Archives For Jewish Roots

At my wedding, 30 years ago, Elana and I were honored that one of the most famous Messianic worship groups performed. Of course, they were our dear friends Israel’s Hope. Marc Chopinsky wrote most of the music. Yesterday, we buried him in Haifa.

Marc died suddenly on Sunday morning. Next to his body was a hymnal that he must have been reading when he collapsed, opened to the song, “I believe in Jesus.”

As I was driving home, Israel received her first rain since Spring…something that is always seen as a sign of blessing. I have to believe that God was telling us that Marc was now with him. I shared some thoughts from my car.

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Recently a pastor contacted me to see if I was interested in covering, for GOD TV, a concert in Jerusalem. The event was sponsored by a group called TheSanhedrin. You will recognize that name from the New Testament. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish high court and police system, overseen by 71 judges from among leading Sadducees (priests), Pharisees and Scribes. The Sanhedrin survived the second Temple’s destruction and made it all the way to the fifth century. But, because of persecution, it was finally disbanded. 

Over the past year, I have heard more than one person refer to the supposed rebirth of a modern day Sanhedrin. Some have even confused Israel’s religious court system with being a new Sanhedrin, which it is not. Instead, it is a group of Orthodox Jews who are seeking to re-establish the ancient Sanhedrin.

But do they have authority to simply decide that they are the ruling Sanhedrin? Of course not! They have no judicial authority whatsoever. By this standard, any group of 23 or 71 Jewish men could claim they are the new Sanhedrin.  

So, if Israel already provides for an Orthodox religious court system, why are these men seeking to re-establish the Sanhedrin? And why would all of this be of interest for Bible-believing Christians? The answer to both these questions is that the main item on their agenda is not one of every day justice, but one which stirs great controversy among both Jews and Christians: they are preparing a renewed priesthood (including the high priest), for the rebuilding of the third Temple in Jerusalem.  

The Biblical Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was a gathering point for universal cooperation and justice. The high-point of the concert came when the foreign representatives went up to the stage to sign an agreement with the Sanhedrin.

By signing, the nations acknowledged that they were answering a call by the Sanhedrin of Israel to accompany the people of God, as peoples, nations, and individuals toward establishing the Temple in Jerusalem as a house of prayer for all nations as prophesied in the Bible.

Breaking Israel News

Evangelicals and the New Sanhedrin

This new Sanhedrin, just like the [third] Temple Institute, is looking to the evangelical world for support. They even have a Gentile Christian spokesman for the Sanhedrin. I know this man and he is a sweet individual. But, sadly, it appears that he has greatly compromised the great commission in his efforts to be a blessing to Israel. And what is considerably concerning is that he believes this new Sanhedrin “will play a key role at the end of days.” (Read his interview here) Let me be clear, there is no prophecy whatsoever that points to an end-time, God-fearing, God-appointed Sanhedrin.

As a Jewish believer, I am deeply conflicted: One the one hand, I love that Christians are seeking friendship with Jews. On the other, I am deeply concerned that it is in an effort to affirm a Yeshua-less Judaism. 

First of all, the Sanhedrin that are reaching out to evangelical believers would never reach out to a Messianic Jew, because 

  1. We say you can be Jewish and believe in Yeshua, just like the first believers did and 
  2. We, with compassion, seek to share Yeshua with other Jewish people. 

They think we are a cult because we believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, and, yet, they are seeking partnership with evangelical Christians—who believe the exact same thing. If Jesus is not the Messiah, then every Christian on earth is deceived. If He is, then let them embrace Him too. But, rejecting Him, while accepting His gentile followers—and their donations—seems hypocritical. 

Not only would they not fellowship with me, they would most likely persecute me. While I love the fact that evangelicals are establishing relationships with Orthodox Jews, it seems that some of it is coming at the cost of compromising our most holy commission—to spread the message of Yeshua to all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). And, of course, that includes Israel!

