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If You Hate Devotions You Are A Legalist, This Is Why

An excellent post by Gabriel Rivera over on the Naked Christian blog. While two of his points don’t really cohere (no one in Yeshua’s time would have connected devotional time with actually reading the text of the Bible, simply because most people couldn’t afford their own copies), I think he’s spot on in terms of the modern application: We CAN take our Bibles with us, and since prayer is how we talk to God, and the Word is the principle way that he talks to us, Reading + Prayer = Conversation.

Shalom

Naked Christian

If you hate devotions you are a legalist, this is why

There’s one tradition that has lost favor among Christians today.

Jesus did it, John the Baptist did it. Paul did it. Augustine of Hippo did it. Charles Spurgeon did it. Yet, most Christians resent it and label it a meaningless tradition.

Daily devotions.

Am I correct?

You probably hate daily devotions too.

It’s a waste of time. It’s legalistic. It’s makes you self-righteous. Jesus never instructed us to do devotions.

You’re probably right for the first three, but dead wrong for the last one. Jesus did not just ask for daily devotions, hourly devotions, or secondly devotions, but femtosecondly devotions (John 8:31-32), “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

How ironic it is, in our bid to be free from religion we create our own religion. We want to be free, but deny the truth that sets…

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Messianic Jews, Mission and the Vatican |

AFP4787491_LancioGrandeThe ever-insightful Dudi at the Rosh Pina Project has released an excellent response to the Roman Catholic Church’s repudiation of a mission to the Jews. Here are just a few highlights, but you really should go read the whole article:

We should clear up the fog around this issue. Firstly, this statement does not say that the Vatican rejects mission to the Jews outright. It is more a reassurance to Jewish interlocutors that the Church has no specific outreach programme to Jews, due to unique sensitivities. However, the documents affirms the call to “bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews” in “a humble and sensitive manner”. . .

The Catholic Church also represents the idea of eternal, uncompromising Truth in an increasingly relativist world. The Church takes conservative stances on moral issues such as homosexuality and abortion, and consequently even Protestants cast a curious glance towards the Vatican, seeing them as a powerful institution that can take a stance against moral relativism and what they see as the degradation of traditional family values.

Viewing the Vatican in this way – as a body representing Christian morality if not the Christian Gospel – it is tempting for many Protestants (I include Messianic Jews in this bracket) to invest hope in the Catholic Church as a moral force to be reckoned with.

And this is why the news about the Church’s stance towards Jewish mission has such an impact, because Protestants and Messianics were expecting the Vatican to stand against relativism and stand for objective Truth. They see the Vatican’s stance as a victory to the moral relativists, and as a slight against the very purpose of Messianic Jews. . .

I understand the Messianic anger towards the Vatican playing down mission targetted towards Jews. But at the same time, it seems misplaced – we have no right as Protestants to demand the Catholic Church (which we split from) act according to our favoured model of religious proselytisation. Their understanding of Yeshua is not ours anyway, and we can add to this the fact that the Vatican does not reject mission to individual Jews – simply mission targetted to Jews, in the light of the antisemitism which previously accompanied Catholic mission to Jews.

So there are various issues tangled up together, and it is important to really think about what lessons we want to draw from the sudden media interest in Christian mission which concerns us.

via Messianic Jews, Mission and the Vatican |.

Well said, and shalom.

From Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish Allegory

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It is a period of civil war. A new government has declared the practice of the old faith a crime punishable by death, disbanding an ancient order of sages and sending many into exile. Rebel fighters, striking from a hidden base, have won their first major victory against the evil Empire, stirring a spirit of defiance among the populace. Outarmed and vastly outnumbered, the ragtag band of rebels – aided by an all-powerful, all-permeating Force that binds together all life in the universe – remain the only hope for restoring peace and freedom to their people.

It’s one of the greatest epics known to mankind. No, not Star Wars. The above synopsis is actually the story of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates a miraculous victory of Israelite insurgents against the tyrannical Seleucid Empire roughly 2,200 years ago.

via From Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish Allegory.

My father-in-law shared this with me, and I couldn’t resist passing it along. Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Shalom

San Bernadino Shooting Victim Was a Messianic Jew

Ner Yarzheit

From Arutz Sheva:

One of the 14 victims in the San Bernardino shooting spree Wednesday night identified as Jewish – and he received threats for being a “Zionist” less than 24 hours before the attack.

Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, received threats on Facebook on Tuesday from an anti-Semitic man in Ukraine, after Thalasinos posted pro-Israel messages, CNN reports.

