In your lesson, "The Sermon on the Mount: The Law," you keep to the literal meaning of Heaven and Earth in Matthew 5:18. Additionally you argue the best understanding of the passage is to read the two “until” phrases be joined with an “or” rather than an “and.”
I am currently studying with a Christian who holds the law was in place till the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70). He uses the passage in Matthew 5:18 and Hebrews 8:13 as proof texts. His interpretation of Matthew 5:18 is until both Heaven and Earth pass away AND all is fulfilled no part of the law will be passed away. His interpretation on Heaven and Earth is that it is referring to the law based on Isaiah 51:16. His interpretation of all is fulfilled is every prophecy in the old law. Since some prophecy was not fulfilled at the time of Christ’s death on the cross (e.g. Christ’s ascension) this could not have been the end of the law. When did the law have to end – only after all was fulfilled and it was impossible to continue in the law – the destruction of Jerusalem. He further holds that Jewish Christians followed both laws till AD 70 but holds no practical importance to us today except the proper understanding of the end times or latter days. The end times, according to the doctrine, stopped at AD 70.
I assume you are familiar with this doctrine (AD 70). The individual I am studying with is an “intellectual” who does not see any issue with discovering a new found truth nearly 2000 years after the founding of the church. If you have any suggestions on how to proceed with the study I would appreciate it.
There are several articles on preterism or the A.D. 70 movement on this web site. Whether they might help or not, I can't say. A person who thinks they know more than others isn't often inclined to think.
Let's start with the use of Isaiah 51:16 to define "heaven and earth" as being the law.
"I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, 'You are My people.'" (Isaiah 51:16).
God is declariing His authority and His right to act in part on the fact that He create the heavens and the earth. This phrasing is used frequently in Isaiah, including a passage just above this one.
"It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in" (Isaiah 40:22).
"Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it" (Isaiah 42:5).
"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone" (Isaiah 44:24).
"It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host" (Isaiah 45:12).
"That you have forgotten the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth, That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor?" (Isaiah 51:13).
The claim that references to heaven and earth are a figurative code for the law doesn't hold. The general rule is that figurative language is known when what is stated cannot be possible if taken literally. That this person doesn't like the literal meaning doesn't give justification to requiring a figurative meaning, especially when his figurative definition is arbitrarily made to support his cause.
I'm sorry that he feels more knowledgeable than Paul, arguing the law did not come to an end despite the many passages to the contrary.
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4).
"Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Galatians 3:24-25).
By his reasoning, faith did not come until after Jerusalem was destroyed -- a clear falsehood.
"Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands-- remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity" (Ephesians 2:11-16).
The enmity was the old law which divided the Jews and Gentiles. It was put to death through the cross.
"And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:11-14).
Both the passage in Ephesians and the one in Colossians places the transition time to the cross.
One of the interesting points is that the Jews could not enter into a new covenant while the old covenant was in effect. "Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man's covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it" (Galatians 3:15). In order for the Jews to become Christians, it required that the Old Covenant be terminated. "Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God" (Romans 7:1-4). Once again, it was through the body of Christ that the law died, thus giving justification to the Jews to enter into a new covenant with God.
This leaves Hebrews 8:13, "When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." The writer's point is that when God said, "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" in Jeremiah 31:31, by saying "new" He declared that the current covenant was already old, worn out, and ready to disappear. The mistake being made is assigning this statement to the time of the writer of Hebrews. What is being forgotten or overlooked is that the writer is commenting on a passage from Jeremiah and must be seen from Jeremiah's timeframe. The writer of Hebrews is saying that the Old Law was worn out and ready to disappear from the days of Jeremiah; thus, it ought not to have surprised the Jews that it is no longer in effect.
Thank you! You did an excellent job of specifically arguing the exact points in question. I will continue my study and soon study again with the brother on the topic.