Here is His promise:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” – Matt. 5:17-18
You may need to read this several times, slowly, to let the point of this article sink in. This point escaped my notice for many years. And I had read – and perhaps at some time even memorized – this passage, still not grasping Christ’s powerful point.
The point of this passage is that there will never be a time when the Law will operate only partially.
For instance, there will never be a time when we are obligated to keep the Ten Commandments – without keeping every other lesser law (every “jot” and “tittle”).
Yet, this is exactly what many do today. They erect a distinction between ceremonial law (for the Jews only) and the eternal law (binding on all believers). Quick quiz: What is the Greek word for “ceremonial”, as in “ceremonial law”? How about the Hebrew word? There is none. The very fact that there is none demonstrates that this distinction is entirely man-made, not God-ordained.
Because it is difficult to actually see what this verse is saying, seeing that we are overly familiar with what we think the verse is saying, it might be helpful to try a different tack.
Let’s try the mathematical word-problem approach. To solve a hard word problem it is often helpful to substitute values to gain insight into the problem. In Matt. 5:18 let us forget, for the moment, some phrases and replace them with different phrases. This way we will be able to see just what type of action is being described, and – more importantly – the actual duration of those actions. After all, this is the very gist of the misunderstanding of this passage.
Note that the substituted phrases are in brackets:
For assuredly, I say to you, till [Ned’s prison sentence is completed], [not one day will pass without him wearing an orange suit and being a prisoner] till [he has served out the mandated punishment].
Consider poor Ned’s case. He is laboring under a double whammy: Because he has a sentence to fulfill he has to wear that orange suit and, more importantly, he is imprisoned. When does relief come to Ned? When his sentence is completed. At that time – and exactly at that time, not a second sooner – he is free to dress as he pleases and to leave the prison. He is a new man! And here is the clincher: The place of Ned’s incarceration – and where the records were all kept – burned to the ground! You might say that this addition is unwarranted from Scripture, but read on.
Application for us
Now consider our case. Mankind was laboring under sin and condemnation. Christ put an end to all this by his sacrifice on the cross. All of our condemnation, our incredibly detailed and discouraging rap-sheet, was nailed to the cross. And here is the clincher for us: Like Ned’s case, the place where our guilt was perpetuated (“through the Law is the knowledge of sin”, Rom. 3:20) was likewise destroyed. At the cross the Temple veil, that reminder of our estrangement from God, was already torn in half, top to bottom (God’s initiative, not ours). At the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 the only means of perpetuating and observing the Law was likewise destroyed. The elements (the STOICHEIA), the basis of our condemnation, likewise burned to the ground. Hallelujah! Peter tells us – twice – that the “elements will melt with fervent heat”. What are these elements? None other than the foundational principals of the whole Law system, Gal. 4:3; Col. 2:8, 20. With the burning of the physical bricks and stones of the Temple there was an inexorable but invisible burning up of that whole system. We couldn’t return to the Law if we wanted to.
But why would we even want to, seeing that it only ever condemned us before God, never commended us to God?
New Heavens, New Earth – right now.
When Ned was free from his sentence and condemnation he was a new man. By comparison, when we are free from our condemnation we were not only new creatures in Christ, but we were also , from that time on, in a new heavens and new earth.
If you don’t believe me, go back to the original passage. At the very time when we were no longer under the Law and its condemnation, at that very time we are in the new heavens and new earth. We have this right now. We are not waiting for this still to happen in the future. The New Heavens and New Earth is the world of the new creature in Christ.
If we are not in the New Heavens and New Earth then we must still be under the Law – all of it, every jot and tittle. Under the Law and without place or means to practice the Law – in its entirety. We would be, of all men, the most miserable!
Eternal & Invisible
An objection might be raised: This does not look at all like the New Heavens and New Earth, not at all what I would expect. Well, the problem is in our perception. We have been taught a certain way. Look again at what the Bible says, not what man’s teaching insists.
“We walk by faith, and not by sight.” – 2 Cor.5:7
“we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Cor.4:18