chanukah lights

If Israel is the Light of the World, What Happens to the Church, Part Two?

For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”

“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27 (NASB) quoting Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9 (see Septuagint); Jer. 31:33,34

The restoration of the Jewish people back to their land means that once and for all they will truly fulfill the prophecies of being a light to the nations, and HaShem’s salvation will extend to the ends of the earth. The Gentiles’ eyes will be opened, and their hearts will be directed to the people of Israel. They will flock to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel.

-Toby Janicki
“Light to the Nations,” p.49
Messiah Journal issue 118/Winter 2014

Yesterday, in Part One of this series, I presented Toby Janicki’s argument, or a portion of it, supporting the necessity of all Jewish exiles returning to the Land of Israel and having sovereignty over their Land under King Messiah as absolutely necessary for the Jewish people to fulfill their role of bringing the knowledge of ethical monotheism and the awareness that the God of Israel is the God of all Creation to the rest of the nations of the world, that is, the Gentiles…us.

But that seems to conflict with what the Church believes about their own mission of bringing the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ to the world. Nowhere in Christian theology are the Jews required for Earth’s salvation and rather, it is the Church that is supposed to be God’s primary agent for the redemption of all, including the Jews.

They can’t both be right, can they?

Before I answer that, I want to present more from what Toby wrote from Messiah Journal and then add another interpretation of this theme from another First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) author.

Although Toby didn’t draw the comparison, when I read his above-quoted words, I couldn’t help but think of Romans 11:25-27, since it seems obvious, at least to me, that when Jewish Israel is fully restored, the time of the Gentiles will indeed come to an end. But does that mean the end of the Church?

Perhaps so, for as Toby says:

When Messiah returns, Isaiah the prophet tells us that the nations will make pilgrimage to Jerusalem and that the Torah will go forth from Zion. Then the Jewish nation will teach Torah to the nations in the greatest capacity ever known…

-ibid, p.50

Toby quotes from Isaiah 2:2-3, Micah 4:1-2 and Zechariah 8:23 in support of his assertion as well as from the following:

Jerusalem will ultimately prepare a lantern for the nations of the world, and they will walk by her light. What is the reason? “Nations will come to your light.” Likewise, it says [in Isaiah 2:2], “The mountain of the house of the LORD will be established [as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it].”

-b.Bava Batra 4a

You may think I (or Toby) am playing “dirty pool” by quoting the sages but the above-quoted passage seems to support what the Bible tells us. Of course, one interpretation is that when the prophets mention “the nations,” they aren’t talking about Gentile Christians but unbelieving Gentiles being brought to God (through coming to faith in Jesus). But the prophets don’t distinguish between two groups of nations, believing and unbelieving, and instead lump them (us) altogether.

You may explain this by either saying the Church is the “new Israel” or “spiritual Israel” in place of physical, tangible Israel and the Jewish people, or explain it away by saying all those Gentiles of Yeshua (Jesus) faith become Israel along with the Jewish people, thus forming a single nation composed of Jews and non-Jews.

Toby Janicki
Toby Janicki

My personal opinion is that neither of these explanations are correct, but where does that leave Gentile disciples of the Master?

Before I get to that, I’d like to use more of Toby’s article to support the absolute requirement of Messiah in God’s redemptive plan. At present, you could get the impression that besides his role of gathering the exiles and establishing Jewish sovereignty over national Israel, he really has little to do with being “a light to the nations.”

Yeshua, as a member of the Jewish nation, is the quintessential expression of being a light to the nations. He has brought Torah and the knowledge of God to the four corners of the earth.

-Janicki, p.51

This is the first place where I could insert the role of “the Church” in spreading the knowledge of God to the nations. Strictly speaking, in post-Biblical times, Judaism hasn’t been very active in recruiting proselytes, primarily because of a learned distrust of Gentiles. Christianity (representing Messiah, albeit from a highly non-Jewish point of view) has been quite active and at times aggressive to the point of violence in recruiting converts, particularly by forcing Jews to “confess Christ,” at least historically.

