O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Cor 11:23-26 says:
"23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes."
This sacrament is intended to be a remembrance of the institution of the new covenant. What is sometimes assumed by christians is that the new covenant is something that never existed before Jesus proclaimed it.
But we ought to remember that for something new to happen, something old had to pass away. It is precisely this language the bible uses, and in every instance where the new covenant is mentioned, it is mentioned in the context of the old covenant that had to pass away. Compare Jer. 31:31, Heb. 8:8. Heb 8:13, Heb. 9:15
So why is this important? Because the old covenant was a SPECIFIC thing given to a SPECIFIC people, and the new covenant AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE in context with the Lords' supper, was pronounced, or ratified, to the Jewish people BECAUSE the OLD COVENANT was given to the Jews, the NEW COVENANT had to be ratified to demolish the old covenant. In other words, the new was proclaimed to the same people to whom the old was given.
But it wasn't as if, when Jesus proclaimed the new covenant in His blood, that He was talking about something new that had never been heard of before. No, what was proclaimed and ratified was the END of the old so that the new could come in and be the overarching NEW rule of law for the Jews, as a replacement for what was soon to pass away.
In fact, the TERMS of this so-called new covenant had been in existence from the very beginning of the foundation of the "world" in Genesis, and was for ALL mankind through those God called and chose. Those terms REQUIRED faith in God (who, not coincidentally, was the same God who would later become God in the flesh, Jesus Christ) And, wonderfully, many ancient and pre-old covenant righteous men and women understood their relationship rightly with Jesus precisely this way.
That is why the gospel was in force even before Jesus was revealed to His people in the flesh. As God worked with the original covenant people through Adam's progeny, up until the law of Moses was given, FAITH was still the defining element of covenantal relationship with God (Jesus) Abraham rightly knew this, and it is for this reason that the faith of Abraham was prototypical of the faith we have in Christ. One has only to read Hebrews 11 to see that salvation in the new covenant (which was really old) came through faith as it always has.
So, why is this important? Because the new covenant, as ratified by Jesus, is really an EXPANSION of grace to all mankind. That's the beauty of the gospel, and why, after the failure of the Jews to comprehend what it meant to walk in faith under the old covenant, all mankind can now come to God with no barrier whatsoever.
When we speak of a new heavens and earth, we are talking about a new covenant not just in its terms as being a covenant of faith, as it was previously limited through the righteous sons of Adam but in its expansion to ALL men, through the blood of Jesus, but now it is made more glorious by the destruction of the old covenant, which stood in the way of faith for ALL men.
The rending of the veil of the temple brought an end to the temple and an access to the holy of holies, to God Himself, for all. It signaled the end of a system of exclusivity under the old covenant, which was always intended to be temporary and exclusive anyway.
The new covenant is new not because it never existed before Jesus. It is new because the old has fallen, and access to it is now for everyone!