There seems to be two major views of this.
1. Part of the Old Covenant is still in effect such as the Ten Commandments.
2. None of the Old Covenant is still in effect as it has been replaced with the New, better Covenant.
So which is it? What does the Bible say?
One of the most popular scriptures to both prove and refute the Old Covenant being still in effect is Matt 5:17. There are many interesting things going on in this and surrounding passages. Many only state part of this scripture as evidence that the Old Covenant, at least in part, is still in effect. “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law…” This misses the point however. We have to take all of the passage into consideration to understand what Jesus was saying.
At the end of that verse, Jesus states that he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets. Further, he goes on to state that nothing will pass from the law until all things are accomplished and that heaven and earth would pass away first (Matt 5:18). Even stranger, he goes on to say that the listeners there had to exceed the Pharisees’ righteousness (who were the strictest observers) and that even the least command was still in effect (Matt 5:19-20). From the rest of this scripture, it seems like both of the original assertions are incorrect!
So, we have to look at the timing of this. Just as the Old Covenant was established by blood (Heb 9:18), so was the New by Jesus’ (Matt 26:28). In Matt 5, Jesus was still referring to the Old Covenant because it was still in effect. It seems he was stating that no matter how strictly the old law was observed, it could never make us perfect based on our inability to fulfill it. Only Jesus could.
This fulfillment was three-fold:
1. He lived (fulfilled) the Old Covenant perfectly (Matt 5:17 as above).
2. He accepted the curse on himself for all people who weren’t able to live the Old Covenant (Gal 3:13, Deut 28:15-68).
3. He gave us the blessings that he earned by living the Old Covenant perfectly (Gal 3:14, Deut 28:1-15).
To these points, most might agree. However, we still have a whole lot of mixing of the Old and New when the Old has been permanently set aside. Even the very architecture of the Old was removed in 70AD (as alluded to all throughout the New Testament in passages such as Matt 24 and Heb 8:13). The law was but a shadow (Heb 10:1). The New Covenant is so much better and doesn’t need those shadows anymore!
This is also when “heaven and earth” passed away. In the Old Testament, this was a reference to Israel (such as Isaiah 1:2 ). The end of the Jewish world, or age, was often referred to (examples: Matt 12:32, Matt 28:20, Heb 9:26). Likewise, I believe this complete removal of the Old Covenant system in 70AD to be what Jesus was referencing here by the passing away of heaven and earth. This could go much deeper when delving into the meaning of the new heavens and earth, but that strays outside the scope here and deserves at least a post on its’ own.
But isn’t it okay to uphold things such as the Ten Commandments? The law was good, yes, but we as humans were unable to uphold it. If we attempt to enforce any of the old law onto ourselves or others, we place ourselves under the curse of the law thereby insulting what Jesus has already done for us. This would insinuate that Jesus didn’t do enough, that he didn’t fulfill the law in our place, and there is something that we have to do to pick up his slack. This, in effect, denies the New Covenant and is an insult to the Spirit of Grace (Heb 10:29)!
But can’t we enforce the Ten Commandments on other “ungodly” people? I would say no. First, because the new law is written on their hearts and in their minds (Heb 10:16). We all know God (Heb 8:11). Secondly, we can’t mix the old and the new (Matt 9:16-17) for reasons already stated. If we insist that God’s law isn’t written on everyone’s hearts and minds, we violate scripture. If we concede that it is, then we can certainly show people Jesus’ love through our lives, but we must trust him to work in theirs. After all, we tend to readily admit that we have no understanding of his ways and plans. Therefore, we have no understanding of how he may be working in the lives and through the situations of people we only condemn by the external circumstances we can see. This is where we pray for them and for us to just be able to love them through it.
So, if everyone already knows God and doesn’t need to be taught about him, as he states through Jeremiah, what about the Great Commission? This is simply spreading the good news of the New Covenant so others can live by the Holy Spirit and not an external set of rules or human leadership. We are free from the curse of the old law!
The covenants, old and new, can be though of as contracts. But, when did we except them, and when did Israel? Israel confirmed their acceptance of the contract three times (Exodus 19:8; 24:3, 7), but when did we accept the New Covenant? If I may continue with the contract analogy, Israel consigned themselves to be responsible for “purchasing” their salvation by obeying the terms of the contract. However, Jesus paid the old and new contracts in full. The old contract was paid off, thereby being set aside though we get all the benefits. The new contract, with even better promises (Heb 8:6), was given to us with all the requirements already paid in full (Heb 7:22). All we have to do is accept it. It would be like if someone bought us a new car and hauled the old clunker away. All we have to do is accept and it’s ours. (Even the insurance, taxes, and tags are paid, with free gas for life!) No other requirements are necessary because the Holy Spirit directs us from there (Romans 2:14-15). Would we continue to insist that we keep our old clunker deathtrap that requires constant maintenance and threatens to kill us? Or would we just accept the new car with all the additional features and none of the hassle? The old clunker was good while it lasted, but it’s time to be placed in the compactor!