A Mystic Fascination 

Many Christians are fascinated by their new Jewish friends. One pastor wrote of a meeting between Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians, calling it the greatest expression of the “Ephesians 2:15/One New Man”that he had ever seen! While it is great that they were reaching out to Jewish people and expressing the love of Yeshua, the “One New Man” of Ephesians 2:15 is all about the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles together in the Messiah, not Jewish unbelievers and Christians. The “One New Man” of Ephesians 2:15 is not anti-Jesus, Orthodox Jews and pro-Jesus gentiles, but Messianic Jewish and gentile believers coming together in Yeshua. 

Christians, while absolutely having a calling (Rom. 11:11) to reach out with love to the Jewish people, should never assume that Judaism without Yeshua is acceptable. He is the “the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through [Yeshua].” (John 14:6) The entirety of the Old Covenant pointed to Messiah. This is why Paul, the learned Jewish rabbi/apostle could write, “Messiah is the end of the law/Torah for all who believe.”(Romans 10:4) 

Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s rejection of Him (Matt. 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-42) and the Bible is full of prophecies of the Jewish people embracing Yeshua in the end-times (Zech. 12:10, 13:1, Hosea 3:4-5, Matt. 23:37-39;  Romans 11:26, Rev. 1:7). Paul said that the Gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) and, yet, many of these well-meaning Christians will not even speak to their new Jewish friends of their need for salvation. 

For us, who live here in Israel, we risk life and limb to plead with our people, as Paul did, to accept Yeshua as Messiah. It is stunning to see evangelicals compromise by giving religious legitimacy to a body that, outright, rejects Yeshua as the Messiah, and then persecutes Jews who believe in Him. They shun their Messianic bothers and embrace those who vehemently oppose the Gospel. Many Christians attended a concert, aligning themselves with a fictitious Sanhedrin.

“Last night, nations came together in Jerusalem to praise God, aligning with the Sanhedrin.”

Mordecai Persoff, head of the Mikdash Educational Center

There are quotes from believers speaking of God “doing a new thing”…”an historic event…the establishment of the Sanhedrin…The potential is enormous.” One believer said, “It is clear that we need the Sanhedrin to act as an interface between faith and politics in order to spread this blessing even further in the world.” As you will see below, the New Testament Sanhedrin was anything but a blessing to the fledging Messianic community. (Acts 5:40) !!!

So that I am clear, evangelicals should absolutely continue building bridges with the Jewish people, but should never compromise the Gospel. My dear friend and associate, Ward Simpson, the CEO of GOD TV, stood before group of Jewish-Israeli government officials and Christian media leaders a year ago and said that GOD TV has 

“a job to the proclaim the Gospel of our King to the ends of the earth … and part of that Gospel message is Israel. Without her, without the Jewish people, where would we be today?” 

He went on to say that GOD TV would always stand with Israel. And the Israeli government posted His speech. Watch here! You see, you can love Israel and love the Gospel. It is both/and, not either/or.

Remember the Sanhedrin?

Here are a few more thoughts you should consider before aligning with or supporting the so-called Sanhedrin or Third Temple builders: 

  1. There is no such thing as a modern Sanhedrin. They are just a group of men claiming, without any Biblical authority, to be the Sanhedrin. They have no power or authority—governmental or religious. God has not reestablished the Sanhedrin. And teaching that they are end-time agents is simply deception. They need Yeshua—just like you and me. 
  2. The last significant thing the Sanhedrin did was to add the 19th benediction to the Jewish prayer book late in the first century, declaring all Notzrim—Jewish believers—to be heretics. Since no Messianic Jew could recite this, it was used as a tool to root out Jewish followers of Yeshua from the Synagogue. Before that, they oversaw the martyrdom of Stephen—a Messianic Jew. Prior to this, they persecuted the apostles by beating them with the cat of nine tails; and before that, they missed the coming of Messiah and conspired with Pilate to have Yeshua crucified.* They were not exactly a peaceful group promoting a Messianic or Christian dialogue. 
  3. If this group one day becomes recognized as theSanhedrin, it seems they will make a deal with the antichrist for the rebuilding of the Temple (Dan. 9:27). So, I guess in that sense, they could have an end-time role.

