What Can We Learn from the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings Verse?

Contributing Writer
What Can We Learn from the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings Verse?

In one verse, Jesus talks about fulfilling everything from the law, the prophets, and the writings.

Christ accomplished many things with his earthly life. First, he healed and spoke the truth within his time and context, and his death and resurrection opened the way for salvation. Second, these works initiated the Kingdom coming to earth, which will one day culminate in a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21).

Yet because the eternal God became human within time, he also fulfilled the inspired Old Testament writings, summarized within “the law, the prophets, and the writings.” All Old Testament truth and prophecy must be fulfilled. God’s word is never spoken in vain (Isaiah 55:11). It always accomplishes its purpose.

Where Is the Law the Prophets and the Writings Verse in the Gospels?

The closest reference to this phrase is in Luke 24:44, where Jesus engages his disciples after the resurrection. He says, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” Here, Jesus explains how his life, death, and resurrection fulfilled Scriptures they would have understood as the Old Testament. He uses this comprehensive reference to emphasize that all parts of the Jewish Scriptures pointed to him and were fulfilled in him, underscoring the Old Testament’s unified and prophetic Messianic message.

Jesus also says in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” This comes from the Sermon on the Mount, and Christ emphasizes that his teachings don’t reject the Law but fulfill their purpose, bringing them to completion. By affirming the Law and the Prophets, Jesus highlights his message’s continuity with the Old Testament and asserts his role in bringing their prophecies to completion.

In Matthew 22:40, Jesus summarizes the two greatest commandments: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Someone had asked Jesus which law was the greatest. He responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, emphasizing love for God and neighbor as the foundation of the whole law.

What Are the Works of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings?

Two thousand years ago, the Hebrew Scriptures were divided into three main sections:

  • The Law (Torah).
  • The Prophets (Nevi’im).
  • The Writings (Ketuvim).

The tripartite division, known as the Tanakh, encompassed all the sacred and authoritative books.

The Torah, or the Pentateuch, consists of the Bible’s first five books. These books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are the foundation for Jewish law, theology, and history. Jewish religious life and practice centered around these books. Jesus often referenced the Torah, as seen in Matthew 22:37-40 when he summarizes the Law with the commandments to love God and neighbor.

The Jews divided the Prophets into the Former and Latter Prophets.

  • The Former Prophets are Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings.
  • The Latter Prophets include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).

Even the books called “minor” carry significant importance. Jesus referenced the Prophets frequently, affirming their testimonies about him, as when he read from Isaiah in the synagogue (Luke 4:17-21).

The Writings span a diverse collection from poetry and wisdom to historical accounts and apocalyptic visions. These books are Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 & 2 Chronicles.

These books were integral to Jewish thought and worship, providing spiritual guidance and historical perspective. Jesus’ teaching acknowledged the authority of the Writings, referencing Psalms and other wisdom literature.

Today, we may group many of these books into different genres—such as history or poetry. While understanding the various genres helps us understand and interpret Scripture, the organization breaks down, as any organizational scheme will at some point. For example, Daniel is history, prophecy, and apocalyptic. 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles compile other writings, including recorded acts of kings and prophetic writings.

In Luke 24:44, when Jesus uses Psalms to refer to the “writings,” he uses a common strategy. For instance, when quoting from the Pentateuch, people would refer to “Moses” for the whole. Or, when bringing an oracle from Isaiah, Jews might say it was from “Jeremiah,” signifying the general prophetic category or scroll.

Why Did Jesus Say He Still Had to Fulfill the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings?

God had a plan the whole time.

In John 5:39-40, Jesus challenges the religious leaders, saying, “You search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life. But these are the scriptures that testify about me. But you wouldn’t come to me so that you might have life.” Jesus essentially claims the whole Old Testament points to him. Therefore, he must fulfill every book to prove himself the Messiah and ultimately redeem all creation.

The Law contains God’s commandments and instructions. Jesus perfectly embodied its moral and ethical teachings, sacrificial system, and ceremonial requirements. He became the substance of all symbols within and the righteousness no one could attain. By offering himself as the perfect sacrifice, he satisfied the Law’s requirements and more for full reconciliation. He completed the Law’s purpose, enabling believers to live in God’s grace and freedom.

