Disannulling the Command

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Abstract

There will be a destroying, a cancelling, and an abolishing of Mosaic Law, Torah, because in itself Torah is weak and unprofitable in producing righteousness. Torah’s purpose is to reveal holiness, to show us what righteousness looks like, and to point us to Christ to both become our righteousness and to produce the holiness of Torah within us. Christ is more than sufficient in this regard. However, though Torah is not eternal, the destruction of Torah has not yet taken place; this will occur once Heaven and Earth are destroyed. At that time Torah will have served its glorious purpose and will become obsolete. Until then Torah is in effect and we are responsible to obey it.

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In the Bible it is written, “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” (He 7:18-19)

On first glance, this text appears to teach that some, or perhaps all of God’s commandments have become obsolete, that He has annulled them through the work of Christ. This is a key proof text for many who have been teaching that God’s laws, the Torah, what some call the Mosaic Law (since God gave His Laws to us through Moses), are no longer applicable, that they are done away, and that now we are not under the law but under grace. Let us look carefully at this text in its context to see if it does in fact teach this idea.

First, we explore a key word in the text, disannul, which means to utterly annul, make void, cancel. (Annul means “to reduce to nothing: obliterate, to make ineffective or inoperative: neutralize <annul the drug’s effect>, to declare or make legally invalid or void <wants the marriage annulled>”). The English is translated from the Greek athetesis, which Strong defines as a cancellation (literally or figuratively). The Greek appears here and in Hebrews 9:26 where it is translated put away: “but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” From this we may clearly deduce the following: at least part of what is claimed from this text is certainly true: the entire Torah, or at least some significant portion, either already has been … or eventually will be … put entirely away. Torah is not eternal; we may be sure either that it is no longer relevant or required now, or that it will one day become irrelevant.

This concept is also clearly present in other texts, such as: “And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished.” (2Co 3:13) Albert Barnes says, “Of that which is abolished – Or rather to be abolished (the Greek is: to katargoumenou), whose nature, design, and intention it was that it should be abolished. It was never designed to be permanent; and Paul speaks of it here as a thing that was known and indisputable that the Mosaic institutions were designed to be abolished.” Barnes (who believes Torah has already been abolished) asserts that this text does not imply the Law has already passed away, merely that its nature has always been understood to be temporary.

Once we have established that at least some part of Torah is temporary and not eternal, we must ask, “When does the disannulling of the commandment occur?” Our text does not address this question so we must turn to the immediate context, and to the remaining context of scripture, to find that the Mosaic law has not yet been disannulled, that it is still in effect today, and that it will be in effect for as long as there is sin.

In the immediate context of Hebrews we find that, “if (Christ) were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.(He 8:4-5) If Christ were present on the earth today He would not be a priest because the Levitical priesthood is still in operation and recognized by God.

This text proves that the Levitical priesthood and its ceremonial observances presently serve to convey to us the beauties of those heavenly realities of which they are the shadow. Christ could not be a priest on earth today for this reason. The text, written many years after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, is certainly applicable in our present time, even though the temple has since been destroyed and now lies in waste, in a state of dormancy, an event predicted in Hebrews 8:13b: “that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” The fact that the Temple and its entire sacrificial system had not already vanished away at the time of the writing of Hebrews is proof that the disannulling of the Mosaic Law, and in particular of the Levitical priesthood, which is the specific subject of our focus text, has not yet occurred.

We also know from other scripture that the temple and its Levitical priesthood are not yet obsolete: it will all be revived and become fully functional again. (Re 11:1-2, Eze 43-47, Zec 14)

So, when does the scripture teach that the disannulling of Torah will occur? Christ says it plainly, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Mt 5:18) The Torah will become obsolete after the present Earth and Heaven are destroyed. In that day there will be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2Pe 3:13) Once all people are walking in righteousness (i.e. when there is no more sin) there will be no more need for the Levitical priesthood, nor for Torah itself, for the Torah was not made for righteous men; it was made for sinners. (1Ti 1:9)

It is true, as taught in our focus text above, that the Torah has made nothing perfect or complete or whole. Torah is weak and unprofitable for that purpose. Torah is the definition of holiness, it is the standard. A perfect standard has never made anyone righteous. The ability to live in holiness, the freedom to obey Torah, is only in Christ, a “better hope” who transforms us from within to be holy, to be Christ-like, to follow Torah and to draw near to God like He did.

In the new covenant God does not change the definition of holiness, but writes this same Torah in our minds and on our hearts. (He 10:6). It is by His power that we begin to walk after God and align with His ways (Torah), which are not now in believers merely outward commands to an obstinate heart. Torah is being written into the very fabric of believers’ lives by His Spirit. Torah is a delight to us in this god-ward journey of sanctification (Ps 119:24, Ro 7:22), as we are being cleansed from the dominion of sin through the Word of God by the power of the living Christ. (Eph 5:26) To the redeemed Torah is a shining light rather than an oppressive burden. (Ps 119:105)

God makes no promise of salvation to anyone apart from such transformation, apart from a basic change in their life’s trajectory. In other words, we are all born with a heart that is contrary to Torah (Ep 2:1-3, but those who persist as a manner of life in willfully despising God’s ways and laws (Torah), being children of disobedience, have no hope of eternal life so long as they remain in this state. (Ep 5:5-6, Col 3:5-7, 1Jn 3:3-7)1Jn 3:8-10)

Those who do not delight in Torah in the inward man and seek to obey it, who rather despise God’s law and refuse to walk in it, reveal that Torah is not being written on their hearts. These souls are missing God’s heart and His ways and therefore do not know Him. (1Jn 2:6) Such, while claiming to know God, are denying Him in works (Tit 1:16), cleaving to a false Christ that Paul did not preach (2Co 11:4) and proving that they are not under the new covenant. (Je 31:33)

False teaching on this topic is so common today that it can be overwhelming to contemplate it. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.(2Ti 2:19)

God, please have mercy on your people. We wander among the lies and hirelings, as sheep having no shepherd, turned into merchandise by those who would exalt themselves. Please, behold the spiritual ruin about us, and keep your people in the way of truth for your great name’s sake.

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