Trouble Breaking Into Church With Messianic Prophesy

daniel“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Daniel 9:24-27 (NASB)

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4-6 (NASB)

Tales of the Messianic Era series

The previous entry is The Obscured Messiah in the Bible.

Last Wednesday night, my Pastor and I got through the majority of Chapter 8 (it’s not a long chapter and only covers Galatians 2:11-14) in D. Thomas Lancaster’s book The Holy Epistle of the Galatians. We disagreed so much about the content, that I apologized for seeming so oppositional. We continue to “butt heads” over the purpose and function of the Torah in the lives of the Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah in the Apostolic age and beyond.

But we got sidetracked again. Pastor asked me about the nature and function of “the Church,” the collection of Jewish and Gentile disciples of Messiah. I knew Pastor saw the Church as separate from Judaism…well, sort of, but I had no idea how separate it was supposed to be.

From my point of view, “the Church,” the body of Jewish and Gentile disciples of Messiah, is the logical extension of Biblical and historic Judaism that began with Abraham and was formalized in law at Sinai. Judaism has always looked forward to Messiah, so when Jesus was revealed as Moshiach, it wasn’t a departure from Jewish history but rather, the fulfillment of Jewish hopes and dreams. Of course, that fulfillment isn’t really filled full and it won’t be until his second advent when he will establish his reign of peace in Israel and across the entire world.

messiah-prayerSo if Jewish discipleship in Messiah is the natural and logical extension of Jewish history in the first century CE, then what was Gentile discipleship? I’ve said over and over that it was a major chore for Paul and the other Apostles to figure out a way to legally include Gentile disciples into the community of Jewish faith in Messiah without requiring that they convert to Judaism through the ritual of the proselyte and become obligated to the full yoke of Torah (and my Pastor and I also continue to debate what the Torah is and what purpose it has in Judaism) in the manner of the Jews.

It’s like Israel is the main event and enters through the front door of the mansion, while Gentiles get to come in but have to be admitted through the side entrance near the kitchen (but once we’re in, we’re in). I know that’s an unflattering image for most Christians, but that’s how the Bible reads. Going to the Old Testament (Tanakh), all of the prophesies about Messiah and what he will do emphasize blessings for Israel, not particularly for “the Church” (since “the Church” isn’t even a glimmer in any prophet’s eye in the Tanakh), but thanks to a single line in the Abrahamic covenant, the Gentiles in the world will receive blessings as well.

Did you get that? Israel is the main beneficiary of the blessings of the Messiah and the rest of the world benefits from the “spillover,” so to speak.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
“For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.
“Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Isaiah 60:1-3 (NASB)

I’ve said before that only a single verse in Genesis 12 links the people of the nations to the Abrahamic covenant, and it is only that verse that allows us to have a connection with God at all, through our faith in Messiah. All of the conditions of all of the covenants God made with Israel continue forward in time and, although major sections of the Torah are held in abeyance until such time as the Messiah comes, rebuilds the Temple, re-establishes the priesthood and the Sanhedrin, and ascends the Throne of David, everything else that God “covenanted” with the Jewish people remains in effect.

So how did the tail end up being the head? How did the Church get to think of itself as first and the Jewish people second.

Here, I’ll give you an example. Let’s go back to my conversation with Pastor about the Church and all that must occur when Messiah returns.

rapturePastor, like most Christians, believes that when Messiah comes, all members of the Church, Jews and Gentiles alike, will be taken up into the air with him and be raptured to Heaven. And there we’ll stay. Meanwhile, a lot of bad, ugly things will be happening on the earth. Lots of people will be “left behind” and many will come to faith at that time. But they won’t be “the Church”. According to Pastor, they’ll be believers, but they’ll form a distinct group outside of the Church. The Church at that time will be in Heaven with Christ. Only believers and non-believers will be on earth enduring the tribulation.

Pastor said he wasn’t sure of the timing, but that all of the Israelites, the ancient Jewish people who lived and died before the first advent of Christ, will be resurrected and they will stay on earth. They are “believers” but not the Church. They will have a special and unique role as the 144,000 (Revelation 7:4-8), but the Church disappears from the face of the planet with Jesus and they (we?) don’t return until Jesus returns, all the way down into Revelation 20. But how can Israel, the Jewish people, be fractured into two groups: those who are in the Church in Heaven, and those who are “mere” believers on earth? Abraham saw Messiah’s day (John 8:56) but he lived before the first advent. Does that mean Abraham is in Heaven as part of the Church or on earth as a “believer?” It all doesn’t make sense.