Forcing old laws onto others tends to drive them away, and rightly so, as that covenant has been removed!
This is the beauty of the New Covenant. Why would we try to implement the curses of the Old Covenant on ourselves and others especially knowing that no one has the ability to uphold it?
How is the world seeing us as Christians?
Are we showing them the love of Jesus or are we loading them down with heavy burdens that we refuse to help them carry? (Matt 23:4)
Are we showing them into the Kingdom or are we insisting they have to conform to our standard before they’re allowed to enter? (Matt 23:14)
We readily defend and extend grace to professed Christians when their secret sins are exposed. However, we refuse to extend the same grace to those that won’t conform to the god we’ve made to resemble our politics, institutional obligations, self-righteousness, and manipulations. I can’t really blame those who don’t believe in that type of god. In a way, I’m glad they don’t because it would only obligate them to a system that stands in the way of the true and living God.
It’s so tiring to hear the same arguments that have been stitched together from out-of-context passages to bind others to an agenda rather than set them free to live a full life with Jesus in the Kingdom. Attempting to control someone by guilt, fear, and/or manipulation is NOT what Jesus is about.
Love wins a person’s heart and changes them from the inside. Guilt, fear, and manipulation only lead to a hateful form of religion. Justifying hatred for those “others” from the safe confines of a building does nothing for our call to be the salt and light of the world. It only makes us look like bigots.
I don’t write this out of anger. I write out of severe disappointment at the embarrassment that those calling themselves Christians continue to perpetuate on a hurting world.
This has gone on far too long. I’m deeply sorry if your finances are tied to ministry. I’m truly sorry if you feel you have to play the game in order to keep your livelihood. I know it’s hard and scary to admit fault and trust in God, I mean really trust in God and not just say it. I know it’s hard to watch as congregation attendance dwindles. It’s not an easy transition, but it’s a needed one for people to connect directly to Jesus without the filters that tell them they can’t.
If the institutions die, I say good riddance. I know that’s harsh, but anything that stands in the way of a direct relationship with Jesus needs to be removed. There is no excuse to stand in the way. Either trust Jesus with people’s salvation or don’t call yourself a Christian. It’s insulting.
Yes, I know that no one is perfect, but that’s not a viable excuse to stagnate and spew condemnation on others to try to appear more righteous. That’s not how salvation works and the rest of the world sees right through those ill-conceived attempts at religious superiority.
I begin to see why Jesus was often frustrated with the religious types and yes, I use to be one too.
Pray that Jesus will open your eyes and change your heart so that you can start reaching out in love instead of throwing condemnation from a distance on those you refuse to engage.
If you’re going to call yourself a Christian then suck it up and start living like Jesus. Otherwise, everyone will see right through the facade and know who your real father is (John 8:47).
It’s depressing to see a hurting world and Christianity being so obstinate and arrogant, pouring gasoline of hatred onto the fire. We could have been so much more by now, but Christians not following Christ keep tripping over their own self-righteousness.
Let’s become more than that. Let’s truly follow Jesus. Let’s no longer muck around in doctrinal quagmires that alienate us from loving others. Let’s move forward as the human race into the Kingdom that Jesus established for us through much pain and sacrifice. Let’s be THE Church!
As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to more fully address to whom and for what reason the New Testament prophecies were written. Many today live under the assumption that they were written to, and about, us. Jesus and the apostles, however, use a lot of “soon” language in reference to the end times (aka the end of the age). Have you ever wondered why such wording was used, yet today we insist it hasn’t happened yet?
First, there has been much research done and a general acceptance that most of the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled. The problem is more in the New Testament prophecies.
In this particular post, I wanted to focus more on the timeline in which these prophecies were to take place—that is, soon.
For brevity’s sake, I will only list some of the more appropriate and direct verses:
Revelation 1:1; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20
These verses appear to be fairly straight forward if we let them speak for themselves. It’s when an external meaning is attempted to be retrofitted that they become confusing and lose their original intent.
In addition to the above, the apostles also taught this soon theology in regards to these same prophecies.
So what’s the point of bringing up this timing issue? Either the events have already happened like Jesus said they would, and the apostles reiterated, or we have to do theological gymnastics to justify our stance that these things haven’t taken place yet.
