A Torah Foundation (Part I) – October 2017 OIM News


Update

October 2017

With the official arrival of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot commences. This last of the Fall high holidays, often referred to as the “season of our joy,” is generally eight days of pleasurable reminders of the Lord’s faithfulness to His people. Naturally, because opinionated individuals are involved, when the Leviticus 23 passage regarding the Feast of Books is considered, there are a variety of modern-day interpretations concerning just “how” to observe this appointed time:

“Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, and say, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Feast of Sukkot, for seven days to ADONAI. On the first day there is to be a holy convocation—you are to do no laborious work. For seven days you are to bring an offering by fire to ADONAI. The eighth day will be a holy convocation to you, and you are to bring an offering by fire to ADONAI. It is a solemn assembly—you should do no laborious work. These are the moadim of ADONAI, which you are to proclaim to be holy convocations, to present an offering by fire to ADONAI—a burnt offering, a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, each on its own day, besides those of the Shabbatot of ADONAI and besides your gifts, all your vows and all your freewill offerings which you give to ADONAI. So on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruits of the land, you are to keep the Feast of ADONAI for seven days. The first day is to be a Shabbat rest, and the eighth day will also be a Shabbat rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit of trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and rejoice before ADONAI your God for seven days. You are to celebrate it as a festival to ADONAI for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations—you are to celebrate it in the seventh month. You are to live in sukkot for seven days. All the native-born in Israel are to live in sukkot, so that your generations may know that I had Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am ADONAI your God” (Leviticus 23:34-43, TLV).

Different people living in unique circumstances chose to do dissimilar things to observe Sukkot. Some simply build a family sukkah in their backyard or on a balcony, and then take some time during the eight days to have a meal or entertain a family member or friend or pray in the temporary structure. On the other hand, some people have decided to take a week off from work and go to the country or campgrounds to erect some kind of temporary dwelling (tent) and spend the week in celebration. The wide variance between the means of celebration simply reflects the diversity of people who take the time to not only recognize the Feast of Tabernacles, but actually do something other than some mental ascent to its ancient existence. After all, the words “perpetual statute throughout your generations” (Leviticus 23:41, NASU) should always be considered. Hence, individuals, families, fellowships, and congregations have the latitude to celebrate according to what the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leads. The key for a Messianic follower of the Messiah is to recognize this convocation and impart it down through the generations!

For those studying the weekly Torah portions, the close of Sukkot is attended by Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. I have written five TorahScope volumes available in either paperback or eBook format, for you to begin your annual journey through the Torah readings. And, with the importance for today’s Messianic people to be paying attention to the Torah, in their understanding and reading of the Bible, this month’s lead article by J.K. McKee is the first part of a two-part article, entitled “A Torah Foundation.” This article goes into discussing some of the components of the weekly Torah portions, the Tanakh as the Bible of Yeshua, and begins addressing common Scriptures used to claim that the Torah is not important for born again Believers today—when it surely is!

We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years. We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We particularly need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net.

Finally, the U.S. and some of its citizens have been ravaged by yet another hurricane hitting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and a freak mass killing in Las Vegas. It is our prayer that God will use each of these circumstances to draw people unto Himself, and that any natural or man-made tragedies will turn people to the Messiah for salvation, hope, and restoration. Father, we need your protection, healing, and peace!

ADONAI bless you and keep you! ADONAI make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you! ADONAI turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!” (Numbers 6:24-26, TLV).

Chag Samaech!

Mark Huey


A Torah Foundation

PART I

by J.K. McKee

When anyone attends a Messianic congregation, they are immediately struck with a connection to traditions and practices of not only today’s Jewish Synagogue, but of antiquity long standing. For Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah, entering into a Messianic congregation for a Saturday morning Shabbat service—there is an instant connection not only to one’s Biblical heritage, but also one’s ethnic and cultural heritage going back millennia. When the traditional liturgy and prayers are recited—which incorporates Scripture, hymns once sung in the Temple, and compositions from post-Second Temple Judaism lauding the Creator—Jewish Believers feel a strong comfort level, as they seek to live out their Messiah faith by embracing and not rejecting their Jewish heritage.

Non-Jewish Believers from Protestant backgrounds, visiting or attending a Messianic congregation, have varied reactions to the traditions of the Shabbat service. Many are sincerely intrigued, and they appreciate the structure and reverence of a worship time with Hebrew and English liturgy. Many indeed appreciate the ancient tradition of reading from the Torah scroll, seeing that canting the Hebrew aloud to the assembly is an ancient art to be greatly cherished. Others, however, do not see the value of liturgy or canting from a Torah scroll, considering these to be vain human practices. In fact, many—visiting a Messianic congregation almost entirely out of curiosity—are actually quite negative toward anything having to do with the Torah.

There is no question when reading the historical record of the Tanach (Old Testament) that obedience to God’s Instruction is required of His people. Israel’s obedience to the commandments of God’s Torah or Law was to bring it great blessings and fame (Deuteronomy 4:5-10), but disobedience would bring judgment (Deuteronomy 30:1-2). The history of Israel throughout the Tanach is, unfortunately, one of frequent disobedience—and Bible readers often witness the required punishment or chastisement of Israel by God (Deuteronomy 27:26). As soon as the Ancient Israelites entered into the Promised Land, one encounters how the period of the Judges was one where “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, ESV). The Kingdom of Israel was split in two by the disobedience of King Solomon to God’s Law (involving incessant polygamy, idolatry, and child sacrifice!), although there was a period of critical reform during the reign of King Josiah, which saw a renewed appreciation for God’s Torah (2 Kings 22:1-23:28; 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27). Following the Southern Kingdom’s return from Babylonian exile, the custom of publicly reading the Scriptures to the community became established (Nehemiah 8:1-3). If the exile was caused by disobedience to God’s Word, then it is logical that the Jewish community assemble to hear God’s Word, so that such disobedience would never take place again.

The Torah Cycle

In today’s Messianic community, just as in today’s Jewish Synagogue, a major feature of the Shabbat service is reading from the weekly Torah portion. While Jewish history indicates that there have been different ways that the Synagogue has approached reading the Torah, with both annual and triennial cycles employed[1]—the practice of the Jewish community reading through the Torah is ancient. In fact, the oblique statement appearing in Acts 15:21, “For from the earliest times, Moshe has had in every city those who proclaim him, with his words being read in the synagogues every Shabbat” (CJB/CJSB), is an historical attestation of the Torah being read and discussed in the ancient Synagogue.

Two significant Jewish figures from the First Century indicate how important it was for members of the Jewish community to come together, hear the Torah declared, and for it to be the centerpiece of education in holy conduct. The Jewish philosopher Philo, who lived in Alexandria and was contemporary to Yeshua and Paul, stated, “And would you still sit down in your synagogues, collecting your ordinary assemblies, and reading your sacred volumes in security, and explaining whatever is not quite clear, and devoting all your time and leisure with long discussions to the philosophy of your ancestors?” (On Dreams 2.127).[2] The historian Josephus recorded how members of the Jewish community were permitted “to leave off their other employments, and to assemble together for the hearing of the law, and learning it exactly, and this not once or twice, or oftener, but every week; which thing all the other legislators seem to have neglected” (Against Apion 2.175).[3]

It is seen in the evangelistic efforts of Paul, that after the public reading of the Torah and Prophets (Acts 13:15), that he would use the opportunity to speak of the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah. Within today’s Messianic movement, the weekly Torah portion, and its associated Haftarah reading from the Prophets, frequently tends to be a venue for considering the work of Israel’s Messiah. This is an excellent way to testify of Yeshua to Jewish non-Believers, and to see evangelical Protestant Believers drawn to Messianic things, significantly connect with their faith heritage in the Scriptures of Israel. Today’s Messianic movement, on the whole, follows an annual Torah cycle, divided into 54 Torah portions. In addition to the associated Haftarah from the Prophets, Messianics also have tended to incorporate associated readings from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament).

The Bible of Yeshua

One of the significant pulls for many evangelical Protestant people, drawn by the Lord into the Messianic movement, is reconnecting with the Tanach or Old Testament Scriptures. As obvious as it may be, the Tanach was the Bible of Yeshua and His Disciples. Yeshua Himself spoke of how “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44, NASU). When a figure like Paul speaks of how “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV), much of what we today call the “New Testament” had yet to be collected together or even written. The Scriptures to which Paul was referring would have composed the “Old Testament.” Theologian John Goldingay emphasizes,

“One of the New Testament’s own convictions is that the Old Testament is part of the Scriptures (indeed, is the Scriptures)…and that the Old Testament provides the theological framework within which Jesus needs to be understood. The New Testament is then a series of Christian and ecclesial footnotes to the Old Testament, and one cannot produce a theology out of footnotes.”[4]

The Tanach Scriptures, and consequently also the Messianic Writings, are built upon the foundation of the Torah (the Pentateuch or Chumash). If you do not understand the Torah, you are liable to misunderstand what is being said in the remainder of Scripture. You have to understand the foundational stories of the Patriarchs of the faith: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the formation of Ancient Israel as a nation. Understanding the Exodus is imperative to properly appreciating one’s salvation and the sacrifice of Yeshua as the Lamb of God. You have to understand that the theological patterns established in the Torah are repeated in the remainder of the Tanach, and indeed also, in the Apostolic Scriptures. The Torah forms the foundation of the Bible and Scripture progressively builds upon it as God’s plan of salvation history unfolds. The ethical and moral values of the Torah, for certain, affected the worldview and perspectives of Yeshua and His Disciples!

As Jon D. Levenson remarks in The Jewish Study Bible, “both Jewish and Christian traditions view the books Genesis through Deuteronomy in this order as a single unit, standing first in the Bible. The unanimity of tradition and the initial placement of these five books reflect their significant place within religious life. In Judaism, the Torah is accorded the highest level of sanctity, above that of the other books of the Bible.”[5] Even though Christianity does accord the Torah some strong status, this status is not as high as it is in Judaism. W.D. Davies notes in IDB that “The coming of Jesus has inaugurated a new order in which, in some sense, the law is superseded.”[6] While the Messiah Yeshua is always to be our primary focus of faith as Believers, and Yeshua as God in the flesh and thus our “Lawgiver” (James 4:12) must by necessity exceed the Torah itself in importance, does Yeshua supersede and make the Torah to none effect? Or, is the Torah fully realized in Yeshua, who has final authority?

