Looking For The Blessed Hope

(Presented at PFI-UK conference on June 10, 2017) 

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?

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!”

Who Is Yeshua?

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 16:16-181Jn 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!

Israel — Of God, or Not of God?

Israel celebrates her 69th Day of Independence this Monday and Tuesday.  Most of Israel’s Arab population knows it as their Day of Catastrophe (nakba).  Neither one yet fears YHVH.  The one, true, living God of Heaven and Earth is fulfilling His Word and plan for His holy name’s sake, and against all opposition to Him — including unbelief.  He cannot, and will not, be stopped!  Praise be to His name!

The Israeli Jewish people celebrate their military strength and prowess; the Arab Palestinian people refuse to accept that the land was covenanted to Jacob for an everlasting possession, yet to be realized.  The Holy Spirit is working to turn away ungodliness from Jacob so that all Israel (the full remnant from all the tribes) will be saved.  The Arabs hope is to be found in Israel’s hope:  Yeshua/Yasua/Jesus, the Lord and Messiah, Son of David.

Israel’s leadership and people feel that the lesson of the Holocaust is that the Jewish people must protect themselves by themselves.  The Arab world feel that the lesson of the Holocaust is unjust and not fair.  Neither fear the LORD.

Most of the Jewish people are relying on “a god of fortresses” — self-determined that they must be masters of their own destiny —  rather than trust in the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, who alone can guarantee them life that is really life.  Most of the Arab peoples are relying on a god of vengeance, nurtured by a bitter root and an ancient hatred towards their brothers and cousins.  Neither line of Abraham’s family fears the God of their father in truth.

The Jewish people have only recently celebrated the Passover, glorying in their deliverance by YHVH from Egyptian slavery.  On the heels of that joyful celebration and hope, we solemnly and gravely remembered the worst calamity yet to come upon our people — the Holocaust.  The night preceding Independence Day we again remember all those Jewish people [in particular] who have sacrificed their lives in the many wars and conflicts connected with being a sovereign people in our own land.  There is the constant reminder to abide in the faith, for through much suffering and tribulation we enter the Kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)  Yet our people still have not repented and believed the gospel, confessing their unfaithfulness to our God, that they would know their sins are forgiven through the sacrifice and shed blood of Yeshua, whom God raised from the dead. (Lev 26:40-45)  For the Father was well-pleased with His beloved Son!

For us who have received our peace with God through saving faith in His Son, our Savior, our battle is not waged against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies.  Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah.

Today’s Israel is a miracle/banner (nes) for the nations/Gentiles.  God has intervened in history again to repossess HIS land for His people.  The return of the Jewish people back to the land of promise is a proof that YHVH is the true God.  It is a huge sign of the end-times of the last days — not unlike the ark in Noah’s days.  Against all odds, the LORD is doing a greater thing than what He did to bring us out of Egypt, or out of Babylon.  (Is 11:12; Jer 16:14-15; 23:7-8).  Jacob’s Trouble is coming, but Israel will be saved out of it.  (Jer 30:7)  The Lord’s return cannot be far behind!  Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!  Then Jerusalem will have God’s peace.

Passover to Resurrection

Mt 26:17-29  And on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, Where do You desire that we prepare for You to eat the Passover?  (18)  And He said, Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, The Master said, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.  (19)  And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them. And they made the Passover ready.  (20)  And when evening had come, He sat down with the Twelve.  (21)  And as they ate, He said, Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.  (22)  And grieving sorrowfully, they began to say, each one of them, Lord, not I am the one?  (23)  And He answered and said, He who dips his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me.  (24)  The Son of Man goes, as it has been written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.  (25)  And answering, the one betraying Him, Judas, said, Master, Not am I the one? He said to him, You said it.  (26)  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is My body.  (27)  And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink all of it.  (28)  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  (29)  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.