In spite of her crimes, there has always been a remnant of faithful Gentiles in the Church who have sincerely desired to share the good news of the Gospel with anyone who would listen. Even the Rabbinic sages have reluctantly admitted that Christianity and Islam have historically played a role in spreading knowledge of HaShem to an unbelieving and pagan world.

But as I’ve previously said, referencing Toby’s article, the role of Israel and even Messiah as a “light to the nations” will not reach fruition until national Jewish Israel is completely restored.

When Messiah inaugurates the Messianic Kingdom and sits on his throne in Jerusalem, he will truly be “a light for the nations” in its purest form. HaShem tells the Messiah, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Messiah “will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his Torah” (Isaiah 42:4). His righteous influence and rule will reach the ends of the earth.

-ibid

But if the Messiah and Israel will only fulfill their mission to be a light as the Messianic Age is established, what’s been going on for the past nearly two-thousand years? In my opinion, both Christianity and Judaism have been setting the stage, so to speak, for the Messiah’s return. Both religious streams, though not perfectly, have been building the scaffolding and laying the foundation stones for the coming construction of the Kingdom of God. We are to live as if the Messianic Kingdom were already here, though the King himself is in a distant land, tarrying there while we longingly wait for him.

The creation and continued existence of the modern Jewish state is one of the really big steps in Israel fulfilling her role, for the nation must exist before the Jewish people can return from exile. There has to be a Jerusalem for Messiah to ascend to the throne.

JudaismI believe Messianic Judaism is also a necessary step, for the movement in its various branches and flavors, in providing a platform for both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah to receive the Torah (see Acts 15:21 for Torah study as related to Gentiles) as it was intended to be taught to each of our people groups, and to comprehend through the Messianic lens the true intent of God and his plan of redemption, a plan that absolutely requires the nation of Israel to be made up of His chosen and treasured people, the Jews, with a remnant of those from the nations standing alongside, supporting Jewish teshuvah and return to the Torah, to Messiah, and to HaShem.

So we see that the unification of this now-exiled Shechinah is an important prayer in Jewish liturgical life. We also look forward to the unification of God’s name in the coming Messianic Era every week in synagogue liturgy after the recitation of the Aleinu. In the prayer entitled Al Ken, we quote Zechariah 14:9 when we say:

And it is said, “And HaShem shall be king over all the earth. On that day HaShem shall be one and his name one.”

-Jordan Levy
“Hareini Mekasher ‘I Hearby Join’,” p.71
Messiah Journal issue 118/Winter 2014

A common thread running through many of the articles contained within the current issue of Messiah Journal is the restoration of Israel and the return of the exiled Jewish people to their Land as ruled by King Messiah. Jordan, in her article bringing “deeper insights into an original Messianic prayer,” offers a more “mystic” viewpoint on the matter.

Jordan, citing a number of Biblical and Rabbinic sources including the famed Paul Philip (Feivel) Levertoff, mystically compares Messiah to the bread of life, the true light, and the Shechinah or the Divine Presence, what most Christian Bibles translate as “the Glory of the Lord.”

Continuing to discuss the Al Ken prayer, Jordan states:

Is HaShem not already one? Should we look forward to a day when he will be one? Is that day not already upon us? Scripture tells us that, in a sense, it has not yet arrived, for the Shechinah must unite with the Father, and this cannot fully happen until the Shechinah–which is within the people of Israel and with the people of Israel in exile–is reunited with all the people of Israel who are in the land, who are welcoming and calling back the Messiah to rule. On that day HaShem will truly be one, fully reunited with his Shechinah, and his name will be unified, the yud and the hey with the vav and the hey. The Shechinah and HaShem (the Messiah and the Father) will be inseparable, as they were during the act of creation (see John 1:1-10).

