The Great Apostasy – April 2020 OIM News


OIM Update
April 2020

This is perhaps one of the most interesting times in world history to be writing an update on what is transpiring globally. Unlike the mundane activities typically happening throughout the Spring season, the world is gripped by an unseen virus that has much of humanity perplexed and fearful of potential consequences. But despite the confusion and consternation, the Almighty One is always orchestrating good to come out of the evil perpetrated by this insidious attack! This understanding has been known for millennia, as articulated by Joseph to his brothers, when he got above the fray, and proclaimed this insightful statement:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20, NASU).

From a spiritual perspective, the Creator God is using this invisible invasion around the planet to get people’s undivided attention. In many respects, another passage of Scripture describes, in unvarnished terms, essentially what the Holy One is accomplishing through the Coronavirus pandemic:

“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:24-31, NASU).

Is it possible that the Creator God is currently utilizing all of these diverse and upsetting circumstances associated with the viral attack, to create a “trifecta” of stressful situations to bring people called for His purposes to Himself with salvation or rededication to Him? Providentially and historically as recorded in the Holy Scriptures, the Omniscient One typically uses “crisis” moments in individual lives to seemingly entice people to look to Him for answers to a plethora of questions. Hence, the three areas of life challenges that can be most debilitating when faced with a variety of unknowns are (1) financial, (2) physical, and (3) relational. Consequently, as a direct byproduct of this invisible enemy floating through the atmosphere, (1) world commerce is being directly impacted, (2) people are fearful of succumbing to the ravages of the disease, and (3) families are being forced to communicate in confined places.

Imagine if your personal financial security revolved around your stock portfolio or 401k account or your ability to generate income at your job. How would you be handling the stress of watching your resources melt away, and now be challenged to pay the mortgage, rent, car payment, or simply put groceries in the pantry? To whom would you be looking to recoup your investments or means of income? Perhaps you would look to the government, or your employer, for restitution. But on the other hand, perhaps in your quiet moments you would appeal to God, whether you knew Him or not.

What about your personal, physical wellbeing, or the health of loved ones or friends—especially the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, who are apparently most susceptible to the viral complications? How would you handle the real possibility that it is quite possible that even you might contract the virus, and end up in a hospital ICU bed on a ventilator grasping for air and life itself? Is it possible that many people around the planet are processing these very thoughts? Can you fathom how many questions are floating into the Heavenly realm by Believers of all persuasions—and even those who inherently recognize that there is a Creator God because it is evident within them?

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH’ [Habakkuk 2:4]. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:17-20, NASU).

Next, comes a new term labeled “social distancing” that will live with humanity forever! But beyond the recommended practices of avoiding contact with people by maintaining a distance of six feet, washing hands liberally, not shaking hands when greeting others, and even wearing masks that obscure our identity and facial expressions—the most frightening requirement for many is the guideline to “stay at home and shelter.” Now for many couples and families, the delicate reality of fraught relationships is being tested. Consider the marriages which have revolved around primarily the things of the world that constitute, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16, NASU).

Now contemplate the possibility that people all over the globe are dealing with this “trifecta” of issues for a protracted time period, with little or no known end in sight. Can you calculate the number of questions from those seeking answers from God, or wherever, when the level of stress and fears generated from within increases to a point of breaking down?

It is impossible for humans to know all the answers, but God alone knows all things and He hears all the prayers. And above all, He is in control, and He will be responding in various and sundry ways. This is His promise to all who call upon Him in times of trouble, when they have no other place to turn for answers. The Scriptures are replete with these reminders that when called upon, the Holy One answers with salvation and comfort:

“As for me, I shall call upon God, and the LORD will save me” (Psalm 55:16, NASU).

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and give heed to the voice of my supplications!” (Psalm 86:5-6, NASU).

“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18, NASU).

“Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6, NASU).

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED’ [Joel 2:32] (Romans 10:12-13, NASU).

What a joy to realize that through all the turmoil the world is experiencing at this critical season, when we have just had the Passover (and even the Christian world has remembered the Resurrection of the Messiah), the Almighty One is sitting on His throne listening to the pleas, supplications, and prayers of humanity! It is quite possible that through all of these circumstances the Lord will not only bring many seekers to Himself, but pour out His Spirit on many around the world. Of course, there are different voices proclaiming that a revival will be the result, which would be awesome to experience. But revival without repentance or godly sorrow can be somewhat misleading, as once noted by Paul in writing to the Corinthians:

“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter” (2 Corinthians 9:1-11, NASU).

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the God’s intercessors, watchmen, and children to continue imploring the Father for the souls of family members, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, and that true salvation results. To God be all the glory!

