Yesterday Randi and I were treated as special guests at the March of the Nations events in Jerusalem. This year’s event was the first time that it had been held in Israel, and it was done so in honor of Israel’s 70th year celebrations, and especially in honor of — as are all of the Marches of the Nations around the world each year — Holocaust survivors and their families. One of the victims spoke about surviving two death marches, but having participated in five Marches of Life. His life after the horrors of WW2 and the Nazi death camps is a story of death and restoration: 22 members of his family, including two great-grandchildren, live in Israel today. Continue reading “March of the Nations – 15 May 2018”
(Originally written for Spanish-language Christian newspaper in Guatemala)
What is God doing in Israel? What is the spiritual state of the State of Israel as she celebrates 70 years as a sovereign nation among the nations of the world? Her successes in many fields far surpass the normal expectation of other nations. By the long list of numerous innovations and developments that Israel is known for, God is drawing attention to Himself through His miracle nation! (Is 11:11-12) But how do we assess the whole of Israel by the Word of God? There are many perspectives on Israel and many opinions by believers concerning the current spiritual situation here in the land. One thing is for sure: Israel as a nation is still resistant to the good news of Jesus (Yeshua) being the Messiah. Continue reading “The State of The State of Israel: The Gospel and The Body of Messiah”
The State of Israel is preparing to celebrate its 70th Independence Day this April 18-19.
Seventy years of the impossible being made possible. After nearly 1900 years of exile from the land God promised on oath to give to the children of Israel; after prayers and hopes of one day returning to Jerusalem; after centuries of suffering persecutions and unending dislike and mistrust; after forced expulsions from other countries; after trying to show that they are like the Gentiles among whom they live; after failures of other nations to keep promises to assist them in their return to the land; after the Holocaust which sought to destroy their aspirations once-and-for-all; after wars against their surrounding enemies throughout the 70 years of statehood: Israel and the Jewish people here are thriving and prospering beyond all expectations, and blessing the world through its acquired knowledge and innovations born of necessity. Continue reading “Pride Comes Before A Fall – 19 Jan 2018”
A couple of days ago the Jerusalem Post carried an interesting article on the plight of Jewish believers in Yeshua/Jesus:
This situation is nothing new, as the article makes clear. Before my wife and I got married (and before we were believers in Jesus) , we went to speak with a progressive rabbi — liberal beyond Reform Judaism (I was raised Conservative). She (who is not Jewish) asked him who is a Jew. He said that anyone that wanted to be a Jew could be one. She said that she didn’t believe that, but that a Jew is one who has the DNA: someone might convert to the Jewish religion, but that did not make him/her a Jew. The rabbi said that’s not so: “anyone could be a Jew that wanted to be, as Ben-Gurion said”! Then I asked about those Jews who believe in Jesus (such as the organization Jews For Jesus), and say that they are still Jews. His face changed…..and hardened: “You can not be a Jew and believe in Jesus Christ!”
Gentile believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have been brought into covenant relationship with the God of Israel, and with Jewish believers in the Son of God. The Church — the Body of Christ/Messiah, the one new man, the Bride of the Lamb — is comprised of both these redeemed and born-again believers called out from every people group and nation. We all have a significant role to play through to the end of the age towards YHVH God’s salvation of His chosen people Israel, by which the whole world and creation will be blessed. Continue reading “The Church’s Role in The End-Times of The Last Days Towards Israel’s Salvation”
(Presented at PFI-UK conference on June 10, 2017) Rev: Mar 12, 2018
I was saved when I finally realized that my hope for a better world was going to be the Lord Jesus Christ coming back to make this world right, according to the prophetic Word of God that He has given us in the Bible. When I repented and believed the good news, I got much more than I had expected or even thought of: forgiveness of my sins, baptism of the Holy Spirit, eternal life with the Lord in a new creation that will be perfect, far better even than the Millennial Kingdom after Jesus returns!
I remember that when we were first saved, much of the expectation then (1981) was that Jesus could come back in 1988, which meant that the rapture could happen any time very soon in 1981. This was the blessed hope. Randi and I went to a church service not long after in another state, and the pastor that day said that the rapture, our blessed hope, could happen any time very soon, and that the Christians would escape the terrible things that were going to come on the Earth. But every time that I read the Bible about these things, I was not as sure as these pastors and teachers were about the timing or the purpose of the rapture. Also, I thought, Christians had not done any better than the Jews had with respect to living in a manner that honored the name of the LORD. I heard another well-known teacher, who recently spoke at a conference in another country, say that the blessed hope of Christians was not dying; i.e., being raptured when Jesus comes for His bride. This expectation was, and is, believed and taught by both Jewish and Gentile believers.