-ibid

Jordan approaches the same concept as does Toby, but from a radically different direction. While Christians believe only we possess the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God by virtue of our faith in Messiah, referencing the mystic interpretations of Messiah as bread and light, the sages believe that within each Jew is a portion of the original manna (bread) from God and the light of God as supernatural indications of the special and chosen nature of each individual Jew and as the entire nation of Israel as a whole.

It would seem then that the various necessary components of God’s redemptive plan, in some way, are all in “exile,” separated from one another, requiring reunification. This even includes Messiah as Shechinah, HaShem as the overarching “Ein Sof” God, as well as the Jewish people and even, I believe, the Gentiles.

I’ve mentioned before that I believe we Messianic Gentiles have a highly specific role to play relative to the Jewish people and national Israel. I believe the Christian Church in all its incarnations, has also been playing a role, preparing many Gentiles for the return of Messiah, though their particular conceptualization of who Messiah is and what he will do is (in my opinion) severely flawed.

Nevertheless, as I’ve also said before, I know of many in the Church who are true tzaddikim, righteous, holy people who do good to others and who revere God. They are the remnant of the righteous Gentiles in the ekklesia of Messiah, those who will see the face of Messiah and who do his will.

But what about the worldwide Church and what will happen to her with the coming of King Messiah and the establishment of his throne in Jewish Jerusalem? What happens to “Christianity” as a religion when they/we discover and realize that it is national Jewish Israel that is the light to the world and God’s primary agent in His plan of redemption.

I’ve previously presented my answer in blog posts such as The Church When Jesus Returns and When Jesus Returns Will We Go To Church. I believe that we Gentiles who maintain our faith into the Messianic Era will join with the other Gentiles in the ekklesia of Messiah and alongside Israel, taking our rightful place as the crowning jewels of the nations.

Of course, we’ll have to give up a few things, like the idea that “ekklesia” means “church”, that God wants us to wear tiny replicas of an ancient Roman form of execution, and that Jews have to stop being Jews and abandon the Torah in order to become disciples of the Master. We will have to stop being so arrogant in believing that this thing called “church” saves us. We will have to realize that it is OK for Jewish Israel to be uniquely chosen by God and that her being chosen doesn’t make her better, it just gives Israel a special role and mission from God, one the rest of us must choose to respond to if we intend to also be part of God’s plan.

As Toby said toward the end of his article (which he reminded me of yesterday):

As Jewish believers and as Gentiles who are grafted in members of the commonwealth of Israel, we participate with greater Israel in spreading the light of Messiah and Torah to the nations.

-Janicki, p.52

To read Toby’s and Jordan’s articles in full as well as a number of other fine publications, see the current issue of Messiah Journal available from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ).

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14 thoughts on “If Israel is the Light of the World, What Happens to the Church, Part Two?”

  1. Organizations that receive most of their money from churches and Christians are certainly going to be biased and constrained in their interpretations, trying to make nice and not offend anyone too much. My take is that, “the church,” as it began to distance itself from Jews and everything Jewish following the death of Paul and institutionalized by the 4th century, separated itself from the life of heaven and brought upon itself the curse of Gen. 12:3, which included spiritual blindness. Yes, there were always exceptions, who were usually persecuted and hunted down.

    Yes, both Christianity and Islam have spread a truncated version of torah, but has this been good? Hindus, Buddhists and various forms of pagan native religion don’t seem to have a need to persecute and kill Jews.

    Back in the 70’s MJ claimed to be, “A movement for Messiah within Judaism.” But it wasn’t; it was a movement for Judaism within evangelicalism unaware. Churches and Christians wouldn’t have poured millions into Jewish evangelism if they had a glimpse of the outcome. It has accomplished its purpose, and despite what anyone says, has mostly ceased to exist. Those few that do continue appear to still cling to evangelical theoogy. For myself, I have to accept that I have no place to lay my head unless I want to compromise and lie to myself and others, which I refuse to do at this point in my life.

