The History of the Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments are at the very heart of the gospel.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
- John 14:15 (KJV)
The Ten Commandments are summarized by the two great commandments.
Love God =
- No other gods
- No idols
- No blasphemy
- Keep the Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset)
Love your neighbor =
- Honour your father and mother
- No murder
- No adultery
- No stealing
- No lying
- No coveting
For the full version of the Ten Commandments, please click here.
All law and the prophets hang on these commandments.
The Ten Commandments are the only law ever given to man directly from God (written in stone with His own finger).
The Ten Commandments are a reflection of the eternal never-changing character of God.
Any violation of the Ten Commandments is called sin.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
- 1 John 3:4 (KJV)
God hates sin.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Romans 6:23 (KJV)
Even if we offend in one point, we're still guilty of breaking all of it.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
- James 2:10 (KJV)
Sin started with satan.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
- 1 John 3:8 (KJV)
Satan existed (as Lucifer) before the creation of our world, e.g. he was in heaven with the other angels.
Even angels keep the Ten Commandments.
Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
- Psalms 103:20 (KJV)
Lucifer was perfect until iniquity was found in him.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
- Ezekiel 28:15 (KJV)
Satan's sin was coveting, e.g. he wanted to be like the most High (God).
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
- Isaiah 14:12-17 (KJV)
Satan wants to be worshipped.
If a person has a loving relationship with God, and satan wants that person to worship him, he first has to break up that relationship.
With that in mind he approached Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve
When God created Adam and Eve, they only had knowledge of good (and not of evil).
God essentially filtered out anything that would break His law. For example, the thought to steal would have never come to the minds of Adam and Eve. In that way they kept God's commandments perfectly.
God also created Adam and Eve with free will, and He said to them, you can have knowledge of evil, but you will surely die.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
- Genesis 2:17 (KJV)
Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a very deliberate expression of their decision. Not something that could happen by accident. The tree represents a conscious decision.
The knowledge of good is essentially what the Ten Commandments are.
Satan told Adam and Eve that if they were to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would be like God.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
- Genesis 3:1-5 (KJV)
This is only partially true however. Yes God has knowledge of good and evil, but His righteousness stops Him from doing evil.
That's quite a powerful point to consider.
Our righteousness is simply not good enough to make the distinction between good and evil.
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
- Isaiah 64:6 (KJV)
That's why God was keeping the knowledge of evil from Adam and Eve.
From Bad to Worst
Without God's righteousness things just went from bad to worst.
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
- Genesis 4:8 (KJV)
At that time the Ten Commandments were taught mostly orally. Adam's generation was smart enough to remember them.
If there had been no understanding of the law, then Cain would have been innocent of murder, but instead he knew it was wrong, and he was punished for it (cursed in fact).
And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
- Genesis 4:11-12 (KJV)
Then things went really bad...
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
- Genesis 6:6-7 (KJV)
The Flood destroyed man from the face of the earth. Only Noah and his family survived.
The Old Covenant
Before the Ten Commandments were written in stone they were passed around mainly orally.
Here's an example of Abraham keeping the commandments.
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
- Genesis 26:5 (KJV)
Here's an example of the Jews keeping the sabbath before Mount Sinai.
And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.
- Exodus 16:23-30 (KJV)
And here's an example of Moses teaching God's law to the Jews.
When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.
- Exodus 18:16 (KJV)
All that happened well before Mount Sinai when God wrote down the Ten Commandments in stone for all to see.
A very powerful way of saying "These are My commandments, and they are of great importance".
A strong reminder really. Not something that was only ever passed to the Jews.
The law of Moses (600+ laws) however was specifically given for the Jews for that time.
It is the law of Moses that was nailed to the cross, but never the Ten Commandments.
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
- Colossians 2:14 (KJV)
The tablets of stone (with the Ten Commandments) were placed in the ark of the covenant.
- By Ron Wyatt / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
The ark of the covenant was then placed in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle/temple.
- Architectural model of the temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem by Thomas Newberry / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0
The tabernacle/temple are like a copy of how things work in Heaven.
Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
- Hebrews 8:5 (KJV)
The above is a clear illustration of how incredibly important the Ten Commandments are to God.
God was quite close to the Jews, and things improved greatly for a while, but eventually the Jews fell back into disobedience, and a new covenant had to be made.
The old covenant shows that no matter how hard man tries to keep the commandments, they just can't. As long as there is free will and the knowledge of evil things just go wrong.
We need help!
The New Covenant
To understand the plan of salvation we need to understand Jesus.
Consider this rule:
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
- Hebrews 9:22 (KJV)
God is saying that we are all sinners, and that to get saved we need someone to take our place. God also says that that person has to be without spot, e.g. without sin.