His wife Jennifer told local news her husband, a health inspector for San Bernardino County, identified as a conservative Messianic Jew – a Christian sect which practices Jewish rites – and may have been targeted for his beliefs. He often went to work wearing a red kippah, a tallit, and a Star of David.

May the Holy One welcome his servant home, and grant peace to his widow.

“But everyone will be very, very surprised that he is of all people the Mashiach.”

natan-rabbi-rami-levy-end-of-days-ndeFirst, thanks to John Kelly Sartwell for bringing this story to my attention. It’s a very remarkable one, to say the least.

As 15-year-old secular Israeli boy named Natan had a near death experience on Monday, September 28, 2015 and returned to life describing Biblical prophecies about the End of Days.

In a video posted on YouTube, Natan is shown speaking to an Orthodox Jewish audience in a synagogue in Israel, just days after his near death experience. He relates his understanding of what was revealed to him in the next world during the 15 minutes that he was pronounced clinically dead.

Read more at https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/54425/following-near-death-experience-israeli-boy-returns-quoting-end-of-days-prophecy-video-jewish-world/#QbhMPwDMSQXfZE6V.99

According to the story, the young man in question doesn’t have any formal religious training and that his visions don’t come from a knowledge of the Bible. And according to this story, Susan Constantine, “a leading international expert on body language,” has studied the video and issued a written statement that in her “professional opinion the boy Natan truthfully believes he experienced a visitation in heaven and was not being deceptive.”

So the young man is being honest as far as we can tell. That, and the fact that he is being counseled by a non-Messianic Orthodox rabbi makes some of his statements even more interesting from a Messianic standpoint. To pick just a couple:

In describing the qualities of the messiah, Natan said, “The Mashiach (messiah) is first of all someone who can’t sin. Someone who repented. Who didn’t commit any transgressions. It can’t be that the Mashiach is someone who committed transgressions. Now it can be someone who we actually know very well. Lots and lots of people know him, according to what I understood. But everyone will be very, very surprised that he is of all people the Mashiach.” . . .

“I also saw that the moment Har haZeitim (Mount of Olives) splits into two, then the Mashiach will stand at the entrance, but he won’t…he won’t see who is religious, who has a beard and who a person is. What he will see is – he sees according to a person’s holiness, he will smell each person, he will smell if someone has holiness, if he is pure, if he did mitzvot (God’s commandments), if he performed acts of kindness. To see if he really has true fear of Heaven and not just fear of punishment, and things like that.”

That sounds like someone I know, actually.

untitledActually, as Rabbi Itzchak Shapira points out in The Return of the Kosher Pigthe idea of a perfect, Divine Messiah who would not judge by one’s outward orthodoxy but by the heart, and who would be initially rejected as “unclean” by the Jewish people before finally being accepted is one that traditional Judaism (particularly as informed by Kabbalah) has recognized over and over again through the centuries.

It’s fascinating that as we emerge from Israel’s time of punishment, the Holy One is connecting with ordinary Jews in extraordinary ways to prepare the way for the return of the King.

Shalom.

Has Israel Repented?

TorahScrollIn my previous post, I ignored the most obvious objection to the idea that the time of Israel’s punishment, known as the Curse of the Law, is coming or has come to an end:

“But that can’t be! The Jews still haven’t accepted Jesus as their Messiah and Savior!”

Okay, let’s deal with that.

As I noted back in The Curse of the Law: Part 2 – Why Yeshua Was Rejected, the theology that says that the Jews were cursed for killing Jesus is fundamentally flawed. The Curse went into effect before the Babylonian captivity, having predicted two distinct exiles for Israel. According to 2 Kings 21:10-16, Hashem specifically declared the covenant to be broken and the Curse to have started in the days of King Manasseh, some seven hundred years before Yeshua’s ministry.

So the cause of the Curse has nothing to do with rejecting the Messiah. What then of the end of the Curse?

Deuteronomy 27:16-26 lists the specific actions which would bring about the Curse of the Law:

“‘Cursed is the man who makes an engraved or molten image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ All the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who sets light by his father or his mother.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who removes his neighbor’s landmark.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who makes the blind to wander out of the way.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who the foreigner, fatherless, and widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s skirt.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who lies with any kind of animal.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who lies with his mother-in-law.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who strikes his neighbor in secret.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who takes a bribe to kill an innocent person.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
‘Cursed is he who doesn’t confirm the words of this law to do them.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”

So to boil this down, the Curse over the nation would go into effect when the nation as a whole violated the covenant by:

  1. Worshiping idols (v. 15)
  2. Dishonoring their parents (v. 16)
  3. Committing robbery and injustice (vv. 17-19, 24-25)
  4. Committing sexual immorality (vv. 20-23)
  5. Ceasing to confirm all the words of the Torah by doing them (v. 26)

