How did the Old Covenant Work?


I’m not sure where exactly to put this, but I assume “Sacred Scriptures” is the best place.
I just want to ask, how did the Old Covenant work? How did one in Old Testament times, escape the fires of Gehenna? And did Invincible Ignorance still apply back than, for people outside the Old Covenant?


The “Old Covenant” term is typically a description of God’s top ten moral laws as given to us in the 10 Commandments. While there were Covenants with Noah and Abraham, and Moses, and others, the Old Covenant is a term we use to describe a way of salvation by keeping of the 10 Commandments. Yes, the 10 Commandments are a Salvation Plan, if you could keep them perfectly you would avoid the wrath of God. Blessings were promised in keeping, and curses by missing the keeping of the laws. Because all have sinned and have missed keeping the law, salvation has always been by Grace (divine, unmerited favor). We always see the old testament saints pleading for God’s mercy for salvation. And it was their faith in God’s mercy, not the keeping of the law that saved them, just like today. In their pleas to God, they acknowledged their guilt, which is a necessary part of repentance, and turn to God for mercy and forgiveness, further evidencing repentance. But life under the law was a constant guilt complex and drudgery, in fact the book of Romans calls the law, i.e. the Old Covenant, the ministry of death. Salvation is to be saved from the wrath of God which is poured out against sin, and the benefits of Salvation are largely unrealized in this life. The hope that we have, to be complete in Christ, is the major benefit that we enter into upon death.

God repeatedly shows us his Holiness, his hatred of sin, our own sinfulness and the fact that he will not stand for sin, nor will he be in communion with sin (because his wrath is poured out against sin). In the prescribed substitutionary animal sacrifices for sin through the death, or blood sacrifices for the temporary forgiveness of sins we see that God does not accept sin. Not only did all the male Jews over 18 need to bring a blood sacrifice to the altar during the festivals that were repeated each year, but the fire never went out on the altar and there was a morning animal sacrifice and an evening sacrifice for the sins of Israel. God is a consuming fire against sin. This principal, without the shedding of Blood there is no forgiveness of sins, is a foreshadow of Jesus’ death as payment for the sins of those who have faith.

But the mystery revealed in the new covenant, or testament, is that God is the God of all people and has redeemed the faithful from wrath and given them heaven through the death of Jesus who rose again and defeated sin and death and has promised that we who believe will also rise to everlasting life in eternal bliss, without sin and without the curse that we are now under.

Come Lord Jesus!!! PTL!!! Thank you Jesus!!!


Hmm… I usually see it used in comparison with Jesus’ “New Covenant”. Since the covenant in effect at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the Mosaic covenant, I usually see “Old Covenant” used as a synonym for “Mosaic covenant.”

So, although the Ten Commandments are part of the Mosaic covenant, the “Old Covenant” would include all the prescriptions of the Mosaic law (including circumcision, kosher law, requirements for temple worship, and all of the 613 provisions of Mosaic law.


Read the TaNaKh (the Old Testament) as well as some Rabbinical writings if you want to know how the Old Covenant functioned.


There’s more than one Old Covenant. But, generally speaking, when one asks about the Old Covenant, they mean the Covenant between Moses, the Israelites and God.

Exodus 19:5 Now, if you obey me completely and keep my covenant,[a] you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, though all the earth is mine. 6 You will be to me a kingdom of priests,[b] a holy nation. That is what you must tell the Israelites.

God gives a summary of what He expects from the Israelites in a few short sentences. And the Israelites agreed:

7 So Moses went and summoned the elders of the people. When he set before them all that the Lord had ordered him to tell them, 8 all the people answered together, “Everything the Lord has said, we will do.”

God also summarized for them what the consequences would be if they did not obey:

Deuteronomy 30:19 I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live,

Read also, Deut 27 and 28.

How did one in Old Testament times, escape the fires of Gehenna?

By keeping the Commandments.

And did Invincible Ignorance still apply back than, for people outside the Old Covenant?

No. The Law of God is written in every man’s heart. There is no excuse.

Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts,[a] while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus.

PS Invincible ignorance doesn’t save anyone from the fires of Gehenna if that person has not kept the Commandments written in their hearts.

All it does it mitigates against a more harsh punishment.

Luke 12:46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. 47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.


The Old Covenant identified and opposed human sin, by establishing laws against it. It described what a righteous person should “look like”. The Ten Commandments reflected laws that should already reside in the human conscience, but laws that fallen man may fail to read and heed within himself. Peace, prosperity, the “promised land” were to be the lot for those who obeyed. The problem was that none could-or would- obey; all failed, turning to other “gods”, eventually. So Jesus revealed the OC for what it really was: training wheels. It was a teacher, demonstrating, through the history of the Jews, that although the law was righteous, holy, and good (Rom 7:12), it was nonetheless powerless to accomplish in us the righteousness that it demands. In the fallen, lost, unredeemed state we always fail when we attempt to live up to the righteousness that we were actually meant to possess.

So what is the difference-between the old and new covenants? The NC recognizes man’s need for direct, personal communion with God, ‘apart from Whom we can do nothing’ (John 15:5). So to be raised from the fallen state, to be redeemed, to be found, means to be reconciled with God, to have the relationship which was shattered at the Fall of man to be healed. Jesus demonstrates and reveals the unconditional, uncompromising trustworthiness, love, mercy, and forgiveness of God-He reveals, when the time was ripe- the true nature of God, meant to overcome the “distorted image” of Him that our catechism teaches man conceived of at the Fall, a distorted image which persists within all of us to one degree or another. We’re now asked to follow Him in this way of love; to go and sin no more, with the help of His grace which is now available as He comes to make His home in us. We must remain in Him and He in us, however; we must continue to value this relationship above all else and cooperate throughout our lives.




Now the Old Covenant is still in effect. It was made obsolete by a new and better covenant (Heb 8), but never revoked because the demands of the OC are absolutely right. What the NC affords us is simply the right way to fulfill the OC, through grace-through the love that God infuses and continues to build in us as we cooperate with His grace. Read the Parable of the Talents for more light on how this works. In any case love is the heart and center of the Christian message, to love as God does with His help:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”9 Exodus 20:13-15,17; Deut. 5:17-19,21 and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”9 Lev. 19:18 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Rom 13:8-10


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