No wonder my Sunday school teacher balked when I said his calling the people of the nations in Zechariah 14:16 “unsaved Gentiles” was anachronistically projecting a “Christianism” into the Jewish text. But then again, I still think my teacher was wrong, because according to both him and Pastor, it is possible for people to come to faith during the Messianic reign, although they won’t be part of “the Church,” they will still be “saved.”

But I’ve got a problem. Whenever I read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets who speak of Messiah, I get one picture. But when I read Revelation and the sections of the Gospels and Epistles that mention the second coming of Jesus, I get a faintly related but mainly different picture.

I’ve avoided the whole issue of the second coming and the “end times” for most of my “career” as a believer because, frankly, I’ve met so many “nuts” in the Hebrew Roots movement who were incredibly obsessed about “the end times” and who weaved all kinds of bizarre scenarios around it. However, if I ever hope to understand the past, present, and future of the Jewish Messiah King, I’m going to have to take all this head on.

My Sunday school class just finished a multi-week inventory of the end times, the Messianic age, and the final events leading into eternity, but I prefer a fresh look at the material. I’m probably not going to throw myself headlong into the subject if, for no other reason, than the only information sources I have immediately handy are Christian sources (I know that sounds strange, but how does Judaism in general and Messianic Judaism in particular treat this topic?).

walking-into-churchAfter nearly a year of going back to church (although I guess I’ve been a part of “the Church” all along), I still find it hard to break into the church. Break into the church? I mean I still lack the ability to take on traditionally Christian concepts and doctrines with any amount of ease. I question everything. Everything seems strange or at least unanticipated. Is it just my ignorance of the Bible and how to interpret it, or has the Church become so comfortable with its historic perspectives that it has lost the ability (or the will) to ask itself if it could possibly be wrong?

I’m going to have to “cut and paste” everything the Bible says about the future Messianic age together on one page to even begin to make sense of it. Is there any hope of reconciling the prophesies of the Jewish Messiah in the Tanakh with the prophesies about the risen Christ in the New Testament?

“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”

Lenny Bruce

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30 thoughts on “Trouble Breaking Into Church With Messianic Prophesy”

  1. Hi James. I wouldn’t be so sure about “Gentiles get to come in but have to be admitted through the side entrance near the kitchen”. If you are in Christ, that is, Messiah, then you belong to Him, and are part of His tribe, Judah. Aren’t you member of His family also? Aren’t you a fellowcitizen with Israel? (Eph 2:19)

  2. Fellow citizens in the Kingdom yes but tribe of Judah, no. Non-Jewish believers never become part of an tribe of Israel. According to Amos 9:11-12, when we become believers, we are the people of the nations who are called by His Name. I’m not trying to minimize our status in Messiah, but I am trying to illustrate that the church doesn’t come first and the Jewish people second.

  3. There is a pretty decent treatment of dispensationalism and the various end-times scenarios (pre-trib, post-trib) in Harvey’s book “Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology” (Chapter 8). Kendall Soulen does a good job of fundamentally exposing why the standard canonical model of Church theology ends up using a dispensational model of one kind or another as opposed to a more Biblical model of Israel’s *key* role throughout time, even after Messiah returns, in Hashem’s plan for the redemption of the cosmos.

    As far as non-Jews coming in through the “side door”…. the nations will come under Israel’s covenant as fellow heirs (this is my read of Romans 8 and 11. So if by “side door” you meant grafted in, fellow heirs by faith, then… OK. But they aren’t exactly sneaking in the kitchen door. 🙂

  4. James: You say “Non-Jewish believers never become part of an tribe of Israel”… but Paul wrote “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” (Eph 2:19) What does it mean to be household of God?

  5. Alfredo, we are fellow heirs of the promise of salvation and peace, but that doesn’t make one a tribal member. You can’t convert to a tribe, which is why, in the days of Moses, if a non-Israelite wanted to join, as resident aliens, they began to observe the mitzvot but were not accepted as part of any tribe. That’s why God instructed the Israelites to not withhold charity from the widow, the orphan, or the Gerim. None of them independently had an inheritance.

    However, by the time of Jesus, most tribal and clan (but not all) affiliation had been lost and the ritual of the convert was created. However, in Messiah, Gentiles don’t have to be converted to Judaism in order to enjoy the blessings of covenant membership. This does not mean we are tribal members since we are joined to God by the Abrahamic covenant, not the Sinai covenant. The best we can say of ourselves is that we are spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham.

    I’ll have to re-read the section of Boaz Michael’s book Twelve Gates to answer your question about where do the nations enter.

    Karen, I used the “kitchen door” analogy to emphasize (or over-emphasize) the significance of Israel in the covenants relative to the rest of the world. Quite frankly, if Israel isn’t redeemed, then it’s impossible for the rest of the world to be redeemed. They are the doorway and more specifically Israel’s firstborn son, Messiah is the entryway.

