GOD'S LAW IN THE DAYS TO COME
"Now it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains and will be raised above the hills. And all the nations (goyim, Gentiles) will stream to it. And many peoples will say Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob that He may teach us concerning his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For torah (law, teaching) will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations (goyim) and will render decisions for many peoples. And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation and never again will they learn war." Is.2:2-4; Mic.4:1-3.
In the days to come, God will judge the goyim on the basis of the particular torah that then goes forth from Zion. Gods kingdom will be established upon the earth with Jerusalem as its capital. All the peoples of the earth will come to Jerusalem to learn the ways of righteousness. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." Prov. 3:17
This has been God's plan from the beginning. He created Israel to be a light to the nations. As Yeshua commanded his Jewish disciples, "Go into all the earth making disciples of all the Gentiles...and teach them all that I have commanded you." Mt.28:19-20 Teach them Messiahs law. As Paul said, quoting from Isaiah the prophet, "For this is what the Lord has commanded us, I have set you as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth. " Acts 13:47
With repentance and faith, the Gentiles can enter into Israels new covenant through the King of the Jews. " The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. "Jer. 31:31-33; Heb.8:8-12 It is this new covenant, the only new covenant mentioned in the Bible, that brings righteousness to Israel and to the goyim. The context is God's faithfulness to Israel, despite our centuries of breaking His law. The new covenant is characterized by the law of God being written on the hearts and minds of all who enter into it.
In speaking of the day when He will comfort Zion, the Lord says, "Listen to Me you who pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord,... Listen to Me, My people; hear Me, My nation: For torah will go forth from Me; My justice will become a light to the peoples....Listen to Me you who know righteousness, you who have My law in your hearts. My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth and My arm will bring justice to the nations. The coastlands will wait for Me and for My arm they will wait expectantly." Is.51:1-7
In these verses, God equates pursuing righteousness with seeking the Lord. He equates knowing righteousness with having His law in our hearts. When His law is accepted in the hearts of the peoples, then there will be justice in the earth. It is the "arm" of the Lord that brings Gods law to the nations, bringing justice and light to all the earth. The "arm of the Lord," as in Isaiah 53, refers to Messiah.
There is a parallel portion in Isaiah 42 that speaks explicitly of Messiah. "Behold My servant whom I uphold, My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My spirit upon him. He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out or raise his voice nor make his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not extinguish. He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until he has established justice in the earth and the coastlands will wait expectantly for his torah." Is. 42:1-4
In Messiah, Israel can fulfill the prophetic calling to teach the goyim what God requires of them. They need to receive "his torah." What is the nature of the torah that goes forth from Zion to the Gentiles? To know that, we need to first understand the nature of the torah that God gave to Israel. The Torah tells us that God made the Gentiles (Gen. 11) before He called Abraham (Gen. 12). Abram was a Gentile. God called him, and then created Israel, because the Gentiles were hopelessly lost in sin. God had given the Gentiles His unwritten law in their consciences, but He did not give the Law of Moses to the Gentiles.
God established a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. He gave the Law of Moses to those descendants as a specific revelation of His righteousness and holiness. It contains concrete commandments for loving and serving Him and for loving one's neighbor as oneself. "All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments." Mt. 22:40 The Law of Moses contained provisions both to set Israel apart from the nations in holiness, and also to lead us to Messiah, so that we could bring the nations back to God.
Gods covenant relationship with Israel was established before the Law of Moses was given. Redemption from Egypt preceded the giving of the law at Sinai. Obedience to the law is not the means of redemption, it is the goal or fruit of it.
People sometimes divide the law of God into "moral," "civil," and "ceremonial" categories. Some then say that the "moral" law of God still stands, the "civil" law was for the nation of Israel only, and the "ceremonial" law has passed away. These categories can be helpful, but the text of the Torah itself can not always be easily conformed to them.
If the "moral" law governs only mans relationship with his fellow man, and not mans relationship with God, then the first four of the Ten Commandments, including the prohibition of idolatry, cannot be considered part of the "moral" law. cf. Ex. 20:1-11 They deal with mans relationship with God. If, on the other hand, mans relationship with God is considered part of the "moral law", then all of Torah is "moral law", because all of Torah is commanded by God and is part of mans relationship with Him.
