Tag Archives: Aaron Eby

A Gentile’s Book Review of “First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer”

It is appropriate for Gentile disciples of Yeshua to participate in Jewish prayer. After all, the Temple in Jerusalem is to be called “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). Yeshua did not come to create a separate religion for Gentiles with different prayers.

-Aaron Eby
“Prayer in Jewish Space,” p.33
First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer

I’ve quoted from Aaron’s book twice before, the first time in Messianic Jewish Shabbat Observance and the Gentile and just yesterday in Discovering Myself by the Light of Torah. I suppose it’s appropriate for me to do a more proper book review, and I’m writing it from the expected perspective: that of a non-Jew.

You see, for the most part, Messianic Jewish Prayer is Jewish Prayer. Aaron’s book can be thought of as a “Jewish Prayer 101” class complete with a minimalist siddur at the end of the book. It’s unique in that it has a specific focus on Yeshua HaMoshiach, but a focus on Messiah is not considered unusual according to Aaron:

The traditional Jewish prayers are constantly focused on the Messiah. Although they do not identify Yeshua by name, they do identify the Messiah by character and title.

Some people might object that the traditional Jewish prayers do not say anything about Yeshua since they do not mention him by name. The same is true of the Hebrew scriptures, yet we know that they say a great deal about Yeshua.

“Prayer in Jewish Space,” p.29

Aaron starts out in Part One by describing “Prayer in Messianic Judaism” as distinct from the other Judaisms and Christianity. Although describing Jewish Prayer, as I said above, the specific focus is always on Messiah. In essence then, this is an instruction manual about prayer in Messianic Judaism which first and foremost should speak to Jewish people. Granted, devout Jewish people raised in religious households are raised in Jewish prayer, but many of the Jews attracted to Messianic Judaism have not had a traditional Jewish education. Still, the emphasis on Judaism must be recognized. The portions of his book that specifically address Gentiles in Jewish Prayer and in Jewish Space are called out and those are the parts I spent most of my time in.

In fact, the section of Part One called “Prayer in Jewish Space” seems to be a primer on how Jewish Prayer is conducted “procedurally” as well as in terms of “kavanah” (intent). I quoted from this chapter previously when addressing “Gentiles and Jewish Prayer.”

For example, one line in the traditional after-meal blessing offers thanks to God “for the covenant that [he] sealed in our flesh.” It seems problematic for a Messianic Gentile to say this. But should someone who is not Jewish then say “for the covenant that you have written on our hearts?” To do so would imply that Messianic Jews have only a fleshly covenant, whereas the new covenant that is written on hearts belongs only to Messianic Gentiles, God forbid.

-ibid, p.36

First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer
First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer

For the uninitiated Gentile or for those who are sensitive in one way or another to the distinctions made between Jews and Gentiles in Messianic Jewish space, parts of this book may be a little confusing or disorienting and even seem kind of annoying. At best, it will take some work for Gentiles, even those familiar with Jewish Prayer on some level, to get used to the flow of prayer outlined in the book during a synagogue service or even a Shabbat dinner. At worst, some Gentiles will feel put out not to be considered “Israel” and thus directed to pray the prayers in not exactly the same manner as their Jewish counterparts.

However, this book is designed to not only teach Messianic Jewish Prayer, but to continue to establish the distinctive roles Jews and Gentiles play in Messianic Judaism, with the understanding (from my point of view, anyway) that those roles are not firmly anchored or agreed upon at present.

That said, I was surprised when Aaron didn’t make much in the way of Jewish/Gentile distinctions relative to the standard prayers, particularly the Shema. But let me back up a step:

Gentiles who devote themselves to Yeshua of Nazareth are not only disciples; they are his subjects, and he is their King. In that sense they relate to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people in the same way that a conquered and annexed people is subordinated to a conquering king. These Gentiles are no longer separated from the Messiah or “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12). Instead, they share in the inheritance and the destiny of the whole nation. In keeping with this identity, the God-fearing Messianic Gentile should not hesitate to join the Jewish people in formal prayer.

“Declaration of Intent for Messianic Gentiles,” p.47

As a non-Jew in Messianic Jewish territory, you could choose to take this one of two ways. The first is that you could rejoice in your (our) unique role in the Kingdom of Messiah as grafted in Gentiles who had no hope and no belonging until our faith in Messiah brought us alongside Israel in devotion to God and sharers in the blessings of the New Covenant promises. The second is that you could feel pushed away, slighted, or “sent to the back of the bus,” so to speak, as if, as a Gentile, you aren’t worthy of sitting in the front of the synagogue with the Jews. By definition, if the nations of the Gentiles are to be considered vassal, then they serve Israel as well as Israel’s King. The wording Aaron uses could be spun in either direction:

As Messianic Gentiles engage in these prayers, they must not lose sight of their own important and esteemed position as the crowning jewels of the nations. A Messianic Gentile who participates in the prayers and petitions of Israel should thus consciously acknowledge that since he is not legally Jewish, his connection to Israel comes only through King Messiah.


That’s where the “declaration of intent” comes in. Aaron has a difficult job as the author of this book in balancing the invitation of Gentiles into Jewish prayer and, at the same time, containing and protecting Jewish identity in Jewish space including in (Messianic) Jewish prayer. It’s our faith in Messiah that binds us and it’s difficult, particularly in egalitarian America, to accept the status of a subordinate or vassal citizen in the Kingdom of Messiah, with Jewish Israel being “large and in charge” of the rest of the world (that means the rest of us).

If you can accept that role as many Messianic Gentiles have done, then the only difficulty you may encounter is adapting your prayer life to the structure and language this book presents (depending on your experience in Jewish prayer up to this point). If you can’t, then you’re going to have a difficult time stumbling over the presuppositions Aaron makes about Jewish and Gentile roles in the Messianic Jewish synagogue.

Aaron Eby

Although I’ve attended Shavuot services and had a Shabbat meal or two at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship, which offers Jewish services and includes Jewish prayer, I’ve not had the pleasure of attending any of First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) Shabbaton events. This would have given me a more personal look at how to use The Sabbath Table prayer book (which, as you read this, I’ll be using tonight for the first time), and thus experience Jewish prayer in the manner Aaron describes.

Although I’ve used a number of siddurs before, including Artscroll’s Sefard Siddur, this coming Shabbat will be a unique experience. I’m somewhat used to making the mental and linguistic adjustments Aaron’s book recommends for Gentiles since the language in traditional siddurs assumes the perspective of a Jewish man, but it’s refreshing to come across material that can be specifically adapted to me as a Messianic Gentile. I still expect to be challenged by the flow of Erev Shabbat prayers, especially since there won’t be anyone else present to emulate.

Aaron’s book devotes a lot of attention to the Shema and Amidah, which you’d expect, and as I mentioned before, I was surprised that these pages weren’t covered with caveats and alternate language for Gentiles, since this is the heart of Jewish prayer. Aaron continues to write for the reader, Jewish or Gentile, who knows little or nothing about Jewish prayer. Standard siddurs, although they contain many notes on a variety of topics, assume a certain amount of prior knowledge by the user. Aaron’s book opens the box, so to speak, and lets the reader look inside the prayers, what they mean, and how they were written.

But while there are few mentions of Jewish/Gentile distinction, they can be found:

Tefillin are a distinct marker of Jewish identity. It is not forbidden for a Messianic Gentile to wear them; however there are some communities in which it would be confusing or even offensive for a non-Jew to do so. It is important that Messianic Gentiles who wear tefillin are sensitive to the message that it communicates and that they conform to community standards; it may be advisable for Messianic Gentiles to avoid wearing them in public venues.

-ibid, p.65

And again…

Tzitziyot serve as a marker of Jewish identity. It is not forbidden for Messianic Gentiles to wear them; however, doing so may cause confusion and offense. It is advisable for Messianic Gentiles who choose to wear them to do so with utter discretion.

-ibid, p.69

Several years ago, for a variety of reasons, I put my tefillin and tallit in a box and shoved the box onto a shelf in the back of my closet. One of the reasons I did so was I became convinced that the part of Aaron’s statement about distinctiveness and Jewish identity is correct. This was filtered through the knowledge and experience of being married to a Jewish wife who had come to the conclusion that having a Gentile/Christian husband dressing up as a Jew was a pretty odd thing to do.

israel_prayingNo, she never mentioned it, but after being married for over thirty years, you pick up a few things about how your wife thinks. To honor her as much as for any other reason, I stopped doing pretty much anything that might appear “Jewish”.

