Tag Archives: salvation

The Unchosen

I wrote this as a fictional story on “Powered by Robots” but one of my readers, ProclaimLiberty suggested that it might be an appropriate reblog here for those “Messianic Gentiles” who may feel spiritually or theologically “abandoned” within this movement.

Powered by Robots

leaving church Image found at beliefnet.com

“I’m sorry Norman, but as long as you continue to sin, you are not welcome in this church.”

Norman Walker had been attending First Church of the Baptism for over a year now. At first Pastor William “Billy” Hubbard was excited that someone in his twenties wanted to attend. Over half the current membership was over fifty and they needed to be able to reach out to the next generation. Most of the younger people who worshiped on Sundays were the children or grandchildren of the aging parishioners. They just weren’t bringing in very many young converts.

“I love her, Billy. We’re going to get married.”

“It’s not only a matter of getting married to Chrissie. You have to repent of your sin with her. In fact, you should probably either move out or have her live elsewhere until after the wedding.”

“I can’t do that…

View original post 1,114 more words

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Romans 11:26 And What “All Israel Will Be Saved” Means

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

Romans 11:25-26 (NASB)

I hold a minority opinion in terms of understanding what “all Israel” means in this context. I think that, based on the New Covenant promises (Jer. 31, Ezek. 36) God intends to save all Israel, that is, all of the Jewish people. But if you’re a Christian, this doesn’t seem quite right. Shouldn’t I mean “all of the Jewish people who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior?”

That could be interpreted as meaning “all Israel” is all those Jews who have abandoned their Jewish identity, abandoned their Jewish heritage, abandoned all of the covenants God made with Israel, who have converted to (Gentile) Christianity and live like the goyim.

But that doesn’t seem right either, because this flies in the face of the language in the aforementioned New Covenant, which promises a return of the Temple, the Levitical priesthood, and the sacrifices. If the “law were nailed on the cross with Jesus,” then all of those covenants, including the New Covenant, and the attached promises don’t make sense.

In fact, I could argue that a Jew who converts to Christianity, a Hebrew Christian, might not be considered “Israel” at all if they have been taught (by well-meaning but misguided Gentile Christians) to abandon the very covenants that define the Jewish people and Israel. There’s a lot more to being a covenant people than just your DNA.

Fortunately, I came across a comment made by reader “ProclaimLiberty” (PL) on the Rosh Pina Project blog post Messianic Jews Must be Consistent in Our Reverence of Scripture:

Insofar as I can interpret Rav Shaul’s phrase “all Israel shall be saved” (or, “πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ σωθήσεται”) in Rom 11:26, it includes everyone. The term “πᾶς” may be rendered: “1) individually 1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything 2) collectively”. Hence, “all Israel” seems to refer to each and every individual in the collective of Israel.

And the term “σωθήσεται” may be rendered (from “σῴζω”, verb, {sode’-zo}):
“1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
1a) one (from injury or peril)
1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health 1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue
1b) to save in the technical biblical sense
1b1) negatively:
1b1a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
1b1b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance”.
Jerusalem
It seems to me to be a consequence of HaShem’s unwavering faithfulness to keep His covenanted promises. Certainly the record of the Tenakh shows that it cannot be the result of 100% faithfulness by 100% of Jews throughout our millennia of history as a people. I can only infer that this was Rav Shaul’s intended meaning, based on his understanding of the prophecies cited (viz: Is.59:20-21; Is.27:9; Jer.31:33-34). None of it appears to be conditioned by the individual or collective state of any Jew, thus one must infer that HaShem has some plan by which to accomplish the redemption of the unworthy Jewish souls who will nonetheless benefit, and none will be left out. Personally, I envision a massive crash-course in Jewish messianism for a whole host of Jews swept up together into a special state outside of the time-stream immediately after their deaths; but, hey, it’s not my job to second-guess HaShem.

This is helpful since my knowledge of ancient Greek is non-existent, and it does establish that there is some justification for my beliefs and my hope that indeed, all Israel, every individual Jewish person, will be redeemed by God, just as He promised.

