Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics need your help as we enter into 2020, and the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. This new decade is going to see the Messianic movement have theological and spiritual issues thrust upon it that most are not ready for. We have been preparing for this time for the past several years, and now it is time for us to speak out.
Our overarching ministry theme for this next decade is: How do we not lose the next generation?
by Mark Huey
One of the many blessings of being intimately involved with the Messianic community of faith for nearly two decades, is the opportunity to reflect on the curious development of what we truly believe is a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. By the grace of God, our family has not just been passive observers, since 1995, but we have also been called to be active participants, in attempting to bring forth, as accurately as humanly possible, what we believe the Lord is doing with His people at this time in history. This responsibility has not been taken lightly! We know that the Holy Scriptures place a higher degree of accountability upon those who are to exposit upon its truths:
“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1, NASU).
We humbly accept the privilege to instruct and exhort our readers and listeners, with teachings that we have strived to make sure are well researched, documented, and footnoted. Our approach in ministry has been to prayerfully pass on instruction and exhortation to this generation, which are valid summations of the progressive revelation that has come forth down through the centuries to God’s people (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). Our methodology of teaching has required that our family maintains a careful and vigilant watch on contemporary trends, and how they are being used to bring others toward a Messianic lifestyle. Some of this has surely been good, but some of this has not been so good. Needless to say, the development of the Messianic movement has been something to behold—especially as the preponderance of Messianic-oriented teachers and voices appears to be growing exponentially. Is it an “evolution”? Is progress being made for the Kingdom of God as we steadily approach the return of Yeshua?
Our Family Journey
Allow me to tell you a few things about our family’s sojourn, so you can better understand our perspective. Back in the early 1990s, due to unexpected and undesired life’s circumstances—including the premature death of a spouse and an unwanted divorce—Margaret and I were compelled individually to seek God for answers. Providentially, after a twenty-one year hiatus from our relationship initiated in college, we were reacquainted at a university reunion that eventually resulted in our marriage. From our new beginning at midlife, with five children to be responsible for, we both knew that the God we loved had allowed the sad dissolution of two marriages, to unite us in holy matrimony for His purposes. Without going into all of the revelatory details that confirmed how the Lord was sovereignly orchestrating our union—we did receive one special word from the Holy Scriptures, which has been a guiding compass for our extraordinary journey as one in the Messiah Yeshua. Uniquely, Margaret received a Scripture about our future together while in prayer one night, and challenged me to confirm it without giving me a hint as to what or where the verses were located.
I knew how being married to a godly woman was a special blessing, but this challenge was something I had never encountered. However, since I knew we were worshipping the same God of Creation, I spent some time in fervent prayer, seeking an answer to her request. When the Holy Spirit led me to Isaiah 43 (which was the Scripture she had been given!) and I shared it with Margaret, she was amazed because the first half of the chapter dealt with aspects of the Bible that neither of us had spent much time studying:
“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, “Give them up!” And to the south, “Do not hold them back.” Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.’ Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, and the deaf, even though they have ears. All the nations have gathered together so that the peoples may be assembled. Who among them can declare this and proclaim to us the former things? Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified, or let them hear and say, ‘It is true. You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?’” (Isaiah 43:1-13, NASU).
When the Spirit of God leads you to confirm some powerful verses, which your wife has let you know are going to be your “life verses”—the Lord definitely has your attention riveted. As relative newlyweds, we read and studied these verses, intently trying to understand what God was trying to communicate to us. Needless to say, we really appreciated the aspects of protection from floods and fire, and God’s love as being so intense that He would exchange other lives for ours. Yet, the part we read, about the gathering of offspring from the four corners of the Earth, was new information which we had not really spent much time considering. Since we knew we were children of God who were called by Him, the admonition to bring in sons and daughters from afar was intriguing, especially because there is the implication that they are spiritually blind and deaf. The declaration that God’s people are to be witnesses to others and to the world was certainly inspirational.
With these verses imbedded in our hearts and minds, our spiritual journey as a couple was off to quite a start. Six months into our marriage, in late 1994, the Lord led us to take a tour to the Land of Israel with a Messianic Jewish ministry. As you can imagine, the revelation of the Scriptures began to unfold before our very eyes, as the Holy Spirit began to reveal meaning to Isaiah 43, with many complimentary passages, which pointed toward the restoration of Israel. One experience, while touring at Masada, was especially meaningful. Without any provocation or really knowing what I was about to read, I saw a sign posted at the ancient synagogue, located on the northern wall of the fortress, mention Ezekiel 37. Without any timidity toward or awareness of those gathered, I picked up my Bible, turned to the passage, and out the open window to a barren valley below—I loudly proclaimed the whole chapter to any who were located in the small room. Little did I realize, at that moment, that I was speaking forth a vivid message of the dry bones restoration of Israel! When Spirit-led actions like this occur, you take note, and your memory is permanently embedded with recollections of not only the circumstances—but also the place in the Holy Writ that will influence you in time thereafter.
