What is the “Old” and “New” Testament?

by David J. Stewart | September 2017
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       We often hear the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament,” but few people truly realize what it means. What is a “Testament?” Hebrews 9:17 gives us an idea of what this means when it declares “For a TESTAMENT is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” This Verse should clue you in as to the meaning of the word “testament,” that is, it is a will, a covenant in writing that goes into force upon the death of a testator. 

Please notice carefully that a “will” is different from a contract, or an agreement. VINE'S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT WORDS says concerning the word “testament” (diatheke) . . .

“In contradistinction to the English word "covenant" (lit., "a coming together"), which signified a mutual undertaking between two parties or more, each binding himself to fulfill obligations it does not in itself contain the idea of joint obligation, it mostly signifies an obligation undertaken by a single person. For instance, in Galatians 3:17 is is used as an alternative to a "promise" (vv. 16-18). God enjoined upon Abraham the rite of circumcision, but His promise to Abraham, here called a "covenant," was not conditional upon the observance of circumcision, though a penalty attached to it nonobservance.”

Jesus Christ is that single person upon which the entire Old Testament is based. God's agreement (covenant) with the Hebrews (Exodus 19:1-8) under Mosaic Law all hinged upon the coming Messiah. The Old Testament covenant was very much like a personal living will, which only became effective when Christ died and full payment was made for man's sins. 

Someone has eloquently said that the Old Testament is the New Testament CONCEALED, but the New Testament is the Old Testament REVEALED. I like that truth.

There are 3 letters in the word “old” and 9 letters in the word “testament.” Thus, 3 and 9 put together give us 39 Old Testament books. And then for the New Testament, we see a similar easy way to remember how many books there are. The word “new” has 3 letters, and the word “testament” has 9 letters, and if we multiply 3 times 9 we get 27 books!

God Makes Two Great Divisions in His Word: The Law and Grace (the Gospel)

Christian Attorney Philip Mauro (1859-1952) proclaims the awesome truth that God Himself has only divided His Word into two great eras, not seven (as the heresy of Dispensationalism teaches):

THE Bible distinguishes—not seven dispensations, each having a character exclusively its own—but two great eras of God's dealings with mankind; the first of which was preparatory to the second, and the second of which is the completion of the first. Their scriptural designations are:

First: The Old Covenant; or the Law and the Prophets; or simply, the Law.

Second: The New Covenant; or the Kingdom of God; or simply, the Gospel.

This division is not man-made, artificial, conjectural; for it comes to us plainly marked in the structure of the Bible itself, which is composed of two grand divisions,

the Old Testament,

and the New Testament.

(And it should be noted that the word "Testament" is one of the renderings of a Greek word that is sometimes, as in Hebrews 8:6-10, and should be always, translated "Covenant").

SOURCE: The Two Covenants, by Philip Mauro, The Gospel of The Kingdom, chapter three.

That is doctrinally sound teaching and wonderful. Please read, “THE TWO COVENANTS” (.pdf file), an excerpt from Philip Mauro's excellent book, “The Gospel Of The Kingdom” (1927). The Holy Bible is God's Word and doesn't need our help. Pastor Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) did just fine without Dispensationalism!

The Two Covenants (excerpt from chapter three of The Gospel Of The Kingdom by Philip Mauro)


The following passage of Scripture is so eye-opening and precious, teaching us that the BLOOD of Jesus Christ through His death on the cross, brought REDEMPTION for all the Old Testament saints. All of the Old Testament sacrifices would have been in vain if Christ, the literal fulfillment of what each Old Testament sacrificed animal symbolized, hadn't been sacrificed Himself on the cross. If Christ had not died upon THE CROSS, raised up, ascended into Heaven, and sprinkled His literal blood on the Mercy Seat, all humanity would have gone to Hell . . .

Hebrews 9:14-18, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.”

As you just read, BOTH Old and New Testaments absolutely required BLOOD to be effective. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that WITHOUT THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD THERE IS NO REMISSION OF SINS!!! The prophesied PASSOVER LAMB of the Old Testament became the sacrificed LAMB OF GOD in the New Testament. The Old Covenant lays the foundation for the coming Messiah Who sacrifices Himself on the cross for the sins of the whole world in the New Testament (1st John 2:2). BOTH testaments reveal a holy, merciful and righteous God Who condemns sin, but greatly desires for all people to repent and believe the gospel to be saved (Mark 1:15). 2nd Peter 3:9 says God is, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

There has always been only ONE plan of salvation, which is evidenced by Acts 10:43, “To him [Jesus Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” The Old Testament prophets all preached the gospel. Concerning the unsaved Hebrews in the Wilderness we read in Hebrews 4:2, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Many of the Hebrews in the Wilderness of Zin perished and went to Hell because of the sin of unbelief, which is the only sin that can keep anyone out of Heaven. If you believe (receive) the Gospel as full payment for your sins, no sin(s) can keep you out of Heaven.

