Tag Archives: Messianic Age

When Israel Conquers the World

Nistell
Rabbi Jacoob Ben Nistell (Times of Israel)

Taking a glass half-full approach to the extraordinary saga of the “rabbi” who duped a Polish community for years about his Orthodox credentials, but who turned out to have been a Catholic ex-cook, Poland’s chief rabbi noted endearingly Thursday that nobody in Poland would have pretended to be a Jewish religious leader just a few decades ago.

The deception achieved by Ciechanow-born Jacek Niszczota — who passed himself off as Israel-born Rabbi Jacoob Ben Nistell to the satisfaction of the Poznan Jewish community that utilized his volunteer services — is indicative of a growing interest within Poland in its once-large Jewish community, which was almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust, Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said.

“Who, 30 years ago in this country, would have pretended to be a rabbi, to say nothing of 70 years ago?” Schudrich asked.

Schudrich added that he had met Niszczota/Nistell a few times, and always found him to be “very sweet and smiley.” Still, he stressed, it was not good that the man misrepresented himself…

-from “Poland’s chief rabbi finds comfort in saga of Catholic impostor who fooled community”
The Times of Israel

I actually lifted this quote from the Rosh Pina Project (RPP) which was quoting from the “Times,” and as far as I understand it, RPP meant the reference to be a criticism of Messianic Judaism, or at least those portions of the movement (perhaps One Law/Hebrew Roots) that allow non-Jews to function as “Rabbis”.

But I saw something different here. Just as Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich suggested, why would a non-Jew, a Catholic, pretend to be a Rabbi?

The article doesn’t describe Niszczota’s motivation, but I wonder if it’s the same one that, to a much lesser degree, attracts Christians out of their churches and into the Noahide, Messianic Jewish, or One Law/Hebrew Roots movements?

There seems to be something about Judaism that a significant subset of Christians find more attractive than their own faith.

As far as many Noahides are concerned, the disconnect between how the Church interprets the Old and New Testaments results in their rejection of Christianity and Jesus Christ altogether, and pulls them into an Orthodox Jewish understanding of the role of Gentiles in a world created by God.

christian at kotelTo one degree or another, Messianic Gentiles and One Law Gentiles “split the difference,” so to speak, and find a way to integrate the Old Testament (Tanakh) and New Testament (Apostolic Scriptures) within a more “Judaic” framework. The type and degree of Jewish praxis varies quite a bit among these populations, since there’s no one external standard defining who we are and what we’re supposed to do within any sort of “Jewish” community space.

However, I did find another opinion, or rather a link to that opinion, that was posted in a closed Facebook group for Messianic Gentiles:

With children, at least someone was already obligated to foster their growth in Torah and observance. R. Auerbach now extends this idea to non-Jews. Beyond specific Noahide laws, he assumes all non-Jews are obligated to accept the fact that the world was created for the Jewish people [he does not explain further: I think he might have meant only that the Jewish people set the tone for the world, not that we’re the central purpose of existence. To me, that’s the implication of his following comments].

Recognizing Jews’ role in Hashem’s world means recognizing that Torah scholars, and especially a consensus of Torah scholars, are our best way of knowing what Hashem wants us to do. That’s as true for non-Jews as for Jews, so that a decree by Torah scholars should sound to them as if they’ve been told the Will of Hashem.

Technical questions of lo tasur as a Biblical obligation aside, non-Jews have to listen to the Torah leaders of the Jewish people for this reason [that might be only when there’s a formal body of Torah scholars, debating and voting on their decisions]. Such powers should extend to confiscating money and making decrees, as it does for Jews. Although in the non-Jews’ case, they’d be listening out of their own awareness that they are required to, not (again) a formal halachic obligation.

-R. Gidon Rothstein
“Children and Non-Jews’ Personal Obligations”
TorahMusings.com

Granted, this is a minority viewpoint within Orthodox Judaism, but it does exist. It also presupposes Gentile recognition of Rabbinic authority, which must be something of a rarity. I can’t imagine in my wildest fantasies, for example, the Head Pastor of the little Baptist church I used to attend going along with any of the above.

And yet, whether you’re a Noahide or Messianic Gentile in Jewish community, to one degree or another, you are accepting Jewish Rabbinic authority (One Law Gentiles, not so much).

For the Noahide, it’s a foregone conclusion that whether in the synagogue or their own communities of non-Jews, they must accept Rabbinic authority because it is the only thing that defines them.

Who am IFor Messianic Gentiles, it’s a lot more “messy”. First of all, there is no one definition of what it is to be a “Messianic Gentile” among Messianic (or other) Jews. Secondly, a lot of us don’t live anywhere near a Messianic Jewish community (at least an authentic one), so we lack an actual Jewish lived context in which to operate. Finally, depending on who you are and how you understand what “Messianic Judaism” means, your acceptance or rejection of various areas of Jewish authority and Rabbinic legal rulings will flex quite a bit.

There is one final thing to consider. In the Messianic Age, when King Messiah is on his throne in Jerusalem, and the peoples of the world live in nations that are all servants of Israel, we will indeed be under Jewish authority. I don’t know what that will look like relative to Orthodox Judaism, but my guess is that said-Jewish authority will look more Jewish than most Gentiles would be comfortable with, especially more traditional Christians.

Something to consider as Pesach (Passover) approaches.