My thoughts always took me to consider all the thousands, millions, billions of believers who have already died over the last almost 2000 years. According to all of these teachers and teachings, they all missed the blessed hope! They simply were not living at the right time! Yet the Scriptures give this blessed hope to all believers, not only to those who might still be alive when the Lord returns, when He calls, firstly, for those dead in Christ, and also to those alive in Him to gather together unto Him. (Ps 50:4-5; 2Thes 2:1-5) In fact, the catching up of those alive at His coming was a “new thing” that would not have been thought of before the revelation given to the apostle Paul: whether dead or alive, all who have hoped in YHVH’s Messiah for salvation will be in the new body with Him at that moment which the Father has appointed! (Gen 3:15; Mt 24:36; Rom 8:18-25; 1Cor 15:50-58) Have you noticed that after the mark of the beast has been taken to the doom of all who do so, the apostle John is told by a voice from Heaven: “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ Yes, says the Spirit, that they rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (Rev 14:13) As much as we might like not to die, God is saying that those who do die in the Lord even during the time of great tribulation are blessed! For they will be resurrected to eternal life in the body. The gates of Sheol/Hades – death — can not prevail against the Church! In any case, it does seem that the Holy Spirit is awakening the Body of Messiah to the coming again of the Lord. Many still seem to be sleeping, or, having awakened, they still seem unprepared or indifferent to it. This is what the parable of the ten virgins teaches us. As often as we fellowship in the Lord’s Supper, we remember the Lord’s death until He comes. (1Cor 11:25-27)
An argument used to support an “imminent” – any time, whether very soon or very distant – rapture are the verses and expectations of the apostles in their letters to believers that the Lord was “at the door”, “at hand”, “approaching”, “coming quickly” (which is not the same as ‘coming soon’). Paul, in his first epistle to the believers in Thessaloniki, wrote to them of the Lord’s coming and the catching up of those believers who would be alive at His coming. Paul even wrote as if he himself might be alive at that time. Yet in his second letter to them, he clarified what had apparently been misunderstood: that this would not happen until the falling away (apostacy) and the revelation of the antichrist. This does not occur until midway through the last seven years of this age (the 70th week of Daniel). It could perhaps be said that from that midway point the Lord’s return will be imminent. But even then, maybe not: remember that those who are alive in Messiah meet in the air those who are being resurrected on the way up, and in these verses from Revelation regarding the opening of the fifth seal, the Lord is letting us know that there are going to be a certain number of martyrs before His vengeance is poured out. (Rev 6:9-11) Both Paul and Peter came to know that they were going to die, and they did not say, ‘unless the Lord should come between now and then’. The return of the Jewish people back to the land of promise was and is a big sign of the last days that needed to occur before these other events can play out. The Holy Spirit gave the early believers an earnest expectation that their blessed hope would truly be in God and the fulfillment of His plan of redemption. But beyond them, the Scriptures are written for us living at the end of the age, and so this expectation is being quickened in our generation to a level not known for most of the last 2000 years. (1Cor 10:11)
The Word of God promises to those in Christ that we are delivered from God’s wrath, the Day of YHVH. (Is 61:2b) Jacob’s Trouble/the Great Tribulation is essentially Satan’s wrath being unleashed on especially Jews and Christians, whom he especially hates, since both are connected with Yehovah God and His Son in covenant relationship, even if individuals among them do not believe. God’s wrath is against His enemies, and of His people, both Jews and Christians. Some of His enemies can include individual Jews and Christians who have forsaken the covenants He has “cut” with them. God’s wrath will be seen to be His righteous judgment against those who are clearly opposed to Him. Those who hold to a pre-tribulation rapture as the blessed hope have had to redefine the whole of “Daniel’s 70th Week” — the last seven years before the coming again of the Lord — as God’s wrath/ the Day of the LORD, in order to justify their particular position, but which is also the eschatological view of all believers: we will not suffer the wrath of God. This is good news! And the Holy Spirit will enable us to help others understand what is going on, and purify us to be the spotless and chaste Bride of our glorious Bridegroom! This is also good news! (Mt 3:11-12; Dan 11:31-35; Eph 5:25-27; 1Jn 3:1-3)
Let’s look at some verses that express the promise of God which gives the confident hope that has sustained the faithful throughout the ages of mankind:
Tit 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, (12) teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, (13) looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (14) who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to Himself a special people, zealous of good works.
Act 23:6 But when Paul saw that the one part were Sadducees and the other part Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, ‘Men! Brothers! I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee! I am being judged because of the hope and resurrection of the dead’.
Act 24:14-16 But I confess this to you, that after the Way which they call heresy, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets. (15) And I have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. (16) And in this I exercise myself, always to have a blameless conscience toward God and men.
Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall rise on the Earth at the last; (26) and even after my skin is corrupted, yet this: in my flesh I shall see God, (27) whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not a stranger’s; my heart yearns within me!
Heb 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. And he who had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son, (18) of whom it was said that in Isaac your seed shall be called, (19) concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from where he even received him, in a figure.
Jn 11:23-27 Jesus said to her, Your brother shall rise again. (24) Martha said to Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. (25) Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection and the Life! He who believes in Me, though he die, yet he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? (27) She said to Him, Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world.
Dan 12:1-2 And at that time Michael shall stand up, the great ruler who stands for the sons of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation; until that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. (2) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Act 26:6-8 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made to our fathers by God, (7) to which promise our twelve tribes hope to attain, serving God fervently night and day. For the sake of this hope, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. (8) Why is it thought a thing incredible with you that God raises the dead?
Rom 8:18-25 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
1Co 15:16-20 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. (17) And if Christ is not raised, your faith is foolish; you are yet in your sins. (18) Then also those that fell asleep in Christ were lost. (19) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (20) But now Christ has risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruit of those who slept.
Php 3:7-12 But whatever things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) But no, rather, I also count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be dung, so that I may win Christ (9) and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, but through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith, (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death; (11) if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the [righteous] dead. (12) Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I am pressing on, if I may lay hold of that for which I also was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. The second death has no authority over these, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him a thousand years.
