Before answering this question, let’s first look at the verse that’s the basis of the question:
For Christ [Messiah] 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 [Messiah] brought the Law of God [Heb. Torah] 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. So to provide a proper understanding of what Paul is writing here, let’s first examine the Greek meaning of the word, and then place the verse back into its immediate context, and by doing that we’ll find a more profound meaning to this passage than what most 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 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 G-d [Heb. Torah] aims toward as we live out and journey through its teachings. And this corresponds perfectly to what Jesus/Joshua (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 [Heb. Torah] “aims at,” or is the “result” or the “purpose” of the Law [Torah]. Even these aspects of the definition fit what Jesus/Joshua (Heb. 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 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’?” This is an important question 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/Joshua (Heb. 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 [Torah] 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/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) 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 on 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 of 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 [Messiah] 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 the 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 points us to the Messiah who has, is, and will be fulfilling the rest of these pictures at His return and His millennial reign. Paul, likewise, refers to this future prophetic aspect of the Law [Torah] 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 a believer in Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua), the Jewish Messiah, he knows that God forbade the use of “images” to represent any aspect of God, so he cannot call these “shadows” of the Law [Torah] “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 to “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 of the first Church council in Acts 15. Paul here is merely teaching what he, himself, followed in his own life.
Finally, the thing I find most interesting is the phrase “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, burial, and resurrection, Paul would’ve used the past tense, but he didn’t. It’s future tense, because the Law of G-d [Torah] did not end at the cross, that was the law of sin (see our FAQ: “Doesn’t the Bible Teach ‘We’re Not Under the Law’?”), and there are several aspects of the Law of G-d [Torah] that have yet to be fulfilled. For example, Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) did not drink the last cup of the Passover meal; He said He would drink that cup when 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 [Torah] is “to bring us to Christ [Messiah].” In which case, Paul is viewing the Law [Torah] as an evangelistic tool to bring people to Christ [Messiah]. In Jewish teaching, Moses is seen as the friend of the bridegroom, who in the Law [Torah], brought Israel, God’s Bride, to God at Mount Siani. Consequently, here, in the New Testament, the Law of God [Torah], which was 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 [Torah] are equally valid interpretations of that verse, because in verses 5-8, as we shall see, Paul demonstrates his view of the law
[Torah] as a picture of Christ [Messiah] by his use of Deuteronomy 30:11-14.
|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 [Torah], if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.||4. For Christ [Messiah] is the end (goal, purpose, aim) of the Law [Torah] for righteousness to everyone who believes.|
|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 shall live by that righteousness.|
|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] down),|
In examining the 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 [Torah], in which God, through Moses, is talking to the Jews about the Law [Torah]. Consequently, the “righteousness based on the law” and the “righteousness based on faith” both actually deal with the Law [Torah].
The contrast between the two is not in the actual content of the Law [Torah], as Christianity has traditionally taught [and continues to teach] but in how it is viewed and understood. Paul says, the goal, purpose or aim of the Law [Torah] is Christ [Messiah]; consequently when we read and obey the Law [Torah] and its teachings with Christ [Messiah] in view as our ultimate goal, then that is the “righteousness based on faith,” but if we read and obey the Law [Torah] without Christ [Messiah] 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 [Torah] down to Israel, and it’s 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 [Messiah] down.”
It should be evident that Paul here is viewing Christ [Messiah] as the living embodiment and expression of the Law [Torah]. But why? Because Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) Himself taught that the Law of God [Torah] is, in actuality, a written
description of Him (John 5:45-47, as we discussed earlier). In fact, according to archeologists 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/ Joshua (Heb. 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/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua), which Jesus/Joshua (Heb. 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/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) as the living embodiment and expression of the Law of God [Torah].
|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 Deuteronomy and continues to see Christ [Messiah] as the living embodiment and expresion of the Law of God [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,” and consequently, if someone were to “cross the sea” to get the Law of God [Torah], 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 (the Living Torah) up from the dead.”
|Deuteronomy 30:14||Romans 10:8|
|But the word is very nigh unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.||But what says it? The word is nigh you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;|
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.” In comparing these two passages, there are a couple of points that I think should be noted:
- In quoting this passage in Deuteronomy, Paul is equating the Law of G-d [Torah] with the “word of faith, which we preach.” However, the distinction between the Torah, taught by mainstream Judaism, and the Torah (i.e., “the word of faith”) preached by Paul and the other disciples of Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua), is that Paul and the rest of the disciples taught the Law [Torah] with Christ [Messiah] as its goal:
- First of all, Christ [Messiah] is the goal of the Law [Torah] in that the purpose for which the Law [Torah] aims is to bring us to Christ [Messiah] so that we might receive life (John 5:39-40).
- Secondly, Paul is saying that if we could form a person that was a perfect representative of what the Law [Torah] teaches, what would that person be like? Paul’s answer to this question is Christ [Messiah] and, therefore, He is its goal for us. Consequently, then, to become more like Christ [Messiah] should result in us conforming more to the teachings of the Law [Torah], and the more we conform to the teachings of the Law [Torah], as long as we keep Christ [Messiah] in sight as its goal, the more like Him we will become.
Therefore, Paul is writing here that the Law [Torah] with Christ [Messiah] in view is “the word of faith which we are preaching.”
- However, in order to live the Law [Torah] as G-d intended, its teachings must be “in our mouth, and in our hearts.” I have grown up hearing Christians say for years that one cannot possibly keep God’s commandments, even though God Himself says in Deuteronomy 30:11, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.” Obviously, then, our attitude and confession that we can’t keep it is in direct contrast to God’s Word that says we can. So if that is the case, then what’s our problem?