Mt 28:1-9  But after the Sabbath, at the dawning into the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.  (2)  And behold, a great earthquake occurred! For coming down from Heaven, an angel of the Lord came and rolled back the stone from the door and was sitting on it.  (3)  His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  (4)  And the keepers shook for fear of him and became like dead men.  (5)  And the angel answered and said to the women, Do not fear, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  (6)  He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  (7)  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead. And, behold, He goes before you into Galilee. There you shall see Him. Lo, I have told you.  (8)  And they quickly departed from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.  (9)  But as they were going to report to His disciples, behold, Jesus also met them, saying, Hail! And they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

We have heard how that YHVH God, brought out the children of Israel from Egypt in order to make His name great, and to have Israel be His holy people, and He would be their God.  He promised them to inherit the Land of Canaan.  However, the people have been unfaithful to the LORD throughout most of their history.  BUT, God has been faithful to His covenants and to the conditions and promises of them.  Praise the Lord!  And we today who have returned to live in this very land are part of His plan of redemption, and proof that the God of Israel is the true God, and God of gods.

In the passage from Mt 26, we see that Yeshua and His closest disciples kept the Passover, with the Messiah establishing a New Covenant with them, and with Israel.  It is a covenant in which YHVH promises to forgive the Israeli people all of their sins. (Jer 31:31-37)  For this the Savior’s name is Yeshua. (Mt 1:21)  He still reaches out to them until today with this same offer of salvation that He began with them.  Even among the apostles was one who was unfaithful to the Lord.  Yeshua, at this last supper before His crucifixion as the Passover Lamb born to be the sacrifice to atone for our sins, institutes the Lord’s Supper of remembrance, which we are about to do ourselves.

In the passage from Mt 28, a new day has come – Sonday, the day after the Sabbath (Lev 23:9-12)!  It is the day of Firstfruits.  A day of rejoicing instead of mourning!  Victory over death, the devil, and sin!  A new day in which the angels and Yeshua told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to go tell the others that Yeshua is risen from the dead!  He is the firstfruits from among the dead.  The harvest time is nearing in our generation.  And they went from Jerusalem to meet Him in Galilee, as He had told them beforehand to do, and they ate together.

Now, all who confess with their mouth that Yeshua is Lord, and believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead, will be saved!  And with this New Covenant that God offers not only to the Jewish people, but also to all Gentiles, YHVH also confirms that He will keep all of His covenant promises to Israel, including the inheritance of the land, and that they will be His people, and He will be their God. (Rom 15:8-13; 2Cor 1:20-22; Jer 31:33)  Yeshua was born King of the Jews; Yeshua was crucified as King of the Jews; Yeshua will come again to be the King of the Jews!  Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let us fellowship together now in remembering the death of the Lord, and His burial and resurrection, until He comes.

Yeshua and Traditions of the Elders/of Men

Mk 7:1-23

As Yeshua continued to prove Himself to be the Messiah and the Son of God, we also see how the opposition to Yeshua strengthened as He became more threatening to the established order.  Despite all of the signs and good works and healings that Jesus did, the flesh and the natural mind were warring against the Spirit and the wisdom of God. The will of men was resisting the will of God:  without repentance from unbelief to faith, the natural mind can not and will not understand the things of God. (1Cor 2:14)   

I saw a blog on the internet by someone who calls himself an atheist and a believer in natural law.  He wrote against the Sermon on the Mount!  Everything that Jesus strengthened concerning the Law of Moses was, to this man, against natural law; e.g., Jesus saying that hating someone is the same as murdering him;, or that a married man lusting after another woman is the same as adultery; we have to love our enemy.  The true God calls His people to holiness – within, and without. 

