Before we can really understand the end of the law, we need to know its beginning.
In the book of Exodus, we read about the law's origin. Here we find God commanding the most well known part of His law, the Ten commandments.
(Exodus 20:1-17) God tells Moses to come up to Him on Mt. Sinai and He would give Moses the law (Exodus 24:12). God also showed His divine wisdom knowing the importance of a written copy of these laws. God may have carved the actual stone tablets Himself (Exodus 31:18).
So God, over a period of 40 days and nights, told Moses to write the Mosaic Law. This Law is included in the Torah (often translated as law); however the Torah is made up of much more than just the law. It is the complete first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Some refer to this section of scripture as the first five books of Moses. This is not Moses' law, however, it is God's Law that Moses wrote (Exodus 34:27).
The Mosaic Law was an active part of Jewish customs and traditions. The observance of this law is one thing that made the Jewish lifestyle different from all other people culturally and spiritually. Some Jews were more observant to the law than others. During the second temple period, the strictest sect of law observers were the Pharisees. Paul, the Rabbi that God used to write the inspired book of Romans, was himself a Pharisee, as was his father (Acts 23:6). He was educated in Jewish religious matters including the law at the school of Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). We find this same Rabbi Gamaliel being quoted in the Passover Haggadah. This is a book to help guide one in conducting a traditional Passover meal. (This tells us that even today some of Rabbi Gamaliel's teachings are recognized, respected and practiced by modern day Judaism).
Studying the law at Rabbi Gamaliel's School gave Paul the best possible education available in Jewish studies at the time. Graduates from this school were often selected to sit on the Sanhedrin court. This prestigious court consisted of a group of 71 judges and was viewed, at that time, as the ultimate authority on Jewish law. Their purpose was to fine-tune the law in a way similar to the Supreme Court in the United States today.
It was not only an understanding of the written Mosaic Law that needed fine-tuned, but there was another law. This is what is known as the Oral Law. Jewish tradition has it that the Oral Law was passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. The Oral Law complimented and originated at the same time as the written law. With the legal guidance of the Sanhedrin Court, the Pharisees were constantly clarifying, sometimes modifying and then practicing the law so they would understand it better and set an example for others.
The original intent of the Pharisees may have been a noble one, but it created a problem. They helped to create new laws that put "hedges" around the old laws so it would be harder to break the original laws. They learned this practice from Adam. God tells Adam not to eat from the tree (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam had no prohibition in scripture against touching the tree. The Pharisees thought that Adam added to this commandment in order to provide a "hedge" or " fence" by telling Eve that God had said don't touch or eat from the tree (Genesis 3:3 Pirkei Avot Niddah 4b). Other cultures in the area gave no respect to God's law at all and, by adding these hedges, the Pharisees succeeded in keeping the practice of Judaism mostly separated from surrounding pagan beliefs. But in their attempt to do so, many rules and regulations were added to the original law. By this time, the law had become a combination of God's word and man's legalistic guidelines. The more rules and regulations that were added to the law, the more it became mans law instead of God's divine will.
In Romans 10:4, God reveals through Paul's writings what God's spiritual truth for the end of the law is. Here Paul uses the Greek word te,loj (Tellos).
This word can have different meanings including end, fulfillment, aim, termination, and goal. What Paul is saying is that the law has a purpose, a goal to accomplish, and a specific objective to reach. Since God himself was behind the written inspiration of the law, then it is safe to say that the law is holy. After all, we know that all the scriptures are holy words since God inspired them (2 Timothy 3:16).
Jesus is clear that He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He is the ultimate culmination of all to which the Law pointed.
Since the written law is holy and good, we can see that one of the purposes of the law is to teach us about righteousness. God wanted the nation of Israel to try and use this law as a way for them to live a lifestyle that was set apart from the rest of the world. The idea here is that through observing the law that God had given them, Israel would set an example for the rest of the world on how to live God's way. What a privilege for the nation of Israel to be chosen by grace from God to receive this gift of the law. Israel has proven over and over that she was and still is unable to obey all the law all of the time. If Israel is unable to obey the law then who can? Did God just stop asking for it to be followed simply because we seem to be unable to do it? We know that The Messiah did not come to abolish the law, because he tells us so (Matthew 5:17).
Our Lord is the same today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow (Heb 13:8). His desire is for all mankind to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God. God also desires that none shall perish for not being able to do this (2 Peter 3:9).
Since Israel is unable to obey the Law then who does have this ability?
The answer to this question is the Messiah. God the Father sent his Son in human form for many reasons, but let's look at just two of them. One reason was to fulfill the Messianic prophecy of the Messiah being born from a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Another was to come to Earth to show us how to observe this law. God sent his son to reveal to us a greater understanding of the original intent of the law. Moses himself prophesied about this event (Deut. 18:18). While the Messiah was here, He observed the law as originally intended perfectly. He was without sin not even one (Isaiah 53:9). He could be without sin because He followed the will of His father, God the Father, perfectly by observing this law completely. Then He gave his life in the form of a sacrifice because of our sins (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 3:25).