How should we approach the Torah of Moses?

While the Torah of Moses is the foundation of the rest of Scripture—and all Bible readers should have a good understanding of—it would be a mistake to say that with the coming of the Messiah, there have not been some changes resultant of His sacrifice for human sins. In Protestant theology, for certain, there are varied approaches witnessed to the role that the Law of Moses plays in the life of a Believer. There are theological traditions such as Lutheranism which see a strong contrast between the law and grace of God, considering the Torah to be a part of a previous time. There are other theological traditions such as Calvinism and Wesleyanism, which have historically sub-divided the Torah’s commandments into the civil law, ceremonial law, and moral law. It is thought that now with the arrival of the Messiah, that only the moral law remains to be followed by God’s people. (My own family, with mixed Presbyterian and Methodist roots, comes from a heritage which emphasized the “moral law” of God remaining valid for God’s people.)

Within today’s broad Messianic movement, different perspectives are witnessed as they involve the ongoing relevance of the Torah or Moses’ Teaching for God’s people. For sure, it is agreed that the Torah composes the ethnic and cultural heritage of today’s Jewish people, to which they should be faithful. Yet, how do we approach the Torah as our spiritual heritage?

As far as it involves the continuity of the Torah for the Body of Messiah, there are those who believe, often following dispensational theology, that the Law of Moses was for a previous era. There are others—perhaps or perhaps not influenced by theological traditions that have emphasized the so-called “moral law” as continuing—which have thought that a review of practices believed abolished such as the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, appointed times or moedim of Leviticus 23, and the kosher dietary laws, is important. Those who believe in a widespread continuity of Torah practices in the post-resurrection era, tend to focus on the themes of the prophesied New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27, and how God’s commandments are to be written on the heart, and is a decisive work of the Holy Spirit. Concurrent with this would be the necessity for God’s people today to recapture a proper understanding of how “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), the need to be holy (Deuteronomy 14:2; 28:9), and how blessings are given to those who obey the Lord (Deuteronomy 30:9-10). Unfortunately, given the great importance of a Torah foundation for those in Messiah, there are those who we will encounter, who can be very legalistic and inflexible.

Does the New Testament Really Do Away With the Law?

Today’s broad Messianic movement does adhere to some form of post-resurrection era validity to the Torah of Moses. At the very least, today’s Messianic people believe that the weekly Torah portions should be read and contemplated, as we let its accounts inform our understanding of how God works in history, and how we need the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah. By virtue of holding its main worship services on Shabbat or the seventh-day Sabbath, observing holidays and festivals not adhered to by most of today’s Messiah followers, and being concerned about clean and unclean meats—today’s Messianic people do inevitably have some conflict with a great deal of contemporary Christian thought and theology, which teaches that the Torah or Law of Moses has been abolished. In the minds of many Messianics, the idea that the Law has been abolished, has not only been a significant cause of many (claiming) Christians today being engrossed in great sins—ranging from abortion, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality—but has also caused many to be utterly anemic in their approach to the Scriptures, and how relevant the Bible is for their lives.

What did Yeshua the Messiah say about the Torah? In His famed words of the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord communicated, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps and teaches them, this one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19, TLV). Many people in today’s Messianic community, either Jewish Believers who originally came to faith via an evangelical Christian experience—and especially non-Jewish Believers who have been drawn into Messianic things—can testify to being convicted by these words. Yeshua the Messiah says that the Torah or Law of Moses remains in effect until our present universe passes away. And, the venerable Apostle Paul, whose writings are often purported to say that the Torah has been abolished, notably did say that proper doctrine must “agree with sound words, those of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and with the instruction in keeping with godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3, TLV).

If Yeshua says that the Torah is to be regarded as valid instruction for His followers, and if Paul says that proper doctrine must be in alignment with the Messiah’s words—then some necessary reevaluation of many Bible passages is in order. Today’s Messianic movement, in addition to simply wanting to have a fully Biblical and holistically Scriptural view, has to have a high view of the Torah of Moses for God’s people today, given its mission involving Jewish outreach and evangelism. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 specifically warned Ancient Israel against any figure who would come and perform signs and wonders for the people, and then teach against God’s commandments. Such a person was to be regarded as a false prophet. Unfortunately, this is precisely how much of Christianity has historically presented Yeshua the Messiah:

“Whatever I command you, you must take care to do—you are not to add to it or take away from it. Suppose a prophet or a dreamer of dreams rises up among you and gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder he spoke to you comes true, while saying, ‘Let’s follow other gods’—that you have not known, and—‘Let’s serve them!’ You must not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams—for ADONAI your God is testing you, to find out whether you love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul. ADONAI your God you will follow and Him you will fear. His mitzvot you will keep, to His voice you will listen, Him you will serve and to Him you will cling” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, TLV).

Many of us, whether we be Jewish or non-Jewish Believers, can testify to how when we informed various friends, acquaintances, or even family members that we were simply attending a Messianic congregation that held its worship service on Saturday, that we were in danger of falling from grace, committed some kind of sacrilege, or at the very least were trying to earn our salvation via works. We have each been confronted with a barrage of accusations, mainly quoting texts from the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament, about why the Torah or significant aspects of it, are no longer relevant for today’s Messiah followers. Few are aware of how debated the issue of the Law of Moses has been, for the holiness and sanctification of born again Believers, in Protestant theology over the past three centuries.[7] But more importantly, too many people have been subjected to sub-standard interpretations and approaches to Bible passages, which were issued in a specific ancient context, and to which there might be various transmission debates from the source text into English.

Does the New Testament really do away with the Law? Our ministry has actually produced a substantial book (764 pages) on this issue, The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION. The bulk of this resource examines fifty Bible passages, mainly from the Apostolic Scriptures, which are frequently invoked to claim that the Torah of Moses is no longer relevant for God’s people today. Certainly, while we do stress that we live in a post-resurrection era with new realities that have been inaugurated by the sacrifice of the Messiah,[8] a widescale dismissal of the Torah is untenable—not only given Yeshua’s own words about the matter (Matthew 5:17-19), but also the steadfast reality that the New Covenant He has brought about (Luke 22:20) involves the supernatural writing of the commandments onto the new hearts of those cleansed by His work (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

The following is an abbreviated synopsis (Part I) of the fifty Bible passages examined in The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION, addressing common Christian approaches which see the Torah as something for a previous time:

Isaiah 1:13-14: “God hates the Jewish feasts of the Old Testament”
The Lord actually says that He hates people who sacrifice and pray to Him, whose hands are covered with the blood of the innocent (Isaiah 1:15-17). The festivals and observances in view are notably labeled as “yours,” which places a huge burden of proof on the human people observing them inappropriately, not that they have all of a sudden been rejected by God as having value as instructions given by Him. Going through external religious motions, while at the same time facilitating injustice, is the problem.

Ezekiel 20:12-26: “God actually gave His people bad laws that they could not follow”
The Prophet Ezekiel describes the challenges that existed with the Israelites delivered from Egypt via the Exodus, and their children, in their difficulties with obeying God’s Instruction to them (Ezekiel 20:12-24). Their descendants, being engrossed by sin and rebellion against God, were turned over to bad laws (Ezekiel 20:25) such as child sacrifice (Ezekiel 20:26). Such bad laws involved either outright paganism, or a perversion of a good Biblical commandment, such as the dedication of the firstborn (Exodus 22:9).

Hosea 2:11: “God has put an end to the Old Testament Sabbath and feast days”
The Northern Kingdom of Israel practiced syncretism, where Biblical practices such as the Sabbath were kept in conjunction with the worship of pagan deities. Its disloyalty to God is depicted as an act of harlotry (Hosea 2:1-7), with the people not realizing how their prosperity came from the Lord and not Baal (Hosea 2:12-13). The religious observances that will cease are notably labeled as “her new moons, her Sabbaths” (Hosea 2:11), an indication how they had been taken up into the idolatry of the Northern Kingdom.

Matthew 5:17: “Jesus fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law”
The Messiah’s expressed purpose in association with the Torah of Moses was precisely not “to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17, NKJV). Whether Yeshua’s fulfillment of the Torah be viewed as His proper interpretation of Moses’ Teaching, and/or His fulfillment of Messianic prophecies, our Lord says that “not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass” (Matthew 5:18, TLV), and that the present Heaven and Earth must disappear in order for the Torah to be regarded as unimportant.

Matthew 11:13: “The Law of Moses was only in effect until John the Baptist”
What is actually said is, “For all the prophets and the Torah prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:13, PME). With the arrival of John the Immerser, a shift in salvation history was taking place. The arrival of John was prophesied, and subsequently the Messiah and the new realities He would inaugurate would follow (Matthew 11:12). No disparagement of the Tanach Scriptures or Torah of Moses is intended here, but what is intended is that they are incomplete without the Messiah they anticipate.

Mark 7:1-23: “Jesus Christ declared the dietary laws to be obsolete”
There was a controversy present because Yeshua’s Disciples did not ritually wash their hands before eating, as did various Pharisees (Mark 7:1-5). Yeshua highlights some significant hypocrisy present here (Mark 7:6-13), and then addresses how what enters into a person does not defile him (Mark 7:14-15), as what is spoken by someone is what truly defiles (Mark 7:20-23). In informing His Disciples that what proceeds from a person is what truly defiles (Mark 7:18), Yeshua said, as is properly translated from the Greek of Mark 7:19, “because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and goes out into the latrine, purging all the foods [katharizōn panta ta brōmata]” (PME). Ultimately, what is eaten is excreted from the human body.

