What does Matthew 5:18 mean?
ESV: For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
NIV: For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
NASB: For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished!
CSB: For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished.
NLT: I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.
KJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus declared in the previous verse that He had not come to abolish the Jewish law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Despite claims of His critics (Matthew 12:2), Jesus' purpose was not to cast aside the words God gave to Israel. Instead, His mission was to complete the exact mission those words were meant to explain (Hebrews 8:6–8). In every way, Jesus accomplished what the law demanded and fulfilled what the prophets predicted by the power of God.

Now Jesus adds forcefully that the law will not pass away, even a little bit, until everything in it is accomplished and until heaven and earth pass away. He has come to earth (Matthew 1:18) with the mission of accomplishing everything in the law. Much of this He will do through His teaching, sacrificial death, and resurrection (Mark 8:31). The rest, He will finally and fully complete in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth in the end times (Matthew 26:64).

Iota is the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet; modern English continues to use this as a metaphor for the tiniest measure of something. The word "dot" is translated from the Greek term keraia, referring to a tiny stroke of the pen. In Hebrew, similar tiny marks differentiated one letter from another. So, Jesus' point is that every letter of every word in the law would remain in effect until He accomplished everything in it (Hebrews 9:10–11; 10:1–4). He would do this by perfectly obeying every requirement of the law, dying as the final blood sacrifice for the sins of humanity, defeating death in the resurrection, then by fulfilling every prophecy about the promised Messiah in both His immediate time and in the future.
Verse Context:
Matthew 5:17–20 sets up an important point about the nature of sin. To do so, Jesus first declares that heaven's standard of righteousness is beyond human ability. His purpose is not to discard the law of Moses, but to accomplish the purpose for which the law was given. A cornerstone of Jesus' teaching is that man cannot earn salvation, since we cannot hope to be good enough. This passage sets the stage for this idea, through exaggeration. In order to earn the kingdom of heaven, a person must be even more righteousness than the scribes and Pharisees—that culture's ultimate standard for ''good behavior.'' In later passages, Christ will expand on how sin involves not only what we do, physically, but our thoughts and motivations.
Chapter Summary:
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus' most challenging teaching. It begins with the unlikely blessings of the Beatitudes. Jesus' disciples must do good works in order to be a powerful influence: as the salt of the earth and light of the world. The superficial righteousness of the Pharisees is not good enough to earn heaven. Sins of the heart, such as angry insults and intentional lust, are worthy of hell just as much as adultery and murder. Easy divorce and deceptive oaths are forbidden. Believers should not seek revenge. Instead, God intends us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. In short, we should strive to be perfect, as God is perfect.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 5 follows Matthew's description of the enormous crowds that were following Jesus (Matthew 4:25). One day, Jesus sits down on a hill to teach them, in an address we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He describes as blessed those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who are persecuted. Christ also explains how God's standards of righteousness go far beyond behaviors and speech; they also include our thoughts and attitudes. Meeting God's standards means perfection. Chapter 6 continues this sermon, with more examples of Jesus clarifying God's intent for godly living.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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