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Hebrews 8:13:

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. [NIV]

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is about to disappear. [NASB]

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. [ESV]

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. [KJV]

in the saying `new,' He hath made the first old, and what doth become obsolete and is old [is] nigh disappearing. [YLT]

Hebrews 8:13 talks about two different concepts: (1) obsolescence and (2) disappearing/vanishing away. I already asked two questions about the meaning of the word obsolete and the exact moment this happened. However, some have suggested that there is clear indication of delay between the moment the Old Covenant became obsolete and the moment it would disappear/vanish away, meaning that the OT would still be in effect during that interval.

Question: At what exact moment did/will the Old Covenant disappear/vanish away?

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    An interesting ‘set’ of Qs - which actually leads to many other Qs. Example, some believe there will be a third temple, and that the sacrificial system will be restarted (Daniel 9/Mat 24). That is, an ‘obsolete’ practice will be seemingly restored?
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 1:37
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    @Dave - Revelation says there will be a final temple, complete with the sacrificial system. But can it, once again, be effective after it was made obsolete? Don't know. What does seem clear is that the NT makes a distinction between day/hEmera and To-Day/sEmeron. Context says to avail ourselves To-Day of the Hand/Holy Spirit of Jesus while It is still extended to us on earth. There will come a time when He calls back His Hand/Holy Spirit to Himself - and those who are 'in His Hand' will be taken up to Him. Those left, I suppose, will try the sacrificial way again.
    – tblue
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 18:23

9 Answers 9

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At what exact moment did/will the Old Covenant disappear/vanish away? Hebrews 8:13

the Law covenant was canceled on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross (figuratively speaking) that is,he set aside the Law covenant, with its required offerings and sacrifices.

Colossians 2:14 NASB

14 having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

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With the destruction of the Second Temple, which occurred in AD 70.

Hebrews 8:13.

"By speaking of a new covenant, He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear."

It is clear that the Old Covenant, although 'obsolete', still exists. When will it 'disappear'? Soon.

When was Hebrews written? The consensus is that it was written before the destruction of the Second Temple (although some scholars think it was later), most likely in the 60s. A standard date is AD 63-64.

So it is reasonable to infer that the Old Covenant disappeared soon after AD 63-64.

As Tony Chan has astutely noted, we get another time statement that seems relevant from Jesus himself. Matthew 5:17-18,

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. 18 For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Not even a jot or stroke of a pen will disappear from the Law until 'everything is accomplished'. When is that?

Luke 21:32-33,

"Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away."

'All these things' will happen within 'this generation'. Jesus is speaking around AD 33. A generation in ancient Jewish thought was 40 years. That puts it at the latest around AD 73. This comports with Hebrews 8, as that would be 'soon' after Hebrews 8 was written (AD 63).

We therefore have a window of between AD 63 and AD 73 for when all things have happened, things do disappear from the Law, and heaven and earth pass away.

'Heaven and earth' passing away is a way of discussing the end of the old order, including the Old Covenant. There is a very obvious event, happening between AD 63 and AD 73, that fits this. The siege and destruction of Jerusalem, including the destruction of the Second Temple, is the obvious event.

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    So, are you suggesting that heaven and earth passed away around AD 70?
    – user38524
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 22:02
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Yes. See for ex. eschatology.com/heavenearthsea.html 'Heaven and earth passing away' is figurative, not literal, language. Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 22:29
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Continuing from the responses to a previous question - that ‘obsolete’ came about by being ‘replaced’ - this ‘vanishing away’ is seen to be gradual ..

HEB 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

So, looking back and taking some of a previous response....

So in effect the answer to your question is actually dependant - It was dependent on those whom were being addressed- that is, the ‘audience’ Paul (Paul?) was writing to. It was up to them to make it obsolete. (For themselves.) It was up to them to step away from, to step out from ‘under’ that covenant they were under, and enter into the new. They could (needed to) decide to come out from ‘under’ the Old covenant and into the new. And this is what the author (Paul?) was trying to get them to do.

