Before answering this question, let’s first look at the verse that’s the basis of the question:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes. (Romans 10:4)
Now if we look at this verse in isolation of the passage and understand the word “end” the way most people understand it today, then we would understand the passage the way most Christians do to mean that Christ brought the Law of God to an end. However, when we do some research on the Greek word telos, which is the word that’s translated “end,” then we’ll discover that the word “end” actually misleads most people as to the intended meaning of the verse. After examining the meaning of the word, we’ll then place the verse back into its immediate context, and find a more profound meaning to this passage than what people think is actually being said.
Defining the Word “End”
When the King James translators chose the word “end” for the Greek word telos, they meant the word “end,” as in “What end do you have in mind?” or “I can see the end in sight.” In these two examples, we can understand the word “end” to mean goal, aim, purpose, outcome or final result. Although this was the dominant way they viewed the term, there’s also included in the definition a sense of “termination” or “cessation,” but not in the way most people think. We still use the word “end” today, as seen in these two examples, but the intended meaning of telos here is not the primary meaning today that comes to mind when most people read the word “end” in this verse. Interestingly, if we look up the Greek word
Interestingly, if we look up the Greek word telos (Strong’s #5056) in the “Greek Dictionary of the New Testament” in the New Strong’s Concordance, it gives the following series of definitions for the word:
from a prim. root tello (to set out for a definite point or goal); prop. the point aimed at as a limit, i.e., (by impl.) the conclusion of an act or state (termination) [lit., fig. or indef.], result [immed., ultimate or prophetic], purpose); spec. an impost or levy (as paid).
In this series of definitions, we can see the word telos being derived from the root word, tello, meaning “goal” (as we used in the example above) or “to set out for a definite point.” It gives the image of a destination point we have in mind when we set out on a journey. Using these two definitions, we can see Paul saying that Christ
(Messiah) is the “goal” or “the destination point” that the Law of God aims toward as we live out and journey through its teachings. And this corresponds perfectly to what Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) teaches in John 5:39-40:
Search the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. And you [Jesus’ opponents] will not come to Me, that you might have life.
In addition, this sense also agrees with the use of the word “end” as we used it in the two expressions, “What end do you have in mind? or “I can see the end in sight.”
Also, in the definition, we can see the idea of something being “aimed at,” as well as the idea of something being the “result” or “purpose” of something. Consequently, with these definitions in mind, we can see Paul saying that Christ (Messiah) is the point that the Law of God “aims at,” or is the “result” or the “purpose” of the Law. Even these aspects of the definition fit what Jesus (Yeshua) teaches us in the Gospels, such as in John 5.Now in looking at the definition, it does include the idea of “the conclusion of an act or state (termination) [lit., fig., or indef.],” so for me to say that the word
Now in looking at the definition, it does include the idea of “the conclusion of an act or state (termination) [lit., fig., or indef.],” so for me to say that the word telos does not include this meaning would be misleading, if not erroneous. Obviously, in reading the definition, that meaning is there. And we can see the word telos used in that sense of “the conclusion of a state” or “termination” in Matthew 24:14,
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end (Gr. telos) come. (emphasis mine)
Now although this verse in Matthew uses the word telos to indicate an “end” to something, we must ask the question, “In what sense will it ‘end,’ since the rest of Scripture makes it quite clear that the world will, in fact, continue, particularly since it is after this point, that Jesus (Yeshua) discusses His return and the establishment of His kingdom, which will last for one thousand years (see Revelation 20:4)?” So what’s ending? Answer: The era of man’s domination and various forms of government, i.e., man’s way of doing things.