I know Messianic Gentiles, including those within FFOZ and at Beth Immanuel, who wear tzitzit and kippot, and within their personal or community contexts, given Aaron’s words above, that would seem to make sense. In fact, since giving up the practice of wearing a kippah, tallit, and laying tefillin, even in private, I’ve been concerned about some potential “blowback,” even if it’s left unsaid, from some Messianic Gentiles and Jews concerning my non-use of Jewish “particulars”. Identity confusion goes both ways, and I can see how I might seem a little too “light” or “insubstantial” for actually not donning a tallit when I pray.

I wonder if someone like me would be considered offensive in a Messianic synagogue that more or less expected most Gentiles to wear a kippah and tallit, especially since Aaron presents the Shema as acceptable for Gentiles to recite, and especially because one of the customs during the Shema is to grasp the tzitzit together in the left hand?

I think the bottom line as Aaron suggested, is for the Messianic Gentile to adapt their practice based on the standards of their local worship community. Being “community-less” at the moment allows me to do more or less anything based on personal standards, but I’ve still got good reasons for not getting that box out of the closet and opening it up.

But that suggests another option. Many Hebrew Roots individuals and groups not only consider wearing a tallit to be an available option, but even an obligation and their right as grafted-in Gentiles. While I disagree with that opinion, since these people operate within their own communities and those communities have set standards permitting and even commanding Gentile men to wear tallitot, then technically, this part of Aaron’s book is adaptable to their needs.

I also started wondering (and I guess this is a community standard thing) if Gentiles could be considered as part of a minyan in Messianic Jewish synagogues. Aaron didn’t address that topic at all, and yet certain prayers, including Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) require a minyan.

As I said, much of the book was taken up with a detailed description of the Shema and Amidah prayers, but then on page 103, starts an analysis of what most Christians call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Aaron refers to it as “Our Father”.

The Didache contains this prayer in a version that is quite similar to that of Matthew, and it instructs believers to recite it three times a day. From the earliest available records, Christians have used this prayer as part of liturgical worship. Like a majority of traditional Jewish prayers, the first-person pronouns of “Our Father” are plural (“us,” “our”). This suggests that the prayer was intended for corporate liturgical use.

-ibid, p.104

While some scholars have suggested that “Our Father” (the Lord’s Prayer) was meant to take the place of the traditional Jewish prayer service and even contains all of the basic elements of said-service, Aaron believes that it was meant to be included at the end of the Amidah for Messianic Jewish and Gentile believers, particularly because the Didache instructs Gentile disciples to recite it three times a day.

The Didache was a sort of “training manual” for how to teach a non-Jew to become a disciple of the Jewish Messiah. It’s thought to have been originally composed by the Apostles or those close to them. The earliest version may have been in the form of oral instructions that accompanied the well-known Acts 15 “Jerusalem Letter.” This all seems to say that the very earliest Gentile disciples of Messiah practiced Jewish prayer alongside their Jewish teachers and mentors, perhaps well beyond the First Century CE.

The final portion of the book is a sort of “mini-siddur” containing the text, in English and Hebrew, for:

  • I Hereby join
  • Declaration of Intent for Messianic Gentiles
  • Shema
  • Amidah
  • Our Father
  • Prayer for the Restoration of Zion

Aaron even put in a “Suggested Readings” list at the back of the book for those who want to go beyond the “Jewish Prayer 101” level.

Shabbat candlesI know many of us in the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots movements have struggled at one time or another about how to use a siddur, how to adapt it to our faith in Messiah, and how to adapt it for a mixed Jewish/Gentile worship service. Over a decade ago, I regularly worshiped in our local Reform/Conservative synagogue during the time when my children were in Hebrew school, and I had no guide for this sort of thing. I felt pretty awkward.

That sort of dynamic is built-in to a Messianic shul and I think Aaron’s book is at least part of the answer to integrating Jews and Gentiles in a Messianic Jewish prayer service, at least enough to get a lot of people and communities started along the right path.

As I said, it’s not for everyone. If you, as a Gentile, think of yourself as part of “Israel” or a “spiritual Jews” or even espouse a “two-house” theology, then several parts of what Aaron wrote won’t suit you at all. Interestingly enough though, I’d still recommend First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer to just about anyone interested in the topic, because the research and level of description that has gone into the book illuminates the origin, purpose, and meaning of the prayers.

Shabbat Shalom.

Gifts of the Spirit in Review, Part 1

D. Thomas LancasterOn the last, great day of the festival, Yeshua stood and called out, saying “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. One who believes in me, as the word is written, from his belly will flow rivers of living water.” He said this about the spirit that those who believe in him would receive, because the Holy Spirit was not given before Yeshua was glorified.”

John 7:37-39 (DHE Gospels)

We confuse ourselves regarding the giving of the Holy Spirit when we assume that, prior to the Shavu’ot event described in Acts 2, Jewish people did not have the Holy Spirit. That assumption also leads us to believe that non-Messianic religious Jews after that could not possibly receive inspiration from the Holy Spirit, act in any capacity of the Holy Spirit, or perform miracles by the Holy Spirit. These assumptions, I believe, are based squarely upon a misunderstanding of John 7:39 where it says, “He said this about the spirit that those who believe in him would receive, because the Holy Spirit was not given before Yeshua was glorified.”

-D. Thomas Lancaster
“Chapter 3: A Pledge of What is to Come,” pg 39
Gifts of the Spirit

I so agreed with Lancaster’s statements in the third chapter of this book, and as originally presented at the First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Shavuot Conference “Gifts of the Spirit” last May at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin, that as I was mentally planning to write this blog post, I couldn’t imagine it being something that John MacArthur and the other presenters at last October’s Strange Fire conference would criticize. Then I re-read the opening of the chapter again and realized they would not only be dismayed, they would be startled. I mean, how could any “normative” Christian believe that “non-Christian” Jewish people would have any access at all to the Holy Spirit post-Acts 2?

But what I was considering was that Lancaster didn’t offer any commentary on the “gifts of the spirit” as being apprehended by the faithful in the modern era. His entire talk centered about “the ministry of Jesus” and the Messianic promises presented in the gospels and other areas of the Bible that involve the Spirit of God.

Consider Ezekiel 45:4-5 and the filling of the Third Temple by the Divine Presence, or Joel 2:28 where God’s Spirit will be “poured out on all flesh.”

But there is no Third Temple containing the Shechinah, and the Holy Spirit has yet to be poured out on all living beings of flesh, so obviously, the work of the Spirit and of Messiah is not complete. Not by a long shot. In fact, Lancaster considers the giving of the Spirit as we see it in Acts 2 and subsequently in the New Testament as a down payment on the future, and a promise of what is to come.

Where both Boaz Michael and Rabbi Carl Kinbar linked the Holy Spirit with the Torah, Lancaster associates the Spirit with the Temple.

The whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy Temple of the Lord. In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (emph. Lancaster)

Ephesians 2:21-22

Lancaster employs a play on the words “mishkan” and “mashkon”, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll have to refer you to the book for the details.

When we think of gifts of the Spirit, our mental image naturally reflects Pentecostal Christianity, since this is the denomination and movement that sought to restore the spiritual gifts of the church. And as we in the Messianic Jewish movement seek to objectively analyze and possibly incorporate the gifts of the Spirit, it is natural that we would begin by looking at Pentecostalism. But we should at least understand what Pentecostalism is and the mind-set that results in the outward expressions that we associate with the gifts of the Spirit. If we accurately understand Pentecostalism’s attitude toward the implementation of the gifts, then we can evaluate that viewpoint fairly and can determine which aspects of it are in line with a Messianic Jewish worldview and which are not.

-Aaron Eby
“Chapter 4: The Pentecostal Experience,” pg 53
Gifts of the Spirit

The first sentence Aaron uttered when he began this presentation was, “I spent most of my childhood years and my early adulthood in an Assemblies of God church.” Aaron brought a wealth of history and personal experience in describing how the “gifts of the Spirit” were practiced within his early church experience and then offered the counterpoint from a Messianic Jewish perspective. He was fair and honest in his appraisal of both without at any time denigrating or belittling anyone else’s religious orientation or perspective.

He did have this to say, which I tend to apply to the aforementioned “Strange Fire” conference, even though the “Gifts of the Spirit” Shavuot conference occurred a full five months before MacArthur’s gathering:

I saw another category of responders to Pentecostalism as well: the detractors, who thought we were either insane, demonic, or charlatans. That mind-set always offended me, and it still offends me to hear people speak of charismatics that way. There are probably all three kinds of people in the charismatic movement, but in my experience most of us were sincere, intelligent, sane, and spiritually healthy people who loved God.

-Eby, pg 54

To which any “Strange Fire” speaker would probably add, “…and you were also wrong.”

Aaron EbyI think what I took away from reading Aaron’s presentation and the very well-balanced nature of it, was how the focus between “Gifts of the Spirit” and “Strange Fire” were so different. Basically, they were addressing the same topic: the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in our world today, but while MacArthur and Strange Fire defined itself as who and what they were against, FFOZ and Gifts of the Spirit defined themselves by who and what they were for.

