“until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18
Accomplished – When is it all accomplished? If you’re like most contemporary Christians, you think that it was all accomplished when Jesus died on the cross. In fact, many English translations of Jesus’ final words (“It is accomplished.”) certainly could lead you to that conclusion. What the translators don’t tell you is that the word here is not the same Greek word used in Jesus’ last statement – and the difference is very important. The word used here is ginomai, usually translated as “become” or “come.” You will find it in John 1:6 in the phrase, “There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John.” The word means “to come into being, to become,” not “ to finish or end.”
So, let’s ask the question with the right verb. When will it all come to be? When will it all become reality? Now we see that Jesus’ statement on the cross cannot be about the end. Everything in the law did not pass away when Jesus died, did it? We still live by the Ten Commandments, don’t we? We haven’t thrown them out. We still struggle to uphold the law of love, don’t we? We still follow the instructions of Paul and James and Jesus. Of course, when Jesus said that not a single part of the law would pass away, He didn’t use the Greek word nomos (law) either. He used the Hebrew word torah, and as we know, torah does not mean Law, with a capital L. That is another interpretation by the translators. Torah means instruction. Torah is all the instructions of God about how to live found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. That’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:18. None of God’s instructions will be set aside until everything comes to be.
Now we have a real problem. It’s easy to dismiss the Old Testament instructions if you think that Jesus said that all those insights from God ended when He died on the cross. But now you know that He didn’t say that. Now you know that He said none of the torah would pass away until all has come to be. What Jesus says is shocking to us (but not to His first century audience). Jesus says that the torah is still God’s way of living. You can’t push it aside just because of the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Heaven and earth are still here, so the torah is still the standard.
That leaves us with an even bigger question. What is the all in “all has come to be”? For the answer, we have to take a serious look at the new covenant. And guess what? The new covenant isn’t found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. It’s found in Jeremiah. Jesus’ reference to the new covenant is an Old Testament reference. Of course it would be. After all, the Hebrew Bible is the only Bible Jesus knew.
Are you ready to really listen to what Jesus actually says? It’s the beginning of the end of a lot of things you thought were true. But don’t be afraid. It’s gloriously liberating. Just wait until tomorrow. Then we will discover just how old the new covenant really is.
Topical Index: New Covenant