Our blessed hope as believers in Yeshua/Jesus is the same as that given to the Fathers and the Children of Israel, and which was believed by men and women of faith in the Word and promise of God before them: it is the resurrection of the dead in Messiah/Christ, and the rapture of the living in Christ/Messiah at His revelation, at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in great power and glory, and sin will trouble us no more: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the Earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Mk 8:27-38 And Jesus and His disciples went out into the towns of Caesarea Philippi. And in the way He asked His disciples, saying to them, Who do men say that I am? (28) And they answered, John the Baptist. But others say Elijah, and others say one of the prophets. (29) And He said to them, But who do you say that I am? And Peter answered and said to Him, You are the Messiah. (30) And He charged them that they should tell no one of Him. (31) And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. (32) And He spoke that saying openly. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him. (33) But when He had turned around and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, Go behind Me, Satan! For you do not mind the things of God, but of the things of men. (34) And calling near the crowd with His disciples, He said to them, Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. (35) For whoever will save his life shall lose it; but whoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, he shall save it. (36) For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? (37) Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (38) Therefore whoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man shall also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Just before this passage, Yeshua had seemingly experienced some failure in the healing of a blind man. The first act of giving the man sight resulted in him only seeing without clarity. The second time Yeshua put His hands on the man’s eyes resulted in him receiving full sight. This scene was not only a physical reality — a blind man was healed — but also a parable and a prophecy: even the disciples of the Lord were not seeing clearly who Jesus really was; and the Messiah is still at work to bring His identity into sharp focus for all – believer and unbeliever alike.
Up till now, Yeshua had performed many miracles and healings and signs among the people, yet His closest disciples still seemed to be uncertain who it was that they were walking with. Yeshua is now going to bring them to a ‘valley of decision’ – a moment of truth to choose to recognize and to accept, or to reject: a decision that determines destiny. (עמק החרוץ Joel 3:14)
Yeshua asked His disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” The answers were very interesting: Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptiser, one of the other prophets. (Mk 6:14-15; Mt 16:13-18) Did the apostles and the Jewish people believe in reincarnation!? (see Jn 9:1-2) But then Jesus said to them: “But you, who do you say that I am?” And Peter, always ready, answered, “You are the Messiah, [the Son of the living God].” Then Yeshua strictly charged the disciples not to tell anyone about Him! They still did not know what it meant that He was the Messiah. They were still not seeing clearly or understanding; but they knew now that He is the one of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote. The Son of God did not come to become famous or popular. Again we see that God’s ways are not like those of men or women who think more highly of themselves than is suitable. (Rom 12:2-3) In Matthew’s gospel, he adds that Yeshua told Simon Peter that his confession of the revelation of who Yeshua is did not come from flesh and blood, but from Yeshua’s Father in Heaven; that is, from God. This is the foundation upon which the Lord builds His household of faith, against which not even death can overcome the believers. (Mt 16:16-18; 1Jn 2:20-25)
Yeshua began to teach the apostles the truth about what it meant that He was Messiah. In Jewish teaching and expectation at that time, there were those who thought that the Messiah would come as a conquering King, the son of David. Others taught that the Messiah would come — not necessarily from David’s line (1Kg 12:16) — and overthrow the Roman enemy and occupiers, freeing Israel and the Jewish people from foreign domination to be a free people in their own land. The mystery of the cross and of the gospel was hidden from them, and now Yeshua had come — the truth, the life, and the way. Yeshua told them that being the Messiah meant, firstly, that He was going to “suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again”. All of their prior understanding of the Messiah had been false or distorted. This is what gives rise to false Messiahs/Christs – being deceived about the truth of the Messiah/Christ being Yeshua/Jesus.
(Tonight is Lag B’Omer – the 33rd day of the counting of the sheaves of wheat between the Passover week and Shavuot/Pentecost. This day is a celebration of a false prophet and of a false Messiah. Rabbi Akiva claimed that Bar-Kochba was the Messiah, who was going to defeat the Romans and regain the holy city of Jerusalem. Yet the rabbi – who was burned at the stake — is still considered one of the sages of Judaism, and everyone knows now that Bar-Kochba was not the Messiah. Orthodox Judaism even forbids marriages during this period until after this truly pagan fire holiday!)
We know that these closest disciples never did “hear” the words, “and after three days rise again”, because until they actually saw Jesus after His resurrection, they had believed that His death brought an end to their hope that He was, in fact, the Redeemer. (Mt 28:17; Mk 16:11-14; Lk 24:13-32; Jn 20:24-25)
Peter, who had just been blessed for confessing the revelation from God the Father, was now speaking on behalf of Satan when he rebuked Yeshua, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Mt 16:22) Yeshua then rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men”. The devil was quick at work to try to steal the Word which Yeshua had sown into the heart of His dear followers. (Mk 4:14-15) It was God’s plan and good pleasure that His Son would be the sacrifice to atone for the sins of every man, woman, and child. (Is 53:10-12)
Jesus then spoke to all of the people there, with his disciples, and told them all what it would mean for all who confess in faith and become followers of Yeshua the Nazarene (not, the Nazirite); and He connects it with His second coming: we will have to deny ourselves and pick up our own crosses to follow Him; we will have to be willing to die for Him and for the gospel; the whole world is not the value of even one soul; we must not be ashamed or embarrassed about Jesus or of His words. (Lk 9:26; Rev 3:8) Remember that even many of His disciples had been offended and embarrassed by His hard sayings regarding eating His flesh and drinking His blood. (Jn 6:53-69) In today’s post-modern and post-Christian world, the Bible – God’s Word – is under attack; the exclusivity of Jesus being the only way to God the Father is attacked; the truth that God remains faithful and committed to His covenant promises to Israel is attacked; the truth that homosexuality is still a sin is under attack. Believers are to stand with the Lord and His words in this “adulterous and sinful generation”.