That didn’t mean they didn’t tell the truth or watered down criticism. It meant that they did what Aaron said he wanted to do. They were fair.

I find that’s what attracts me to FFOZ and certain other individuals, organizations, and books: the desire to be fair and to be defined by what they believe in rather than who their “enemies” or “opponents” are. I can only imagine that if I were a Pentecostal sitting in a pew at Beth Immanuel and listening to these presentations (and I know some Pentecostals were present), I would be more inclined to listen and take note of what was being said, even when it contradicted my stated beliefs, than if I attended or listened to the podcasts of the Strange Fire conference.

Wearing a bow tie and jacket that clearly indicated that he was channeling his inner “Dr. Who,” Jacob Fronczak began his presentation “The Historical Context of Pentecostalism” (Chapter 5) with the words, “I love history.”

Though actually a Pastor, Jacob looks the part of the young history instructor at a liberal arts college who has just started teaching after receiving his degree. He did take the historical approach to Pentecostalism by way of nineteenth-century evangelicalism, enlightenment and post-enlightenment, heresy trials, modernism, fundamentalism, and finally, “Azusa Street.”

The “Strange Fire” conference also provided a historical approach, specifically with Steve Lawson’s presentation on Charismatic Calvinists, as well as Lawson’s commentary on Puritans vs. Quakers, but the difference was that Fronczak refused to take any sides, presenting history as history, a series of influential events that shape our understanding of both the past and the present, in an attempt to discover why “do some (churches) believe that these gifts were temporary means to grow the church in the first century while others believe that they are valid expressions of faith today” (pg 76).

There was also a more pointed reason for Fronczak reviewing the history as he did (pg 89):

Understanding how and why these movements came to be is a prerequisite to fully understanding their traditions — why their adherents practice the way they do. Once they are understood, these traditions can be analyzed, sorted through, and brought into line with the Scripture and with the emerging Messianic Jewish corpus of tradition.

He further said that we “must have a balanced, historical perspective on our own faith as well as on the faith of those who do not share our convictions.” Yet another piece of evidence that trying to authentically understand even those with whom we do not agree is a better and more noble road to communication and promoting healthy change (in my opinion, anyway) than wholesale “demonizing” of Pentecostals and Charismatics.

Aaron Eby returned to the podium for his presentation “The Miracles of Yeshua” (Chapter 6) to explain the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit relative to the miracles of Christ.

John MacArthurThat Jesus had the Holy Spirit rest upon him is not in dispute (Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22) as well as the fact that he performed many miracles in the three years of his ministry, but the question Aaron raised at the conference and in the pages of this chapter is the purpose of those miracles.

Somewhere in my “Challies Chronicles” notes, there is a reference to one presenter (it may have even been John MacArthur) stating that miracles were to validate the message of the gospel and that the speaker was an apostle (this also presumably applies to validating Jesus as “the Christ”). Once that need was fulfilled, according to cessationists, the “gifts of the spirit” stopped.

Aaron disputes that the miracles of Jesus were to validate the authenticity of his teachings or his identity as Messiah or Divine.

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, “Let us go after other gods,” which you have not known, “and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.

Deuteronomy 13:1-3

The Bible is replete with tales of prophets and magicians who did not serve God and who were able to perform miraculous signs and wonders, so the fact that someone can perform miracles is no indication at all that they must be a servant of God. So much for the cessationist rationale for the purpose of miracles in the New Testament.

There were a number of episodes in the FFOZ television series A Promise of What is to Come that touched on what the miracles of Jesus and the apostles were supposed to communicate: the Gospel message of the coming Kingdom of God. If you followed my reviews of the show, you’ll likely see the connection.

That said, Aaron concluded (pg 110):

There are a few things that we can take away from this. First of all, miracles and signs should not be our primary focus. If they are, we place the cart before the horse, since miracles are simply the byproduct of the nearness of the kingdom. It is not for us to decide whether or not miracles should be happening in our day and age. Our particular beliefs on the matter do not dictate to God whether he will or will not do miracles for us. Rather, our Master taught us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Thus, our goal should be to bring the kingdom nearer and to bring ourselves nearer to the kingdom.

What we believe, the theology to which we cling, and the doctrine we espouse, does not define God to God, it only helps define God to flawed and imperfect human beings.

In “Chapter 7, The Age of Miracles,” Toby Janicki asks if the age of miracles ended with the closure of canon or the death of the last apostle. And if miracles are happening today, where are they? Why don’t we see them?

Toby didn’t use the terms “cessationist” or “continualist” but he did say that the proponents of the end of the age of miracles often use 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 to justify their point of view. The problem is that “when the perfect comes” is up for grabs. How could “the perfect” be the death of the last apostle or the canonization of scripture (it wasn’t finally canonized for several centuries after John, the last of original apostles, died)?

From Toby’s point of view, “the perfect” can only mean the Messianic Age (see Jeremiah 31:34 and Joel 2:28-29 for instance).

Cessationists say that miracles were only to get the Church “off the ground,” so to speak. If that’s true, what about all of the miracles in the Old Testament (Tanakh)?

toby_janicki_vimeoOf course, it depends on what you define as a miracle. I just read about a miraculous healing of a Christian woman being treated for a cancerous tumor in Israel in the Israel Today online magazine. No special “faith healer” was involved, nor did anyone claim they utilized a “gift of the spirit” in her healing. It was just God. Her doctors had no explanation for why her tumor so dramatically reduced in size.

Toby says that a miracle doesn’t have to break the laws of physics. First off, our physical laws just describe what we observe about the usual behavior of the universe, it’s not a law code like the Torah. Toby pointed out that famed Christian theologian C.S. Lewis had much to say about miracles and their continuation in our world.

Of course, we’re not apostles, who were unique witnesses to Messiah, and so we shouldn’t expect to operate at their lofty spiritual level, but that doesn’t prohibit God from acting supernaturally, even today. In fact, if the Holy Spirit wasn’t active, no one would ever come to faith, which I consider a miracle. Toby also mentioned, that it doesn’t matter what a person does or doesn’t believe (relative to cessationism or continualism), since God acts according to His own will, not ours.

He made a number of other good points (buy the book if you want to find out what they are) but I thought this part of his conclusion was important (pg 131-2):

Miracles, as we have said, are not an end in themselves; they are not the goal for which the disciple labors. They are evidence of the Holy Spirit working among us, and they should, as they did with the apostles in Acts, instill in us the fear of the Lord. Miracles should cause us to tremble as we realize that God is among us and we become aware of his presence.

If the goal of our faith is receiving spiritual gifts of supernatural powers for healing or whatever, then we are nothing more than “spiritual thrillseekers.” Toby’s right. Seek first the Kingdom of God. God will take care of the rest.

There are four more chapters in this book and for the sake of length, I’ll cover them in Part 2 of this review.

FFOZ TV Review: The Restoring the Kingdom

A promise of what is to comeEpisode 26: The disciples ask Jesus “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were looking for a physical kingdom. Was the kingdom only spiritual, or were the disciples right to expect a physical, future kingdom? Episode Twenty-six will show the viewers that the kingdom of Messiah is not just spiritual. There is a literal, coming, restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Although we believers have laid hold of the kingdom and enjoy a foretaste of it, we have not entered the kingdom yet. It’s still ahead.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 26: Restoring the Kingdom (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of Restoring the Kingdom

In this final episode of the first season of A Promise of What is to Come, First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teachers Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby address the question of exactly what is the restoration of the Kingdom of God. From traditional Christianity’s point of view, the Kingdom has often been described as being Heaven, or being the Church, or being an invisible, spiritual Kingdom, the spirit that is in our hearts.

But this show uses a specifically Jewish perspective to read the Bible and understand how to interpret ancient prophesies. We can’t go only by what the words say themselves. We need to know how the original speakers and audiences in the Bible would have comprehended what was said. What did the disciples mean when they asked the following question to Jesus?

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

Acts 1:6 (NASB)

It was at this point that Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven to take his place at the right hand of the Father. He was leaving his disciples on Earth. They must have been puzzled that Jesus was leaving without finishing his work. Where was the Kingdom? Why hadn’t he established it? How could he depart when there was so much left for him to do?

Christian Pastors often criticize the ancient Jewish disciples for misunderstanding what Jesus taught. In the eyes of many modern believers, the Kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom, not a physical reality. But even today, devout Jews believe that one of Messiah’s major tasks is to restore the nation of Israel as a physical Kingdom on Earth, return all of the exiled Jews to their Land, and elevate Israel as the head of all the nations.

