Have heaven and earth passed away? Ridiculous you say? Let us ask another question: Do you believe the Old Covenant has been done away? I dare say you will say it has. Few believers in Jesus would deny he has established his New Covenant. If you believe the Old Covenant has passed away, then you must believe "heaven and earth" have passed away.
Please read the words of Jesus:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the Law and the Prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. Verily I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until all be fulfilled". (Matthew 5:17-18)
This little tract will attempt to answer a few questions about these verses. First, what did Jesus say had to happen before the law could pass away? Second, does the Bible tell us when these requirements would be met? Let us answer the first question.
Until Heaven and Earth Pass
Did you notice that Jesus said heaven and earth had to pass away before the law could pass? Yes, he really did say it; please, get your Bible right now and read it for yourself. It has been my experience that a lot of people have never seen those words before. A relative of mine read the verse five times before admitting it actually says this.
Has the heaven and earth passed away? Well, obviously, physical heaven and earth haven’t been destroyed. But read the text again will you? Jesus did say until heaven and earth pass away the Old Law could not pass. Our choices here are limited.
If we understand the "heaven and earth" as literal, physical heaven and earth then this means the Old Law is still in effect. Simply put the argument would go like this: If heaven and earth had to pass before the Old Law could pass; and if heaven and earth refers to literal, physical heaven and earth, then, since literal, physical heaven and earth still exist, (have not passed), it must be true that the Old Law has not passed.
A person could say the Law here is the Law of Jesus; but this will not work because Jesus had not yet died to confirm his New Covenant. He was living under the Old Law at the time also. The Jews standing there were not concerned with the passing of Jesus’ law. They did not believe he even had one. They were concerned with the Old Law. Finally, if this is speaking about the passing of Christ’s law it contradicts the verses in the New Testament that teach Jesus’ word will never pass away, Matthew 24:35.
On the other hand, if we understand the "heaven and earth" as figurative language referring not to physical creation, but to something else, it is possible that this "heaven and earth" could pass away, allowing for the passing of the Law. Let us explore the definition of the heaven and earth momentarily.
Defining Heaven and Earth
Sadly many Bible students are unfamiliar with the apocalyptic, and figurative language of the Bible. So many people like to say "The Bible says what it means and means what it says". They seem to be saying there is no such thing as figurative or spiritual language. This is sad because a lot of the Bible is symbolic language. The term heaven and earth is a good example. (I are not saying the term heaven and earth never refers to material creation — I am saying this term is very often used figuratively).
Remember, Jesus was a Jew. As such he was raised hearing the Old Testament prophets taught in the synagogues. These prophets utilized spiritual language. As the prophet of and to Israel, Matthew 15, Jesus was not only familiar with the language of the prophets, he used the same language. How did the prophets use the term heaven and earth?
The prophet Isaiah predicted the passing of heaven and earth in chapter 24. He said the earth would be utterly broken down, clean dissolved, and completely removed, vs. 19. Now this sounds like the destruction of material creation but closer examination reveals it to be speaking of the destruction of Israel’s Covenant World under the imagery of "heaven and earth". Note verse 5 gives the reason for the destruction — "they have broken the everlasting covenant". What covenant was that? It was the Mosaic Covenant. God was going to destroy "heaven and earth" because Israel had broken her covenant with Jehovah. Are we to believe that one day the universe will be destroyed because Israel broke her covenant?
A dilemma is created for the literal interpretation of the text when we come to verse 22. In these verses God is depicted as dwelling gloriously in Mount Zion, that is, in Jerusalem, after the destruction of heaven and earth. Reader, if the earth has been destroyed how could literal Mount Zion still exist? We believe the best explanation is to see Isaiah predicting the destruction of Israel’s covenant heaven and earth because she had violated the Mosaic Covenant with Jehovah. As a result God’s righteousness would remain in a New Zion — in a new covenant heaven and earth.
Another example of "heaven and earth" being referent to the Covenant World of Israel and not literal creation is Isaiah 51:16.
"I have put my word in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of my hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are my people’". (NASV)
(Unfortunately, the New International Version incorrectly translates this verse. Check several translations.)
