We have received the following question from a visitor. Colossians 2 is one of the most misunderstood passages that deals with the passing of the Old Law. We hope that the information below is helpful for setting the context of Colossians.
Received Monday, April 27, 2009 5:46 PM
I have been having some discussion with the fella who preaches where i worship. He is adamant about the LOM ending at the cross and as usual clings to the col 2:14. I have talked with him about Mt 5:17 and when that took place. I also asked him what he does with Heb 8:13 and (I’ve never heard this one before) he says that the old law was growing old only in the mind of the Jews. God did not take that position. Anyway, I was perusing through some old emails and found this one with your comments in it…
<‘This entire theme is one that underlies so much of the N.T., but, needless to say, is virtually ignored in most paradigms! I see it as a critical element in Colossians 2:14f for instance, when Paul is discussing the removal of the Torah. (BTW, I mentioned this when Welch brought up Colossians 2 and said the Law passed at the Cross. I pointed out that the 10 tribes had already been cut off. Judah had not yet been cut off. The New Marriage Covenant was, when Paul wrote, being formulated and delivered, but, the divorce had not yet taken place See Revelation for the divorce of Judah!!’>
Can you go into a little more detail for me?
Thanks for your time
My response to “Stan”
<<Stan, I am glad to share some thoughts with you on this. As I stated, the concept of the marriage motif in regard to the passing of the Torah is one of the most ignored aspects of Paul’s discussion, especially in Colossians. Let me see if I can outline some thoughts ever so briefly. I fully intend to develop this more fully in the future, but this will hopefully be of some help.
1.) God was married to Israel– and that marriage was through His covenant with her. It is through that covenant that they became a “people” (Deuteronomy 29:12-15), Israel became God’s people that day. This is the marriage.
2.) Israel, specifically the ten northern tribes, committed spiritual adultery, and YHVH divorced her (Hosea 2:1-5; Isaiah 50:1f; Jeremiah 3:8).
3.) God could not divorce Judah at that time, even though she became worse than the 10 tribes. Messiah had to come, so, until Israel (Judah) had served her purpose, God could not divorce her (cf. Jeremiah 3:10f).
4.) God promised that the time would come in which He would divorce Judah, and radically alter her (Jeremiah 3:14f).
5.) In both Hosea and Jeremiah– which speaks of the 10 tribes and the 2 tribes respectively, God promised to make a New Covenant with the whole house of Israel. See Hosea 2:18; Jeremiah 31:29f, and Ezekiel 37, among a host of texts that could be offered.
5.) The New Covenant with both houses of Israel could not be made until Judah had fulfilled her predetermined destiny, and God divorced her. The Old Covenant had to be done away– the divorcement of Judah had to take place– before the New Covenant could be made with both houses of Israel, as promised in both Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 37.
6.) This divorcement is what Revelation is all about! Judah (Jerusalem is the city that has played the harlot– just as Israel played the harlot and was divorced (Ezekiel 16; 23f).
7.) YHVH said that He would cause to cease the house of Israel– though a remnant would be saved– so much so that she would never rise again (Hosea 1:5; Amos 5:1-3). And yet, though she would not rise again, He would remarry her! This seems– and is– paradoxical. What it means is that Old Covenant Israel would never rise again in the Old Covenant form, for he would take away that Old Covenant! He would remarry her to be sure, but it would be in a manner “not like the covenant that I made with them when I took them by the hand and led them from Egypt” (Jeremiah 31:29f).
8.) Likewise, Revelation depicts the utter destruction and desolation of the city “where the Lord was slain” (Revelation 11:8). However, in the destruction of the Old City, the former bride, the wedding takes place! (See Revelation 19:6f: “Let us be glad and rejoice, for the time of the wedding has come!” This is the Wedding promised in Hosea and Jeremiah and Isaiah!
9.) Compare Matthew 22 and the parable of the Wedding there as well. The Wedding– in other words, the New Covenant– takes place at the time of the destruction of the city guilty of killing the servants sent to them to invite them to the Wedding!
10.) Now, note that in Colossians, Paul is writing to Gentiles, telling them not to submit themselves to Torah. The obligation to keep Torah was taken away “in Christ.” (Take a look at my debate on the passing of the Law on my website www.eschatology.org. It is archived there). The key point is that in Colossians 2 Paul is saying that the Gentiles had come into Christ, where there was no obligation to keep Torah!
