WILL SOME BE GREATER THAN OTHERS IN HEAVEN?
Matthew 5:17-20) [GNB] “Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true.
18) Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with—not until the end of all things.
19) So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven.
20) I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.
Matthew 5:17) [GNB] “Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true.
[CEV] Don’t suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning.
NOTE: The Law is part of the eternal Word of God. There is that sense in which the Law will never pass away. The intent of Jesus was never to “destroy” [KJV] the Law, but rather, to fulfill it.
ANOTHER NOTE: Jesus mentions both the “Law of Moses” and “the teachings of the prophets.” One could argue He referred to the entire Old Testament here. In the way that the Apostles wrote the New Testament, the Prophets wrote the Old Testament. However, He might have pointed out the “teachings of the prophets” because of the fact that the prophets predicted His coming.
QUESTION: What does “to make their teachings come true,” or, “to fulfill,” [KJV] mean?
ANSWER: Jesus kept every command of the Law to the letter, and obeyed the very intent of the Law as well. In that sense He fulfilled the Law for all who are born into Him. He also fulfilled all those O.T. prophesies about Him.
Matthew 5:18) [GNB] Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with—not until the end of all things.
[CEV] Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a period or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen.
QUESTION: Jesus says that even if “Heaven and earth” disappear, what “must happen”?
ANSWER: Everything written in the Law and the Prophets must happen! The commands of the Law were totally obeyed by Jesus, and the predictions of the Prophets about Him came absolutely to pass.
Matthew 5:19) [GNB] So then, whoever disobeys even the least important of the commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be least in the Kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys the Law and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of heaven.
[CEV] If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom.
QUESTIONS: What does “will be least in the Kingdom of heaven” mean? Will there be different classes of citizenship in Heaven? If you disobeyed “even the least important of the commandments,” will you be a second-class citizen in Heaven?
Barnes suggests that “the Kingdom of heaven” referred to here is the church, and that “least important” refers to the fact that the one who teaches this error will not be regarded as a legitimate teacher.
The Believer’s Bible Commentary suggests that this is a teaching about Heaven, and that the reason those who teach this error are not excluded from Heaven is because we are saved by faith, not by sound doctrine.
MY ANSWERS: I agree with the BBC. Jesus is referring to Heaven. So, if you and I haven’t obeyed all of the commandments, where does that put us? It puts us in Heaven as a result of the fact that Jesus kept ALL of the commandments, and gave us the credit for it.
Matthew 5:20) [GNB] I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.
[CEV] You must obey God’s commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don’t, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
Albert Barnes says,
“He mentions the Scribes, because they were the more learned part of the people, who were employed in writing out, and expounding the law; and the Pharisees, because they were the strictest sect among the Jews for outward religion and righteousness; and yet, it seems, their righteousness was very defective; it lay only in an external observance of the law; did not arise from a purified heart, or the principles of grace; nor was it performed sincerely, and with a view to the glory of God; but for their own applause, and in order to obtain eternal life.”
The BBC says,
“To gain entrance into the kingdom, our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (who were content with religious ceremonies which gave them an outward, ritual cleansing, but which never changed their hearts). Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggeration) to drive home the truth that external righteousness without internal reality will not gain entrance into the kingdom. The only righteousness that God will accept is the perfection that He imputes to those who accept His Son as Savior (2Co_5:21). Of course, where there is true faith in Christ, there will also be the practical righteousness that Jesus describes in the remainder of the Sermon.”
NOTE: The command of God that we must obey in order to gain entrance into Heaven in the command to be born again.
ANOTHER NOTE: Jesus will be called the greatest in Heaven!
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church