What is the point? Notice that God is speaking to Israel. He says he gave them his law, the Mosaic Covenant, the same law Jesus is speaking about in Matthew 5:17-18, to establish heaven and lay the foundation of the earth! Clearly Jehovah is not saying he gave the Mosaic Covenant to Israel to create literal heaven and earth! Material creation existed long before Israel was ever given the Mosaic Covenant.
The meaning of the verse is that Jehovah gave his covenant with Israel to create their world — a covenant world with Jehovah.
God created Israel’s "heaven and earth" by giving them his Covenant. Now if he destroyed that Old Covenant heaven and earth and gave a New Covenant, would he not thereby be creating a new heavens and new earth? This is precisely the thought in the New Covenant scriptures.
Old Israel’s covenant was about to pass away, II Corinthians 3:10ff; Hebrews 8:13; 12:25ff. The New Covenant of Christ was being given, Ephesians 3:3ff; Hebrews 2:1ff. Since the giving of Covenant created "heaven and earth" the New Heaven and Earth of Christ would not be completed until the New Covenant was completely revealed. It therefore follows that if the New Heavens and Earth of Christ has not arrived then Christ’s New Covenant has not yet been fully revealed. If Christ’s New Covenant has been fully revealed then the new heavens and new earth have fully come. Consider this carefully in light of II Peter 3 and Revelation 21-22, passages written as the process of revealing the New Covenant was yet incomplete.
In Isaiah 51:5-6 God predicted the "heaven and earth" would vanish. This is the same "heaven and earth" he had established at Sinai. This is not a prediction of the passing of literal heaven and earth–it is a prediction of the passing of the Old World of Israel so that the New Covenant World of Messiah would be established. We believe this heaven and earth that Isaiah said would perish is the same heaven and earth Jesus said must pass before the Old Law would pass.
Isaiah 65-66 also predicted the passing of "heaven and earth" but as with the other prophecies noted above it does not refer to the passing of physical creation. In chapter 65 God predicted that Israel would fill the measure of her sin, vs. 7; he would destroy them, vs. 8-15; create a new people with a new name, vs. 15-16; create a new heaven and earth with a new Jerusalem, vs. 17-19. The creation of the new heavens and earth would follow the destructi
on of the Jews after they had filled the measure of their sins and been destroyed at the coming of the Lord in fire with his angels, Isaiah 66:15ff. The new creation of Isaiah 66 is depicted as a time of evangelism and Jew and Gentile being brought together under the banner of God, vss 19ff.
Now Isaiah 65 said the new creation would come when Israel had filled the measure of her sin and was destroyed. Do we have any clue as to when this was to happen?
In Matthew 23:31-39 Jesus said Israel would fill up the measure of her sins in his generation. In chapter 24 he predicted the passing of Israel’s heaven and earth at his coming, vs. 29-36. Now notice:
1.) Isaiah said Israel’s old heaven and earth would not be destroyed until Israel had filled her sin;
2.) The new heaven and earth would not come until Israel’s old heaven and earth was destroyed;
3.) Jesus said Israel would fill up the measure of her sin and be destroyed at his coming in his generation;
4.) Therefore, Israel’s "heaven and earth" was destroyed at Jesus’ coming against Israel, when the measure of her sin was full, in that generation.
In Matthew 24 Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. This Temple was the very center of the Jewish world. This is where the sacrifices for sin were offered by the genealogically confirmed Levitical priests. For Jesus to predict the utter desolation of this temple was the same as saying their world was about to come crashing down around their ears!
In graphic detail Jesus chronicled the events to occur before that disaster and the signs indicating its imminence, vss. 14-15. In highly apocalyptic, (symbolic) language he described the fall itself:
"The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory".
In verses 32-33 Jesus said that by heeding the signs they could know his coming was at hand. In verse 34 he assured them that generation would not pass away before all those things happened. In verse 35 Jesus reassured them that what he had said was true. He said "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away".
This verse is Jesus’ way of contrasting the Old World of Israel that was to perish, and his New World that would remain. That Old World would surely perish as he had just said — but his World will never pass.