This is one of the reasons why most Jewish people don’t believe Jesus could have been the Messiah. They don’t believe he was resurrected and that he died without restoring and redeeming physical Israel. Even from a believing Jew’s point of view, Jesus as Messiah left before completing his work. That means he must come back at some point to finish the job. Otherwise, he can’t be Messiah.

Toby suggested at this point in the program, that it would be a good time to review some of the information about the Kingdom presented in previous episodes of the series. To this end, he quoted:

After Yochanan was arrested, Yeshua came to the Galil and proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the good news.”

Mark 1:14-15 (DHE Gospels)

As you may recall, the Kingdom being “drawn near” or “at hand” meant that it was something that had arrived and could be appropriated at any time. It’s like standing at a doorway of a house. All you have to do is open the door and walk inside. In this case, the message was to repent, which was what Jesus was telling national Israel to do, in order to enter the Kingdom, the restoration of Israel to be accomplished by the Messiah.

Toby JanickiThe Torah, many of the Prophets, and even the Psalms, all speak of these Messianic promises, of a nation restored, a Holy people redeemed, a Land flourishing, the world at peace, all under the rule of King Messiah, Son of David. Here Toby paints a portrait of the prophesies that are continually additive, one linking to another, and to another, and to another, through the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) and across the so-called barrier between the Old and New Testaments, describing in a single, unbroken thread in the tapestry of God’s restorative and salvational plan.

It was this Jewish and Biblical understanding that told the disciples of the Master what to expect and led to the question we read in Acts 1:6. The Church says the ancient and modern Jews are all wrong and that no physical Kingdom was ever planned by God, in spite of the overwhelming evidence otherwise stated in prophesy. But what did Jesus say?

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority…”

Acts 1:7 (NASB)

Here, Jesus isn’t saying that they’ve misunderstood him, or that there would never be a physical restoration, or that his Kingdom is purely spiritual. He’s saying that he wasn’t going to tell them when the Kingdom would be restored, only that it would be restored at a time fixed by God’s own authority.

In other words, Jesus didn’t contradict the expectations of his disciples, he only said he wasn’t going to restore the Kingdom of Israel at that very moment and that they had to wait. He also said this:

“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 (NASB)

The Kingdom of Israel would be restored, but before that was going to happen, Jesus said they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and with that power, they were to be Messiah’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the four corners of all the Earth.

It’s not that Messiah won’t restore physical, literal Israel as a Kingdom; the Kingdom above all nations, it’s only a matter of when.

Clue 1: Jesus taught that the Kingdom has not yet happened.

If you were to ask a room full of Christians if Jesus had finished his work in the first coming, most of them would say “yes” based on this:

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

John 19:30 (NASB)

But Toby says Jesus was most likely speaking of his suffering and the atonement of sins, not his entire mission as a Messiah. I agree. If Messiah’s work was finished, then where is the world at total peace? Why don’t we all act as we should? Why is there still sin? And why is there a predicted second coming of Jesus?

Aaron EbyBoth Jews and Gentiles say today “Maranatha,” which means “O’ Lord, come.” Why do we say this if he has already finished everything he was supposed to do?

The scene shifts to Israel and FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby for a brief word study of “Maranatha.” As it turns out, in the Church, we get this word from two words in Aramaic Paul inserted at the end of 1 Corinthians. Aaron said, and I learned recently, that there were no spaces between words in the Bible. For instance, if we were to translate a portion of Romans 1:32 into English but not insert spaces between the words, it would look something like:


What a mess. No wonder Biblical translation is so challenging. No wonder there is such a great difficulty in organizing the context of the Bible and how creating chapters and verses can lead to misunderstanding of the original message.

But Aaron says that even though we don’t know how the Aramaic word “Maranatha” is separated, it still means the same thing: “O’ Lord, come.” Aaron believes that Paul not only acknowledged and preached about the great accomplishments of Messiah during the first advent, but longed for the Messiah’s return and all that he would do at that future time.

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
And declare in the coastlands afar off,
And say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him
And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob.

Jeremiah 31:10-11 (NASB)

This is a key Messianic prophesy describing what Messiah will do for the Jewish people and for Israel, and describes the responsiblity of the nations to listen (and obey) the words of Israel’s King.

Aaron pointed to the miracle of modern Israel’s very existence and the restoration of the Hebrew language, which had vanished for many centuries. He used Zephaniah 3:9 as a prophesy of the restoration of Hebrew, and expressed what a miracle it is for even an Israeli child to be able to read from an ancient Torah scroll and grasp its meaning.

But as exciting as this all is, Israel is still in exile as long as even a single Jew does not live within her borders, and as long as it is still threatened by its enemies, and as long as it is still largely secular, and as long as there are still two foreign Mosques on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most Holy place on Earth.

Believing and non-believing Jews all still cling to the twelfth of the Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith:

I believe with a perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, still everyday I pray that he will come.

The modern state of Israel is a good start, but it is hardly finished. There is so much more left to do.

Back in the studio, Toby gives us the second clue:

Clue 2: Jesus had not yet fulfilled all of the Messianic prophecies.

RestorationWe may not know when the Messianic Kingdom will come, but we know what it will be like. Toby links a number of passages in scripture together including Matthew 16:27, Isaiah 40:10, and Revelation 22:12. And Jesus himself said he had much work left to do. We read in Matthew’s gospel how he described his own return:

Then the son of man will appear in heaven, and all the families of the earth will mourn, as they will see the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven in power and great glory. He will send forth his angels with the sound of the great shofar; they will gather his chosen ones from the four winds, and from one end of heaven to the other.

Matthew 24:30-31 (DHE Gospels)

Jesus was referring to this prophesy:

It shall be on that day that a great shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria and those cast away in the land of Egypt will come [together], and they will prostrate themselves to Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 27:13 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Jesus was speaking of what he had yet to do beyond his first coming, and that renders the third and final clue:

Clue 3: Jesus did not think his work was finished.

Unless you think the world is as it should be and that we have peace among the nations and kindness between human beings, then you must believe his work isn’t finished either.

What Did I Learn?

In this final episode of the first season of The Promise of What is to Come series, I learned pretty much what I already knew. It seems silly to imagine that Jesus had fulfilled all that he was supposed to do in his first coming. The world is still a mess and still needs a lot of fixing. Unless you are prepared to throw out large portions of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and replace the content with how the Church understands the apostolic scriptures, you must believe that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus does not fulfill all of the Messianic promises we see in the Bible.

This is also where I believe embracing a Jewish understanding of those scriptures is handy. It does not require that we refactor what Jews believe as a physical Kingdom of God in Israel into some sort of spiritual environment we enter when we die. Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus the Messiah can all believe that what God said through Isaiah and Jeremiah and how it was understood was still true in the world of Jesus, Peter, and Paul and still is true in our world of the 21st Century of the Common Era.

As I’ve said before, many of the beliefs in the modern Christian Church have their origins in the earliest expressions of anti-Semitism and supersessionism created by our so-called “Church Fathers,” and preserved by the men of the Reformation many centuries later. What was once invention and tradition created to separate a nascent Gentile Christianity from normative Judaism (that is, how the Church sees the Jewish people, modern Israel, and the ancient Messianic prophesies), is now believed to be rock solid fact. It doesn’t occur to many Christians to question any of these assumptions.

The FFOZ TV show is dedicated to thoughtfully suggesting to its Christian audience that its assumptions be questioned in the light of a Jewish interpretation of Biblical truth. The numerous other resources offered at First Fruits of Zion and her sister organization Vine of David are designed to provide that perspective and expand upon it for both traditional Christians and the Jewish people who have yet to recognize the face of the Messiah as the Jewish face of Rabbi Yeshua in the Gospels.

Modern IsraelBut even learning this does not summon the Promise of the Messiah to our world. In order to finish our own work so that he may come, we must live out those truths that have been revealed to us. Visit the sick, give charity to the poor, donate food to the hungry, act only with kindness to any person that you encounter, speak of the good news of the Messiah to a damaged and dying humanity.

Only then will we be pursuing the path of our Master by participating in tikkun olam, repairing our desperately broken world.

It is said that the Messiah will return only when all of Israel, all the Jewish people, keep the Shabbat as one. It is also said that the Messiah will return only when all of Israel and the world has reached a level of deepest depravity.

I don’t know what to think. I only know that we introduce a tiny bit of the Messianic Kingdom into our world every time we extend a helping hand to another person. If we all committed one unasked act of kindness each day, then how Messiah-like would the world begin to appear? We wait for Messiah to return to finish what he started, but in the mean time, we can all do what we can, as we have faith in the promise.

