July 15, 2018

“Until Heaven and Earth Pass Away” (Matthew 5:18)

Category: Bible - NT - Matthew :: Permalink

Jesus says, “Until the heaven and the earth pass away, one yod or one horn by no means will pass away from the Law until everything happens” (Matt 5:18).

“Until everything happens” here is parallel to — and identical with — “the heaven and the earth pass away.” The two phrases refer to the same time. But what time is that?

Easy, right? It’s the end of the world. But is that what “the heaven and the earth pass away” means? Not in the Bible.

In Isaiah 65-66, we hear about the passing away of the heavens and the earth and the establishment of a “new heavens and a new earth.” But is that after Jesus returns and our bodies are raised in glory to be like his? It can’t be.

In Isaiah 65:20, we read, “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.”

Are there still going to be infants being born after Jesus returns? Is there still going to be death after the resurrection? Will there still be sinners living on earth after the final judgment? Of course not. And so that’s not what Isaiah 65-66 has in mind when it speaks about the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth.

Instead, it’s speaking about something that would happen in history, before the final judgment, before the resurrection of the body. It’s speaking about the end of the Old Creation and the establishment of the New, the end of the Old Covenant and the establishment of the New. It’s speaking — to use Jesus’ words — about the coming of the kingdom of the heavens.

And the good news Jesus was preaching to the crowds in Galilee — and in the Sermon on the Mount — was that the kingdom of the heavens was near, near in time, about to be established in that generation.

Was it? Certainly. By his death, resurrection, ascension, enthronement, outpouring of the Spirit, vindication of his church, and overthrow of Jerusalem, Jesus established God’s kingdom on earth.

Coming back to Matthew 5, what that means is that now the old heavens and earth have passed away. All things in the Law (and the Prophets) have happened. Jesus has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and the Law has passed away. No one today is under the Law. No one today is in the Old Covenant.

We still read and learn from, say, Leviticus. But we are not under it as Israel once was. No one is required to abstain from pork or crawfish, to be circumcised, to regulate worship according to the moon, and so on.

And that means that this passage in Matthew 5, like the Beatitudes, is gospel, the good news that Jesus has fulfilled the Old Covenant, has brought about the transition to the New Covenant, has established the kingdom, and given us a new heavens and a new earth. As Paul puts it, in Christ all of God’s promises are “Yes.” And therefore we expect him to bring about the fullness of the new covenant as well.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:39 pm | Discuss (0)

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