Third Temple Fascination

Many Christians, with a love for Israel and Biblical prophecy, seem mesmerized by this whole idea of the rebuilding of the Temple, convinced by their view of prophecy that it must be rebuilt before Yeshua’s Second Coming. 

Christians who send money to the Temple Institute, or who join in worldwide prayer meetings with a renewed “Sanhedrin,” need to understand that this third Temple will be defiled by the antichrist (2 Thess. 2:4). This is where he will set up his image and claim to be God. Is this something Christians should be encouraging or supporting with prayers and finances? Would not their funds be better used promoting the Gospel amongst the Jewish people? Should believers be backing an antichrist agenda? Brothers and sisters, this is nothing but a recipe for confusion and deception! We need to warn the Jewish people of this, not help them to align themselves with the future antichrist!

A Great Deception

I believe that one of the great deceptions of the end-times surrounds this theme of Christians naively aligning themselves with Orthodox Jews. It starts with a love for the Jewish people, but then comes a fascination with their traditions and customs (all fine and good). But then comes all kinds of reasons why we shouldn’t be sharing the Gospel with them, etc. We’ve seen more than one case where this ends up in the denial of faith in Yeshua and a wholesale conversion to Judaism!

We have been fighting a battle against replacement theology, calling out the false teaching that the Church has replaced Israel, and that God’s judgment is on Jewish people for the killing of Jesus. However, we cannot go so far in the other direction that it ends with the defacto (or outright) denial of Jesus, in the name of preserving Jewish-Christian dialogue or relations. Remember, the last thing He told His apostles was to be His witnesses to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) That is our solemn commission.

Yes, the church is called to love Israel and absolutely seek peaceful dialogue. The persecution of Jews from Christians is one of the greatest and bloodiest oxymorons in history. God had called the church to “provoke the Jews to jealousy” but, instead, she attacked them, stole their promises and called them cursed. Thank God, things are changing! More and more believers are expressing affection for Israel. But part of loving them is gently, with sensitivity, and a broken heart, sharing the Gospel with them. I am a believer in Yeshua because my Gentile best friend loved me enough to tell me an uncomfortable truth. 

Willing to go to Hell for Israel

Rabbi Paul’s burning passion was to win the Jewish people to Yeshua, not merely to foster dialogue (by the way, a dialogue that delegitimizes their Messianic Jewish brothers). He speaks clearly about the Orthodox Jews of his day:

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:1-2)

He is clear on two things:

  1. He longs for the Jewish people to know Yeshua. 
  2. That their zeal (like the new Sanhedrin) is not based on the Word of God, but on a desire to obtain righteousness through their own actions—not by the grace of God. Honestly their hearts are so close. Please don’t think that I don’t love these Orthodox Jews—I do! They want to see the kingdom established in Jerusalem. That is prophetic. They see the Temple as a house of prayer for all nations. That is Biblical. But they miss the most important part–these things will be established through Yeshua when He returns. (Zech. 14:9)

Paul did not seek humanistic dialogue. With a broken heart, he pleaded with the Jewish people of his day to receive Yeshua. And many did! He was so broken over the state of Israel that he was willing to go to hell if it meant they would be saved.

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Messiah for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. (Romans 9:3-4)

Shockingly, one of the leading pastors in the Christian Zionist movement loved the Jewish people so much that he embraced a false theology called Dual Covenant (which teaches that Jews do not need Jesus for salvation, but are saved through the Old Covenant). What nonsense! Jesus cameto the Jewish people and the Gospel is to the Jew first (Rom. 1:16). He was crucified, buried and resurrected in Jerusalem. The apostles preached Yeshua exclusivelyto Jewish people for the first decade. And this fellow suddenly says, 

“Everyone else, whether Buddhist or Baha’i, needs to believe in Jesus. But not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced.”

And, yet, God says through Jeremiah that he will make a New Covenant with Israel! (Jer. 31:31)

After being confronted by scholars, he was forced to rewrite portions in his book on the subject, but still thinks sharing the Gospel with Jews is futile. In his efforts to love Israel, he has taken the most uncaring position. 

We have to discern between genuine love for Israel and a false empathy that seeks to silence believers from sharing the Good News with Jewish people. In fact, we should love the Jewish people so much that, with tears, we have to share Yeshua.