>> First of all, we really don’t expect to do it. We’ve been taught and programmed that it cannot be done, so obviously, to expect that we could is running in direct contradiction to what we have been traditionally taught.
>>Also, our traditional perception of the Law [Torah] is wrong. We have been erroneously taught that in the Old Testament, people were saved by the Law [Torah], but in the New Testament, people are saved by Grace. But when I studied the Law [Torah], I could not find one verse – not one – that promises heaven or eternal life if the commandments were obeyed. Also, God did not give the commandments to Israel while they were still slaves in Egypt and tell them, “If you can keep these commandments, then I’ll deliver you from slavery.” No, He delivered them first, and then He gave them His commandments. Therefore, the commandments were given to a delivered (or saved) people – not the other way around.
What I did find when I studied the first five books were blessings that God promised to those who obeyed His commandments, but all of the blessings would be experienced in this life – not in the next life (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14, for example). Even in the book of Joshua, God tells Him the following:
This book of the Law [Torah] shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (Joshua 1:8)
Notice that the results of meditating on the Law of God [Torah] both “day and night” is not heaven or eternal life, it is “you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” And where will we experience this “prosperity” and “success”? In the next life? No, in this one, in the here and now. The same promise is made also in Psalm 1, “And in whatever he does, he prospers” (see 1:1-3). So where does God promise eternal life to those who keep His commandments in the Old Testament? I haven’t one verse that promises it, so where does the church get the idea that in the Old Testament people were saved by the Law [Torah]? I don’t know, but it isn’t from the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, we discover that the Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife because they could not find any discussion of it in the Law [Torah] (see Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40). However, Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) does point to a reference alluding to an afterlife in G-d’s statement to Moses at the burning bush:
But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by G-d, saying, I AM THE G-D OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. (Matthew 22:31-32)
Christ [Messiah] uses this reference to prove that there is, in fact, an afterlife, contrary to the beliefs of the Sadducees. However, He does not state or indicate that obedience to the Law [Torah] is how one attains the afterlife. The fact is, from the beginning, G-d has saved His people by grace through faith; it is not a New Testament revelation, but it is G-d’s modus operandi. Consequently, I do not obey the commandments to get saved, but I obey them because I am saved, and by keeping them, I am showing my love for G-d by living in obedience to Him and to His Word.
He who has My commandments and [continues to] keep them, he it is who [continues to] love Me; … He who does not [continue to] love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:21a, 24)
The words that are in brackets were added to indicate the tense of these Greek verbs, which were present participles, which “expresses continuous or repeated action” (“Grammatical Notations” 1706). Consequently, these actions are not just one-time occurrences, but things we are to continue doing.
Since Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) identifies Himself as the “I AM” who existed before Abraham (John 8:58), and it was the “I AM” who gave to Moses the commandments at Mt. Siani, then it is only logical to conclude that the “commandments” that Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) refers to in the above verse includes not only the teachings found within the four Gospels but also the commandments which were given in the first five books of the Bible as well. Consequently, whenever God speaks in the first five books, it should be as much “red-lettered” as those we see in the Gospels since it is the same speaker in both.
>>Thirdly, we try to do it on our own strength and abilities, instead of obeying it through the power of God’s Spirit [Heb. Ruach Hakodesh]. God never intended for us to live our lives apart from Him, and that includes our obedience to His Word. God’s intent from the beginning was that we would live our lives in union with Him, and that He would guide, lead, and empower us to do what He has commanded; this is what Paul is referring to in Romans 8, when He talks about “walking in the Spirit” (8:4, 7-8).
>>Finally, we have not taken the time to internalize His Word. God says in Deuteronomy 30 that we can do His commandments when they are in our heart and in our mouth. Therefore, since we have not studied it, understood it, memorized it and practiced it, it is not in our hearts or in our mouths, so as a result, we are not able to do it. God never promised that He would miraculously put the knowledge and understanding of His Word in our hearts and minds, He only promised that the Spirit would remind us of the Word that we had already spent time studying (see John 14:26).
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 Christ [Messiah] is the living expression and embodiment of the written Law of God [Torah] 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.
Christ [Messiah] is the goal, purpose, and aim of living a lifestyle of obedience before God. When we study and live the teachings of the Law of God [Torah], 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. Why? Because “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, KJV). And when Christ fills your heart and your confession of Him comes out of your mouth, 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 needs to be in our heart and in our mouth in order to observe it, our surrender and commitment to the Lord Jesus/Joshua Christ 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 [Torah] 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/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) did bring a “termination” to the Law [Torah], 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 [Torah] apart from His life, His teachings, His ministry, death, burial, and resurrection, His present ministry, and His future coming and reign. You see, when mainstream Judaism looks at the Torah (the Law of God), they do not view it with Jesus/Joshua (Heb. Yeshua) in mind, problem is, neither does the church. Many in the church view the Law [Torah] 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] Himself.
To say that the Law of God [Torah] is “legalism” or “bondage” is to say that Christ [Messiah] Himself is “legalism” or “bondage,” since the Law [Torah] is a written description of Him, and Christ [Messiah] is the living embodiment and expression of the Law [Torah]. 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 [Torah] 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 Law of God [Torah] as Jesus/Joshua (Heb. 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 the Messiah, since the New Testament teaches us that as believers in Him, we are part of His Body, the Body of Messiah.