John 1:17: “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth realized through Christ”
Speaking of the arrival of the Messiah on the scene of history, John 1:16 narrates, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (NASU). It is then stated, “Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah” (John 1:17, TLV). The Torah of Moses is actually to be regarded as a revelation of God’s grace, but its grace has now been surpassed—as God’s grace is continuous—with the grace available in the work of the Messiah. This does not abrogate the Torah of Moses, but does reveal its incompleteness without the presence of Yeshua.

John 13:34: “Jesus Christ gave us a new law of love to replace the laws of the Old Testament”
Responsible Bible readers are aware that the commands to love God and neighbor are actually a part of the Tanach or Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). When Yeshua directed, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another” (John 13:34, TLV), this can be taken as either (a) a new quality of demonstrating love for others, as seen in the Messiah’s own ministry, or (b) a love manifested via the power of the prophesied New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Acts 10:1-48: “Peter was shown a vision nullifying the dietary laws”
Peter did see a vision of a sheet of unclean animals, which he was commanded to eat (Acts 10:9-13). God told Peter not to regard as unholy that which He cleansed (Acts 10:14-15). Following this, Peter goes to declare the good news to the Roman centurion Cornelius, informing him, per his vision, that “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (Acts 10:28, ESV). The main intention of Peter’s vision was to communicate how all human beings have been made clean by the sacrifice of Israel’s Messiah, and that as a Jew Peter should not fear interacting with those of the nations.

Acts 15:19-21: “The Apostolic decree says nothing about new Christians observing the Mosaic Law”
The Jerusalem Council specifically met to answer the claim of some hyper-conservative Jewish Believers, that the new, non-Jewish Believers had to be circumcised and keep the Torah of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5). Peter made it clear that all are saved by God’s grace (Acts 15:7-9, 11), and that a heavy yoke or burden was being unnecessarily imposed (Acts 15:10). James the Just testified that the salvation of the nations was prophesied in the Tanach, per the restoration of the Tabernacle of David (Acts 15:14-18; Amos 9:11-12). The Apostolic decree mandated only four things, which could have been construed as a “burden” (Acts 15:28), requiring immediate changes from those turning to the Messiah of Israel (Acts 15:20). When followed, these new Believers would be cut off from their spheres of social and religious influence in Greco-Roman paganism. Far from these people being “order[ed]…to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5, ESV) by demanding mortals, Tanach prophecy and the plan of God were to instead be facilitated (Acts 15:15). This would necessarily involve the nations coming to Zion to be taught God’s Instruction (Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4), a work that could only take place at the prompting of the Holy Spirit per the Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 New Covenant.

Acts 20:7: “The early Christians met on the first day of the week, a clear abolishment of the Jewish Sabbath”
Scholars debate what is intended by “first of the week” (Acts 20:7, PME), as to whether this was a meeting “on Sunday to worship” (The Message) or “On the Saturday night” (NEB/REB) after the Sabbath or Shabbat had closed. This could make the meeting in Troas “Motza’ei-Shabbat” (CJB/CJSB), a get together of the Believers remembering the departure of the Sabbath.

Romans 3:19-22: “Through the works of the Law no one will be justified.”
Traditionally, Romans 3:19-22 has been interpreted as meaning that human action in association with the Law of Moses will not bring one a status of redemption. Alternatively, various scholars have proposed that “works of the Law” involves ancient Jewish halachah, and that “justification” here primarily involves membership among God’s people. The actual purpose of the Torah is not justification; instead “through the Torah comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20b, PME).

Romans 3:28: “Justified by faith apart from works of the Law”
Even with components of “justification” likely involving membership among God’s people, the purpose of the Torah is not to provide justification. Justification is to take place via faith, for both Jewish people and those of the nations (Romans 3:29-30). Yet as Paul also asserts, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” (Romans 3:31, RSV).

Romans 4:5: “God justifies those who do not work”
A bad interpretation of Romans 4:5 would conclude that God is not concerned about born again Believers demonstrating good works resultant of their faith. The issue instead is people thinking that their human actions will merit some kind of justification, forgiveness, and a declaration of innocence before God—like a laborer would receive his wages (Romans 4:4).

Romans 6:14: “We are not under law, but under grace”
Born again Believers not being “under the law” is commonly interpreted as meaning that they should not concern themselves with the commandments of God’s Torah. The actual status of “under the law” is something contrary to being “under grace,” meaning being forgiven and remitted of sins. Many Protestant theologians throughout history have advocated that being “under the law” is a status possessed by non-Believers, who stand condemned as unrighteous sinners by God’s Torah—a clear antithesis to being “under grace.”

Romans 6:23: “Eternal life is a free gift”
Salvation is a free gift that human actions cannot earn. Debates always ensue about the behavior and obedience required of those who receive salvation—activities which are to result because of the supernatural action of God’s Spirit on the hearts of the redeemed.

Romans 7:1-25: “We were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ”
The main bulk of the discussion in Romans 7:7-25 describes the status of someone who recognizes the high value of God’s Torah, but cannot quite seem to keep it due to innate human limitations. Paul says that born again Believers have been “made dead to the Torah through the body of Messiah” (Romans 7:4, PME), which is like how a widow “is discharged from the law concerning the husband” (Romans 7:2, PME; cf. Numbers 5:20, 29). The relationship of the unredeemed person is like the law of marriage being applicable to a wife. When the husband dies the law or instruction pertaining to marriage is no longer applicable to the wife—but this hardly means a widescale abandonment of the Torah’s code in other matters. Just like the law of marriage is not applicable to a widow, so is the Torah’s condemnation of sinners no longer applicable to the redeemed, and what Believers are actually “made dead” to is the Torah’s condemnation, which was taken upon Yeshua the Messiah.

Romans 8:1-4: “The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death”
“The law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua” is a spiritual law or constant demonstrated within a person, who recognizes Yeshua as Lord, is declared free of guilt and condemnation from Torah disobedience, is spiritually regenerated, and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. A second spiritual law or constant, “the law of sin and death,” is that once a person commits sin, he or she will die spiritually and experience a condition of exile from the Creator, and exist in a permanent state of condemnation and punishment if never rectified. A definite purpose of being saved and set free from sin is “that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us” (Romans 8:4, NIV).

Romans 10:4: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”
Longstanding theological debates have ensued over the word telos in Romans 10:4, a term which can also mean aim, purpose, or goal, as witnessed in various alternative translations: “Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God” (Common English Bible).


NOTES

[1] Consult Louis Jacobs. “Torah, Reading of,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica. MS Windows 9x. Brooklyn: Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd, 1997.

[2] Flavius Josephus: trans. William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 805.

[3] Philo Judeaus: trans. C.D. Yonge, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 397.

[4] John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 24.

[5] Jon D. Levenson, “Torah,” in Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 1.

[6] W.D. Davies, “Law in the NT,” in George Buttrick, ed. et. al., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 3:96.

[7] Consult the varied perspectives presented in Wayne G. Strickland, ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).

[8] Consult the article “The Significance of the Messiah Event” by Margaret McKee Huey and J.K. McKee, appearing in the Messianic Torah Helper.

September 2017 Outreach Israel News


Update

September 2017

During the “Season of Repentance” from the first of Elul until Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, there are forty days to reflect on where one stands in his or her relationship with the Messiah of Israel. For the past twenty-two years, since our family embarked on a Messianic lifestyle, this has always been a time devoted to personal introspection and self analysis, as the Deuteronomy Torah portions come to a close. In addition, the Sages and Rabbis long ago developed a series of Haftarah selections that are known as the seven portions of consolation, from the prophecies of Isaiah: Isaiah 40:1-26; 49:14-51:3; 54:11-55:5; 51:12-52:12; 54:1-10; 60:1-22; 61:10-63:9. If you take the time to read and meditate upon these passages, you will discover that they are comforting to the soul, as the Day of Atonement approaches.

In recollection, I can also remember the first time that the commandments of Leviticus 23 had an impact on our walk with the Messiah, and in particular, the meanings of the Hebrew moedim (appointed times) and miqra (holy convocation). Upon the realization that as non-Jewish Believers in the Messiah of Israel, we had been grafted into the olive tree of Israel (Romans 11:17), the blessing of participating in the appointed times had special meaning. All of a sudden, it made sense to willfully choose to meet with the Almighty when He commanded His people to meet with Him. It was almost like discovering the “day timer” of our Creator, and finding out when He chooses to meet with His followers. It was not just the weekly Sabbath, but special set-apart dates throughout the year, which followed the Hebrew calendar, that bore importance. Upon reading that the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement were perpetual, it became a privilege to not only be invited, but to participate:

“Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you are to have a Shabbat rest, a memorial of blowing (shofarot), a holy convocation. You are to do no regular work, and you are to present an offering made by fire to ADONAI.’ ADONAI spoke to Moses, saying: ‘However, the tenth day of this seventh month is Yom Kippur, a holy convocation to you, so you are to afflict yourselves. You are to bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI. You are not to do any kind of work on that set day, for it is Yom Kippur, to make atonement for you before ADONAI your God. For anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. Anyone who does any kind of work on that day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You should do no kind of work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It is to be a Shabbat of solemn rest for you, and you are to humble your souls. On the ninth day of the month in the evening—from evening until evening—you are to keep your Shabbat’” (Leviticus 23:24-32, TLV).

It is my strong recommendation that during this season of reflection and return to the Holy One of Israel, that all of us as Believers in the Messiah of Israel take advantage of the opportunity to participate in this time of focusing our attention upon Him, upon one another, and what we will be doing in the next year. After all, according to the author of Hebrews, there are rewards for those who seek the Almighty One by faith: “Now without faith it is impossible to please God. For the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, TLV).

This month, J.K. McKee has written an article which deals specifically with the subject of “The Messianic Mission.” Being a part of today’s Messianic movement is a big responsibility and one that we do not take lightly! I pray that you will be challenged to truly be a part of this end-time move of God!

