The New Covenant and the Revelation of The Mystery
The New Covenant ministry of the Apostle Paul, with its accompanying miracles, continued until Acts xxviii; there he is seen bound for the hope of Israel (verse 20), still exercising miraculous power (verses 3-9), still testifying to the Jew first (verse 17), and still basing the testimony concerning the Lord Jesus upon the law of Moses and the Prophets (verse 23). The Jews at Rome were no exception, for with the rest of their nation they rejected the testimony. They hardened their hearts lest they should be converted and the Lord should heal them. When this occurred in other cities Paul had turned to the Gentiles in order to provoke his own people to repentance, but on this last occasion he did not simply turn to the Gentiles, but his ministry henceforth was to the Gentiles first and foremost (Eph. iii. 1).
The duration of Israel's blindness had been foreseen:
"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke xxi. 24).
This is the condition we find Israel and Jerusalem in to this day. The end of the times of the Gentiles is also the time when the Lord shall come and the New Covenant shall be made:
"Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved . . . there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer . . . for this is My Covenant unto them" (Rom. xi. 25-27).
Thus from the pronouncement of Acts xxviii until some future time the New Covenant could not be made with Israel, and consequently the probability of "He may come" no longer remained as an immediate hope. What then is the place of the New Covenant and its accompaniments during this present period? To discover this it is necessary to examine the scriptures written after Acts xxviii. 28, and written for the present dispensation (Eph., Phil., Col.).
In the prison epistles of Paul the New Covenant is not mentioned. "Covenants" occur but once, and that in a negative sense:
“Wherefore remember that ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh ,. . . that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise" (Eph. ii. 11, 12).
This occurs in a context where the past dispensational distance of the Gentiles is set in contrast with their present nearness in the "one new man." No mention is made of Gentiles being blessed with Jewish blessings, but rather that from Jew and Gentile alike there is being taken out a company that is to be blessed in the heavenly places (verse 6).
No mention is made of the hope of the parousia in these epistles, or of such related things as Sinai, the Heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, or of things promised in the Old Testament. In their place another calling is spoken of, "All spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. i. 3), and other things are revealed not promised before in the Scriptures:
"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ among you, the hope of glory" (Col i. 27, 28).
With the change of Acts xxviii. 28 and the revelation of a new place of blessing and of a new hope (Eph. i. 18; Col. iii. 4) Paul also received a change of ministry. Instead of claiming to be a minister of the New Covenant as in 2 Cor. iii. 6, he now states:
"I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you . . . even the mystery) (Col. i. 25, 26).
Exercising this ministry Paul was given instructions as to how the believers should now walk in accordance with the revelation of the Mystery. Much that was required under the earlier ministry is restated, but those things that were peculiarly related to the New Covenant and its hope are not repeated. No mention is made of the Lord's Table, or of signs, tongues or healings.
The Gospel of John is considered to be the latest writing of the New Testament. Chapters xiii. To xvii. Were spoken at the Last Supper, but no mention of the New Covenant is made or of any memorial ordinance. This Gospel is specially fitted for the testimony of salvation at this present time, and had it been required that this ordinance should have been observed by the believers to whom it ministers, it is reasonable to expect that it would have been stated.
To those believers who were blessed under the New Covenant the observance of the Lord's Supper was a means whereby they could testify to their faith in the fact that the blood of the New Covenant had already been shed for them, and that they were keeping it with the earnest hope that the Lord might come to bring all these blessings of the New Covenant to pass. Today, the believer who by grace has been led to see the truth of the Mystery, the very non-observance of the Lord's supper is a witness to the fact that he has a calling that is unconnected with the New Covenant, and that the hope of his calling is distinct from the parousia. The question of the observance of the Lord's Table is not one that necessarily applies to every believer; that would savour too much of the spirit of "What shall this man do." It is but part of a larger subject. If the believer is enlightened into the truth of the Mystery that God desires His own to acknowledge today, and sees it to be distinct from the New Covenant, then the course that is consistent with such an acknowledgement is one that testifies of the Mystery without participating in anything that would hinder others from being enlightened into the same truth.
While the Mystery is distinct from the New Covenant, yet there are principles that are parallel. The life which the Lord Jesus laid down for the New Covenant was also laid down for the sin of the whole world. Salvation is found only in Him:
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John vi. 51).
The Lord Jesus is a mediator for us:
"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. ii. 5).
Not the Mediator of the New Covenant, nor the bread of the New Covenant ordinance, yet all that they could typify and much more. The goal of the New Covenant will not be reached until Israel's heart is changed (Heb. viii. 10).
The goal of the prayers of the Mystery is:
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend. . ." (Eph. iii. 17, 18).
Whatever the calling may be, it ever leads to Christ. The calling of the Mystery is more glorious, because it will be realized in the place where Christ is now exalted. The hope of the New Covenant awaits the time when He leaves that place, and returns to take away ungodliness from Jacob:
"And so, all Israel shall be saved . . . for this is My Covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Rom. xi. 26, 27).