Now when I also looked up the Greek word telos in the “Lexical Aids to the New Testament,” I discovered the following explanation:
The word telos does not, as is commonly supposed, mean the extinction, end, termination with reference to time, but the goal reached, the completion or conclusion at which anything arrives, either as issue or ending and including the termination of what went before or as a result, consummation, for example, when we speak of the end of a war, we speak of victory. When we speak of telos andros, the end of man, we speak of the full age of man; also used of the ripening of the seed. It never denotes merely an end as to time, a termination in and of itself for which another word teleute (5054), death, is always used. (1762)
Putting It Back into Context
Consequently, Christ (Messiah) is the goal, the completion or conclusion at which the Law arrives. And now as we place the verse back into its immediate context, we’ll discover an even deeper revelation that Paul is sharing through this passage.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
Paul begins this part of his discussion by expressing his desire and prayer that His people would experience peace, love, and freedom that Paul experienced when he “was saved,” by surrendering his life to the Lordship of Jesus as Israel’s true promised Messiah.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
Here Paul acknowledges that Jews have “a zeal of God” (or passion for God), “but not according to knowledge.” In the next verse, Paul elaborates what he means by “knowledge” in this verse.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
In this verse, Paul identifies two different types of “righteousness:” “God’s righteousness” and “their own righteousness.” Paul states that the problem with mainstream Judaism is that they are “ignorant of God’s righteousness,” or God’s method to attaining “righteousness,” and this is the “knowledge” that Paul alluded to in the previous verse that Israel did not possess.
But since they don’t possess the knowledge of how to attain “God’s righteousness,” they are spending their time “going about to establish their own righteousness,” or obeying the commandments in the way that they think they should be fulfilled. Consequently, by doing so, they have “not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
For Christ [Messiah] is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.
As we discussed earlier, Paul, in this verse, is saying that “Christ is the [goal, aim, or purpose] of the law for righteousness.” That the “goal,” destination point, that following the Law’s teachings and commandments will naturally lead one to Christ (Messiah). In saying this, Paul is saying that the purpose of the Law is both prophetic and evangelistic.
Prophetic Purpose of the Law. The Law presents us with various prophetic pictures of Christ (Messiah), His life, teachings, death, burial, resurrection, as well as His current ministry in the heavenlies and His future ministry during His coming millennial reign that point us to Christ who has, is, and will be fulfilling the rest of these pictures at His return and His millennial reign. Paul, likewise, refers to this Law’s yet future fulfillment in Colossians 2:16-17:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ.
I find four things of interest in these two verses.
Paul has heard that these non-Jewish believers are being criticized in their observance of these things by the surrounding non-believing, non-Jewish family, friends, and neighbors, as well as by some from the mainstream Jewish community. So Paul tells them not to let any one person “judge” them on how they observe these things.
Paul’s reference to these various aspects of the Law as “shadows.” As an Orthodox Pharisaic Jew and as a believer in Jesus (Yeshua), the Jewish Messiah, he knows that God forbad the use of “images” to represent any aspect of God, so he cannot call these “images” without infringing on the commandments, so he gets as close as possible without violating the Word of God. In our world today, we would refer to them as “pictures.”
The inclusion of the word “is” by translators. In most Bibles, this word is italicized to indicate that this word is not in the original Greek manuscript. I have placed it in brackets above. Paul is telling us that we should not allow any one person “judge” us regarding how we observe these things, but if a correction needs to be made, we should bring it to the “body of Christ (Messiah).”
We see an example of this in Acts 15, where Paul has been criticized by individuals for the version of the gospel that he’s been preaching to the gentiles (non-Jews), and so he takes his case to the body of Christ (Messiah), which is the purpose for the first Church (Community) council in Acts 15. Paul here is merely teaching what he, himself, followed in his own life.
Finally, the thing I find interesting is that the words “the shadows of things to come” is written in the future tense in the Greek — not past tense. Paul obviously wrote this after the cross, so if Christ (Messiah) had fulfilled all of these things with His death, Paul would’ve used the past tense, but he didn’t. It’s future tense, because the Law of God did not end at the cross, that was the law of sin (see FAQ: “Doesn’t the Bible Teach ‘We’re Not Under the Law’?”), and there are several aspects of the Law of God that have yet to be fulfilled. For example, Jesus (Yeshua) did not drink the last cup of the Passover meal; Jesus said He would drink that cup would He drinks it with us in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18); therefore, the Passover feast is not yet completely fulfilled.