What are some lessons for us in knowing who Yeshua is?:
–Before we became believers we did not understand what it means for someone to be the Messiah, especially that Jesus is the Messiah. He is not the Messiah that we expected. That being so, we bore false testimony against Him, simply by denying that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. (Ex 20:16; Dt 5:20)
–Yeshua told Peter that his clear acknowledgement of Him being the Messiah was a revelation from the Father. It was not something that was being taught; it was not something that could be simply intellectually figured out. The demons and the devil already knew who Yeshua was; they were not deceived like people are.
Each person needs this revelation of who Yeshua is. It is not enough to grow up hearing about Him, or even being taught. If that were all that was needed, then every person who has been brought up in a Christian or Messianic home or society would know that the Messiah/Christ is Yeshua/Jesus. But they do not. It requires a revelation from the Father. If any of you here do not yet see clearly who Jesus is, ask the Father to reveal Him to you. Ask the Lord to heal your spiritual blindness. It is essential if you are going to be capable of truly being His disciple and not ashamed of Him or His words. This gives confidence when He will come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
–There is unity among the believers who have this revelation. All of the apostles were brought to that point of certainty regarding who Yeshua was/is. Even Thomas; even Judas Ishcariot. Whatever each of the apostles and the people had understood before that ‘valley of decision’, the Good Shepherd was going on from there. They were going on together from there with the Lord breaking through before them. If they were to begin arguing or discussing things as they had previously understood them, the Lord was going on from there. He was not going back. This unified the disciples. It still did not guarantee covenant faithfulness to Yeshua or to His way. Sin is a dreadfully strong slave master!
It is my conviction that the Body of Messiah is in need of another such revelation from the Father that is going to bring unity to the disciples of Yeshua at this time. There are many differing and opposing interpretations of what is going on in these last days, and of Israel’s part, of believers in Jesus’ part, and of the abiding truth of the Word of YHVH God. Just as the truth of Messiah was written in the Scriptures – but not understood – so, too, is the truth of where God is now in His plan of redemption also written in the Old and the New Testaments – but divisively not agreed upon. We need a common, corporate, Holy Spirit revelatory moment to bring us together in His truth and love to enable us to do effectively what the Lord has called us to for His glory and purpose. There will still be Thomases and Judases among us (Lord, have mercy on me!), but the power needed to stand as one in this adulterous and sinful generation until the Day of Messiah necessitates such a revelation. Let us love one another in the hope we have in our God. And let us stand in the truth that we do know: Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God. Yeshua is LORD, to the glory of God the Father!
We were blind, but now we see. Praise God!
1Pe 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has regenerated us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in Heaven for you (5) by the power of God, having been kept through faith to a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time; (6) in which you greatly rejoice, yet a little while, if need be, grieving in manifold temptations; (7) so that the trial of your faith (being much more precious than that of gold that perishes, but being proven through fire) might be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (8) whom having not seen, you love; in whom not yet seeing, but believing in Him you exult with unspeakable joy, and having been glorified, (9) obtaining the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Eph 1:18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints
Last week we heard an excellent teaching on the expectation we have of a new, eternal, heavenly body to replace our present, temporary, earthly bodies which are incapable of living the fullness of the life which is our inheritance in Christ. Our congregation is called Yeshua’s Inheritance, and it is the inheritance which gives meaning to every human life: whether that person will, or will not, inherit eternal life. The God who has created the heavens and the Earth has given two options: eternal existence separated from Him, in a place called hell; or eternal life with Him, in a perfect New Heavens and New Earth where love is perfect in all its aspects. The way to either place is determined by one’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God, by whom alone anyone can come to the Father.
The name, Yeshua’s Inheritance, for our congregation gives us an identity: we belong to Yeshua – both now and forever! This is the hope that we have along with all other believers – past, present, and future! The Hebrew word for inheritance (nachala נחלה) has the same root as for a stream or river (nachal נחל): the inheritance flows from its source like a river stream from generation to generation until it reaches its destination into the big, wide, deep ocean with all the other streams. YHVH God is our source, and His promises flow until they are fulfilled, to be inherited by all His holy ones. We are the inheritance of our God and Savior! What a treasure He has given us and promised us to inherit.
As was said last week, this inheritance comes into fullness only in the resurrection, when we receive our new bodies suited to the eternal life that we have also received as a free gift from God through our living faith in Yeshua as our Savior and Lord. This inheritance is not for one people or ethnic group alone, but for all who are born-again by the Holy Spirit from Above. It is for the corporate one new man in Messiah, a new creation: new bodies, new heavens, new Earth, new names. Jesus makes all things new, perfect, eternal in the Kingdom of of God. (Rev 21:5) We have the promise and the down-payment now; we receive the fullness of it when God finishes His plan of redemption in this world. (Rom 8:23-25; Jn 17:3)
For now, what does it mean for us in this congregation? First of all, we have a common hope and calling. Our vision and hope is the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection and rapture of the righteous – of the saints – that are connected with that. Our bodies will be transformed into heavenly bodies and we will forever be with the Lord, and will begin that ‘new life’ ruling and reigning with Him over redeemed Israel and the nations. This is Yeshua’s inheritance in the world to come, and ours with Him! (Is 19:25; Ps 2:8; Dan 7:13-14,18,27; Rev 2:26-27; 3:21; 11:15; 20:6) We will be ministers in His government, and priests as we rule and reign with Him as a kingdom of priests.