FFOZ TV Review: Resurrection

FFOZ TV Episode 25Episode 25: In Jewish thought the ultimate expression of God’s power is the resurrection of the dead, and the ultimate resurrection was that of Jesus himself. In episode twenty-five viewers will discover that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was a foreshadow of the final resurrection of the dead that was prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. Messiah rising from the dead was a promise, a guarantee that one day the great redemption will come, the great resurrection of the dead will take place, and the Messianic kingdom will arrive.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 25: Resurrection (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Resurrection

One of the biggest mysteries of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus. After all, there are no explicit prophesies in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible or Old Testament) that say the Messiah must personally die and then be resurrected three days later. In Christianity, we just take it for granted because it is a central if not the central tenet of our beliefs. But looking at the resurrection from a Jewish point of view, particularly a late Second Temple Era perspective, what did the resurrection of Messiah mean?

First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher and author Toby Janicki started answering that question by reading the following:

And he began to teach that the son of man needs to suffer greatly, and the elders, the leading priests, and the scholars would reject him, and he would be killed, but at the end of three days he would surely rise. He spoke this word in the ears of all of them, and Petros took him and began to reprimand him.

Mark 8:31-32 (DHE Gospels)

Jesus himself taught that he had to die and be resurrected three days later, but the fact that at hearing this Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, shows us that even Peter didn’t understand the meaning of Messiah’s death and resurrection. It must not have been an obvious belief common among Jewish people of that day (and it’s also not a belief in Judaism in our age). Peter certainly knew Jesus was the Messiah (see Matthew 16:16) so it wasn’t a matter of lack of faith or lack of knowledge. Even in the days of Jesus on earth, the death and resurrection of the Messiah was a great mystery.

A mystery we are trying to solve from a Jewish perspective today in this episode.

Jesus explained the meaning, at least partially, after he was resurrected:

These are the things that I spoke to you about while I was still with you. For every scripture about me will surely be fulfilled in the Torah of Mosheh, in the Prophets, and in the Tehillim. Then he opened their hearts to understand the Scriptures. He said to them, thus it is written and decreed that the Mashiach will be afflicted and will arise from the dead on the third day…

Luke 24:44-46 (DHE Gospels)

Toby points out that Jesus says his death and resurrection are prophesied in the Torah, the Prophets and the Psalms (Tehillim). But where? There’s nothing in these ancient writings that point-blank says the Messiah must die for the sins of humanity and be raised again three days later. What does Jesus explain to them that the Bible doesn’t explain to us? Won’t the Holy Spirit open our hearts to understand the scriptures?

Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

Acts 2:27 (NASB)

Here, Toby tells us that Peter is quoting Psalm 16:10 as proof that the Messiah would not die permanently and that God would resurrect him. This is only one of a few cryptic “proofs” in the New Testament that the Old Testament prophesies spoke, or at least hinted at, the Messiah’s resurrection.

He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8 (NASB)

Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.

Isaiah 26:19 (NASB)

ffoz_tv25_tobyToby quotes Isaiah as well as Ezekiel 37:3-6 to show that in the future Messianic Era, there will be a great resurrection of the dead, but this doesn’t specifically speak to the resurrection of the Messiah during his first advent.

There was no question among these ancient Jewish prophets that there would be a future resurrection of all the dead once the Messiah had come, and that brings us to our first clue:

1st Clue: The resurrection from the dead is a component of the Messianic Kingdom.

Toby makes a key point by saying that Jesus felt these prophesies also explained his own resurrection. But how? Is Toby employing more than a little theological sleight of hand in making such a statement?

To learn more, the scene shifts to FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel for a short language lesson about the Hebrew word for “Life.”

Life, or “Chaim” is a gift from God. Aaron references the following to illustrate:

The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

1 Samuel 2:6 (NASB)

This is part of Hannah’s prayer to God and shows us beautifully that life and death are from God and as He brings down into death, He also raises up back to life.

Today’s Orthodox Jews believe in the resurrection of the dead once the Messiah comes, even as the Pharisees did in the day of Jesus. Many Jewish dead are buried at the Mount of Olives where it is prophesied the feet of the Messiah will first touch the earth.

Three times a day, observant Jews pray for the resurrection, and the Mishnah states that if anyone does not believe the Torah speaks of the resurrection, that person forfeits their place in the world to come.

Aaron EbyAaron points out that in Acts 23:6, when Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem and brought before the Sanhedrim, he throws the whole court, which is made up of Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and Sadducees who didn’t, into an uproar by claiming that he was on trial for his belief in the resurrection. Apparently, not all Jews two-thousand years ago believed in the resurrection of the dead, but it was obviously a “hot button” topic.

The last of the Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith established by the Rambam, the great sage Moses Maimonides in the twelfth century is a declaration of faith in the future resurrection of the dead.

Back in the studio, Toby pulls all this together to form the second clue:

Clue 2: The future resurrection of the dead is a principle of Jewish faith.

But while all this certainly establishes that religious Jews, like Christians, believe in a future resurrection, what does it have to do with the resurrection of Jesus?

According to Toby, it goes back to the debate between the Pharisees and Sadducees about whether or not there would be a future resurrection. By God resurrecting Jesus three days after he died, it was supposed to settle the argument. Jesus, the Messiah, by being resurrected, establishes a future resurrection.

But there still one more connection to make, and it comes from the apostle Paul:

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:12, 20-21 (NASB)

In verse 12, Paul directly links the resurrection of Jesus with the future resurrection of all the dead, stating that if you don’t believe in the former, you are also denying the latter. Then in verses 20 and 21, Paul says that the resurrection of Jesus was a “first fruits of those who are asleep” (dead).

The Torah commands that all Israelite farmers are required to offer the first ripe fruit of their harvest to God. This presupposes that the larger harvest of the crops is not yet ripe. The metaphor illustrates that the resurrection of the Messiah was a first fruits or a foretaste of the resurrection and when the rest of the harvest of humanity is “ripe,” the great resurrection of the dead will come. This happens in the Messianic Era.

We have arrived at the third and final clue:

Clue 3: Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruits of the final resurrection.

In other words, by the Messiah dying and then being resurrected, he was proving that all of the older prophesies about a great resurrection of the dead in the Messianic Age were valid, accurate, and will indeed occur.

What Did I Learn?

The major point I learned was how the purpose of the resurrection of Messiah was framed by Toby and Aaron. Basically, it was a theological and probably a legal proof to all of the Jewish people of that day that indeed there would be a great resurrection in the future age.

Today’s Orthodox Jews believe in that resurrection, but I’m not sure that all religious Jews everywhere do. All Christians believe not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but in the resurrection of all the dead, who will then be judged.

I don’t struggle with these concepts, but the great struggle today for non-believing Jews, just as it probably was among many of the Jewish people in the day of the apostles, was whether or not the Messiah had to die and then rise. While the focus of this episode was on the resurrection, to get a Jewish person to this point, you first have to get them past the death of Jesus, which wasn’t touched upon in this show.

I’ve tried to write to this issue using Jewish and Christian sources in blog posts such as The Death of the Tzaddik and The Sacrifice at Golgotha.

Jews, like Christians (and just about everyone else), find the idea of making a human sacrifice to God abhorrent, and from a traditional Jewish perspective, the death of Jesus to pay for our sins looks like a human sacrifice. Christians don’t consider this an issue in our faith, but from an outsider’s point of view, it’s a huge stumbling block.

tallit_templeThere are some aspects of Jewish faith that support the idea of the death of a great tzaddik or righteous one atoning for the sins of others, up to and including the sins of an entire generation of Jews. When we people of Yeshua faith attempt to cite those sources, we are sometimes accused of misreading the ancient Jewish sages for our own ends. I can see how some Jewish people would get that impression but this also illustrates that it is Jewish to believe a human death can atone for others, therefore, it’s not completely outrageous to believe that the Messiah’s death, the death of the greatest of all tzaddikim, could atone, not just for the sins of a single generation, but for the sins of all generations across time.

But I’m going off topic. Toby and Aaron were focusing on the resurrection, not the death of Messiah, and they’re addressing primarily an audience of traditional Christians, not traditional Jews. To that end, it’s almost as if Toby and Aaron were “preaching to the choir,” since the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of all the dead are a “given” in the Christian faith. However, they did establish that the resurrection is not an uniquely Christian concept, but is founded strongly in Judaism and the Old Testament. They also showed, as I said above, that the resurrection proved to the Jewish people in the apostolic era, that the prophesies of a great, future resurrection would be fulfilled.

At the end of the episode, as usual, Boaz Michael, FFOZ’s President and Founder, came to announce the next and last show of this television series, which teaches the literal, physical restoration of Israel that is yet to come. This will be my last opportunity to review this television series and I will certainly miss it.

I’m not unmindful that this blog post is being published on Christmas Day. For all of my readers who celebrate Christmas, I give you warm greetings and may the Spirit of Messiah be with you on this day, inspiring love and generosity.

May the light of Messiah continue to illuminate our paths and to open our eyes to who he is and who we are in him.