The promises of God are real and wholly reliable. We just need to make sure our theology and doctrine map to this Biblical truth.

Does the Pope Know Something The Rest of Us Don’t?

The Vatican says the Catholic Church must not try to convert Jews to Christianity.

Instead, the Catholic Church must work with Jews and Jewish institutions to further dialogue and mutually understand and fight anti-Semitism, according to the Vatican, which pledged “to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies.”

It [the document “The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable”] added, “In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”

Goals in Jewish-Catholic dialogue, according to the document, include “joint engagement throughout the world for justice, peace, conservation of creation, and reconciliation” in a way that would make the religious contribute toward world peace. “Religious freedom guaranteed by civil authority is the prerequisite for such dialogue and peace,” it said.

“In Jewish-Christian dialogue the situation of Christian communities in the state of Israel is of great relevance, since there — as nowhere else in the world — a Christian minority faces a Jewish majority,” the document said. “Peace in the Holy Land — lacking and constantly prayed for — plays a major role in dialogue between Jews and Christians.”

from the article “Vatican Says Jews Don’t Need Christ to be Saved”
VirtualJerusalem.com

Well, that’s quite the revelation.

I’m sure anti-missionary groups such as Jews for Judaism will be happy to hear they won’t have to worry about Roman Catholics trying to convert Jews anymore.

I do agree that, as much as evangelism is a priority for the Christian Church, most Christians seem to think of converting Jews in a different light than any other people group. Maybe they think they get extra “points” from God when they convert a Jew (not that most Jewish people would feel good about this).

According to an Arutz Sheva story on the same matter, the authors of the aforementioned paper state:

How Jews being saved while not believing in Christ “can be possible remains an unfathomable mystery in the salvific plan of God,” they say.

judeo-christianI tried to find Christian reactions to this situation, but the closest thing I could find was at Rapture Forums (the name already has my spider-sense tingling).

One person wrote:

Clearly, they don’t believe the Bible…Acts 4:12.

The word MUST, must be emphasised.

Another person commented:

So much for John 14:6.
Don’t need that anymore.

Another referenced Matthew 23:37:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

The news is pretty new, so a lot of folks may not have weighed in with their opinions yet.

I turned to Facebook and something called The Truth is Viral displayed the most comments of anyone posting this story, at least as far as my short search could find.

Of 27 comments, the first two that appeared were:

Ronald: The Babylon Whore that rides on the Beast and commits fornication with the kings of the Earth . The Anti-Messiah who is drunk with the blood of the saints.

Matt: There was a Twilight Zone like this, the whole world had to change and we thought it was to get along but the reality was to see who was strongest and we destroyed ourselves.

pope francis
2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea

Others accused the Pope of worshiping Satan, that Mohammad was a false prophet (though Mohammad and Islam have nothing to do with this as far as I can tell), and other similar statements.

I decided to return to an old source for a more sane perspective:

But the Gospel for Jews works differently. It’s the same Gospel, but because the Jews are already God’s people, the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah comes in a different way. It is still the case that through the Messiah, and only through Him, individual Jews receive atonement and forgiveness of sin – “For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved!” (Acts 4:12). But Jews are not alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, they are the commonwealth of Israel! They already have the covenants and the promises; and therefore in a communal sense they already have hope and “have” God. Before accepting Yeshua, Jews do not “have” God and His hope in the same sense as after accepting Him. After accepting Yeshua they have hope and God in an individual, salvific sense – they have forgiveness of their sins, God sees them as righteous because of Yeshua’s atoning death, and they have the certain hope of eternal life with God. Before accepting Yeshua a Jew does not have the certain hope of eternal life with God, but he does share in the communal promises to the Jewish people as a whole – for example, a share in the Land of Israel. A Jew needs God in both the communal and individual senses because this is how God has ordained that it should be.

