I am pleased to share with our visitors another excellent article by Jim Gunter. He has contributed in the past and his articles are always thought provoking and helpful. My thanks to Jim for his work!
Heaven and Earth Must First Pass Away [Mat. 5:17-18]
By Jim Gunter
One beautiful day from the gentle slopes of a lush green Judean hillside, our Master addressed a great throng of Jews who had followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, all of Judea, and even from beyond the Jordan River [Mat. 4:25-5:2]. For many centuries now, devoted followers of our Lord Jesus have appropriately spoken of this address as His “Sermon on the Mount.” In this discourse, the Master spoke of the marvelous blessings that were soon to be realized and enjoyed by all of Yahweh’s faithful, for then He would dwell or tabernacle with them [Rev. 21:3; 2Cor. 6:16] just as He had promised before through His prophets [Ezek. 37:24-28]. In this discourse, Jesus speaks of those blessed as those who were humble, and saw themselves as spiritually destitute; those who mourned their sins; those who were gentle and meek; those who hungered and thirsted after righteousness; those who showed mercy; those whose hearts were pure; those who sought to make peace; those who were already being persecuted because of their righteous living and conduct; and those who would receive insults and have all kinds of false charges sworn against them because of their devotion to the Messiah [vss. 3-11]. He further says in vss. 13 and 14 that as His disciples, they were the salt of the earth and the very light of the world.
But just 3 verses later, in vss. 17-18, the Master speaks words of great import to these disciples; things which they needed to understand, and things of which I am convinced they did understand. Albeit, in our present day, these words [especially vs.18] seem to get very little attention from most folks for whatever reason. Perhaps with many, it’s for the same reason that I once avoided it. My good brethren, I wish, for the moment, that you would simply read vs.18 before we proceed any further, and just see if you have any difficulty whatsoever in reconciling our Lord’s words there! If you do, then it’s not anything of which you should be ashamed. I’m certainly not going to be critical of you, because I cannot deny that for many years this little verse really tied me in knots! However, I can see now, therein, a statement which is quite revealing when considering the matter of eschatology (the study of last things). Here are the things our Lord said:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.“
As I have indicated on previous occasions, I did not give much attention to the things said in vs.18 of this account. And my reason for this was because, when viewing this verse through a “futurist” lens, as I was doing, the verse becomes quite confusing and seemingly even contradictory. From this paradigm or perspective (Amillennial), which I then approached the scriptures, the only conclusion my then eschatological view would allow for, was that our Lord was saying the physical universe or creation would first have to pass away or come to an end before the Law of Moses would become inoperative! Needless to say, this was quite troubling for me because, as we all know, our Master fulfilled that Law nearly twenty centuries ago! Therefore, I honestly had no reasonable explanation for our Lord’s statement here that would be consistent with our Father’s word when viewing the passage from that “futurist” paradigm. So, obviously, I was torn, and consequently, for all practical purposes, gave little attention to this passage for a long, long time.
Well, I continued to wear those same “futurist” lenses for more than thirty years, until I came to view this same verse from a “realized” eschatological view, which is often referred to as the “preterist” view. To put it in its simplest terms, this view approaches the scriptures from the understanding that all prophecies in both the old covenant Scriptures and the new covenant Scriptures have been fulfilled. I also would like for everyone reading this little treatise to know that I don’t feel that I have the last word, or that I have the corner on the truth! Nor do I feel that you must agree with me. I certainly make no claims of scholarship! I’m simply a meager old disciple, a learner, a student no different from yourself, with a burning desire to simply understand the Words of our Master as best I can. I am one who simply wants to honor His word, and who desires to be conformed to His image more and more each day as this earthly pilgrimage slowly slips away!
Regarding one’s eschatological view, I personally do not view the position one takes in that regard as a “lost/saved” matter or as a test of fellowship. It really saddens me when I see any disciple sever their fellowship with another disciple simply because that disciple’s eschatological view differs from that of their own. My dear brothers and sisters, surely, these things ought not so to be! Surely, our Master’s desire for His disciples is for us all to be (peace)makers and not (piece)makers.
With that said, I would now like to go back to the passage under discussion and explain what I have since come to understand Jesus’ words in this passage to mean.