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Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Protos and Deuteros

Bible teachers often use Hebrews 9 as proof that the disciples of Yeshua abandoned the Old Testament rituals of Temple worship and sacrifices as vestiges of an old covenant that had been replaced by a new covenant. A closer look reveals an entirely different message. Hebrews 9 uses the layout of the Temple to present a mystical illustration of the passage from this world to the world to come.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Thirty-Four: Protos and Deuteros
Originally presented on December 14, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Lancaster finished his survey of the New Covenant as it applies to Hebrews 8 in the previous week’s sermon which I reviewed here. This also should have finished Hebrews 8 and have taken us into chapter 9 but there’s something Lancaster wanted his listeners to get first. Protos and Deuteros.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. (emph. mine)

Hebrews 8:7 (NASB)

The first or in Greek “Protos” covenant was the Sinai or Mosaic covenant and the second or “Deuteros” covenant is the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36). There needed to be a Deuteros covenant because God found fault with “them” not “it”. That is, He found fault with people not the Protos covenant and not the conditions of the Protos covenant, the Torah, and not with the enactment of some of the covenant commandments which involve the Temple and the Priesthood (all this is covered in previous reviews and you can listen to the recording of this sermon to pick up more details).

After verse 7, Lancaster quickly reviewed verses 8 through 12 which quote Jeremiah 31 and the New Covenant language and then he focused on verse 13:

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

Verb tenses are really important here which is why some English translations of the Bible, including the English Standard Version (ESV) are bad, because they make everything sound like it’s in the past tense, which is not what the actual Greek says. Remember, interpretation begins at translation. Some translators read their theology back into the text when they do the translation, changing the literal meaning to fit their assumptions and all of the classic, though erroneous, perspectives they’ve been taught as part of Christian tradition.

The reason Protos and Deuteros are important is because Paul makes a lot of symbolic use of these two terms as we enter chapter 9.

What is becoming obsolete and getting ready (but hasn’t yet) to disappear?

holy placeNot the Torah, because it represents the conditions of both the Sinai and the New Covenants. Not the Temple because the Temple was still standing when this epistle was written and there will be a Temple in the Messianic Age. Not the Priesthood because God declared that the Aaronic Priesthood is eternal.

So what does Protos represent that is in the process of becoming obsolete and getting ready to disappear.

The Olam Hazah or the Present Age. The age that we have with us now. The age of everything before the Messianic Age and the Age to Come. That’s what is just about to, but hasn’t yet because we’re still in it, get ready to pass away.

Now this next part has to be followed carefully. Once you get it, it’s rather simple to comprehend, but it’s easy to get lost if you don’t get it. Lancaster admitted that he makes it all sound more complicated than it really is.

Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

Hebrews 9:1-5

Both Lancaster and the writer of the Hebrews epistle are hip deep in symbolism at this point.

The Holy Place described in these verses is the Protos or the Present Age. The Holy of Holies is the Deuteros or the Age to Come. Lancaster goes into a lengthy and detailed explanation of what each of the objects in this analogy of the letter writer’s description means but basically, the Present Age is where all of the daily duties of the Priests occur. It’s where we live today. Here’s what I mean.

holy-holies2

Remember, Lancaster says that he believes the Temple was still standing when this letter was written, so he’s being quite literal. But also, this is representative of the fact that he was describing the Present Age, the age in which he and his readers were living and the age in which we continue to live. We have daily access to the holy things and the service to God as described in the Sinai Covenant (and remember, this is a Jewish person writing to Jewish people so for them, it’s all about the Sinai Covenant). It doesn’t matter that the Temple is now destroyed because Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and there was a long period between that and the building of Herod’s Temple, and yet the Sinai Covenant was (and is) still in effect.

The Holy of Holies by contrast, represents the Age to Come which begins or which is beginning in the Messianic Age, the place where not just any Priest but only the High Priest could enter, and not on a daily basis but only on one day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the High Priest could only enter carrying blood.

He’s saying that the Holy Place, representing our reality today, still has Godliness but there’s a big difference between what we have now and what is going to happen.

Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.

Hebrews 8:6-10

Verse 8 is the key and where we have to pay close attention to the verb tenses:

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time.

The way into the New Covenant age has not been shown to us nor will it be while the current age exists, the Present Age, the age we are living in right now. So the Old (Sinai) Covenant still is in effect and we are still living in the Present Age under the rules and conditions of the Old Covenant. Nothing has been replaced, including the Sinai Covenant, the Torah, the Temple (since it will be rebuilt) and the Priesthood (since it’s an eternal Priesthood and will make sacrifices in the Temple in the Messianic Age).

But why isn’t the New Covenant Age open to us yet?

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

Matthew 27:50-51

Most Christians take these verses to mean that once Yeshua (Jesus) died, the Priesthood was abolished and everyone could enter the (spiritual) Holy of Holies and stand before the throne of God. And yet the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews is saying that this isn’t true and it won’t be true until the New Covenant Age which Messiah will bring to completion, or near completion, when he returns.

What Did I Learn?

I was following Lancaster along pretty well but this next part was new to me. The Present Age is represented by the Holy Place, where our daily service to God takes place and where the Sinai Covenant remains in effect. The Present Age is slowly beginning to pass away and about to become obsolete, but since it’s still here and we’re still here, it still has some life left in it.

The Messianic Age can be compared to the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Both resurrected/perfected people, the Saints, so to speak, in Christ who will rise at the first resurrection and the rest of the people alive at his Second Coming who are yet to be resurrected. It’s the intersection between covenants which is why there will have to be a Temple.

world-to-come

But the Messianic Age is relatively brief, only about a thousand years or so, and once passed through that veil, we’ll be fully in the Age to Come:

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Revelation 21:22-23

It is only at this point in future history, after the Messianic Age has passed away, that the Sinai Covenant will also pass away and there will no longer be a need for the Temple. It’s difficult to imagine what life will be like here, but this is part of what’s being described.

But it’s not as relevant as what happens in the Messianic Age and indeed what’s happening now.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, [m]having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews 8:11-12

Even though we can’t actually enter the Deuteros, the second, the New Covenant Age yet, we still have a stake in it that allows us to live as if we have already entered. How can we do this? Because we have a High Priest who has entered before us, the first fruits of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). How can he enter where we cannot?