The Christian attitude toward the Jewish people should be, “The Jews are my home, my family.” Whether the Jewish people will accept Christians as family will depend on how the Gospel is presented to them, and it is the task of Christians and Messianic Jews to find the right way. But an essential aspect of this presentation will be defining the Gentile Christian in the way I have done – rather than in the way Christians have, by their words and deeds, defined themselves: either as enemies of the Jewish people, alienated from their national life, or as people who have no connection with the Jews and can be oblivious to them, or even as outsiders who respect and love the Jews a lot. These definitions not only contradict texts Christians claim to believe, but often foster behavior toward the Jewish people that is sinful, behavior which distances Jewish people from the Gospel and from the Gentile branch of the People of God.

Christians need to redefine who they are in relation to the Jewish people – and then act on the consequences of that redefinition with a renewed commitment to bringing the gospel to Jews. This is the biggest challenge facing the Church.

-Dr. David H. Stern
taken from his book Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel
as quoted at Tikkun Ministries

I’ve heard it said, according to a source I quoted over eighteen months ago, that one of the primary functions of Yeshua’s first coming was to provide proof that God’s New Covenant promises to the Jewish people were true.

emergeFor instance, the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36) promises a universal resurrection from the dead. Yeshua was the first person resurrected from the dead, also called “the firstborn of the dead” (Colossians 1:18). He’s the first, but certainly not the last. His resurrection establishes proof that God will resurrect all of the dead in time.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to the point where even the least among humanity will have an apprehension of God greater than the prophets of old, was also established, first by Yeshua (Matthew 3:13:17), then by the Jewish apostles (Acts 2:1-4), and finally even coming to the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46).

The New Covenant states that God will forgive the sins of all Israel, which is restated in Romans 11:25-27, and Yeshua forgave the sins of many due to their faith in Hashem and his ability to do so.

Thus Yeshua made a partial delivery on God’s promises and he will complete his mission fulfilling all that Messiah is to do upon his return.

You can click this link to read my thoughts on an insightful comparison between those Jews who have accepted the revelation of Yeshua as Messiah and those who haven’t. In essence, it seems to partly agree with the Pope that the Jewish people are already born into a covenant relationship with Hashem, so that even those who reject Yeshua are not excluded from the Sinai covenant or necessarily from the New Covenant, even though Messiah is the arbiter of that covenant.

I also have to agree somewhat with this latest assessment by the Catholic Church that we do not fully understand the exact mechanism by which Hashem will accomplish all these things. We do know from the New Covenant language that He has promised to do it, and so He will.

MessiahYeshua points Israel back to Hashem and His promises to them. For the rest of us, who were born with no covenant relationship with God whatsoever (unless you accept what is written in Genesis 9 as the Noahide covenant which is binding on us), God, through His mercy and grace, is willing to include us in many of the blessings of the New Covenant, even though we are not named participants, and for the sake of His prophets who declared that every knee will bow (Psalm 72:11; Isaiah 45:22-25; Romans 14:11).

So it’s not like Yeshua is a moot point to the Jewish people or Israel. But Israel’s status in relation to Hashem is somewhat different from that of the Gentile believers because they have a pre-established relationship with God that the rest of the world lacks. Yeshua is the lynchpin, but as Stern pointed out, that works out somewhat differently for the Jewish people than it does for everyone else.

I think I understand, at least a tiny bit, what the Pope is trying to do, relative to establishing better relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, but how he delivered his information, or at least how it’s been covered in the media, is probably going to kick up a major dust storm in the Christian world, particularly with conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists.

Christians, in general, believe the New Covenant fully replaced all prior covenants God made, and so they believe that God’s relationship with everyone, including Jews, is identical and that the Jews have no special status. Until the Church learns to accept that Israel remains in covenant relationship with God, they will continue to woefully misunderstand the Jewish people and God’s plan of redemption.

I can only imagine that this blog post could be read with considerable “annoyance” by some Jewish people as well as some Christians, and believe me, I did not write this to offend. I did want to explain (and obviously, I’ve written on similar matters previously) that what the Pope’s comments touched upon is a highly complex situation that is poorly understood by the vast majority of believers, including Christian clergy and scholars.

