The Great Fulfiller

“I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. … One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.” —Matthew 5:17,18

COMMUNION with God through his Word is spiritually rewarding. Humble, devoted Christians are always refreshed when they come to the Word of truth for comfort, peace and understanding. The experiences and trials of life are overruled and designed to point our attention and our desires toward heavenly things “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1) This desire to be with God was also true of our Master. Jesus’ innermost desire for fellowship with God was especially intense following his baptism. The scripture states that “immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:10-12) Thus was expressed the need of Jesus’ spirit-begotten mind for a deeper understanding of the prophecies relating to his ministry and service. In Matthew 4:2, it is stated that he was alone in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights; forty is a number which often appears in the Scriptures, and seems to represent a time of special testing and judgment. This period was surely that for Jesus. The revealment of God’s purpose as it especially involved his life on earth included the deep personal realization that the path of self-denial he had voluntarily entered was to conclude in death. How would he react to such knowledge? Would he deflect from his choice to serve God? Would the human will with its craving for life and earthly privilege decide against the difficult path of suffering? His resolve was demonstrated by prompt, effective response to the Tempter’s wiles. He would live by divine instruction—he would obey the Lord—he would serve and worship only God.—Matt. 4:1-11

Further Activity Delayed

Jesus, the great Fulfiller, had begun the work he had come to do. The words of his heart were set down by the Prophet David, “Lo, I come in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God.” (Ps. 40:6,8; Heb. 10:7) The Gospels make clear that while Jesus performed miracles and his disciples baptized (John 2:23; 4:12), it was not until John the Baptist was cast into prison that Jesus commenced his ministry. (Matt. 4:12-17; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:20; 4:21) Jesus seemed to understand God’s will to be that he not begin his own active ministry during John’s service to the nation. John’s work was a calling to repentance, while Jesus’ work was new, introducing the kingdom of heaven. So alike was their faith and zeal that had he started his public work at once it might have been viewed by others as merging with John’s. Jesus probably foresaw an early end to John’s ministry due to his severe reproach of evil rulers, and it would not be God’s will that his own service be cut short by reason of identity with John. If Jesus had served during the same period, his new message would have been less clearly seen as entirely different. “From that time [of John’s imprisonment] Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”—Matt. 4:17

“Blessed are ye …”

Important encounters with the sick and possessed followed his synagogue teaching, throughout which he preached the Gospel of the kingdom. His ensuing fame presented Jesus with further opportunities. Seeing the gathered multitude, he taught them at a mountain place in what could be called his first recorded public discourse. (Matt. 5:1,2) His words of counsel and invitation, often referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount,” were addressed mainly to the particularly interested followers present. Special advice was given to the Israelite indeed who felt burdened by the Law. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was contrasted with the principles he laid down for discipleship. An appropriate prayer was included for those who would become children of their Heavenly Father; included was a warning against hypocritical attitudes and false prophets. It was a well planned presentation of the kingdom of heaven invitation, and was one of the major efforts in the ministry of Jesus.—Matthew, chapters 5, 6, 7