God does have an awesome plan for Israel, but it does not include the glorification of a new Sanhedrin, but massive awakening to Yeshua that ends in “all Israel” being saved, as Romans 11:26 says. 

* Of course we know that Yeshua’s purpose was to die for the Jewish people and the world. He said, “No one takes [my life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own.” (Jn. 10:18) God forbid we drudge up old blood libels against the Jewish nation! 

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When I was writing my book Identity Theft, I came across this verse and it struck me as odd. At your first reading, unless you come from a Jewish background, you might not agree. But I will clarify.

Peter, speaking at the home of Cornelius, said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of [these Gentiles] being baptized with water.” (Acts 10:47)

Isn’t that hilarious? Let me explain.

Traitor!

Growing up Jewish, we were told that to be baptized in water was the ultimate act of treason against our people. To publicly go into the waters of baptism was to reject your heritage, your people and your God.

And, yet, here is a Jewish man, Peter, not proclaiming that it is okay for Jews to be baptized, but that it was okay to baptize Gentiles. Since when has it ever been controversial to baptize Gentiles? Yet, if not for the facts that:

  • Peter had a vision symbolizing that Gentiles could be cleansed by the blood of Jesus;
  • God told Peter to go with the Gentiles who would come for him at Simon the Tanner’s house;
  • The Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles, causing them to speak in tongues;

Peter would have never been in the position to recognize that Gentiles could be baptized.

Baptism was Jewish!

You have to understand that baptism, in the New Testament, was the way that someone confessed faith in Yeshua—it was, if you will, the sinner’s prayer of the New Testament. In the beginning, it was exclusively Jews being immersed in water.

Now, two thousand years later, we tend to think that baptism is foreign to Jewish life and culture. Not so. The reason that God chose baptism as the way to identify with the Messiah’s death and resurrection is precisely because it was so familiar to the people.

The Temple was surrounded with well over 50 immersion tanks (mikvot). These were used before someone would bring his sacrifice to the Temple. The Torah mentions ritual cleansing through baptism:

The priests had to be ritually clean (tahor) in order to serve at the tabernacle, and Israelites who had become ritually unclean (tamay) had to restore their situation with the passing of time and bathing their whole body in fresh, ritually clean (tahor) water, according to Leviticus 15. (One For Israel)

So what happened?

Good question! How did something that was so Jewish become perceived as utterly anti-Judaism? Why was it a local scandal in 1983, in the Richmond Jewish community, when I was baptized as a follower of Yeshua? It is a sad history.

The Church, as early as the second century, turned against the Jewish people. Over the centuries, Jews were accused of deicide—killing God, collective guilt, which deserved collective punishment; we were presented as being incurably lost.

“Take heed to yourselves and be not like some piling up your sins and saying that the covenant is [the Jews] as well as ours. It is ours, but they lost it completely just after Moses received it.”

Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 4:6-7 (between 130 A.D. and 138 A.D.)

“We may thus assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes, in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.”

Origen of Alexandria, (185-254 A.D.) – An ecclesiastical writer and teacher who contributed to the early formation of Christian doctrines.

These attitudes against the Jews continued to grow. In 325 A. D., Constantine and the Bishops of Nicaea outlawed Passover for Christians to celebrate the resurrection. It was replaced with Easter.

During the Crusades (1095 – 1291), Jews were butchered, raped and murdered by so-called Christians as they marched, on orders of the Pope, across Europe to fight Muslims in the Holy Land. These saints were told that if they died in battle, they would go straight to heaven. Sound familiar?

Then, in the Inquisitions (1492), the Jews of Spain were told to either be baptized as Christians or leave the country. Moles who worked for the church would spy on these “New Christians,” as they were called, to see if they would return to Jewish practice. (The other name they used for them was Spanish for swine!) Offenses included lighting Shabbat candles and refusing to eat pork, among others. The guilty would be arrested and severely punished—thousands were burned at the stake.