The High PriestBecause he already died and was resurrected into a perfected body. We haven’t done that yet. Also, since even the High Priest cannot enter without blood, the blood he shed in the Present Age he “carried” (spiritually, not literally with his hands) from the Protos to the Deuteros as a one time event (not an annual event as is the present Yom Kippur) as a forerunner for the rest of us, and to provide an anchor for us, bridging the gap from the Present Age to the Age to Come.

As I was listening to Lancaster, I realized that when the Temple veil was torn top to bottom the moment Jesus died, it wasn’t a sign that the Old Covenant was dead and buried right then and there so we all could immediately enter the Holy of Holies and stand naked before the Throne of God. It was a sign that the High Priest of Heaven, Messiah Yeshua could now enter…but only him, and only in the Heavenly Holy of Holies, and only with the blood, his blood.

The sermon ended abruptly at this point so I can only imagine Lancaster will continue to follow through next time. Only eleven sermons left to complete the series. It’s getting pretty exciting. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Israel and the Nations According to Isaiah: A Brief Survey

I enjoy reading large “chunks” of the Bible rather than taking in little “sound bytes” each day, because it better helps me understand the whole flow of a book in the Bible. Yesterday, I read through Isaiah. It doesn’t take as long as you might think…maybe an hour or less, and that was even with jotting down a few notes.

I know people like Derek Leman have written copious amounts about Isaiah and I will never match that level of scholarship. I’m just a guy who reads the Bible sitting on the patio in my backyard on a gorgeous southern Idaho summer morning. On the other hand, God didn’t write the Bible just for theologians and didn’t reveal His Word just to the highly educated:

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”

Matthew 11:25 (NASB)

I’m not knocking education. I believe in learning as much as you can. I’m just saying that the rest of us aren’t locked out of the Bible because we don’t have advanced degrees in theology or divinity.

I’ll try to keep this short (yeah, right) and I won’t share everything I wrote down about reading Isaiah, but I want to illustrate something about Israel and the nations from what I believe is Isaiah’s (and thus God’s) point of view. I want to illustrate that in Messianic Days both Israel and those nations who choose to cleave to Israel’s God will be serving God. What this means for us is that we Gentile believers, we non-Jewish disciples of Jesus (Yeshua) are not and do not ever become Israel. We have our own part to play in the redemptive plan of God.

A short tour of what it says about Israel and the nations in Isaiah. Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural quotes come from the Stone Edition Tanakh:

If [Israel] would grasp My stronghold, then he would make peace with Me; peace would he make with Me. [Days] are coming when Jacob will take root; Israel will bud and blossom and fill the face of the earth like fruit.

Isaiah 27:5-6

Admittedly this is midrash, but the sages understand “My stronghold” to be the Torah, indicating that in Messianic Days, the Jewish people are still expected to grasp the Torah tightly and to observe the mitzvot.

Chapter 40 in its entirety speaks of the end of the Jewish exile and the return of the Jewish people to their Land, to Israel.

But you, O Israel, My servant, Jacob, you whom I have chosen, offspring of Abraham who loved Me — you whom I grasp from the ends of the earth shall I summon from among all its noblemen, and to whom I shall say, ‘You are my servant’ — I have chosen you and not rejected you.

Isaiah 41:8-9

Notice the language mentioning Israel and Jacob and the offspring of Abraham. This would seem to eliminate the possibility that God is talking about Jews and Gentiles. I suppose “offspring of Abraham” could be leveraged toward the Gentiles since Abraham is supposed to be the Father to many nations (Genesis 17:5) but Jacob and Israel used together can only mean the Jewish people. No non-Jewish person in their right mind would call themselves a Son of Jacob. Even modern converts to Judaism refer to themselves as “ben Avraham” (sons of Abraham).

Fear not, My servant Jacob and Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. Just as I pour out water upon a thirsty [land] and flowing water upon the dry ground, so shall I pour out My spirit upon your offspring…

Isaiah 44:2-3

This connects to the New Covenant made with Israel and Judah and the giving of the Spirit as we see in Ezekiel 36 and Acts 2. Verse 6 in the same chapter says God is:

King of Israel and its Redeemer.

Verse 21 states:

Jacob and Israel, you are My servant.

Isaiah 45:14-17 is the “confession” of the nations and God says:

They [the nations] will prostrate themselves before you; they will pray before you, ‘Only with you [Jerusalem] is God, and there is none other, except for God’

Isaiah 45:16

JerusalemThe nations will pray to God and prostrate themselves before “you” where the “you” is Jerusalem. That hardly sounds like “mutual submissiveness” as J.K. McKee puts it in his book One Law For All.

Verse 20 states:

Gather yourselves, come and approach together, O survivors of the nations…

Then verses 22 and 23 say:

Turn to Me and be saved, all ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other. I swear by Myself, righteousness has gone forth from My mouth, a word that will not be rescinded: that to Me shall every knee bow and every tongue swear.

And then in verse 25:

All the seed of Israel will be vindicated and will glory in Hashem.

Over and over there is a clear indication that God expects both Israel and the nations to serve Him and in the Messianic Age, He continues to distinguish between Israel and the faithful Gentile nations.

So how can we Christians become Israel?

But there’s more.

If you had hearkened to My commandments, your peace would [flow] like a river and your righteousness like waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:18

Further indication that God continues Jewish Torah observance both in the past and I believe present into the Messianic Era. This dovetails into my belief that one of the vital roles of Gentiles in Messiah is to encourage and support Jewish repentance and return to the Torah.

He said: It is insufficient that you be a servant for Me [only] to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the ruins of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, so that My salvation may extend to the ends of the earth.

Isaiah 49:6

This idea of “light” turns up more than once, and as far as Israel being the source of the salvation of the world:

Salvation is from the Jews.

John 4:22 (NASB)

From verse 9 to the end of chapter 49 speaks of the return from exile for the Jews, God’s remembering Israel, that Jerusalem is rebuilt and resettled, and, going into the beginning of chapter 50, how Israel is encouraged to repent.