The Evangelistic Purpose of the Law. As Paul states here, the purpose, goal, or aim of the Law is “to bring us to Christ.” In which case, Paul is viewing the Law as an evangelistic tool to bring people to Christ. In Jewish teaching, Moses is the friend of the bridegroom, who in the Torah (Law of God), brought Israel, God’s Bride, to God at Mount Siani. Consequently, here, in the New Testament, the Torah (Law of God), written by Moses, is carrying on the same function of bringing people to Christ, the promised Messiah, and Bridegroom of the redeemed people of God.
Both statements regarding the purpose of the Law are equally valid interpretations of that verse, because in verses 5-8, as we shall see, Paul demonstrates his view of the law as a picture of Christ by his use of Deuteronomy 30:11-14.
Comparing Deuteronomy 30:10-12 and Romans 10:4-6
|Deuteronomy 30:10-12||Romans 10:4-6|
|10. If you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.||4. For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who
|11. For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.||5. For Moses writes that the man who
practices the righteousness which is
based on law should live by that
|12. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?||6. But the righteousness based on faith
speaks thus, “Do not say in your
heart, Who will ascend into heaven?
(that is, to bring Christ/Messiah
In examining Paul’s quote with the original passage in Deuteronomy, there are certain things that we should note:
Paul points out two different types of righteousness: “righteousness based on law” and “righteousness based on faith.”
In discussing the “righteousness based on law,” Paul quotes a line that’s repeated in several passages throughout the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:5; Nehemiah 9:29; Ezekiel 20:11, 13, 21).
In contrast, in discussing the “righteousness based on faith,” Paul quotes from the Law, in which God, through Moses, is talking to the Jews about the Law. Consequently, the “righteousness based on the law” and the “righteousness based on faith” both actually deal with the Law. Not in the actual content of the Law, but in how it is viewed and understood. Paul says, the goal, purpose or aim of the Law is Christ (Messiah); consequently, when we read and obey the Law and its teachings with Jesus (Yeshua) in view as our ultimate goal, then that is the “righteousness based on faith,” but if we read and obey the Law without Jesus (Yeshua) in view, then that is the “righteousness based on law.”
Notice in verse 6, Paul quotes part of the question in Deuteronomy 30:12, which was “Who will go up into heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?” Therefore, the intent in going up is to bring the Law down to Israel, and its this inferred intent that we see Paul note in his quote of this verse in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, “that is, to bring Christ down.”
It should be evident that Paul here is viewing Christ (Messiah) as the living embodiment and expression of the Law. But why? Because Jesus (Yeshua) Himself taught that the Law of God is a written description of Him (John 5:45-47, as we discussed earlier). In fact, according to archaeologists digging in the land of Israel, the oldest term for Christ (Messiah) that they found etched on the walls of the homes of 1st century Jewish believers in Jesus (Yeshua) was the term “HaTorah” (“The [Living] Torah,” or “The Law of God made flesh”). In Isaiah 51:4-5, God prophesied that He was going to send One to Israel, who would be “The Living Torah”:
Pay attention to Me, O My people; and give ear to Me, My nation; for a law [Heb. Torah] will go forth from Me, and I will set My justice for a light of the peoples. My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands will wait for Me, and for My arm they will wait expectantly.
If the Law of God is a written description of Jesus (Yeshua), which Jesus (Yeshua) clearly taught, then when it speaks about bringing “the Law” down from heaven, Paul then saw that phrase as a reference to bringing Christ (Messiah) down from heaven. Let’s keep going and see how Paul continues to see Jesus (Yeshua) as the livng embodiment and expression of the Torah (the Law of God).