In verse 36 Jesus gave a final warning about knowing the time of those events. Although he informed them how to know when the event was imminent and reassured them that it would definitely happen in that generation, he tells them they cannot know the precise day and hour. They must therefore be watchful, verse 42ff.
Can you see the relationship of Jesus’ prediction of the passing of the "heaven and earth" in Matthew 24 with his statement in chapter 5:17-18? In chapter 24 he said their world, symbolized by the temple and city, was to pass away; and he expressed it in the imagery of the passing of heaven and earth. In chapter 5 he had already said the "heaven and earth" had to pass before the Law could pass. We shall see below the perfect correspondence with this idea and Jesus’ statement that all of the Old Covenant had to be fulfilled for the Law to pass.
Hebrews 12:25-28 is another text that speaks of the passing of the Old Covenant World under the imagery of the passing of heaven and earth.
The writer alludes to the giving of the Law at Sinai, (remember Isaiah 51), as the shaking of earth. He says God promised to shake not only earth, but heaven also. This shaking signified removing them; therefore God was promising to remove heaven and earth. Why? So that something that could not be removed would remain. Now notice: in verse 28 he says they were at that time receiving, (they had not already completely received it), a kingdom "that cannot be shaken". If they were receiving an unshakable kingdom, this of necessity means the "heaven and earth" was being removed. (Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:35 about the "heaven and earth" passing but his word not passing? Jesus’ world then is unshakable. Hebrews is discussing the shaking of one world and receiving of another unshakable kingdom. See the comparison?)
Physical heaven and earth was not being removed; but Hebrews was written just a few years before the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. Further, the Gospel had been preached for some time declaring the superiority of Christ and the imminent demise of the Old World. The Old World of Israel was on the verge of destruction; the New World was being delivered. Thus, we have another example of the Bible speaking of the passing of heaven and earth when it means the passing of the Old World of Israel.
Space forbids full discussion of II Peter 3 and Revelation as further examples of scriptures speaking of the passing of heaven and earth when the meaning was the passing of the Old World of Israel. Suffice it to say both Peter and John say the heaven and earth that was to perish was the same heaven and earth the Old Covenant had predicted to perish. See II Peter 3:1-2 and Revelation 22:6. The significance of this fact will become apparent below.
What have we seen then? We have seen that both the Old and New Covenant predicted the passing of "heaven and earth" when physical heaven and earth was not the subject. The World of Israel was the subject. We believe this is precisely what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 5:17-18 when he said "until heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law". He was saying that until Israel’s "world," symbolized by the city and temple, was destroyed, the law would not pass away.
Until All Is Fulfilled
Not only did Jesus say the Law would not pass until heaven and earth passed, he said the Law could not pass until it was all fulfilled.
It has been the unfortunate practice of many to essentially ignore the first "until" in Matthew 5:17-18. The Sabbatarians are most observant of the first one, insisting that since (physical) heaven and earth still stand the Law still stands. This would be fine except there are two "untils" in these verses and they are of equal force. Jesus said when all the Law was fulfilled the Law would pass–and the Bible is very emphatic in telling us when all the Law would be fulfilled.
In Daniel 9:24-27 Daniel was told that 70 weeks had been determined on his people and city, i.e. Jerusalem. By the end of this prophetic time period God promised that six things would be accomplished. Daniel was told that by the end of that period God would "seal up vision and prophecy". In my book "Seal Up Vision and Prophecy" I demonstrate the wide agreement among Hebrew scholars that "seal up vision and prophecy" means the complete fulfillment of all prophecy.
Daniel’s prophecy then tells of the time when all prophecy would be fulfilled. When would this be? The end of Daniel’s vision was the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 AD. See verse 27 and compare it with Matthew 24:15ff where Jesus said the Abomination of Desolation and his coming would occur in his generation.
The last book in the Bible confirms that all prophecy was to be fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem. This book is the story of the fall of the great city, Babylon. Many differing interpretations have been offered to identify this city and yet the most obvious interpretation of all has been ignored. Revelation specifically identifies Babylon — it is the great city "where our Lord was crucified", 11:8.
Jesus was not crucified in Rome; he was not crucified "in" the Roman Catholic church, he was not crucified "in" aposta
te Christianity. Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem!