Upon returning to the United States, we were convinced that there was so much more to our walk of faith, and that much spiritual benefit would be derived by observing the feasts of Israel, as Margaret had done with her late husband Kim back in the 1980s. Within a few months, now 1995, we were led to a Messianic Jewish congregation. Before long, we found ourselves in the new member’s class, and we were learning some Hebrew. For a short season, our family attended both this congregation on Saturday and church on Sunday. When you believe that you have heard from the Lord, are trusting in His guidance, feeling His presence, and know that He is leading you into a deeper walk with Him—there is no turning back. And so, our family eventually found itself exclusively attending the Messianic assembly. We steadily incorporated elements of the Messianic lifestyle, such as keeping Shabbat, the appointed times, and eating Biblically kosher. We read the Torah every week, and we were attuned to some of the unique challenges of the First Century Believers. Perhaps some of you can identify with what we experienced.
A Deeper Walk
For almost two decades, we have been involved with the broad Messianic community of faith, having originally been introduced through Messianic Judaism. Despite some initially less-than-welcoming attitudes we did encounter from some Messianic Jews—wondering why a non-Jewish family like ours would be attracted to Messianic things—we have never been dissuaded from the path that the Lord has placed us upon. In fact, the more we have studied the Scriptures, researched and cross-examined various topics, and most importantly prayed for confirmation—the more involved we became with Messianic things. One of the most influential passages, for me personally, regards the prophesied “restoration of all things.” This was originally spoken by the Apostle Peter, to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Shavuot/Pentecost. Such a “restoration of all things” must transpire before the return of the Messiah:
“But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Yeshua, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Yeshua which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, “THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED [Deuteronomy 18:15-16] to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. t is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BLESSED” [Genesis 22:18; 26:4]. For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:12-26, NASU).
Passages like this one, and a deeper study of the words of the Prophets, have surely convinced me that in the Lord’s time—the full restoration of Israel as seen in words like Isaiah 43 or Ezekiel 37, will not only take place, but have even steadily started to take place. We might not know all of the specific details, but when we honestly sit down with the Word of God, and then we look out at the developments witnessed in the Messianic movement with many Jewish people coming to Yeshua and non-Jewish Believers embracing their Hebraic Roots—something big has started to happen. Eventually in the end-times, we know that the Tribulation saints will have a definite testimony of belief in the Messiah and they will keep the Torah’s commandments (Revelation 12:17; 14:12).
Our family has been active participants in the Messianic movement—from our first years in Messianic Judaism starting in 1995, and later continuously being involved with various other Messianic ministries. In 2002, we started Outreach Israel Ministries, and since then we have definitely experienced and witnessed an evolution, of sorts, of the broad Messianic community of faith, somewhat up close and personal. Rather than being distant observers on the outside, we have been firsthand witnesses on the inside, to much of the positive growth. We have also had to see a great deal of the intrigue and politicking that has plagued the Messianic movement, preventing dividing walls from being broken down (cf. Ephesians 2:15).
In our experience in full time ministry, we have met and interacted with many of those who are leaders, or at least claim to be leaders, particularly within the more independent sectors of the Messianic community. Through family friends and various contacts in Messianic Judaism, we have been able to become acquainted with many of today’s Messianic Jewish leaders and voices of influence. Of course, more than anything else, as teachers and researchers, we have had to become exposed to a wide array of publications, and audio and visual media, that have directed the thoughts, ideas, theology, and spirituality of the Messianic community. Over the past number of years, it has definitely become more and more apparent to us, that Outreach Israel Ministries has had to come forth not only as a fair-minded voice of balance, but also as one which will often have to represent a third, moderate alternative on an issue or controversy—especially when religious politics takes over, and an analysis of relevant Biblical passages tends to go by the wayside.
Early along, in our family’s involvement with the Messianic movement, we discerned that the Adversary is quite aware that this is a genuine move of the Holy One of Israel. Since the enemy will definitely attempt to thwart anything that the Creator has decreed He will accomplish, it is unfortunate that there have been problematic voices arise within the Messianic world, who have done anything but give it credibility and believability. At various times, we have had to take a stand against influences that we consider to be rather “ear-tickling” (2 Timothy 4:3), which have done serious damage to undiscerning people. The different currents and eddies which have moved various Messianic Believers to-and-fro, have certainly directed us to make sure that we are always on top of the issues that matter—and that we must do our best to have a response to questions when they are asked (1 Peter 3:15-16). Suffice it to say, there is always important work to do!