That rules out mankind, and because of the gravity of our sins, the angels are ruled out as well.
So God decided to do this by Himself.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- John 3:16 (KJV)
If we believe that we are sinners, that God loves us that much, and is willing to forgive us, we are saved, and shall have eternal life.
Note that this conversion or repentance requires some soul searching, e.g. most people are simply not willing to accept that they are sinners (acknowledging that God's law is better than their own).
Satan tried very hard to stop Jesus from becoming our Lord and Saviour. If Jesus had sinned only once, He would not have been acceptable as a sacrifice for us. Fortunately, Jesus did not sin, and persisted even unto death on a cross.
That was the victory of the cross.
Jesus also established the new covenant on the cross.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
- Hebrews 8:10-13 (KJV)
Important to understand here is that the Ten Commandments were not done away with, but were simply written on our mind and heart instead.
Animal sacrifice stopped, and Jesus became the Lamb of God.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
- John 1:29 (KJV)
Jesus died once and for all.
By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
- Hebrews 10:10 (KJV)
Again, the Ten Commandments were not done away with by any means. Jesus fulfilled them perfectly.
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.
- Matthew 5:17-18 (KJV)
And again here.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
- Matthew 19:16-19 (KJV)
And again here.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
- Matthew 22:36-40 (KJV)
Love is the fulfillment of the law.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
- Romans 13:10 (KJV)
The Ten Commandments are not burdensome.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
- Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)
The knowledge that our forefathers had about the Ten Commandments has largely been forgotten.
Christians may understand the two great commandments (Love God, Love neighbour), but they no longer understand the link to the actual Ten Commandments.
For example. Most Christians no longer keep the Sabbath, even though Jesus clearly did.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
- Luke 4:16 (KJV)
By now it should be fairly obvious that we can not save ourselves, but what then is the solution?
The answer is: the Holy Spirit.
When we believe in Jesus, we are actually baptized with the Holy Spirit.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
- Matthew 3:16-17 (KJV)
It's hard to explain how the Holy Spirit works, but it's a bit like having an angel on your shoulder saying "Are you sure you want to do that?".
In that sense we are led by the Holy Spirit.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
- Romans 8:14 (KJV)
Us + Holy Spirit = Child of God
Our body is like a temple for the Holy Spirit to live in.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
- 1 Corinthians 6:19 (KJV)
Note that it specifically says "the temple of the Holy Spirit".
Currently we are led by the Holy Spirit, but we still have free will to do evil. There still is sin.
In heaven the Holy Spirit will simply filter out all the things that would end up breaking the Ten Commandments, and we will be like how Adam and Eve were.
It is the Holy Spirit that can help us fulfill the Ten Commandments to the required standard.
In Heaven there will be no more knowledge of evil, and no more sin.
We will be judged by the Ten Commandments.
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
- Revelation 11:18-19 (KJV)
The ark of His testament is another name for the ark of the covenant.
The ark was called the ark of the covenant, or testament, because it was made for the express purpose of containing the tables of the testimony, or ten commandments. (Exodus 25: 16, 31: 18; Deuteronomy 10: 2, 5.) It was put to no other use, and owed its name solely to the fact that it contained the tables of the law. If it did not contain the tables, it would not be the ark of God's testament, and could not truthfully be so called. Yet John, beholding the ark in heaven under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, still calls it the "ark of His testament," affording unanswerable proof that the law is still there, unaltered in one jot of tittle from the copy which for a time was committed to the care of men in the typical ark of the tabernacle during the time of Moses.
- Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation, p. 219
The Bible speaks about the wedding of Jesus and His bride (the Church).
The Bible also speaks of man and woman becoming "one flesh".
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
- Genesis 2:24 (KJV)
You can also look at this from a spiritual point of view.
What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 6:16-18 (KJV)
So, for me, the wedding is a coming together of Jesus' sinless nature, and who we are.
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
- 1 John 4:16 (KJV)
I hope that makes sense.
It's impossible to look at the gospel without looking at the Ten Commandments. They simply are who God is.
Some people will claim to "know" God, but if they don't keep the Ten Commandments, then they don't know Him at all.
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
- 1 John 2:3-6 (KJV)
God is gradually bringing us back to the way things were (with Adam and Eve).
In the last days the Ten Commandments will take on a central role once again.
Do we need to keep the Ten Commandments? And if so, what about the Sabbath? And what is the mark?
God's moral law is elegant, and is far superior to that of man.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
- Matthew 7:12 (KJV)
Maybe we should trust God when it comes to the Ten Commandments?