In addition, we are praising the Lord for all of the Internet traffic being generated on the Messianic Apologetics website and mobile app! New audio and video podcasts are being posted every day, as information gets restored after our recent server upgrade. We are very encouraged at the feedback we are receiving, and the new exposure we have had. Outreach Israel and Messianic Apologetics want to be sure that we are a voice of reason and stability, providing fair resolution and consensus, as pressures continue to mount against people of faith from the world, as anti-Semitism and growing anti-Israel sentiments are on the rise. We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years. We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We especially need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the natural disaster that has ravaged South Texas as a result of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey, and Florida from Hurricane Irma. We know from our experience of having lived in Central Florida (2000-2012) and having endured a number of hurricanes, that lives are being impacted in a variety of ways. It is our prayer that God will use all of these circumstances to draw people unto Himself, and that other approaching weather events will turn people to the Messiah for salvation, hope, and restoration.

ADONAI bless you and keep you! ADONAI make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you! ADONAI turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!” (Numbers 6:24-26, TLV).

Blessings,
Mark Huey


The Messianic Mission

by J.K. McKee

Why are any of us involved in today’s Messianic movement? The answers that we might provide to this question are likely varied, and they each involve a number of distinct life circumstances and encounters. Hopefully the main answer that each of us would have to this question is: God wants us here. If you are a Jewish person raised with a knowledge that your ancestors definitely stood at the base of Mount Sinai, hearing the Ten Words from the Almighty, then you have found your promised Messiah and may be considered a completed Jew. If you are a non-Jewish person, likely raised in an evangelical Protestant home, then you have connected with your Hebraic Roots in the ancient Scriptures of Israel, your Jewish Roots in the Synagogue, and have joined with your Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters in an important move which will culminate in the return of Israel’s Messiah.

My family has been involved in the Messianic movement since 1995, has been called into full time Messianic educational ministry since 2003—and in the process we have encountered many valuable, but also varied, approaches to what the Lord is doing in this hour. For many of today’s Messianic Jews, the modern Messianic movement has been a significant lifeline, not only as a faith community where they do not have to give up on their Jewish heritage as Believers in Israel’s Messiah, assimilating into the larger pot or tossed salad of non-Jewish Christianity—but where they can anticipate being part of a significant salvation historical trajectory, involving not only the salvation of many more of their fellow Jews, but the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel as anticipated by the Disciples (Acts 1:6). For many of today’s non-Jewish Believers, specially called by the Lord into the Messianic movement at this phase of its development, the Messianic movement has provided them a venue to not only tangibly partake of things like the Passover seder or a weekly Shabbat rest, but for them to connect with the Tanach (Old Testament) and the ways of Yeshua and His first followers in a very significant manner.

The Scriptures direct us regarding the truth of how, “Without a prophetic vision, the people throw off all restraint” (Proverbs 29:18, CJB/CJSB). At the close of the 2010s, it is fairly witnessed that many people across the Messianic spectrum have their own view(s) about what the Messianic movement is all about, or will become. Far too frequently, the perspectives that people have regarding the future vision, mission, or purpose of the Messianic movement are a bit too individualistic, meaning that they do not tend to take into account what God is doing with the corporate Body of Messiah. Many of us are conditioned by a modern Western mindset which is so hyper-individualistic, that we think that our faith in God only concerns our individual selves and God—and not our individual selves, our fellow brothers and sisters in the Messiah of Israel, and God’s Kingdom purposes for this hour. In Romans 12:1, the Believers were actually admonished to look at themselves not as individual living sacrifices, but as individuals making up a corporate living sacrifice: “I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (TLV). If there is any big difference between Judaism and Protestantism, it is that the former will emphasize the interconnectivity of the people of God involved in the purposes of God, as they anticipate the world to come.

The Prophet Habakkuk was communicated Divine messages from the God of Israel, who directed him to record His word, with it stressed that what was to take place would take place: “Write down the vision, make it plain on the tablets, so that the reader may run with it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time. It hastens to the end and will not fail. If it should be slow in coming, wait for it, for it will surely come—it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:2-3, TLV). This chazon or vision would only take place at the Lord’s pre-determined “season” (YLT), yet it would be up to the people of God to have the perseverance for God’s plan to take shape on God’s timetable. Many of us, Jewish and non-Jewish alike—with our many gifts, talents, and skills endowed by our Creator—are indeed part of the end-time move of God. But it is also required of us to know how we got to this point in history, so that we can be effective and not grow weary, with the work and labor that are necessary as we see this unique and special Messianic movement enter into its own.

The First Century Believers

One of the most significant “revelations,” as it were—not only to evangelical Protestant people investigating their Jewish Roots, but even Jewish people reading the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament—is that Yeshua of Nazareth and His first followers were all Jewish. Many evangelical Protestants, when they read the Gospels, at least subconsciously transfer a Western (particularly conservative, Southern American) experience into what the Messiah and His Disciples are saying and doing. This is reflected in a great deal of contemporary Christian preaching and teaching, which contemporary Jews—even those who are open-minded to hearing new ideas—consider to be largely irrelevant and unimportant to them and their religious and cultural heritage. However, the accounts are vast and diverse from many of today’s Messianic Jewish Believers, that when they finally read the sayings of Yeshua and His interactions with the Jewish religious leaders and ancient contemporaries, that Yeshua was obviously acting and speaking very similar to many of the Rabbis of His time. For certain, Yeshua spoke and acted with the same authority and presence as one of the Prophets of Ancient Israel. Yeshua also frequently employed colloquial expressions such as “Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” (Matthew 16:19, CJB/CJSB), which may require some investigation with Second Temple Jewish literature.

So what has been the disconnect between many of today’s Jewish people, not frequently seeing the Jewishness of the Gospels and Messianic Scriptures—and most especially today’s non-Jewish evangelical Protestant Believers not seeing the importance of a spiritual heritage going back to Second Temple Judaism, Mount Sinai, and the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? The factors that play into this are broad and diverse, some of them involving an ignorance of Biblical history, some of them involving poor and errant decisions made by religious leaders in the past, and some of them involving a close-mindedness and prejudice that need to be jettisoned.

One of the biggest mistakes that does not get challenged enough is that the First Century C.E. followers of Yeshua of Nazareth were not the Sunday, church going “Christians” that many people automatically assume them to be. The first group of First Century C.E. followers of Yeshua of Nazareth were Judean and Diaspora Jews, raised in a society that recognized the One God of Israel, and were trained in the Scriptures of Israel, the Tanach (an acronym for Torah/Law, Nevi’im/Prophets, Ketuvim/Writings) from birth. They remembered the weekly Shabbat or seventh-day Sabbath, the annual appointed times or moedim (~ydI[]Am) of Leviticus 23, they followed the kosher dietary laws, and they circumcised their sons. Many of them were also fiercely protective of their integrity as a community, wanting to keep pagan influences out.

The second group of First Century C.E. followers of Yeshua of Nazareth were mainly Greeks and Romans, who were raised in a polytheistic society that worshipped the gods and goddesses of classical antiquity. Because of their paganism, they were frequently derided by the Jewish community for their sexual immorality (cf. Romans 1:26-28). Many of them were notably attracted to the Jewish Synagogue, its morality, and its monotheism, and as God-fearers were among some of the first non-Jews who would receive Israel’s Messiah. Many of them were attracted directly to Israel’s Messiah from paganism (1 Thessalonians 1:9). And many of them, when encountering Israel’s Messiah, found it difficult to adhere to the four, non-negotiable requirements for entry into the assembly as issued by the Jerusalem Council: abstinence from idolatry, fornication, things strangled, and blood (Acts 15:20, 29). Clearly if followed, the Apostolic decree would serve the purpose of seeing the new Greek and Roman Believers severed from their old spheres of social and religious influence, hence making their new sphere of social and religious influence one where the Scriptures of Israel were honored (Acts 15:21).

The First Century ekklēsia or assembly, in the Land of Israel, was exclusively Jewish, and centered around Jerusalem. James (Jacob) the Just, Peter, and John were recognized as being pillars of the Judean community of Jewish Believers (Galatians 2:9). As James would report of many of the Jewish Believers in and around Jerusalem, “{Look at} how many myriads there are among the Jewish people who have believed—and they are all zealous for the Torah” (Acts 21:20, TLV). While some of this may have involved some of the fierce Jewish nationalism and Zealotry of the mid-First Century, what is seen is that belief in Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah hardly meant casting aside one’s Jewish heritage. In later centuries, Church leaders considered that if a Jewish person professed faith in Jesus, that he or she would become a “Christian,” and have to give up on his or her Jewish heritage completely.

In view of the Great Commission given by Yeshua to go out and make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:19-21; Acts 1:8), Bible readers’ understanding of the First Century Believers widely comes from the letters of Paul, with significant background often witnessed in the Book of Acts. Paul had a distinct assignment from the Messiah to go out into the Mediterranean, and witness to Jews, Greeks, and Romans (Acts 9:15). The assemblies planted by the Apostle Paul, often first involved his traveling to a city where there was a Diaspora Jewish synagogue, he would declare the good news of Israel’s Messiah, where a group of Messiah followers from among Jews, God-fearing Greeks and Romans, and perhaps also pagans from the local community, would steadily form. Sometimes after a period, Paul and his company would be forced to leave the local Jewish synagogue, but not always. Each of the assemblies and groups of Messiah followers established or influenced by Paul, had their own advantages, disadvantages, and challenges. While Paul is seen to have a significant Jewish heritage and pedigree (Philippians 3:5-6), he is also one seen to emphasize the centrality of placing one’s faith or trust in the sacrificial work of Yeshua (Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9).

First Century Warnings Gone Unheeded

While the good news or gospel message of salvation in Israel’s Messiah going out to the whole world, was a critical imperative issued by the Lord Himself to His first followers—the good news going out to the whole world was actually a critical component of the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom. The steadfast word of Isaiah 49:6 proclaims, “It is too trifling a thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved ones of Israel. So I will give You as a light for the nations, that You should be My salvation to the end of the earth” (TLV). Yeshua the Messiah did not simply come to restore Israel proper, but also to be the or goyim or “light to the nations.” The restoration of Israel’s Kingdom is something which is to affect the entire world.