It is easy to be saved. So easy that even a small child can be saved. God had to make salvation simple, otherwise stupid people couldn't be saved. Kindly, there are many stupid people in the world, who have difficulty comprehending things, and they could never understand a complicated plan of salvation. Thank God He has made it very easy, simple and free to be saved. God has also made it accessible to be saved, so that even a person locked away in prison can be saved in his cell, or an astronaut hundreds of millions of miles away from the earth can be saved in his space shuttle.

It's Not The Shedding, But The Sprinkling Of Jesus' Blood That Saves

The Old Testament ended and the New Testament began the moment that Christ's literal, physical, blood was SPRINKLED upon the heavenly Mercy Seat in the Holy Place. Everything which God had promised in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah hinged upon the blood of Jesus Christ being applied to the Mercy Seat in Heaven. If Jesus only died on the cross, but His blood never made it to the Mercy Seat in the heavenly Holy Place, then Christ's death would have been in vain. The death of the Passover lamb wasn't good enough. The blood of the lamb had to be APPLIED to the doorposts of the home. Exodus 12:13 says, WHEN I SEE THE BLOOD I WILL PASS OVER YOU.” As Hebrews 9:22 proclaims, “...Without shedding of blood (Christ's blood) is no remission (of our sins).” All of the promises made in the Old Testament (will) could not take effect until Christ DIED upon the cross, was buried, was raised up from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and APPLIED His literal blood to the Mercy Seat. 

It's Not The Shedding Of Jesus' Blood That Saves, But The 'SPRINKLING' Of That Shed Blood

Jesus confirmed this in Matthew 26:28, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."  The Old Testament (covenant) required that the Israelite high priest enter into the Holy of Holies (within the tabernacle) once a year with the blood of a young male lamb, without spot nor blemish, and apply that blood to the mercy seat to ATONE for the sins of the people. This was a ceremonial law which applied only to Israel. The ceremony was symbolic of the coming Saviour Who would one day shed His blood and apply that blood to the Mercy Seat in Heaven's Holy Place (Hebrews 9:12). 

Old Testament Law Intended To Show Us Our Guilty Condition

The entire purpose of God's Old Testament law is stated in Romans 3:19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Biblical repentance unto salvation is the acknowledgment that I am as guilty a sinner as God hath declared me to be in His holy word. Repentance without faith is reformation, not Biblical salvation. It is merely turning over a new leaf. Faith without repentance is religious humanism. It is optimism and the falsehood of the power of positive thinking.

There are many religious people who have committed their life to serving God, but they have never come to the cross of Calvary as a guilty sinner in need of forgiveness. These are the religious, but lost, people in Matthew 7:21-23 who failed to do the will of the Father (John 6:40). The Bible warns that “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

Here are some helpful comments on the Old and New Testament . . .

God called Moses up into the mountain before He gave the law and proposed a covenant between Him and His people (Exodus 19:3-6). Notice how God asked Moses to present His offer to the people. Here are all the elements of a true covenant. Conditions and promises are laid down for both sides. If the children of Israel accept God's proposal, a covenant will be established (Exodus 19:7,8).

Just as soon as that answer went back to God, the basis for the Old Covenant was set up. But before it could go into formal operation there had to be a sealing or ratifying of the pact. This ritualistic service involved the sprinkling of the blood of an ox on the people and is described in Exodus 24:4-8:

We are reminded in this passage that this covenant was not the law itself, but was made "concerning all these words." The Ten Commandments were the basis for the agreement. The people promised to keep that law, and God promised to bless them in return. The crucial weakness in the whole arrangement revolved around the way Israel promised. There was no suggestion that they could not fully conform to every requirement of God. Neither was there any application for divine assistance. "We can do it," they insisted. Here is a perfect example of leaning on the flesh and trusting human strength. The words are filled with self-confidence. "...All that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Exodus 19:8)

Were they able to keep that promise? In spite of their repeated assurances, they miserably broke their word before Moses could even get off the mountain with the tables of stone. Do we begin to see where the poor promises lay in the Old Covenant?

God is reported as "finding fault with them." (Hebrews 8:8). He said, "Because they continued not in my covenant ... I regarded them not." (Verse 9). The blame is placed squarely upon the human side of the mutual pact. Not God's side, not God's Law. Thus, we can see exactly why Paul wrote as he did about this Old Covenant in Hebrews 8. It did gender to bondage, it proved faulty, had poor promises, and vanished away - all because the people failed to obey their part of the agreement. Putting all these things together we can see why a new covenant was desperately needed, which would have better promises.