  2. Chaya, the Church is not evil and neither are Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots organizations who have associations with mainstream Christianity. I spent two years in a small Baptist church and even though I left because of theological incompatibility, I met many admirable people there who were doing good deeds, helping other people, and who were devoted to God, and I say that while not getting paid a dime by anyone for my opinion.

  3. I would not claim any group is universally evil. However, “the church,” whoever you want to define is in or out,” has done much evil historically and currrently, not that all are involved in this evil, but few speak up against it.

    There are good, honest and not on the take persons certainly, everywhere. But any mouthpiece as well as not peer reviewed so-called scholarship is highly biased and even agenda driven. There is evil within MJ and HR. For one, the famous Paul Levertoff has no Jewish identifying descendents. I was taught falsehoods in MJ, some knowingly and some unaware, and the dishonesty and cover-up in all brands of the religious world is something that most purposely close their eyes to. I won’t go into all the foolishness HR spreads, from pseudoscience to antisemitism. At least the church you were part of, it seems they were honest about what they believed and where they stood.

    I have nothing against businesses that take in millions of dollars yearly and provide a service the market desires. Just don’t call yourself a ministry and claim you are about serving others anything more than the product they paid for. Any business has to cater to its market, and the gentile market is exponentially larger.

  4. Granted, scholarship in either Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots hasn’t developed to the point of peer reviewed articles, nevertheless, I wouldn’t say the efforts of the various individuals and groups producing articles such as the one I have reviewed here are without worth. Certainly you have a right to your opinion based on your experiences (who doesn’t?), but that doesn’t mean what you have experienced generalizes to how everyone else experiences those movements. I have generally been treated well, even by people who don’t agree with me. And any time I haven’t been treated well, I have to consider that individuals are quite capable of going haywire, including me.

    Chaya, historically, MJ and HR have largely identified themselves by who and what they were against, but I’ve learned that it’s a Jewish principle to look for the good in others. So I choose to look for the good in Christians and Jews, Messianic or otherwise. I’m very glad that God is a lot more forgiving of us than we are of each other.

    All that said, the topic of this blog post is what happens to organized Christianity as a result of the day of the Gentiles ending and national Israel fulfilling its mission to be a light to the world. Can we stay on that topic?

  5. I’ve enjoyed your posts James, but haven’t had much time to comment. I am glad your dad is doing better.
    ————-
    We tend to look at these issues as a competition for who’s right, particularly the Christian who learns of the errors Christianity has historically made, and then assumes that MJ, or Judaism, is therefore pure.

    But the failures of Jews to apprehend and faithfully live out the teachings of the Torah – and warnings of the prophets – are splashed accross the pages of the Bible for all to see, and they have been in exile for close to 2k years as a result. Yet, they remain Gd’s chosen people and He will keep His promises to them because He is reliable, He loves them, and for the sake Of His own name (Ez 36), among other reasons.

    Christians have the luxury of reading the Bible and bypassing our list of failures for the past 2k years since folks like John Chrysostom, Martin Luther, et al and the outcomes of their work isn’t part of the Biblical record. We (typically) resist wrestling with the issues you brought up re biblical promises of Jewish redemption (and Covenants made solely with the Jewish people) because we see just how badly they’ve messed up, so how can we give their perspectives credence?

    Others look at the failures of Christianity and assume that Gd has cut us loose. But Moses prophesied to Israel before they ever crossed the Jordan into the land and said that they would eventually fail to diligently keep the Torah and would suffer many curses as a result, including exile, yet He would ultimately bring them back and complete their redemption, which will affect the entire world.

    So if Gd, who did mighty wonders for Israel, covenanted with them and gave them explicit instructions to keep, knew they wouldn’t do it and made a way of redemption for them before they ever failed, why wouldn’t He be gracious to those of us who didn’t get those same mighty wonders, covenants, or explicit instructions?