Before and since the Messiah, no one has been able to observe the law to this extent. The prophet Isaiah tells us that when we do mitzvoth (good deeds), including any good deeds of trying to obey the law, and then think we are somehow giving something back to God to earn our righteousness, it is to God as though our works are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Paul earlier in this book of Romans reconfirms this Old Testament truth when he tells us that all men are guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23).
We can also see that even in the case of the first Jew, Abraham. When God decided to view Abraham in a righteous way, it was accomplished through God's grace, using Abrahams' faith in God's promises to consider him worthy of righteousness. We know that Abraham lived and died long before there ever was a Mosaic Law, so we know that observance to that law had nothing to do with his righteous standing with God. From these biblical examples we learn that our righteousness comes by faith in God and not by works themselves. Works are a byproduct of true faith.
It is a faith such as this that was behind the law of Lev. 17:11 where we read that without blood being shed there is no atonement for our soul. The physical blood itself provides nothing, without first having the faith that God would be willing to accept a substitute for our own blood (Hebrews 10:4). We know this faith is necessary because even someone who doesn't believe in God at all can kill an animal and use its blood. We know from Adam's example of sin in the garden that God would require death as a punishment for sin (Gen 2:17). Paul also reconfirms this Old Testament biblical truth in Romans when he reminds us that the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23).
Shortly after the Messiah was crucified, God allowed the temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed as a sign to all nations that the old way of obtaining blood for atonement through animal sacrifices was clearly over. This is because of the universal blessing to Abraham that salvation from the blood of the Messiah was to benefit all nations not just Israel (Isa. 49:6; Gen. 12:3; Heb. 5:9).
From the entire nation of Israel, only a remnant of people, and only through Gods Grace, understood that Jesus blood would be substituted for the blood of the sacrifices at the temple. Before the destruction of the temple, the remnant God had blessed with an understanding of the truth was mostly Jewish. This included many of the Apostles and those that were gathered to celebrate the feast in Acts Ch 2. There were also Gentile believers that God graced with an understanding of the Gospel truth. These believers, both Jewish and Gentile, followed the Messiah's teaching to take this message to all nations, also known as the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
We can see the beginning of the first century "church age" was very Jewish. We can also see that Paul considered himself Jewish while believing in the Messiah (Rom. 11:1). One can be fully Jewish and Christian at the same time. You can be born fully Jewish from the physical seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is a birthright that can never be taken away from you. Traditionally, some would consider this the Jewish race. Simultaneously you can be Christian by accepting the spiritual blessing of the Messiah promised to Abraham and his descendants. After all, a Christian is simply one who recognizes the Jewish Messiah's divine nature and his divine resurrection, which results in obedience to His message (Romans 10:9-10). What could be more Jewish? Paul answers the question what is a Jew in Romans Chapter 2 when he tells us...
"For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)
Paul is delivering the message that it is the inside (heart) of a person and their belief that now makes up a true Jew. It is much more important to be circumcised in the heart inside the body instead of a circumcision of the flesh outside. This circumcision of the heart is a belief in the Gospel message (John 3:16). This is the beginning of the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:31. This prophecy is partially fulfilled now and will be totally fulfilled at the second coming of Messiah.
Therefore, all believers in the Messiah are actually in a sense, spiritual Jews, because they accept the spiritual blessing that was promised to the first Jew Abraham, and delivered by God.
Through the Jewish bloodline from Abraham through King David and eventually through Joseph and Mary, Jesus' earthly parents, God brings the messianic blessing to all nations.
God has always kept some part of Israel alive to preserve and fulfill the blessing and prophecy of the Messiah coming to the world through the bloodline of King David. During second temple Jewish life, there was more than one sect of Judaism. A Jew had a choice of which group to associate with. Among those choices were Zealots, those who would consider fighting for their beliefs; Sadducees, those who accepted only the five books of Moses as divinely inspired; Pharisees, those who accepted the five books of Moses and the writing of the prophets as being divinely inspired; and Messianic Jews, those who believed what the Pharisees did but saw that God had fulfilled messianic prophecy through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus' Hebrew name).
Some of these Jewish believers still exist today. Whether they refer to themselves as Hebrew Christians, Completed Jews, or Messianic Jews, they all share the same common ground. That shared belief is an understanding and love for the Messiah and a desire to be obedient to His will.
Several years after the death of the Messiah, there was a split inside Judaism, and Jews that believed that Yeshua was the Messiah were no longer welcome. What does the Messiah being able to observe the law have to do with the end of the law?