But brothers and sisters, if we do not love one another now, we risk inheriting nothing! As we heard last week, if our acts are not motivated by love for the Lord and towards others, our deeds or ministry or participation profit us nothing. They lack eternal value. Without unity bound by love, we have a weak testimony of the truth of who Yeshua is. We become a dysfunctional family that lacks order and peace. Love is not just a feeling; it is a commitment by choice because we love. God has chosen to love us, especially those who love His beloved Son, Yeshua, and all that He does for us springs from His love, even though we clearly do not ‘deserve’ such attention and kindness (among other good things that is love). God suffers long in demonstrating His love for us, and we are called to do the same. Long-suffering is an attribute of the fruit of the Spirit. These things should weigh heavily upon us as we examine ourselves in relation to the reality of our faith and hope, and how it affects our part in this local congregation, and any other.
Under the Law of Moses, all of the tribes of Israel, except one, received an inheritance of a portion of land in Canaan, which YHVH promised to the Children of Israel when He brought them out of Egypt, according to His covenant promise. This promise of an everlasting possession and inheritance still awaits fulfillment for the salvation of Israel as a nation. But the one tribe which did not receive any inheritance of land was the tribe of Levi, the priestly family. God determined that they would be scattered throughout the land to serve Him and the Temple and the people, and that their inheritance would be HIM. (Dt 10:8-9) All of the promised land to be inherited by the Children of Israel belongs to YHVH. Therefore, by having YHVH as their inheritance the priests inherited the whole land, although possessing none of it in their own right.
Our inheritance in Yeshua is greater than a particular land or country. This is our inheritance in Jesus: the whole Kingdom of God – the whole universe, which includes everything – because the Father has given it all to Him. (Heb 1:1-4; Rom 8:16-17) We have become God’s children in Christ, and co-heirs with Him. And Jesus says that all that is His is the Father’s, and all that is the Father’s is His. (Jn 17:9-10) And that especially means US, all who believe in God through Jesus, for whom He died to forgive us of our sin. All who believe in Jesus inherit eternal life! (Jn 3:16-17) But those who refuse to honor Jesus condemn themselves to eternal spiritual darkness apart from the Light of Life. (Jn 3:18-21)
The inheritance: Yeshua/Jesus! And the whole Kingdom of God and eternal life with the Lord
The heirs: the righteous saints – all who put their trust and hope in Jesus for their salvation from sin and sins
Our present knowledge of our future hope: By the Word of God in the Scriptures and the indwelling Holy Spirit in believers. Take hope, young and old! We have a glorious future after the suffering and tribulations of this life: we will inherit the everlasting life that is really life that God has planned for those who love Him. (Eph 1:18; 1Tim 6:19; 1Jn 2:25; 1Cor 2:9-10; Is 64:4; Rev 21:1-8)
Lk 12:22-34 And He said to His disciples, Therefore I say to you, Be not anxious as to your life, what you shall eat; nor for the body, what you shall put on. (23) Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. (24) Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap, having neither storehouse nor barn, and God feeds them. How much more are you better than the birds? (25) And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature? (26) If then you are not able to do even the least, why are you anxious about the rest? (27) Consider the lilies, how they grow; they do not toil, they do not spin. And yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (28) If then God so clothes the grass (which today is in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven) how much more will He clothe you, O little-faiths? (29) And do not seek what you shall eat, nor what you shall drink, and stop being in anxiety. (30) For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you have need of these things. (31) But rather seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (32) Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (33) Sell what you have and give alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not become old, an unfailing treasure in Heaven, where no thief comes nor moth corrupts. (34) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(An introduction to a study of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, with the focus on believers being overcomers and light in the darkening world)
What is important to the Lord Jesus Christ regarding our spiritual condition as His disciples? He has given us the Law of Messiah in His sermon on the mount (Mt 5 – 7); He has given us to understand what the Kingdom of God is like in this world (Mt 13); He has told us what to expect as the time of His coming nears (Mt 24 – 25); He has given the Holy Spirit to teach us through the Apostles’ writings in the New Testament how we are to live as believers in the truth of the gospel of the grace of God. (Jn 17:20)
What is important to Jesus in order for us to be confident of our hope in His salvation for us?: The seven letters to the churches in Asia give us His counsel to equip us and to help us judge ourselves and respond appropriately according to what He praises and approves of, and of what He disapproves and gives correction. He gave the apostle John to hear and to see and to write these letters, and the whole book of Revelation, about 60 years after the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father. They are written for all believers as to one new man – where it does not matter if we are Jewish, Gentile, male, female, Turkish, or Ethiopian. It is written to the churches – where it matters not if one is Orthodox or Roman Catholic, if Protestant, Evangelical, Baptist, or Pentecostal. The encouragements, chastisements, warnings, promises are to all in the Body of Messiah: let him/her who has an ear to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches. There is a call to listen: Even within the church there are different types of soil, of hearts, with respect to how we hear the Word of God and its interpretation.