Jesus provided the release, and the ‘way’ to step out of the ‘old’, but it is up to each believer to actually do so. And that is what is being ‘preached’ in Hebrews, and Galatians...

Summary - you choose to partake in a covenant. [and] You can choose the/which covenant. Some - to this day - still choose to partake of the ‘old’.

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    +1 This is right re the move from Old to New, but a covenant requires two parties - not just you but also God. If God cancels the Old Covenant, it doesn't matter if people choose it over the New - it's not applicable anymore. No? Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 21:54
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    @OneGodtheFather Who is saying the Old/Mosaic Covenant was cancelled?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 22:58
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    @OneGodtheFather No way does Hebrews say the Old Covenant is cancelled! It's obsolete, it's fading away, but it's not cancelled. That's just not supported by what Hebrews says.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 23:04
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    @OneGodtheFather That's not the same as saying it's cancelled. Saying it is cancelled implies all the OT saints had their righteous relationship with God cancelled too.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 23:09
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    @One God the Father - Yes, a covenant has two parties. But, one party can’t just arbitrarily cancel or make changes to it. It’s a ‘contract’. Therefore this requires both parties to agree. (or fulfil it). The way Jesus made it possible for the Israelites to ‘opt out’ was by fulfilling mans part - as a man! If God could just cancel it - then Jesus wouldn’t have had to fulfil it.
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 23:35
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At what exact moment did/will the Old Covenant disappear/vanish away?

Jesus answered it in Matthew 5:18

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

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    1) Are you suggesting that the Law and the Old Covenant are synonyms? 2) When was/will everything (be) accomplished?
    – user38524
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 17:35
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    1) yes in this context. 2) when the old heaven and earth disappear
    – user35953
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 17:39
  • What would you understand by the phrase "heaven and earth" Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 18:34
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The first point to observe is that the future tense, the "will soon" etc., needs to be understood from the viewpont of Jeremiah. The writer of Hebrews is spelling out the meaning of what Jeremiah says.

Secondly, the message of ch8 is that the old priestly ministry and old covenant become inoperative because Christ began a new ministry and announced a new covenant (v1, v6). The logical implication is that the old covenant ceased to function WHEN Christ began his better ministry.

In other chapters, we are told that Christ's priestly ministry began when he entered "the heavenly sanctuary", offering (in effect) the blood of his own sacrificial death (ch9 v24, ch7 v27, ch9 v12, etc.)

In other words, the old covenant passed away on that day when Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Taking them as the same day (John ch20 v17).

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We are saved by God when we respond in faith to God's self-revelation to us. In a way, it doesn't matter so much which of God's messages and covenants we are responding in faith to, so long as we are accepting and trusting all of what he communicates to us.

So even after the cross, even after the church started spreading the Gospel, there were still many faithful Jews, people who were faithful within the Old Covenant. These are the people who would joyfully accept the Gospel as soon as they heard it. As a Christian, I believe that when Jews reject the Gospel, it shows that they were never truly faithful participants in the Old/Mosaic Covenant, for if they were, they would receive God's new self-revelation in Christ.

So during the time that the author of Hebrews was writing, the Mosaic Covenant was obsolete, but there were still some people who were faithful participants in it in right relationship with God. That would slowly change as the message of the Christian Gospel was taken into all communities with faithful Jews, until a time was reached when all the people of the Jewish nation had been exposed to the Christian Gospel. At that time I would say that the Mosaic Covenant disappeared, for no longer could you participate in it and truly be responding in faith to God's revelation to you.

