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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Old and New Covenants Veil the Truth of Liberty in Christ

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them

-2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (KJV)

At first glance, this passage may have an obvious application. And in some ways it does. But we need to be careful to read and interpret all things in their contexts and according to the age and company addressed. We also need to be careful as some translations are poisoned by the traditions the translators knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate.

Let's look a at few words in the passage and see if we pull out a fuller and more precise meaning.

Hid = kalýptō (Greek)

to hide, veil;  to hinder the knowledge of a thing (Thayer)


Lost = apóllymi (Greek)

to destroy (Thayer)
to destroy fully, perish (Strong)
to destroy (Mounce)
perishing (Bullinger)
to waste (Far Above All)

In = en
in, by, with (Thayer)
A primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state) (Strong)

Whom = hós

who, which, what, that (Thayer)

A number of other translations render kalýptō as "veiled." Charles Welch notes this:

The symbol of the old covenant is the veiled face of Moses (II Cor. iii. 13); the symbol of the new is the unveiled face of Christ (II Cor. iv. 6). The figure of the veil is continued in the words of II Cor. iv. 3, 4

-The Berean Expositor XXIII

Before we continue in this vein, let's quickly look back at our verse as presented in the KJV:

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost

On its own, "in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" is a bit awkward if we the "lost" which precedes it as the commonly used meaning of that word. As given to us, are we to understand it as:

if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are [unbelievers]: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which [are unbelievers]

The modern version try to make better sense of this:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [ESV]

I don't see a justification for using "in their case." I see why they want to use it there as it cleans up the problem left by the KJV translators. "In whom" in the KJV. But I believe both translations are the result of some wanting to see the heaven/hell, saved/lost dichotomy here. In doing so (as is often the case with this sort of imposition on the text) a greater truth is lost.

The idea in this passage is that the gospel Paul was preaching (to Jew and Gentile, but primarily in his calling to graft in Gentiles to Israel in that age) was "veiled." by that which was perishing and headed for perdition (destruction). That is, The Old Covenant. Let's quickly look at Paul's conclusion in Hebrews 8 after reiterating the New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31. 

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

-Hebrews 8:13

"Ready to vanish away" is a translation of the Greek engýs aphanismós, literally, "imminent destruction/disappearance." As we have touched on many times before, the Lord's return was also "imminent" ("at hand"). The ushering in of all the promises of the New Covenant (for "Virgin Israel") was at the door. 

The Old Covenant was on its last legs. It was about to vanish the moment Israel repented (Acts 3). We see in Hebrews 13 that the Old Covenant is [palaióō] "becoming obsolete." The KJV uses "decayeth." This is the idea of wasting away. Thayer defines it as "worn out" and "about to be abrogated." It is not yet gone, but nothing can stop the New Covenant coming to fruition upon Israel repentance. 

Remember, Peter promised Israel after Pentecost that God would send back Jesus "unto the restoration of all things" if Israel would repent. At Pentecost itself, the prophecy of Joel was only partly fulfilled. There was a stumbling block. That stumbling block was Israel's unbelief and her insistence on holding onto the Old Covenant.

We need to be careful here. The Old Covenant contained the Law, but it is not the Law. The Old Covenant was made before the Law was given. It was a conditional promise that Israel would become a special people above all. 

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

-Exodus 19:5-6

It was conditional upon adherence to the Law, but it was not the Law itself. As we know from Acts 15 and Acts 21, provisions in the Law were still given to Jewish believers and Gentile believes out of the Law. Not a condition for the gift of eternal life as adherence was never a condition of the free gift of resurrection life. That gift is given by God's grace based on our faith.

The Old Covenant was about to disappear in the Acts Age. It just needed Israel repentance. Israel's New Covenant was about to come in. Let's turn back, then, to our passage in 2 Corinthians. We've noted the redundancy which is found in most translations. Remember, if we see the unbeliever as both the "lost" and the "in whom" [KJV], making the sentence redundant and awkward. 

But if we see the verse referring to that which is "perishing" or "decaying" and ready to "vanish away" and be "abgrogated,"  the idea of "by which" fits much better and the point becomes clearer and not redundant at all, 

But if our gospel be veiled, it is veiled by those things which are perishing, by which the god of this age has blinded the minds of them which believe not

That which was a veil over the faces of those who would not believe was the perishing Old Covenant and the attached Law. We see that the Law was a stumbling block for many in Israel. It is a tool of the god of the Acts age. I would venture to say it is still a tool used to veil the truth of the Mystery of Ephesians in our age. Even those today who claim to be a "New testament (or covenant)" church still lean on the Law and have tried to claim the promises of both covenants. Even the mpst hardcore Acts 2 dispensationalist claims a priesthood as spoken by Peter (an Apostle to the Circumcision) who wrote his epistle to "the dispersion." 

For a little context, let's turn back to 2 Corinthians 3:

But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones [the Law], was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The eyes of "the children of Israel" [Jews] could not look on the glory on Moses' face. The Law has its own glorious. It is certainly "holy and good," but it can only minister death. And just as the glory was fading from Moses' face as he hid his face with a veil, so does a veil cover the eyes of those who refused to see the glory of The Old Covenant passing away. A New Covenant was awaiting its enactment upon the repentance of Israel.

“Yet now, brethren ["ye men of Israel"], I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world [ages] began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you."
-Acts 3 17-22

We are purely on Jewish ground. The prophets were sent to Israel. The fathers are of Israel. The Lord Jesus Christ was raised up a prophet for Israel. We know from Paul's witness in Ephesians that the truth revealed there was unknown to the prophets and hidden from before the ages began. 

Before we end this part of our study, let me present on alternative translation of 2 Cor 3:3-4:

But if on the other hand our gospel is veiled, it is veiled among those who are on the road to perdition, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, so that the light of the of Christ, who is the image of God, does not shine on them.

-Far Above All 

If we allow this application of those on the road to perdition (decay, perishing), we can still see the Jewish context. The veil, the blinding, the light of Christ. 2 Cor 3 still gives us the greater context of the comparison of the glory of the Law against the glory of Christ.

It is important to mark these distinctions in the Acts and in the Acts Age epistles (before the "wall of separation" between Jew and Gentile comes down post-Acts).

There are many today who veil the minds of believers and unbelievers alike with the faded glory of the Law, not allowing the full brightness of the glory of Christ to shine in their hearts. We may have a different hope before us in this age, but that only makes the deception far worse. There is no New Covenant for us to look to in this age. There is a greater hope in the far above the heavens.

So, the ability to see the truth of the current dispensation is veiled by by both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Teachers and preachers today keep their flocks in the dark by insisting they focus on the things of the earth. Its ordinances, its hopes, its holy days, its promises.  

Veiling the glory of Christ and his Kingdom is one thing, veiling the hope of a place seated at the right hand of the Father a far greater loss.