One of the verses commonly used to circumvent the “soon” terminology is 2 Peter 3:8. This verse is referencing God’s patient in bringing judgment on Israel, but now that Jesus had come, delivering a timetable (that generation), the judgment would commence, and the new age would be fully substantiated, very soon.
A second verse like this is when Jesus states that no one knew the day or time, but only Father did (Matt 24:36). How could Jesus state “soon” if he didn’t know? The question is answered from the other verses (above). Jesus knew it would be within that generation and that some standing there would in no way taste of death until they saw it. The day and hour, however, weren’t specified.
Another view is that prophecy can mean multiple things, having a double or triple meaning and fulfillment. However, this isn’t how prophecy worked in the Old Testament, and isn’t how it works in the Bible all together. A prophetic passage always related directly to the specified event or people. In addition, if a passage can have multiple meanings, we can manipulate scripture to mean whatever we want. If scripture can have any meaning, then it has no meaning at all. I believe this to be also communicated in Rev 22:18-19 as adding to or taking away from what was originally intended to be heard by those the passages are written directly to. Revelation, for example, is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Why would Jesus give assurances to these churches that wasn’t relevant to their lives? Why would the apostles give the same kind of false hope to the recipients of their epistles?
Yet another view is that Jesus and the apostles wanted everyone to be ever vigilant throughout all of human history. This is a bit of a stretch as it would give false hope of deliverance from oppression to those that the messages of “soon” were delivered. This was a large part of the prophecy—that the extreme persecution would come to an end, and soon. The call was to be on the lookout for “The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.” Great for those being delivered from oppression, terrible for those doing the oppressing. The idea, I believe, was for the sheep not to be caught up with the goats (Matt 25:32—this was part of the same prophecy), but instead, flee from Judea when they saw the signs of the judgment coming lest they be caught in the tribulation also.
So this is my view of the “soon” terminology used. Overall, the topic of New Testament prophecy goes much deeper, but I only wanted to point out how the timetable was applied relevant to those that were originally receiving these messages. I may continue deeper into this as God prompts.
One last question for thought—If that Day was to be within a generation, and some of those that heard the prophecy would live to see its fulfillment, when did it actually happen?
From as early as I can remember, I’ve had questions. This goes all the way back to sitting in a pew when I was probably five and wondering why God was so mean. I was taught, like most seem to be, to bury these questions and just believe what I was being told. There was a lot that I did believe, but some major things that didn’t quite make any sense. For the past 17 months, I’ve been away from institutional Christianity to try to figure out just what I believe and what the Bible actually says. Even before that, I was trying to piece disjointed concepts together into something that would make sense. For me, being away has removed a lot of the external blockage to allow this process to work much faster.
So, why am I describing this?
I desire first and foremost to have a real relationship with Father, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. That is my primary goal (Matt 22:37-38). Secondly, I want to be able to extend that relationship to others (Matt 22:39). As of now, I’m still primarily on step one. Seventeen months should have been plenty, but God is still revealing things to me. Sometimes it takes days or weeks to process, and in that time, other questions stop. Once I can somewhat process the new epiphany, another question is presented, and I begin another round of Bible research and prayer to find out why God had the Bible commissioned to say what it does, in the manner it does. This has been a major driving force is studying the Bible along with wanting to know Father’s heart more intimately. I firmly believe that everything therein is what God wants us to know, not to be followed as a rule book necessarily, but to discover the story he has unfolded.
Over the past 17 months, and even a little before that, my outlook on the entirety of the Bible has drastically changed. Some may call it blasphemy or heresy, but I’m no longer affected by such attempts at manipulation and guilt as I once was. For me, I have to approach the Bible with the attitude of seeing what God wants to say and letting the words therein first speak directly to the situations they were addressing. I believe this is the most significant step in honest exegesis, primarily and especially of prophecy. Often we try to retrofit a prophetic meaning to our current day and situation while completely ignoring, and often annulling, the original purpose of the passage. Yes, a passage might have some similarities to our current world, but we must first understand why the words were directed to the people they were originally directed to before we try to form doctrines from scripture that wasn’t written about us.
So what’s so wrong with us applying the full meaning to ourselves today? Couldn’t passages have double, triple, etc…meanings?
Some scripture may have this meaning. The primary problem comes about when viewing prophecy in this manner. We can make it out to say whatever we want it to say for whatever our goal in doing so would be. Any current event that has a resemblance is instantly touted as a message that “the sky is falling!” This becomes the true danger in trying to force a meaning on scripture that wasn’t its original intent—manipulation through misappropriated scriptural fear tactics.
Could there be similarities to Biblical events in today’s world? Absolutely, as there has been when history repeats itself. If anything, this may be a large part of the lesson of the Bible—don’t do it like they did!