Finally, a few favorite Scriptures come to mind that can help each of us be reminded of our responsibility to serve Him alone and others, and not be served:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:24-34, NASU).

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:1-3, NASU).

In conclusion, we are most thankful for your support—both your faithful prayers and financial gifts—as we continue to serve the Body of Messiah around the world. This includes the expanding number of Messianic Apologetics podcasts, and especially, the OIM Prison Ministry Free Book Program. You are in our thoughts and prayers, and we constantly ask that the Lord would bless you and keep you (Numbers 6:23-27) during these uncertain times.

Until the restoration of all things,

Mark Huey


The Great Apostasy

by J.K. McKee

Thinking about or contemplating the topic of apostasy is not necessarily the most positive thing that someone could be doing. The Biblical and historical record both indicate that apostasy against God—a denial of Him and His ways—has been present with us since the very beginning (which should hopefully relieve at least some of the anxiety we may have about this). Yet, sometimes we need to have our consciences pricked regarding what the apostasy is, especially as we survey some of the things going on in the religious world today, both Christian and Messianic. Now is an excellent time for us to review once again what the prophesied great apostasy is, so that rather than being impartial to it—or worse somehow being a part of it—we can all stand up as men and women of God who warn others against the torrent that is coming! Let us be those in a position to offer answers to people lost in sin, being all the things that Yeshua calls us to be.

What is the apostasy?

There are many passages of the Bible, both in the Tanach and Apostolic Scriptures, which address the subject of apostasy. In the broadest sense, apostasy is a denial of God’s authority and His ways, perhaps involving a revolt. Joshua 22:22 refers to a mered or “rebellion, revolt, against” (BDB)[1] the Lord, and how He would not come to save His people were they involved in such action:

“The Mighty One, God, the LORD, the Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion,[2] or if in an unfaithful act against the LORD do not save us this day!”

The Greek Septuagint renders mered as apostasia, which in an entirely secular context would mean “defection” (LS).[3] We see that “It is used by Plutarch of political revolt.”[4]

In the Apocrypha, apostasia is used to refer to Antiochus Epiphanes’ forced conversion of the Jewish people to Greek religion:

“Then the king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy[5] came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice” (1 Maccabees 2:15).

We likewise see in the Book of Acts a false charge made against the Apostle Paul, as it was being claimed of him that he taught apostasy against the Torah:

“[A]nd they are instructed concerning thee, that apostasy from Moses thou dost teach to all Jews among the nations, saying—Not to circumcise the children, nor after the customs to walk” (Acts 21:21, YLT).

The false charge against Paul was apostasian didaskeis apo Mōuseōs, “apostasy you teach from Moses” (my translation). Paul would defend himself later, firmly attesting that these were false charges against him. To counter the libel, Paul affirmed, “having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place” (Acts 26:22). Likewise, at the end of Acts we see Paul at a synagogue in Rome, and Luke records “he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Yeshua, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening” (Acts 28:23). Surely, if Paul did deride the authority of the Torah and the Prophets, he would not have expelled the effort to proclaim the gospel message from these texts!

The Apostle Paul himself talks about apostasy in the Epistle of 2 Thessalonians, a letter written to specifically calm down a group of people who thought that the Day of the LORD was imminently forthcoming. The apostasy is listed among a series of events that must occur prior to the return of Yeshua:

“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, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

Paul lists a number of things that are to take place before the coming of the Lord, and he makes the specific point to tell his audience, “Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?” (NIV). Perhaps due to the denseness of his audience and their inability to hear, Paul must repeat himself yet again. As mundane as such a clause may appear to us some two millennia later, let us not be those who have to hear this over and over again so as to not get the point of what Paul communicates. A summary of what will take place includes:

  1. The apostasy
  2. The revealing of the man of lawlessness
  3. The man of lawlessness will exalt himself, taking a seat in God’s Temple
  4. The removal of the restraining influence
  5. The present (for then and for now) activity of the mystery of lawlessness
  6. The end of the man of lawlessness’ rule
  7. The sending of a deluding influence by God upon the world

Each one of these phenomena could be expanded into a book chapter, or at least their own article or research paper. But there are some specific things, particularly as they concern hē apoastasia, “the apostasy” with the definite article, of which Paul speaks that need to be considered.

Undeniably, as consistent with some of the previous examples of “apostasy” seen, this end-time apostasy is related to lawlessness. The significant end-time apostasy is joined in v. 3 with the unveiling of ho anthrōpos tēs anomias or “the man of lawlessness.”[6] The CJB renders this with “the man who separates himself from Torah.” Revelation 13:6 describes him as one who “opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.” Certainly, it would not be a far stretch to suggest that these blasphemies also include deriding God’s Torah and its commandments. Indeed, as Daniel 7:25 says,

“He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.”

