Sometimes people get confused over exactly when the New Covenant began. Among other references (mentioned in When Did the New Covenant Begin?), they sometimes use Luke 16:16 to support the erroneous idea of the New Covenant beginning when John the Baptist began preaching. I understand the confusion and want to clarify the difference between Luke 16:16 and Hebrews 9:16.
Luke 16:16 says, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.”
This verse is telling us that the Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Proclaiming means announcing. So, this means that the Law and Prophets ended their proclamations when John began his ministry. Proclaiming something does not necessarily mean that it is in effect yet. Often proclamations are warnings of an imminent event.
Why would the Law and Prophets end their proclamations? Because the Son of God was soon to appear. He required a serious, intense, and specific introduction, in so many words: Warning: This is it! Every Prophet pointed to this… Enter John the Baptist. John the Baptist was “the voice in the wilderness” telling everyone that everything the Prophets had spoken of was finally here. John’s message warned of massive changes in the law (Heb. 7:12) due to the new High Priest arriving, and that the people must prepare themselves for it (Is. 40:3, Matt. 3:3).
Luke 16:16 also says that since the Law and Prophets ended their proclamations, the good news is being preached and people are forcefully coming to faith. This explains that people back then were believing the good news effectively from John’s ministry, even before Jesus appeared. During John’s preaching, people were still being saved by faith looking “forward” to the Savior. We do just the opposite today as we look “back” by faith to the cross. The cross is the central point in all of history.
Here’s a time line with old and new covenants indicated below:
Law ends > John’s ministry > Jesus appears > Jesus dies > N.C. takes effect——->
|————–Old Covenant in effect—————————-|—–New Covenant————->
But the end of the proclamations of the Law and the Prophets did not change the law. Proclamations do not have the power to change the law.
There is only one thing that has the power to change the law. Getting right to the point, let’s read Hebrews 9:16-17.
Hebrews 9:16 -17 says, “In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.”
This verse is telling us that whenever you are dealing with a will (testament, law or covenant), there is one way to activate it. That only way to activate it is by proving the death of the one who wrote the will (testament, law or covenant). There is no other way.
This is exactly how wills operate today. Your will explains to those you leave behind how you want them to handle your property when you die. It also allows you to appoint a trustworthy person to manage your estate. My parents have moved into a retirement home. When they die, I will be the executor of their estate and handle everything they leave behind exactly as they have written in their will. But I will not execute my duties until the they die. Not a moment before. Because the will cannot be in effect until they both die.
Why is proving the death required? The next part of the verse tells us. It says, “a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.” This is telling us that the force of the will takes effect only after the person has died. If the person who wrote the will is still alive, then the will cannot go into effect.
So what is the will? The will is the testament of the New Covenant. Who is the testator or writer of the will? The writer of the New Covenant is Jesus Christ. He willed and wrote the New Covenant in His own blood. So, proof of His death is the only way that the New Covenant can go into effect.
When did Jesus Christ die? At Calvary, immediately after He said, It is finished” in John 19:30. That means that before that moment of His death, the Old Covenant was still in effect. Yes, it was still in effect while the Law and Prophets had ended their proclamations. Those far-off proclamations had to cease in order to make way for John the Baptist’s announcement of the imminent appearing of the Lamb of God (John 1:29).
So the difference between Luke 16:16 and Hebrews 9:16 is that Luke 16:16 is speaking of proclamations and Hebrews 9:16-17 is speaking of the will. The proclamations made the way for the will. The proclamations of the soon-coming New Covenant were being made while the Old Covenant was still in place.
The New Covenant took effect the moment Jesus Christ died. We believers are the beneficiaries of that covenant. The property He left us is all that He is and all that He has (Rom. 8:17). Unbelievable!
I hope that this makes sense and helps clarify some of the confusion.
Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.
Hebrews 7:12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.
Hebrews 9:16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Matthew 3:3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
John 1:29 The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Romans 8:17 ’”Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.