Around 600 BC, the prophet Jeremiah wrote that a day would come when a new and better covenant would render the Mosaic Covenant obsolete. It would be better because God’s laws would no longer need to be taught to the people; instead Yahweh would “put [his] laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts … And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know [Yahweh], from the least of them to the greatest.”
We know that Jeremiah was speaking of the messianic kingdom because it says, “They shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” (This was written about four centuries after the death of King David.)
Around AD 65, the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 and reaffirms that the Mosaic Covenant will pass away, and he expresses his belief that this will happen soon.
But did it happen?
Jeremiah said that at that time, “[Jerusalem] shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever” (Jer 31:40). Similarly, Daniel wrote, “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Dan 2:44). And Isaiah said, “[The Messiah] will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever …. Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste” (Isa 9:7; 60:11-12).
Sadly, just a few years after the book of Hebrews was written, Jerusalem was demolished by the Romans in AD 70!
It is common to hear Christians say that the Mosaic Covenant was made obsolete, as though the prophecy in Jeremiah (and repeated in Hebrews) had already come to fruition. But it should be obvious to all that the messianic kingdom did not subjugate all of the other nations and annihilate those who refused to serve her, because the messianic kingdom has not yet been established.
1. Some say Hebrews 8:13 clearly declares the Old Covenant obsolete and they point to translations that seem to support this view. But the last sentence in Hebrews 8:13 makes it clear the author expected it to happen soon.
2. Some say in Ephesians 2:15, Paul declares that the Law is abolished. But a careful reading shows that he was referring to the ordinances of the law, or traditions of men, that created a “dividing wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile.
3. Romans 10:4 speaks of the “end of the law,” but the Greek telos means “end” as in “purpose” or “goal.”
4. Some equate the Church with the kingdom and argue that the kingdom was established in the first century, but this does not match any of the Old Testament prophecies that we see alluded to repeatedly in the New Testament (see Mark 14:62; Matthew 16:27; 19:28; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8; Revelation 1:7).