First, I would suppose that all of us understand our Master’s use of the term “Law and Prophets” in vs.17, as being all those things that are written in the old covenant Scriptures; those writings which also contained the law under which the Israelites lived and served Yahweh. Often times we simply refer to that law as “the law of Moses” or “the old covenant.” It is also my understanding that Jesus’ words “until all is accomplished,” means just that, i.e, it would include the fulfillment of all the prophecies of God’s old
testament prophets as well as the Psalms, just as Jesus said in vs. 18, “until all is accomplished.” For many years I failed to understand that Jesus actually meant that “all” things written about Him in the scriptures would be fulfilled in the generation in which He and the apostles lived. Obviously, then, this would have occurred in the 1st century. Please notice what He said to His apostles shortly before He ascended into heaven:
“Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled’” [Lk. 24:44-45].
As we can clearly see from this passage, there was nothing in all of the old covenant scriptures that was written about our Master that was not to be fulfilled, up to and including Resurrection and Judgment, for He said as much to His apostles in Mat. 16:27-28:
“For the Son of Man is going to come (Greek “mello”-about to) in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Wowood folks, do you catch the depth of these words of our Lord? If Jesus is telling the truth here (and who would dare deny that He is), this would mean that those things to be fulfilled would, of necessity, have to include “the return of Christ, the resurrection, and the judgment,” would it not? Please read also the following passages, for I believe them very enlightening and helpful in obtaining a clear understanding of the Lord’s intended message: Mat. 24:34-35; Lk. 18:31; Lk. 21:22-32; Lk. 24:44; Acts 3:21.
Now back to our Mat. 5:17-18 passage. In light of all this, notice now just what our Savior reveals about the duration of the Law of Moses. He very clearly declares:
“…until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”
Now, as I intimated before, this is where I had my struggle before I changed my eschatological view or paradigm. It was here, where there appeared to me to be a contradiction, simply because I was not able to reconcile two indisputable facts which are:
 The law of Moses “has” indeed passed away, and yet,
 The physical universe (heavens and earth) still stands.
Good folks, do you see why I had serious concerns here? Perhaps you, too, have been puzzled by these things as well. One thing is for certain; from my former perspective, the words of Jesus in that passage simply could not be reconciled! They cannot be squared! For example, you and I know for certain that we today do not serve our Master under The Law of Moses, but rather under the “new” and glorious covenant of The Lord Jesus Christ! So then, just how do we explain Jesus’ words in vs. 18 without making them contradictory?
Please allow me to begin the answer to that question by asking another question: Do you suppose it could be possible that the “heavens and earth” of which Jesus speaks, have indeed passed away? In other words, is there a possibility that all of us could have overlooked the real message our Lord was conveying to these Jews? Well, I for one am willing to seriously consider that possibility. Good folks, I say that because when I consider these words of our Master from my former view then it automatically put me in the untenable position where I would be forced to conclude that “not one stroke or the smallest letter” found in the Law, has passed away, and consequently, disciples today are still helplessly shackled and held under the sway of that old covenant “Law of Moses!” However, in my mind, I knew this was not the truth! And I also knew there were no contradictions in our Father’s word. I think you would agree with me that when there is a seeming contradiction in Heaven’s message, it’s not because there really is one, but rather it’s only because we have not properly understood the message that God is conveying to us. And so, good folks, I am convinced that it is we who are the problem, not God or His Word. So then, just how do we resolve this problem? Just what lesson was Jesus conveying to that great mass of Jews that covered that Judean hillside some 2,000 years ago? Well, that’s what I would like to take the next few minutes to talk about. I would simply like to express what I now understand to truly be our Master’s message here.
To begin with, I believe we must first have a clear and correct definition of terms. We have already concluded that “The law and the prophets” refers to the Law of Moses and all the things written in the old covenant Scriptures, including the Prophets and the Psalms. And this “law of Moses” was the law under which the Jews were living at the time Jesus spoke those words. I’m confident that we all understand these facts alike. Therefore, with these central facts established in our minds, I believe if we can now come to a clear understanding of the term “heaven and earth,” as the Lord uses it here, then we can reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements.
A passage which I find to be so interesting in this regard is Isa. 51:15-16. Here, Yahweh says;
“But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared; The Lord of hosts is his name. And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.“
Upon taking a closer look here at the things God tells Israel He had done for them, this matter then began to clear up for me. Notice all the marvelous things He declares:
 He says that He had, “divided the sea whose waves roared,” i.e, He had, so graciously and mercifully delivered them from Egyptian bondage; dividing the Red Sea that they might cross over on dry land to safety, while at the same time, destroying Pharaoh’s armies.