Ancient Israel’s obedience to God’s Instruction, and hence their being blessed, was to serve as a testimony to others and consequently to draw others to the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). At the construction of the First Temple, Solomon prayed that foreigners would hear of it and come to a knowledge of the God of Israel (1 Kings 8:41-43). Themes of Israel being a light to the nations, the Messiah being a light to the nations, and the restoration of Israel affecting the entire world, are all detectable throughout the Apostolic Writings and the evangelistic works undertaken in the First Century Mediterranean. In Ephesians 2, those of the nations who came to faith in Messiah are described as being a part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-12), “brought near” (Ephesians 2:13; cf. Isaiah 57:19), and being “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19, PME). Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah, purged of the effects of sin, were to come together as one in Him, forming a one new man or one new humanity (Ephesians 2:12), able to accomplish the purposes of God in the Earth.

A figure like Paul believed that those of the nations, having received the Jewish Messiah, were indebted to help their fellow Jewish Believers in the First Century in their material needs (Romans 15:27). As he puts it, “For it is not relief for others and hardship for you, but as a matter of equality. Your abundance at this present time meets their need, so that their abundance may also meet your need—so that there may be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14, TLV). Jewish and non-Jewish Believers were to come together as one in the Lord, equals in the Messiah (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 2:11), and pooling all of their gifts, talents, and resources—becoming steadily inter-dependent, reliant, and mutually respectful of each other.

While it can be recognized that in the Second-Fourth Centuries, some terrible, and indeed damning, anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish statements were made by leaders of the emerging Christian Church, as Roman Catholicism began to form—it has to also be acknowledged that the warnings issued by a figure like the Apostle Paul, in Romans chs. 9-11, were largely not heeded. When Paul wrote the Romans, he recognized that more people from the nations were receiving Israel’s Messiah than his fellow Jews. This, he concluded, was a part of God’s plan, and that “by their transgression salvation has come to the nations, to make them jealous” (Romans 11:11, PME). With non-Jewish people receiving the Jewish Messiah, and hence benefitting from promises originally given to Ancient Israel, Jewish people should be provoked to jealousy to want what these various Greeks, Romans, and others have—which they had an ancestral claim to. Yet, Paul had to warn against possible arrogance issued by non-Jewish Believers to the Jewish people who had widely dismissed their promised Messiah. As he says in Romans 11:18-21,

“[D]o not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, it is not you who support the root but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ True enough. They were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but fear—for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you” (TLV).

Non-Jewish Believers, by their faith in Israel’s Messiah, might be grafted-in to Israel’s olive tree (Jeremiah 11:16-17; Hosea 14:1-7), but that does not give them any right to be arrogant or boastful over the Jewish people who have widely dismissed their Messiah. Instead, as Paul directs in Romans 11:30-31, “For just as you once were disobedient to God but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, in like manner these also have now been disobedient with the result that, because of the mercy shown to you, they also may receive mercy” (TLV). The non-Jewish Believers were told to be vessels of mercy and kindness to Jewish people who had not yet encountered their Messiah, in an effort to see them saved from their sins!

Unfortunately, in the many centuries of Christianity that have taken place since Paul wrote some of these words, his instruction has never been fully implemented, at least until today… Today, via the emergence of the modern Messianic movement in the past half-century or more, we have seen Jewish people come to faith in their Messiah in significant numbers, and we have seen non-Jewish Believers embrace their faith heritage in Israel’s Scriptures. Most importantly, we have seen the words of Ephesians 2, Romans 9-11, and even Yeshua’s prayer of John 17:22—“The glory that You have given to Me I have given to them, that they may be one just as We are one” (TLV)—take on dimensions which have not been seen since the First Century. Much of original setting and issues, witnessed in the Apostolic Writings or New Testament, does not seem so abstract any more—because Messianic congregations and fellowships indeed have Jewish Believers and non-Jewish Believers present within them, with each sorting out what it means to place their trust in Israel’s Messiah, desiring to see Him return and reign from Jerusalem.

Breaking With Judaism

While in the First Century C.E., there was a noticeable and sizable number of Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah, following the death of the Apostles and many of their second generation successors, the numbers of Jewish Believers dramatically decreased. Some of this was caused by the outcome of the Jewish Revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. to the Romans. Anti-Semitism flared up significantly in the Roman Empire, and did not help the burgeoning assemblies of followers in Israel’s Messiah, especially among Greek and Roman Believers who may not have been too keen on Jewish sensitivities. By the Second and Third Centuries, though, leadership of the now emerging Christian Church was almost entirely non-Jewish, and far from the Apostle Paul’s direction of Romans chs. 9-11 being heeded, supersessionism or replacement theology began to take significant hold. It was widely believed that God had rejected Israel and the Jewish people, replaced Israel with a new “Church” entity, and had transferred His promises to Israel to this new entity. Here is a small summary of some Second Century Christian views of the Jewish people:

“This is He who was put to death. And where was He put to death? In the midst of Jerusalem. By whom? By Israel…O Israel, transgressor of the Law, why have you committed this new iniquity” (Melito c. 170).

“Inasmuch as the former [the Jews] have rejected the Son of God, and cast Him out of the vineyard when they slew Him, God has justly rejected them. He has given to the Gentiles (outside the vineyard) the fruits of its cultivation” (Irenaeus c. 180).

“Thus has the ‘lesser’ people—that is, the elder people—overcome the ‘greater’ people. For [the lesser] have acquired the grace of divine favor, from which Israel has been divorced” (Tertullian c. 197).

“Let the Jews recognize their own fate—a fate which was constantly foretold as destined to occur after the advent of the Christ. This fate was on account of the impiety with which they despised and slew Him…Thereafter, God’s grace desisted among them. And, ‘the clouds were commanded not to rain a shower upon the vineyard of Sorek,’—the clouds being celestial benefits” (Tertullian c. 197).[1]

Witnessing the fall of Jerusalem to Rome, a widescale Jewish dismissal of Yeshua of Nazareth, and scores of Greeks and Romans recognizing Israel’s Messiah in some way—far from being moved with mercy and empathy for the Jewish people, Christian leaders of the Second-Fourth Centuries instead believed that God was finished with them. If you were a Jewish Believer in Yeshua in the early Second Century, you would find yourself not only a minority in the ekklēsia, but you would not find your commitment to your Biblical and ethnic heritage in the Torah something to be too honored. Concurrent with the idea that God was finished with Israel, was also that He was finished with the Law of Moses and its rituals. Christian leaders like Justin Martyr did think that Jewish Believers could continue to practice things like circumcision or the Sabbath, and that non-Jewish Believers could join with them in fellowship, although the former were weak-minded:

“‘There are such people, Trypho,’ I answered; ‘and these do not venture to have any intercourse with or to extend hospitality to such persons; but I do not agree with them. But if some, through weak-mindedness, wish to observe such institutions as were given by Moses, from which they expect some virtue, but which we believe were appointed by reason of the hardness of the people’s hearts, along with their hope in this Christ, and [wish to perform] the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety, yet choose to live with the Christians and the faithful, as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath, or to observe any other such ceremonies, then I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren” (Dialogue with Trypho 47).[2]

In such an environment—where one’s ethnic and cultural heritage in Israel’s Scriptures would be barely tolerated—it was far easier for Jewish people to not have anything to do with the emerging Christianity of the Second-Fourth Centuries. Of course, even though various religious leaders and ecclesiastical authorities would have their negative words to issue against Judaism and the Jewish people, there were many individual non-Jewish Believers who would, in various ways, be drawn to the Jewish community and Synagogue. Church councils, however, would make it illegal for any Christian person wanting to commemorate the Resurrection of Yeshua in association with the Passover, or remember the seventh-day Sabbath.

The Council of Antioch (341 C.E.) decreed that anyone caught celebrating the Lord’s resurrection (“Easter”) at the same time as the Jewish Passover would be excommunicated from the Church, and be considered to be causing destruction to his soul:

But if any one of those who preside in the Church, whether he be bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall presume, after this decree, to exercise his own private judgment to the subversion of the people and to the disturbance of the churches, by observing Easter [at the same time] with the Jews, the holy Synod decrees that he shall thenceforth be an alien from the Church, as one who not only heaps sins upon himself, but who is also the cause of destruction and subversion to many; and it deposes not only such persons themselves from their ministry, but those also who after their deposition shall presume to communicate with them (Canon 1).[3]

The Council of Laodicea (363 C.E.) decreed that Christians should not rest on the Sabbath, but instead observe “the Lord’s Day”:

Here the Fathers order that no one of the faithful shall stop work on the Sabbath as do the Jews, but that they should honor the Lord’s Day; on account of the Lord’s resurrection, and that on that day they should abstain from manual labor and go to church. But thus abstaining from work on Sunday they do not lay down as a necessity, but they add, ‘if they can.’ For if through need or any other necessity any one worked on the Lord’s day this was not reckoned against him (Canon 29).[4]

These kinds of sentiments, most lamentably, have not gone away, and are still alive and well in the hearts and minds of many of today’s evangelical Protestant theologians, ministers, and laypeople. Yeshua, the Messiah and King of Israel, decreed the ongoing continuance of the Torah or Law of Moses and its commandments—albeit centered around His interpretation and application (Matthew 5:17-19)—yet throughout too much of Christian history, many purported followers of Israel’s Messiah have wanted little to do with Israel’s Scriptures and its instruction.

Today’s Protestants would be fair to recognize that the forced conversions and baptisms of Jewish people, often on the threat of death by Roman Catholic leaders, is a Middle Aged tragedy that does not reflect on the love of Jesus and the character of those truly born again. Likewise, the social oppression and discrimination of the Jewish people throughout European history, for certain, is something that today’s evangelical Protestants would likewise eschew and treat with disdain. At the same time, even though Protestants have been keen to recognize the anti-Semitic stain of Medieval Catholicism on the Jewish people and Jewish-Christian relations—social and religious anti-Semitism are still alive and well throughout many denominations and theological traditions of Protestantism. Many of today’s evangelical non-Jewish Believers are of the mindset that they have replaced Israel and the Jewish people in the intentions of God. They actually consider the Scriptures of Israel, the Tanach, to be something foreign and alien—and no different than some of the Church Fathers of the Second-Fourth Centuries, would at best tolerate today’s Jewish Believers remembering the Sabbath or circumcising their sons as some part of their (backward) cultural heritage.

