The cross of Christ sets the dividing line between the Old and New Testament. Before the foundations of the world were laid God had already laid out a plan by which he would offer salvation to all who will come to him. From the beginning that plan involved a cross for the Son of God, the Messiah. While some have said that the cross wasn’t God’s plan but a part of man’s rebellion, that misses the point made in Genesis 3:15 when God told the serpent/the devil that he would bruise the heal of the seed of the woman but he would bruise Satan’s head. Over a thousand years before Jesus came into the world David wrote Psalms 22 that pictured Jesus on the cross. Six hundred years before the coming of Christ Isaiah made a fuller description of Jesus being rejected and despised by men, that he would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief and that by his stripes we would be healed. He was to die for the sins of the world but after such a death God would prolong his days (Isaiah 53). Everything before the cross was looking forward to the day when Jesus would come into the world and would ultimately go to the cross for the sins of the whole world.
In Hebrews 9:13-17 there is a clear picture of what would result from the cross and what it was like before Jesus went to the cross for us. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for the redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Where a will exists, the death of the testator must be established.. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in force while the testator is living.”
Notice the dividing line between the Old and New Covenant with the Lord. In Romans 7:4 it says, “Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to another – to Him who was raised from the dead – that we may bear fruit for God.”
Notice in both these Scriptures the point is that God put the old covenant to death and gave us a new covenant in order for us to serve him and bear fruit for his name. He wanted us to have a clear conscience so we could serve effectively. Under the old way of seeing things one was reminded of all their sins each year when they came to offer a lamb for their sins. Jesus died one time for the sins of the world so there is no need any longer for one to return to the temple to make new offerings for sin.
Before the cross one looked forward to the day that a new covenant would come in which it would no longer be like the law given to Moses but the new covenant would be written on the hearts of people and those in covenant relationships with God would not have to be taught any longer to know the Lord since all would know him from least of them to the greatest. This new covenant would expand the relationship with God as Father and us his children. It would bring about a time when our sins would be forgiven to never be brought up against us again since God would put them completely out of his memory. (Jeremiah 31:31-35; Hebrews 8:7-12)
Before the cross God’s special people were those who were of the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac, the nation of Israel. They were supposed to take the message of God to the whole world but they became more and more exclusive in their thinking as the years passed.
Before the cross the law was a burden too heaven for them to bear. In Acts 15 when the apostles, elders and members of the Jerusalem church met with Paul and Barnabas about the conflict between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians of their time, especially relating to the subject of whether these Gentile Christians were supposed to be circumcised and submit to the Old Law, Peter said the Old Covenant was a law they couldn’t keep. In Galatians 2 when Paul confronted Peter for being hypocritical by eating with the Gentiles until some from James came to Antioch, then pulling away to eat only with the Christians of Jewish background, In his confrontation he said to Peter that he was trying to bind on the Gentiles a law that “Neither we nor our fathers have been able to keep.”
Thank God we aren’t living in the time before the cross, where law was the primary issue and people couldn’t live up to its commands. “If the first law had been without fault then no place would have been sought for a second. But finding fault with it he said, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Jacob.” (Hebrews 8:7) In Hebrews 7:18, 19 it is said, “So the previous commandment is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable. (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God.”
Before the cross the church was non-existent and the kingdom of the Lord was still to come. Mankind needed to reach the foot of the cross in order to understand many aspects of godly living and the purposes of God. It must have been a time of anticipation even though most had no clear idea of what it was that was to come.