The Aramaic clause of importance is l’hash’nayah zimnin v’dat, “shall think to change the times and the law” (ESV). Dat is an important term to consider, because in Scripture (particularly in the Book of Esther) it is largely seen regarding secular state laws, as opposed to the Torah of Moses.[7] Thus, it could be said that the man of lawlessness will be responsible for instituting laws that will curtail and make it difficult for God’s people to keep His Torah in the Last Days.

A key feature of this apostasy is seen in Paul’s assertion, “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work” (NIV). What to mustērion tēs anomias actually is, has confounded even the best interpreters, because it regards a mystery. While many proposals regarding “mystery” have been made, I personally think that it is best for us not to read too much into Paul’s words, and simply regard the manifestation of such lawlessness as simply boggling the mind of those who remain faithful. Yeshua Himself prophesied, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Certainly, if one denies the continued authority or relevance of God’s Torah, then denial of the command to love Him and one’s neighbor can definitely follow (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28). It may be that “the mystery of lawlessness” is a mystery—because it is actually practiced by those who would be the last ones a person would expect: those who claim faith in God.[8]

The Apostle Paul states something very significant about the man of lawlessness which cannot be downplayed. He says “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (NIV). This fully concurs with Yeshua’s words, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, NRSV). Supernatural signs—demonic supernatural signs—will attend the arrival of the antimessiah/antichrist (cf. Revelation 13:13-15). And in the event that we think that such warnings are only consigned to the final days with the antimessiah, the Apostle John said “just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18). Many antimessiah prototypes, all the way back to the Pharaoh of the Exodus, and forward to Haman, Antiochus Epiphanes, various Roman emperors, various popes, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin—have been seen throughout history displaying the characteristics that the antimessiah will display in abundance. To say that we have been given ample warning would be an understatement.

Why are these warnings given by Paul? Are they given to discourage lawlessness and discourage people from denying the relevancy of God’s Torah? Surely they are. The type of lawlessness inaugurated by the antimessiah will be a complete dismissal of our Father’s high standard of morality and ethics. There will be no family loyalties, as is clearly seen in Yeshua’s word, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death” (Mark 13:12). No one will respect the sanctity and value of human life, as Revelation 13:4 asks, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” with many dying under his reign of despotism. Far be it from this lawlessness being people who fail to see the relevance of kosher or the appointed times, it will go beyond denying “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). It will be a time not unlike the days of Noah where “the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11).[9]

But as bad as this kind of lawlessness is—a complete derision and denial of Heilsgesetz–or sacred and saving Law,[10] Paul gives one of the most sobering words that I have ever seen in the Bible. He says “God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, RSV). Can you believe it? God Himself is the Agent which will actively send (Grk. pempei) the energeian planēs or “working of delusion” (YLT)! The Lord is going to make sure that those who are His are completely loyal to Him, in order that there might be a clear distinction between His people and those who are not His.

And do take notice of the reason of why this strong delusion is going to be sent: “they refused to love the truth and so be saved[11]” (2 Thessalonians 2:10, RSV). The text is clear that the cause of the apostasy is lawlessness, or a denial of God’s Torah. But here, because of rejecting God’s truth those who apostatize are unable to be saved. By no means is Paul suggesting that keeping the Torah will result in salvation. On the contrary, a redeemed person is not saved by works but is instead called to good works following salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10), and the Torah itself never suggests that by keeping it eternal life will result.[12] It is in the rejection of what the Torah points to that salvation will be lost.

The apostasy is to be attended with false signs and wonders, and a false messiah. Those who fall prey to this are those who “took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Paul had false claims issued against him that he taught apostasy from the Torah, and he refuted it by affirming that the Messianic expectation he held was consistent with what the Law and the Prophets proclaim. It is not by any means inappropriate to suggest that the end-time apostasy, and its accompanying lawlessness, is an outright denial of what the Apostolic Scriptures affirm concerning Yeshua:

“These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 22:44).

“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (John 1:45).

“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:14-15).

By being engulfed in gross lawlessness, denying God’s Torah, such people will deny the quintessential message that it proclaims: the Messiah who was sent to save them from their sins! The beginnings of the gospel are witnessed in the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:8) and move forward throughout the unfolding of salvation history (Hebrews 1:1). While a definite consequence of rejecting God’s Torah is practicing lawlessness and falling into gross immorality and licentiousness—an even more definite consequence is rejecting the One who is spoken of by the Torah and Prophets, the One who will enact immediate judgment upon the antimessiah when He returns (2 Thessalonians 2:8)!

