life, people had to come to Jesus personally. Under the "new covenant" he instituted, there would be no other way to the Father, except through Jesus. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6 New King James Version)
This can be understood best by looking first at the "old covenant" God established with Israel. Jews were in a special relationship with God, through this formal agreement or covenant, by virtue of being members of the nation of Israel. This arrangement was to be superseded by a new covenant at some future time, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, chapter 31.
"'The time is coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,' declares the LORD . " (Jeremiah 31:31-32 NIV)
Under this new covenant "'they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the LORD. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'" (verse 34 NIV) All sorts of sinful people—even prostitutes and corrupt tax collectors—came to Jesus and received forgiveness of their sins. The forgiveness was a free gift, not earned by good works. This angered the Jewish religious leaders who wanted people to seek righteousness through the works program they had outlined to them. But those who accepted Jesus as their Savior rejoiced and were overjoyed to feel the burden of sin lifted off their shoulders.
Besides promising forgiveness of sins, the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:34 also said, "'they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the LORD." This did not mean just additional details of knowledge or information about God, but actually knowing God personally. How? By personally living with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on a day-to-day basis. When Philip asked to see the Father, Jesus answered, "Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you
such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?." (John 14:9 NIV)
Those who actually lived with Jesus (who is the exact representation of the Father—Heb. 1:3) could get to know God in this new intimate way that was not possible for people who just "study the Scriptures" as the Pharisees did. (John 5:39) The "knowing the LORD" that Jeremiah prophesied about is this sort of close, personal relationship with God through His Son.
And Jeremiah was not offering a new covenant for just a handful of men in the First Century. Rather, it would be God's way of dealing with men from that time onward. For example, Paul's relationship with God through His Son began when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. Later on, Paul told of occasions when "Lord stood at my side and gave me strength" (2 Tim. 4:17 NIV), and when Paul spoke to the Lord about his "thorn in my flesh." (2 Cor. 12:7-9) As a zealous Jew, Paul had had a relationship with God before, but only from a distance. Now, as a Christian, he really knew God.
The different ways in which the two covenants were instituted set the pattern. The old covenant was established with Moses conveying messages back and forth between the God and the people, while the people stood at a distance from Mount Sinai where God appeared:
"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.' Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.' The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." (Exodus 20:18-21 NIV)
By contrast, the new covenant was established at the Last Supper with the Son of God sitting privately to share a meal with his twelve apostles. The setting was so intimate that John leaned back onto Jesus' breast to ask him a question. (John 13:25) That intimacy was to continue, as Jesus made clear in the