Our point is this, John predicted the fall of Babylon, the city where our Lord was crucified. He expressed this under the imagery of the passing of heaven and earth. He said all this was to "shortly take place". See the correlation with Daniel 9, Matthew 5 and Matthew 24? Such beautiful harmony is no accident.
Finally, we have Jesus’ own words as to when all prophecy was to be fulfilled. In Luke 21:22 our Lord spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem and said "These be the days of vengeance in which all things that are written must be fulfilled". In verse 32 he emphatically said "this generation will not pass away until all things take place". Verse 33 contains Jesus’ statement that "heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will by no means pass away".
Luke 21 thus contains the identical elements of Matthew 5:17-18; the passing of heaven and earth, and the fulfillment of all prophecy emphatically placed within the context of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Are you willing to accept Christ’s inspired word?
Note the perfect correlation of Daniel 9, Matthew 24, Revelation and Luke 21. They all tell of the time when all prophecy would be fulfilled; they all identify that time as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus said the Old Law would not pass away until all of it was fulfilled; Jesus said all that was written would be fulfilled when Jerusalem fell in his generation; therefore the Law did not pass until Jerusalem fell in Jesus’ generation.
Now, Jesus said "until heaven and earth pass" the law would not pass. He also said "until all be fulfilled" the law would not pass. We have seen that the passing of the Old World of Israel in the destruction of her city and temple in 70 AD is spoken of as the passing of heaven and earth. We have also seen that Jesus said that was when all things that were written would be fulfilled. Since Israel’s heaven and earth would pass when Jerusalem and the temple was destroyed, and since all things would be fulfilled when Jerusalem and the temple was destroyed, we conclude that is the time when the Old Law would completely pass.
Yes, But…Objections Considered
There are basically four objections to what we have just studied. First, it is objected that the end of the world did not happen and Jesus did not come in the fall of Jerusalem. Second, it is said that the Law could not pass at the destruction of Jerusalem because the Bible says it was nailed to the Cross of Jesus at his death. Third, and a corollary to number two, it is insisted the Bible teaches that all the Old Law was fulfilled at the Cross. Finally, many insist there is a difference between the "Law" that had to be fulfilled and the Prophets. Let us begin with the first objection.
Did Christ Come In 70 AD?
To some this may seem a ridiculous question–to serious Bible students this is not a debatable point. The Bible is quite emphatic that Jesus was to return in that first century generation before all of his disciples died. Jesus so stated in Matthew 16:27-28. In chapter 24:29-34 it speaks of him coming in power, with angels and great glory to gather the saints. In verse 34 he said "Verily I say to you, this generation will not pass, until all these things be fulfilled".
Please note Jesus said "Verily I say to you", Matthew 16:28; 24:34. This word "verily" means "Truly" and is the strongest assertion of the validity and solemnity of what is said.
James said "The coming of the Lord is at hand" and "the judge stands right at the door," James 5:7-9. He told his readers to be patient "until the coming of the Lord". Peter said "the end of all things is at hand," and asserted Christ was "ready to judge the living and the dead," when he wrote, I Peter 4:5,7. The Hebrew writer said "In a very little while, he that will come will come and will not tarry," 10:37. In Revelation God’s Son said "Behold, I come quickly" several times, see chapter 22.
Some one will object that Jesus did not come back because time continues. This objection overlooks the very thing we have sought to establish earlier — the prophets did not predict the end of time, they predicted the passing of the "heaven and earth" of Old Testament Israel! The end of time is not a Biblical subject!
Reader, Jesus said he was coming back in the generation that was living when he spoke. Are you willing to accept the word of the Lord of heaven or your own preconceived ideas about the end of the world? Just what does the authority of the Scriptures mean to you? What does inspiration mean?
The "Already-But Not Yet" of the Passing of the Law
The second objection cited above says the Law could not have passed at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD because Paul says the Law was nailed to the cross of Jesus when he was crucified, Colossians 2:14f. Please read that text; sounds impressive does it not? But there is more to the picture than most want to admit.
