The first ones invited into the new covenant were natural Jews and Jewish proselytes. How exciting it must have been for those attending the festival of Pentecost to find out that the new covenant promised in JEREMIAH 31:31- 34 had been inaugurated and was now in force!
What good news it was that worshippers of God did not need to offer animal sacrifices anymore!
What good news it was to know that they no longer needed to keep the Mosaic Law. The law would now be written on their hearts! LOVE GOD and LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR. SIMPLE!
What good news it was to know that they no longer had the barrier of sin between themselves and their God. With faith in the redeeming blood of Christ, they could enter into a new and more intimate relationship with God as his children.
WHAT GOOD NEWS!
The best way to understand the good news is to understand the theme of the bible.
God's purpose when he created Adam and Eve was for them to enjoy life on earth forever as part of his universal family. Sadly, our first parents chose to rebel against their heavenly father and thus lost perfection and could only pass on sin and death to their offspring.
Out of love for Adam and Eve's offspring, God made arrangements straight away to repair the damage that had been caused. He would send a 'seed' (GEN 3:15) that would be the key to the restoration of his original purpose. The word 'seed' refers to offspring, so God was promising that a particular person would be born who would be integral in his purpose to restore humans to perfection.
The good news is that Jesus was the Christ (or anointed one) - the promised seed in GEN 3:15 and the promised seed of Abraham.
If the literal nation of Israel had proven faithful then they would have made up a kingdom of priests ruling along with Christ but because they, as a whole, did not, the invitation was opened up to any who exercise faith in Jesus to be taken into the new covenant and thus become part of Abraham's seed, 'heirs with reference to a promise.' The good news is that through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can be declared righteous before God and thus enjoy sonship on the basis of this loving sacrifice.
Because of this great sacrifice, the opportunity open to us today is the same as the first century. We are being invited to enter the new covenant and become Christ's brothers and sisters. This means that the hope and reward for those who respond to the good news is to join Christ in heaven. What a privilege! And not only will we be with Christ but also with his and our heavenly father, Almighty God!
Jesus wrote in MATTHEW 5:8:
"Happy are the pure in heart, since they will see God."
What a wonderful privilege! Could there be any better news?!
If you have been brought up as a Jehovah's Witness, this change in thinking is HUGE!
Making this adjustment in thinking after a lifetime of believing something else is difficult and confronting. It is natural that certain questions arise. I have presented some of these on another page.
It is understandable that after being in a religion where you are told what to think, how to feel and who to listen to (and not listen to) and other such methods of control, that you would find it unsettling to be without an array of rules. It is much easier for someone else to tell us what to do and what to believe than ascertaining this ourselves through diligent bible reading and consideration but that is not Christian maturity.
HEBREWS 5:14 tells us that we must train our perceptive powers to distinguish between right and wrong and that this is accomplished BY USE!
We need take our bible and read it for ourselves and pray fervently to our God and Father to guide us in our search for truth. Jesus promised that he would send a helper, the Holy Spirit and we can pray for that holy spirit to help us move forward in faith. (JOHN 14:26)
Why not read our Lord's own words in the four gospels? The ACTS of the apostles is also wonderful reading as are Paul's letters where the 'sacred secret' of these things is explained.
Discuss what you learn with others but do not abdicate your thinking ability to others. Do not look to anyone else as an ultimate authority. Jesus said in MATTHEW 23:8-10 -
"But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your Father on earth, for one is your father, the heavenly one. Neither be called leaders, for your leader is one, the Christ."
We are all brothers and sisters. We look to Jesus for direction and we do this by reading and meditating on God's Word. Do not let your research become all about what others say the bible means. Allow God's holy spirit to guide you personally and enjoy the rich blessings that Jesus our leader gives to those who 'keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking.'
It's likely that we would say, "If I had lived back then, I would have followed Christ and accepted his invitation" but would you?
The same invitation that was extended to those in the first century is open today. Do we prefer to be under the yoke of man-made rules or under the yoke of Christ?
If we associate with an organisation that has one person or a group of persons set up as a leader or leaders and laying down rules that go beyond what Christ taught, then how are we any different to those under law in Jesus' day who rejected the invitation of Christian freedom?
As unbelievable as it may seem, most of the Jews preferred to stay under the Mosaic law despite its inability to free them from sin. They preferred being under the oppressive rules of the Scribes and Pharisees. How ungrateful and stupid (defined as 'lacking intelligence or common sense') of these ones to reject Jesus' kind invitation,
"Come to me all you who are toiling and loaded down and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light." MATTHEW 11:28 + 29
This question seems so simple when you have been raised as a Jehovah's Witness. We were taught that the good news is that God will soon destroy the wicked and we will live forever on a paradise earth.
The bible clearly speaks of the earth being inhabited by the righteous and this is good news but at this time in history, is this the message that Jesus assigned us to preach as good news?
ACTS 5:42 speaks of the apostles after they had been flogged and says, "And every day in the temple and from house to house, they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus." The good news was about the CHRIST!
So what exactly is this good news about the Christ and where do we fit in?
As prophesied by the ancient prophets and by Jesus himself (John 10:16) the time had come for the nations to be invited into the new covenant too, the covenant for a kingdom.
What good news for those of the nations!
The Roman army officer Cornelius was the first non-Jew to be taken into the new covenant. (ACTS 10)
Paul is chosen by Christ himself (as recorded in ACTS 8) and assigned by Jesus himself to go out to the nations and invite anyone who listened to be in the new covenant. Thousands responded.
At last the seed arrived - Jesus the firstborn son of God! His life was given in sacrifice and the opportunity opened for those exercising faith in his sacrifice to be fully cleansed of sin, unlike the temporary cleansing under the law of Moses.
God chose his friend Abraham to be the ancestor of this seed which was a great privilege and reward for his faith. He promised that by means of Abraham's seed all nations of the earth would be blessed. GEN 22:15-18
On the night of his death, Jesus made a covenant with his apostles for a kingdom. For them to be approved and rule as kings with him they would need to be cleansed from their sins. This would be accomplished by a new covenant (or testament.) The old covenant (or old testament) made with the nation of Israel was about to be made obsolete. Jesus knew that he was to be killed that night and this would be the final act that would end the old covenant forever!
The new covenant would be between Almighty God and spiritual Israel (rather than literal Israel) and Jesus (the greater Moses) would act as mediator. This covenant would be validated and go into force once his precious perfect blood was sacrificed.
Eventually Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) grew and became a populous nation. After their miraculous release from Egypt, God made a covenant with Abraham's descendants. If they kept his covenant and obeyed his voice, he would make them into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (EXODUS 19:5 + 6) They accepted.
God gave them the law through his mediator Moses. The purpose of the law was twofold:
1. It kept the nation pure and separated from the surrounding nations in preparation for the coming of the promised seed.
2. It increased appreciation for the release that the coming of the seed would bring, as righteousness by means of the law was impossible. Imperfect humans were unable to keep the law perfectly.