Individual Election

Jesus began his message with the spiritual call, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He spoke of the personal qualities of character which the Lord seeks to develop in those who are called, chosen and faithful, thus introducing the beautiful realities of an individual election. His words seem quite proper to us today, as they must have to the faithful of that day. But all who heard the message were not pleased because they saw a difficulty: there had already been an election … and Israel was that special elect people. (Deut. 7:6; Isa. 14:1; Ps. 135:4) They were a house of servants, and Moses was their teacher—God’s promises were to them only, and to all of them. Were they not the very seed of Abraham? Did not the one who came down from the mount lay before them the words of the Lord, “Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation”? (Exod. 19:3-7) And to this relationship the Prophet Amos adds, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) But Jesus knew of the spiritual aspect of these scriptures and was working toward their fulfillment. The Abrahamic seed of promise, the kingdom of priests, the elect, were not the nation of Israel under the Law, but rather would be comprised in part of individuals selected from Israel. There was to be a harvest of the wheat in Israel, and he was involved in that work as its chief laborer. (Matt. 9:38; Luke 10:2) Israel’s remnant, those few with faith like Abraham’s, would accept him, though the vast majority would not. The proud leaders of Israel, instructors in things pertaining to the Law, would be counted as chaff, and become persecutors of those who were good and precious and elect in the sight of the Lord God.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17 indicate he may have heard an objection from those who claimed to follow Moses, for he said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Our Master was saying that his work of an individual calling to faith and personal sacrifice does not demolish the teachings of God’s law, nor does his work invalidate the testimony of the Prophets. Rather, his personal service for God would in a particular way fulfill the Law. His sacrificial work would make it possible for others to fulfill the spirit, or righteousness, of God’s law, and his sacrifice will assure the fulfillment of all God’s prophetic promises.

“The Law Prophesied”

But the legalistic mind of the scribes and Pharisees did not see it that way. They would say, Moses taught the attainment of the chief blessing would come to those who served God through the Law, by keeping its every letter and detail. But this man teaches that the mournful, meek, thirsty ones; the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers; the poor in spirit and the persecuted are the salt of the earth, and to be inheritors of God’s chiefest blessings. How could Jesus make them understand his important work and office? Later he explained that “the Law and the Prophets were until John.”(Luke 16:16) This does not mean there would be no more prophecy after John the Baptist, since, In a real sense, Jesus, Peter, Paul and John, through divine inspiration, all spoke of future events. Jesus meant that the prophetic promise of a Messiah was an essential part of the divine testimony to Israel and he pointed them to the scripture, “Moses … wrote of me.” (John 5:46; Deut. 18:15) Philip fulfilling of additional typical features having to do with that bullock. The life which Jesus offered was finally consumed in death; his life was poured out. In due course of time, the High Priest of our profession was raised, and later exalted into heaven itself. Christ Jesus there made application to God of the merit of his sacrificed human life on behalf of his church. But even that did not complete or fulfill all the types, even though it was of great importance. It was just the beginning. We believe these thoughts were in Jesus’ mind when he said, “I am … come … to fulfill.” The Greek word from which “fulfill” is translated is pleroo, and means, according to Strong’s Concordance, ‘make replete, execute (an office), finish (a period or task).’ Paul used this same word when referring to the important service of Jesus in God’s purpose when he described the sacrifice and reward of Jesus in Ephesians 4:8-10. “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill [pleroo, fulfill, as in Matthew 5:17] all things.” His ascension was necessary for the accomplishment of a vital part of his work. This was pictured in the ceremonial law of Leviticus 16 by the typical bullock. As the blood of the bullock was taken into the Most Holy by the high priest and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, so Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven, there to “appear in the presence of God for us.” (Heb. 9:24) This important occurrence made possible an immediate start of the process by which another of many remaining types could be fulfilled. We refer to the Lord’s goat selected for a sin-offering, which represented the offering of the body of Christ, his church, beginning at Pentecost. (Lev. 16) As the fulfillment of this unique feature of the Law was made possible by Jesus, so it will be with all the other typical features. All shall be fulfilled through Jesus, for he came to fulfill God’s law.

The Law Made Honorable

The code of moral law, referred to as the Ten Commandments, was a very important part of the Mosaic Law. It was said, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets did write.” (John 1:45) Now that Messiah was present, God’s prophets would no longer foretell of his coming, and John’s work was accomplished, for he had identified and introduced Messiah.

