Did Jesus Fulfill the Law on the Cross? Yes and No!

Face palm Jesus! If his love wasn't so profound, I would imagine him doing that with us today!

There seems to be a lot of confusion about Jesus' relationship with the Law and whether Jesus fulfilled the Law at the cross. The answer to that question is NO! Read on and find out what I mean...

There are a variety of reasons why people hold tightly to their perspective. Some are trying to protect the value of the death, burial, resurrection, of Christ as the central work of our spiritual salvation. Let me say at the beginning that I agree 100%. But that does not mean that Jesus fulfilled the Law at the cross completely.

How about a Definition: Fulfilled.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Mat. 5:17-18

The word fulfill confuses us because of course Jesus fulfilled PARTS of the Law and the Prophets when he was crucified and rose again. But that is not what Jesus said. He said ALL the Law and Prophets had to be fulfilled before it could pass away. 

People are also confused because they think of the Law and Prophets in terms of Jesus' obedience to the commands. That is where the disconnect begins. Of course, Jesus never sinned. But that is not the sum of it all. The Law and Prophets were filled with many promises, not just commands. And not all those promises were fulfilled at the cross. 

Here is the Greek definition of fulfilled:

pléroó: to make full, to complete
Original Word: πληρόω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: pléroó
Phonetic Spelling: (play-ro'-o)
Short Definition: I fill, fulfill, complete
Definition: I fill, fulfill, complete.

Jesus had not completed the fulfillment of all the promises of the Law at his death, burial and resurrection. All one has to do is remember that Pentecost came some 50 days AFTER the cross when it was fulfilled. That is so undeniably clear, I'm not sure how anyone could argue against that.

Even in Hebrews 8:13 where he says the Law was made "obsolete and is now fading away", the word "obsolete" doesn't mean fulfilled. The only other place "obsolete" is used in the NT is here in these two passages. Neither which mean fulfill. 

Luke 12:33 V-PPM/P-ANP
GRK: βαλλάντια μὴ παλαιούμενα θησαυρὸν ἀνέκλειπτον
NAS: money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing
KJV: which wax not old, a treasure in
INT: purses not growing old a treasure unfailing
Hebrews 1:11 V-FIP-3P
GRK: ὡς ἱμάτιον παλαιωθήσονται 
KJV: they all shall wax old as
INT: as a garment will grow old

Is there more? You bet!

Proof that Jesus Didn't Completely Fulfill the Law on the Cross

Pay attention to Peter's words in Acts 3 where you will find that he said part of what the prophets promised was fulfilled by the sufferings of Christ, but then there were more that the prophets promised which were unfolding in the book of Acts. The promise of the unbelieving Jews being "destroyed" or in other versions "cut off" had not been fulfilled yet... nor would it be until AD 70. 

Acts 3:18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ WOULD SUFFER, He has THUS FULFILLED. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive UNTIL the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy PROPHETS since the world began. 
22 For MOSES truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it SHALL BE that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be UTTERLY DESTROYED/CUT OFF from among the people.’ 24 Yes, and ALL the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold THESE DAYS.

Do you see it... the same prophets that foretold the sufferings of Christ which he had THUS (so far) fulfilled, are the same Law and Prophets that foretold of the days after the cross. He then proceeds to quote an unfulfilled promise FROM THE LAW. 

Those days were rapidly approaching as those apostate Jews would soon discover in the tragedy of the Roman destruction which literally cut them off from the believing community of Jews. The Law was still being fulfilled AFTER the cross.

But this is why Jesus spoke to the disciples and described the time in history WHEN ALL the things written in the Law and Prophets after the cross would finally wrap up in Luke 21:20-22,

20 “But when YOU (disciples)  see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that ALL things which are WRITTEN may be FULFILLED.

Paul made the point in Colossians as well saying, 

2:16-17, So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to (Greek= soon to) come, but the substance is of Christ.

Notice the Greek. there were still some shadows to be fulfilled in the near future from when Paul wrote! There were some feasts/festivals that were unfulfilled as of the time of Paul's letter to the Colossians. Yet, Jesus said ALL those things had to be fulfilled in order for the Law to come to its final end. The substance or reality of those still unfulfilled shadows were of Christ and his work... some past and some still future. 

Think of the Law and Prophets as the train of Moses that was coming into its final destination. Each time there was a fulfillment the train lost steam, or lost a wheel. So it is running head-long to a fiery end, but chug-a-lugging all the way there. That is why the author of Hebrews said in chapter 8:13 that the cross made the Law obsolete (pepalaiōken: to make or declare old or outdated) which was causing the old to fade away (engys= near, aphanismou= vanishing).

By AD 70 ALL the Law and Prophets were fulfilled and now in our day the Law doesn't even exist in any form whatsoever. No person on this planet today has ever been under the Law. There aren't two covenants. There is only one now. It is one in which we believe or don't believe, but it is a singular way God relates to humanity. (See You Were Born In Grace).

So while the Law and Prophets had partial fulfillment at the cross, "it ain't over till it's over!"

Do You Know Why We Are Free From the Law?

While Jesus certainly fulfilled many of the predictions/promises in the Law and Prophets, some people don't understand Jesus relationship to the Law. Galatians 4:4-5 says, 

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.…

As a Jew, Jesus was born under the jurisdiction of the Law. So how did he escape that? Why is he not STILL under the Law? Please carefully read Romans 7:1-4 as it paints a beautiful picture:

Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.

Just as a person was free, under the Law, to remarry if the spouse dies, so too Jesus, because he died, was free to establish a new covenant. Because Jesus died, the Law no longer had jurisdiction over him. In his resurrection he is raised the New Man, under the New Covenant, representing a New relationship. Get it? 

He uses kind of a double reference. On the one hand he is the one who died, therefore no law applies to a dead man right? He isn't expected to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem nor is he required to offer sacrifices in the natural temple. 

But he is also the living one, who is free to re-marry, or re-covenant under a completely different relationship. The New Covenant.

Because he represented ALL humanity "through the body of Christ", everyone was dead to the Law as well. 

YET, the Law had promises to fulfill and many of the apostate Jews, instead of embracing the NEW covenant...  were swept up in the judgment of the old system in AD 70. How sad that Jesus' death had set them free, but they worshiped a system destined to die, instead of a Savior whose death would have rescued them for life in the new era of the spiritual kingdom.

Are the Law and Prophets fulfilled today? Yes totally. Were they fulfilled in totality at the cross? No. But by AD 70 all the Law came to an end. 


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