So have the Jewish people as a whole repented of these specific sins? Let’s take a look:

  1. Yes, definitely. In fact, the perception that belief in Yeshua is idolatry is the primary reason Jews have rejected him all these centuries.
  2. You have heard of a Jewish mother, right? Clearly, Jewish mothering (and fathering) could not exist if Jews did not honor their parents so highly.
  3. There’s a reason why Jews are the first to speak out against any social injustice, from slavery to the denial of civil rights to black Americans. This is also the reason why Israel doesn’t simply do what any other nation on the planet would do in its circumstances and simply expel the Palestinians. Israel does not want to rob anyone, even their enemies.
  4. While many secular Jews have embraced homosexual rights as an extension of #3 above, Jews and Judaism as a whole have carefully guarded the sanctity of sex and the marriage life, even to the point of putting up numerous fences (traditional laws) around avoiding becoming unclean during a woman’s period.
  5. The Jewish people as a whole have built their whole culture around keeping every “yod and tittle” of the Torah, to the point that Christians attack them as “legalistic” as a matter-of-course. Indeed, much like #1, repentance on this issue is a major reason why Jews have rejected the picture of Jesus they have been given by the Church, as I explain in The Accidental Blasphemy.

The end of the Curse specifies that the curse would end while Israel was still in exile, would “return to the LORD your God, and shall obey his voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul” (Deu. 30:2). In other words, this return would have to be a multi-generational repentance, not a brief revival such as Israel saw under King Josiah. And that is exactly what we see in Israel’s history during the galut.

cropped-cropped-jerusalem-sunset.jpgDoes this mean that Israel doesn’t need Yeshua? Not at all. It simply means that the Curse, with it’s attendant blindness, had to run its course before Israel could be brought back into a covenant relationship with her King.

Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD; for they shall all know me, from their least to their greatest, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.

Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirs up the sea, so that its waves roar; the LORD of Hosts is his name:  If these ordinances depart from before me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever. (Jer. 31:31-36)

“In that he says, ‘A new [covenant],’ he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and grows aged is near to vanishing away” (Heb. 8:13)–near to vanishing away, not that it vanished away at the coming of Yeshua.

While the Curse has remained in effect, Israel has remained in covenant with the Etenral One.

While the promised restoration and circumcision of all Israel’s hearts remains future, Israel remains in covenant with the Eternal One.

Until Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled, and “the house of Israel” and “the house of Judah” both have the Torah “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in tablets that are hearts of flesh” (2Co. 3:3), and every living Jew walks in the New Covenant fellowship with their God, Israel remains in covenant with the Eternal One.

Milky WayAnd Israel will never cease to be a nation before the Eternal One until the very laws of nature are rescinded.

Shalom

The Most Important End-Time Prophecy in the Bible

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, that’s a rather ambitious title. But I think it’s true. I think that there’s a particular prophecy that ultimately answers all of the arguments of both preterism and supercessionism. It also stands as a stark warning to the Church.

To set understand why this particular prophecy is so important, first you have to understand the context of the Curse of the Law, which I’ve spent quite some time going over. To reiterate briefly, the Curse of the Law that Paul talks about in Galatians 3 is not, contrary to popular conception, the curse that comes from “seeking to be justified by yielding obedience to the Law – whether the moral law, or the ceremonial law” (Barnes’ Notes to Gal. 3:10). Rather, Paul’s concern is that many Gentile converts were being convinced that they needed to be circumcised into the covenant of Moses (as we explain here).

However, the covenant of Moses, as laid out in the book of Deuteronomy, had been broken some seven hundred years earlier, and like all covenants at the time it was written, it had very specific punishments, a curse, that would befall those who broke it. This curse specifies two distinct exiles: The first would be to a single nation (Assyria for the northern kingdom, Babylon for Judah), while in the second,

the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, which you have not known, you nor your fathers, even wood and stone. Among these nations you shall find no ease, and there shall be no rest for the sole of your foot: but the LORD will give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and pining of soul; and your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall fear night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. (Deu. 28:64-66)

This cannot refer to the Babylonian exile (cf. Jer. 29:5-7), but does describe perfectly the Galut of the last two thousand years.

R0UR328.pngThe problem with preterism and supercessionism is that they stop the story there: The Jews are cursed and punished, and all of their promises were given to the Church. Therefore, if a Jew wishes to be saved, he must leave the Jews and become a Christian. This is a false gospel, as we’ve said before, resulting in a Judenrein Christianity. But, as it turns out, it’s also just plain bad exegesis.