In the passage we have read in Mark, we see that those who have taken upon themselves to control others by their own interpretations, customs, and traditions – all in the name of keeping the Torah – find themselves fighting against the very One who does in truth keep the Law, and is the very one who came to save those who do not!  This is the essence of what is called “Replacement Theology”:  replacing God’s Word with someone else’s.  Some examples are Adam and Eve believing what the serpent said rather than what God Himself had told them; Judaism placing the “Oral Law” – their own interpretations and judgments, now written in the Talmud – as an equal or higher authority over the written Law and interpretations given through the prophets and even the Messiah Himself; Christianity saying that God has finished with Israel and the Jewish people, and that the Church and Christians have replaced them as God’s people, rather than becoming also God’s people along with the Jews and Israel; Islam claiming that God has finished with both Jews, Israel, and Christians, and that now Muslims are the true believers.  All of this “replacement theology” results from a lack of the fear of God and not believing in what the true God – YHVH – has actually said.  In essence, we place ourselves equal to or above the Father and the Son in determining truth and our choice to obey or not, or to approve or disapprove!

This accusation of Yeshua against His own brothers and people is true not of them only, but of all people.  Remember, Israel is given by God as an example to the church (1Cor 10:11) – made up of men and women from every nation and tribe.  In this “replacement theology”, Jews are not different than Gentiles, and Gentiles are no different than Jewish people.

In this passage, it is the third time that the religious authorities confronted Jesus and His disciples regarding their non-compliance to keep the traditions and regulations of the ‘Oral Law’.  In the first instance (Mk 2:18), they failed to fast as the Pharisees did; in the second (Mk 2:24), they did not keep the Sabbath as the elders taught.  To the religious Jews, the Oral Law was also received by Moses from God at Mt. Sinai, and passed on to Joshua and the elders of Israel.  By this assumption (which was not true), they gave equal – even more – weight to the traditions of the elders – which Jesus calls the traditions of men – than to the Law of Moses itself, claiming that the Oral Law is what helps a Jew keep the written Law.  In other words, the traditions of the elders/of men becomes the halacha, or the way to walk the pious life, and find approval from men.  The Pharisees called themselves disciples of Moses (Jn 9:28), and Jesus told them that Moses would judge them for not believing in Him and what He said. (Jn 5:44-46)

When the Pharisees challenged Yeshua as to why His disciples did not walk according to the traditions of the elders, Yeshua responded with the Word of God as written in the prophet Isaiah, and in Moses.  They were breaking God’s commandments because their hearts were far from the LORD.  Yeshua took the first commandment with a promise – intended for children of all ages, even as adults – that children are to honor their fathers and mothers (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16) – and told them that they were inventing ways to not honor their parents, and giving it religious authority as if it were from God, and as if they honored and loved God more than anyone else, even their own fathers and mothers. But they were actually guilty of cursing their fathers and mothers. (Ex 21:17; Lev 20:9)  This can sound very pious, and even like what Jesus Himself teaches:  that we must love Him more than all, even more than our own parents. (Mt 10:34-39)  Only by really loving the Lord, and paying attention to all that He says – to listen and understand (v. 14) — can we begin to understand how to obey Him in the right Spirit and without contradiction or hypocrisy.  By our own traditions, we can become worthy of death under God’s law, all the while justifying ourselves as being righteous!  This is a very strong deception!!

With respect to eating food with unwashed hands, the issue that the Pharisees brought up was not really about having clean (i.e., not dirty) hands before eating.  They only did a religious ceremony of pouring water on their hands/fists, having little to do with making sure that their hands were clean before eating, but rather, by their custom, making their hands ritually clean and not defiled.  Jesus did not accept this at all, principally because their inner heart relationship with God, and with their own mothers and fathers (and towards other people), was not pure. 

Jesus said to the multitude of people that were listening that what goes into the mouth does not defile a person, but rather what comes out from the heart.  Even the disciples did not understand. (v 15-18)

Now, Jesus took the opportunity to make a huge change in the Law of Moses, with respect to what is acceptable as food.  Remember, the LORD told Jeremiah the prophet that the new covenant would not be like the former one given at Mt. Sinai.  Being new, there would be some changes and differences.  Remember, too, that God’s eternal plan is that Jew and Gentile would become socially equal before God.  The whole issue of food is huge socially:  ­­­­­can Jews and Gentiles – in particular co-believers in Jesus — eat the same food, and together at the same table?

