The Law and Gospel
A number of references are made in the Bible to 'the law and testimony' (or gospel) of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 8:20, Revelation 12:17, 14:12). It is often considered that the testimony or gospel of Christ replaced the law given in the Old Testament of the Bible. However, these references declare a uniting, or combining of the law and the gospel.
The Law Given to Israel
In early Biblical history we can read of God’s relationship with Abraham. God entered into an everlasting covenant with Abraham, which was reaffirmed with his grandson Jacob. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and from him descended the 12 tribes of Israel, who are referred to throughout the Bible as the Israelites.
Following the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, God confirmed through Moses the way in which He desired the Israelites to live and continue in their relationship with Him. These instructions can be found throughout the first four books of the Old Testament of the Bible and are known as ‘the Law’ or ‘the Laws of Righteousness’ (Romans 7:12, Matthew 3:15).
Why was the Law Given?
In the beginning, Adam and Eve were created as immortal beings that could not die. This was God’s plan for all mankind: 'for God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity' (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23).
Curses were placed on both the soul and the body of man, meaning that both were subject to death. The curse placed on the body saw it become mortal – given a life of blood and making it subject to death. It is the blood that contains the evil in us causing us to sin. The curse on the soul meant that, at death, it was confined to the grave, suffering for the sins it had committed during its lifetime.
When God gave Moses the law, He promised that whoever kept it should live (Leviticus 18:5, Ezekiel 18:4). In Deuteronomy 30:19, God declares 'I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live'.
The law was given 'for our good always' (Deuteronomy 6:24), to bless and protect those who followed them. Full obedience to the law also offered the ultimate blessing of breaking the curse on the body and returning to an immortal state. Two examples of this occurring are recorded in the Bible: Enoch and Elijah (Hebrew 11:5, 2 Kings 2:11). Both men were made immortal and taken to live with God without seeing death.
What if the Law was Broken?
God, knowing that mortal man would, at times, sin and break His laws, introduced the laws of transgression to the Israelites. These were procedures to follow if someone transgressed and broke any of the laws, and restored the sinner’s relationship with God. This involved the offering up animals (sacrifice) of the blood of certain animals (Hebrews 9:7, 22). This sacrifice was received by God as atonement for their sins, which were then forgiven: 'though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow' Isaiah 1:18. By repenting of their sins in this way the curse on the soul was broken.
The Gospel, or ‘good message’, of Jesus Christ is contained in the first four books of the New Testament of the Bible. Through this Gospel Christ established two commissions on earth by being a 'light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel' (Luke 2:32).
Jesus was the only person to have been born without evil. When His blood was shed at His death, it was received by God as an atonement for the sins of all mankind. This meant that anyone accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah would have the curse on their soul broken through Jesus' sacrifice (Romans 10:9-10). Likewise, the Israelites who follow the original sacrificial laws continue to have their souls saved after death (Leviticus 17:11).
After Jesus died, He was resurrected (brought back to life) from the dead, and continued to live on the earth in an immortal state. He overcame the curse on the body and the soul and demonstrated victory over death, hell and the grave (Revelation 1:18). Jesus also began the re-gathering of the lost tribes of Israel to call them into a new covenant with God in readiness for His Second Coming, so they too could be made immortal as He is.
Jesus Christ Combined the Law and the Gospel
Jesus Christ was born into the earth without evil and hence was able to obey all the laws of righteousness. When His blood was shed He fulfilled the laws of transgression. That is, as Jesus blood was without sin, it was offered and accepted as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind and as a result no further sacrifice is required. Jesus Himself explained that this act fulfilled the law of transgression or sacrifice, it did not do away with the laws of righteousness which He said would continue until His second coming (Matthew 5:18-48).
What Laws Should I Follow?
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, it was evident that the Gentiles had received spiritual blessings as well as the Israelites. This was almost unheard of up until this time and caused much debate as to whether the Gentiles, who had accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah, were now required to follow the laws that He had followed and live similar to the Israelites. In Acts 15:19-20 it is recorded that Gentiles who accept Christ are not required to live as the Israelites, but it is recommended that they abstain from the worship of idols, from the eating of blood and of meat of animals that have been strangled, and from sexual relations outside of marriage. The remaining laws were not required of the Gentiles. However, the blessings on record in the Bible are available to anyone who seeks to live in obedience to God’s laws (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).
Why Follow the Laws?
Whilst the souls of the dead are saved through grace, Jesus Christ is returning to reward us according to our works (Revelation 20:12, 22:12, 23:2, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). The Bible refers to these rewards as glories, which are represented by varying degrees of brightness, for example, by comparing the differences in brightness of the sun, moon and stars (1 Corinthians 15:50, Daniel 12:3). Ephesians 5:14 declares 'arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light'. Hence, all efforts by Christians to obey God’s laws will be rewarded at Jesus Christ’s return with a glorified soul that will be incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:52).
For those who accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and seek His and the Holy Ghost’s strength to obey God’s laws of righteousness, there is the reward of immortality: 'In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death' Proverbs 12:28.
The New Covenant
Both the Old and the New Testaments declare that God will enter into a new covenant with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31, Hebrews 8:8) in which He will change their hearts, helping them to obey the law, and will remember their sins no more. This new covenant was established with the commencement of the Christian Israelite Church in the early 1800’s, and the laws of righteousness were consolidated at this time.
Jesus Christ established a new order for the Israelites in joining the Law and the Gospel. Jesus was a living example of faith and works (James 1:22, 25) and was able to obey all of the laws of righteousness as he was without evil. Israel are called to seek Christ and the Holy Ghost to assist them to overcome their sinful nature and obey God’s laws (Isaiah 26:12, John 14:10, 15:5) – this is the greater work that Jesus spoke of in John 14:12. The law shows us how God would like us to live, the Gospel shows us how to keep the law, and the power of Christ and the Holy Ghost allow us to walk victoriously in the law (James 1:25, John 5:30, Philippians 2:13).
The Bible speaks of 144,000 Israelites and their families (Revelation 7:4, 14:1) who have lived in obedience to the law and the gospel (Isaiah 44:5), and who will be changed and made immortal at Jesus Christ’s return. The ministry of the Christian Israelite Church is to continue the commission first given by Jesus – to gather together the lost tribes of Israel (Matthew 10:1-6, Micah 5:8) in readiness for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, be transformed to be immortal like Him, and to live and dwell with Him in the Kingdom of God.