For that matter, the role of Yeshua as the forerunner of the completed New Covenant promises is poorly understood by both Christians and Jews. Again, I say this not to offend, but to illustrate that what we think we know from the Bible is a highly nuanced and subtle set of messages that requires careful unpacking and analysis. This is difficult for most people because long-established traditions on both sides of the aisle have been constructed to obscure this perspective.

JerusalemIf anyone is tempted to complain to me about this, I ask that you first consider these words:

Instead of complaining about someone’s behavior toward you, it is more constructive to work on your own behavior toward him.

Ignore another person’s grouchiness and anger, and speak cheerfully and with compassion. If you find this difficult, pretend that you are an actor on stage. Adopting this attitude can keep people from much needless quarreling and suffering. Do it consistently and you will see major improvements in their behavior toward you.

Be flexible. People differ greatly on what they evaluate as “positive,” and it is necessary to understand the unique needs of each person you’re dealing with. If one approach is unsuccessful, try other approaches. But keep trying.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Put On Your Best Act”
from the Rabbi’s book Gateway to Happiness, p. 137
quoted at Aish.com

As I mentioned a few days ago, in a difficult situation, it is best to seek that small encouraging light in otherwise dark and foreboding surroundings. A fitting sentiment for the current season.

How Is The World Blessed By The Offspring of Abraham?

I was sitting in the airport in Dallas reading my daily page of the Talmud when an elderly priest, readily identifiable by his collar, stopped by my seat and asked me a question. “I hope you don’t mind my interrupting you. I see you are reading a Hebrew book and you are wearing a hat. Are you by any chance a Rabbi?”

When I responded that indeed I am, he continued, “I hope you don’t think I’m out of place but all my life I’ve been hoping that someday I might meet a Rabbi. You see, although I’m a priest I’ve always felt that Jews are the people of The Book and enjoy an especially close relationship with God. You are God’s chosen people and as a Rabbi you are one of their spiritual leaders. I’ve always wanted to ask a Rabbi for a blessing. Would it be possible now for me to ask that you honor me with that favor?”

I cannot convey in words how moved I was by that request. I gave him the priestly benediction from the Torah and recited it to him in the original Hebrew. He was moved to tears. In all humility, I understood that for him I was the link to the original Torah. Whatever theological beliefs might separate us – and there are surely many – he clearly recognized the unique role of Judaism, in the words of Isaiah, to serve as “a light unto the nations.” Jews are the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the nation that stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the Torah to transmit from generation to generation. Jews were “chosen” not to claim superiority but to accept the responsibility to convey God’s messages to the rest of mankind.

-Rabbi Benjamin Blech
“5 Greatest Gifts of Being a Jew”
Aish.com

birchas-kohanimThere may be some of you when reading the paragraphs above who will be taken aback by a Catholic Priest (or any Christian clergy) asking a Rabbi for a blessing. There may be others among you who will cringe at the idea that Rabbi Blech not only responded to the request by conferring a blessing, but that he used the Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing.

Historically, Judaism and Christianity have had a somewhat “uncomfortable” relationship (I say that using tremendous understatement) and at least vestiges of that remain in the modern era.

But I found the transaction between R. Blech and the Priest to be rather heartwarming. Nearly twenty centuries of enmity between Christians and Jews was simply swept aside, a Christian (a Catholic Priest no less) openly recognized the special and unique relationship a Jew has with God, and a Jew (a Rabbi no less) blessed not just a Goy, and not just a Christian, but a Catholic Priest, and was happy to do so.

In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.

Genesis 22:18 (NASB)

Indeed, the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are to be a blessing to the people of the nations, and in R. Blech’s case, it became both fact and truth.

But then again, we have this:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Galatians 3:16

From a Christian point of view, that blessing from the offspring (“seed”) of Abraham could be considered specifically issuing from one Jew, our Rav Yeshua (Jesus), as opposed to Jewish people in general. However, I don’t have a problem assigning multiple meanings and applications to the aforementioned blessing.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Drilling down into R. Blech’s quote, let’s take a look at the following:

Whatever theological beliefs might separate us – and there are surely many – he clearly recognized the unique role of Judaism, in the words of Isaiah, to serve as “a light unto the nations.” (emph mine)

A Catholic Priest, who, by definition, believes that Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah King who will redeem the world, also recognized that modern Jewish people, including and especially Rabbis, have a unique role to play relative to God and to humanity.

