And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. – Hebrews 11:39-40

We have studied and seen how God has used these ordinary people to do great things because they had faith. We have seen the works that their faith produced, and we have seen that they had a good testimony. We talked about the fact that they died without receiving the promise. They did not see Jesus come. It was still far in the future, but they did live by faith in the promise.

Now we see that the next phrase tells us that we, presently, have something better than the Old Testament saints. What is it that we have that is better? Obviously they were saved just as we are, by grace through faith in Christ. Obviously they had blessings and provisions from God as He is their Savior. So what do we have that is better?

It is the New Covenant ratified by the blood of Christ shed for the sins of His people. The book of Hebrews throughout is a study of how Christ is better than angels, OT saints, priests, etc., and He has come to bring to pass a better covenant with better promises for His people.Let us briefly compare the Old and New Covenants.

The Old Covenant Had Faults

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. – Hebrews 8:7

For all that the Old Covenant teaches us about God and His loving plan of redemption, it was a covenant that had faults. The faults were not with the conditions of the covenant. The faults were the people who entered into the covenant with God. What were their faults? They could not and would not keep the covenant.

Over and over in the Old Testament we read about the children of Israel breaking their covenant with God. They would repent and renew the covenant, but just as soon as they did it seems that they were running off after another sin or another idol. The fault with the Old Covenant is found in the simple fact that the people who were members of that convenant could not keep its terms.

The New Covenant has no such faults because Christ has kept its terms on our behalf. He has imputed to us His righteousness so that we meet God’s just standard of holiness. He did what we could not do. He met the requirements required of us. In that He kept the Law of God perfectly and gave to us His “rightness” with God, there is no fault, there is no breaking or renewal of the New Covenant. He has sacrificed Himself for His people once for all.

The Old Covenant Had an End

In that He says, “A new covenant, ” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. – Hebrews 8:13

The Old Covenant, with its faults, eventually came to an end. It served God’s purposes and just as He planned, it reached an end. We are no longer under the Old system of rituals or sacrifices. The term used here is that the Old Covenant is now obsolete.

The Judaizers tried to burden the church with Old Covenant standards and rituals, but Paul refuted them soundly in his epistles, most notably Galatians. There he defines our uses of the Law now and shows how we have a New Covenant that is never obsolete and will never pass away.

The Old Covenant Had a Veil

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. – Hebrews 9:1-10

A read of Hebrews 9 and 2 Corithians 3 shows us that there was a veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. This veil protected the priests and the people from the glorious presence of God who in His holiness cannot be looked upon by mortal man.

Once a year the High Priest would go through that veil to sprinkle the blood on the Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant. This was the Day of Atonement for the sins of Israel. The priest would wear bells on the hem of his robe and also had a rope tied around his waist. As long as the bells jingled the people knew he was still alive. If they ceased they knew he had not been cleansed properly or had sinned in the presence of God and had been killed and they could pull him out through the veil by the rope. God’s holiness is serious business.

However, when Christ died, ratifying the New Covenant in His shed blood, remember what happened to the veil? It was torn in two from the top to the bottom. God had come down to man and now Jesus was our High Priest giving us access to the Father without the veil!

The Old Covenant Had Lesser Sacrifices

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance… – Hebrews 9:11-15

When we compare the sacrifices of the Old Testament to the sacrifice of Christ we see without any doubt that those sacrifices were lesser. They served to point the way to Christ, showing us that there was a cost for sin. When Jesus became the sacrifice Himself, those animal sacrifices surely were seen for what they were, inadequate for the forgivenss of sins. To truly wipe sin away, Jesus had to die. His sacrifice is greater and better, it is final, never to be repeated. It is sufficient.