Jesus also said the Law was until John. How should we understand this? The Mosaic Law not only contained an enlightening moral code but also the typical ceremonial features which pointed forward to the better sacrifices of the Gospel Age, as well as various other prophetic features. These multiple components were recognized by Jesus, who said that the Law prophesied. “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.”—Matt. 11:13

Jesus did not mean that the typical features of the Law had been fulfilled, and that the Law had stopped prophesying about those typically-promised events now that John’s service had ended. He does not say that, at his time, every reality to which the typical Law pointed was ready to be fulfilled, nor that every antitype was about to be reached or touched. What he did say is that Israel’s promised Messiah had come. “And beginning at Moses [who brought the Law which prophesied of him] and all the Prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”—Luke 24:27

An Important Antitype

Earlier we cited Paul’s reference to Jesus’ consecration in Hebrews 10:7. The apostle continues, saying in verse nine, that by Jesus offering himself in personal sacrifice to do God’s will, “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” Jesus at Jordan was the antitype of the bullock on the Day of Atonement which when slain represented the consummation of his covenant of sacrifice. (Lev. 16) His consecration did not completely fulfill that type. It was but the beginning; thus does Paul say “that he might establish the second.” Successive events of his service would be the that part which Jesus had to keep to evidence his perfection. Keeping that code would prove that his fleshly life was a sacrifice of merit sufficient to redeem Adam and his entire race. Jesus began to furnish this proof when he offered himself at Jordan. There he also began the fulfillment of another promise, though it was not a type. God said through the prophet (Isa. 42:21), “The Lord [Jehovah] is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the Law, and make it honorable.” Jesus did this by his obedience to the moral law. Being perfect, it was possible for him to keep the Mosaic Law in its entirety. By doing so, he showed that, conversely, the failure to keep it is the fault of fallen humanity, and not of the Law. The inability of even the most sincere Israelites to gain the promised everlasting life did not prove that God’s law was an unjust one, needing to be set aside as unworkable; rather, it proved that Israel, like the remainder of the world, shared by inheritance Adamic weaknesses. This so impaired their moral quality that they could not keep God’s perfect law, even in its spirit. The spirit of the Law, Jesus defined to be wholehearted love for God and love for one’s neighbor.

Jesus was the special servant of God’s righteousness. His life of obedience justified God’s having placed a perfect Law before imperfect Israel. “I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.” (Isa. 46:13) “Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.” (Ps. 85:9,13; see also Romans 4:25,26.) Perhaps it was Isaiah’s testimony that the Lord would magnify the Law, and make It honorable (Isa. 42:21) that brought from Paul two similar statements: “Do we then make void the Law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Law.” “Wherefore the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”—Rom. 3:31; 7:12

As we have seen, the ceremonial features of God’s law pointed forward to the better sacrifices. In that sense, the ceremonial Law prophesied of Jesus and his body. When Jesus so strongly insisted, “I am … come … to fulfill,” he was attesting that he was then present to provide the sacrificial basis for all atonement typified in the Law.

“Heaven and Earth”

All future blessings, even the call of the church and its acceptable sacrifice, depended upon Jesus’ fulfilling the details of the Law as they centered in and applied to him. He emphasized this point in the next verse, saying, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18) The Jewish arrangement or polity of the people at that time was under the direction and government of Moses’ nominal disciples, the scribes and Pharisees. The arrangement was called “heaven and earth.” Jesus knew that this religious system of things would pass away. Several prophecies made this clear. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess It; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.” (Deut. 4:26) “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed.” (Ps. 102:25,26; Isa. 51:6; Heb. 1:10-12) These scriptures declare that God placed the entire Law arrangement under the direction and supervision of the Logos and the holy angels. But their primary message, pertinent to our present study, is that God foresaw the end of that nominal Israel arrangement. Jesus’ emphatic statement, assuring that all things would be fulfilled, is in reality an expression of his determination to be faithful in the doing of his Father’s will. His faithfulness would assure that every promise, every prophecy, every typical feature of the Law will come into glorious fulfillment in God’s due time and place. This he knew to be true even though the instrument of the proclamation, the Law Covenant, was cast off and was replaced by the two features of the Abrahamic Covenant which were to carry on the work. His statement also affirms his perception of a certain truth. He knew his sacrifice would be finished in the middle of the closing week of natural Israel’s favor, and thus before that “heaven and earth” ended. Exclusive opportunity for the spiritual call would continue for three-and-one-half years after he was “cut off” in death, the completion of his individual sacrifice.