A Movement Reborn

With the death of the original Messianic Jewish Disciples and their second generation successors, and the emergence of Roman Catholicism by the Fourth Century C.E., the numbers of Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah for many centuries were scant at best. Catholicism, in no uncertain terms, demanded that Jewish people who profess belief in Yeshua of Nazareth, quantitatively abandon their Jewish heritage. Perhaps during the Middle Ages, various religious and political authorities were ignorant of the Scriptures, and were grossly misguided. But, their negative legacy has left its impact.

While hardly perfect, the Protestant Reformation was a necessary and required step forward. Seeing the corruption and opulence of Roman Catholicism reach intolerable levels, figures such as Martin Luther and John Calvin were used by the Lord, in the Sixteenth Century, to help the Body of Messiah return to a foundational grounding in the Holy Scriptures, and that faith in the Messiah alone is what provides salvation to a person. The Reformation exposed many of the non-Biblical and pagan traditions of Catholicism, and helped to formulate an ideology where individual people did not have to rely upon Catholic priests and rituals in order to have redemption. To be sure, when individual people can read the Bible for themselves, many unique and diverse interpretations arise—hence the wide number of Protestant theological schools and denominations.

Because of the diverse number of Protestant denominations—with huge dividing lines emerging by the Seventeenth Century between Calvinists and Arminians—there have been different approaches witnessed in the relationship that Protestant Christians have had with Judaism and the Jewish people. Many have continued to promote supersessionism or replacement theology, the belief that God is finished with Israel and the Jewish people, and that “the Church” has inherited all of Israel’s promises. At the same time, there have been Protestant Christians who have interpreted the Tanach or Old Testament more literally than not, and who several centuries ago made efforts to oppose anti-Semitism, establish dialogue with their Jewish neighbors, and reach out to the Jewish people with the good news of the Messiah. From the period of the American Revolution, the Great Reform Bill of 1832, and even the Napoleonic Wars—the Jewish community in the West was afforded social emancipation and equal rights along with their Protestant Christian neighbors. Exchanges of theological ideas and religious literature, which had been limited or even prohibited before, was now permitted.

The Nineteenth Century saw the rise of the different Protestant evangelistic societies, aimed at seeing Jewish people come to faith in Israel’s Messiah. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the Hebrew Christian movement saw many Jewish people express faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The Hebrew Christian movement was mainly an association of enclaves of Jewish Believers, who attended mainline Protestant denominations and who were integrated into Christianity, but who did maintain some cultural association with their Jewish heritage and traditions. The Hebrew Christian movement certainly was an important step forward—especially with the Zionist movement, promoting a Jewish homeland in the Middle East also arising in the late Nineteenth Century—but there were many limitations. The Hebrew Christian movement encouraged a large amount of intermarriage between Jewish and non-Jewish Believers, and since fidelity to a Torah lifestyle was perceived in only cultural terms, many of the children and grandchildren of the Hebrew Christian movement assimilated into non-Jewish Christianity, eventually forgetting their Jewish heritage.

The modern State of Israel was created in 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War and Holocaust of Nazi Germany. As Isaiah 66:8 declares, “Who ever heard the like? Who ever witnessed such events? Can a land pass through travail in a single day? Or is a nation born all at once? Yet Zion travailed and at once bore her children!” (NJPS). This is commonly viewed as being a prophecy detailing the establishment of modern Israel. Certainly with the State of Israel on the scene, many things shifted spiritually, as many Christian people who looked forward to a Jewish homeland being recreated—as a definite sign of the Messiah’s approaching return—were vindicated. Other Christians, holding on to replacement theology, viewed the State of Israel as only important for Jewish self-determination, but nothing involving prophecy or the Second Coming. Many of them now consider the State of Israel as a great danger to world peace.

Much of what we are witnessing today, in the Messianic movement, can trace its path back to the late 1960s, and Israel’s recapturing of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967. Many are of the opinion that with Jerusalem and the Temple Mount fully in Jewish hands, that the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) were concluded, and that some end-time countdown has started, eventually to culminate in the Messiah’s return. Once again, many things shifted spiritually, the most significant being the transition of the Hebrew Christian movement into the Messianic Jewish movement. The Messianic Jewish movement, unlike many of its Hebrew Christian forbearers, would be a movement which would hold its congregational services on Shabbat, it would observe the Biblical festivals and Jewish holidays, it would keep (some form of) kosher, it would circumcise its sons, and it would encourage participation of Jewish Believers in the Jewish community. Most importantly, the Messianic Jewish community would maintain fidelity to the commandments of the Torah as a part of the prophesied New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27), not just as something as a part of their ethnic or cultural heritage.

The 1970s-1990s saw a significant expansion of Messianic Jewish congregations throughout the world, with congregations in Israel, Europe, the former Soviet Union, North and South America, Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere. The main bulk of the Messianic Jewish movement is in the Diaspora, and in North America at that. Common estimates to our present time is that there are over one-hundred thousand Messianic Jewish Believers. The salvation, and the unique testimonies, of today’s Messianic Jewish Believers who have come to faith in Israel’s Messiah, is a sure sign of fulfillment of Romans 11:15: “For if their rejection leads to the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (TLV).

The Messianic Jewish mission has always been rightly focused around Jewish outreach, Jewish evangelism, and Israel solidarity. But the Messianic Jewish mission would not be possible without a strong basis of support, both spiritual and material, from non-Jewish Believers, who have been called to join in common cause and unity, with today’s Messianic Jewish Believers. From the 1990s to our present, large numbers of non-Jewish Believers have entered into the Messianic movement. The main, overarching reason for this, is that these people have come to a conscious recognition of the Jewishness of Jesus the Messiah. Messianic Jewish rabbis and teachers frequently go to evangelical churches during the season of Passsover, to teach on how the Last Supper meal of Yeshua was actually a Passover seder. Wanting to experience “Jesus in the feasts” of Israel, is the significant magnet for non-Jewish Believers entering into the Messianic movement. And, just as a massive salvation of Jewish people is to be anticipated in the end-times, so too it is prophesied that the nations will come to Zion to be instructed in God’s Law, resulting in worldwide peace (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3). This is a conscious reality present in today’s Messianic movement as well.

What is the Messianic Jewish movement? You will certainly receive a wide number of answers from the people involved in it today! The workbook Messianic Judaism Class offers the following fair summation:

“Messianic Judaism is a movement that gets its motivation from the Spirit of God…[It involves] Jewish people following Yeshua while retaining their Jewish lifestyle, traditions, and culture. It is not a new sect of Christianity. There are a few churches from Christian denominations that have adopted a Messianic Jewish flavor, but in these cases it is them who are joining us. Messianic Judaism has never been Jewish people joining Christianity. There are many people who class themselves ‘Jewish Christians’ who are Jews who have joined Christianity, but that is not Messianic Judaism.”[5]

Those who are involved with today’s Messianic movement might indeed benefit from a shared Judeo-Protestant spiritual heritage—but they are part of something that surely transcends Christianity. It is something that focuses one’s spiritual attention on Israel, the Jewish people, and on the return of the Messiah to Jerusalem. It is something that has definite origins in the experiences of Yeshua and His first disciples.

The Messianic Mission and Our Future

All of us, who have been called into today’s Messianic movement, have a distinct witness of the Spirit that we are involved in something very, very big. We know that the Holy Scriptures, Genesis-Revelation, are relevant instruction for each follower of Israel’s Messiah. We know that God’s promises to, and purposes for, Israel, remain true. We know that we are part of an end-time move of God, which is going to culminate in the Messiah ruling and reigning over this planet. So significant are God’s promises to Israel, that He declares that the rules of space-time which govern the universe would have to be altered, in order for there to be no seed of Israel:

“‘Thus says ADONAI, who gives the sun as a light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars as a light by night, who stirs up the sea so its waves roar, ADONAI-Tzva’ot is His Name: Only if this fixed order departs from before Me’—it is a declaration of ADONAI—‘then also might Israel’s offspring cease from being a nation before Me—for all time’” (Jeremiah 31:35-36, TLV).

Yeshua Himself declared in His Olivet Discourse on the end-times, “Yes! I tell you that this people [this race, PME; hē genea] will certainly not pass away before all these things happen” (Matthew 24:34, CJB/CJSB), a sure word on the continuity of the Jewish people to the time of the end. In spite of the anticipated disobedience of Ancient Israel (Deuteronomy 31:16-17) and a reduction of their numbers (Deuteronomy 28:62-64), the Lord promised a regathering of His people to the Promised Land (Leviticus 26:38-45). There will be a great victory and a vindication by the Lord, for His people (Zechariah 12:1-9), resulting in a great salvation (Zechariah 12:10-13).

Although more is coming in the future, we have seen the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, the recapturing of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, and the emergence of the Messianic Jewish movement in the late Twentieth Century.

Many of those, who are involved in Messianic Jewish congregations and fellowships, have the distinct impression that not only are we part of something special and important—which will culminate in the return of Israel’s Messiah—but that the Body of Messiah is actually getting a “second chance” to do things the way that the original Disciples and Apostles wanted them to take place. As my own local congregation, Eitz Chaim of Richardson, Texas, considers itself: “Our community seeks to be like the first Jerusalem congregation where both Jew and non-Jew are as one new man, equal before G-d (Acts 2).” While we are all equal in the Messiah, whether we be Jewish or non-Jewish, we are hardly all the same—but we have far more in common than not. Our differences of background or perspective on the issues of life, from our shared Judeo-Protestant heritage, will need to be considered as we anticipate the challenges coming for the final stretch of human history.