Apostasy in Christianity

Apostasy has been with us since the very beginning, and examples of it are certainly seen throughout the Apostolic Scriptures. There are many evangelical Christians today who look at a passage like 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 and are absolutely horrified at many of the things that are taking place in today’s Church.

Through the advent of much of the charismatic movement, so-called signs and wonders are taking place which have absolutely no precedent in the Bible, or for that same matter most of Church history. Many of you can no doubt remember some of the “moves of the Spirit” as seen in the 1990s via holy laughing or people falling down backward or even people barking like dogs to the Lord. I might be able to believe that God wants us to laugh from time to time from the joy in our hearts, but the only people I see in Scripture who fall down backward are the Roman soldiers who arrested Yeshua (John 18:6). At the Transfiguration of Yeshua, “When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified” (Matthew 17:6). But I am sorry, people barking like dogs, thinking that they are worshipping God, belong in straight jackets and in a lunatic asylum.

I do not want to be perceived as someone who believes that “the gifts are dead”; I am not one of these people, as I do believe that the legitimate gifts of the Holy Spirit are accessible today. But the charismatic movement has made a very easy target of itself, often devoid of much of a Biblical foundation. Some would accuse me of not expecting much from God, but all too frequently we miss out on the great signs and wonders that come by experiencing God’s love, peace, and joy. After all, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Can we at all be content when we have these things manifest in our lives and in the ekklēsia as a whole? For some, this is not enough. The Holy Spirit has to be a yelping junkyard dog, rather than a quiet voice that requires sensitivity and patience.

A much more significant issue in evangelical Christianity today concerns the rise of lawlessness. Many Christians today do not know what to do about the “Old Testament Law.” Many believe that it has been superseded and replaced by a so-called “law of Christ” (cf. Galatians 6:2) that is simply akin to loving others. Many believe that the Torah has important Biblical history, even accurate history, but that it was just for Ancient Israel and thus the Jews today. And, there are many who believe that the weightier matters of God’s Torah, primarily its teachings on ethics and morality, are as true for today as they have been since Mount Sinai. It is mostly among this third group, even while not particularly emphasizing the finer points of the Torah as Messianics, that is absolutely incensed by some of the debates that are occurring in the Church today. These Christians do speak out against other Christians who seek to deride the importance of God’s revelation in the Pentateuch. Consider the response of Walter C. Kaiser in Five Views on Law and Gospel to one who believes that the Torah has been abolished:

“Ultimately, [this teacher] is bound only by what is clearly repeated in New Testament teaching. What advice will he give on marriage to close relatives (cf. Lev. 18), involvement with forms of witchcraft and various forms of the occult (cf. Lev. 19), the case for capital punishment (cf. Gen. 9), or the proscription against abortion (cf. Ex. 21)? Did Americans not learn in 1973 that a New Testament exclusivistic ethic landed us squarely in one of the largest legalized murdering ventures in recent times—now exceeding Hitler’s six million Jews sent up a chimney by four times over with some twenty-four million babies going in a bucket? What will it take to wake us up to the narrowness of our views?”[13]

Indeed, abortion is just one of the most significant issues that causes many of today’s evangelical Christians to turn to the Old Testament and recapture a Torah ethic. The homosexual agenda, and the debate over whether or not this lifestyle is acceptable in the eyes of God, also drives many to turn to the Torah. And with the propagation of both of these things, many people are being driven away from God’s Law and toward lives where there are no boundaries. We need only look at all of the sexual scandals in today’s Church, a direct result of what happens when we deride the Bible’s instruction and fail to discuss critical issues.

When a person surveys some of the lawless activities in today’s Church, are they not aware that the Church of one hundred-fifty, or even fifty years ago, had a much higher view of the Old Testament Law? While many Christian theologians held to the artificial view that God’s commandments were subdivided between those that were moral or ceremonial, the integrity of the ethical and moral commandments were certainly upheld as a high standard to which Believers were to strive to maintain! This has always been an emphasis of holiness movements throughout the ages.

With the advent of dispensationalism, and later German Higher Criticism, both in the Nineteenth Century, the relevance of the Torah’s moral commandments came into question. The Torah, including the Ten Commandments, was surely given by God, but given only to the Jews so say the dispensationalists. The new crop of liberal theologians would ask how we can even be sure of the accuracy of the Old Testament, when there are so many contradictions within it and with the historical and the scientific record. Both have inflicted damage across the spectrum. One, even if accepting its Divine origin, pigeonholes the Torah to just the Jewish people. And the other does not only deny the Divine origins of the Torah, but even its Mosaic origins.