He tells us not to be afraid. Our Lord and Savior wants each of us to be overcomers, to be victors, to be light in this world in the spiritual battles of life against the darkness of this age – victors over the devil, over this world, over our own selves. (Eph 6:12; 1Jn 2:15-16) He wants us to be wise virgins, who are prepared and glad when He comes. (Mt 25:1-13) We overcome by our faith in Jesus, who has won the victory for us on the cross, where He died and shed His blood to atone for our sins! The Holy Spirit gives us the power by the grace and the love of God to endure to the end in the faith!
All of these seven churches – these lampstands shining for the glory of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ — were located in the region of today’s Turkey on the Asian side. That light now is very dim, but not completely quenched. (Is 42:3; Mt 12:20) Turkey is now an Islamic country – spiritually very dark — and for 400 years ruled over Palestine/Israel. These churches were local city-wide congregations, and are also representative of the church-at-large, giving relevancy to these letters throughout the last 2000 years, and they also bring us right through the last 7 years of this age — Daniel’s 70th week (Dan 9:24-27) — leading up to the Lord’s return. All Scripture is written for us living at the end of the age; these letters are also prophetic in that they take us to the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of His saints ruling with Him in His kingdom over Israel and the nations. (1Cor 10:11; Rev 2:25-28)
The Book of Revelation is unique in that it is the only one in the Bible which offers a blessing to those who read and hear and keep that which is written therein. (1:3) It is a book which Yeshua Himself gave to be written, rather than inspired by the Holy Spirit. (1:1) It also ends with a curse for anyone who would add to or take away from what is written in it. (22:18-19) If we believe what the Bible says about the beginning of all things in Genesis, we will be more inclined to believe what God says about the end.
The book is the revelation of Jesus Christ: He is now in Heaven hidden from the world, but the plan of God is to send Him back at the appointed time, and every eye will see Him, including His people Israel. (Rev 1:7; Jn 16:10; Zec 12:10-11) The book opens with this hope of the return of the Everlasting God to take up His throne on the Earth. He is not only the Head of the Church, but He is ruler over the kings of the Earth. (1:4, 12-20) He has died and risen, and lives forevermore! There was no one before Him; there will be no one after Him: He is the first and the last.
Jesus is the uncreated Light, who shines like the sun when He is seen in glory, as on the Mount of Tranfiguration, or when appearing to Saul on his way to Damascus. (Gen 1:3-5; Mt 17:2; Acts 22:6-11) Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it/Him. (Jn 1:5)
Jesus is the Light of the world, and has called both Israel and believers in Him to be the light in the world, that others would see and know who the true God and Savior is. (Is 43:10-12; Mt 5:14-16) Both Israel and Christians have fallen short (Rom 5:21-26), but Jesus is here presented as the faithful and true witness: He is the true Israel and Man of God, the Prophet who perfectly speaks and bears true witness to YHVH God. The ninth commandment is “Do not bear false witness”, and this we have all been guilty of too often. Yet Jesus’ witness is true, both of the Father and of Himself. (Jn 8:12-20) He is the Light of the world, and those who follow Him shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. In Christ, we are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of night or of darkness. So let us not sleep as others, but watch and be sober. (1Thes 5:5-6)
This is what we want for ourselves, and this is the instruction we want to receive from this study of the Lord’s letters to the churches. Yeshua is seen by the apostle John as being in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, with seven stars in His right hand. John, the apostle that knew that Jesus loved him, fell down as dead when he saw the Lord in the light of His glory. And the Savior told him not be afraid: our Judge is also our Savior and Bridegroom. We should honor Him with holy fear, as true witnesses of who He is.
The Menorah was the light within the Holy Place in the Tabernacle and the Temple, both in the desert and also in Jerusalem. Only priests had access to it, and were to keep it lit at all times. Jesus says that the seven golden menorahs are the seven churches, and the stars (heavenly lights) that He holds in His right hand are the angels/messengers – whether divine or human (Mal 2:7) – of the seven churches. The letters are addressed to the churches through their messengers.
2Pe 1:19-21 We also have a more sure Word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Daystar arises in your hearts, (20) knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture came into being of its own private interpretation. (21) For prophecy was not borne at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke being borne along by the Holy Spirit.
(11 June 2014 – For some comments and responses to this article, see http://www.kehila.com/articles/589-holidays-like-they-have-in-judah)
1Kg 12:32-33 “And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.
“So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.”
When the Kingdom of “all Israel” was divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel (Joseph/Ephraim), and the southern Kingdom of Judah (Judah/Judea), God left His place of worship in Jerusalem in the oversight of the Tribe of Levi and House of Aaron, under the sovereign control of the House of David, of the Tribe of Judah, the messianic family line for the Messiah, Son of David and Son of God. YHVH gave the northern kingdom of Israel to be governed by Jeroboam, while the southern kingdom of Judah was left in the hands of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.
In order to prevent and discourage those under his rule from continuing to worship the LORD in the only place that He had established to place His name there, i.e., Jerusalem, King Jeroboam of Israel, as written in the Scripture quoted above, established feasts according to his own heart like those in Jerusalem, but not in Jerusalem, the center of worship for all the Children of Jacob/Israel. This severed the unity of the nation even further, and instilled idolatry and unfaithfulness towards God and His instructions about His feasts/appointed times.
