I had just finished lunch and was watching the news yesterday—Resurrection Day—when Fox-favorite, Pastor Robert Jeffress shared a few thoughts on the resurrection. To be honest, I was excited to hear his thoughts knowing that so many unbelievers would be watching. Most of it was solid, but having spent a good part of my life seeking to expose how Yeshua was a victim of Identity Theft, I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard this completely unbiblical comment.
Within five weeks of the alleged resurrection of Jesus, you had 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem who suddenly gave up their most cherished beliefs, 1,400 years of their religion to follow a new religion of this rabbi named Jesus.
According to Pastor Jeffress:
- The Jews just happened to flock to Jerusalem
- They gave up their beliefs
- They turned their back on the Old Covenant Scriptures
- They followed a man who broke from Judaism to start a new religion.
I have a lot of respect for Pastor Jeffress. He has taken some bold stands (Standing w/ Donald Trump is not one of them.) But I was surprised to see his lack of understanding of the Jewish roots of the New Covenant. And if you are wondering why I am so upset about it, just think: Certainly any Jewish person watching him yesterday, would wrongly assume (as I once did) that to believe in Jesus—the Jewish Messiah—you must leave Judaism and join a new religion!
Let’s set the record straight.
1. The Jews were in Jerusalem for Shavuot—which most believers call Pentecost. God chose that day to pour out this Spirit, because he knew there would be thousands of Jewish pilgrims. Some Christians actually believe that this was the first Pentecost, when in fact it has been going on since Moses (Lev. 23). It is the last of the Spring Feasts and commemorates, according to tradition, the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Fulfilled their Beliefs
2. The Jews that embraced Yeshua did not “give up their beliefs”—far from it! Yeshua fulfilled their beliefs. They had been yearning for Messiah. If we just read Luke 2, we get glimpse through the eyes of Hannah and Simeon, of how Israel longed for her Messiah. John sends messengers to Yeshua in Matthew 11, asking if he really is the Jewish Messiah. Yes, he did not come as many supposed—a conquering king—but they did not need to give up their belief in the God of Israel to believe in the Messiah of Israel.
Hebrew Scriptures are God-Breathed
3. Jeffress claims that these Messianic Jews turned their back on “1,400 years of religion.” What happened 1,400 years before? I can only assume he is referring to the Law of Moses being given in 1312 BCE. What utter nonsense! Paul uses the Old Testament constantly to prove his claims in the New Testament. Some have even said the New Testament is merely a revelatory commentary on the Old Covenant. Without Zechariah and Daniel, you can’t understand Revelation. When Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Tim. 3:16) there was no New Testament—he was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures. Nowhere in the New Covenant is there even a hint of the Jewish believers rejecting the Hebrew Scriptures—or Moses.
In Acts 21 we see Paul going to make a sacrifice at the Temple, at the urging of the apostles, to put to rest the very things Jeffress is claiming. Paul was falsely accused of leaving Judaism and Jewish tradition and teaching other Jewish believers to do so.
Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the Torah. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you… Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses… Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the Torah. (Acts 21:20-24)
Paul refers to himself as a ‘present tense’ Pharisee many years after coming to faith, just two chapters later.
No New Religion
4. Lastly, when did anyone in the New Covenant say they were starting a New Religion? When Peter has his revelation in Matthew 16, he says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” as opposed to, “You are birthing a new religion, foreign to us as Jews.” For nearly the first decade they didn’t even preach to Gentiles—they thought the Gospel was just for Jews! Only when the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house, shocking Peter, did they start receiving Gentiles.
If Yeshua started a new religion what in the world were they doing in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council discussing whether or not Gentiles had to convert to Judaism? This would not have even been an issue if Jesus started a new religion. And, if indeed He started a new religion, that invalidates the entire Old Covenant. Where was God hiding all that time?
Yes, a New Covenant was made—and that according to Jeremiah 31:31 was with Israel primarily—but not a new religion. Islam is a new religion; Mormonism is new religion. The coming of Messiah was a fulfillment of the Jewish prophets.
Now, were there some changes? Absolutely. No longer was there a need for a Temple as Yeshua became the once-for-all-time and all-sin sacrifice. We have the revelation of the One New Man, that people from every nation can enjoy salvation through Yeshua without becoming Jewish. And of course, no longer would there be a hierarchy, but every believer would become part of the priesthood. We see the introduction of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers and of course the Great Commission. But these were not new decrees, but fulfillments of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Yeshua said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17)
Again, if Jewish people stumble, let them stumble over Yeshua the man, not over our clumsy presentation of Him and His message.