    What if we’re all theologically off kilter? What if it’s about being kind to Gd’s creation – that He made in a His image – and He’ll sort out our theology when Messiah is ruling on His throne? I believe both Jew and Gentile will undergo transformations in their beliefs and assumptions. In the meantime, how can we serve each other?

  6. I’m pretty sure we’re all off kilter on some theological matters. I’m looking forward to Messiah’s return so he can point out what we need to get better at. Jeremiah 31:34 promises that God will forgive all of Israel’s sins and I can only believe that He will forgive we Gentiles of our errors as well if we sincerely repent.

  7. However much Jews and Gentiles of all persuasions have spread the news about YHVH, and how to act in order to be at peace with G-d and each other, the central task of the Messianic Age is the spreading of the Light of Torah to all the nations.

    Those of us that believe in Yeshua, Jew or Gentile, and act like they believe in Yeshua, are the Assembly…the Synagogue of YHVH, or as Christians would put it, the ‘Church’. That Assembly does not rest in any particular denomination of any religion, or synagogue of Judaism, but is made up of those within all assemblies that are Mashiach’s portion. When Mashiach returns, those who have believed and died in active obedience, and those who believed and lived in active obedience will be changed, and made Incorrupt, to always be with Mashiach, whatever that means.

    Those who do not believe in Yeshua that survive to see Yeshua come in power that have not taken the mark, whether or not they believe in Yeshua at His coming, will go in human form into the Kingdom of God. That is going to include a large remnant of Jews, who under Yeshua’s guidance, will teach all of those who walk into the Kingdom as human the Torah, and Yeshua will rule the nations according to Torah with an iron hand.

    Thus we have the final age of YHVH’s extraordinary explanation of Who He is, and how He wants us to live acted out during the final period of time, in which the Light of Yeshua in YHVH’s power will be spread throughout the world. A badly decimated world population will rise up from these remnants of all the nations to be taught of the Jews under Mashiach’s governance, and without the Adversary snapping at their heels. In the final years of the Messianic Age when the Adversary is again loosed, causing another sifting of true Believers from false, the White Throne Judgment occurs, the world and heavens are remade, and we get to live under the direct instruction of YHVH even as Adam did at the beginning of our world, but with our hearts in order, and the laws of G-d within us.

    Those who are really in the Synagogue of G-d in Mashiach will be Incorrupt, and used of Yeshua as He sees fit, so the current ‘Church’ is no more, and will be replaced by newly Believing Jews who will teach from Torah exactly what G-d wants taught. The ‘Church’, as Christian’s view it…those that believe in Yeshua, and act like they do, and survive the persecutions that they mostly deny will ever happen to them disappears.

    The true Believers that have been before us, and are now with us, dead or alive at Mashiach’s coming, will be with Him in incorrupt form and Israel…a newly open-eyed Jewish Israel will teach the nations.

  8. I don’t remember MJ as being focused on what it is against, as HR is. At least during the time I was there MJ did take on the grudges of evangelicalism to some extent, such as hatred of Mormons and other Christianity based rebel movements, a negative viewpoint of non-Christian religions and secular persons in general and the evangelical right’s conservative political stance. Some reacted to rejection by family and the Jewish community, and there was an attitude that religious Judaism was all about, “do good, be good and that’s good.”

  9. Shavua Tov, Chaya — I agree that MJ never defined itself in terms of what it was against; and the original paradigm shift defining MJ did, in fact, represent a desire to pursue a form of Judaism in which Rav Yeshua was recognizable as the Jewish Messiah, therefore classifying itself as a movement within Judaism. Sometimes, even, the descriptor “a fourth branch of Judaism” was used to compare its view of itself with the recognized Jewish movements of Orthodoxy, Conservatism, and Reform. At that time, of course, the movements of Reconstructionism, Humanist Judiasm, and the Renewal movement were either not well known or hadn’t yet formed. As for how that original notion became submerged under a riptide of an evangelical Christian movement … I would say that is another story. Nonetheless, there are a few places where the original notion survives and even thrives, after its fashion. Sorry if you can’t find one near you. Maybe you should make aliyah and help us to strengthen it here in Jerusalem [:)].

