blood;" for it was shed for remission of sins, which, however, are not remitted, if be be not raised up, or "healed" of the "evil disease" which laid him in the tomb (Psa.41:8). An unrisen Christ is an unprofitable sacrifice. His blood could purge nothing; and as to praising God and declaring His truth in heaven and earth, it would be impossible; for "the dead know not anything" (Eccles. 9:5), in the day of their return to the dust their thoughts perish (Psa. 146:4), and therefore the dead cannot praise Yahweh (Psa. 115:17), Jesus was "delivered for our offences;" but if he had not been raised, we should have remained unjustified, and in our sins, and without any title to things everlasting; happily, however, for the faithful, God raised him from the dead; whereupon the apostle adds, "And was raised again for our justification." Thus, his blood was made profitable, and he is prepared to praise Yahweh, and to declare his truth in the midst of Israel's congregation (Psa. 22:22, 23, 25) when the time comes.
Now this doctrine being true of the blood of an unresurrected, innocent, and righteous man, it is clear that the blood of dead animals, such as calves and goats, must be utterly worthless for anything else than a shift devised for the exigency of the case. They had no righteousness; therefore their sprinkled blood would constitute no one righteous: they had no life; therefore it could impart no title to eternal life; and not being human they could not expiate humanity's offence, inasmuch as the wisdom of God determined that sin should be "condemned in the flesh," not representative of animals only, but literally in that of man (Rom.8:3). As it was not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, and this being the blood of the Mosaic covenant, it was as impossible for that instrument to give the twelve tribes or a single faithful Israelite, even a title to inherit the land for ever. "The wages of sin is death;" hence sins untaken away or transgressions unredeemed, leaves the transgressor under death's sentence. A man under sentence of death, is as good as dead; he is therefore styled "dead in trespass and sins." This was the condition of the whole nation under the law. No man thereof could show his title to eternal life in Canaan, or elsewhere. A faithful Israelite might hope that when Messiah came, he would not prove like Adam the first, but be obedient unto death; and by his shed blood, purge the Abrahamic covenant in which he believed, and by thus redeeming the trangressions committed by the faithful under the law (Heb. 9:15), give them justification unto life eternal, by which they would be enabled to possess the land for ever. No, the only title to the land the Mosaic law could give was conditional and limited to their mortal existence upon it.
Hence the reward for keeping the commandments of Yahweh is affixed to the first of them. Let the reader observe what it is. It is not a promise of the Gentile "heaven beyond the skies," but of long life in Palestine. Hear the words, "Honour thy father and tby mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." This, an apostle says, "is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long upon the land" (Epi tees gees, land, not "earth," according to Moses). Paul quoted this as an exhortation to believers residing in Ephesus. It was a motive to them, because they believed the gospel of the kingdom which promises life upon the land, and, by consequence, upon the earth for ever; but it is no principle of action with the moderns, as they have no faith in the actual or real accomplishment of the covenant promises made to Abraham and his seed. We see, then, the nature of the Mosaic law purged by inferior or unprecious blood. It could not give a title to eternal life, and was therefore incapable of imparting everlasting righteousness to any (Gal. 3:21), and nothing short of an everlasting righteousness can constitute a man an heir of the kingdom of God in the covenanted land. By obedience to this law no flesh can be justified, for by it comes the knowledge of sin, without the power of deliverance (Rom. 3:20, 28). "It made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did." (Heb. 7:19). What could this better hope be to a people already living in the land promised to their father Abraham ? Could it be that when they became dead men, they should be metamorphosed into ethereal shadows, and having exhaled with the vapours of earth into the aerial regions, waft about on zephyrs, or take a higher flight to odyllic amplitudes beyond the skies ? Is this the better hope, the Christian's hope, brought in by Jesus, "the surety of the better covenant;" O, egregious nonsense! Mere Gentile imbecility and foolishness! Show us, ye "wise!" where such a hope is written. Produce your purged covenant in which it is promised and confirmed by Yahweh's oath. But why call upon you for proof, when none exists. Supposing that such a crazy fiction could have foundation in the promises of God, all of which are covenanted and purged; it must be written in the covenant confirmed to Abraham. But on studying that instrument we find there nothing of the kind—not the remotest hint of such a hope.