  6. Here is a fatal flaw of dispensationalism:

    Dispensationalism insists that Israel and the Church are two different entities. So if you take me, an Israelites, when I became a believer, according to them I now belong to the Church and no more Israel, since I cannot belong to these two separate entities at the same time. So, when all Israel will be saved (according to Paul (Rom. 11:26), they all will be members of the Church, and there will be no more Israel. This is replacement theology in revers….

  7. @alfredo — The assignment of names to gates in the new Jerusalem does not mean that only one specific tribe may enter by each gate. At present, we have a Damascus Gate, but no one traveling to or from Damascus is expected to depart from or enter solely via that gate. And similarly, there is little or no dung sent through the Dung Gate, though a great many tourists pass through it. In other words, the honor conferred by a gate name has no bearing upon who may use that gate. So it may be that non-Jews may choose whichever gate pleases them to enter the city.

  8. I thoroughly relate, James. Have you tried the ‘Lost In Translation’ three-part series? (Available at Amazon) The second book is a treatment of the Book of Revelation, from a totally Jewish perspective. You might find it helpful. I recommend all three books; each stands alone, but the three are interconnected.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  9. @James and @PL : Thanks! That means that I don’t have to enter through the kitchen door ! (Which is by the way, the first thing that I said…)

  10. @alfredo — You really might want to reconsider that kitchen door — remember that’s where the Jewish food is to be found. [Yum! :)]

  11. @PL Ha Ha Ha !!! I can relate to your comment, since my wife just told me that lunch is ready … So I’m heading toward the kitchen !!! Not worrying through which door I will get there !!! Shavua Tov !!!

  12. James, LOVED the pithy and true Lenny Bruce quote. My wife & I are disabled believers who don’t attend church. I’m studying Torah & Rashi to get a more Jewish view. I see your point about the disparity between Gentile theology and Messianic & Rabbinic theology. Do you have a Messianic shul near you to attend? They MAY have answers, though your study should help too. G-d bless!

  13. Very much a human perspective … Please … take time to simply ask Yeshua The Messiah … He is The Alef – Tav and will answer all your questions … Not always what you want or others want to hear but very Scriptural – Tanakh and New Covenant …
    My challenge and personal advise as follower of Yeshua , pastor, Prophet, Crisis Counselor and Scriptures Yeshua disciple …,
    Yeshua asked the disciples ” to spend an hour … 3 times ” … He did or said nothing except The Heavenly Father showed Him or told Him … If you really want to follow Him … This is the only way … ” Learn of Him … That is why He died to give us direct access … When He explains anything to you … It accomplishes what He sends His words to do …
    Please feel free to Contact me any time …
    My wife was a messianic fulfilled Jew …, niece of a Shindler’s list survivor, prophetess , worship leader, … Singer … Who i saw walk into heaven with Yeshua
    Shalom Alecheim

  14. I agree that the names upon the twelve gates do not limit who may enter; they simply acknowledge the tribes and their inheritance, as was done previously. Following the exodus from Egypt, those of the mixed multitude, who were not descended from Israel, gained an inheritance among the tribe where they sojourned. But, there is a difference between a servant like Hagar, who was contrary in spirit and ended up departing, with her child, and Elazar, who joined his fate with Avraham and worshipped his master’s God, as well as serving him.

    So, I don’t see where there are two brides. It is likely the ecclesia is much the same as the kehillah. The called out ones among the gentiles and Jews, as the community of the faithful of ancient Israel.

    Just as in the wilderness, each person came before the elders and was supernaturally given from heaven the knowledge of what tribe he was from (you can imagine the mixing and confusion during 400 years of slavery) it is likely that those who have been dispersed among the nations will also have their tribal heritage revealed. I am not supporting 2 House stuff here.

    I would also add that HR, devoid of Jews and Jewish history is a fraud, similar to British Israelism. It is not enough to “cross-over,” and leave paganism, one must join and cleave voluntarily to the Jewish people, by sojourning among us with the heart of a servant. Whether this seems fair or not to our tree of knowledge of good and evil thinking isn’t relevant.

  15. @alfredo: The kitchen door reference was used for emphasis. I didn’t think people would take it so literally. I do agree with PL though, that it’s not such a bad place to hang out because of the food.

    @David: No actual Messianic synagogues anywhere near here. We have a number of Hebrew Roots congregations, but I left an HR congregation for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to spare my Jewish wife’s feelings (she’s not a believer) since she’s involved in the local Jewish community. I ran across the Lenny Bruce quote by chance and used it because it seemed to fit.

