Contrary to the conclusion drawn from the foregoing material—that the legal system of the old order was limited and passed away--Adventists find a "balm in Gilead" in Matt. 5: 17, 18. This passage is the strongest support in the entire Bible for the theory of the perpetuity of the law. This is the first passage on the law question the prospective convert to Adventism learns. If, therefore, after we have considered it, the strength therein contained should prove to be wanting, the strongest prop for the Advent conception of the law is gone.
I readily admit that the passage can be easily misunderstood in the light of Adventism. The passage reads: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
This passage, to an Adventist, teaches that so long as heaven and earth shall stand, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law. Such a reading is deceptive. The passage does not assert that the law would not pass away. What it does say is that every jot and every tittle of the law would hold good "till" all the law had been fulfilled.
And this certainly leaves the inference that, after the law had been fulfilled, every jot and tittle of the law would pass away. We shall consider what immediately follows with this thought in mind:
Our Lord walked to Emmaus with two men—after his resurrection, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27.) In the preceding chapter we learned that "Moses and the prophets," "the law of Moses and the prophets," and "the law and the prophets," all meant one and the same thing--the writings of Moses and the writings of the prophets. Speaking to these same two men, our Lord continued: "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." (Verse 44.) in this statement he referred straight as a bee line back to Matt. 5: 17, 18, where he had made such an announcement. The identical words are used.
Matt. 5: 17,18: "The law, . . . the prophets, . . . all. . . fulfilled."
Luke 24: 44: "All things. . . fulfilled, . . . the law, . . . the prophets."
Some important words of explanation are added in the interview found in Luke 24:44 — "concerning me," "law of Moses." Thus Luke 24:44 is seen to be supplemental to Matt, 5: 17, 18. Matt, 5: 17, 18, therefore, in the light of Luke 24:44, would read as follows: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law of Moses or the prophets or the psalms: I am not come to destroy the law of Moses or the prophets or the psalms, but to fulfill the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law of Moses or the prophets or the psalms till all things written me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms shall be fulfilled."
Thus was the law to stand, as surely as heaven and earth stood, until all the things that had been written in them concerning Christ should be fulfilled; and since he fulfilled all the things that had been written in these documents concerning himself, as surely as heaven and earth are standing; the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms passed away.
Paul's Testimony. — In later years, Paul, writing to the Ephesians; testified to this very fact: "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances." (Eph. 2:15.)
While the law was standing, it was easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot or one tittle of it to fail (Luke 16:16); but since the law was fulfilled, it would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot or one tittle of the law to become authoritative again.
Adventists rise up and say: "Then if there is no law, we may kill, steal, commit adultery, etc." In this they miss the point. "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Heb. 8:13.) It is another case of the old "Articles of Confederation" of the original thirteen States being superseded by the Constitution of the United States; it is a case of Zion formulating ideals rather than Sinai issuing cold precepts; it is a case of the "law of Christ'' taking the place of the "law of Moses."
Commentary on Matt. 5: 17. — The thirteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles is a commentary on the word "fulfill" as used in Matt. 5:17:
Verse 15: "The law and the prophets."
Verse 20: "Until Samuel the prophet."
Verse 25: "John fulfilled his course."
Verse 33: The promise had been "fulfilled."
Verse 39: "The law of Moses."
Fulfill. — To "fulfill" means to reach the end of the prediction. The following passages show clearly how the word is used in the Scriptures:
"Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24.)
"And as John fulfilled his course." (Acts 13:25)
"What shall be the sigh when all these things shall be fulfilled?" (Mark 13:4.)
"The voices of the prophets, . . . they have fulfilled." (Acts 13:27.)
"And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him." (Acts 13:29.)
"The promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled." (Acts 13: 32, 33.)
After this manner, then, Jesus came to "fulfill" all that had been written concerning himself. "All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." (Luke 24:44.)
And he fulfilled them. He did not come as a destroyer; came as a fulfiller. He was not a revolutionist; he was a reformer. Thus the law stood, as surely as heaven and earth stands, until the things predicted of him in it were accomplished. After that, just so surely the law and the prophets and the psalms passed out of use—gave way to a greater law, the law of Christ.