How much more should we “Judaicly-aware” disciples of our Rav also recognize that unique role of Jews in general and Jews who share our understanding of the revelation of Rav Yeshua in particular, whether we choose to call ourselves members of Hebrew Roots, “Messianic Gentiles,” or anything else?

In his article, R. Blech listed the 5 greatest gifts of being a Jew as:

  1. Our Unique Mission
  2. The Torah
  3. Progress
  4. Optimism
  5. The Gift of Others

Although the Torah does not apply to the rest of mankind, even the Gentile disciples of our Rav, in the same way it applies to Jewish people, it does define a general pattern of ethical and moral behavior along with the establishment of monotheism, the realization of One God, Hashem, Creator of Existence. Without the Jewish people and the Torah, there would not be such revelations, and certainly, there would be no plan of redemption for our world.

JerusalemUnder “Progress,” R. Blech cites Irishman Thomas Cahill’s book The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels to illustrate the impact of Jews and Judaism on the entire planet.

In it he credits the Jews not only for monotheism and the idea of a personal relationship with God; it is these concepts, he reminds us, that led us to the understanding that we have a personal responsibility for ourselves and our relations with our neighbors, as well as to our respect for history itself.

While the Church likes to think history began with the birth of Christ, in fact, while the coming of Rav Yeshua certainly was and is an apex in human history, everything in the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings had to occur to set the stage for our Rav’s entry, including the existence of Israel and the Jewish people.

Under “Optimism,” Blech states:

To be a Jew is to know that the world has not yet reached its divinely ordained end. God has a plan for us and eventually it will be fulfilled. No matter how long it takes, Jews remain the eternal optimists.

Golda Meir put it this way: “Jews cannot afford the luxury of pessimism.” Ben Gurion reminded us that in Israel “In order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” And Maimonides included the belief in messianic redemption at the end of days as one of the thirteen Cardinal principles of our faith.

jerusalem dayWe non-Jewish devotees also wait for the Messiah, though some of us have a radically different idea of what that means than most Jews. Social media has made it easy to complain about practically everything, and conservative Christians complain about everything from A to Z, which is why it would be helpful if we would learn optimism as Blech describes it.

Finally, under “The Gift of Others,” while R. Blech is describing the relationship Jews have with each other, we “Judaicly-aware” Goyim might want to set aside any “Torah-envy” we may experience ,and approach our Jewish brethren in Yeshua (as well as Jewish people in general) in the same manner as the Priest who approached Rabbi Blech in a Dallas airport as described at the top of this article.

At the very start of his write-up, R. Blech said:

Albert Einstein once startled an audience when he announced, “I’m sorry I was born a Jew.” The people were shocked. How could this great man make such an outlandish statement? With a smile, Einstein then impishly continued, “Because it deprived me of the privilege of choosing to be a Jew.”

As a tenth generation Rabbi, I did not choose to become a Jew; it was my natural birthright. But with the wisdom of age and the perspective of worldly experience I have come to recognize that my identity conferred precious divine gifts that we should never take for granted.

MessiahJews, whether religious or secular, are the only people who are born into a covenant relationship with God. The rest of us have to choose to become associated with God and arguably, we have no covenant relationship (long story…start reading this five-part review for the answer, or if you’re pressed for time, this short summary) apart from the Noahide Covenant God made with all living things in Genesis 9.

But we are allowed and even encouraged to choose God. We just need to remember that it was through the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, and the (Jewish) Moshiach that we are redeemed, not through the power of our choosing alone.

“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

John 4:22

After the Meal of the Messiah has Ended

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the ekklesia, in filling up what is lacking in Messiah’s afflictions. Of this ekklesia I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Messiah. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Messiah Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Messiah.