The Law of Moses says that some animals are unclean to eat, and that it is an abomination for Jews to eat them, and that those who eat them become an abomination. (Lev 11:12, 20, 41, 43)  YHVH gave these laws and regulations so that Israel would learn to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, for He is holy. (Lev 11:45-47)   

But NOW, Yeshua is saying that putting any food in the mouth does not defile a person – does not make him unclean or abominable!  What goes into the mouth goes out of the body after nourishing it.  But what comes out of the heart of a person can defile him or her.  By this word of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, He has made all foods clean (kosher), at least for the believer in what He said and meant. (v.19)  Clean animals were already clean; He did not need to make them clean.  Therefore it is the unclean foods which He has also declared as clean.  To the Jewish people first of all, to whom the Law was given!  Yeshua is our peace, and the middle wall of partition He has broken down between Jewish believers and Gentiles.  Yeshua is able to send us to serve Him and the gospel among other people groups, and our conscience can be clean regarding the food we may need to eat for the sake of love and of the gospel.

If God can make me clean (and Gentiles, too!), He — the LORD and Messiah — can make unclean food clean that only goes in and out of me, and His word was reinforced by the experience and doctrines of the Apostles. (Mk 7:14-16; Acts 10:9-16; 11:1-10Rom 14:2-3,14,20Gal 2:11-14; 1Tim 4:1-5; Heb 13:9)  What is OUR character?!  Is it like one of the unclean animals and creatures?  So we begin to learn in ourselves the difference between that which is acceptable to God and that which is not, sanctifying ourselves, purifying/cleansing our hearts, for our God and Lord and indwelling Spirit is holy and pure, and by faith we both establish the Law and fulfill its righteousness. (Rom 3:31; 8:4)  When we speak of what is Biblically kosher regarding foods (including, of course, the man-made traditional ban on eating meat and dairy together), we must remember that the New Testament is part of the Bible!  God is getting to the heart of the matter with us as His holy people and temple.

A Messianic Jew is not obligated to eat pork, for example — or, for that matter, a good kosher angus steak — but will he allow others to do so, or will he judge them for not being ‘good Jews’?  Our own cultural and moral biases and sensitivities can keep separate what God has made possible to join together.

So, what do we learn from our passage in Mark:  one lesson concerns external rituals. If people participate in congregational/synagogue/church services and follow all the rituals perfectly, they may have a heart after God’s, but may not. Unbelievers and nominal believers can have the appearance of being devout, but if there is not faith then their ritual will not help in worshiping God in spirit and truth.  It is more important for people to get their hearts right with God than to ‘go through the motions’.

A second lesson is that there is a real danger in replacing the the word of God (the letter and the spirit of it) with our traditions. Traditions can be helpful (like a picture is worth a thousand words), but they have a way of pushing aside or replacing the basic commandments.  We might also carry through what was appropriate for a ‘dispensation’ in life into a more mature stage where it becomes unsuitable for going on unto the fullness which is in the ‘seed’.  The attitude of the “keepers of the law” in the passage also appears in many churches, even in Israel still!  Many traditions have grown up over the centuries in different streams and denominations, and many of them have become “essential”. We can be more concerned that people might violate our man-made rules for leading and serving the congregation/church, the way we do baptism and communion, or the set of rules that our particular group follows in the name of holiness, than we are about mercy and humility. We can be more concerned about which way to take up the offerings than about meeting the needs of people in the community. If we are not careful, these traditions of ours can become ‘law’, and we might even forget what the Word of God actually says about some of those things we do, or do not do.