    If you want to investigate the issue of academic peer review for articles by messianic scholars, I suggest you consult MJTI or the journals that deal with topics of Jewish messianism such as “Kesher”. I suspect that the number of suitably knowledgeable “peers” in the relevant framework is not large, and the value of review by Jewish or Christian scholars in the general academic disciplines of biblical scholarship is hard to gauge. But some recognized academic institutions have been granting doctorates to MJs for theses that support, elucidate, and justify various MJ assertions. So some academic review has occurred, and these now-existing PhDs are still publishing articles and books. I’m not sufficiently involved in academic publishing, not even as an editor, to be able to answer about the degree of rigor with which any of them are seeking to “stretch the envelope” of academic recognition for MJ scholarship. I can only say from what I have read that it is “out there”.

  10. Thanks PL. You probably know a lot more about this issue of scholarship than I do, and those that have real Ph.D’s rather than fake rabbi credentials. During the 70’s and 80’s when I was involved, there was this idea of being a 4th branch of Judaism, but belief in Yeshua was still within an evangelical theological framework as this is where the leaders received their training, i.e., evangelical seminaries, mostly Southern Baptist as well as Moody Bible Institute and money for ministries and fellowships came from evangelical sources until most fellowships broke away, and the first one I was a part of was never financed by outsiders. But there was no concept of a belief in Yeshua and understanding his teachings outside evangelical theology. I suppose an MA or PhD from an accredted Christian seminary beats some guy without even an earned BS degree plus a mail order smicha any day. A “rabbi,” whose Hebrew is barely Bar Mitzvah level, if that, is a joke and an embarrassment to most who are Jewish. I don’t blame the non-Jews, as an evangelical pastor doesn’t have any requirements and they have no idea of the extent of education required for rabbinical ordination. I would assume a qualified person might be invited to publish in various related journals? As an aside, recently some people were claiming NG was a scholar, and I researched and he didn’t even have an account on academia.edu,(I do, in order to download and communicate) much less have published anything, and nothing on GoogleScholar either. People don’t seem to be aware that, “scholar,” means one who has published peer reviewed work.

    I would love to return to Israel. Some have told me that torah following among congregations is not common and mostly what you see is sort of a Calvary Chapel, except in Hebrew? Perhaps you have seen different? When I was there almost 30 years ago, the fellowship scene was varied and rather crazy.

  11. “What happens to ‘Christianity’ as a religion when they/we discover and realize that it is national Jewish Israel that is the light to the world and God’s primary agent in His plan of redemption?”

    My guess? (And as I am not a scholar it is just that, a guess.)That this will not happen until the Messianic Era comes into being and at that time, “Christianity” will cease to exist. What was never supposed to happen finally no longer happens, so to speak. When, as Jordan writes, the Shechinah and HaShem (the Messiah and the Father) are again inseparable, then, and only then, will the Church realize it was always supposed to follow Yeshua and his disciples—to whatever degree possible—and all will be right again. But likely, due to the pride of the Church with regard to its own history and traditions, and the resulting triumphalistic attitude that takes up residence in its wake, given the depth of involvement and length of my time spent within the Christian community, both Catholic and Protestant, I think it will take a direct confrontation with Messiah himself to correct the wrongs of the Church’s ways, just as it did, ironically, in reverse, for Joseph’s brothers to realize that their brother was, in fact, their brother. In the case of the Church, it is the Gentiles who don’t recognize the Jewishness of Messiah due to their own gentilization of Messiah.

    Then there will be forgiveness and the “prodigal son” will return home to a feast of fatted calf.

  12. I agree Dan that Christianity as it exists today will probably cease in the Messianic Era and the non-Jewish believers come alongside Israel and we take our place in God’s redemptive plan for the world.

  13. ‘…and we take our place in God’s redemptive plan for the world.’ Whatever that is.

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