 “I have put my words in thy mouth,” i.e, to Israel was given the very oracles of God. They had received the Law through Moses on Mt. Sinai, which was to act as their schoolmaster which was to ultimately bring them to their Messiah that they might be justified by faith in Him as opposed to a system of “law,” which, of course, contained no provision for complete forgiveness nor the gift of life [See Gal. 3:24].
 “I have covered thee with the shadow of Mine hand.” Yes, God had so graciously taken Israel under His hand, fighting their battles for them; protecting them from their enemies, while at the same time, extending His providential care in so many ways so as to suit all their needs during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, including such provisions as manna, quail, and water.
Now in light of all these marvelous things that God did for Israel, if we look very closely in vs.16 we will see exactly what it was that these marvelous works of God constituted. This, I believe, is of great import because the second half of this verse clearly explains all that is said before it. Please notice what God said was His purpose for doing these things:
“that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, thou art my people.”
Good folks, I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here. It is ever so clear that Yahweh is not alluding to the Genesis account of His creation of the “physical” heavens and earth. I’m sure you can see as well as I, that the “heavens and earth” that are spoken of here were created at Sinai after God led them out of bondage and through the sea. That’s what this text clearly says, is it not? Yes, God created for Israel, their very own heavens and earth! Here’s what He told them back in the day when He performed this marvelous deed for them:
“If also after these things, you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze” [Lev. 26:18-19].
Surely, we can see quite clearly from passages like this, that God does not have reference to the “physical universe,” but rather He’s talking about “Israel’s old covenant world.” Please take note of the fact that God assigns the use of the personal pronoun “your” in His threat of judgment on them, indicating that He was speaking specifically of Israel’s sky [heaven] and Israel’s [earth]. Surely, those Israelites, both in Moses’ day and in Isaiah’s day, and certainly those in Jesus’ day, knew perfectly well that these words spoke of Israel’s heaven and earth! Just a cursory look at the very beginning of the book of Isaiah, informs us of which heaven and earth He is speaking. Please hear Him! In Isa.1:1-2 He says:
“The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Listen O heavens and hear O earth; For the Lord speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me.’”
These are just a few of the things of which I failed to take careful notice in my earlier years. In Isa. 65:17-25, we read of Yahweh’s promise to create for the faithful of Israel, a “new” heavens and earth!
Good folks, if you are anything like me, you thoroughly enjoy reading the historical account of those days from the pen of Flavius
Josephus. Even though not an inspired man, he, being a Jew and historian contemporary with the times of the 1st century, he was very familiar with the construction of the temple and I believe that his description of the inside of the temple/tabernacle will give us a little additional insight into why our Lord used that particular term, “heaven and earth” in Mat. 5:18. It certainly seems to me that this term was clearly understood by those Jewish disciples who heard Jesus. Certainly, to these Jews, the temple or tabernacle was at the very center of Israel’s “heaven and earth.” The following excerpts are some of the things Josephus recorded in his “Antiquities of the Jews.” First, from Book III, Chap. 6, Section 4 he says this:
“Now the room within those pillars was the most holy place; but the rest of the room was the tabernacle, which was open for the priests. However, this proportion of the measures of the tabernacle proved to be an imitation of the system of the world; for that third part thereof which was within the four pillars, to which the priests were not admitted, is, as it were, a heaven peculiar to God.“
Of the veil at the holy of holies, Josephus said:
”This veil was very ornamental, and embroidered with all sorts of flowers which the earth produces; and there were interwoven into it all sorts of variety that might be an ornament excepting the forms of animals.”