Much that is contained in the law of Moses was already required of all people. Throughout the Bible we can see that God held the Gentiles accountable for all the 10 Commandments except Shabbat. The observance of Shabbat is a covenant sign between God and Israel forever. Ex.31:16-17
Nevertheless, the Lord says, "Blessed is the man who...keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil." This includes both Jew and Gentile. Is.56:1-7 In the ages to come, everyone will observe Shabbat. " As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me, declares the LORD, so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me, says the LORD." Is. 66:22-23 .
In the Scriptures we can also see that God held the Gentiles guilty for sins of violence and sexual immorality. That was and is part of the law that He has given to them. See the section "Are Non-Jews without Law?" It is likewise difficult to differentiate the "civil" law from the "moral" law, because the "civil" law also regulates the way a man should treat his neighbor. There are specifics in the "civil law" in Torah that require a theocracy in the land of Israel. In that respect, the "civil" law is given to Israel only, but it is still the model for all nations. All nations need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God.
Moses said, "See I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me that you should do thus in the land where you're entering to possess it. So keep and do them for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people, for what great nation is there that has a God so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on him or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today." Dt. 4:5-8 Gods whole law is righteous, giving wisdom to whoever will receive it. As for the "ceremonial" law, we have already seen that Shabbat will be observed in the ages to come. It was given to Israel as an eternal covenant to commemorate Gods creation of the world. During the time in the wilderness, God commanded that a man who refused to observe Shabbat be put to death. Num.15:32-36 That is a rather severe punishment for breaking a merely "ceremonial" law. God considers it very important.
God rested from His labors and made Shabbat holy. To live wholly in Gods image. man needs to do the same. "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." Mk.2:27
Yeshua celebrated Passover, the feast of redemption, with his disciples. He took the cup after supper and told them, "I will not drink of this again until the kingdom of God comes." Lk.22:18 He will drink of that cup again when the kingdom of God fills the earth. He will celebrate Passover.
The same is true of Sukkot. In the age to come all the nations will come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot, the feast of tabernacles. "Then it will come about that any who are left of all the Gentiles who went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the feast of tabernacles." Zech.14:16
This refers to a time when the Lord has descended and his feet have stood upon the Mt. of Olives. It is after He has destroyed all those who sought to destroy Jerusalem. This is after the return of the Lord. At that time, "whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter then no rain will fall on them. It will be the plague with which the Lord smites the goyim who do not go up to celebrate Sukkot. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the goyim who do not go up to celebrate Sukkot." Zech.14:17-19
God proclaims a death sentence, i.e. no rain, for any nation that will not come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot before Him in Jerusalem. There is no other way to understand the text. God considers it very important. Additionally, in the Messianic age the priests will again offer sacrifices on the altar in the Temple. This is described in Ezekiel chapters 40-46. We may not understand or appreciate the reinstitution of the sacrifices, but the text itself is clear that it will happen.
Inasmuch as the law of God is a reflection of who God is, the law does not and cannot pass away. All torah, however, must be understood in its context, because it is also a reflection of who man is. First, some laws are only applicable for some people in certain circumstances. For the most part, such laws are gender-specific, time specific, place- specific, or people-specific. Some laws concerning purification, for example, apply to women and not to men. Some apply to men and not to women. Some laws apply only to a certain day or year, or time of year. Some apply only to a certain time of life, e.g. birth, maturity, marriage, war, or death. The laws governing the exclusion of lepers, or their readmittance to the community if healed, apply only to lepers. The laws governing the treatment of slaves only apply to those who have slaves. The laws do not pass away, but if you do not have slaves, they do not apply to you.
There are laws that only apply when the people of Israel are living in the land of Israel in a sovereign state. Israel is not commanded to set up cities of refuge in the diaspora, or to destroy all the idolatrous places of worship. All the laws concerning the Temple, its functions, and the priesthood are contingent upon the people of Israel being in the land of Israel under the God of Israel.