Therefore as you have received Messiah Yeshua the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Colossians 1:24-2:7 (NASB – adj)

I’m temporarily interrupting my reviews of the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle in order to address a conversation I had with my friend over coffee last Sunday. Yes, this is the same friend who previously issued the pesky challenge (I say that tongue-in-cheek) of considering a return to church or some such congregation for the sake of fellowship.

Last Sunday, the challenge was to consider all that Messiah has done for me.

No, it’s not like I don’t have a sense of gratitude, but the way he put it, it’s like I am to consider only two beings in existence: Messiah and me.

The Death of the MasterSo often in the Church, over and over again, I’d hear “It’s just me and Jesus” like the rest of the human population of this planet didn’t matter. It also sounds like God’s overarching redemptive plan for Israel, and through Israel, the world, wasn’t important. All that’s important is the individual Christian and Jesus.

I look at Messiah through the lens of the entire Biblical narrative and what his death and resurrection means in terms of that narrative. I think of Messiah less as dying for me the individual, and more as dying and being resurrected as a definitive confirmation of God’s New Covenant promise to Israel; His promise of Israel’s personal and national resurrection and the life in the world to come. Messiah’s resurrection is definite proof of the resurrection for the rest of us. It certainly was to the direct witnesses of “the risen Christ,” and by their testimony, was accepted as evidence by many other Jews and Gentiles who through faith, became disciples of the Master.

I have a problem pulling Messiah out of that context, isolating his death and resurrection from God’s global redemptive plan, and making it all about “saving” me. When Paul wrote about “salvation,” he was talking about reconciling humanity with the God of Israel, not saving my one little soul so I could go to Heaven and live with Jesus when I die. Paul was “preaching” the New Covenant promises and their blessings to the Gentiles, who needed to do considerable catch-up work not having the benefit of even a basic Jewish education.

I think that’s what he’s saying in the above-quoted block of scripture. He’s writing to Gentiles. They/we who were once far off (Ephesians 2:13) and who had/have been brought near to the promises of God through the faithfulness of Messiah.

There’s no denying that without Messiah, the Gentiles are totally cut off from the God of Israel. The Jews were already near based on being born into the Sinai covenant. Yes, even they could be cut off (Romans 11:20) due to unbelief, but since they are natural branches, think of how much more easily can they be reattached to the root.

My friend said that those who deny Messiah, Jew and Gentile alike, are cut off from God. This at least suggests if not outright demands that God’s presence be manifest only with those Jews and Gentiles who have become disciples of Yeshua and He is apart from everyone else.

working handsI don’t believe that. For the Jews, I believe there’s close and closer. No, it’s not like there is no benefit for Jewish faith in Messiah. I outlined how unbelieving Jews can still be close to God and how believing Jews have a great benefit in being disciples of the Master in my review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon The Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Faith Toward God. Mark D. Nanos characterizes the text of Romans 11:25 as unbelieving Jews being temporarily “callused” against Messiah. But the text continues:

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

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 11:25-29

Paul, in part, is referring to this irrevocable promise of God to Israel:

They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:34

So how do I understand my friend’s statement that all people, Jews and Gentiles, are alienated from God if they do not have faith in Messiah? Am I to believe that God abandoned the Jewish people at the cross?

I can’t do that.

I can believe, based on God’s faithful promises to His people Israel, that although many Jews temporarily do not see Yeshua for who he truly is as Messiah, one day everything will be revealed, and then they will all receive the promise of forgiveness of sins and thus “all of Israel will be saved.”

I have no problem believing that all means ALL! In fact, I’m counting on it.

However, God made no such promise to the Gentile nations of the world. We don’t directly benefit from those promises, though as Paul tells us, we do benefit from their blessings through faithfulness. In His mercy, God allows not just Israel, but also the Gentiles to receive the blessings of the resurrection, the indwelling of the Spirit of God, and the promise of life in the Messianic Age and beyond as members of the Master’s ekklesia and vassal subjects of the King.