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The decree of a king can never be canceled or become obsolete. So much more for the Word of God, which is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. How could it ever be altered? Yeshua said he' only did what the Father told him. The Father says in Psalms that His Law is perfect'. The Greek word for 'fulfilled' can just as easily be translated as 'fully preach'. The obvious context is given with the statement that Messiah did not come to 'abolish the law (Torah -God's Instructions) but to fully preach it. He also obviously came to pay the debt for our sins (those in covenant). The wage of sin is death. That is an 'Old Covenant' reality since the Garden of Eden and the first Adam. That debt which didn't go away but had to be paid is the penalty of the sinning. The 'Law' we are 'free' from is the 'Law of Sin and Death'(one of 7 'Laws' Paul mentions). In other words if you sin, you die. That penalty always needs to be paid, because the King's decree cannot be 'abolished'.

The 'New Covenant' should be translated 'Renewed' as the prophet Jeremiah makes it clear the covenant is for Israel. Paul makes it clear that Gentiles (in Covenant) are now grafted in the Commonwealth of Israel, not the other way around.

1 John 3:4 makes it very clear that sin is lawlessness. Matthew 24:12 also makes it clear "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 7:23 'I never 'knew you' (covenant intimacy as in marriage) 'workers of lawlessness'. Mankind has always been saved by grace, there is only one Covenant that had to be Renewed due to man's inability to remain in covenant without the 'Law' (God's Torah or instructions for hitting the mark) and redemption of Yeshua's innocent blood.

We have been fed lies the better part of 2000 years full of trickery to keep us out of covenant by the very 'shepherds' who are entrusted to lead us into covenant. Time to wake up people and think for yourself actually read the words and not explain them away to fit a narrative. BTW, heaven and earth haven't passed away quite yet. Neither has seed time or harvest. Stop picking and choosing which words of the OT you want to incorporate and leave the ones that don't fit the 'not under the Law' narrative. If you are not under the Law of God, you aren't under His covenant. If you are under His covenant then you aren't under the Law of Sin and Death - that is the penalty of death. Otherwise, you wouldn't need a resurrection or a Messiah. God's Laws didn't go anywhere. They are still in force just the same as the sun, moon, and stars. Not new, renewed.

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    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 11:42
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Regardless of when exactly would you put the change of the covenant, this verse does not talk about a future event. In Greek, verbs are aspect based not time.

verbs are not primarily concerned either with time or with objectified action, but with a subjective perspective on action. This has come to be called aspect theory (Porter 2002, 116-17)

There is wide consensus in the relevant scholarly literature today that Greek, unlike English, is aspect-prominent. In other words, the Greek speaker or writer chooses to present an action from a certain subjective vantage point. This choice of perspective (verbal aspect) is more prominent in Greek verbs than the time at which the action is performed and/or the way in which the action is performed (i.e., the action’s objective or intrinsic nature). [Going Deeper with New Testament Greek]

In Greek, present tense form can be used to describe any event in time with a particular aspect and perspective. This verse Heb 8:13 is describing facts or truths in present tense forms. First, of all there is no future tense word in the verse, some translators have mistakenly used "will" (ISV, NIV) due to the adverb ἐγγὺς (about to, near, ready) suggesting a future upcoming event. However, the phrase ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ can be translated as "eventually disappearing" (Dongshin Don Chang, 2016) or "readily/easily disappears", "bound to vanish", culminates to its end. The verse is similar to Hebrews 6:8 (ESV) which has the same adverb "But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned".

The translations could be improved to avoid confusing and vague phrases.

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The author of Hebrews can answer the question.

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

16 In the case of a will (Same Greek word as covenant), it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it,

17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. (Hebrews 9:15-17 NIV)

According to the author of Hebrews, the new covenant take effect at time of Jesus died on the cross, and it is the same time the old covenant obsoleted.

But how is it in coherent with Jesus' statements

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18 NIV)

According to the author of Hebrews, 'the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.' (Hebrews 9:22 NIV). Every year, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place with blood of the sacrifice. 'Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (Hebrews 10:11 NIV). But Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many, 'And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10 NIV).

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." (Hebrews 10:16 NIV paraphrase Jeremiah 31:31-33)

When the new covenant becomes effective, the spirit of the old covenant is carrying on in the hearts and minds of people, though the statute had been obsoleted.

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