Then, when someone comes along – like Jesus and His disciples — who discerns the difference, we can become defensive, judging them while justifying ourselves. But then we remember the teaching of Yeshua that God is more concerned with what/who we actually are than what our outward religiosity looks like. There is a place for rituals and traditions, but they must retain their proper place in our faith-life.
https://bible.org/seriespage/22-jesus-and-traditions-elders-matthew-151-20

A third lesson from our reading is that the New Covenant is just that – new.  There are some things that continue from the old, but there also some changes and differences which promote and advance the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and the truth of the one new man in Messiah Yeshua – affecting all believers, allowing for full social fellowship among and with all.  In love, we do not make our liberty a cause of stumbling for another brother or sister. (Rom 14:13-23; 1Cor 8) 

“Yeshua/Jesus Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition/separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity – the law of commandments in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (Eph 2:14-16)  

To obey the Lord is better than sacrifice.  He wants a heart that is one with His.  This will ensure that we are with Him and not against Him as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, as the apostle Paul writes. (Phlp 2:12)   We do not want to be judged as hypocrites, but as righteous, in the righteous judgment of God, who sees the heart.

Purim 2017

He who keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps!  Praise the Lord!
Purim begins this evening, but the celebrations have already been going on for a few days.  While most of the Jewish people are still in both a physical and a spiritual exile — not in fellowship with their God — we who know the Father can rejoice in His sovereign providence to preserve His people as He still works to bring them back to Himself.  The only way He has given is through repentance and faith in His Son, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah/Jesus Christ, just as for each of us.
In the Scroll of Esther, it is written in ch 9 v 27 that Queen Esther and Mordecai instituted the custom that “the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days (the 14th and 15th of the month Adar, which is the last month on the Jewish calendar) every year. . . .”
This celebration began about 2500 years ago, and continues till now. What is interesting to note for Gentile Christians is that this decree is for you, too!  You are ‘joined’ unto Israel and the Jewish people through your New Covenant relationship with Jesus, the King of the Jews and of Israel!  It reminds me of the shortest of the Psalms, 117, in which it is written that all you Gentiles and peoples should praise YHVH and extol Him.  Why?  Because His lovingkindness has been great towards the Israeli Jewish people, and His truth endures forever!
God has shown Himself faithful and powerful to keep His covenant commitments towards the children of Jacob/Israel in Egypt at the time of the Passover, in Persia/Iran in the days of Haman (an Agagite and descendant of Amalek and Esau/Edom), through the horrors of the Holocaust, and will yet do do through the final purging of Jacob’s Trouble.  So, it is for Gentile believers to join in with the purposes of God for the redemption of His chosen people, through whom salvation has come, and through whom the entire world is blessed, especially through the promised Seed, Yeshua/Jesus, who will yet rule over His people when He returns. Hallelu-Yah indeed!  This is good news for all who love Him and His people.

2017: A Momentous Year

We are now into this new year of 2017, 5777 on the Jewish calendar (a 240-year discrepancy, but that is another story).  Three years ago I began to look at some significant dates connected with the return of the Jewish people back to this land of Israel, and also looking ahead to the coming again of Yeshua.
http://streamsinthenegev.com/school-of-fish/eclectic-course-menu/dates-to-remember/ )

When the disciples asked Yeshua about the sign of His return at the end of the age, His first response was that they should be careful not to let any man deceive them, and that they should watch and be ready for whenever that exact time should come. (Mt 24:3,4,42)  These signs – or events — were connected with the Jewish people living again in this land after a long exile.  There have been signs in the sun and moon and stars last year and this.  I do believe that God wants to get our attention, since we are His people and family, and to get us to remember that the Scriptures are His word to us, that we can be in the light and not in darkness.  We are in a season, but exactitude is not given us to know.  Signs point and lead to something and to Someone. Yeshua has all sovereign authority now in the heavenlies and on Earth.  All these things serve the purposes of YHVH, the one true living God, to be exalted as such, that He may display the wonders of His love.

What are some of the significant events which converge this year to remind us of God’s plan of salvation for His people Israel?:

–This year of 2017 marks 500 years since the Reformation, when God used Martin Luther to open the Bible as the Word of God to the common people, and that salvation is a gift from God on the basis of faith in Jesus and His sacrificial death for our sins.  Many Christians also began to see that God had promised to restore His chosen people, the Jews, back to the land He swore to give them as an inheritance.

–This year marks 120 years since the First Zionist Congress on Aug 29, 1897.  Theodor Herzl warned his fellow Jewish people that they needed to get out of Europe because of anti-semitism, and to return to establish a state for the Jewish people back in Palestine, as the Promised Land was then called.