    @Paul: I’m not sure what you’re suggesting relative to my commentary about the challenge of engaging a Christian viewpoint on the Messianic Era vs a more Jewish perspective. However, thanks for the advice and offer. A friend of mine has been “coaching” me in terms of drawing nearer to God. If you’ll stop by for tomorrow’s “morning meditation,” that blog comments on this aspect of my life right now.

    It’s been a long day folks and I have an early morning tomorrow. G’night.

  16. Great post, my friend. And I can relate to your struggle with trying to wrap your brain around the Christian teachings related to the second coming. To be fair, I think that every denomination (maybe every church?) has their own perspective on the subject and many of them are very different from the others. What you described is not totally new to my hearing, but more unfamiliar than other theories I’ve been exposed to. The bottom line is that prophecy isn’t supposed to be “church sanctioned fortune telling” but it is a call to repentance with a glimpse of what the future holds if one or the other path is chosen. Kind of like a parent telling a child, “Do what I told you to do or you’ll get in trouble.” A popular Rabbi told me once that “Negative prophecies don’t have to be fulfilled, they serve as a warning if the course isn’t changed and repentance isn’t sought.”
    What you are doing in your discussions with the Pastor, and through your blog, is opening up dialogue and presenting a perspective that is different than what one may have always been exposed to. You are doing a very good thing, and I think it reaches farther than you may know. I’m convinced that when Messiah comes, we will ALL be surprised and have a lot to learn (and unlearn). Not any one of us will have figured it all out and stand up to say, “See! I told you!” Different ones will have to learn different things, some things will be completely unfamiliar and others will be vaguely familiar (such as the majority of the Church learning Torah and others learning more specifics to it or how it should be applied). None of us know for certain how it will all play out but when it does we’ll look back and see how it exactly fits what was foretold. Prophecy isn’t fortune telling, it’s designed to show us that Hashem keeps His word as we submit to Him even when tough things happen.
    As to identity, it’s a subject that our family has thought much about and we have come to some conclusions that have brought us a lot of peace. It really is okay to be a Non-Jew in the Kingdom of Messiah. 🙂

  17. I agree that the Bible doesn’t offer the Church the opportunity to engage in “fortune telling,” but the Church always seems to feel it necessary to “have all the answers.” I can be as dogmatic as the next person (see this coming Thursday’s “extra meditation” for examples) but it seems that fundamentalists go out of their way to be dogmatic.

    It’s interesting that you quote “a popular Rabbi” as saying that negative prophesies don’t have to be fulfilled. Look at Jonah at Nineveh. He made a “negative prophesy” against the great city, but the city repented and God spared Nineveh. How is our future at the approach of Messiah different than we fear, and how can our doing teshuvah avert an evil decree?

    As far as being a non-Jewish in the Kingdom of Messiah, I know that there is abundant provision for this in scripture. And yet, what I read is so much more…”Jewish” than I experience inside the walls of my little, local church.

  18. Personally, I think that the need to be “right” comes from our millennia-old identity crisis. I’ve noticed that once we began to understand who we are from a Biblical perspective, as in based on what we read in the entire Bible, that we began to be less concerned with being ‘right’ and bashing everyone else over the head with what we think is right, and we became more able to simply love others and allow them to be where they are in their journeys. And you’re right about Jonah, I hadn’t thought of that when I was writing. Good point! And YES – how can our future be different than what we seem to understand it might be if we “Repent, for the Kingdom of G-d is at hand”? (does anyone else seem to think that this is a MAJOR perspective to consider?)
    I don’t know that the church will ever adopt enough to feel very “Jewish” in it’s expression. And I think that is okay. I have some ideas that have been percolating since last winter that I hope to write about one day this week, if I can find the time. I’d love to get your thoughts on those things once I can put them into words.

  19. I’ve noticed that once we began to understand who we are from a Biblical perspective, as in based on what we read in the entire Bible, that we began to be less concerned with being ‘right’ and bashing everyone else over the head with what we think is right, and we became more able to simply love others and allow them to be where they are in their journeys.

    I’m reminded of a story I heard once about the creation of the theory of thermodynamics. Scientists were struggling to come up with a way to describe the “behavior” of heat, but they were stymied. At some point, one of the scientists said they could pretend that heat was a liquid, like water, apply what they knew about how liquids behave to heat and run a few tests.

    Sure enough, when they pretended heat was a liquid and tested its behavior on that basis, it really did act as if it were a liquid. Then theories and laws were written about heat based on pretending it was a liquid.

    Eventually, the scientific community forgot it was just pretending heat was a liquid for the sake of convention and finally just declared “heat if a liquid.”