Here’s another tie-in to the New Covenant:

Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, the nation with My Torah in its heart…

Isaiah 51:7

This is God referring to Israel, the Jewish people as “the nation with the Torah in its heart…” Yet another indication that Torah observance is connected to the righteousness of Israel, even into the days of Messiah.

At the start of chapter 52, the prophet speaks of Jerusalem and how the “uncircumcised and defiled people will no longer enter you.” Of course he could have meant uncircumcised of heart, but it doesn’t actually say that. Reminds me of the following:

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Revelation 22:14-15 (NASB)

MessiahDepending on your point of view, Isaiah 53 either describes the Messiah or Israel. If it’s a Jewish point of view, then it describes the wonderment of the nations at the miracle of Israel’s redemption, once again establishing that the nations exist outside of Israel and this redemption is that of the Jewish people as a nation.

The sages midrashically interpret the beginning of Isaiah 55 as “Come! Study Torah!” but it also speaks of the Davidic covenant as “an eternal covenant” which obviously references the eternal Messiah. Verse 5 says:

…a nation that had not known you will run to you…

and at least in English, “you” could either be Messiah or Israel.

Isaiah 56 is the first time in the entire sixty-six chapter book that says anything specifically about how the nations will serve God. I was wondering if the word “foreigner” in verse 3 might indicate “resident alien” and somehow distinguish between Gentile disciples of the Messiah and the rest of the nations, which could bolster the claim of some that these “foreigners” merge with national Israel, but these foreigners, also mentioned as such in verse 6, are contrasted with “the dispersed of Israel” referenced in verse 8. Actually, verse 8 says:

The word of my Lord Hashem/Elohim, Who gathers in the dispersed of Israel: I shall gather to him even more than those already gathered to him.

So we have the dispersed of Israel gathered and then we also have others who are to be gathered, most likely the aforementioned foreigners from the nations. This is not unlike the words of the Master:

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

John 10:16 (NASB)

Although we have one shepherd and are in one flock (ekklesia), we of the nations are not of the same fold as the Jewish sheep of Israel.

And the foreigners who join themselves to Hashem to serve Him and to love the Name of Hashem to become servants unto Him, all who guard the Sabbath against desecration, and grasp my covenant tightly…

Isaiah 56:6

This is the main indication that foreigners among Israel will also observe or at least “guard” the Sabbath (some Jewish sages draw a distinction between how Israel “keeps” and the nations “guard”), and the question then becomes, grasp what covenant tightly? Is this a reference to some of the “one law” sections of the Torah that laid out a limited requirement of observance of some of the mitzvot for resident aliens which includes Shabbat?

I won’t attempt to answer that now since I want to continue with a panoramic view of Isaiah in terms of the relationship between Israel and the nations (and since it requires a great deal more study and attention).

Nations will walk by your light and kings by the brilliance of your shine.

Isaiah 60:3

This could be seen as the nations walking either by God’s light or Israel’s, but in either case, the nations are still being differentiated from Israel. Verse 5 says:

…and the wealth of the nations will come to you [Israel].

In verse 9, God is referred to as “the Holy One of Israel,” and verse 12 states:

For the nation and kingdom that does not serve you will perish.

This indicates that there are nations that serve God and nations that don’t. Any nation not playing ball, so to speak, is utterly destroyed, which means the only nations left on Earth besides Israel, are serving God. If all Gentiles serving God became Israel, then there would be no nations to serve God, only Israel, and Isaiah’s prophecies would be false.

Referring to Israel, verse 21 says:

Your people will all be righteous; they will inherit the land forever.

This refers to Jeremiah 31 and Romans 11 where we read that God will forgive all the sins of Israel and all Israel will be saved. It also says that the Jewish people will inherit the Land of Israel forever. No other people need apply for citizenship of national Israel in the Messianic Kingdom.

Foreigners will stand and tend your flocks and the sons of the stranger will be your plowmen and your vineyard workers. And you [Jewish Israel] will be called “priests of Hashem.”

Isaiah 61:5-6

sukkot jerusalemYes, we’re all going to “make it” if we keep the faith, both the survivors among the nations and the remnant of Israel, but our relative roles seem to be very distinct, though according to Rabbinic commentary, this may more reflect the “Spiritual preeminence” of Israel.

Moving on to the end of the book, Isaiah 65:1 says that God can be found by those who are not looking for him, which means that God is ultimately accessible to all, every one of His creations. Isaiah 66:10 says we are to be “glad with Jerusalem and rejoice in her” which may also address the people of the nations rejoicing at the redemption of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation. Verse 12 again speaks of the “wealth of the nations” seemingly bankrolling this entire rebuilding effort.

In verse 19, God says he will put a sign upon some of the people of the different nations and tongues and send them to the survivors of the nations to declare His Glory.

The last words of the prophet speak of how we will worship in those days:

It shall be that at every New Moon and on every Sabbath all mankind will come to prostrate themselves before Me, says Hashem. And they will go out and see the corpses of the men who rebelled against Me, for their decay will not cease and their fire will not be extinguished, and they will lie in disgrace before all mankind.

Isaiah 66:23-24

That sounds more like a memorial and a cautionary tale than a worship service.

Over all, and this is just the short list, what I see in Isaiah is that not only do we faithful Gentiles never become Israel, but even under the best of circumstances in the Messianic kingdom, we are not at the top of the heap or anywhere near it. We serve, not only God, but Israel and the Jewish people. Yes, we guard the Sabbath, we pray and offer sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple, we come before God on each New Moon and Sabbath festival, but we are the tail and not the head.

Addendum: I had a conversation with my friend Tom about the core of this blog post yesterday afternoon over coffee and realized he had a more “one law” perspective. He believes there is a population of redeemed nations who are grafted into Israel vs. nations in general who do not cleave to God. He pointed me to Zechariah which I’ll have to follow up on at a later date. Needless to say, my learning is still in progress as I suspect it always will be.