FFOZ TV Review: All Foods Clean

All Foods CleanEpisode 23: Most Christians believe that when Mark 7 tells us “thus he declared all foods clean,” that the biblical dietary restrictions were abolished once and for all. In Episode twenty-three viewers will learn that in order to understand these words, it is imperative to look into the Jewish context of the Mark 7 story, and in particular that the argument surrounded not food but ritual hand washing. It will be discovered that the dietary laws are indeed still in force for the Jewish people and will be the menu for the Messianic kingdom.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 23: All Foods Clean (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of All Foods Clean

This episode takes on the traditional Christian doctrine that teaches Jesus abolished the Kosher food laws during his earthly ministry based on the following scripture:

And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

Mark 7:18-19 (ESV)

I understand something of the background of these scriptures and why they don’t actually prove that Jesus abolished the Kosher laws, but First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teachers Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby did an excellent job at digging deeper and making points I had never considered before. After watching this episode, I challenge any Christian to continue believing that Jesus declared all foods “Kosher” based on the above quoted verses.

But first things first.

We find the basis for the Jewish Kosher laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 which outlines the foods Jews can and cannot eat according to the commandments of God. Toby didn’t mention this, but the basis for how food animals are to be slaughtered is only briefly mentioned in the Torah and thus, a significant amount of Rabbinic interpretation is involved in expanding on this important issue, adding more dimension to what makes an animal Kosher in relation to the method of execution and preparation.

However, as you’re about to discover, the discussion in Mark 7 had nothing to do with Kosher foods at all. In fact, it would have been a contradiction for Jesus to have “declared all foods clean” (Kosher) since in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said he had not come to abolish any of the Torah laws, and in Isaiah 66:17 the prophet said that in the future Messianic Kingdom, it will be an abomination to eat pork or mice (non-Kosher animals).

So if Jesus and the Pharisees weren’t even talking about “keeping Kosher,” what were they talking about?

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

Mark 7:1-5 (ESV)

Toby has said in at least one prior episode that “context is King,” and we see that illustrated here. The beginning verses of this chapter show us that the Pharisees weren’t accusing Jesus and his disciples of eating pork chops with a side of shrimp scampi. It had to do with eating (bread) with defiled hands, that is, unwashed hands. It had to do with a particular practice that the Pharisees had of ritually washing not only their hands, but many other objects in order to achieve a level of ritual purity. This was completely irrelevant to the issue of Kosher or non-Kosher foods and was a tradition the Pharisees took upon themselves to honor God; a tradition of the elders.

The following is Jesus’ response to the allegations that his disciples didn’t keep the same ritual washing tradition as the Pharisees:

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

Mark 7:8-9 (ESV)

Jesus turns the conversation completely around and accuses the Pharisees of being so concerned about non-Biblical traditions involving excessive ritual purity, that they neglected the higher moral laws of the Torah.

That brings us to Toby’s first clue:

Clue 1: The context of Mark 7 is ritual handwashing before eating, not the dietary laws of the Bible.

Toby JanickiThat’s pretty much where I thought Toby was going to go, but what happens next, I didn’t expect and in fact, Aaron’s Hebrew language lesson opened up new information for me, and went a long way to “sealing the deal” that Jesus and the Pharisees weren’t discussing the Kosher laws on any level in Mark 7.

There’s a world of difference in talking about the Kosher food laws and the concept of ritual purity. In Hebrew, the word for ritually clean is “Tahor” and the word for ritually impure is “Tamai.” This has nothing to do with sinning, but it does require a little background to understand the concepts and their relevancy to this discussion.

Aaron told a sort of story in order to illustrate his point. You have to imagine yourself as a Jewish person in the days of Jesus when the Temple was still standing. You are having the Passover meal with a family in Jerusalem. The lamb you will be eating was sacrificed at the Temple and, in order for a Jewish person to eat a Temple Sacrifice, that person has to be Tahor or ritually pure. This isn’t a requirement for having any Kosher meal, only for eating a Temple Sacrifice.

Aaron said that if one of the guests at the meal were to suddenly pass away, just the presence of a corpse at the Passover meal would render everything, including the people in attendance, as Tamai. They would no longer be able to eat the Passover lamb because they would be in a state of ritual impurity.

Again, this has nothing to do with sin. No one did anything wrong. There are many conditions listed in the Torah that could make a person Tamai. A woman who gives birth or who has her monthly period is considered Tamai. A man who has had typical marital relations with his wife is considered Tamai. That doesn’t mean they’ve done anything wrong, and it doesn’t mean they can’t eat anything, but one thing it does mean is that until they perform the rituals listed in the Bible to again become Tahor, they can not eat any Temple Sacrifice.

Aaron describes the procedure for returning to ritual purity, which you can get from the episode, but comprehending the meaning of Tahor and Tamai is critical to understanding the discussion in Mark 7.

It’s important to note that cycles of being Tahor and Tamai were a typical part of a Jewish human experience and even Jesus would have been Tamai and Tahor depending on a variety of circumstances. It has nothing to do with sin and a great deal to do with involvement in Temple ceremonies in ancient Israel for a Jewish person. Normal Kosher food can either be Tahor or Tamai, but as long as it’s not part of a Temple Sacrifice, it’s OK for a Jewish person to eat Tamai bread. There’s no sin.

Aaron EbyThis next part is the key (and I’d love to see Toby and Aaron’s source material on this matter – – bibliography, please). The Pharisees who confronted Jesus and his disciples in Mark 7 kept a particular practice where they treated every meal as if it were a Temple Sacrifice. This required them to exist in a constant state of ritual purity or be continually Tahor. They had to enter the mikvah and otherwise practice many ritual purity washings in all aspects of their day-to-day existence. This was absolutely not required by the Torah and had nothing to do with the Kosher laws, but was their way of honoring God, though God didn’t obligate them or any Jew to do so.

To maintain a constant state of ritual purity, the Pharisees (I don’t know if all Pharisees kept this practice or only some) had to avoid all contact with other Jews who did not keep the same excessive level of purity (and contact with Gentiles on any level was completely out of the question). These Pharisees led very complicated lives where even having a meal involved a great deal of preparation and would have been very difficult to maintain.

Back in the studio, Toby uses Aaron’s teaching to produce the second clue:

Clue 2: Mark 7 involves a sectarian preference of the Pharisees and not a Biblical requirement.

At this point, it should be abundantly clear that Mark 7 can’t be used as a proof text for the extinction of the Kosher laws at the hands of Jesus, but we have a problem.

…since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

Mark 7:19 (ESV)

We have a statement in parenthesis saying that Jesus declared all foods clean. Toby read from a variety of different Bible translations but only the King James Version translates this verse literally and omits any mention of Jesus declaring all foods or meats kosher or pure.

The words in parenthesis were added by the translators and are not in any of the original Greek texts. Toby was generous and said the translators were just trying to clarify the verse, but what they actually did was to impose their theology onto the Bible by adding words to it (which I think both the Torah and New Testament take a dim view of).

I’ll omit posting all of the different translation examples used by Toby except for the following:

He said to them, “Are even you lacking discernment? Do you not comprehend that whatever comes within a person from the outside of him does not contaminate him? For it does not come into his heart, but rather into his stomach, and it goes out to the toilet, which cleanses all that is eaten.”

Mark 7:18-19 (DHE Gospels)

Here, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being completely out of balance, giving ultimate importance to a man-made standard of excessive ritual purity while neglecting the moral implications of the Bible. The Pharisees were nearly obsessed with avoiding eating anything Tamai which, for non-Temple Sacrificed food, would not affect their relationship with God and would literally pass into the toilet, as opposed to ignoring the Torah commandments and thus becoming morally impure, those things that enter the heart and result in “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22 ESV).

Clue 3: The words “Jesus declared all foods clean” are not in the original Greek text.

This should go a long way in establishing to everyone familiar with these verses that they cannot possibly be interpreted the way the Church as typically understood them. The phrase about Jesus declaring all foods clean is a tragic example of the Christian church in all it’s denominations across much of history favoring man-made traditions (traditions of the elders) and ignoring the actual words of the Bible in their proper context.

kosher eatingThis is an excellent example of why I’m a Christian who studies Messianic Judaism. The vast majority of Christian teachers would have not understood this point at all.

Toby quickly mentions that even though the Kosher laws were not done away with, that doesn’t mean Gentile Christians have to suddenly start separating their milk and meat products. The Kosher laws are applied to the Jewish people, while the only food restrictions for Gentile Christians are found in Acts 15 (and how the “Jerusalem letter” is understood would be a worthy study for a future episode of this show).

Toby also said that in the Messianic Era, the whole world (Jews and Gentiles alike) will be eating Kosher, which probably doesn’t sound like good news to most of the Christians who read my blog. How that works would also have to be covered in another FFOZ TV show since it represents another mystery.