For example, the Jewish nation insisted they were right(eous) in their ways of following God while denouncing anyone who wasn’t conforming to their expectations. Many rejected Jesus’ teachings because of this. Likewise, today Christianity is insistent in its righteousness while condemning others who won’t conform. Meanwhile, this approach largely ignores Jesus’ command to love our enemies. The love that is shown is a backhand, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, methodology that only alienates those same people by assigning a label (sinner) without entering into a relationship with them. Meanwhile, internal sins are rationalized and comparative righteousness is upheld. “I’m better than those sinners” is often the attitude that develops (Luke 18:11). Stubbornness ensues and we see a rejection of the religious establishments as blame is shifted to anywhere else but us. All of this happened with Israel but that is only a similarity. I wouldn’t go so far as to assume anything else past that point. Yet, we end up assigning prophetic condemnation on the rest of the world, just as they did, when it was the nation of Israel to whom the punishment fell, in part because they weren’t being the salt and light they were called to be. We repeat the same mistakes yet blame others for the results.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself here as this post is getting long, and I’m getting into another subject—that is, who were the prophecies written to and about? God willing, I will touch on this in my next post.
The Parousia was published by James Stuart Russell in 1878. I expected it to be a hard read, filled with a lot of outdated language, but it has been remarkably easy to understand the wording and enjoyable so far. Digesting the implications are another story entirely, however. The book is somewhere close to 600 pages and can be found online for free in PDF format. It’s helping a lot in understanding the often confusing passages Jesus spoke. The author presents the scriptures in a very straightforward manner and also expresses why alternate, more complex and confusing views, can be misguiding to say the least. I’m only about 10% in, but would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s still wondering just what in the world Jesus and the apostles were talking about.
I’m by no means a Greek scholar, but with the inception of the internet, we can find reputable sources to locate and contemplate concordance definitions of what was meant in the original language in a matter of moments.
One such word I’ve felt drawn to know more of the meaning behind is: punishment.
Biblehub has concordance extracts conveniently located on one page where multiple viewpoints can be assessed.
Looking up “punishment” yielded the following results (extracted to simplify):
2 occurrences: Matt 25:46 and 1 John 4:18
Original Word: κόλασις
Cognate: 2851 kólasis (from kolaphos, “a buffeting, a blow”) – properly, punishment that “fits” (matches) the one punished (R. Trench)
NAS Exhaustive Concordance
Word Origin:from kolazó
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
STRONGS NT 2851: κόλασις
the noted definition of Aristotle, which distinguishes κόλασις (kólasis) from τιμωρία (timória) as that which (is disciplinary and) has reference to him who suffers, while the latter (is penal and) has reference to the satisfaction of him who inflicts
To state it simply, the Greek word for punishment (kólasis) applied as a penalty that fits the crime, a correction, and is for the benefit of the one being punished, not the one doing the punishing. Even in the Old Testament, the punishment fit the crime (i.e. eye for an eye). In other words, if this corrective punishment is for God’s benefit, τιμωρία (timória) would have been used. What sense would it make to have a corrective punishment if the person is never given the opportunity afterwards to live out the correction?
(Note: The word timória is used in Hebrews 10:29 but in a different fashion which would be a different topic for discussion. In short, that passage is directed towards Israel’s rejection of Jesus and the coming destruction via the Romans in 70AD in my opinion. It is speaking of punishment by death in this life, but not a “timória” punishment in the afterlife.)
So this brings up another question, what’s the deal with the word eternal? This is probably where most of the confusion comes in and could be a post or three of its own. It’s easy to understand a corrective punishment, but an everlasting correction is confusing depending on how it’s presented. It can be presented as burning forever in hell or as a corrective and permanent burning away of sinfulness.
The Greek word for eternal, according to the references on Biblehub are:
Original Word: αἰώνιος
aiónios: agelong, eternal
Cognate: 166 aiṓnios – properly, “age-like” (“like-an-age”), i.e. an “age-characteristic” (the quality describing a particular age; (figuratively) the unique quality (reality) of God’s life at work in the believer.
NAS Exhaustive Concordance
Word Origin: from aión
To put it in as simplified of a manner as possible, the root word aion means “age” and aionios means age-like. This type of age isn’t defined except in what this adjective modifies. Applied to God it means eternal, but nothing else is eternal unless in God (i.e. eternal life, life that is only eternal inside of God). Applied to punishment, it takes on more of the meaning of “age-of” but not eternal. The corrective punishment will take as long as it takes, relevant to what is being corrected.
To sum up, “eternal punishment” in Matt 25:46, according to the original Greek, would mean more of an age of corrective action for the benefit of that person—but not eternal torment to appease God.