During the process we have witnessed over the years—and whether it is an evolution, a devolution, or simply a series of developments—we have had to contend with a wide array of issues and controversies present in the broad Messianic movement. These include, but are not limited to, debates involving: Israelite identity, calendar disputes, the Divine Name of God, the nature of Yeshua and His Divinity, the existence of a presumed Hebrew New Testament, entire books of the Apostolic Scriptures being disregarded as inspired, Hebrew letter pictures, a Hebrew versus Greek mindset, Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, a One Law versus Divine Invitation model for Jewish and non-Jewish Believers obeying God, false prophecies about the onset of the Great Tribulation, polygamy, abuse of Torah scrolls, and teachers with a significant lack of formal education. Needless to say, the ability of people to come up with ways to disturb others—whether such ways originate from their own flesh or are inspired by demonic forces—is difficult to encounter. Being able to separate oneself from the emotions and rhetoric of the controversies is not always easy. This is especially true when considering the thrust of what Paul says in Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (NASU).
Would it not be wonderful if we could all just dwell on these positive things? The challenge for Bible teachers is the reality that false teaching can subtly lead people along strange paths, which might lead people to deny faith in Yeshua. This is further complicated, when one notes that even Yeshua warned His Disciples about the lack of faith apparent when He would return. In His parable about the widow who pesters the unrighteous judge for legal protection, Yeshua concluded His statements with a serious question about whether there will be any faith on Earth when He returns:
“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, “Give me legal protection from my opponent.” For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8, NASU).
The Messiah was very concerned about the faith in Him that is required for those still present, when He will return in all His glory (1 Thessalonians 3;13; Titus 2:12-14). Yeshua knew the future, and how many will be easily turned away from following Him. In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua issued a warning about many of the false teachers and false prophets who would come, and how not all who would claim Him will enter into His Kingdom:
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS [Psalm 6:8]’” (Matthew 7:12-23, NASU).
In your own personal faith development, as a Messianic Believer, be sure that you are a good inspector of the fruit of various leaders, teachers, ministries, and organizations. Be careful when you listen to a voice who declares something via a creed of some sort of “restoration of Torah,” and they stay away from addressing the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). If necessary, be a bit overly-critical when you evaluate what you are told by a presumed voice of influence.
Complimenting the apparent lack of faith and the challenges of false teaching, toward the end of His ministry, Yeshua warned that there were going to be many false prophets who came in His authority: “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:5). No one wants to be misled when it comes to spiritual things. However, because the Messianic movement is so relatively new and subject to a variety of influences, it is critical that we each discern the veracity of a teaching and the motivations of teachers.
The Apostle Peter devoted an entire chapter of his second letter, detailing some revealing attributes of false prophets and teachers. I encourage you to read this carefully, to discern whether any of your teachers have any of these negative characteristics present:
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT’ [Proverbs 26:11], and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’” (2 Peter 2:1-22, NASU).
With these warnings issued from Yeshua the Messiah and the Apostle Peter, we should not be surprised that as the Messianic community of faith evolves, devolves, or simply develops—perhaps contingent on what sector we examine—it is generating more and more false prophets and false teachers, especially as the numbers of people entering it grows. After all, as the numbers increase, the greed and self-absorbtion, which are evident in the hearts of false teachers, have fertile ground to fleece the flock. While a lack of faith in Yeshua, and susceptibility to false teaching, are warned about throughout the Apostolic Writings, there is one more final challenge that needs to be addressed. This is the great falling away or apostasy, which is sadly destined to occur before Yeshua’s return:
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, NASU).
Apparently, as faith in Yeshua wanes and false teaching multiplies, there is going to be a great falling away from the faith before Yeshua returns. God forbid that today’s Messianic movement somehow contributes to apostasy from faith in the Messiah! This is a dire warning, and something that everyone should be aware of, as we each work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
Perseverance to the End
As we approach an uncertain future, given some of the unknowns in our ever-changing world—but most especially not fully knowing what the emerging Messianic movement will “evolve” into—be sure that you remember the times when the Lord interacted with you on a personal basis. Whether it is reliving your born again experience, remembering times when your prayers were answered, or when you received some distinct message through a dream or vision or direct word—take comfort in knowing that He has placed you here for a reason. Whether it is verses like Isaiah 43 and Ezekiel 37, which have set our family on a unique spiritual journey, leading us into the Messianic movement and into full time ministry, or simply the proclamation of John 3:16 that expresses God’s love for you in Yeshua—the key is holding on to your salvation, and making sure that you do not get swept away by the enemy’s trickery.
Like life, the Messianic community of faith is never static. Instead, just like our lives are in constant motion until the time our heart stops beating and our lungs stop breathing, we will hopefully be advancing toward union with the Holy One of Israel for eternity. Our challenge, as we aim toward that final goal, is to avoid the many deviations. We need to make sure that our commitment to the development of the Messianic movement, enables it to advance into a Messianic force, fully able and willing to accomplish the Heavenly Father’s tasks for the final hour.