11.) Notice now what Paul says in Colossians 2:20f. Paul tells his audience that they had died to the world (cosmos), through entering Christ. But notice that he says that the Torah commands “Touch not, taste not, handle not” were all elements (Greek word stoicheia), of the world (cosmos) that was still to pass away! Note also in v. 15 that Paul uses the present tense verbs to say that the Law was, when he wrote, “a shadow of good things that are (about to) come.” The law had not passed, because it was still a shadow of the things that had not yet come!
12.) So, Paul speaks of the passing of the Torah in two senses: A.) Those entering Christ died to the obligation to the Law, but the Law had not yet passed. B.) The Law itself was to pass away (v. 20f). We have here the two sides of the passing of the Law: the subjective, personal side whereby one entered Christ and died “to the law” (Romans 7:4), and the objective passing of the Law itself.
13.) The Torah could not pass until every jot and tittle was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17f). And note again that Paul says that the Law was still, when he wrote, a shadow of good things about to come.
14.) The Old (marriage) Covenant could not pass until Judah had filled the measure of her sin (as Israel had), Messiah had come, and the New Covenant provisions delivered. Then, God could and did divorce Judah, as promised and as necessary, and make the promised New Covenant with the whole house of Israel.
15.) In Matthew 24:15 Jesus promised that the gospel would be preached into all the world, as a witness to the nations, and then the end would come. The end was the end of the Old Covenant with Judah and Jerusalem as promised in Matthew 24:2-3.
16.) It was necessary that YHVH warn Israel, including the Diaspora (1 Peter 1:1), of the impending end of God’s Old Covenant with Judah, while at the same time extending the invitation to the whole house of Israel scattered about. This is why it is so important to consider Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:9f where he says that his audience was experiencing, at that time, the restoration– the betrothal for marriage!!– promised in Hosea 2:19f). Paul, who preached nothing but the hope of Israel, said that the betrothal had taken place (2 Corinthians 11:2), and they were looking for the Wedding (Ephesians 5:25f).
17.) So, when Hebrews 8:13 says that the Old Covenant was nigh unto passing away, this was not just what the Jews mistakenly thought. It is what the writer is affirming in no uncertain terms! It is the statement of the inspired writer that the Torah was passing away, not a statement or belief of the Jews!
18.) The divorce of Judah did not take place at the Cross, which is what would be necessary for your friend’s position on Colossians 2 to be correct. The Wedding did not take place on Pentecost, which is what is necessary to say that the New Covenant was made at Pentecost. The betrothal had, but not the Wedding! The divorcement (Revelation 18-19), had not yet taken place, because Judah had not yet filled the measure of her sin (cf. Matthew 23:29-37), Torah was not yet fulfilled.
19.) As a quick note here, note that in Galatians 4:22, Paul emphatically speaks of the Old Covenant and Israel after the flesh. He says that the Old Covenant, and Israel were to be cast out, because Israel was, when he wrote, persecuting the saints. Here is the argument in very simplified form:
Old Covenant Israel, (and the Old Covenant itself), was to be cast out for persecuting the followers of Christ (Galatians 4:22f).
Old Covenant Israel did not persecute the followers of Christ before the Cross / Pentecost.
Therefore, Old Covenant Israel (and thus the Old Covenant), was not cast out at the Cross / Pentecost.
In my upcoming book on 1 Thessalonians 4:13f I develop this quite at length.
Okay, I must close. But, I hope that you can see some of the issues that lie behind Colossians 2. Tragically, we have isolated Paul’s discussion from the overall perspective of scripture, and how it relates to the divorce and remarriage of God and Israel / Judah. The failure to honor these connections and this background dooms us to a misguided understanding of Colossians 2, and the other passages that we have tried to force into saying that the Law itself passed at the Cross. It is absolutely essential that we come to a better understanding of God’s marriage / divorce / remarriage promises found in the Old Covenant, in light of the fact that all of the New Testament writers tell us in no uncertain terms that their gospel message and their eschatology– which of course includes the passing of the Old Covenant– was nothing but the hope of Israel found in the prophets.
I hope that these few thoughts are helpful to you. I discuss these issues a good bit more in my book Who Is This Babylon? that can be purchased from both my websites: www.bibleprophecy.com and www.eschatology.org. I think you will find the discussions there to be helpful as well.
For His Truth, and in His Grace,
Don K. Preston
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