But in my struggle to reframe the traditional Christian narrative into one that takes into greater account the first century Jewish context of Paul’s letters as they relate back to the promises God, I’ve gotten “stuck” with my panoramic view of the Messiah’s role in Biblical and human history.

Restoration
Photo: First Fruits of Zion

My fight has always been to communicate this Judaic view of ALL scripture, including the Apostolic Writings, as Jewish and centered on national redemption of Israel, and then through Israel, the nations.

Admittedly, I’m having a tough time changing my focus and allowing myself the “conceit” of realizing that there is (or could be) a personal relationship between me and the Master. Frankly, I don’t see why that shouldn’t intimidate the living daylights out of anyone, especially me. How can the King of the future Messianic Era also be, as many Christians might say, my “best friend?”

The presence of Mashiach is revealed on Acharon Shel Pesach, and this revelation has relevance to all Israel: Pesach is medaleg,1 “skipping over” (rather than orderly progress), and leil shimurim,2 the “protected night.” In general the mood of Pesach is one of liberty. Then Pesach ends, and we find ourselves tumbling headlong into the outside world. This is where Mashiach’s revealed presence comes into play – imbuing us with a powerful resoluteness that enables us to maintain ourselves in the world.

-Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

I too find myself “tumbling headlong” into unprotected territory. It’s become very easy for me to relate to Yeshua as a lowly subject relates to a King. But how can (or should) this “Messianic Gentile” gain an apprehension of a one-on-one relationship with my Master Yeshua?


1. Shir HaShirim 2:8. Midrash Raba on that verse describes the Exodus as medaleg, “skipping over” calculations and rationales for redemption, bringing Israel out of exile regardless of their merit, regardless of the length of the exile. Later in that section the Midrash applies the verse to Mashiach.

2. Sh’mot 12:42, as Rashi notes, the night destined for redemption.

Pondering the Birth Pangs of Mashiach

Update: I was going to publish this last Friday morning but as you all know by now, certain events have resulted in me making a rather drastic change in my comments policy as well as my writing schedule. I decided to go ahead and let this blog post publish since I already had it ready to go. What happens after this, I really don’t know.

I’ve received a lot of emails that were very encouraging and I want to thank everyone who took the time to reach out to me with such kind remarks. I have other projects that I can pursue and who knows what the future may bring. Blessings.

In these days especially, when by G-d’s kindness we stand at the threshold of redemption, we must make every conceivable effort to strengthen every facet of our religion. Mitzvot must be observed b’hidur, with “beauty,” beyond minimal requirements. Customs must be kept scrupulously, nothing compromised. It is a Mitzva and duty of every Rabbi in Israel to inform his congregation that the current tribulations and agonies are the “birth-pangs of Mashiach.” G-d is demanding that we return to Torah and mitzvot, that we not hinder the imminent coming of our righteous Mashiach.

“Today’s Day”
for Tuesday, Sh’vat 8, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

This is exactly what I was trying to say yesterday. This is the idea communicated in Ezekiel 36:27:

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

This is a direct link between the New Covenant promises God made “to the house of Judah and the House of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:31), Israel’s observance of Torah, and Israel’s apprehension of the Divine Spirit.

And as we see, this also illustrates a link to the “current tribulations and agonies” of our times, which are defined as the “birth-pangs of Mashiach.”

But those words should also be familiar to most Christians:

And Yeshua (Jesus) answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Mashiach,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”

Matthew 24:4-8 (NASB -adapted)

Seems to be a close parallel to what you read in the quote at the top of this blog post. Here’s something more:

Rab said: The son of David will not come until the [Roman] power enfolds Israel [2] for nine months, as it is written, Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. [3]

‘Ulla said; Let him [The Messiah] come, but let me not see him. [4]

Rabbah said likewise: Let him come, but let me not see him. R. Joseph said: Let him come, and may I be worthy of sitting in the shadow of his ass’s saddle. [5] Abaye enquired of Rabbah: ‘What is your reason [for not wishing to see him]? Shall we say, because of the birth pangs [preceding the advent] of the Messiah? [6] But it has been taught, R. Eleazar’s disciples asked him: ‘What must a man do to be spared the pangs of the Messiah?’ [He answered,] ‘Let him engage in study and benevolence; and you Master do both.’

