The Church is called "the bride of Christ" in the New Testament for good reason. It is we who have a covenant relationship with the One Who forgives sins. It is we who drink the cup with Him, and we for whom the price was paid. We are the ones to whom He said, "I go to prepare a place for you," and we are the ones who now await His sudden return.
Our covenant, in all its fullness, was expressed by the prophet Jeremiah: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they break, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jer. 31:31-34).
Paul repeated the same covenant in Hebrews 8:8-12, for the benefit of the bride.
We can see very plainly that these verses constitute a contract. Terms are given and the parties identified. The Lord made His covenant with "the house of Israel and with the house of Judah", but it is continued to all of those who are the spiritual seed of Abraham and follow the Jewish Messiah. The New Covenant is written in our hearts, in a very real sense. It is not like the Old Covenant given to Moses, as explained in verse 32 above. That covenant was etched in stone and totally inflexible and unbreakable - the punishment for breaking it was death. The New Covenant comes out of a love relationship - we obey the Lord today because we love Him, not because we fear Him - and thus the New Covenant is a matter of the heart.
God purposely contrasts the New Covenant with the Old in order to make the point that He would forgive our iniquities and forget our sins under the new arrangement.
This is the most striking term of the New Covenant - that our sins are forgiven and forgotten. That certainly wasn't true under the Mosaic law. The people might in effect "file sacrifices" against their sins so that when the Messiah came He would retroactively take that into consideration and forgive them (Romans 3:25). God went along with an unregenerate people, knowing that forgiveness would be provided when the Messiah paid the price as the final sacrifice. But we are not in the same position. The price has already been paid for our sins, so that every last one of them is totally forgiven.
Some believers don't like this concept, and indeed much of the Church spends much of its energy acting as if the Covenant read, "I will forgive you only if you're good." There is a great deal of pretense among the believers that each of us is sinless, or very nearly sinless. But the fact of the matter is, God knows well the hearts of men and has provided a different system for us than He did in the Old Covenant. We are not responsible to be sinless; we are responsible only to believe in the Messiah, Who was sinless in our place and paid for our sins.
We might look at the New Covenant as a "gift certificate" for salvation. When one gives you a gift certificate, you need only to take it to the store and present it; there will be no charge for the merchandise. It's not that the merchandise is free, but that someone has been there ahead of you and paid for it. When you get the merchandise home, you may misuse it, if you wish. You may take gifts provided for you by the one who bought your certificate and damage them, or fail to appreciate them. That would be a shame, of course, but it certainly wouldn't cause the buyer of your gift certificate to come to you demanding the return of the merchandise. In the case of the New Covenant, God, the store owner, has agreed to provide you the merchandise of salvation in return for the gift certificate purchased for you by His Son. It's as simple as that!
Well, then, you may ask, can I sin as much as I like and still be saved? Paul covered that case when he said, "Shall I sin more that grace may abound?" He made clear that we are not to take our salvation as a license - that would be as bad as damaging the free gift we have received - but, in point of fact, our salvation has been paid for in advance. We can only thank God for this arrangement under which we common sinners can achieve the glory reached by Christ Himself. We would certainly never make it on our own merits.
Verse 34 above will be fulfilled in the Kingdom of the Lord, when everyone will certainly know the King. He will reside in Jerusalem in the Tabernacle for 1,000 years and it will no longer be necessary for people to teach "every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying 'Know the Lord' ". When this particular wedding is completed, it will be a happy marriage indeed!
The New Covenant is like a contract also in the respect that it is signed and dated. In the verse following those quoted above, God presents His signature to this contract:Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is His name (Jer. 31:35).
There's no doubting whose signature that is!
Now we find a date, as we do on all contracts: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever (v. 36).
God says plainly that His covenant will go out of date when Israel ceases to be a nation. Clearly, our covenant is still in force because Israel is a nation today and has really never ceased to be a nation. If all the Jews would perish - if those who wanted to exterminate the Jewish people ever had their wish - then it is apparent that the New Covenant would go out of date and forgiveness would not be available to anyone. The very presence of the Jews among us is the sign of the New Covenant; it is still in force and every sin of every person who believes is still forgiven.
The Jews are, in this one way, a most special people. As God promised His friend Abraham: And I make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Gen. 12: 2-3).
But in case anyone would doubt that Israel will survive, the Lord adds a footnote in the next verse: Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord (Jer. 31:37).
Obviously, Israel is as secure as the secrets of how the universe is put together. If anyone could tell God how He has set up in heaven and earth, He would then cast off the seed of Israel, He says. It's virtually the same argument God used with Job when that worthy one came before Him with questions. God inquired, "Where was thou when I laid the cornerstone of the earth?" as if to say, "Seeing that you ask such intelligent questions, I am sure that you understand as much as God does." That settled who Job was and who God was, and the verse quoted above should settle once and for all any question about the survival of Israel and the Jewish people.
And thus we have our marriage contract and it is an advantageous contract for the bride indeed. Note the language used in Jeremiah 31:32: "Which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord." God could very well have been angry enough with Israel that He would have chosen a different bride for His Son. He says, in effect, "I tried to marry them before, but they broke the marriage contract." Nevertheless, in His forgiveness, God makes this covenant again with Israel, sending His Son to that nation and the Holy Spirit to that people. And Israel, in turn, sent the Messiah to the world through Jewish missionaries who built the churches of Asia. And the contract God has made is a real stunner - He has agreed that should the Bride sin this time, He will forget about it!
It is as if the bridegroom came forward and said to his bride, "I'll pay the price for you and drink the cup with you, and go to prepare the place for you and if you happen to stumble in the year that I am away, I'll just forget it. If I hear, while I am building the bridal chamber, that you were not waiting for me at home but had even gone out with another man, I will just forget about it. If you try to break my covenant, I will not allow it to be broken. I will pay for all your sins myself!"
Here, we have a bridal contract unbreakable by the bride. How could God possibly make such a contract? Well, we might say this: The price was very high.