Comparing Deuteronomy 30:13 and Romans 10:7
|Deuteronomy 30:13||Romans 10:7|
|Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should
say, “Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?”
|or ‘Who will descend into the Abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”|
Then as Paul continues in his quote from the Torah (the Law of God) and continues to see Christ (Messiah) as the living embodiment and expression of the Torah, we again gain an interesting glimpse into Paul’s mind and how he interprets the Scriptures. In Deuteronomy 30:13, we see that the question that’s asked, “Who will cross the sea,” Paul interprets as “Who will descend into the abyss?” and then states, “that is, to bring Christ [Messiah] up from the dead.” The “sea” is oftentimes seen in Jewish thinking as an image of the grave or “the abyss,”
The “sea” is oftentimes seen in Jewish thinking as an image of the grave or “the abyss,” and consequently, if someone were to “cross the sea” to get the Torah (the Law of God), then the logical inference for doing so will be to bring it back. Therefore, “cross[ing] the sea” is equated with “descend[ing] into the abyss” with the intent “to bring Christ (Messiah, the Living Torah) up from the dead.”
Comparing Deuteronomy 30:14 and Romans 10:8
|Deuteronomy 30:14||Romans 10:8|
|But the word is very near you, in your
mouth and in your heart, that you may
|But what does it say? “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” — that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.|
Then, in this final comparison, we can see Paul quoting Deuteronomy 30:14, and he says that “the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,” and “that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.” However, the logical inference from his quote is that the “word of faith” is actually the Law of God since it is the “word” that’s “near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”
Therefore, based on the overall structure and comparison of these two texts, we discover that the “word of faith,” Paul was preaching is, in fact, the understanding that Jesus is the living expression and embodiment of the written Law of God, that God has sent, as He promised, to be “a light of the peoples” and to be “God’s salvation” for everyone in the world, both Jew and non-Jew alike. This leads naturally into the following verse.
That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
Jesus (Yeshua) is the goal, purpose, and aim of living a Torah-observant lifestyle. When we study and live the teachings of the Torah (the Law of God), Paul argues, it’s logical outcome or destination point should be to take us to Christ (Messiah) “for righteousness to everyone who believes.” And how do we know we believe? When the word is “in your mouth and in your heart.” Therefore, Paul puts all of this together for us and states, “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.” Just like the written Word of God, so our belief in the Living Torah, the Living Word of God, needs to be in our mouth and in our heart. And what is the result? “[Y]ou shall be saved.”
For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Again, just as the word of God’s commandments need to be in our heart and in our mouth in order to observe it, our surrender and commitment to Jesus Christ (Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiakh) needs to be in our mouth and in our heart in order to experience God’s salvation.
Consequently, as we’ve seen in placing this verse in context, Paul here is not saying that Christ (Messiah) terminated (or brought to a complete end) the Law by His death, burial, and resurrection, but that He is its intended goal, purpose, and aim.
Christ (Messiah) — “The Termination of the Law”?
However, included in the definition of the Greek word telos, there is a sense in which Jesus (Yeshua) did bring a “termination” to the Law, but not in the sense, that many people think. What Christ (Messiah) “terminated” or “brought to an end” was people’s view or understanding of the Law apart from His life, His teachings, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection, present ministry, and future coming and ministry. You see, when mainstream Judaism looks at the Torah (the Law of God), they do not view it with Jesus (Yeshua) in mind, problem is, neither does the church. Many in the church view the Torah (the Law) as some form of “legalism” or “bondage” that Christ (Messiah) died to set us free from, rather than it being a written description of Christ (Messiah).
To say that the Law of God is “legalism” or “bondage” is to say that Christ (Messiah) Himself is “legalism” or “bondage,” since the Law is a written description of Him, and Christ (Messiah) is the living embodiment and expression of the Law. In fact, the oldest title for Christ (Messiah) found in believers’ homes in Israel, dating back to the first century, is the title HaTorah (“the Living Torah“), or as John expressed it “The Word made flesh,” as in John 1:14, “And the Word [of Torah] became flesh, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This idea that the Law of God is “legalism” and “bondage” is based on an erroneous interpretation of Paul’s writings that has been passed down from generation-to-generation for centuries. We need to finally bring this erroneous teaching to an end and to see the Torah (the Law of God) as Jesus (Yeshua) did, as a written description of Himself and His ministry, and by extension, it is also a written description of who we are in Christ (Messiah), since the New Testament (Heb. B’rit Chadasha) teaches us that as believers in Him we are part of His Body, the Body of Christ (Messiah).