In order for us to also be able to observe the law in a manner acceptable to God we need to rely on what the Messiah has already done. One of the goals of the torah and the prophets, including the law, is to teach us patterns of righteousness. It points us to the biblical truths that we are unable to obtain this highest level of righteousness by ourselves and that we need help. Jeremiah refers to this kind of righteousness that is from God and not from man (Jeremiah 23:6). This is when Messiah's righteousness (God's righteousness) becomes our righteousness. It is imputed to us as part of our blessings. The law provided a way to cover up our past sins with the blood of the animal sacrifices, while looking foreword to the future redemption from all sin with the blood from the Messiah.
Some prophecies are only in a partial state of fulfillment. They will not be completely fulfilled until God brings future events into present times. We know that the Old Testament prophets foretold that God would someday send the Messiah. Dan. 9:25-27 predicts when the Messiah will come and be cut off (die). It also says that this will happen before the destruction of the temple, which occurred around 70 A.D. Even the Talmud confirms that all deadlines for the coming of the Messiah have come and gone (Sanhedrin 97b).
We also know from the writings of the Old Testament prophets that some day God would give us a new covenant, one that becomes written on our hearts instead of written on a scroll (Jeremiah 31:31). This is a great example of a prophecy partially fulfilled. This new covenant is that, through faith, the blood of Messiah is now available to represent us, thereby providing for us, eternal life (John 3:16). This allows the sinner to be free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
The rest of the prophecy behind Jer. 31:31 will occur after the second coming of Jesus. There will be total peace after a short period of judgment.
God could have sent his gift of the Holy Spirit at any time. Why would He send it at the exact time that he did?
There is a statement in the Talmud that tells us what date the giving of the law occurred (Tractate Shabbat 86b). This has been figured out to be 50 days from the first day of Passover. This 50th day from the first day of Passover is a biblical holiday called Shavuot in Hebrew. The meaning of this word in English is weeks and is sometimes known as the festival of weeks. It is chronologically associated with Passover. Seven weeks are to go by after Passover and then the next day, the 50th day, is the holiday. Shavuot started out as an agricultural holiday. In the days of the Second Temple, the one in Jerusalem destroyed in the year 70, pilgrims would bring elaborately decorated baskets of their "first fruits" to the Temple (Numbers 28:26). At Shavuot, an offering of first fruits was made (Leviticus 23:20).
Current Jewish tradition still celebrates this holiday. The focus, however, since the temple was destroyed, is now on the giving of the law and not on the giving of the first fruit of harvest. This was also the same holiday that the Apostles were celebrating in the New Testament in the book of Acts (Acts Chapter 2). This holiday also is often referred to as Pentecost (meaning fiftieth), a Christian holiday that is commonly celebrated on the 7th Sunday after Easter, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
We also know that the religious feasts pointed toward the Messiah. One example of this is the way the sacrificial Passover lamb pointed toward the Messiah being the sacrificial Passover lamb (John 1:29).
The giving of the law, which happened on Shavuot, pointed us towards a greater gift, our Messiah. We see now that God, on the anniversary of the giving of the written law (Old Covenant), is completing this law with the death and resurrection of His Son, followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is now time for the promised New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) to show us a new way to serve Him with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is the first fruits of the believer's inheritance (Acts 2:38). After all of the years that Israel gave to God their first fruits, God shows the believer, in His Son, the meaning of the giving of His first fruit.
We can read in Exodus 32 that God becomes angry with those waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain. God tells Moses to go back to the children of Israel waiting at the bottom of the mountain so that God can make His wrath known. When Moses returned, he gave the people a choice. They could decide to believe in God and stand with him or to remain separated. The Lord, in His wrath, made it clear if they could not live by the letter of the law then they could die by the letter of the law. There were around 3000 that were killed that day (Ex. 32; 28).
In Acts Chapter 2, we read where there were around 3000 souls saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). This would be on the anniversary of the 3000 that were killed. Let us consider that this is perhaps not just a coincidence. It may be that what started out as the giving of the written law on the holiday of first fruits was fulfilled through Christ with the giving of Gods first fruit for all believers, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We now have a new power to help us with the law, the power of the Holy Spirit.
"But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:6)
The Messiah is the end of the law.
Although the Messiah is the culmination of all to which the Law pointed, a great appreciation for Messiah can be found in taking a day off to worship the Lord (Sabbath), thanking God for providing our daily bread (grace before and or after meals) and remembering that we are created in His image so we should try to represent Hm well. Ultimately, worship comes from the inside where our hearts and minds can focus on Him, not on our outward expressions that are at times, mistakenly done for prideful reasons.
Through love, both the love God showed us when He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins and the love that we are to show our neighbor, the spirit of the law lives on from generation to generation.
Does your inability to keep all the law all the time point you toward your need for forgiveness?
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