The Messianic movement is a restoration movement, as we recapture a First Century theology and faith experience, in the Twenty-First Century. As the Messianic movement gets larger and expands, it is a sure sign that we will be getting closer and closer to the Messiah’s return. The original Messianic Jewish pioneers emphasized a mission of Jewish outreach, Jewish evangelism, and Israel solidarity. Today, this is a mission which must remain at the forefront of what the Messianic movement is, because it decisively places each of us on the salvation-historical trajectory of Romans 11:26-27: “in this way all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM [Isaiah 59:20-21], WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS’ [Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34]” (PME).

Getting closer to the Messiah’s return, it is hardly an enigma why many non-Jewish Believers have been called into the Messianic movement as well, with a dual mission now having emerged, as these people need to be trained and educated in the importance of their Hebraic and Jewish Roots. But seeing non-Jewish Believers come to an appreciation of their faith heritage in the Tanach Scriptures and practices of Yeshua, should not only be for the purposes of their personal enrichment and enlightenment; it must be done with the expressed intent of joining into the purposes of Jewish outreach and evangelism, and standing with Israel and against anti-Semitism. Frequently, the presence of non-Jewish Believers—who understand their faith heritage in the Tanach and in Judaism—can at times be most vital for the purposes of seeing Jewish people come to Israel’s Messiah. I can testify to how the extended family members of my Messianic Jewish friends, who do not know Yeshua, have asked me, a non-Jewish Believer, about my faith and why I am in the Messianic movement—more than they would have the courage to ask their relatives about Yeshua, who are Jewish Believers. But in order to answer their questions and communicate properly, I have had to learn a great deal about not only the Tanach and Second Temple Judaism, but also the Jewish experience and struggle throughout history since.

Being a part of the Messianic mission, joining into the Messianic Jewish outreach to Jews who need to know the Messiah of Israel, and seeing all Believers educated and trained in the practices of the Messiah of Israel—is something which will give you a dynamic faith, challenging your heart and mind in new and wonderful ways! You will have your spiritual hunger satiated, and your spiritual thirst quenched. We sincerely hope that each of you has indeed been called to join!


NOTES

[1] “Jew, Jews,” in David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), pp 375, 376.

[2] The Post-Nicene Fathers, P. Schaff, ed.; Libronix Digital Library System 1.0d: Church History Collection. MS Windows XP. Garland, TX: Galaxie Software. 2002.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] James Appel, Jonathan Bernis, and David Levine, Messianic Judaism Class, Teacher Book (Copenhagan, NY: Olive Press, 2011), 10.

August 2017 Outreach Israel News


Update

August 2017

Typically each year, the 9th of Av on the Hebrew calendar arrives in late July or August, with an annual reminder that the enemies of Israel continue to harass and spew hatred toward the Jewish people. This year is no different, as deadly disputes with Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem remind Believers around the world to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). According to Rabbinic tradition, on this day shortly after deliverance from bondage in Egypt, the ten spies who returned from surveying Canaan conveyed a bad report because they feared the inhabitants. This lack of faith had serious immediate consequences that included the death of every man over twenty years of age (other than Joshua and Caleb), during the forty-year delay wandering in the desert, before entrance to the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’ So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’ Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!’” (Numbers 13:31-14:2).

Still, the long term ramifications of troubles on this day, including most significantly the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E., have been recorded. Hence, the Jewish people have observed a day of fasting on Tish B’Av throughout the centuries, and thankfully, the recent turmoil is subsiding as of this writing.

The Ninth of Av essentially begins the countdown to the month of Elul that with the first ten days of Tishri constitutes the forty-day “Season of Teshuvah” (Return or Repentance) prior to Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. Interestingly this year, the 29th of Av occurs on August 21, and in the continental United States, there will be a total solar eclipse that traverses the country from Oregon to South Carolina. Some prophecy teachers are hyping people with some wild end-time prognostications about what this means from a Biblical perspective. Do not fear! This scientifically predictable event is simply a celestial occurrence that astronomers can accurately calculate from the consistency of God’s created order, repeating patterns year after year and even century after century: Who commands the sun not to shine, and sets a seal upon the stars” (Job 9:7).

Instead, Believers should marvel at the majesty of the Creator God, and perhaps use this unique solar eclipse as an opportunity to share the good news with those stirred up by the hyperbolic conjectures!

In addition, we are praising the Lord for all of the Internet traffic being generated on the Messianic Apologetics website and mobile app! The increase in website hits this past month has required www.messianicapologetics.net to recently be upgraded to handle the higher volume. As we have experienced in the past, what initially seems to be an obstacle, is really turning into an opportunity! One of our long term goals has been to see that there be an associated video or audio podcast associated with every written post on Messianic Apologetics. We are using our recent server transfer as a prompt from the Lord to see that this comes about. Please continue to pray that the upgrades will enhance the outreach of our ministry efforts!

Finally, Outreach Israel and Messianic Apologetics want to be sure that we are a voice of reason and stability, providing fair resolution and consensus, as pressures continue to mount against people of faith from the world, as anti-Semitism and growing anti-Israel sentiments are on the rise. We want to especially thank those of you who have faithfully supported our efforts over the years. We continue to need your financial support in order to dedicate the time and energy required to continue in the work that the Lord has assigned us. We especially need many of you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution via PayPal at www.outreachisrael.net.

“The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Blessings,

Mark Huey


A Spiritual Scavenger Hunt

by J.K. McKee

Every single one of us, as a redeemed man or woman of faith, has been on some kind of life journey that has led us to the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah, and hopefully into a place of contributing to the purposes of the Kingdom of God. One of the questions that I frequently ask myself, as a person who has been involved in the Messianic movement since 1995, very much is: How did I get here? A follow up question to this is: What does God actually want me to do here?

I truly came to dynamic saving faith on August 8, 1995. While this concerned dealing with some demonic issues from my family’s past, as well as some issues involving the death of my father in 1992[1]—within several months of repenting of my sins and being born again I was in the Messianic movement. My mother Margaret, and her new husband Mark Huey, had gone on a Zola Levitt tour to Israel in December of 1994, where they had the impression that when returning to the United States, they needed to be focusing on the Biblical feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23). And, by the Fall high holidays of 1995, we were attending a Messianic Jewish congregation, and getting acclimated to things like the weekly Shabbat, a kosher-style of diet, and various mainline Jewish traditions and customs.

One of the things that was very appealing for Mark and Margaret Huey, entering into the Messianic movement, was the fact that my mother was an Arminian, and my new stepfather was a Calvinist. While we all came from a broadly evangelical Protestant background, this new blended family knew that it was going to have to chart a new spiritual course. Throughout the second half of 1995 and into 1996, we tried attending Shabbat services on Saturday, while also going to Sunday Church. By the Spring of 1996, we had fully crossed over to the Messianic Jewish congregation. Not only was our faith in the Messiah being enriched and enlivened at new levels—with there being significant “hands on” spiritual activities to be considering—the Jewish community is one which indeed likes to talk about significant issues. Fellowship times either before or after the service, or getting to know new friends at their homes, was a substantial blessing. We were a family that liked to talk about the Bible, things of the Lord, and current events.

Our full transition into the Messianic movement was also enjoined in the Spring of 1996 by our family encountering a number of—at the time—compelling voices, “quasi-Messianic” we would say now, who were making significant predictions about the end-times, the return of Yeshua, and the Middle East peace process. In the Summer of 1996, my parents made a point to attend both the MJAA Messiah conference in Grantham, PA and the UMJC conference in Sturbridge, MA, mainly with the purpose of getting acclimated to this movement we were getting involved with. But when they returned home to Dallas, they got plugged in more and more to the prophecy teachings and predictions. Certainly for a new family, with three who had lost their father several years earlier, the thought that Yeshua was soon going to return, was something that grabbed our attention. In fact, it grabbed our attention for a number of years!

At the beginning of 1997, our family moved out of Dallas to a small farm   north of the city. Over the course of 1997, while we continued to maintain our connections to the local Messianic Jewish congregation, my stepfather helped host a series of prophecy conferences. In March of 1997, I launched my first website, where I posted a number of opinion articles on both end-time prophecy and Messianic themes. On August 15, 1997, I started the website Tribulation News Network or TNN Online. And, in forecasting the future with the close of the Millennium and Y2k impending, my stepfather actually got involved with a shortwave radio operation based out of Central Honduras. In the Spring of 1998, and with some end-time concerns being present, my family sold its major assets and sent two containers with all of our possessions to the island of Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

It was my stepfather’s plan in 1998 to go back and forth between Roatán and the mainland, doing work for the shortwave radio venture and some real estate consulting in the Bay Islands. We would then see what the global-prophetic situation in the world would be. None of this came to pass. For eight months (April-December) we rented a number of picturesque homes on Roatán, with our two containers still on the dock waiting to be opened. Due to the intervention of Hurricane Mitch in October-November 1998, one of the deadliest storms on record, we knew it was time to return to the United States. An opportunity opened for my stepfather to do some consulting work for a ministry in Oklahoma. We are thankful that we did not lose anything due to Hurricane Mitch!

I am most especially thankful that even though my high school career was not what others would have wanted it to be, that I did finish my senior year through a homeschooling correspondence program, and that in the Fall of 1999 I was able to enroll at the University of Oklahoma. As we returned to the United States in 1999, any end-time preoccupation, fear, or paranoia did get removed from us, and we instead returned to witnessing what God was doing through an increasingly expanding and diversifying Messianic movement. As I was finishing up the first year of my college studies in 2000, my parents accepted an offer to consult with another ministry out of Central Florida. This venture ended in 2002, but by this time we had become a part of an independent Messianic assembly in the Greater Orlando area.