What Did I Learn?

Aaron’s lesson and how Toby applied it was completely new to me. I had some understanding of the concepts of Tahor and Tamai, but I had no idea of the excessive levels of ritual purity practiced by the Pharisees of Mark 7 vs. Tahor and Tamai in relation to ordinary Kosher meals. I know most Christians will try to find a way around this, but for me, it was another example of how this show presents very tight arguments that help us correctly understand the Gospels from their original, apostolic perspective.

I found myself wishing Toby had tossed in a clue or two about Acts 10, since that’s the other major part of scripture used by Christians to “prove” that God did away with the Kosher laws. But then I remembered this:

You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean (emph. mine).

Acts 10:28 (NRSV)

If you recall, earlier I said that the excessive level of ritual purity kept by the Pharisees in Mark 7 would make it impossible to have any sort of association with Gentiles, even to the point of entering their homes. Merely being in a non-Jewish home would pose a great risk of a Jew becoming Tamai for a number of reasons. Now this represents no sin, but for the Pharisees, who could not even eat a single meal in a state of Tamai, it would be exceptionally difficult to have relations with Gentiles.

But what about Peter? We already know that Jesus didn’t require his disciples to keep a level of ritual purity matching the Pharisees.

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them (emph. mine).

Mark 7:1-2 (NRSV)

The text says that only some of Jesus’ disciples ate with unwashed hands, not all of them. Was Peter one of the Jewish disciples of Jesus who did keep a higher level of ritual purity, treating all meals as if he had to be Tahor to eat them? Was this excessive standard of purity considered the de facto standard among Jews until Jesus taught his disciples otherwise?

I don’t know, but since I do know the Torah does not say that it is unlawful for a Jew to “associate with or to visit a Gentile,” the fact that Peter was saying those words and his Jewish companions seemed to be aligned with this belief tells me it’s quite possible Peter kept some of these excessive purity laws (and I should mention that the tradition of washing hands, called Netilat Yadayim, is practiced by some observant Jews today).

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”

Acts 11:1-3 (NRSV)

Here we see Peter being confronted by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Council, which could very well have included James, the brother of the Master, and they were very surprised that Peter was associating with Gentiles. This confrontation seems to support that the apostles and brothers in Jerusalem also had adopted a higher set of standards of ritual purity than Jesus and the Torah required. This is very important in understanding the following:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Galatians 2:11-14 (NRSV)

Apparently, Peter had become accustomed to eating and associating with Gentiles, that is, until some “certain people” showed up, probably important representatives from James and the apostolic council in Jerusalem. We can’t be certain of the sequence of events, but Galatians was probably written before Acts 15. However, did Peter already have his encounter with Cornelius in Acts 10? It seems likely if he initially was OK with associating with Gentiles, but he obviously struggled with the level of ritual purity and tradition he felt he needed to keep, and how it would look to James and the brothers in Jerusalem. He was influenced by peer pressure, unlike Paul, who was a lot more comfortable with being a Jewish man in close proximity to Gentiles, and knowing that did not make him unacceptable to God as a Jew.

DHE Gospel of MarkAgain and again, in all the so-called Christian “proof texts” which seem to abolish the Kosher laws, we see that the topic isn’t about Kosher foods at all, but rather how some Jews, including possibly Peter, kept a higher than necessarily level of ritual purity, and how that specific preference could be used to discriminate against the Gentile believers by “requiring” Gentiles in the body of Messiah not to be permitted to associate with believing Jews (at least those who kept this higher standard).

Sure, some of this is supposition on my part, but given all of the solid scriptural evidence of the maintaining of the Kosher laws for the Jewish people of the apostolic era (and by inference, among modern Jews today, including modern believing Jews), I think I make a good case in explaining the “food” issues of Acts 10 and Galatians 2. Some of my conclusions are also derived from the opinions and research of New Testament scholar and author Mark Nanos, which I’ve previously recorded on this blog.

I know some Christians who express great joy at not “being under the Law” and who would be pretty dismayed at my conclusions, but as Toby said, there’s nothing in the Bible that tells us non-Jewish Christians must keep the Kosher laws. The Didache, an early document dated to the second or even first centuries and purportedly used to train new Gentile disciples of the Jewish Messiah entering the Jewish religious stream of “the Way,” offers no requirement or even mention of the Kosher laws as applied to non-Jewish believers, and only stresses that the Gentiles should avoid meats sacrificed to idols (which mirrors the Acts 15 directives to Gentile disciples). While I think any non-Jewish believer can take on board additional Torah mitzvoth, including Kosher, voluntarily (and the Didache also supports this), it’s voluntary and a matter of conviction between the person and God.

Just remember that the Pharisees also kept a standard of observance that was higher than what God required of them as well, and it resulted in them becoming so focused on those excessive standards that they ended up ignoring what actually was required of them. If you, as a Christian, feel you want to modify your eating habits to reflect some level of Kosher or Kosher-like observance, just remember that such observance by a Gentile believer will never be as important to God as what is required of us, “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).

Final note: this is probably a good time to mention that there are only three more episodes in the series available for me to review. Given the value I’ve found in what I’ve seen so far, I hope the folks at FFOZ consider producing more shows in this excellent television series soon.

FFOZ TV Review: Fringes of the Garment

FFOZ TV Episode 22Episode 22: In the gospel story of the woman with the hemorrhage of blood, she is healed by touching the fringe of Jesus’ cloak. By touching Jesus’ fringe, the woman was acting upon the prophetic nature of an important biblical commandment. Episode twenty-two will introduce the commandment in Numbers for Jewish men to put fringes on the corners of their garments to remind them of God’s instructions. Viewers will then see how this all ties into the prophetic words of Zechariah about ten men from the nations grabbing a hold of the fringe of a Jew.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 22: Fringes of the Garment (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of Fringes of the Garment

This is a particular mystery I originally thought I had a pretty good handle on and one that traditional Christians would generally find missing in their educational database. What First Fruits of Zion teachers Toby Janicki and Aaron Eby presented was at least a little different from I expected. Parts of the lesson were considerably different.

But first things first.

Today’s “Biblical mystery” originates in the following text:

And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

Matthew 9:20-22 (ESV)

Toby used the English Standard Version of the Bible for his reading. While I tend to prefer the New American Standard Version, after comparing the two translations of this scripture side-by-side, I understood why he made the selection he did (besides the fact that FFOZ defaults to the ESV translation as a matter of course). I also realized why Toby didn’t use the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels for the reading, since it would have given away too much too fast.

Why did the woman with the “discharge of blood” seek healing specifically by touching “the fringe of his (Jesus’) garment?” What made her think that would stop years of bleeding? Was it just some sort of anomalous or random choice on her part? As it turns out, she wasn’t the only one to believe that touching “fringes” would produce a healing result:

And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

Mark 6:56 (ESV)

As it turns out, a lot of Jewish people believed that touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment would heal them. I’d completely missed this on my numerous read-throughs of the Bible and am grateful to Toby for pointing this out.

But most Christians wouldn’t understand the significance of the “fringes” of the clothing of a Jewish man in the late Second Temple era (or today, for that matter). “Fringes” makes it sound like people were touching a hem or edge of whatever Jesus was wearing. Why would that heal?

This is where even a little understanding of the Law of Moses comes in handy.

Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them that they shall make themselves tzitzis on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations. And they shall place upon the tzitzis of each corner a threat of turquoise wool. It shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them; and not explore after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray. So that you may remember and perform all My commandments and be holy to your God.

Numbers 15:38-40 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Toby JanickiWhile Toby continued to use the ESV translation, I’m using a much more Jewish source for this scripture. The original Hebrew word for what we read translated in the New Testament as “fringes” is “tzitzit” (“tzitzis” in the Ashkenazi pronunciation). When we get to Aaron Eby’s portion of the program, we’ll learn what tzitzit are, but at this point in the show, Toby tells us that these “fringes” were a response to the commandment in Numbers 15 and that being on a Jewish man’s garment did two things:

  1. The fringes served as a reminder to the Jewish wearer of all of the commandments of God.
  2. The fringes served as a reminder to anyone seeing the wearer that this person was a Jew who was obedience to the God of Israel, since no other people were given the commandment of tzitzit or the Torah of Moses.

And lest you think that the fringes on Jesus’ garments weren’t really tzitzit because that commandment wasn’t being observed by Jewish men in that age, consider this:

For they widen their tefillin and lengthen their tzitziyot.

Matthew 23:5 (DHE Gospels)

“Tzitziyot” is the plural of “tzitzit” in Hebrew, and here we see Jesus criticizing some of the Pharisees for dramatically displaying the length of their fringes as well as the straps of their tefillin or phylacteries (the wearing of tzitzit and tefillin is still practiced by observant Jewish men today).