Now you see

It is thoughts of forced conversions/baptisms and persecutions that are conjured up in the Jewish mind when one mentions baptism today. They do not think of Jewish revival on the day of Shavuot (Pentecost), when thousands of Jews were immersed in water in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Sadly, the historic church has done more to push Jewish people from faith in Yeshua, than any other force.

But there once was a day when a Jew named Simon Peter was stunned to see Gentiles receive the Jewish Messiah, and made the controversial decision to baptize these non-Jews into the kingdom. He was even attacked for this decision:

So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the [Jewish believers] believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:2-3)

Now you know why I think Acts 10:47 is the funniest scripture in the New Testament. And yet, I find myself crying.

Pray that the eyes of Israel would be opened.

 

 

 

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One of the great promises of the end times is that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. This was first prophesied by Joel, and then partially fulfilled on the day of Shavuot, when Simon Peter preached his first message under the influence of the Holy Spirit. When men accused him of being drunk, he said, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:16).

Yet, Joel’s prophecy was so much more extensive than what took place on Shavuot. There was no “blood, fire, and billows of smoke” and it clearly was not “the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Yet, like many prophecies, this one had a partial fulfillment in Acts 2, and will have a full fulfillment in the last days.

All Flesh?

In this blog, I want to focus on one misunderstood phrase. In Joel 2:28, we see the famous words, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

The NIV gets closer to the meaning, but it doesn’t really say, all people, but in Hebrew “all flesh-basar-בשר.” This is one reason I like the NIV—they used common sense to help us understand the original intent of the author. Clearly God was not saying He would pour out His spirit on dogs and cats or sheep and goats. Clearly, He meant people. But it doesn’t even mean all people.

Prophets, Priests and Kings

Not everyone under the Old Covenant could experience the presence of God at the same level. The Levites were different from the regular Hebrews. The Cohanim (Priests) were higher than the rest of the Levites. And, of course, there were those who walked in an even higher level of anointing – like the prophets of Israel. When Samuel anointed David as king, the Spirit of came on David, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.” (2 Sam. 16:13). And, of course, there were differences between men and women in society, not to mention servants and slaves.

The Mystery of the New Covenant

What Joel is referring to, at least in the first part of his prophecy, is the advent of the New Covenant. It is the great mystery that even the apostles missed until that fateful day in Cornelius’ house when the Spirit of God did the unthinkable – He filled Gentiles, as they spoke in tongues.

The mystery is that under the New Covenant—initiated on the cross, but corporately birthed on Shavuot—is that anyone, no matter their gender, race or standing in society can enjoy a deep experience with the Holy Spirit. Look at Joel’s emphasis:

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams; your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29).

The idea of a servant or a woman being used by God or enjoying deep intimacy with the Spirit of God was very rare under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, it is the norm. So when He says, “all flesh,” He means without distinction. The Holy Spirit is not just going to fall on every human being, no matter their desire or lack thereof for God, but rather anyone who wants more can have more!

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

This would be the correct understanding of Paul in Galatians.

So in Messiah Yeshua Jesus you are all children of God through faith … There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. (Gal. 3:26, 28).

He is not saying there are no longer distinctions between Jew and Gentile (Rom. 11:29) any more than he is saying men and women have no distinctions. He is saying that despite those distinctions, nothing can hold you back from the Spirit of God. No one can tell you, “You can’t prophesy, because you are a woman,” or “You can’t be used of God, because you are a slave,” or “You cannot be as close to the Father as Jewish believers.”

William Seymour

God used a one-eyed, black man to birth the Azusa Street Revival in 1906. He had to overcome all kinds of racism. Forced to sit outside of the door of a bible school, he studied for ministry. White men told him he could not study the word in the classroom because He was black. Instead of getting bitter, he pursued God; and God used him to change the world.

Yes, there needs to be order. I believe in submission to authority. And I believe we all have different roles, functions and gifts. But nothing and no one can hold you back from experiencing God. When it comes to our gifts and callings, God chooses. But when it comes to intimacy with Yeshua through the Holy Spirit, there are no limits!

When Joel says that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, he means that any human who wants the Spirit can have the Spirit. In fact, it is God’s great desire to give you more.

 

 

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