And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
~ Rev 9:20-21
The above verse takes place just after the sixth trumpet has sounded. This takes place during the Day of the Lord, when Jesus Christ returns and punishes the world for its sins. It boggles the mind that even in the midst of these events that people would still be rebellious towards God.
Is it surprising, then, that rebellion is the rule even today? The world rejects God and His Laws, mocks and sometimes persecutes those who are faithful. As we know, these things will become worse. Persecution of true Christians exists today, but physical persecution (including prison) is mostly relegated to a few countries in the world. Under the sway of the Beast Power, terrible things will occur to those who hold fast to God’s Law. Yet, even today, there are people who lose their jobs, are isolated from their family and are threatened at school because they hold fast to God’s way of life.
Is it any wonder that so few in the world understand God’s Law? Even the churches of the world preach that God’s Law has been done away. “It’s been nailed to the cross!” is their cry. Yet, Jesus said:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
“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.”
~ Mt 5:17-18
So, is God’s Kingdom on the earth? No? Then, why would some preach that the “Law has been done away”?
Is it any wonder, then, that if you ask someone about sin, they have no idea what sin really is? Is it any wonder that if you ask someone about the basis of the Law, the Ten Commandments, that so many will not be able to name more than 2 or 3? Is it any wonder that if you ask someone if they keep all of the commandments, they have no concept of what you mean?
Is this a trivial thing? We already saw that the Law will not pass away any time soon. Who are the children of God, anyhow?
… but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
~ Mt 19:17c
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
~ Rev 12:17
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
~ Rev 14:12
Keeping the commandments is important in order to gain eternal life. Keeping the commandments is the identifying mark of true believers during the Great Tribulation. Likewise, it is the breaking of the commandments that will lead to receiving the mark of the Beast (in particular the 1st Commandment).
The Problem With “The Law”
Language is always imprecise. Critics of the Bible readily jump upon “inconsistencies” or “inaccuracies” they find in the pages. Yet, in spite of striving for accuracy, even scientific journals are full of inconsistencies and inaccuracies simply because no language on earth is precise. That’s why science does its best (and is at its best) when things can be measured and quantified. Languages change over time, words change meanings, new words are created for certain ideas and some words become obsolete in time. Worse, words can mean completely different things depending upon the context.
Take the word “law”. If I simply say, “Law”, and I give no other context, you might think I’m speaking of the practice of law, the set of laws governing the US, the set of laws governing Thailand, international law, the laws of physics, taking someone “to law” (a lawsuit), the law enforcement officials (“caught by the law”), a mathematical principle, etc. Do you see the difficulties in interpreting a word without context?
Well, unfortunately, there are times that “law” in Scripture is also imprecise, and there even are passages where Paul uses the word three different ways in one passage. “Law” in the Bible can mean: The Ten Commandments, the Law of Moses, also called “The Torah” (1st five books of the Bible), the oral traditions of the Pharisees, and Paul even uses law at least once symbolically in Ro 7:23 where he talks about the “law of sin” in his flesh.
There are always questions about why some laws seem to have changed since the time of Christ and others remain the same. Even in context, there will be hard to understand passages, particularly by Paul (2Pe 3:15-16). We need to be sure we are interpreting the harder Scriptures from the clear ones and not the other way around.
For example, how to interpret Gal 3:19? “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” We need to be careful here, or we can easily come to the wrong conclusion. In context, Paul was speaking in previous verses about Abraham. Abraham and God had a covenant. Whenever God gives a covenant, He gives promises and spells out our obligations. Now, Paul’s point is that the Law doesn’t annul the promises, and the Law doesn’t forgive sins. God justified Abraham through his faith, and that is the lesson the Galatians needed to learn as well.
Now, why would Abraham need to be justified if no Law existed already? Where there is sin, there must be a law in order to be able to break it (Ro 5:13). Notice what God says of Abraham to his son Isaac:
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
~ Ge 26:4-5
So, the lessons of these “added” laws, which were given over 430 years after Abraham, were “because of transgressions” and were to be in effect until “the seed [sic, KJV] would come”. So, what ties together transgressions and the first coming of Jesus Christ? Well, His sacrifice and death, of course! What ceremonial laws were done away with because of Christ? The animal sacrificial system. The Book of Hebrews is an entire book devoted to the concept that Jesus Christ qualified to be our High Priest (mediator), and He entered “once for all” (Heb 10:10) into the Holy of Holies to atone for our sins. His coming and His dying did away with the need for animal sacrifices. The animal sacrifices were done by “the law” (v8), but Hebrews also acknowledges “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein” (same verse).