This brings us to our first clue in solving today’s Biblical mystery:

Clue 1: Jesus had fringes on the corners of his garment in obedience to the Numbers 15 commandment.

Now the scene shifts to Aaron Eby in Israel for a brief Hebrew language lesson on the Hebrew words for “fringe” and “corner.”

Aaron EbyAs I mentioned above, the word translated as “fringe” or “tassel” in some English Bibles is actually the Hebrew word “tzitzit” (plural: “tzitziyot”, although as Aaron says, English speakers use “tzitzit” often for both singular and plural).

The Hebrew word for “corner” in the context of a garment, is “kanaf.” Tzitzit are cords of wool (usually). The string of blue colored thread (sometimes translated as “turquoise”) was made from a very specific process that is thought by most observant Jews to be lost (which is why most tzitzit today are completely white), although some Jewish people think it has recently been rediscovered.

In ancient times, a man’s garment would be like a sort of “poncho” and had four actual corners on the bottom. On each corner, tzitzit would be tied. Today, men’s garments lack this structure, so most Jewish men wear what Christians call a “prayer shawl” and what Jews call a Tallit Gadol (large tallit). Most, if not all, observant Orthodox Jews will wear an undergarment throughout the day called a Tallit Katan (small tallit) in addition to donning a Tallit Gadol during worship and prayer in order to be obedient to the Numbers 15 commandment and for the same reasons I listed above.

Aaron said that according to Deuteronomy 22:12, the tzitzit must be on the corners of the garment. No other location on a Jewish man’s clothing is in obedience to the commandment of God. Thus, some non-Jewish men in certain areas of the Hebrew or Jewish Roots movement who choose to tie tzitzit on their belt loops are actually in scriptural error (not to mention that the commandment was specifically given to the Israelites and their modern-day descendants, the Jewish people).

What was more interesting to me was Aaron’s explanation of the word “Kanaf.” It can mean both “corner” as in the corner of a man’s garment, or “wings”.

He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”

Ruth 3:9 (ESV)

Since Boaz didn’t likely have actual bird’s wings, Ruth was more likely asking (assuming she was being literal) that Boaz spread some portion of his cloak over her, protecting her from sight (though it could also be understood in a more general sense as a request for protection since she referred to him as “redeemer”).

Aaron said that Kanaf could be understood not only as the corner of a cloak or other garment, but specifically the attachment point of the tzitzit and the garment’s corner. This leads to the idiomatic meaning of “touching the corner” (kanaf) as “touching the tzitzit,” which is probably what the woman in Matthew 9:20-22 was actually doing.

Back in the studio, Toby provides the next clue:

Clue 2: Fringes are called tzitzit and the Hebrew word for corner is kanaf.

But we still have our mystery. Why would anyone believe that touching the tzitzit on Jesus’ garment would cause healing to occur?

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.

Malachi 4:2 (ESV)

MessiahThat’s “sun” s-u-n, not “son” s-o-n, and yet this prophesy about the coming Messianic age is really discussing the Messiah. There are other portions of scripture that refer to the Messiah with the term “Sun” including Revelation 1:16, and Malachi specifically states that Messiah shall rise with healing in its (his) wings.”

Toby concludes that when the woman with the issue of blood and all the others touched the Master’s tzitzit and expected to be healed, they were considering the prophesy of Malachi 4:2 and displaying their faith in Jesus as Messiah. When Jesus told the woman who had moments before stopped bleeding, that her faith had healed her, in this interpretation, he wasn’t referring to her faith in God as such, but her specific faith in him, in Jesus as the Messiah.

Toby went on to reference another important Messianic scripture:

Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

Zechariah 8:22-23 (ESV)

Toby should have made this part of a fourth clue, since it doesn’t directly reference the theme of the other three (and I don’t mind departing from the format of three clues per mystery from time to time), and it says something very important. In fact, in order to teach this part of the lesson, Toby twice had to say that it was a specific belief and teaching of the First Fruits of Zion ministry, so a viewpoint that might not be found in general Christian doctrine or even in other expressions of Messianic Judaism.

Toby said that the ten men of the nations specifically represented believers from all the (non-Jewish) nations of the earth, “the Church,” (this point is important and I’ll explain it further in a minute), grasping (metaphorically) the tzitzit, not just of any Jewish man, but of one specific Jewish man, Messiah. The number of men is also significant since, in Judaism, ten men (almost always ten Jewish men) form a minyan or a quorum. A minyan must be present for any group to engage in davening during the set times of prayer or for the ark to be opened and the Torah to be carried out for reading during a Shabbat service.

Here, Toby tells us that this is a prophesy and a sign of Christian belief and faith in the God of Israel and a desire to become a part of the Messianic Kingdom.

What Did I Learn?

Actually, I learned the most from Toby’s “fourth clue.” I had always understood the passage from Zechariah as a prophesy that the people of the nations (not necessarily Christians, but unbelievers who were coming to faith) would turn to Jewish people for an understanding of God and to come to faith in the Messianic Age, going up to Jerusalem to pay homage to King Messiah, to Jesus. The scripture specifically mentions “ten men from the nations,” which indicates only Gentiles and no Jews, but Toby said that the prophesy references “the Church” turning to the Jewish Messiah.

moshe_tzitzitMy Pastor defines “the Church” as the Gentile and Jewish people who have come to faith in Jesus, so logically, Toby can’t be correct in equating “the Church” with only Gentile Christians, that is, unless he is saying that he (and First Fruits of Zion) defines the Church as only Gentile Christians, and Jews in Messiah, Messianic Jews, as another entity, more a Judaism than a Christianity.

I know that Messianic Judaism does typically support distinctions between Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Messiah, but the Body must still be unified in Messiah. Toby’s brief statement is pregnant with implications, and some of them rather daunting, that FFOZ may consider Messianic Judaism as completely detached from Gentile Christianity.

I find this difficult to believe, since I’ve heard FFOZ President and Founder Boaz Michael speak at length about the Jewish and Gentile unity in the Body of Messiah, and maybe I’m reading far more into Toby’s statement than I should. Maybe he misspoke himself when he said “the Church” and he meant “Gentile Christians.” I don’t know. I know that whenever I post a link to one of my FFOZ TV reviews on Facebook, Toby “likes” it, but I don’t know if he ever reads my reviews. If he does, I would hope he’d chime in on some social networking venue and correct any misunderstanding I may have about what he was teaching.

One way I could interpret this part of his teaching is that Toby was trying to say that by having ten men from the nations (Gentile Christians) grasping the tzitzit of Messiah, we Christians would be making a fundamental paradigm shift from traditional Church theology and doctrine, to one more in line with a Messianic Jewish perspective, looking through a Jewish lens in order to read the Bible and to see Messiah for who he really is: the Jewish Messiah King.

Although I rarely mention it in my reviews, during each episode of this series, there is a segment promoting First Fruits of Zion’s FFOZ Friends program, a series of support channels anyone can sign up for to provide a specific level of contribution to the ministry in exchange for access to hardcopy and online learning resources.

This time, I listened to this part of the program with rapt attention, especially the words (I’m paraphrasing):

Teachings that have been lost since the time of the apostles.

That’s part of how FFOZ promotes its educational materials and its general understanding and perspective on the Bible. That connects back to what I said above about Zechariah 8 and the sign that in the Messianic Era, Christianity would experience a significant shift in perspective from its current theological and doctrinal positions to one more aligned with Messianic Judaism.

If all this is true, then FFOZ is gently trying to promote the beginnings of such a shift in the Church now through its FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come television program. I know from my own experiences in my local church, that such an effort is easier said than done and truly may require the Messiah’s second coming to accomplish.

prophetic_return1One thing Toby might have missed in his Malachi reference is that the “healing” we’ll experience as “the Church” in the Messianic Age may be the nearly two-thousand years of enmity and schism between Christianity and Judaism. I think Toby was a little quick to jump from the single verse in Malachi 4:2 and assign it a specific meaning in the late Second Temple period, since it seems to mean so much more. I know that prophesy can be applied to more than one event, but the link from Malachi to Matthew and Mark was pretty abrupt and I would have preferred a longer trail and more explanation supporting that link.

I take more from Toby’s “fourth clue” that someday, “the Church,” or rather, the Gentiles therein (and the “gentilized” Hebrew Christians who are missing out on the blessings of Torah observance), will have their eyes opened and realize that their faith in Jesus is actually the devotion of the people of the nations to the God of Israel and the Jewish King who will one day rule forever in Jerusalem. We will gather on that day, we, the people of the nations who are called by His Name, alongside God’s treasured and splendorous people, the Jewish people, bend our knee to the King, and worship Israel’s God in spirit and in truth.