The Passing of the Law

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Many Christians believe the Law/Old Covenant ended when Jesus died on the cross in approximately AD 33. Another popular view is that the Law ended on Pentecost, fifty days after the cross. However, both of these views have insurmountable problems, not the least of which is that the writer of Hebrews said in approximately AD 60 that the Old Covenant–the Law–had still not passed away: “In that He [God] says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first [covenant] obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). Keep in mind, this was uttered thirty years after the cross/Pentecost! Clearly, the Old Covenant had still not passed away…but it would soon.

The writer of Hebrews also said—in approximately AD 60—that the tabernacle (temple) was symbolic of the “present” Old Covenant age (Heb. 9:8-9). In other words, as long as the temple stood, the Law was still in force. Note: The temple fell in AD 70.

Jesus confirmed this timing, too, in the Olivet Discourse, which he gave in approximately AD 33. After predicting the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2), his disciples asked when it would happen: “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (v. 3, italics mine). The age that the disciples were asking about was the end of the Old Covenant age. (The disciples were also asking about the timing of the second coming, which I discuss in depth in my articles “What is the Second Coming?” and “The Timing of the Second Coming.”) Jesus then described the various precursors—such as false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, great tribulation, lawlessness, etc.—and then said: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (v. 13). This is the same “end of the age” that the disciples had asked about in verse 3; Jesus was simply answering their question. Then Jesus said: “Assuredly, I say to you [disciples], this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (v. 24, italics mine). ALL THESE THINGS, including the end of the age, would happen within “this generation,” or by approximately AD 70.[1] Keep in mind, also, that one of “these things” was the destruction of the temple (v. 2), which happened in AD 70.

Approximately thirty years after Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, Paul said in approximately AD 57 that “the end of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11, italics mine). Likewise, Peter said in AD 64 that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7, italics mine). These passages refer to the same end of the Old Covenant age, which happened just a few years later in AD 70.

Those who say the Old Covenant age passed away at the cross/Pentecost (in AD 33)—instead of in AD 70—have another big problem: If that’s true, then what age was ending when Peter and Paul said these things (above) in approximately AD 60…the New Covenant age? That cannot possibly be the case because the Bible emphatically and repeatedly states that the New Covenant age has no end. For example, the writer of Hebrews talks about the “everlasting [new] covenant” (Heb. 13:20, italics mine). Likewise, God promised “to make an everlasting [new] covenant” (Jer. 32:40, italics mine). Elsewhere, God said he would “make with them [his people] an everlasting [new] covenant” (Isa. 61:8, italics mine). Since the New Covenant has no end, therefore, Peter and Paul could not possibly have been referring to the end of the New Covenant age. They must have been referring to the end of the Old covenant age—which means the Old Covenant age had still not passed away when they said those things in around AD 60.

The biblical evidence is clear: The Law passed away at the fall of the temple in AD 70—not at the cross/Pentecost in AD 33.

Frequently-cited Objections

Because this is such an important issue, I want to answer the common objections to the view being presented.

Objection #1– The apostle Paul said the Law was nailed to the cross! “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14, italics mine).

Response: What Paul actually said was “the handwriting of requirements…was nailed to the cross” (Col. 2:14). That is, “the debt incurred because of violations of the Law was nailed to the cross.” [2] In other words, we are saved through Christ. Amen! But that still does not mean the Law ended at the cross.

Notice what Paul said two sentences later: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come” (vv. 16-17, italics mine). These items—food, drink, festival, new moon, and Sabbaths—were related to the Law, which had still not passed away. That’s why Paul said they were still (when Colossians was written in AD 62/63) “a shadow of good things to come.” The Law was still pointing forward to the “good things” to come. What were these “good things to come”? The New Covenant realities such as salvation, eternal life, and the kingdom of God.[3]

Saying that the Law ended at the cross is tantamount to saying that everything prophesied in the Old Testament was fulfilled at the cross. After all, Jesus said “one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18, italics mine). “The Law” is Hebraic shorthand for the entirety of the Old Testament. It includes the Prophets such as Isaiah (1 Cor. 14:21; Matt. 5:17-18) and the Psalms (John 15:15).[4] Therefore, saying that the Law ended at the cross is equivalent to saying that everything prophesied in the Old Testament was fulfilled at the cross. This would include such things as the general resurrection (Dan. 12:2; Isa. 25:8), the judgment (Mal. 4:5; Zech. 14:1-2), the second coming (Isa. 40:10, Zech. 14:1-2), the wedding (Isa. 62:4-5), and the new heaven and earth (Isa. 65:1-2). Yet these things did not happen at the cross; in fact, they still had not happened thirty years later when Revelation was written…although they would soon![5]

Objection #2 – In AD 57, Paul said he was not under the Law, which means it must have already passed away: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law” (1 Cor. 9:19-21).

Response: This passage itself shows the Law was still active! Paul said: “to those who are under the law…” While Paul and his fellow Christians were not under the Law, other clearly were. So it had not yet passed away. See also Argument #3 (below).

Objection #3 – Paul said “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4, italics mine), which essentially means the Law ended when Christ died on the cross.

Response: It’s true that the Law had ended “for those who believe [in Christ],” but the Law had not ended for everyone. Unbelieving Jews were still under the Law (see Argument #2 above)! In fact, in the book of Acts, which was written in the 60’s, Paul said there were still “myriads” of Jewish Christians who were “zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:20). Clearly, the Law had not ended yet. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews said in around AD 60 that the Law had still not vanished away…although it would soon (Heb. 8:13). Hebrews goes on to say in the next chapter that the tabernacle (temple) was symbolic of the “present” Old Covenant age (Heb. 9:8-9). In other words, as long as the temple stood, the Old Covenant (the Law) had not passed away. While Christians were not obligated to keep the Law, nevertheless, the Law had not yet passed away.