There is in scripture something the scholars call the "already but not yet". Simply put, the writers of the Bible often spoke of certain things as present realities in certain texts while in other passages they spoke of the same things as coming in the near future. In other words, they said they had them (the blessings), but they did not (fully) have them yet. This is true of the passing of the Old Law.
In Ephesians 2 Paul taught about the passing of the Law and that the cross was the power of that passing. It is equally clear from Paul’s other writings that he believed the full passing of the Law was future to him.
In II Corinthians 3 the apostle discusses the passing of the Law written and engraved in stones, the Old Covenant. In verse 11 he says "If what is passing away (that is the Old Law, DKP) was glorious, what remains is much more glorious". (NKJV) The reader will please notice the present tense of the verse. Reader, this passage was written over 20 years after the Cross, yet Paul said the Old Law was passing, not had passed, away.
To drive this home even more see the next verse — but before that see Romans 8:24-"hope that is seen is no hope". Something realized is no longer anticipated — no longer the object of hope. Remember this as we go back to II Corinthians 3.
In verse 12 Paul says "Seeing then that we have such hope". What hope was that? Please go there right now and see for yourself that it was the passing away of the Old Law. Paul, 20 years after the death of Jesus on the cross, called the passing of the Old Law a hope.
The passing of the Law was for Paul "already but not yet"! Without controversy the Cross was the power of the passing. Some have called it the beginning of the end. But as we have seen, all the Law had to be fulfilled before the Law could pass, and all of the Old Law was not fulfilled at the Cross.
All Fulfilled At the Cross?
The third objection says in effect that on the Cross Jesus fulfilled ALL THAT WAS NECESSARY for the passing of the Old Law, i. e. his sacrifice, and therefore the Law could pass when his passion was completed. The verse offered as proof for this position is Luke 24:44- "These are the words I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me".
These words are construed by those who insist the Law fully passed at the Cross to mean that Jesus was saying his death was the fulfillment of all things necessary for the passing of the Law!
One thing that should immediately strike the reader is the fact that Jesus is not even speaking of the passing of the law and the prerequisites for that.
He IS speaking of the necessity of the fulfillment of the law to be sure–but in contrast to those who appeal to this text he is not saying "now here is all that is necessary for the Old Covenant to pass away; I must suffer". In Matthew 5 Jesus IS speaking of the prerequisites for the passing of the Law, and he says it must ALL be fulfilled. In Luke 24 Jesus was saying that his passion was one of the constituent elements of the Law that had to be fulfilled not the only thing in the Law that had to be fulfilled.
Does Jesus limit "the fulfillment of all things" in Luke to his passion? Hardly! Go back to verse 27. Jesus taught his disciples: "And beginning at Moses and the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself". Notice the reference to all the scriptures.
Now read verse 26- "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter his glory?" (emphasis mine) Reader, in expounding the scriptures and the need for him to fulfill all things Jesus did not stop at the cross, He spoke of the glory to follow the cross.
Even those who believe the Law ended at Calvary do not believe Jesus entered his glory at the Cross; they place that at Pentecost. Now since Jesus was expounding on the need to fulfill all things written in the Law and Prophets, and since he did not stop at the Cross but spoke of the glory to follow, it must be true that the fulfillment of all things written in the Law and Prophets had to include Christ’s entrance into the "glorious things" and this was sometime after the Cross.
These thoughts are corroborated in Acts 3:18ff. In verse 18 Peter says Jesus fulfilled all things written concerning his suffering. Notice verses 21 and following.
Peter tells them Christ would remain in heaven until all things foretold by the prophets i.e. the restoration of all things, were fulfilled. The restoration of all things is equivalent to the consummation of the glory of the Messiah. It means the Messiah is fully established in his kingdom. Thus, Peter, in speaking of the restoration of all things was speaking of the fulfillment of the rest of the Old Covenant scriptures — and this fulfillment was directly related to the glory of Messiah. When we examine Luke 24 and see that Jesus said it was necessary for him to suffer and enter his glory we can see it involves more than just the cross, the ascension and Pentecost. It involves the full establishment of the Kingdom of Messiah.
In addition, in Luke 24:44-47 Jesus said that not only must he suffer and enter his glory, but that "remission and repentance of sins should be preached in all nations beginning at Jerusalem". The fulfillment of all things included world evangelism. This did not happen at the cross or Pentcost.