That covenant expanded into the promises made to David, and illustrated by the writings of the prophets, leaves not the reader in a labyrinth of doubt and vague uncertainty about the better hope. These Scriptures bind us down to the better covenant in our enquiries after the better covenant. Now who that studies the Book of the Covenant with an opened understanding, can fail to see that hope that is promised of Yahweh to Israel, which is better than the hope promised to them in the inferior covenant of Moses? Moses set before them such an occupation of the land as is amply illustrated in their turbulent and eventful history. They had possessed the land indeed; but the Mosaic testament gave them no other hope than a prolonged, and prosperous, and peaceful life in it, if they forsook not the covenant. This was a hope, like the hope of the nations, bounded by things seen and temporal. After death Moses promised them nothing in his will, not even resurrection. The better covenant, however, purged by the blood of Jesus, did. It promised them a resurrection from the dead; it promised them incorruptibility and life; it promised them that they should "possess the land, and dwell therein for ever;" it promised them exaltation to the kingdom and the power, and the glory to be manifested there; and to the possession of dominion over all the nations of the earth; it promised them the inheritance of these things when the seed of Abraham and of David should sit upon the throne of his glory; and as the Branch of righteousness, execute judgment and justice in the land. This was the better hope of the better testament and surpassed the Mosaic in desirableness, as infinitely as things unseen and eternal do those that are seen and temporal. But as "all the people" were sprinkled with the blood by which Moses dedicated the covenant, he enjoined upon them before they could attain to the inferior hope it set before them, so also it is necessary that every one, without exception, should be sprinkled with the precious blood of the better testament, even with that of Jesus, before he can become entitled to the better hope. The blood of the New Covenant speaks better things than the blood of the Mosaic. It speaks of the "good things to come" of which Jesus is the high priest, and not Aaron. It speaks of the good things of the better hope, and of the eternal redemption he hath obtained for his people individually and nationally.
It is Israel's hope emphatically; and no Gentile man or nation can partake of it that is not sprinkled with the blood of the covenant that it sets forth. Even Israel's own nation will partake of it in no sense until "all the people" are sprinkled by the covenant blood; for it is by virtue of that blood alone, that they possess the land to be expelled no more; and as for the righteous dead, it is "by the blood of thy covenant, Ο Messiah, that Yahweh sends forth the prisoners out of the pit, in which there is no water" (Zech. 9:11). But Moses sprinkled the Book and all the people, with a bunch of hyssop and scarlet wool. He had a vessel containing the water and the blood within convenient reach; but where is the blood of the better covenant ? How can access be obtained to it ? How can it be sprinkled upon all the people from age to age, and generation to generation, who shall inherit the hope when the time of its development shall arrive? These are questions easily replied to from the testimony of God. The blood of the covenant was poured out of Jesus' side, bathing his body, and dripping on the dust of Palestine. Had anyone caught the blood in a vessel, and with a bunch of hyssop and scarlet wool sprinkled even believing people around, it would have availed them nothing. It would have been presumptive evidence that those upon whom it was found had been engaged in his murder; but it would have been no proof of their interest in the hope of the covenant which it dedicated. It was, when pouring out, the blood of an unrisen Christ; and therefore, of no then present efficacy.
After Jesus had come to life again, and ascended to the Father, the blood which was dried up was nowhere to be found here; nor, if to be found, was it then known to what use it was to be applied. It is evident, therefore, that the existence of, or accessibility to the material blood, is not a question needing to be entertained; and that it was not intended to be used ceremonially, as Moses used the blood of his will. Romish priests pretend to manufacture, or rather, incantate wine into material blood of Christ, which like greedy cannibals they permit none to quaff but their impious selves. But the common use of the covenant blood in sprinkling or drinking was never intended. The blood of the covenant, which sanctifies, is no common or unholy thing. It is too precious to be dispensed indiscriminately in any sense; or to be placed at the disposal of ignorant and fleshly-minded priests. Save the drops that bedewed the dust, Christ took with him his blood to heaven; for "with his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." Standing there before the throne, he appeared as a lamb that had been slain, his wool of snowy white, dyed scarlet with his blood. There is the blood of the covenant; not on earth, but in the holiest of all. The blood of the covenant being in heaven, and we upon the earth, there must be some appointed thing as a medium of access to it. The blood is to justify and sanctify, or to cleanse and make holy those who are sprinkled by it. Such are said to stand in the grace of God, rejoicing in hope, of His glory. If then we ascertain how access is obtained into this grace, we also learn how access is obtained to the blood of the covenant. Paul says, "We have access by faith"; a saying which agrees with that of the prophet, "the just shall live by his faith."