When Jesus Returns, Will We Go To Church?

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Revelation 19:7-8 (NASB)

Who or what exactly is the “bride” of “the Lamb”? It’s presumed to be “the Church,” that is, the collection of individual Jews and Gentiles who came to faith in Jesus (i.e. converted to Christianity) prior to the great tribulation and the rapture to Heaven. Under this presumption, anyone converting to Christianity after the rapture is considered a believer, but not part of the Church. They can never be part of the Church. Only the Church goes up to Heaven with Jesus and only the Church returns with him.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.

Revelation 19:11-14 (NASB)

According to Pastor Randy, the head Pastor at the church I attend (and if I’m remembering this wrong, I hope he’ll let me know), the “armies” returning with Jesus is the Church, who becomes the bride of Christ (“the Lamb”).

The idea of “the Church” has bothered me for quite some time. I finally gave my concerns a voice last April in a “meditation” called Notes on the Church from an Insomniac and followed it up with When is Church not Church, based on D. Thomas Lancaster’s article “Before the Church Was Called the Church”, published in the Spring 2014 issue of Messiah Magazine.

In the first century CE, faith in and worship of Jesus of Nazareth, Yeshua ben Yosef, HaMoshiach, was a fully recognized branch of Judaism along with other branches such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and so forth (although “the Way” was most closely related to Pharisaism, and except for the realization of Yeshua as Messiah and it’s rather liberal attitude toward admitting Gentiles, was likely indistinguishable from Pharisaism).

Obviously, much has changed in the intervening twenty centuries or so, especially starting in the second century when Gentile Jesus-believers radically separated from their Jewish mentors and any Jewish practice, in order to form a completely divergent religion for Gentiles called “Christianity”.

But now that the Church has been created, has it replaced Judaism in all of the New Covenant promises God made with Israel (for instance, in Jeremiah 31:27-40)? With the Church as the “Bride of Christ,” what becomes of Israel and the Jewish people?

Let’s take a giant step backward. First of all, the concept of “the Church” isn’t presupposed in the Bible. Did I just shock you? What about all of those references to “the Church” in the New Testament? Did I just miss all of the times the word “church” is printed (in English) in my Bible?

synagogue_arkAs I’ve mentioned before, the Greek word “ekklesia” cannot directly be translated as “church”. In fact, the word “church” didn’t really come into being until many centuries after the New Testament canonization. Generations of Jesus-believers lived and died before anyone actually thought of or said the word “church”.

So, does “ekklesia” mean the same thing theologically and conceptually as “church”? That’s the $64,000 question and the answer might not be in the New Testament.

Thus says the Lord,
“Preserve justice and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed.
“How blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who takes hold of it;
Who keeps from profaning the sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from His people.”
Nor let the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord,

“To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,
To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.
“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.”
The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares,
“Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

Isaiah 56:1-8 (NASB)

“For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the Lord.

Isaiah 66:18-21 (NASB)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go.” So many peoples and mighty nations will 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 all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”

Zechariah 8:20-23 (NASB)

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16-19 (NASB)

“It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
“Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
“The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape,
As the Lord has said,
Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.”

Joel 2:28-32 (NASB)

Sorry for the lengthy series of quotes. I wanted to present a representative collection of scriptures (though hardly exhaustive) illustrating how the Old Testament depicts Gentile involvement in the “end times” and/or Messianic Age, coming alongside Israel and turning toward God.

RestorationIf I were to set aside the New Testament and concentrate on the scriptures in the Prophets, the image of Gentile worship of God becomes radically different from what we’ve been typically taught by the Church. There are a number of references to “survivors” of the Gentile nations who went up against Israel and who were defeated. There’s at least the suggestion of some sort of judgment against these Gentile nations and consequences for their behavior.

We also see Gentiles being gathered to witness the glory God bestows upon Israel and particularly Jerusalem, as well as statements illustrating Gentile observance of a weekly Shabbat, New Moon Festivals, and the Moadim (appointed times, sometimes referred to as the “Jewish festivals”) for those of us who have held tightly to His Covenant.

But where is “the Church?”

The Christian theology of Progressive Revelation states that from the past to the future in Biblical history, God revealed progressively more about Himself. This means the newer sections of the Bible contain much more information about God and His plan for Israel and humanity than earlier sections. This would lead most of us to conclude that we can “trust” the New Testament more than the Old, thus as Christians, our primary source of information about what to expect from God in the present and future should be the apostolic scriptures.

And yet, just yesterday, I reviewed an article written by Paul Meier called “Christian Theology and the Old Testament” published in Messiah Journal which solemnly described the severe dangers of taking a low view of the Old Testament and relying on the New Testament as our primary source for theology and doctrine. A low view of the Old Testament results in a low view of the Jewish people and the Jewish nation, Israel.

And yet, we rely a great deal on the New Testament to help us interpret and clarify many things we don’t understand about the Old Testament, including our understanding of how the New Covenant is being and will be applied to Israel and the nations. But are the New Testament scriptures really the problem, or is it merely how we choose to treat them relative to the Old Testament and the overarching message of the entire, unified Bible?

Progressive revelation teaches us that later parts of the Bible are more important, clearer, and better than the Older scriptures, but they are all Hebrew scriptures and the later parts cannot stand alone. They must be supported on the foundation of the earlier scriptures and later writings cannot and must not contradict earlier parts.

That’s where we have our problem.

The Old Testament is unequivocally clear that God has had a covenant relationship with Israel for many thousands of years and never has intended to abrogate that relationship. God may discipline Israel from time to time for disobedience, but the New Covenant language is extremely plain in its intent to create an environment within the Jewish heart and spirit that will result in individual Jews and corporate Israel being able to perfectly obey God through the Torah mitzvot and to know God, from the lowest to the highest Jewish person, in the manner of the Biblical prophets.