“Jot or Tittle”

Many details in the Law and the Prophets gave understanding to Jesus, and directed his activities. The Gospel accounts document his care to visit, preach, and heal in certain areas so that the Word of the Lord might not pass unfulfilled. (Matt. 4:14) Divine supervision surrounded his parentage and their travels far the same reason. (Matt. 1:22) Thirteen times in Matthew alone, we are reminded of the necessity to fulfill the prophecies which Jesus observed, thus evidencing him as Messiah. The fulfilling of every jot and tittle of God’s Word was important to our Master even to the end. Referring to his meditation on the cross, the apostle wrote: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.” (John 19:28; Ps. 69:21) Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The Apostle Paul taught that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made curse for us.” (Gal. 3:13) This means that Jesus bore, by his death on the cross, the fullest penalty or curse that God’s law could exact upon any imperfect man. Anyone coming to see and appreciate this in his own heart would, by faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, realize that Jesus did indeed fill the demands of God’s law against sinners. This would assure them of the privilege and opportunity for freedom from the condemnation which the Law confirmed they were under.

The same apostle wrote that Jesus was “the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4) This means that through justification the “righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us” even though we have imperfections and are unable to live up to the perfect standard set forth. (Rom. 8:1,4) What a marvelous work was accomplished on behalf of his disciples by this great Fulfiller!

“Till All Be Fulfilled”

Jesus said much in assuring us that all would be fulfilled. Indeed, how tragic it would have been to the entire plan of God if the demands of God’s law had not been fully met by Jesus’ sacrifice! No one else has been provided to accomplish this important service. If Jesus had not prevailed, God’s plan would have failed. It should be manifest that Jesus did not think that every antitype which the typical Law pointed to was to be enacted or commenced in some cyclical manner before the blessings and condemnations of the Law Age ceased. He is telling us that all things would be fulfilled requisite to the future enactment of every blessing illustrated or typed by that Mosaic Law and by any of the prophets. There is further Bible testimony which supports what is here set forth as a correct understanding of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17 and 18. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” The word ‘amen’ means, ‘may it be fulfilled.’ (Thayer’s Lexicon) This understanding must have been in Jesus’ mind when early in his ministry he stated with resolve that before the Law dispensation passed, all would be fulfilled. Jesus fully realized the significance of the word ‘amen.’ He applied it to himself in Revelation 3:14, “These things saith the Amen,” (or these things saith the one who will fulfill all things, or these things saith the Fulfiller.) He knew that It was his privilege to complete all the various features of God’s wonderful plan of salvation—to fulfill all aspects of God’s will as he had vowed to do at his consecration.

“The God of Amen”