The Bible is written for us living at the end of the age, and for our instruction and admonition in learning from the examples given from Israel’s Holy Spirit-inspired written history. (1Cor 10:11)
I believe that we in the Messianic movement of God to restore all things to His people have allowed ourselves to do what Jeroboam did: we have adopted some of the holidays of YHVH which He set times for, but for which those set times have been altered; we have also over emphasized some of the feasts of the LORD which He gave to Israel, while minimizing or ignoring others which He also gave; we have given too much weight to “Jewish thinking” as to what is important – even if in unbelief towards God the Father and His Son – rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to give us the mind of Christ/Messiah about these matters in the present dispensation. (Yes, I do believe that there are dispensations, but am not a classic dispensationalist.)
We are not learning from the example of Jeroboam, but seem to be following his lead: we are diverting attention from the centrality of the New Jerusalem above for our true and spiritual worship in these days prior to the return of the Lord (Jn 4:19-24), and from celebrating the open revelation of Yeshua/Jesus having already come in the flesh in fulfillment of those holidays which point to Him and to God’s redemption of His people, and which He has given to the whole Body of Messiah/Christ under His welfare in the Commonwealth of Israel.
I will give some examples:
Sabbath (Shabbat) (Gen 2:1-3; Ex 20:8-11; Dt 5:12-15)
The Sabbath is given to observe and to remember that YHVH God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, and rested on the seventh (the Sabbath); and, to remember that YHVH redeemed and delivered His people Israel out of hard labor and bondage in Egypt to give them rest in the promised Land. This first of the appointed ‘Feasts of YHVH’ given to Israel (Lev 23) is a holy day to remember (and to act accordingly) our Creator and Redeemer, and the beginning of all that He created and made, and His mighty acts of redemption. So, in remembering the beginnings, we are also brought to remember the first day of the creation week, when God called light to shine out of the darkness.
In the plan of God, the day after the Sabbath is the first day of the week, or Sunday/Sonday – the day of light. As born-again new creation children of light and of the resurrection (1Thes 5:4-6; Lk 20:35-36), we have been redeemed, and reconciled to God by the blood of the cross, being brought back into the uncreated Light that is God: Messiah Yeshua/Jesus is the uncreated Light of the world even before there was a sun. The seventh-day Sabbath is not the end of God’s plan; the day after the Sabbath, the eternal day of no darkness is the new beginning of eternal life in the new creation that the Father is preparing for those who love Him and His Son. The Sabbath day is a day to look back, in anticipation of the future judgment and the world to come. Yeshua/Jesus is our Sabbath rest, in whom we cease from our own works to do the works of God. (Heb 4)
First-fruits (Lev 23:9-11)
This holiday has to do with resurrection, the day after the Sabbath (Mt 28:1; Lk 24:1; 1Cor 16:2); it has nothing special to do with the 1st day after Passover, nor with a particular date after the Passover. The counting of the omer (sheaves of wheat) was to begin from this day: the firstfruit of the harvest is showing itself, and is waved before God: Yeshua is alive, first-fruits from the dead! (1Cor 15:20-23) It is the Son‘s day! This is the day that the LORD (YHVH) has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord and in His day! (Ps 118:15-29; Rev 1:10)
Weeks (Shavuot)/Pentecost (50 Days) (Lev 23:15-17; Acts 2:1)
The Word of the LORD to Moses for Israel tells them to begin counting the appearance of the living wheat harvest from the day after the Sabbath which comes during the Passover week, regardless of what day Passover may actually begin. Seven complete Sabbaths, and 50 days from the day of first-fruits/resurrection, is to be celebrated as a presentation of a new grain offering unto YHVH: two leavened loaves of bread. Shavuot/Pentecost should, therefore, always be celebrated on a Sonday, just as God commanded Israel. This celebration is expressive of our unity in Messiah/Christ, all knowing that we are sinners for whom the Lord died. The holiday displays the power of the life of God in the redeemed and forgiven believer in the gospel. Yeshua is glorified, risen from the dead and seated in glory! It is a time to rejoice together in Him by the Holy Spirit who has come to dwell in us who are born-again from above!
Yet Israel has changed the day of beginning the count of the 50 days and the 7 weeks, by beginning the count from the day after Passover; that is, on the 16th of the first month, Nisan, on the Hebrew calendar. Doing so brings them to celebrate Shavuot always on the 6th day of the third month, Sivan. This is not what God instructed them through His Torah, and, by doing so, the Jewish people have been blinded to the clear connection with Jesus/Yeshua and with His resurrection. This is not a disconnect caused by the “Gentile Church”, but by the Jewish Synagogue. (Some believers, who are caught up in turning away from all things ‘church’ and taking on all things ‘Jew-ish’, have begun the count on the 17th of Nisan, reckoning the three days and nights of Yeshua being in the grave from the 14th, as the starting point of counting. But that date is neither the day after the Sabbath of the Passover day, the 15th, nor is it what God said and Moses wrote. As the apostle Paul admonished, there are those who would be teachers of the Law, but do not know what they are talking about.) (1Tim 1:5-8)
The Holy Spirit is fulfilling the Word of God. A serious problem has come because Christians have not been able to explain the fulfillment of these appointed holiday feasts from the Bible, often out of ignorance, but sometimes due to reliance on faulty Jewish custom and tradition; again, sometimes in ignorance, other times in rebellion, like Jeroboam. Jewish people don’t know either. But Messianic Jews, and Gentile believers in Jesus who connect with Israel and the Jewish people, should know, and act in humble and thankful obedience to God, who magnifies the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah, and He has come! We are His witnesses, and if we are going to celebrate holidays, then we should at least be able to say what and when they are, even if we are free, for the gospel’s sake, to celebrate, or not to celebrate – unto God — as situations present themselves. (Col 2:16-17) There is a powerful testimony when believers across streams and cultures celebrate corporately as one body and family the mighty acts of the one true God!