–This year marks 100 years since the ANZAC victory in Beer Sheva, on Oct 31, 1917 during WW1 (the same date as the Reformation), which enabled Britain to make known its intention, through the Balfour Declaration, to help the Jewish people reestablish their homeland here.  By this declaration, the Gentile nations expressed their support for the return of the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel, as written in the Scriptures.  God was acting and intervening towards fulfilling His promise, whether they understood or not.

–2017 marks 70 years since Nov 29, 1947, when the United Nations voted for the Jews and the Arabs to have two states in this land.  The Jews accepted; the Arabs rejected the plan, and went to war.

–This year remembers 50 years since the Six-Day War victory in June 1967, in which the Israeli Jews captured Jerusalem, opening up access to its holiest sites, including the Temple Mount, which were closed to them all the previous years since the establishment of the State of Israel.

–The opposition to God’s interventions is remembered in the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, 30 years ago.

–This year has opened up with a UN resolution (passed just before Hanukkah and Christmas) claiming that Israel has no legal right to any territory that was not theirs before 1967, including East Jerusalem – Biblical Jerusalem — where the Temple Mount is located.

–There has been an increase over the last few years of Christians being persecuted and killed for their faith.  Most of this has been perpetrated by Islamic jihadi terrorists, who want to take peace from people’s lives and hearts and minds, and to also bring the world into submission by force to profess the god of Islam as the only true God, and Mohammed as his prophet and servant.

What are some verses that help us to put these events into perspective for us as believers?:

Ezek 36:19-28  the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel for God’s holy Name’s sake; all will know that He is YHVH, and He will be Israel’s God, and they His holy people

Ps 2:1-6  opposition to YHVH and to Yeshua, and to God’s righteous ways

Ps 83:1-5  conspiracy to wipe out Israel from being a nation in opposition to the God of Israel (As a Jew, I also must confess that this is what the Jewish religion teaches about Jesus:  that His name and memory must be wiped out and remembered no more.  The Holy Spirit is working to bring everyone to account before the Lord.)

Zec 12:1-3  All nations shall come against Jerusalem, and will not succeed

Jer 30:12-25 (Heb; 30:12 – 31:1 Eng)  The time of Jacob’s trouble coming in the Land to bring the people to repentance and salvation; God’s wrath will fall on His enemies, and on His people’s oppressors; in the latter days this will be considered, and fulfilled.

Lev 26:40-45  God bringing the Jewish people to confess their sins against Him, , and accept His righteous ways towards them, that they be saved and live in peace and security in the land He promised them for an inheritance.

Mt 24:6-14  These troubles and sufferings and events must come; but do not be troubled in our hearts; and the gospel will go out with power to save until Yeshua returns.

What should we do now, and throughout this momentous year?

–Read the whole Bible – as the Word of the Lord!

–Pray with understanding.  Many good things promised, but a hard way to make it worthwhile to get there.  The stakes are high, and the nations and Israel can expect a shaking from the very real living God, who desires that all should repent and be saved.  For this He sent His Son into the world, which is ignored at our own peril.

–Pray for revelation and wisdom to understand the times, and what we should do as things progress:  helping each other; encouraging one another; promote holiness in the fear of God….

–Continue faithfully doing what the Lord gives you, according to His call, spiritual gifts, ministry

–Evangelize, share the gospel with whomsoever, that they might repent and be saved before the Day of the LORD.

–Strengthen your faith, hope, and love in Yeshua, trusting God for His power and grace to use you and us for His praise, honor, and glory when Yeshua returns. (1Pt 1:3-9)

Jesus Christ Came Into The World To Save Sinners – 24 Dec 2016

1Ti 1:15  Faithful is the Word and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Num 29:39  You shall prepare these to Yehovah in your appointed seasons, besides your vows and your free-will offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your food offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings.