While here on earth, Jesus knew that after proving his faithfulness through obedience even unto death he would be the great Fulfiller of all God’s purposes. A prophecy which thus instructed Jesus is Isaiah 65:13-16, NEB. “My servants shall eat but you shall starve; my servants shall drink but you shall go thirsty; my servants shall rejoice but you shall be put to shame; my servants shall shout in triumph in the gladness of their hearts, but you shall cry from sorrow and wait from anguish of spirit; your name shall be used as an oath by my chosen, and the Lord God shall give you over to death; but his servants he shall call by another name.” These three verses point forward to Jesus’ first advent, and Israel’s testing in their time of harvest. They describe the contrast between Jesus’ disciples with the water of truth to drink—joyful and rejoicing in gladness, receiving a new calling—and the Law disciples who starve—go thirsty in shame, cry in sorrow and anguish, and die unenlightened. In verse sixteen, the prophet continues, “He who invokes a blessing on himself in the land shall do so by the God whose name is Amen, and he who utters an oath in the land shall do so by the God of Amen.” This text teaches that those who seek a blessing from Jehovah “shall do so by [through] the God whose name is Amen.” And anyone who “utters an oath,” that is, makes a vow or enters into a covenant of sacrifice, “shall do so by [through] the God of Amen.” We should especially note, in support of this interpretation, that the text does not say, ‘utters an oath … to the God of Amen,’ but “by the God of Amen.” The thought is that the oath or covenant is made with Jehovah. Notice also, the text does not say, ‘utters an oath … by the God of the Amen,’ but only “by the God of Amen.” The remainder of verse sixteen explains how it is possible for those under condemnation to seek a blessing from God and enter into a vow with him, because “the former troubles are forgotten, and they are hidden from my sight.” The Hebrew word tsarah, translated ‘troubles,’ means ‘pressed’ or ‘distresses,’ and refers to the inherited Adamic imperfections by which man stands condemned before God’s law. But this prophecy asserts that these imperfections have been ‘forgotten,’ ‘hidden’ from the eyes of God. The provision which makes this possible is the benefit derived from the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, which is applied first for the justification of his followers. The language of this text speaks of the office and service of Jesus as the way through which imperfect men must come to have fellowship with God. Undoubtedly, this prophecy helped Jesus know, and later instructed his followers that, “At that day ye shall ask in my name … for the Father himself loveth you.” (John 16:26,27; 14:13,14) The word ‘verily’ should be noted carefully in connection with this article’s title. Jesus always used the word ‘amen,’ which is translated ‘verily,’ when referring to his own work. This indicates the positive view Jesus had of his place and purpose in the plan of God. It is further assurance that all things God has promised will be fulfilled through Jesus.

“New Jerusalem” Membership

Jesus, in calling his disciples, told them they were to be lights in the world, and to be thought of as a city set on a hill—a city such as the New Jerusalem. The following verses in Isaiah 65:17-19 teach this: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind [margin, upon the heart; as a thing of shame or burden]. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.”

The true Christian has prospective membership in this New Jerusalem. Paul wrote in Galatians 4:26 that the “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother.” For over nineteen hundred years it has been in the process of fulfillment. Soon it shall become the ruling government of earth. All true disciples of Christ are light bearers. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) This teaching of Jesus was a new and strange concept to the Jews. No wonder some thought he had come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. Up to that time, Israel had been a light in the world, dim though it was. They alone had the covenants, the Law, the promises, and the hopes. Jesus, as the great Fulfiller of all God’s promises, brought true light to his followers. He magnified the Law and proved its true value as a spiritual Law. Jesus taught his disciples that if they were to enter into the kingdom of heaven, their righteousness in fulfilling the spirit of the Law must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, who were primarily involved in the letter and detail of the statutes.—Matt. 5:19,20

The Church His Fullness

The great Fulfiller, our Lord Jesus Christ, has been placed as “the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:22,23) This position and responsibility he inherited when he was raised from the dead and was endued with “all power in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18) In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul teaches that the body of Christ will have the fullness of God’s character perfected in them through Jesus their head. His body is to be the “fullness of him [Christ Jesus] that filleth all in all” (of God’s character qualities). This work has proceeded throughout this Gospel Age with all those who respond to his call to sacrifice.

There is another phase of this ‘filling’ work yet to come. Paul speaks of that in I Corinthians 15:28. He looks ahead in time, beyond the end of the mediatorial kingdom, when all evil shall have been subdued and removed. Satan and the willfully wicked will have been destroyed. Then the Son, who always acknowledged, “My father is greater than I,” is referred to as becoming subject to the Father. This denotes the completion of his work of salvation, having written the perfect and righteous law of God in the hearts of all the willing and obedient of mankind, accomplishing their restoration to fellowship and communion with God forever.

What a glorious conclusion will result from the work of the great Fulfiller!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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