And consider: to say that all that was necessary to abrogate the Old Law was the Passion is to directly reverse Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus said none of the law would pass until all was fulfilled. But the view that the Law passed at the Cross makes Jesus to say all the Law would pass when some of it was fulfilled. Specifically, this objection has Jesus saying that all the law would pass when one prediction, that of his passion, was fulfilled. But Jesus said all the Law and prophets had to be fulfilled; not just one specific prediction. Reader, when an interpretation completely reverses Christ’s words there is something wrong. Jesus not only said he had to suffer, he said he had to enter his glory; he said the gospel had to preached in all the world. Fulfillment of all things positively entailed more than the cross, thus the Law could not pass at the Cross since Jesus said all of it had to be fulfilled before any of it could pass.
Finally, if you say the law passed at the cross then "heaven and earth" passed at the cross. Yet Hebrews 12, which positively is speaking about the passing of the Old Law under the imagery of the passing of heaven and earth, was written after the Cross and that passing was still future. Further, it does not explain how all of the law was not fulfilled at cross, in light of Luke 21:22. These are serious objections to the view that the Law fully passed at the Cross.
Law Versus prophets?
Many try to negate the force of Matthew 5:17-18 by saying what Jesus really meant was that he would fulfill all the legal and moral mandates of the Old Law and the Old Law would then pass; but he did not really mean all prophesies had to be fulfilled. Thus, in this interpretation there is a distinction between the Law and the Prophets.
This interpretation contradicts Luke 24:44. In that text Jesus said "all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me". Reader, you cannot delineate between "the law" and the "prophets" in Matthew 5 and then appeal to Luke 24 to prove Jesus fulfilled just "the law" in his passion. Luke 24 speaks about the law, the prophets, and the Psalms and Jesus said all things had to be fulfilled.
If Jesus was saying he had to fulfill the things written about his death, and if all he had to fulfill was "the Law" as distinct from the prophets, then the Law of Moses predicted that death.
Reader, the Law had a predictive element to it; it was far more than legal mandates and moral legislation. See Colossians 2:16f.
In that passage Paul told the Colossians not to be judged in regard to meat and drink, feast days, and Sabbaths. These were all part of the legislation of the Old Law. But notice, in verse 17 Paul says they all foreshadowed Christ — they were "shadows of things to come". (Please note those things were still viewed as coming. They had not fully arrived yet.)
Jesus said "the law" was predictive in nature. In Matthew 11:13 our Lord said "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John". Did you catch that? Jesus said the law and the prophets prophesied. How then can one delineate between the prophets and "the law"? He cannot Biblically do so.
In addition, in Hebrews 10:1-4 the writer says the Law was a shadow of good things to come, (once again those things were viewed as not yet fully come).
Our point is that one cannot delineate between the Law and the Prophets for the Law itself was prophetic! Jesus had to fulfill all the prophetic scriptures whether couched in types, symbols, visions, or oracles.
Further, the prophets are very clearly called "the law". In I Corinthians 14:21-22 Paul quotes from Isaiah 28 and specifically calls it "the law". A quick check of Romans 3:10ff will reveal that Paul quotes from the Psalms, Jeremiah, Proverbs and Isaiah and calls all of them "the Law", vs. 19. In addition, as noted above, the Law prophesied, Matthew 11:13. Now since the prophets are called "the law", and since "the law" prophesied one cannot delineate between the law and prophets in Matthew 5.
Our point is that the term "the Law" was the abbreviated way of referring to the entire Old Covenant. When Jesus said "one jot or one tittle will in no wise pass from the Law until all be fulfilled" he was using the form of speech prevalent in his time. He did not need to say "Law and Prophets" or "Law, Prophets and Psalms" each and every time.
When Jesus said he did not "come to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill" he was saying he came to fulfill all the Law and prophets. He was using a form of ellipsis. When he said he did not come to destroy the Law and Prophets but to fulfill he did not have to say "all the Law and Prophets" again; it was understood that was what he meant. This being true it is patent that Jesus did not say just the Law, to the exclusion of the prophets, had to be fulfilled before the old system could pass. He in fact, did say all the pr
ophets had to be fulfilled before the Old Law could pass.