God did not command Israel to celebrate the birth of His Son, but He gave them – and us – the opportunity to celebrate as a free-will offering.  We do it because we want to, and we do it gladly unto the Lord.  What the Prophets foretold came to pass:  the Messiah was born!  Trumpets were to be blown in Israel on the day of our gladness. (Num 10:10)  Was/Is not the birth of the Lord a day of rejoicing for the heavenly host of angels who proclaimed the glad tidings to the Israeli Jewish shepherds, and to the shepherds themselves who heard and saw all that they were told; was it not a day of rejoicing for Simeon, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, who saw YHVH’s salvation in the new-born Child and Son; was it not a day of rejoicing for Anna, the widowed prophetess waiting for redemption in Jerusalem?  Is it not a day of rejoicing for all who have come to believe in the Son of God, who was born in the flesh, and who is the Father’s gift to His people?:  Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given!  God has forever changed the culture of His people:  rather than just remembering someone’s life when he dies, we now rejoice and celebrate the time of those we love for when they came into the world.  It all waited for the celebration of the first-born of creation, and His Father’s joy in that day!  It began as neither a Jewish nor a pagan holiday.  It is God’s holiday celebration, which is actually what the name of Haggai the prophet means (“my celebration”)!  It was Haggai to whom the LORD gave the date of this appointed time. (Hag 2:10-22)  Yeshua came to His holy but unclean people to save and to cleanse them from all their sinfulness, and to restore His Throne to His people and to the Gentiles.  

What Israel and the Jewish people as a whole did not appreciate when He came to His own, and to the world that He made should not restrict us who have seen the glory of the birth of the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins on the cross, and whose sacrificial death was God’s plan before the foundation of the world!  His name is Yeshua because He will save His people from their sins.  YHVH is our salvation and Savior!

The new and significant year of 2017 is being ushered in by the perfect coinciding of Hanukkah and Christmas.  The 8th day and candle (the day of Yeshua’s circumcision) is the last night of this year, and the first day of  the next.  The God of Israel has given all the world a witness as to the time of His Son’s birth to the virgin, Mary.  Going back another 4 years to 5 BC does not alter things much.  But the world system has followed for centuries a calendar that points to the period surrounding the birth of the Lord, the King of the Jews.   When I was recently in Thailand, I noticed that the date on a package ended with the numbers 2559.  That seemed odd, so I asked what that was:  the Thai culture traditionally counts its years from the era of Buddha, who lived more than 500 years before Yeshua/Jesus.  Muslims count their years from 622 AD, the year that Mohammed went from Mecca to Medina.   Tonight is the lighting of the first candle for Hannukah; today is the 24th of the ninth month.  In the Jewish calendar, this is the month of Chislev; in the Gregorian calendar, which most of the world follows, this the 24th of the 12th month, December, but which is the ninth month when we count beginning with Israel’s first month in Aviv/Nisan/April! This date of the 24th of the 9th month was a day from which the [true] foundation of the Temple was laid, and YHVH would bless Israel and shake Heaven and Earth. (Hag 2:18-22)  These things did not find genuine fulfillment with the Maccabees, but do in Yeshua, the true Savior and Deliverer from Gentile and pagan thrones – both literally, and also in the hearts of those who truly believe.  (The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Yeshua.)

I want us to look at one example of the truth that Jesus came to save sinners:  the woman caught in adultery. (Jn 8:1-11) 

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. (2) And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him. And He sat down and taught them. (3) And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery. And standing her in the midst, (4) they said to Him, Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. (5) Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned. You, then, what do you say? (6) They said this, tempting Him so that they might have reason to accuse Him. But bending down, Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger, not appearing to hear. (7) But as they continued to ask Him, He lifted Himself up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her. (8) And again bending down, He wrote on the ground. (9) And hearing, and being convicted by conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the oldest, until the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. (10) And bending back up, and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, Woman, where are the ones who accused you? Did not one give judgment against you? (11) And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more.