Here’s another excerpt taken from his Book III, Chap. 7, Section 7: Of the fabric of the Tabernacle, he said:
“…they were, every one made in way of imitation and representation of the universe. When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests, as a place accessible and common, he denoted the land and sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is not inaccessible to men. And, when he ordered twelve loaves to be set on the table, he denoted the year, as distinguished into so many months. By branching out the candlestick into seventy parts, he secretly intimated the Decani, or seventy divisions of the planets; and as to the seven lamps upon the candlesticks, they referred to the course of the planets, of which that is the number. The veils, too, which were composed of four things, they declared the four elements; for the fine linen was proper to signify the earth, because the flax grows out of the earth. The purple signified the sea, because that color is dyed by the blood of a sea shell-fish; the blue is fit to signify the air; and scarlet will naturally be an indication of fire. Now the vestment of the high priest being made of linen, signified the earth; the blue denoted the sky, being like lightning in its pomegranates, and in the noise of the bells resembling the thunder. And for the ephon, it showed that God had made the universe of four elements; and as for the gold interwoven, I suppose it related to the splendor by which all things are enlightened. He also appointed the breastplate to be placed in the middle of the ephod, to resemble the earth, for that has the very middle place of the world. And the girdle which encompassed the high priest round, signified the ocean, for that goes round about and includes the universe. Each of the sermonizes declares to us the sun and the moon…And as for the mitre, which was of a blue color, it seems to me to mean heaven.“
Good folks, even though the preceding were not the words of an inspired man, still the fact that Josephus was a Jewish Historian who was contemporary with the times of the Temple and its destruction, I believe, places him in a unique position for having information and insight into such things as we have just read! Please look now at Deut. 4:25-26, as God promises judgment on Israel if they act corruptly against Him. And then He said: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you shall surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it.“ It seems clear here, to me, that God’s witnesses of heaven and earth against Israel was the covenant world which He had created for them upon their deliverance, and governed by the law that He had given to them. Notice in Deut. 30:19, where this very promise is repeated to them, and again, God calls their heaven and earth as witnesses against them. Please compare these passages with Moses’ final words to Israel and see if you get the same understanding of this term, heaven and earth.
“And it came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, ‘Take this book of the law, and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you. For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more, then, after my death? Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the “heavens and the earth” to witness against them.’”
Kind reader, I am persuaded that with God’s taking Israel as His people, giving to Israel His law and His gracious providence, He founded [created or established] their world—their heavens and earth.
But sadly enough, Moses’ words concerning Israel’s stubbornness, disobedience, and blatant disregard for God’s law, the time would come that Israel’s world, i.e, their heavens and earth, would be removed as God had said it would. Only a remnant would be faithful to Him. Of the former Israelites, Yahweh said:
“Thus says the Lord, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,‘ so, I will act on behalf of My servants in order not to destroy all of them. And I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, And an heir of My mountains from Judah; Even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there“ [Isa. 65:8- 9].
So, here we see the promise of a destruction of the old fleshly, temporal world of Israel—the “old” heavens and earth. Yes, dear ones, in 70 A.D, God, through His lethal instrument of Titus and the Roman Legions, and their allies, razed Jerusalem and the temple to the ground after looting the temple of its gold, silver etc. In addition, with the slaughter of all the priests [some say 2,000 to 2,500 priests], not to mention the slaughter of some 1,100,000 unbelieving Jews and the enslavement of nearly another million. This brought to an end, the old covenant priesthood with its animal sacrifices. Therefore, with all these things, one can see that the “Israelites’ world” (the old covenant system), truly did come to an end! For “natural, fleshly” Israelites, heaven and earth indeed did pass away just as our Master promised.
Good folks, I believe the things we just covered greatly highlight what The Holy Spirit had the Hebrew scribe to pen only about 5 years before this shaking of the Israelites’ heaven and earth, as he wrote with a noticeable tone of finality. In Heb. 12:26-27, He said, contrasting God’s shaking of the earth by His voice at Mt. Sinai, with what He was about to do shortly:
“And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake, not only the earth, but also the heaven, And this expression, ‘Yet once more, denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.’”
Friends, it just seems so clear, especially upon reading verses18-29, that the writer is indeed contrasting the covenants. That is, he contrasts the “old” covenant fleshly, natural world or heavens and earth (consisting of its earthly, typical temple and holy of holies, and with its earthly, fleshly priesthood, animal sacrifices, and ordinances) with the great and glorious “new” covenant “spiritual” world (heavens and earth), and Kingdom of Messiah Yashua! Folks, isn’t that simply beautiful?