Sanhedrin 98b (emph. mine)

Talmud Study by LamplightI’m periodically accused of misusing Jewish writings and I can see how some folks may see me playing fast and loose with ancient and modern Rabbinic commentary. On the other hand, I don’t see any other valid lens by which to view and comprehend my faith. Chances are I’m getting at least something wrong, and perhaps a good many things in the details. But it’s the only way for me to read the Bible and understand the plan of God as a single unit rather than a “Plan A” shifting to “Plan B” some time around Acts 2, or worse, as the Almighty pulling the world’s biggest “bait and switch” with His people Israel.

The New Covenant promises and prophesies (Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36) God made with Israel must come true, otherwise, not only does Israel have no hope but the rest of the nations of the world (i.e, Gentiles and particularly Christians) are hopeless as well.

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

John 4:22 (NASB)

That’s the Master speaking to a Samaritan woman and he might as well have been speaking to all the Gentile nations, that is, to us.

For nearly two-thousand years, Gentile Christianity and devout Judaism have charted divergent paths through history, pulling apart starting in the late first century and extending into the second, and traveling many light years away from each other ever since.

But I think that’s changing, at least a little. One of the “birth pangs” I see happening (and this is just my personal opinion), is the dialog and debate occurring between Judaism and Christianity or more specifically between mainstream/normative Judaism and Messianic Judaism, including with those of us who identify as “Messianic Gentiles.”

It almost seems like a (well-mannered) battle at times.

But at least we’re talking.

I mentioned before that Jewish Torah observance is a requirement for the return of the Messiah and particularly for Jewish disciples of Yeshua. We have historical records of individuals and small communities of Jews who were Yeshua disciples and who lived wholly religious and observant Jewish lives. This is also beginning to happen today, although such communities are small and far apart.

There are accusations that the number of Jews in the Messianic movement is actually decreasing. I can’t speak to that except to say if true, this is also part of the birth pangs as I understand them. It’s supposed to get darker, more bleak, and look more hopeless as the “birth pangs” continue. The gate is supposed to be narrow.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

Of course that’s less than an opinion. It’s just a belief that God will call as many as who will listen to Him. I’ve been reminded recently that how God calls people, particularly Jewish people to Him, can be seen in at least a couple of different ways. I think I know just a tiny bit how a Jew might feel being proselytized by a Christian when just about everything I write is challenged from an Orthodox Jewish point of view (Hi, Gene).

pregnantBut I truly believe what I’ve written. I believe that supporting Jewish Torah observance is part of the requirement for the return of Messiah and the establishment of the Messianic age. I just don’t know how to get that point across without both Christians and Jews more or less quarreling with me, forging an unwilling partnership for the sake of my personal growth (as Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would put it).

I guess you could say this is part of the personal “birth pangs” we go through when different individuals and factions are involved and presenting their particular theologies and doctrines. Somehow, I think it’s important to survive with my relationship with God intact, for in the end, I won’t be judged in the religious blogosphere, but in the court of the God of Heaven, in spite of (or maybe because of) the “current tribulations and agonies.” So will we all.

There are questions to which G-d says to be quiet, to be still, to cease to ask.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Be Quiet”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Sounds like good advice and maybe I’ll take it for awhile. We’ll see.

Oh, if you are looking for me, I’ll be over here. No “religious” comments allowed.

Footnotes

2. I.e., the whole world in which Israel is scattered.
3. Micah V, 2: ‘therefore will he give them up’ is interpreted as meaning to a foreign — viz., the Roman — power, and the duration of their servitude is fixed by ‘until the time etc.’ i.e., nine months, the period of pregnancy.
4. V. n. 7.
5. [Following the reading in Yalkut (v. Levy,) [H]. Our texts read: [H], ‘dung’.]
6. These troubles are generally referred to as birth pangs, being the travail which precedes the birth of a new era.