Jesus fulfilled the Prophets in numerous ways. For instance, his birth realized Isaiah 7:14, prophesying a virgin bearing a son. The Suffering Servant described in Isaiah 53 found fulfillment in Jesus’ sacrificial death. By fulfilling the prophecies, Jesus confirmed his identity as the long-awaited Messiah and demonstrated God’s faithfulness to his promises. Jesus validated the words of the prophets through his life and actions, showing that he was the foretold.

Jesus also fulfilled the Writings. He quoted from the Psalms and preached the Kingdom spoken about in Daniel. This underscores the unity of all Scripture and their collective witness to God’s redemptive plan. The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings collectively point to his mission, which we enjoy today.

What Happened After Jesus Said He Had to Fulfill the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings?

Following this declaration in Matthew 5:17, Jesus continued his ministry of teaching, healing, and performing miracles. His actions consistently demonstrated prophetic messianic fulfillment and embodied God’s earthly kingdom.

Jesus’ earthly ministry culminated in the Passion—his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. During the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the New Covenant, symbolizing his impending sacrifice through the bread and wine (Luke 22:19-20). The closest reference to the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings occurs in Luke 22:44, after the resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples and many others over 40 days, teaching them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

Before ascending to heaven, he instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ ascension marked his physical departure and the beginning of his ongoing work through the Holy Spirit and the church. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, empowering them to preach the gospel boldly (Acts 2). This event marked the early church’s birth and Jesus’ fulfillment that his followers would receive power to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts chronicles the Gospel’s spread, the establishment of Christian communities, and the missionary journeys of Paul and others. The early church faced persecution but grew rapidly, driven by the apostles’ preaching, miracles, and the Holy Spirit’s transformative power.

Jesus continues to fulfill the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings by the Spirit of the Son within his people, from Acts to our modern times. And we continue to place our hope within the future fulfillment of the Kingdom Gospel, which Revelation shows us. This book reveals Jesus’ final victory and establishing God’s eternal kingdom. It ends in the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, where God dwells with his people, and there is no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:1-4). This eschatological vision highlights the complete and final fulfillment of all that the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings pointed toward.

What Can We Learn from the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings Verse?

The verse in which Jesus mentions the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings invites us to understand the Bible’s comprehensive nature and the fulfillment of all Scripture in Jesus Christ.

First, Jesus affirms different literary genres and categories. These genres help us read the Bible more accurately and gain deeper insights into its message. For example, legal texts in the Torah provide ethical and moral guidelines and illustrate God’s covenant relationship with his people. Prophetic writings often use symbolic language and imagery to convey God’s messages and future events. Wisdom literature, such as Proverbs, offers practical advice for godly living. Recognizing genres allows us to appreciate the diverse ways God communicates his truth and ensures we interpret each part of Scripture appropriately.

Second, Jesus is the focus and fulfillment of all Scripture. Jesus, God’s Word made flesh (John 1:14), perfectly fulfills the Old and New Testament Scriptures. His life, death, and resurrection complete the Law’s requirements, embody the prophetic promises, and bring the Writing’s wisdom and reflections to their ultimate conclusion. By fulfilling the Scriptures, Jesus confirms their divine inspiration, demonstrates the unity and coherence of God’s redemptive plan throughout history, and ensures we use these scriptures to engage in a relationship with him.

Third, recognizing Jesus as Scripture’s fulfillment and focus leads us to worship God alone. Deuteronomy 6:5 commands, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus reiterates this command in Matthew 22:37-40, emphasizing that loving God and loving our neighbor encapsulates all the Law and the Prophets.

Worshiping God alone means acknowledging his sovereignty, obeying his commandments, and following Jesus’ example. It involves living a life that reflects his holiness and love, with Jesus as our example. By worshiping God alone, we align ourselves with the ultimate purpose of the Scriptures and our existence—to glorify God and enjoy a relationship with the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ.

By studying the Bible with these perspectives, we grow in our faith, and live lives honoring God’s redemptive plan revealed in his Word.

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/VladimirZapletin

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. We hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in your life today.