Many are following those who teach that the New Moon is a sighted crescent, rather than the two to three days of a darkened moon, which typifies the Biblical life which is by faith, and not by sight. As all of YHVH’s appointed times, the New Moon also relates to Yeshua and also to Israel.
Memorial of Blowing of Trumpets (Lev 23:23-25)
The Jewish religious authorities added a day to Rosh HaShana, and call it the New Year rather than the 1st of the 7th month. In adding a day, it puts hardship on poor people who are dependent on daily wages for work. In emphasizing the Memorial of Trumpet Blasts as the beginning of the Jewish calendar year, it brings in confusion in the people’s mind regarding the redemptive plan of the God of Israel, and His time-table.
Day of Atonements (Lev 16; 23:26-32; Is 53; Zec 12:10-14)
On Yom Kippur, the Jewish religion places its emphasis on this holiest day in God’s calendar for the people’s civil and religious life on bodily fasting from food for 25 hours, in the hope that their names will be inscribed favorably by God for the coming year, rather than on one’s genuine sorrow and regret for unbelief and disobedience against YHVH and His commandments. For those who are justified through faith in God and in His provision of the sacrificial atoning sacrifice by His Son for our sin, transgression, and iniquity, it is a new beginning, transformed by an affliction of soul to be converted, healed, and fully restored even beyond what we could have thought possible; and, as usual with God, it is all connected with Jesus! Jubilee! (Lev 25:8-12)
Hanukkah/Birth of the Messiah the Lord (Jn 10; Is 9:6-7; Hag 2; Lk 2:4-20)
The true Light has come; all who came before must give honor and glory to the Lord of all. Yeshua/Jesus must increase; they all must decrease. (Jn 3:30-31)
There is the over-emphasis on the connection with the Jewish Passover (recipients of grace apart from sin) and not upon Yeshua’s death being also a sin and guilt offering, the atonement (all people, all sinners in need of a Savior), opening the way into God’s presence for both Jew and Gentile believers (Mt 27:51; Heb 10:15-25) There is no sound basis that the ‘Last Supper’ was a meal patterned after the modern Passover seder. Yeshua was closing out one dispensation, while ushering in a new and better covenant for His disciples and spiritual family, and giving us a better inheritance than the Law can give hope for.
Both the Old and the New are at present in force, as God works to fulfill every jot and tittle that is written in the Law and the Prophets, to be brought to completion during the Millennial Kingdom. (Mt 5:17-18)
Other holidays have been added to the Jewish calendar, such as Tisha B’Av (Zec 7:1-13; 8:19) and Lag BaOmer, which have become more sacrosanct to the Israeli Jewish people than God’s own memorials; yet there are those within the Messianic movement who give even these credibility, despite their being instituted in direct opposition to the judgments of God against His own people for their unbelief, rebellion, and consequent gross idolatries. (Is 1:10-20; Amos 5:21-24; Rev 3:14-22)
We need to beware of the mote in our own eyes with respect to holidays before we think we can help others with specks in theirs. Those who say that they see will be judged more severely than those who are blind. (Jn 9:39-41; Ja 3:1) The devil is a liar, deceiver, murderer, and destroyer. It is for us to honor the Lord, and bear witness of Jesus/Yeshua to His people – whether unsaved Jews, or whether misguided or unsaved Christians – as we celebrate our great God and Savior.
Jewish believers generally do not recognize or celebrate/observe Sonday/Sunday; First-fruits/Resurrection Day; Pentecost/Shavuot according to the Lord’s timing; the birth of the Messiah. Shavuot as dated in Judaism is instead of Pentecost; Hanukkah is in competition with Christmas, and given meaning that seeks to decrease the greatness of the Lord’s coming in the flesh into the world; Saturday is considered as the Lord’s Day, and given prominence over the significance of the ‘day after the Sabbath’ prophetically of new birth and eternal life after death for the believer in Messiah.
The Hebraic and Jewish roots of the Messianic/Christian faith are found in the Word of God given to Israel and the Jewish people. But the roots have produced a whole plant that looks much different than the seed that was planted to sprout those roots. (1Cor 15:35-49) The flower and fruit are more interesting and glorious than the tangled roots, for all their fascination that God has created and made! God is calling out a people for Himself from every nation; the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek, but a new thing in the Earth which YHVH is creating in Christ/Messiah. His appointed times which testify to Messiah having already come – and coming again — bring all believers from any and every nation outside of our camps to Yeshua, uniting us in His love as we suffer with Him and bear His reproach, hoping in His return and the resurrection. (Heb 13:12-16; Rom 8:18-24) Neither Jewish believers nor Gentile believers are called to bring anyone into our purpose; but God is calling out one new man into His purpose, which He has planned before He created anything.