Abolish or Fulfill
Matthew 5:17-18 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Many have quoted this verse to back up their claim that the Older Covenant has been superceded by the Newer Covenant and all law has been completed – there is nothing left for anyone to accomplish and one is no longer “under the law”. In doing so, they have grossly misinterpreted the meaning. In doing so, they ignore both Matthew 24:35 – “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” And Matthew 5: 18 – “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
Fulfill [πληρόω plēroō G4137] means: to fill to the full, to make complete in every particular, to render perfect, to accomplish, carry out, or bring to realization.
Abolish [καταλύω katalyō G2647] means: to dissolve (what has been joined together), to destroy, demolish, to subvert, overthrow, to deprive of force, annul, abrogate, or discard; to do away completely with something.
Law [νόμος nomos G3551] means: anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command.
By taking these definitions and making an interpretation, they come up with the notion that Yeshua has done it all and now we don’t have to even try! One can do whatever one wants, and his sacrifice covers it. These definitions give us a starting point, but are they enough? Let’s examine further:
The key to proper interpretation of this verse is that the phrases “fulfill the law” and “abolish the law” are Hebrew idioms. Like all idioms, simply using a dictionary to define the words and then making up an interpretation by those definitions will make no more sense than defining the word kick (forcefully move with the foot) and the word bucket (a cylindrical object used to carry a liquid substance) and then saying “he kicked the bucket” means “some dude vigorously moved a can of water”! when one is actually saying “he died”.
Fulfill the law is a Hebrew idiom meaning: to properly interpret, to show how to apply the law, to do it rightly. In other words, to fulfill the law is to properly interpret Torah so that people can obey it as Yahweh intends for it to be obeyed, thus allowing Yahweh’s promises to be fully received. Abolish the law is just the opposite, meaning: to misinterpret, to misapply the law, to do it wrongly, thus bringing down judgment.
Matthew 5:21-48 –“You have heard it said . . . But I say . . . ”
Yeshua always makes known the true meaning of Yahweh’s commands. Where the Pharisees and Sadducees interpret the law to mean to physically obey, Yeshua interprets it to mean spiritually obey. The Pharisees and Sadducees interpreted Do Not Commit Adultery simply to mean don’t have sex outside of marriage. Yeshua declares the true meaning is don’t even lust in your mind!
By diminishing the Torah to mere physical obedience of rules, the Pharisees and Sadducees were the ones who were abolishing the law. Yeshua, on the other hand, was fulfilling the Torah by rightly showing the true intent of the law. Yeshua negates any notion that one can obey the law in one’s own strength – Torah examines the secret thoughts and motives, not just the actions that are the result of those thoughts and motives.
Adding To The Law
Yeshua never added to nor subtracted from, nor altered the Law – he fully and rightly interpreted the law – he fulfilled it to a tee. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Jews, on the other hand, considered Torah less than explicit and attached dozens, if not hundreds, of oral and written traditions to enhance it and explain it! In doing so, they misinterpreted its real, original intent, and thus abolished the law rather than fulfilled it.
Galatians 5:14 – “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.”
Many teach that Torah need no longer be obeyed, believing that Yeshua has fully accomplished everything the law demands and one no longer is bound to obey it – all one’s sins have been forgiven! And, yes, Yeshua obeyed all Torah and paid the price of one’s rebellion and sin. But the term fulfill the law is a Hebrew idiom that has far greater reach. Fulfilling the law means interpreting, obeying, and teaching others the right way to live life, exactly as Yeshua did. Yeshua did not abolish, destroy, or eliminate the law. Just the opposite – Torah will last even beyond the disappearance of heaven and earth (another Hebrew idiom that I explain in Passing Away 1).
Prophecy continues to unfold as foretold by the Hebrew Prophets. Today we are one day closer to the return of Yeshua than we were yesterday and tomorrow we will be even one day closer. For almost two thousand years the Jews would proclaim “Next year in Jerusalem!” I now proclaim “Next Yom Teruah in the clouds!” Time is short – Yeshua Ha’Mashiach is coming soon – get busy reaching the lost.