Unless God changed His mind or He’s a duplicitous liar (and God doesn’t change and doesn’t lie for He is truth), then anything in the New Testament that contradicts what I said in the previous paragraph must be erroneous interpretation on the part of the Church.

prayingSo what do we have? In the Old Testament, we have many, many examples of Gentiles from the nations choosing to join alongside Israel to go up to Jerusalem because the Jewish people are well-known to be close to God. Therefore, a Gentile can also become close to God by attaching themselves to Israel (which makes us “attached” or “grafted in” but not Israel itself).

But how do we do that and why does it work?

We know that based on one particular aspect of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:15-16, Ephesians 3:1-13), by faith in the “seed of Abraham,” that is Messiah, Son of David, the people of the nations can also benefit from the New Covenant blessings (holding fast to the Covenant), and through adoption, be called “Sons”, and enjoy forgiveness of sins, redemption, salvation, entrance into the Kingdom of God, resurrection, and life-everlasting in the World to Come at the end of all things.

That’s pretty terrific.

However, if you’re a Christian, there’s a problem. Where does “the Church” come in?

What is the Church, or more to the point, what is the ekklesia of Messiah? In the first century, it was a Jewish religious stream whereby, through the inauguration of the New Covenant era by the death (blood) and resurrection of Jesus (Yeshua), as a promise of things to come, Gentiles who came to faith in the God of Israel through discipleship in Messiah, were able to receive the Spirit of God (starting in Acts 10) as did the Jewish disciples and apostles (Acts 2), receive legal standing as equal co-participants in the Jewish stream of “the Way” (Acts 15) and in this ekklesia, form “one new man” (Ephesians 2) made up of Israel, the Jewish people, and the “people of the nations who are called by My name” (Amos 9:12).

It is said that in Messianic days, God will establish a reign of peace and that the whole world will be united together, Jew and Gentile alike (Micah 4:1-5, Isaiah 11:1-10). I see the ekklesia of Messiah, especially in the first century, as an example of that Kingdom of unity and peace in microcosm. The so-called “Church” was supposed to be an example, a picture, and foretelling of what is to come in the Age of Messiah, when Jews and Gentiles really will have peace with one another under the rule of King Messiah, with Israel as the head of all the nations, and Jerusalem as the Holy City, raised high above all other cities and nations (so imagine how I see true Messianic Jewish synagogues, such as Beth Immanuel, with Jewish and Gentile members worshiping together, relative to a prophetic, Messianic future).

Thus the first century ekklesia wasn’t just another Judaism or some sort of expression of a new theology, it was, and I think will be again, the ultimate realization of God’s overarching plan for Israel and the entire world, to return the planet and everyone and everything on it to complete obedience and consistency with the nature and character of the God of Creation, the way it was in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) before the fall.

That means it is impossible for “the Church” to represent a subset of humanity all sanitized of their distinctions, especially distinctions that define Jewish Israel, because in the end, there will only be one body of people: Jews and Gentiles, one-hundred percent of humanity, all devoted to God.

But wait a minute. What about “survivors” and those people who went up against Israel and God, who are to be judged, and who will have consequences delivered upon them? That hardly describes “one humanity” under God.

True. There will be many, many Gentiles (or maybe just a few considering they’re called “survivors”) who up until the point where Messiah and Israel win and the rest of the world is subjugated under an Israel ruled by Messiah, are not of God’s people. They have chosen to be apart. But does that mean they can never join the ekklesia, the vast collection of Jews (Israel) and Gentiles (the rest of the nations everywhere on Earth)?

Why would it mean that? Is teshuvah limited? Under Messiah’s rule, can no one repent? Is that the hard line in the sand?

praying at the kotelAnd what will that world-wide ekklesia look like? It makes sense, based on more prophecies in the Tanakh than I can count, that the Jewish people still in exile will all be returned to and live in the physical nation of Israel. The majority of the human race who are also part of the ekklesia, the vassal nations all aligned with Israel as their head, will periodically go up to Jerusalem for festivals, to pay homage to the King, to pray at the Temple, but we’ll still live in our homes in the nations of the world.

How many religions will there be? If it’s still possible for people to willfully disobey God, there could still be a lot of religions and a lot of denominations within individual religious, but there will be one and only one way to worship God. It is said that one of the things Messiah will do in the Messianic Age is to teach the correct interpretation of Torah and even teach the hidden things of Torah, that which we cannot perceive or understand in the present age. I conclude based on that understanding, that Messiah will show Jews and Gentiles the proper way of prayer, worship, and devotion for Jews and for Gentiles.

I imagine there’ll be a lot of overlap between those two general populations who are under Israel’s God, but I also imagine that there will be distinctions, not the least of which is the fact that Israel will finally, truly be a wholly Jewish nation.

What will that body or religion (or will the term “religion” have much meaning when Messiah is King and we all “know God” because the Spirit has been fully “poured out on all flesh”?) look like? My personal opinion is that it will not be called “Church,” crosses will no longer be prominently displayed by Gentile devotees of God, Sunday will no longer be the primary day of worship, and if I read the Tanakh correctly, pork and shellfish will no longer be on our menus, we all will rest on Shabbos, observe New Moon festivals, and plan our vacations around the Moadim so we can present sacrifices and pray at the Temple in Jerusalem.

That sounds a lot more like a Judaism than any form of Christianity.

I’ve been planning on writing something like this for quite some time, but got a little push yesterday (today, as I write this), by reading an article written by Caleb Hegg at the TorahResource Blog and reblogged by Judah Himango at Kineti L’Tziyon called “Is Messianic Judaism Really a Part of Modern Judaism?”