The preterist, who believes that most or all prophecy points towards the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 CE does have a certain amount of evidence on his side. After all, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t believe it. They point out that as you go through the hundreds of quotes from and allusions to the Old Testament in Revelation, you find that most of them point you to the punishment of Israel for her sins. I’ve thought about quoting some examples, but it’s not really necessary–because I agree with them!

That may surprise you. How can I agree with those who think Revelation is a prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction and still believe it’s primarily about the last few years before and during a future Second Coming?

The answer is, to bring us back to the title of this post, because of the Most Important End-Times Prophecy in the Bible. Which isn’t in Revelation, or Daniel, or Isaiah, or anywhere you might think.

It’s in the Torah:

It shall happen, when all these things have come on you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations, where the LORD your God has driven you, and shall return to the LORD your God, and shall obey his voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul; that then the LORD your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples, where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of the heavens, from there will the LORD your God gather you, and from there he will bring you back: and the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and he will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers.

The LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live. The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies, and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. (Deu. 30:1-7)

We’ll demonstrate that the curse has already either begun to come to an end or has ended already in the next post. For now, let’s look at the last two verses.

Shoah PitIt might be tempting to think that all of the things outlined above must happen in the space of a day, or a few days, but that’s not the way the prophets understood them. To take just two examples: Ezekiel’s “Vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones” (ch. 37) describes Israel’s return happening in phases: First, Israel would be reduced to “dry bones” (which took place horrifyingly literally during the Holocaust). The bones rise and form healthy bodies, “but there was no Spirit in them” (v. 8). Only after Israel is brought back “into the Land of Israel” (v. 12) will Hashem put his Spirit in the people (v. 14a), which of course is what circumcises the heart (Rom. 2:29, Php. 3:3).

After this, “I will place you on your own land” (v. 14b). This may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t. In verse 12, Israel is “brought” (heiveyti, from bo, “come”) to the Land, but it isn’t until after the Spirit is given that Israel is “placed” there. The word “placed” is hinachti, from yanach, used to describe Noah’s ark resting permanently at last on Ararat after its voyage (Gen. 8:4) or the jar of mana being placed in the Tabernacle as a permanent testimony (Exo. 16:33f). In other words, the return from the exile would begin before the giving of the Spirit, but Israel would not be placed securely in the Land until after the Spirit.

This sequence is precisely what we see in Zechariah’s prophecy. First, Jerusalem would be reestablished, but would be attacked by the nations (12:1-3). Then they would see the one “whom they have pierced” coming on the clouds and mourn (Zec. 12:8-14, Rev. 1:7). Then a purifying “fountain” would be opened up for the house of David and Jerusalem (Zec. 13) and only after this and the final battle would Israel be secure in the Land (ch. 14).

Zechariah makes it clear that there would be a significant period of time between the return from exile to the Second Coming and circumcision of Israel’s hearts by the Spirit. And so we’ve seen it in the restoration of Israel in our own time.

This means that we are living in an extraordinary prophetic time. It also means that we need to heed the warning of the last line of the prophecy: “The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies, and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.”

As we noted before, when the preterist points out that most of Revelation’s allusions point to the punishment of Israel, they’re absolutely right. However, that doesn’t negate at all the futurist interpretation, because Moses told us over three thousand years ago that all of those punishments would be revisited on Israel’s enemies. That’s what the Day of the Lord is all about.

We see a prelude of the final Day of the Lord in the punishment of Israel’s enemies in the sixth century BCE: When the Babylonians arose to conquer Judah and carry the Jews into exile, they also conquered and destroyed the empires of the Assyrians and the Egyptians, the kingdoms of Moab, Ammon, and Edom (the latter also being destroyed by the Nabataean Arabs), and the remaining city-states of the Phoenicians and Canaanites. None of these nations ever recovered their former glory and independence, and many of them disappeared entirely into the sands of the deserts.

The final Day of the Lord, on the other hand, will be distinct in which Israel will be saved, not destroyed or exiled, while no nation will be allowed to take credit for the fall of her enemies in the way the Babylonians did in the 6th century:

The lofty looks of man will be brought low, the haughtiness of men will be bowed down, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. (Isa. 2:11, 17)

“For, behold, in those days,
and in that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,

I will gather all nations,
and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat;
and I will execute judgment on them there for my people,
and for my heritage, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations.
They have divided my land. . .

The LORD will roar from Zion,
and thunder from Jerusalem;
and the heavens and the earth will shake;
but the LORD will be a refuge to his people,
and a stronghold to the children of Israel. (Joel 3:1-2, 16)

Shalu shalom Yrushalam; yishlayu ohavayik.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; those who love her will prosper.
–Psalm 122:6