Many christians teach that the Torah (LAW) has been ended, or partially ended, or is somehow not relevant to us as believers. Is this really true? What do the Scriptures teach us about this? What did Yeshua (Jesus) say about this?
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
So, according to Yeshua himself, the Torah is in full effect, and not even a tiny dot will be removed until both heaven and earth are destroyed. When will heaven and earth be destroyed? We see in Revelation that it will happen after the Messiah returns and judges the earth. THEN there will be a “new heaven and new earth”.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1)
So, until HE returns and fulfills all things, the Torah is still active and relevant for us today. Many christian teachers have been falsely teaching that “Jesus came to end the Law”, or that the “Law was fulfilled in Jesus so we don’t have to do it anymore”, but these are false teachings. We need to trust the Word of God, not the words of men. If we claim to follow Yeshua (Jesus), then we need to obey what He told us, and listen closely to His words. Yeshua taught obedience to the whole Torah as long as both heaven and earth remain.
Why is “heaven and earth” significant to the Torah? Why does Yeshua teach that the Torah’s existence is based on heaven and earth? Because heaven and earth are the two witnesses to the giving of the Torah:
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess… I call HEAVEN and EARTH as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)
This is why “heaven and earth” must pass away before the Torah and prophets will. God called heaven and earth to be the witnesses at the giving of the Torah, since nothing else will last until the end of the age, these two are the only things that could be a reliable witness to God’s Word. We can trust that as long as heaven and earth remain, God’s Word remains as well.
We see over and over in the gospels that Yeshua argues with the religious leaders of His day about keeping certain Jewish laws. We know that Yeshua never broke any of God’s Laws, or else he would have sinned, and would be disqualified to be the Messiah. But, he was accused by the Pharisees for breaking the Jewish laws and customs and traditions on several occasions. What are these laws, customs, and traditions that Yeshua did not keep? They are references to the Talmud or the “oral law” of the Rabbis. Yeshua refers to the Talmud or “oral law” as the traditions of men, and contrasts it to the Torah or “Word of God”.
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)
“For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men–the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” (Mark 7:8)
Yeshua was not concerned with keeping the traditions and teachings of men, and He was not interested in His disciples keeping them either.
You see, the Jewish people have two holy books. The TANAKH (what christians call the “Old Testament”) and another book called the Talmud. The Talmud was originally a collection of teachings from Rabbis that were passed down from generation to generation. The teachings were basically commentary on the TANAKH, but it has come to be regarded as a higher authority than the Torah itself. It has become the central text of Judaism, and is even held above the Torah.
This is what Yeshua was opposed to. He said that the Word of God should come first above the traditions of men, claiming that the “laws” that are written in the Talmud are “traditions of men” or “laws of men”, not of God. Hope that helps shed some light on a few New Testament scriptures.
He also said that the pharisees heap on heavy burdens (another reference to the Talmud):
“For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23: 4)
“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” (Matthew 15:7-9)
You see, many of the teachings in the Talmud (oral law) are additional commandments to prevent us from breaking the Torah. These extra commandments were never required by God, but were put up as “fences” to keep the people from breaking one of the real commandments. According to Jewish tradition, there are 613 commandments in the Torah, but the Talmud has thousands of commandments. I have been studying the 613 commandments, and realize that there are many times that they take a single verse, and turn it into 5 or 6 different commandments, when it could really be just 1 or 2, and so I am not totally convinced that there are even 613 commandments in the Torah. Although I am unsure of the exact number, we know there are only hundreds (probably less than 613) of commandments in the Torah, and literally thousands in the Talmud. These are the “heavy burdens” that the Pharisees were laying on men’s shoulders.
We know that the Torah of God is not a burden, but a delight to those who love God:
“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” (Deuteronomy 30:11)
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)
“Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.” (Psalm 119:35)
“And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love.” (Psalm 119:47)
“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
“I long for Your salvation, O Lord, And Your law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:174)
“For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.” (Romans 7:22)
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” (1John 5:3-4)
Even Paul (contrary to popular christian teaching) agrees that the Law of God is not done away with:
“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” (Romans 3:31)
Here is something to think about in closing. If you don’t enjoy obeying God’s commandments on earth, then you probably won’t like the kingdom of heaven much.