    That’s how I see Christianity (and probably all other religions) a lot of times. They forget that their dogma started out as a sort of theological hypothesis, a theory about what the scripture “might” mean. At some point, they (and I know I’m being incredibly generalist here) decided that the theory and interpretation was actually truth and fact. It’s set in cement.

  20. @Lisa : Shalom Lisa. I just wanted to thank you for your blog. Back in 2010, when the Lord started to show me the Jewish origin of our faith, out of nowhere, I felt as if I was getting nut !

    Since I live in El Salvador, didn’t have any idea of all the Messianic Jewish movement that has been happening for some time. So I felt as if I was alone in this “new” understanding of scriptures…

    So when I began to search in Internet, your blog was the first I remember reading, and I felt relieved that I was not “alone” in this journey… So I just wanted to let you know about this. Thanks again !!!

  21. This is a basic that I need to keep reminding myself of: Greeks learn to understand; Hebrews learn to revere. We are still caught in that Greek mindset. @Lisa, what is your blog?

    I have some thoughts that I am going to need to organize into some sort of coherent article and make them mesh.

    1. The fullness of the gentiles and the times of the gentiles, are likely related to ten men taking a hold of the tzitzit of one Jew and saying, “We will go with you because we know God is with you.” No, the institutional church is not going to change, but there are those being called out. But it is not just a matter of being called out, but being called to; leaving and cleaving. No one will find salvation or blessing outside of joining themselves to Israel. There are Hagars and Elazars. That might be how I need to focus the article, just like I wrote an article comparing Sauls, Davids and Samuels? Thank you James, and all of you, for stirring my thoughts.

  22. Shalom Alfredo ~
    Thank you for telling me your story. That encourages me and warms my heart quite a bit! And what is neat, I think, is that a young man who has become a very good friend of our family is from El Salvador. This world is small and our Father is Lord of it all. 🙂 May you be blessed and encouraged on your journey.

    Chaya1957 ~
    If you click on my name it will take you to my blog.
    I don’t know that the institutional church won’t change. There is a lot of change in many of the seminary studies now that indicate that as these young men (and women, too, I assume) begin to lead that they will bring with them the concepts of the Jewishness of our Master, and of Paul, and other things that will grow from that. I have friends who are Pastors teaching Torah in various denominations all over the United States. There is a lot happening in the Christian world that is difficult to see unless you can step back far enough and are privileged to see certain things. But, you are correct, I believe, in that no one will find blessing or saving outside of Israel.

  23. The fullness of the gentiles and the times of the gentiles, are likely related to ten men taking a hold of the tzitzit of one Jew and saying, “We will go with you because we know God is with you.” No, the institutional church is not going to change, but there are those being called out. But it is not just a matter of being called out, but being called to; leaving and cleaving.

    I’ve wondered how to interpret that scripture given that I couldn’t see people in church suddenly grasping the tzitzit of a Jewish man and asking to follow him. And yet the prophesy exists. Are we to think that at some point, Christians will leave their traditional venues to follow (Messianic) Jews? Of course, this could refer to “unsaved” Gentiles who are not affiliated with Christianity, but then why would they approach a Jewish person instead of a Christian. The implications aren’t pretty.

  24. You should ask Michael Clayton about this. He said he was volunteering in Judea and Samaria, and got into a heated discussion with one of the residents. Michael grabbed a hold of the man’s tzitzit, without thinking. With a look of shock in his eyes, the man stopped him and said, “What did you just do?” The man saw this as a fulfillment of prophecy. But I suppose you see this in a symbolic sense, as many among the nations are seeking to learn about God through the Jews or through Jewish ways. That doesn’t mean they always get things right. If there are 13.5 million Jews in the world, then it would be reasonable that 135 million gentiles will go this route. We see the growing Noahide movement, conversion to Judaism, gentiles in MJ and HR. Some leave the church, a few explore torah or Jewish roots within churches (such as John Garr’s ministry and John Parsons of Hebrew4Christians as a source of enrichment, so it is not so threatening. Many gentiles are turning to Jewish sources, rather than “the church,” and it is likely because they see a depth of spirituality, intellectual discourse and community you don’t find in most churches. You are right about the implications. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ; I don’t like your Christians.” Although one can say the same thing about Judaism, especially if you have Orthodox relatives.

  25. Actually, I think some balance will be introduced in the future whereby Christians will understand Jewish spirituality and the Jewish Messiah in a much better way than right now. Most Christians tend to see themselves at the top of the food chain, so to speak, but I think we’ll come to realize that the act of taking the fringes of a Jewish man and asking to learn about God makes us students, not teachers.

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