Since Genesis showed that there were laws, commandments and statutes before Mt Sinai, we understand that there is a basic moral law at work since the beginning. By clear reading of Hebrews, we can see that Gal 3:19 is referring to animal sacrifices showing the need for the transgression of sins to be forgiven. However, we shouldn’t stop at that point. Are there other indications it is referring to animal sacrifices? Other than the quote that Hebrews provides, there is another Scripture:
And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
~ Ac 7:41-42
Recall the reference to 430 years, as that is how long the Children of Israel were in Egypt! Therefore, this clear Scripture provides definitive proof of the lack of animal sacrifices over 430 years after Abraham. Using good hermeneutics, we can distinguish the use of the word “law” as to what is being referred to.
There is nothing in the Bible that does away with the moral Law. Only the ceremonial laws associated with the tabernacle/temple (which includes sacrifices) were done away.
The Two Greatest Commandments
I think most Christians are familiar with the Two Greatest Commandments.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
~ Mt 22:36-40
God is love (1Jn 4:8). That means that everything He does is motivated by love. Since God gave us the Law, it was an act of love. Modern theologians seem to want to teach that the Law was a “burden”. However, the only law explicitly referred to in that way was the law of circumcision (Ac 15:1, 10, 28)*. However, keeping the Law causes happiness (Pr 29:8), brings peace (Ps 119:165), the Law is perfect (Ps 19:7) and a delight (Ps 1:2). Paul, the supposed antinomian, stated in Ro 7:12 that “…the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” James calls it “perfect law of liberty” (Jas 1:25).
Still don’t believe the relationship between Law and love?
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
~ 1Jn 5:3
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments are held in high regard. Oddly enough, they are valued even amongst those who say the law has been done away! People will protest the removal of a Ten Commandments monument, but they won’t put that same effort into keeping them.
The Ten Commandments were written on stone by the finger of God. Stone, of course, symbolizes permanence. The finger of God symbolizes God’s active interest in these Commandments. You would think that would be enough for people to want to obey them, but one of the recurring themes in the Bible is that the physical does not always translated into the spiritual. In fact, people will go out of their way to neglect the spiritual in order to satisfy the flesh. A physical representation of the Ten Commandments, fear of the loud noises and lightning upon Mt Sinai and even hearing the voice of God were not enough for the Israelites to obey.
The Ten Commandments were placed into a box called “The Ark of the Covenant”. On top of that box was a lid called “The Mercy Seat”. Over the Mercy Seat were two golden cherubim. This might seem like a lot of information, but it is important because Lucifer (symbolized by King of Tyrus) was described as “the anointed cherub that covereth” and he “wast upon the holy mountain of God” (Eze 28:14), which was symbolic for the very throne of God. In other words, the Mercy Seat symbolized God’s throne! It was an accepted idea that wherever the Ark was carried, the presence of God would be there (such as when they carried it into war against the Philistines and Eli’s sons died in the battle). The fact it was called a “Mercy” Seat is evidence that grace is not just a New Testament idea. Yet, upon what was that mercy and the judgments from that throne based? The Ten Commandments! The Ten Commandments are the foundation of justice and mercy.
Since all the Law and the prophets hang on the Two Greatest Commandments, then it is logical to assume that there is a mapping between them and the Ten Commandments. Indeed, many Bible teachers agree that the first four Commandments show us how to love God, while the last six show us how to love our neighbor. This is interesting, as that makes “Honor your father and your mother” the hinge commandment. Since God is our Father, in a very real sense it refers to Him as well. A good write-up of just how the Ten Commandments map to other verses about love was done by Robert Thiel (a prolific COG writer) at http://www.cogwriter.com/love.htm.
To tidy this up a bit, at the core and heart of God’s Law is the Two Greatest Commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind and life, and love your neighbor as yourself. You have to put this into action, as love in the Bible is an action demonstrating that love. How? The Ten Commandments are the perfect place to start. The Ten Commandments are the foundation for God’s judgments and mercy. All other laws emanate from these.
*Note that many will use Acts 15 in attempting to justify that Gentiles are not bound by the Law. However, it is clear that the Gentiles will hear the Law of Moses being preached in the “synagogues every sabbath day” (v 21)! So, not only will the Gentiles hear the entire Mosaic Law, but they are keeping the 4th Commandment!