I tend to take a different view on things than Mr. Hegg, and although I don’t possess the same background as he does, I must disagree regarding whether or not Messianic Judaism can be qualified as a modern Judaism. I know. A lot of people, both Christians like Mr. Hegg and most Jewish people, religious and otherwise, disagree with me. That’s to be expected. I haven’t done much in the way of research on this topic, so I can only guess folks will come along and attempt to poke holes in my arguments.

shabbosBut I’ve written not of what Messianic Judaism is today, but what I believe the world-wide, multi-national ekklesia will be in the days of King Messiah. As I mentioned above, if you have to assign a “religious” designation to that future ekklesia, given the Biblical prophetic record of the Messianic Age and the realization of the New Covenant as it reaches fruition, it will not be the Church. If we have to call it anything at all, it will be a Judaism.

The word “Messianic” is not simply a Hebrew-based way to say “Christian.” Messianic Judaism is the Judaism of the Messianic Era, practiced today.

-Aaron Eby
as quoted from Facebook

As a non-Jewish member of the ekklesia of Messiah, and summoning the future Kingdom of God, at least a little bit, into our present world, I wish you all a Good Shabbos, which also foreshadows the Kingdom to come.

Addendum: A few months ago, I wrote a blog post somewhat similar to this one called The Church When Jesus Returns, but I didn’t take my point as far as I have on the current “meditation.” I still think they “fit” together, though.

FFOZ TV Review: Foretaste of the Kingdom

FFOZ TV episode 21Episode 21: The Apostle Paul calls the Sabbath a “shadow of things to come.” Most people usually think of it as a shadow of things from the past. However, viewers will learn in episode twenty-one that the Sabbath is a foreshadow of things still yet to come. Jesus and the Sabbath both provide rest and the Sabbath rest is a taste of the final rest we will have in the Messianic Era when Messiah returns to set up his kingdom. Thus for those who still observe the Sabbath today, it is a promise of what is to come, the Messianic Age.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 21: Foretaste of the Kingdom (click this link to watch video, not the image above)

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Sabbath Rest

First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher and author Toby Janicki starts out the exploration of this mystery with what most of us consider to be a familiar lesson from Jesus:

Turn to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will cause you to rest. Accept upon yourself my yoke and learn from me, for I am humble and lowly in spirit, and you will find a resting place for your souls. For my yoke is pleasant and my burden light.

Matthew 11:28-29 (DHE Gospels)

There’s a lot we think we know about this teaching. We think we know that Jesus wants us to believe in him so that becoming a Christian will provide our souls rest. We think he means that his yoke, his grace, is a pleasant and light “burden” when compared to the Law of Moses. We think that Jesus is always humble and lowly rather than being like the vengeful God of the Old Testament.

But we’re probably not correct, at least not entirely. One of the points Toby made (and he’s made it before, is that when we use improper Biblical exegesis, we often come up with incorrect theology. That statement most likely won’t make some Christian readers happy since once taught, the traditional theology is the Church is set in stone. But sometimes examining a familiar view from an unfamiliar perspective yields new insights.

So too with this continuation of the investigation of the Sabbath, which was begun in the previous episode which I reviewed last week.

So if what we typically understand about the “rest” being described by Jesus isn’t correct, then, from a Messianic Jewish perspective, what is it?

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (NASB)

Toby says that there’s a link between Matthew 11:28-29 and Hebrews 4:9-11. They both talk about a “rest,” though in the case of the writer of Hebrews, it’s specifically a Shabbat rest. Toby leads his audience through a small Bible study on Hebrews 4:

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

Hebrews 4:1-2 (NASB)

Toby JanickiAccording to Toby, the writer of the book of Hebrews is referring to that first generation of Israelites who left Egypt and died in the wilderness.

They too had a rest they could have entered, the rest of the Promised Land, Israel. But they did not due to lack of faith. Toby next presents verses 3 and 4 as connecting this rest to the Sabbath:

For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest,”

although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”

The writer of Hebrews is actually quoting Exodus 20:11 which is the commandment of observing the Sabbath. But verses 9 through 11 are not specifically referring to the seventh day Sabbath or the rest represented by entering the Land of Israel. Verse 9 says “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” What rest is that?

According to Toby, these passages are sometimes used by Christians to “prove” that Jesus is our spiritual rest so we don’t need to observe an actual, physical day of rest, neither Gentile Christians nor any Jewish person. But the writer of Hebrews is clearly referring to something in the future, not something that’s already happened. If Hebrews 4 links back to the “rest” which Jesus was teaching about in Matthew 11, then we have reached our first clue.

Clue 1: The rest that Jesus offers us is something that is in the future.

Verses 10 and 11 in Hebrews 4 is a warning not to be disobedient to God as were the first generation of Israelites who disobeyed by refusing to enter the Land of Promise. Obedience of the people of God is required for them…for us to be able to enter into that future rest of Jesus. But again, what rest is that? To us, this represents a Biblical mystery, but to the original audience listening to Jesus or the original Jewish readers of Matthew’s gospel, it was probably self-evident. How would they have understood the word “rest,” which in Hebrew is “Menuchah?”

To answer that question, the scene shifts to FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel. Aaron first reads from a portion of the Siddur (Jewish prayer-book) which describes the Shabbat as a rest of “love, willingness, truth, faith, peace, tranquility, stillness, trust,” and “a complete rest in which you find favor.”

Clearly, the concept of Shabbat is more than just relaxing in front of the tube or playing a few rounds of golf.

ffoz_tv21_aaronRest is used in a somewhat different context in the Bible. Aaron quoted from Deuteronomy 12:19 referring to Israel, 1 Chronicles 22:9 which refers to Solomon as “a man of rest” and a King who will reign over a nation experiencing rest, peace, and quiet, and 1 Kings 8:56 which is part of Solomon’s dedication of the Temple. These images represent the age of Messianic redemption and the Temple is a portrait of the fulfillment of all the Messianic promises. Aaron also links this to the poetic language of the Rabbis who consider the weekly Shabbat to be a tiny fraction of what will be experienced in the age to come…a forestate of the Kingdom of God.