"God," says Peter, "put no difference between Jews and Gentiles, purifying their hearts by faith." "I send thee," said the Lord Jesus to Paul, to "open the eyes of the Gentiles to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith which is in me." "A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." "There is one God who shall justify the Jews on account of faith, and the Gentiles, through the faith." Such is the testimony of Scripture on this all-important subject, which summarily amounts to this, that the sons of Adam are purified, sanctified, justified or pardoned, and obtain eternal life by faith; or, in other words, as the apostle says to those who have been delivered from their past sins, "in grace ye are, having been saved (sesosmenoi) through the faith: and this not of (or originating from) yourselves (ex hymon); but the gift of God." By faith in the faith the great salvation is obtained, when the better hope which is the subject of it is no longer unseen, but an eternal and accomplished reality. To say that a man is purged, purified, or cleansed, is the same as to affirm that he is justified, or constituted righteous, and sanctified or made holy. It is sin that makes unclean—unclean by nature, because born of sinful flesh; and unclean by practice, because transgressors in the sight of God. The cleansing process is, therefore, intellectual, moral, and physical. The work begins by cleansing the intellect, casting out, as it were, all the devils that have established themselves there through the doctrines of fleshly men. This is done by the truth understood and believed. If the soil be good, the truth sown in the understanding will take root in the heart, or moral sentiments, and bring forth "fruit unto holiness, the end of which is everlasting life."
In this way the whole heart is cleansed by a faith yielding obedience, as the apostle saith, "ye have purified your souls (intellectual and moral faculties) in the obedience of the truth—en tee hypakoee tees aleetheias." The person so cleansed has no more conscience of past sins, but is able to stand in God's presence without shame or fear as Adam was before he fell. This is a spiritual cleansing, but no less real and literal for that. "Ye have purified your souls in the obedience of the truth, through the Spirit—dia Pneumatos." Spirit operating upon soul and spirit. How? By the word of truth evangelised enlightening the mind, and creating a right disposition. It is God's work, not man's; for the apostle saith, "Of his own will the Father of Lights begat us by the word of truth;" "and this," saith another, "is the word which is evangelised unto you." But the cleansing of the soul needs to be followed by the cleansing of the body to make the purification of the man complete. If the spiritual cleansing be well done (and if the word of truth have done it, it will), the corporeal cleansing will be sure to follow. Not, however, as a physical effect of the truth diffusing itself over the body as nervous influence from the brain, and so annihilating evil in the flesh; but a corporeal purification effected by the Spirit at the believer's resurrection, or transformation, as a part of the reward promised to all such who "patiently continue in well-doing." A man so cleansed is every whit whole; and qualified to receive and enjoy the hope of the better covenant by the blood of which he had been "purged from his old sins." Justification and sanctification, therefore, are consequent upon cleansing; if a man refuse to be cleansed, or be not cleansed, it is folly for him to talk of being just, or holy, or righteous in the sight of God. He may be what the world calls "good and pious;" he may overflow with the milk of human kindness, be very "wise" and learned, devout of tone, oily in speech, of solemn face, and exuberant in profession of "love" to Christ and all mankind, and may pass before his fellows as a saint too holy for this nether world: but if he have not submitted to the righteousness of God "in the obedience of the truth," he is but a "pious" sinner, uncleansed, and therefore unholy and profane. (To be continued in our next.)
Note: some references in the original text to wills have been omitted, because of their inapplicability to the subject of which John Thomas was writing, i.e. the "old" and the "new" covenants. We are happy to answer any questions and to receive any comments on this article. And subject to the will of God, we hope to continue with posting the follow-up articles in the 'Herald' by John Thomas on this important subject.
Also, 'Yahweh', God's Memorial Name, has been used throughout instead of the corrupt hybrid name 'Jehovah', in line with John Thomas's later expositions, for example in 'Phanerosis' - link to 'The Errors of Jehovah's Witnesses' and 'The Yahweh-Nissi Altar'.