I find that, in this prophecy, God succinctly expresses, at the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews [about 65 A.D.], that there was still one obstacle that stood in the way of His glorious new covenant world or “new” heavens and earth being fully consummated and perfected. And just what was that obstacle? Well, let us now allow our Father’s Word to explain that for us. To do this, I would like to call your attention to more words from the pen of the writer of Hebrews. In Heb. 9:8-10, the writer says this:
“The Holly Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time (1st century present time-jg). Accordingly, both gifts and sacrifices are offered, (notice present tense) which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations, for the body
imposed until a time of reformation.“
These words clearly state that the tabernacle or temple, which was at the very epicenter of Judaism, with its temporal and typical holy of holies, the old fleshly priesthood, animal sacrifices and ordinances etc., was still standing at that present time when these words were penned [vs. 8]. But he then says that all those things would stand only until a time of reformation [vs.10]. And it is this “time of reformation” that is in view in chap. 12, vss. 21-28. This was the point in time at which God says He would once more “shake not only the earth (as at Sinai-vss. 18-21), but also the heaven, removing the things which could be shaken (i.e, the created things), and leaving only the things which could not be shaken [i.e, the glorious Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ [vs. 28], Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the general assembly and ekklesia of the firstborn (vss. 22-23)]. Yes, beloved, these are the elements that would comprise the new heavens and earth as promised in 2 Pet. 3: 8-13; Isa. 65:17-19; Isa. 66:22-23; and also Rev. 21:1-5! When our Savior shed His blood on the cross and rose from the dead, He then entered into Heaven [the true Holy of holies—Heb. 9:24]. It was there, in His role as High Priest, that He offered His blood as a true and complete atonement for man’s sins, once for all time.
Of course, I realize that many Christians today, believe that the old covenant had already been completely removed before the time that the book of Hebrews was written. And I confess that this was once my understanding as well, and for a long time. However, please listen to what this writer had to say about that. In Heb. 8, he quotes God from Jer. 31:31-34, where He said that the days would come when He would make a “new” covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, which would be different from the “first” covenant or “law of Moses.” Now look carefully at Heb.8:13. The writer says,
“When He [God] said ‘A new covenant,‘ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever ‘is becoming’ obsolete and ’growing’ old, is ready to disappear.”
Folks, I really don’t see how the writer could have made it any more transparent than he does here. He very plainly said that the old covenant was “becoming obsolete and growing old,“ and that it was “ready to disappear.“ Please notice, in particular, the “present passive” verb forms, “becoming obsolete, growing old, and is ready to disappear,” indicating a process that was presently in progress when the writer penned his epistle. I believe this is really remarkable!
As we know, these words were penned in the mid-60’s A.D. And it is passages such as these that have caused me to reconsider my former thinking and, as a result, I have since changed my stance regarding the time of the complete passing of the old covenant law. I now understand it to have completely passed, not “at the cross,” but with the consummation and coming of the glorious, perfected, “spiritual” Kingdom of The Lord Jesus Christ in 70 A.D, for it was then that the old temple, the old typical holy of holies, the fleshly priesthood with its animal sacrifices, were all completely removed by The Lord Jesus Christ at His parousia!
With the preceding facts offered by the scribe of the Hebrews epistle, and all the related passages referenced, please look with me now at Paul’s allegory to the Galatian saints, and let us see if he doesn’t speak of the same thing we’ve just talked about! Here, Paul’s allegory is precipitated by some of the brethren there being influenced by the Judaizing teachers to abandon the gospel of salvation by grace through faith, for their perverted gospel of salvation by works of law. In Gal. 4:19-20, Paul expresses his sorrow and disappointment in some of those brethren who were being greatly influenced by these Judaizers. Then, beginning in vs. 21 He says:
“Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman, and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman, through the promise. This is allegorically speaking; for these women are two covenants; one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem [1st century, then-present Jerusalem-jg], for she is in slavery with her children [fleshly Israelites under bondage to The Law–jg]. But the Jerusalem above is free [those Israelites who were of the faith of Abraham-jg]; she is our mother.”
Paul then continues in verses 28-31:
“And you, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time, he who was born according to the flesh [Ishmael-jg], persecuted him who was born according to The Spirit [Isaac-jg], so it is now [in the 1st century-jg] also. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.”
Good folks, we see some very interesting things here in Paul’s allegory. First, we see that he speaks of “two covenants,” represented by the two women, Hagar and Sarah:  The “old” covenant, represented by Hagar; and  The “new” covenant, represented by Sarah. Notice also that Hagar, being representative of the old covenant, was also representative of Mt. Sinai, which corresponded to the then-present Jerusalem [i.e, old covenant, 1st century Jerusalem]. In that same verse [v-25], Paul declares that she, Hagar, as 1st century Jerusalem was in slavery with her children. How so, you ask? Because those 1st century Jews who rejected Christ, remained in bondage under the yoke of The Law. Sarah, on the other hand, being “free,” and representative of the “new” covenant and “the Jerusalem above” which came through the son “of promise,” was the mother of all those who had come to the Messiah. These were the “children of the free woman,” and as such, were themselves, “free.”
