Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 11: The Covenant
I have had an interest in the covenants of Scripture, but could not make complete sense of them until the 1888 messengers pointed out some basic themes that I had not noticed in the Bible. It was the Bible truth of the everlasting covenant which sparked my interest in the 1888 message. I was to discover that all the truths of that message radiated outward, as it were, like spokes on a wheel from the hub of God's covenant. Jeremiah's covenant is our future hope (Jer. 31:33, 34).
WHAT THE NEW COVENANT MEANT TO ANCIENT ISRAEL
Jeremiah's new covenant will be made by God "after those days" (Jer. 31:33), that is after Israel's return from exile. "The days come" (31:31) refer to the idyllic future. The new covenant encompasses a repopulation of the earth and a New Jerusalem. This covenant is given to Israel. God will make a new covenant with all Israel no longer divided; people from both Israel and Judah. The promise is given to a people who are in exile because of their pervasive unfaithfulness to God. This promise is a word from God given to a defeated and dispirited people, who wonder whether God may, in fact, have rejected them.
The "new covenant" encompasses the "new earth" to come. In that post-exilic Babylonian world there is no need for neighbor teaching neighbor or brother teaching brother for all will "know the Lord." "They shall all know Me" (31:34).
It is clear that this was the word of the Lord for ancient Israel. But it did not happen after Judah returned from Babylon. Why? Again, the people did not believe God's promise. Remember the Lord's dictum pronounced to the house of Israel and the men of Judah "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them" (18:9, 10).
THE NEW COVENANT FOR CHRISTIANS
However, this did not make void God's new covenant promise. In the book of Hebrews the everlasting covenant is quoted from Jeremiah: "Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us; for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord. I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them" (Heb. 10:15, 16). The Holy Spirit directs "us" to understand that God's covenant is our future hope.
The book of Hebrews was originally written for Jewish Christians. God's covenant is always given to Israel. God does not make His covenant with the Gentiles. However, we who are by born Gentiles, come into the picture because of Christ. We read: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, ... ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:28, 29).
God's new covenant in Jeremiah includes nothing that was not in the covenant with Abraham, but it is simply an act constituting "the commonwealth of Israel" (Eph. 2:12), including the Gentiles (vs. 11), God's people for evermore. God's covenant has not yet been made, as can be seen by reading Jeremiah 30-33, but it is a matter of promise, to be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ. The fact that Christ is the "Surety" or pledge of this covenant (Heb. 7:22) shows that the covenant itself has not yet been made; for we need no Surety for that which we already have.
The house of Israel has not yet been gathered out from among the nations. Among every people there are "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24; Jesus spoke these words of "a woman of Canaan"), and these must be gathered out before the second covenant with that people can be made. When it is made, there will be no more need for the preaching of the gospel, for all will know the Lord, from the least to the greatest.
WHAT THE NEW COVENANT MEANS FOR US TODAY
Inspiration describes God giving His everlasting covenant to His people at the hour when they have overcome the mark of the beast. "With shouts of triumph, jeering, and imprecation, throngs of evil men are about to rush upon their prey, when lo, a dense blackness, deeper than the darkness of the night, falls upon the earth. Then a rainbow, shining with the glory from the throne of God, spans the heavens, and seems to encircle each praying company. The angry multitudes are suddenly arrested. Their mocking cries die away. The objects of their murderous rage are forgotten. With fearful forebodings they gaze upon the symbol of God's covenant, and long to be shielded from its overpowering brightness. ... In the midst of the angry heavens is one clear space of indescribable glory, whence comes the voice of God like the sound of many waters, saying. 'It is done.' Revelation 16:17. That voice shakes the heavens and the earth. There is a mighty earthquake, 'such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great.' Verses 17, 18. ... Graves are opened, and 'many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth ... awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.' Daniel 12:2. All who have died in the faith of the third angel's message come forth from the tomb glorified, to hear God's covenant of peace with those who have kept his law." 
A. T. Jones remarks: "And when the saints of God have thus attained to the fullness of the everlasting covenant, the covenant with Abraham, when the object of the giving of the law from Sinai, and in the Bible, has thus been accomplished, the law will not then be abolished, but will be kept in mind, in heart, in soul, just as it was by Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, when as yet there was 'no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai, or written on the tables of stone.' Instead of being then abolished, it will be observed and lived more fully and more perfectly than ever before by men." 
THE NEW COVENANT AND THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY
God's everlasting covenant is His promise to write the law in our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. His promise is forgiveness of sin and to save us from sin. This is the at-one-ment with God.
God's covenant is the foundation of the sanctuary truth. It is an understanding of justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. God has promised a practical demonstration of the law and the gospel in perfect harmony in the lives of redeemed sinners. Surely this is the heart and soul of the 1888 message.
--Paul E. Penno
 "The voice of God is heard from heaven, declaring the day and hour of Jesus' coming and delivering the everlasting covenant to His people. ... Soon there appears in the east a small black cloud, about half the size of a man's hand. It is the cloud which surrounds the Saviour and which seems in the distance to be shrouded in darkness. The people of God know this to be the sign of the Son of man. In solemn silence they gaze upon it as it draws nearer the earth, becoming lighter and more glorious, until it is a great white cloud, its base a glory like consuming fire, and above it the rainbow of the covenant" (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 635-641).
 Alonzo T. Jones, "Studies in Galatians. Gal. 3:19," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (March 13, 1900).
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:http://1888mpm.org