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texts: “But ye are come unto... And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24, KJV).
“For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28, MKJV).
We were talking with some old friends and bringing each up to date and one declared, “I've bought a new car.” Such a statement requires an explanation. Did he buy a “brand-new” car or a car off a used-car lot but was “new” to him?
The problem is that the word “new” in our culture can mean either one. “New clothes” can refer to “hand-me-downs.” A “new” store can refer to a newly constructed building or a new business in an old building.
The Greeks apparently did not have that problem. The King James translates at least four different Greek words as new. Each word is precise in its meanings. They were neoςG3501 (Hebrews 12:24), kainoςG2537 (Matthew 26:28), προσφάτωςG4372 (Hebrews 10:20), and ἄγναφοςG46 (Matthew 9:16). Let's consider the two words that are used with Testament or Covenant.
The word neoςG3501 was precise and meant “young” or “recent” in the sense of being brand-new in time and age. The "new" wine of Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:37-39 is of recent production. This is the source for our English word “new.” It is used of the young, and is so translated, especially with the comparative degree "younger” in such passages as Titus 2:6 and Acts 5:6. Our text in Hebrews 12:24 teaches that we have come forward to a brand-new testament. Although there may have been other testaments, this one has never existed before. This is the only time that the Bible refers to the New Testament in this sense.
Kainos denotes "new," of that which is unaccustomed or unused like Jesus' borrowed tomb, but not of that which is in time or recently made. It is "new" as of a different nature from what is contrasted as old. An example of kainos is the new tongues that Jesus promised to the apostles (Mark 16:17). These “new” languages (Acts 2:4) were “new” and “different,” not “new” in the sense that they had never been heard before, or that they were new to the hearers, for it is plain from the context (Acts 2:8) that they were not new languages to the speakers, but rather they were different from those in which the apostles had been used to speaking. You and I can speak a “new” tongue also if we first must study the language. The apostles miraculously did not have to study and master all the dialects present in the multitude in Jerusalem on that day of Pentecost but spoke freely the gospel message and it was understood by all in their native languages (Acts 2:6). Jesus called such a sign to confirm His gospel (Mark 16:17).
During the Passover Feast in the upper room, Jesus said, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom” (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). He and His followers were to drink the fruit of the vine new in the Kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). This "new" drinking in the kingdom would mean a drink that has not been used or has a different nature from that which is “old.” That is, the drink will not be in a Passover Feast (which was done away at the cross, Hebrews 7:12; Colosssians 2:14-17). It would be new “different” as to purpose; i.e., a different kind of service. It would now be associated directly with Jesus' blood that would be shed the very next day (Matthew 26:28). When Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me”, Jesus was commanding observance of the communion of the cup under the approaching New Covenant which was honored by the faithful in Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 and is to be observed by us today.
The Bible prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-33 that there would be a different testament that God would make. It would not be according to the covenant which was made “with the Jewish fathers” (Deuteronomy 5:1-5). Hence, the word kainosG2537. This prophesy is quoted in Hebrews 8 as being fulfilled by Christ. The emphasis is of it being a different covenant in Hebrews 8:9. The "new" is contrasted with the first, the Mosaic Covenant. “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” (Hebrews 8:8,13; 9:15).
When we observe the Lord's Supper, remember we are drinking the cup in fellowship with our Lord but for a different purpose than that of the Passover Feast which only observed the sacrifice of an animal, a lamb. Our authority comes not from the Old Testament but from the New Covenant, the last testament of Jesus.
iNote: In the KJV diathekeG1242 is translated by either “covenant” or “testament” (e.g., Jeremiah 31:31d [LXX]; Hebrews 8:9 and 9:15). Covenant is equivalent to testament.
iiKainos is the Anglicized word cene. Students can determine the differences by reading different versions, by referring to a Bible interlinear, or a English-Greek dictionary. The early Christians read kainos in some of the places where we read “new.” This word is not unfamiliar to us when we Anglicize it as cene in such geologic words as Paleocene, eocene, cenozoic, and even as the base in “re-cent.”