Throughout my college studies at the University of Oklahoma, my TNN Online website, Theology News Network, was something which definitely kept my attention, and it also kept me away from associating with the wrong crowd. I was working on my bachelor’s degree in political science, and as a result took classes not only in political philosophy and theory, but also in histories ancient and modern relevant to Biblical Studies, and was able to take some modern Hebrew and classical Greek. Being on my own for these years, with my website as a hobby, did get me to focus on what being part of the Messianic movement meant to me. I was not really a part of a Messianic congregation or fellowship, and so I instead would spend Shabbat often in Bible study or in writing for my website. I did try to be a part of various on campus ministry groups, which had some success for a season, but eventually did not work out too well by the time I graduated. While there were sincere evangelical Christian people at OU, it was obvious that the Messianic movement, its focus on Israel, and reconnecting with the Tanach or Old Testament, were just too foreign. And, I do have to admit that I was not always too kind or graceful in response to criticism I would receive. It was good that this happened while I was in college, and not when I entered into full time ministry.

In the Fall of 2002, my parents launched Outreach Israel Ministries, which at the time had a very broad vision of incorporating many different possible ventures. When I graduated from college in 2003, I returned to Central Florida, TNN Online became a division of OIM, and our ministry began releasing its first series of educational resources. For the most part, these books, bearing titles like Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study and Introduction to Things Messianic, were written with the intention of helping aid many non-Jewish Believers, like our family, in getting acclimated to the Messianic movement.

To be sure, as we got started in the first full two years of ministry, in 2003-2005, we had a lot to learn. Mark Huey and I did some speaking trips throughout the U.S., Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom. In 2005, I started attending the Orlando campus of Asbury Theological Seminary, where I would work on my M.A. in Biblical Studies. As a result of our major travels in 2004, where we encountered all sorts of people identifying with the label “Messianic”—Jewish Believers, non-Jewish Believers, people part of Messianic Judaism, people part of break-off sects and new sects bearing provocative labels[2]we realized that we had a huge amount of work ahead of us, and that even some of our own attitudes and viewpoints needed to change. As a result of the first few semesters of attending Asbury Seminary, where I was able to reconnect with much of my Wesleyan upbringing, I was having, for the first time, to deal with the Holy Scriptures and the world of the Bible in a much more complex and detailed way. In learning new skills involving Biblical exegesis, Hebrew and Greek, and accessing technical commentaries and resources—I found myself being much better equipped to defend many of my convictions as a part of the Messianic movement. I also realized in 2005-2006, that a number of the things that our family picked up in our early days entering into the Messianic movement, were in serious need of reevaluation, even dismissal, being rather simple and downright unsupportable.

My seminary experience from 2005-2008 is something which I have not commented about too frequently among Messianic people, precisely because I know that on the whole many Messianic people are skeptical, if not hostile, to religious studies education. I did not attend seminary to “convert” people to my Messianic beliefs. I attended seminary to acquire skills, and be able to join into a larger conversation of Biblical Studies. And this is something that I was able to do. When I graduated in Spring of 2009, I was blessed to receive the Zondervan Biblical Languages Award for Greek. But immediately following seminary, our ministry would have to start absorbing all of the new knowledge and resources that I had access to, and things certainly started to change.

One of the biggest things that shifted for us in 2009 was seeing that our ministry books be transferred out of spiral combs and into printed paperback books. It was at this time that I was able to totally dedicate all of my time to ministry work, and as titles were prepared for paperback release, updates reflecting my seminary training and degree would be steadily reflected. Yet as we all know, God has a unique way of being able to “jump start” things…

As the 2000s came to a close, and in particular as my youngest sister Maggie started finishing high school, our family knew that our time in Central Florida would be concluding. In the Summer of 2009, my mother, Maggie and I went on a college scouting trip out to the University of Oklahoma. I had not been back since my graduation. When the three of us walked into the Armory at OU, where the Naval ROTC unit was based, we all received the distinct impression that Maggie was going to OU. Of course, this did not affect me directly; I would be returning to Central Florida and be continuing my work of editing our books for paperback release, and working on new Bible studies. In the late Spring of 2010 we again went on a roadtrip out to OU, as Maggie had been accepted and was getting ready to start college in the Fall. My work was continuing.

Our family had originally believed that were we to move out of the Orlando area, that we would move northward to Jacksonville, where we have extended family. In late August 2010, my mother and I went to Jacksonville to help move my grandmother from her assisted living unit into a new memory care unit. While we were there, my stepfather Mark was on a trip visiting friends and other family members. I remember distinctly walking out of the Allegro in Orange Park, and telling my mother that I would seriously consider moving back to Dallas rather than move to Jacksonville. This was quite a change, because neither one of us ever wanted to live in Dallas again. Yet, with my sister Maggie now at the University of Oklahoma, and knowing that there was a vibrant and significant Messianic community in the DFW Metroplex, we definitely started feeling the pull West.

We announced our intention to relocate to North Texas in the Fall of 2010, but we had no idea that it was going to take us over two years to do it. For my part, I knew that I had to gear up, seeing that all of our books were prepared for paperback release—and that if the Lord wanted us to go through any major theological changes, namely in the form of refining and expanding our teachings on various issues, now would be the time to do it. While 2011-2012 were hardly easy years for me, 2011 was a significant year for some theological transitions. 2012 was spent formatting all of our ministry books for both paperback and eBook release. At the end of 2012, my parent’s house in Kissimmee, FL finally sold, and by December we were all living in North Dallas once again—in the same exact zip code where we had originally moved in 1994, no less!

The Spring of 2013 was widely spent getting reacclimated to the DFW area, after being gone for fourteen years. What was most important to us was getting reconnected with the Messianic friends we knew from our early days in Messianic Judaism, back in 1995-1998. By the late Summer of 2013, we quickly got plugged into Eitz Chaim Messianic Jewish Congregation, as we had been good friends with the main leaders, David and Elizabeth Schiller, in the late 1990s. Because EC is an assembly which encourages participation from members, by the Winter of 2014 we had all taken the New Members class, our family began helping out with the different festivals (in particular the congregational Passover seder), and by the Fall of 2014 Mark Huey had been asked to become a shammash (deacon), by the Fall of 2015 being further elevated as an elder. I had given several teachings on Shabbat, and had renewed my own friendship with David that I had back in 1996-1997 when I was in my teens.

2014-2015 were important years not just in terms of transitioning to a new life back in North Texas, to take on new theological and spiritual challenges, and to consolidate ourselves—they were also very important as we began to discern what our own long term purpose would become as a family ministry. While we all agree that moving back to Dallas was the best decision we ever made, because we are human, no place on Earth is entirely perfect. Things in the United States shifted immeasurably with the legalization of homosexual marriage in the Summer of 2015. When this happened, I actually felt in a similar manner to how I did in 1996-1997, when we were encapsulated with end-time prophecy. If anything, American society crossed a Romans ch. 1 “red line,” and we were all shown a “road sign” that End Game is approaching. I myself have had the distinct supernatural impression that with as many things that I have researched and written on, that I would have to be targeted with my life, and would not be able to have all of the same opportunities that those who preceded me had. In June of 2015, the tnnonline.net domain was actually stolen from me during the few hours that the domain was needing to be re-registered, and so I made the necessary upgrade from TNN Online to Messianic Apologetics. This was a vital change for the future!

Mark and Margaret Huey like to frequently describe the journey our family has been on as a “spiritual scavenger hunt.” We went from one place and experience…to another place and experience…and so on… The journey of human life is always something that is ongoing. We learn new things every day through our experiences and interactions, with both the Lord and other human beings, as to how to be more effective in His service. But as far as the bulk of experiences that our family has had—in moving from place to place, in being called into Messianic education, and in interacting with broad and diverse sectors of this emerging faith community—on the whole our “spiritual scavenger hunt” is over. Much of what we are involved with today concerns our effectiveness as Messianic people, fine-tuning our strengths and abilities, and with new stages of development which are likely to equally excite and frighten us all.

Our family was first called into Messianic ministry to help others from evangelical backgrounds, adequately transition into a Messianic lifestyle—extending grace and mercy to others who were not similarly called (at present), and making sure that this was a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in their lives (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Our ministry experiences to the present day included things that we could both anticipate and not anticipate. Like everyone, we have had our good days and our bad days, we have had to firmly stand up for the truth of God’s Word, and we have had to admit where we have made mistakes and correct them.

Salvation history is on a decisive trajectory: “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26ff). This is something that involves not only a massive salvation of Jewish people, but will culminate in the return of Israel’s Messiah—and with it the completion of not only many prophecies regarding the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom, but will involve Yeshua Himself reigning over this planet. Today in the Messianic community, we see Jewish people coming in substantial numbers to Messiah faith. We also see non-Jewish Believers embracing their Hebraic and Jewish Roots in substantial numbers. Together, we should not only be united as “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15, NRSV), purged of old hostilities and mistrust of the other—but we should be employing the virtues and strengths of our shared Judeo-Protestant heritage for what is to be anticipated in the future.

If there is anything that I have learned on the spiritual scavenger hunt, it is that suspicion, division, and rivalry begin when we fail to communicate with one another, and when we do not even bother to consider the vantage point or perspective of someone else. A figure like Paul knew better than this, when going out to reach the diverse groups of people in the First Century Mediterranean (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). My many writings and studies to date bear significant attention to detail. For some, this is just information overkill. For others, it is a documented record of wanting to not only hear multiple witnesses in a case (Deuteronomy 19:15), it demonstrates a deep seated commitment on my part to be fair, and even what it means to “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10, NRSV).

Your journey into the Messianic movement is not the same as my family’s journey. Your journey may have been less, or even more, difficult. Like all people in this unique and special move of the Holy Spirit, there are things we have had to give up. I personally take a great deal of comfort from Yeshua’s word, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My name’s sake, will receive a hundred times as much, and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29, TLV). Yet, each one of us needs to maintain a sense of purpose, a steadfast will, and a consistent resolution to accomplish the Messianic mission—and to arrive at the culmination of history. May we stay true to the call!


NOTES

[1] Some of my experience in coming to salvation is covered in my articles “The Assurance of Our Salvation” and “Why Hell Must Be Eternal.”

[2] These provocative labels included, but were not limited to, the Two-House and One Law/One Torah sub-movements.