Back in the studio with Toby, we receive the next clue:

Clue 2: The Sabbath rest is a foretaste of the rest in the Messianic Era.

I can certainly see why the seventh-day Sabbath rest is considered a blessing of both physical and spiritual rest for observant Jews. Not only is it a day to rest in the holiness and peace of God in our age, but it is a miniature representation of the full and complete rest that will be experienced when Messiah reigns in Jerusalem and over all the world, an age of total, worldwide peace.

But in traditional Christian interpretation, we encounter a problem:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB)

I mentioned these verses among others in my review last week as the “Christian defense” against acknowledging an ongoing Shabbat observance or any such keeping of a Sabbath in the future. When I typically hear language like “type and shadow” in a Christian context, it usually means that such “shadows” came to point us to Jesus, but now that he’s come, the shadows are no longer necessary. However, that interpretation is filtered through a great deal of Protestant tradition and ignores what Paul is actually saying.

Paul said that the Sabbath is a “mere shadow of what is to come,” not what has already come. If, at his first coming, Jesus “fulfilled” the requirement of the Shabbat, then why does Paul refer to the future?

Also, and I’d like to thank Toby for bringing this up, let’s talk about this “shadow” thing. Again, the typical Church teaching on a “shadow” is that it’s basically something of limited usefulness and utility, and was only a poor imitation of something that the Jewish people had to make do with until Christ. Once Christ came, the shadows were eliminated by the “light of the world” and what was temporary then passed away.

Shabbat candlesWhat is a shadow? In a common context, it’s just an area where light is being blocked by an object in between a light source and whatever the light happens to be shining at. A shadow generally renders the shape of the object blocking the light. If Jesus is the “substance” or body of the shadow, then, to extend the metaphor, the Sabbath is “Jesus-shaped.”

If we put all this together, then the Sabbath day is a “shape” or “outline” of something with more substance that will occur in the future and has something to do with the “body” of Messiah. Since that future event has yet to occur, we still exist in the shadow or rather, the seventh-day Shabbat still has purpose and meaning as an image of something even greater and more peaceful to come. Jesus has not replaced the Sabbath and perhaps he never will. In the future, he will fill to complete fullness what we only have a taste of in the current age.

Toby related a number of Talmudic references I’ll pass over (please view the actual episode to get those details) but concludes, using Rabbinic and poetic language, that such concepts link both to 2 Peter 3:8 and Revelation 20:1-6 in describing the thousand-year Messianic reign of Jesus. This is the third and final clue:

Clue 3: The Sabbath foreshadows the coming thousand-year reign of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The rest Jesus was talking about is the Messianic Era, and all who are devoted disciples of Messiah and worshipers of the God of Israel will enter that promised rest when Messiah returns to take up his throne. But we must remain faithful to the end in order to enter that rest.

What Did I Learn?

Something rather poignant. There are a couple of sequences in every episode of the FFOZ TV show that describe the learning materials and other products available through First Fruits of Zion. One of the things this show is supposed to inspire is a desire in the viewers to want to learn more, which can be accomplished through the many fine resources provided by FFOZ.

But in one of these sequences, the voice over said that a “prophetic restoration is sweeping through the Christian world.” I don’t see anything like that “sweeping” through my little corner of the Christian world. I’m glad it’s happening to someone somewhere.

I was also reminded of last Erev Shabbat. My wife made several loaves of Challah and she once again brought out the Shabbos candles…but she was late. My little reminder in Google calendar said that candle lighting began at 4:56 p.m. and at that time, the candles still hadn’t been ignited. I casually mentioned this to her and received a surprisingly sharp rebuke in return. Why should I, a Gentile Christian (she didn’t actually call me that), be keeping track of when Shabbat candle lighting is? She had abruptly (and not for the first time) put up a “Keep Out” sign over the entryway to Shabbat in our home.

She subsequently lit the candles but did not invite me to be present.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

Matthew 10:34-36 (NASB)

But a husband against a wife, Master?

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Matthew 19:6 (NASB)

I should say that in every other area, the missus and I get along and address a wide range of concerns and shared experiences. It’s just this one place, this religious place, where we are segregated and our worlds keep us apart. I know that, for a variety of reasons, she has good cause to be defensive, but I can’t say that it doesn’t still sting a bit for me to be relegated to one world where our faith is concerned, while my wife inhabits another.

Boaz in ChinaSo it is for many other Christians and Jews in the present age, when many Jewish people see Shabbat as a blessing exclusively for the Jews and to be jealously guarded against outsiders (even if they’re in the same home), and most Christians have no desire to participate in a “shadow” that has long since been replaced by Jesus on the cross.

An “exploration of the Christian faith from a Jewish perspective,” Boaz Michael said at the end of the episode. It’s what I’ve recently dedicated myself to, but it seems a journey I am destined to take alone, and a territory I’m trespassing in as an uninvited foreigner.

If I am to believe prophesy, then I am assured that one day, I will become a welcome stranger in that strange land, but in the current age, the citizens of that country, at least the “citizen” I am closest to, does not permit my entry, nor do my own “countrymen,” the people of the Church, believe my travel plans are valid. I can only trust that one day my determination will be justified. Otherwise, I must accept that my role is to escort the Jewish exiles back to their Land and their heritage, to the foot of the Throne of Messiah, and then I must turn around as the celebration begins, and retreat to where my Master would have me go.

Trouble Breaking Into Church With Messianic Prophesy

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

Daniel 9:24-27 (NASB)

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

Revelation 20:4-6 (NASB)

Tales of the Messianic Era series

The previous entry is The Obscured Messiah in the Bible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 60:1-3 (NASB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lenny Bruce