What we see then is that when one attempts to have Jesus say all he had to do was fulfill the legal and moral mandates of the law before the Law could pass he imposes a non-scriptural distinction upon the term "the Law". Second, he ignores the elliptical language of Matthew 5:18; and ignores the fact that the Old Law itself, even the legislative edicts, were prophetic in nature. Jesus did indeed have to fulfill all the Law and prophets before the Old Law could pass.
Fulfilling the Promises and Purpose of the Law
I would like to ask you a question: If a law or covenant has been abrogated, are any of its penalties or promises applicable anymore? Yes, or No? Will you please get a pencil and circle the one you believe is correct?
Now common sense says that if a law is no longer in effect then its penalties or promises are voided. Well, consider this in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17-18. If the Old Covenant was abrogated at the Cross does this not mean that all Old Covenant promises and penalties were either fulfilled or abrogated at that time? If not, why not? Now lets see what this means.
Paul emphatically says his eschatology is taken directly from the Old Covenant, Acts 24:14ff; Acts 26:21ff. Specifically, he tells us that the promise of the resurrection was an Old Covenant promise made by and to Moses and all the prophets. But Paul was speaking about this promise Several years after the cross where, we are told, The Old Covenant was taken away. But if the Old Covenant was taken away at the Cross how could Paul, years afterward, still be preaching Old Covenant promises? You see, if the law was nullified at the Cross, then all of it was nullified. Remember, Jesus said none would pass until all was fulfilled. If all was not fulfilled then none of it passed. The Old Covenant stands or falls as a whole.
The Old Covenant had several constituent prophetic elements and it was essential they all be fulfilled before the Old Covenant could pass and the New Covenant World be fully established. The Old Covenant predicted the salvation of the remnant of Israel, Isaiah 2-4; the gathering of the Gentiles, Isaiah 49:6ff; the giving of a New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:29ff; the filling up of the measure of Israel’s sin leading to their destruction, Isaiah 65:7ff; the coming of the Lord in judgment of the nations, Isaiah 66, Joel 3:1; Zechariah 14; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Joel 2:28ff; the passing of the "heaven and earth" of Israel, Isaiah 24, 65, 66; and much more. If the Old Covenant was abrogated at the cross, how could any of these prophecies be valid after the cross? Quite simply, they could not; yet the New Testament writers repeatedly refer to these prophecies after Pentecost and anticipate their fulfillment. This proves the Old Covenant was not abrogated at the cross.
This is also demonstrated in another way. In Acts 13:40f Paul preached to the Jews at Antioch. They rejected the gospel and Paul warned them "Behold ye despisers and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work, which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto him". What is the significance of Paul’s words? They are taken from Habakkuk 1:5. Paul, in Acts 13, years after the Old Covenant was supposedly taken away, was threatening Israel with Old Covenant wrath.
National destruction for violating the Covenant was part and parcel of the Law delivered to Israel, Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28-30. But if that covenant was abrogated at the cross, how could Paul still be threatening Israel with covenant wrath? He could not.
Note my argument:
Major Premise: No promise or penalty of a covenant is applicable if that covenant has been abrogated.
Minor Premise: But Paul applied Old Covenant penalties to Israel, Acts 13.
Conclusion: Therefore the Old Covenant penalties were still applicable.
Note another argument:
Major Premise: No promise or penalty of a Covenant is applicable if that Covenant has been abrogated.
Minor Premise: The promises of the coming of the Lord, judgment of the nations, and the resurrection are Old Covenant promises, Isa. 66; Dan. 12; Joel 3:1f, etc.
Minor Premise: The Old Covenant was abrogated at the Cross- traditional view of the Old Covenant.
Conclusion: Therefore the promises of the coming of the Lord, the judgment of the nations, and the resurrection, being Old Covenant promises, were abrogated at the Cross!
If there is a single Old Testament prophecy that is unfulfilled, then the Old Covenant still stands. If the Old Testament is truly abrogated, then the eschatological prophecies of the Old Testament must be fulfilled or nullified.