Objection #4 – Paul compared those under the Law to a woman married to her husband. As long as the husband lived, the woman was bound to him. But if he died, then she was free to marry another. However, if she married another man before her husband died, then she would be an adulterer (Rom. 7:1-6). The point of this illustration is that the Law had died (passed away), so the disciples were free to marry another (Christ / the New Covenant); otherwise, they would have been spiritual adulterers.

Response: Notice what Paul says right in the middle of his illustration: “Therefore, my brethren, you [Christians] also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another” (Rom. 7:4, italics mine). Paul did not say the Law was dead; rather, Paul said the disciples had become dead to the Law through Christ. And since the disciples were dead to the Law, they were free to marry another.

Paul is essentially saying the same thing that he says in chapter ten: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4, italics mine). However, just because Christians were free from the Law, that did not mean the Law had ended for everyone; quite the opposite (see Argument #3 above). 

Objection #5 – If the Old Covenant did not pass away at the cross, then that means God had two covenants simultaneously from AD 30 to AD 70, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. But God cannot have two covenants at the same time!

Response: God had two “covenants” of sorts (methods of dealing with people) throughout much of history, one for the Jews (special revelation) and one for the rest of the world/Gentiles (general revelation). The Jews were required to keep the entirety of their law, which included the ceremonial aspects such as the Sabbath, dietary requirements, feast days, circumcision, and so forth. However, Gentiles were never obligated to keep the ceremonial aspects of the law. Most Gentiles around the world did not even know such requirements existed! However, they were obligated to keep God’s moral laws written on their hearts, such as do not murder, do not steal, and do not lie (Rom. 1:18-23; Ps. 19:1-4). This was, in essence, two different “covenants” of sorts (methods of dealing with people) simultaneously.

Keep in mind, also, that the last days of the Old Covenant age (AD 30 – AD 70) was a time of transition. The Old Covenant was fading away…and the New Covenant was growing stronger. As Paul said in AD 57, “The time is short…the form of this world [the Old Covenant world] is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29, 31). Likewise, the writer of Hebrews said in AD 62/63: “In that He [God] says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13, italics mine). This was a time of two covenants—one was fading away, and the other was growing stronger. And the official end the Old Covenant (and beginning of the New Covenant) happened when the temple fell in AD 70 (Heb. 9:8-9, Matt. 24:3, 24)!

Objection #6 – Jesus established the New Covenant in the upper room when he celebrated Passover with the disciples. “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’” (Matt. 26: 27-29). This means the Old Covenant must have passed away already.

Response: First, as stated above, just because Christians were free from the Law does not mean the Law had ended. Paul in AD 57 talked about people who are under the law (1 Cor. 9:20)–and this was twenty years after the meeting in the upper room!

Second, when Jesus made those comments in the upper room (“this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many”), his blood had not even been shed yet, so he was obviously looking forward to future events. In fact, right after saying this, he then said, “But I say to you [disciples], I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29, italics mine). To “drink it new” refers to the New Covenant age, which would begin “in My Father’s kingdom.” And when would the kingdom of God officially come? Jesus linked the coming of the kingdom to the destruction of the temple (Luke 21:5, 31-32; see also Rev. 11). Therefore, this is when Jesus would celebrate communion “anew” with his disciples. In other words, this is when the Old Covenant age would officially end…and New Covenant officially begin.

Objection #7 – The New Covenant began immediately after Jesus died: “For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant [Old Covenant] was dedicated without blood…Without shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins]” (Heb. 9:16-18, 22; italics mine).

Response: The point of this passage is that Jesus had to die (sacrifice himself for sins) in order to establish the New Covenant. However, the passage does not say the New Covenant began immediately upon his death. In fact, the writer of Hebrews had just finished saying that the Old Covenant age had still not vanished away (Heb. 8:13) and that the tabernacle (temple) represented the “present” Old Covenant age (Heb. 9:8-9). As long as that temple stood, it meant the Old Covenant age had not yet passed away…and the New Covenant age had not yet arrived.

Conclusion: While the above Scriptures and arguments are often cited to “prove” that the Law ended at the cross (or Pentecost), closer examination shows they do not actually make that case. The Old Covenant age ended when the temple fell in AD 70.

For more about this issue, see my book The End Is Here, available summer 2024 in book stores everywhere.

Alex Polyak, The Bible Fulfilled 10/13/23


[1] A biblical generation equates to around forty years (Heb. 3:8–10, Num. 14:30–34, Neh. 9:21).

[2] Don Preston, “Feast Days, The Key to Eschatology,” June 7, 2022, YouTube, 25:00 (viewed on Dec. 21, 2022).

[3] These New Covenant realities had certainly come in part, but they still needed to come in full. See my article “The Already/Not Yet” or my book The End Is Here, available summer 2024.

[4] See more about this issue in The End of the Law by Don Preston, 60-66

[5] The following events were still future when Revelation was written in approximately AD 65: the general resurrection (Rev. 20:13), the second coming (Rev. 1:7, 22:12), the judgment (Rev. 20:9), the wedding (21:2), and the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1)—although they would happen “soon, for the time was near” (Rev. 1:1-3, 22:6-10)!