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Twelve Gates: Where Do the Nations Enter, A Book Review

The book of Revelation describes New Jerusalem as having twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel. Through which gate will you enter?

The Two-House movement teaches that many modern Christians are in reality descendants of the ten lost tribes. Its followers consider themselves ethnic Israelites. The idea that anyone might be the biological descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and therefore entitled to the promises of God, is inherently attractive. The emotional and apocalyptic appeal of Two-House theology is obvious.

Boaz Michael, a leading voice in Messianic Judaism, looks at the history of the movement and examines the key biblical texts under dispute. Using the most recent scholarship about Gentile identity in apostolic theology, his book introduces a balanced alternative to Two-House theology. Twelve Gates welcomes Gentiles into the commonwealth of Israel, the New Jerusalem, and the Messianic Jewish movement.

from the promotional page for the book
Twelve Gates: Where Do the Nations Enter?
First Fruits of Zion

This is one of the “secret, unpublished books” I quoted from but couldn’t talk about before. Now I can, so I’m publishing my review. This book is really interesting, but probably not for the reason you think it is.

First off, the book was written by Boaz Michael, the Founder and President of First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ). I’m only drawing attention to this fact to say that I will not accept any comments made on this blog post that are for the specific purpose of “Boaz bashing.” If you want to comment about my review and the potential implications of this book, please be thoughtful and respectful. As the blog owner, I will remove any comment I deem offensive. Thank you.

On the surface, this is a book providing a critical analysis of the foundations of the two-house movement. For those of you unfamiliar with this perspective, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Two House Theology comes from the idea that the “House of Judah” in scripture refers to Jews, and the “House of Israel” refers to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, or Ephraim. Where scripture states the House of Israel and Judah will again be “one stick” (Ezekiel 37:15–23), it is believed to be referring to the End Times, right before Jesus returns, that many of those descended from Israel will come back to Israel. This theology postulates that the reason why so many so-called gentiles are coming into Messianic Judaism is that the vast majority of them are really Israelites and just don’t know it yet. They believe a majority of the people who considered themselves as gentiles coming into Messianic Judaism are those of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Like One Law groups, the Two House movement appears at first glance to have much in common with Messianic Judaism because of their belief in the ongoing validity of the Mosaic Covenant. While much of the Two House teaching is based on interpretations of Biblical prophecy, the biggest disagreements are due to inability to identify the genealogy of the ten lost tribes.

What I really love about this book though, isn’t its coverage of the two-house movement, but its treatment of a topic near and dear to my heart: the identity of non-Jews in discipleship to the Jewish Messiah. In other words, “me,” or to be more complete, everyone out there who is like me, Non-Jewish people who are drawn not only toward the God of Israel, but the perspective of Israel on God. This is crystallized in the conclusion of Boaz’s book:

The prophets of Israel recognized that when the Gentiles began to attach themselves to Israel and to Israel’s God, not as members of Israel or usurpers of Israel’s destiny but as sympathetic worshippers of the God of Abraham, it was a sign of the coming redemption (Zechariah 8). It was a boon for the Jewish people. Paul understood that if he was successful in his ministry to the Gentiles, it would cause the Jews to see his ministry in this light, and they would, as a result, accept Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and initiate the resurrection from the dead (Romans 11:12, 15). Paul could taste the closeness, the imminence of this event even in his day; how much more should it ignite our hearts with passion today!

Messianic Jews and Christians who are sensitive to their Jewish roots stand at two ends of a great bridge across which Christians receive the greatness of the Torah and the centrality of the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan, and across which the Jewish people can see, for the first time in untold centuries, Jesus as a legitimate Messianic candidate. When everyone on both sides of the bridge understands their role and the eschatological significance of their very existence, this interchange can benefit everyone.

The majority of Twelve Gates is devoted, not to the two-house perspective a such, but to the matter of Gentile identity. To the casual reader, it may seem as if the book is unbalanced and loses its focus halfway through its own narrative, but I know from talking to Boaz that the emphasis on Gentile identity is deliberate. It’s impossible to talk about two-house without addressing the Gentile identity issues because, if we non-Jews who are drawn to the Torah and Judaism are not “the lost ten tribes,” then who are we and why are we swimming against the current of traditional Christianity?

Boaz’s answer is simple, elegant, and thoroughly satisfying, at least to me. No, I won’t reveal it here, but instead, I encourage you to purchase this book and discover it for yourself. It surprised me that Boaz took this particular direction in his writing and addressing two-house, and I’m very glad he did, because it quiets some of the disturbing voices I’ve been hearing about who I can and can’t be in relation to the King of the Jews and to God.

For those of you who support or are sympathetic to the two-house movement, rest assured that this isn’t a “two-house bashing” book. Knowing Boaz as I do, I didn’t think he would write it that way, but I’m sure there are a few folks who are thinking that Twelve Gates is just a way for FFOZ to discount and disrespect the sincere beliefs of those Gentiles out there who claim the spiritual and ethnic inheritance of Ephraim and Manasseh.

That’s not to say what Boaz writes will be popular among two-house proponents. Certainly, there will be those who will deny Boaz’s assertions and people who will feel wounded by this book, even though its approach is quite gentle.

But if you’re looking for a straightforward and honest treatment of two-house from a “Messianic Jewish” perspective, I really think you should read Twelve Gates. As I said before though, for me, the two-house content is secondary to what the book really says to me.

The Bible teaches that in Jesus, “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body” with the Jewish people (Ephesians 3:6), and “fellow heirs with Christ” Himself (Romans 8:17). The point of the vision of the New Jerusalem is not to exclude the non-Jews from the city; rather the gates of Israel stand open to the Gentiles, beckoning them to enter into the eternal reward that God has prepared for His people. The vision of New Jerusalem is not one of exclusion but inclusion, as it says, “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day…They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the Gentiles.”

It says that though we are not all the same in function and purpose, we will all walk into New Jerusalem together as fellow disciples of the Master and fellow heirs of the Kingdom of God. It’s a book carrying the message, not of division, but of unity and the love of God. I said before that Boaz’s book pleasantly surprised me. Maybe it will surprise you, too.