Then there are the laws that are people-specific. They apply to the Jewish people. God commands these things of Israel because Israel, as a people set apart, is to represent God in the earth. " You are My witnesses, declares the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from Me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed I, and not some foreign god among you. You are My witnesses, declares the LORD, that I am God. " Is. 43:10-12
By observing Shabbat, Israel commemorates and bears witness of Gods creation and ownership of all that is. By wearing fringes, by binding Gods Word on our hands and between our eyes, by writing them upon the doorposts of our houses and our gates, Israel testifies that Gods Word is the only acceptable rule of life. By not eating unclean animals, and by not mixing different kinds of seeds, Israel bears witness that God differentiates, choosing the clean and rejecting the unclean. See the section on Difficult Passages.
Second, for both Jews and Gentiles there are changes that take place when the law that God has given us is written on our hearts. It becomes second nature to us. It is no longer an external standard that we strive to attain, but a life that proceeds from the Spirit of God within us.
God promises that when we enter into the new covenant, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and cause you to follow My statutes and be careful to keep My ordinances. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God." Ezek.36:26-28 Through the new covenant, God puts His law, His statutes and ordinances, and His Spirit in the hearts of His people.
The law on our hearts requires more from us. Yeshua explained that when "You shall not murder" is written on our hearts, we are also forbidden to hate, as God had commanded in Lev.19:17. Even more than that, he said, "I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, Raca, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, You fool! will be in danger of the fire of hell." Mt.5:22 Yeshua also explained that when "You shall not commit adultery" is written on our hearts, we are also forbidden to lust. cf. Mt.5:17-32 The external prohibition is maintained and extended to include the thoughts and desires of the heart, which are what lead to the unrighteous action. A pure heart was always Gods desire for mankind.
In seeking to love and serve God, Moses lived according to Gods law. So did all the men and women in Tanakh with whom God was pleased. Through the prophets, God denounced Israel and the nations for turning away from His law. As the Messiah, Yeshua is THE example of a life pleasing to God. He lived according to the Law of Moses. So did Paul and all the Jewish apostles and disciples.
Yeshua said that he came to establish the law. Mt.5:17 Paul said that faith in Yeshua does not nullify the law, but, on the contrary, establishes it. Literally, "we cause it to stand." Rom.3:31 Paul explained that the reason for Yeshuas atoning death is that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. Rom.8:4 In the days to come, that righteous living will be a visible reality.
The Lord promised Israel blessings for fulfilling the Law, and curses for rejecting it. Exile from the land and terror living among the nations was the ultimate judgment. Nevertheless, God promised that after all these things He would bring us back to the land He promised to our fathers. Dt. 30:1-5 Then, Moses declared, "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live....You will again obey the LORD and observe all His commandments which I command you this day." Dt. 30:6, 8 Circumcision of the heart leads to the observance of God's commandments.
Third, there are priorities and accommodations within Gods law. The priests worked in the Temple on Shabbat. The high priest worked on the Day of Atonement. A baby boy is to be circumcised on the eighth day, even if it is Shabbat. Those who are unclean at Passover because of the dead can celebrate it a month later. Num. 9
Jewish history and tradition show a recognition of these priorities. The Maccabees decided to fight on Shabbat, rather than be slaughtered, because the law of God was given that we might live by it. For the preservation of life, it was deemed necessary and permissible to break Shabbat. When Rabban Gamaliel was elderly and ill, his wife died. Because of his illness he did not observe the rabbinic laws of mourning which he himself had taught. He "bathed on the first night after his wife died. His disciples said to him, Didnt you teach us that a mourner is forbidden to bathe? He said to them, I am not like others. I am not well. " Berakhot 2:6 For the preservation of life, his illness was seen to justify an accommodation.
Within Torah itself, and throughout Tanakh, God indicates that some changes in the law will take place in the Messianic age. The Rabbis also recognized that there would be differences. That is the focus of the next section on "Differences Between the Covenants".
Next: Differences in the Covenants
Torah and the New Covenant Home Page