The view that the Old Law passed at the Cross strips the New Testament scriptures of all eschatology and demands that every promise of "last things" was fulfilled at the Cross and then God started over on Pentecost with a totally new set of "last things" promises. This is patently false; the New Testament writers constantly affirm that they are simply reiterating the Old Covenant promises, II Peter 3:1, 13; Revelation 10:6ff.
The truth is that the Old Covenant promises of the coming of the Lord, judgment and resurrection had to be fulfilled before the New Covenant World of Jesus could be perfected. Those promises of "the end" as seen above, do not deal with the end of time but with the end of the Old Covenant World of Israel and the full establishment of the New Covenant World of Christ.
The Old Law could not pass until it had accomplished its purpose — this is established in Galatians 3:23-25. Paul here says those under the law were "under guard", "kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed". He says the Law was given to serve as a "tutor" (NKJV) to bring them to Christ. He then concludes by saying "after faith is come we are no longer under a tutor".
It is clear that "The Faith" Paul has in mind is not the subjective faith of individuals but the objective system of faith we call the Gospel System. The Law was to continue until "The Faith" came.
Did "The Faith" come at the cross? No — although the cross is where the New Covenant of "The Faith" was confirmed by the death of Jesus the Testament maker, Galatians 3:15.
The Old Covenant predicted the coming of a New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:29ff. Did the Old Covenant pass away before that predicted New Covenant was delivered? If so the Old Covenant passed away before it had fulfilled its purpose in bringing Israel to a New Covenant.
In Hebrews 8:8-13 the writer recalls God’s promise given in Jeremiah and then says "In that he says ‘a new covenant’ he has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away".
The Hebrew writer was living in the days in which the New Covenant was being delivered. As he writes he recalls God’s promise to give the New Covenant and says the Old was ready to vanish away! Reader, the Old had not yet been fulfilled! It had not yet fulfilled its function because the promised New Covenant was not yet fully delivered. But the writer says the Old was "ready to vanish". "Ready to vanish" does not mean it had already vanished.
It is clear then that the Old Law was in a time of transition. The New Covenant had to be fully given before the full purpose of the Old was completed and Paul very clearly says the Law was to last until "The Faith" was delivered. Would anyone assert the New Covenant was fully delivered at the cross? At Pentecost? Surely not. Therefore until the Law had fulfilled its purpose in bringing the Jews to the New Covenant it did not pass away.
Summary and Conclusion
We have seen that heaven and earth had to pass away before the Old Law could pas
s away. We have defined "heaven and earth" as the Old Covenant world of Old Israel. We have seen that instead of predicting the destruction of physical heaven and earth the Bible predicted the passing of Old Israel’s world in order for God to create the New World of his Son-the Kingdom of God-the church of the living God. We have seen that the Bible very clearly tells when ALL prophecy was to be fulfilled — when heaven and earth would pass — in 70 AD with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the very heart and core of Israel’s world. We have examined several objections and found them to be based upon false suppositions. We have seen that if the Old Covenant has been abrogated then all of its prophecies including the predictions of the "end" must be fulfilled or abrogated. If those prophecies have not been fulfilled, then the Old Covenant still stands. We have seen that the Old Law could not pass until it had fulfilled its purpose and that purpose included deliverance to the New Covenant — that was not fulfilled until all the New Covenant was revealed and confirmed. That did not happen at the Cross or Pentecost.
The ideas presented here are representative of what is called Covenant Eschatology. This is the view that God has kept his promises in fulfilling all prophecy by the time of the passing of Old Israel in 70 AD. The fall of Jerusalem was far more than the passing of the capital of Judaism — it was a spiritually cosmic event. It was the time of the coming of Jesus, Matthew 24:29-34; the judgment, Matthew 16:27-28. It was at that time that the salvation in Christ was fully revealed, Colossians 3:1ff. It is because of what happened then, as the consummation of the work started on the Cross, Hebrews 9:26-28, that you and I can have confidence in the Word of God and the God of the Word. Christ did come in judgment of the Old World in 70 AD and fully establish the unending New Covenant Heaven and Earth. This is when all things foretold by the prophets was fulfilled and that is how heaven and earth passed away!