Another very important fact that Paul makes so clear in this allegory is that, just as Ishmael had persecuted Isaac as a lad, 1st century unbelieving Jews, likewise, persecuted the 1st century body of Christ. Yes, beloved, it was 1st century “Judaism” that stood as such a great obstacle during that 40 year period from the Cross to 70 A.D. Folks, it seems so clear, at least to me, that it is “Jewish” persecution that is in view here, not Rome. Yes, it was fleshly Jerusalem (unbelieving Jews from the house of Judah) who killed God’s prophets, not Rome (please read Mt. 23:29-39; Rev. 18:24; 1 Thes. 2:14-16]. While it is true that Nero did viciously persecute Christians beginning in 64 A.D. till his suicide in 68 A.D, that is not what Paul is focusing on here! It was the unbelievers of fleshly Jerusalem, those under bondage to the law, those Jews not of the faith of Abraham. I believe it was these very Jews who were “the satan” (adversary) who would soon be crushed under the feet of the disciples at Rome that Paul was speaking of in Rom. 16:25.
And now, Paul, to the Galatian disciples in vs. 30 of his allegory, assures these brethren that God would soon remove the great obstacle of “casting out the bondwoman and her son.“ Yes, our Creator was about to fulfill His words of Mal. 4:1, where He said:
“For behold, the day in coming, burning like a furnace, and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” This, Jesus fulfilled in 70 A.D.
If you recall, we began this little enterprise with the declaration by our Master in Matt. 5:17-18 where He made it unmistakably clear that His mission was to “fulfill the Law of Moses and the Prophets.” However, he also stated that before that could be accomplished, “all” of that old covenant law would have to be fulfilled— not some of it, not most of it— but all of it! However, in that same passage, He further declared that before this could be accomplished, “heaven and earth” would have to pass away.
The following are a few other passages which also point to that great and eventful day:
(1) In Mat. 3:10-12, John the baptizer, the second Elijah, said, “And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
(2) In Mat.16:27-28, our Master told His apostles that some of them would still be alive when He returned to carry out judgment on the wicked of Israel. He said, “For the Son of Man is goin
g to (Greek ‘mello’–about to) come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds. Truly, I say to you, there are some of those who are stranding here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
(3) Daniel was told by the angel that this would come to pass at the time spoken of as, “…as soon as they (Rome-jg) finish shattering the power of the holy people (national Israel-jg) Dan.12:7. Please read also, all of Daniel 12!
(4) Speaking again of “heaven and earth,” our Lord also said in Mat. 24:34-35, “Truly, I say to you; this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away but My words shall not pass away.”
Among the plethora of passages in the epistles that speak to the then soon-to-occur parousia (coming/presence) of the Lord, are these:
(1) In Heb.10:37, close to the end of the old covenant age, the writer warned 1st century Jewish disciples, “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming, will come, and will not delay.”
(2) James, The Lord’s brother, writing to Israelites in the last days of the old covenant age wrote, “You too, be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of The Lord is at hand.” Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged: behold the Judge is standing right at the door.” [Jas. 5:8-9]
(3) Also, in the last days of the old covenant age, Peter wrote to Hebrew Christians scattered abroad, “…but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead….the end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer…for it is time for The Judgment (original text does bear the definite article ‘the’) to begin with the household of God. (Israelites-jg) [1Pet.4:5,7,17].
(4) Peter, again, in 2Pet.3:10,11 said, “But, the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a great roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth also, and it’s works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought YOU (those of that generation) to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
Brothers and sisters, these are just a few of the many, many eschatological passages that focus on the dissolution of the world of fleshly Old Covenant Israel which was destined to be destroyed and replaced by the “new” heavens and earth promised by Yahweh in Isa. 65:17-18. Therefore, with regard to the words of Jesus in Mat. 5:17-18, it just seems so clear to me that what He is saying is that the old “heavens and earth” of Judaism, with its fleshly, temporal priesthood and animal sacrifices, along with the temple made with hands, would be taken out of the way. With the removal of all these temporal things, then “every jot and tittle” of the Old Covenant Law could then finally and completely “pass away!” To me, all of this says, “No temple, no ark, no earthly priesthood, no more animal sacrifices,—No Old Covenant!” Israel had 40 years, from the cross to 70 A.D. to repent and accept their Messiah [See also 2Pet.3:9].
I thank all of you so very much for your time and consideration of these things and may the Lord richly bless you all!
Yours in Him,
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