How were the New Covenant promises better? Because God made them, and they guaranteed successful obedience through His strength alone (Hebrews 8:10-12). How was the New Covenant ratified? In the same manner that the Old was confirmed - by the shedding of blood. But instead of an ox having to shed its blood, the sinless Son of God would provide the blood of sprinkling (Hebrews 12:24).

SOURCE: http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/covenants.html

Those people in the Old Testament who placed their faith in the Messiah, Who would one day shed His blood upon the cross, were saved. Romans 4:5 reads, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” People in the Old Testament were saved by grace through faith, just as we are today. The difference is that their salvation was pending the coming of the Savior; but, now that Christ has already come to Calvary, we need not hope for that day, as the Old Testament saints did. We know that Christ came to Calvary. What a blessed peace of soul. 

TRUTH—I believe one of the reasons why the world hates the Jews so much (i.e., Israel) is because of the LAW. God gave the world a conscience through ISRAEL, because God's LAW was given through the Jews to the Gentiles.

And here also, please read these helpful thoughts on the subject of the Old (as compared and contrasted) to the New Testament . . .

Because God’s revelation in Scripture is progressive, the New Testament brings into sharper focus principles that were introduced in the Old Testament. The book of Hebrews describes how Jesus is the true High Priest and how His one sacrifice replaces all previous sacrifices, which were mere foreshadowings. The Passover lamb of the Old Testament (Ezra 6:20) becomes the Lamb of God in the New Testament (John 1:29). The Old Testament gives the Law. The New Testament clarifies that the Law was meant to show men their need of salvation and was never intended to be the means of salvation (Romans 3:19).

The Old Testament saw paradise lost for Adam; the New Testament shows how paradise is regained through the second Adam (Christ). The Old Testament declares that man was separated from God through sin (Genesis 3), and the New Testament declares that man can be restored in his relationship to God (Romans 3—6). The Old Testament predicted the Messiah’s life. The Gospels record Jesus’ life, and the Epistles interpret His life and how we are to respond to all He has done.

In summary, the Old Testament lays the foundation for the coming of the Messiah who would sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The New Testament records the ministry of Jesus Christ and then looks back on what He did and how we are to respond. Both testaments reveal the same holy, merciful, and righteous God who condemns sin but desires to save sinners through an atoning sacrifice. In both testaments, God reveals Himself to us and shows us how we are to come to Him through faith (Genesis 15:6; Ephesians 2:8).

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/difference-old-new-testaments.html#ixzz2z9AWp8da

The Old Testament Covenant was not a faultless covenant as we read in Hebrews 8:6-7 . . .

“But now hath he (Christ) obtained a more excellent ministry (High Priest, Hebrews 4:15), by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” —Hebrews 8:6-7

The second (or “new”) covenant was so much more excellent because it didn't just atone (cover) our sins as the Old Covenant; but, rather, it took them all away by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which TAKETH AWAY the sin of the world”). Jesus' blood didn't just COVER (atone for) our sins; No, rather, Jesus' blood TOOK AWAY our sins (and their sins) forever. What a Wonderful Savior!

M.R. DeHaan M.D. in his excellent book, “THE CHEMISTRY OF THE BLOOD,” says:

“The blood of the sacrificial animals of the Old testament was corruptible and decayed and was soon gone, but the blood shed on Calvary was imperishable blood. It is called incorruptible. Peter says:

1st Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ...”

SOURCE: The Chemistry Of The Blood, Dr. M.R. DeHaan

The perfect blood of Jesus Christ made the New Testament possible. Matthew 26:28, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Many people read the Old and New Testaments, failing to realize that the blood of Jesus is the main theme of the Bible, from the blood sacrifice of Abel, to the blood of the Lamb in Revelation. Everything in the Old Testament, all their hopes, all their anticipations, all of their expectations, hinged upon the Messiah Who would one day come and shed His blood for their sins. As Hebrews 9:22 proclaims, "...Without shedding of blood is no remission."

Thank God for the New Testament, the New Covenant, which is God's promise to us that if we'll simply place our faith in Jesus Christ, as our Savior to forgive our sins, we WILL have everlasting life (John 3:16).

In closing, read the following precious passage of Scripture from Hebrews...

"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle (in Heaven), not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place (the Holy of Holies in heaven where the Mercy Seat is located), having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses 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 unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle (the Old Testament tabernacle on earth), and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (the death wasn't enough, the blood had to be applied). It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices (Jesus' blood) than these (animal sacrifices)For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." (Hebrews 9:11-24)

What a Precious Savior! Thank you Lord Jesus!

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