Jots, Tittles, and the
Kingdom of Heaven

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. (Matthew 5:18 AV)

by Bill Grimes, Co-Editor

Recently, a visitor to this web site sent me an email in which he raised a good point.  He put it in the form of three questions.
1.     Are we in the new heavens and the new earth?
2.     If not, is it true that not one jot or tittle has passed from the law?
3.     Is the Old Covenant Law still binding then in every jot and tittle? If not, why not.

My reply is as follows:

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Isaiah 40:8 AV)

  Isaiahís sentence here is self-explanatory.  Godís Word lasts forever.  Now consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:18.

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. (Matthew 5:18 AV)

  Also, consider Matthew 5:18 in light of a similar passage in Luke.

And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. (Luke 16:17 AV)

  Jesus said it is easier for heaven and earth to pass from the scene than for one stroke of the Law to fail.  Consider yet another sentence from Luke.

Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. (Luke 21:33 AV)

My conclusion is that Godís word will not pass away, nor will it fail.  Now, letís look back at Matthew 5:18 in its context.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.   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.   Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.   For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.   (Matthew 5:17-20 AV)

This paragraph serves the literary purpose of introducing what follows in the Sermon on the Mount.  Letís analyze this paragraph sentence by sentence.  Jesus opened His teaching with this statement.

  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:

Jesusí teaching astonished the people:

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:22 AV, Cf. Matthew 7:29; Luke 4:36)

Because Jesusí teaching was different, perhaps the question arose as to whether He came to destroy the Law and the Prophets, which is what the Jews accused Stephen of doing. (See Acts 6:11)  Jesus answered this unspoken question in the next phrase of the sentence:

  I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

I pay special attention to verses that tell me what Jesus came to do.  He did not come to destroy the Law.  He came to fulfill the Law.  Jesusí next sentence proceeds from this one.

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.

Heaven and earth will not pass away until Jesus accomplishes His stated purpose.  Did Jesus accomplish His stated purpose? Yes He did.

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (John 17:4 AV)  

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4 AV)

He then drew a conclusion.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Because His stated purpose was to fulfill the Law, Jesus said that whoever teaches men to break the commandments, and teach others to do so is least in Godís kingdom and whoever keeps the commandments and teaches others to keep them is great in the kingdom.  If one of His purposes in coming to this planet was to fulfill the Law, then certainly it follows that we should obey it.  From this statement, the next sentence follows.

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees were guilty of breaking the commandments and of teaching others to break them as well:

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.   For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.   And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.   For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:   But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.   And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;   Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. (Mark 7:7-13 AV)

In the passage that follows, Jesus stripped away the Jewish tradition that had grown around the Law and then told us what it really means.  There is a series of teachings that begin with:

Ye have heard that it was said by them Ö. But I say unto you, (Matthew 5:21-22 AV)

This same literary formula is used six times in the passage that follows.  The Law became the Law of the kingdom.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19 AV)

Portions of the Law are renewed in the New Covenant, and we are bound to obey them.  For example, as New Testament believers, we still do not to kill.  We still do not steal, lie, commit adultery, covet, etc.

So, are we in the new heavens and the new earth?  No, for the reasons I have stated in my most recent article, A Letter to a Full Preterist .

If not, is it true that not one jot or tittle has passed from the law?  Yes, Godís word stands forever.  None of Godís Word will fail or pass away.

Is the Old Covenant Law still binding then in every jot and tittle? If not, why not?  No, because Jesus finished the work which He came to do.

Bill Grimes, January, 2001.  Permission to copy and distribute is granted under the following conditions:  the contents of the article are not to be altered in any way, and any distribution of copies must be for free.