In this scene, the self-righteous religious leaders and teachers came to Yeshua with a woman who was caught, somehow, in the act of adultery.   Where was the guilty man?  Under the Law, both were to be stoned. (Lev 20:10-12)  So their motive was not pure, but rather to trap Messiah and to show their disdain for women.  People did not matter to them with all their religiosity, but the “Law”, which they themselves did not keep.  Yeshua bent down and wrote on the ground with His finger, probably the sentence of death, which the Law of Moses demanded.  He had not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.  But then, the Lord showed His compassion in His identification with the sinner against her unjust accusers.  He also appealed to the conscience of them:  let he has no sin cast the first stone.  From the oldest rabbi first, the others followed in leaving the scene.  Jesus paid a price to mediate in this situation, with courage and compassion. Jesus did not acquit the guilty woman; neither did He condemn her:  He told her to go and sin no more.  Did she?  We don’t know.

Jesus came to save sinners.  He alone is without sin; He alone has moral authority to condemn; He alone could have thrown that first stone.  But He desires to see sinners repent and have their hearts changed, sinning no more in the face of such grace and truth.  He takes the blame; He takes the uncleanness.  On the cross He bore our sin and our punishment.  Can any who know such love and forgiveness continue to sin against the holy God and Savior?!  Let each answer for himself, just as the Scripture leaves us without the answer to the rest of this woman’s life, and that of her accusers.

YHVH’s new covenant with Israel is that their sins will be forgiven forever.  Our message which we have received from Him remains the gospel to sinners:  repent and believe, and so receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit and of eternal life.

As I considered this passage about the woman caught in adultery, it reminded me of how Christians have historically accused the Jewish people before God for their spiritually adulterous unfaithfulness to Him, and of their sin and guilt in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus.  The Savior continues to reach out to both with His own understanding and righteousness to affect the hearts and minds of both.  All Israel will be saved when they look upon Him whom they pierced; and the Body of Christ will be purified when they humble themselves and show mercy to the Jews, even as they have received mercy from the God of Israel for all their sins in Jesus’ name.

We thank and praise God for giving us His Son (Is 9:6), and for what Messiah has done for us:  forgiveness and new life, which only He could bring by coming here to Earth (even to Israel!) and suffering for us — both during His life and climatically in His death on the cross.  Now He lives within us who are born-again from Above, and is with us in life and in death.  Even this last enemy can not overcome the believer, but only serves to bring us into the everlasting presence of the Lord!

The Incarnation Shook Heaven and Earth – 19 Dec 2016

The birth of the Messiah some 2000 years ago was a singular event which divided history between that which came before from that which has been reckoned since.  The God of Israel promised through the prophet Haggai that from a significant event on the 24th of the ninth Israeli month (corresponding to the 24th of December on non-Israeli calendars) that He would shake the heaven and the Earth. (Hag 2:20-22)  God began by announcing His joy in the birth of His Son through the singing heavenly host.

When the Roman-appointed ruler over the Jews, Herod, heard the news, he plotted to kill the new-born Son.   The Jewish religious leaders acknowledged that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, but not that His goings forth were from everlasting.  When Yeshua began His public ministry by being baptised by John, the devil sought to tempt Him to submit to his wiles.  At the crucifixion the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, and the devil, and the Jewish leadership all conspired together to both crucify Jesus, and try to get Him to come down from the cross!  The chief priests in apostacy cried out that “we have no king but Caesar!” (Jn 19:15)

After Pentecost, when the disciples had all been baptized with the Holy Spirit and began to take the gospel to all regions, it is written that they were “turning the world upside down, saying that there is another King — Jesus”. (Acts 17:6-7)

No shots were fired; no armies formed; just the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.  Truly YHVH had begun His revolution to overthrow Gentile thrones and to shake the heavens and the Earth.  This work has continued till today, and we are nearing another promise from the Lord to again shake the heavens and the Earth at the return of this same Jesus/Yeshua:

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”  27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

We are celebrating this time with great anticipation that what God has begun at the first advent, He will fulfill at the second.  Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!

The Inheritance of Yeshua – 28 Oct 2016

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.