A kind of apostasy that we are likely to begin to see occurring as we move more into the Twenty-First Century regards the overall erosion of the integrity of the Scriptures. Liberalism and atheism have always existed. There are always people who have crises of faith and deny their Creator as a result. Yet, with the advent of the Internet, cable television, and even the mega bookstore, people have access to information today that they did not have access to in the past. This information may be over one-hundred fifty years old in some cases, but it still challenges the Bible’s teachings and accuracy. The pressure that is upon Christian clergy today is to be aware as these things intensify every day with new websites popping up, and new and strange ideas circulating around the world. And with criticism against the historical reliability of the Bible, will undeniably come criticism against its scientific reliability as well…

Apostasy in the Messianic movement?

It would be entirely inappropriate for us as Messianic Believers to only look at some of the negative things going on in the Christian Church today, without also taking a look at ourselves. We should not be so naïve so as to think that apostasy against God only affects the Christian world. Surely, if Christian leaders today have to be on top of their game so as to know the latest criticisms against the Bible, particularly the Tanach—why when you ask such questions of many Messianic “leaders,” do they often draw a blank stare? Some of the criticisms against the Tanach in today’s Christian Church are the very same criticisms present in the Jewish Synagogue! And, they concern the trustworthiness of the Tanach, and whether or not the events it records actually did take place in real history. Anything that affects both the Church and Synagogue affects us, and cannot be avoided.

One of the most significant admonitions that is frequently overlooked by the Messianic community today is seen in Paul’s instructions to Timothy. He tells Timothy, “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:6-7). Why these persons cannot be proper teachers of the Torah is clear: they have forgotten that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). These are the clear imperatives of God’s Torah, and as such Paul places a significant burden of proof on those who think they can teach from it. The good Apostle says, “we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8) or “legitimately” (NRSV), a major part of which is adhering to what it clearly teaches about appropriate human behavior.

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Can there ever be people who keep the Torah, and yet are considered lawless?” I know I am asking this question more and more today as I survey the current Messianic movement. Yeshua said to the Pharisaical leaders, “For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27), precisely because they forgot the greater imperatives of the Torah (Matthew 23:23). We have many Messianic leaders today who focus on small issues of the Torah, yet who forget or even deride the greater issues. Is it possible that they could be practicing an oxymoronic form of Torah lawlessness? Not emphasizing the great ethical and moral imperatives of the Torah, yet being hyper-worried about whether one’s bag of potato chips has a K or U on it, certainly causes me to wonder. Why do we get incensed when something does not have a Rabbinically kosher seal of approval on it, but perhaps tolerate immoral and ungodly attitudes that are disrespectful to the basic humanity of every person?

Let us just consider for a moment how many in our faith community have interpreted Yeshua’s words, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). I agree that all of the commandments in the Torah have something important to teach us. But notice what Yeshua says about those who teach others not to consider the least of the commandments; they will be “least in the kingdom of heaven.” Elachistospert. to being the lowest in status” (BDAG).[14] It pertains to a status in the Kingdom of God—that only God gets to determine. Yeshua says, “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” (Matthew 13:41)—something that only He gets to do.

Even though the Lord is the only One who determines who gets into His Kingdom or not—why are there Messianics who seem to appropriate His job and place themselves as the judge, jury, and executioner of Christians? Will all Christians be “least” in the Kingdom? What do such people do about Christian teachers and theologians who appeal for the Church to return to the high morality of the Torah? What makes any of us think that we can make the final judgment on a person’s soul? Can we really judge a person’s eternal salvation with our own limited human abilities? Is it possible that there might be Messianic Believers—even though they kept things like kosher and the Sabbath—who will be least in God’s Kingdom because they ignored its weightier commandments? I sincerely hope not.

Too much of the Messianic movement today finds itself in a predicament of not understanding “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). We are not going to be the effective movement that we think we are until we get our own house in order first. In the Messianic community, we have certainly seen apostasy from the trustworthiness of the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), faith in Yeshua the Messiah, and belief in God Himself. We have seen people deny the Lord for a variety of reasons, which often are related to the following that occur when someone enters in:

  1. Some people who enter into the Messianic movement feel unwelcome and unloved, particularly among non-Jewish Believers and especially women.
  2. Some people who enter into the Messianic movement are taught to feel hatred and vehemence toward others who do not share their convictions about the Torah.
  3. Some people who enter into the Messianic movement are taught to reject anything that Christianity teaches, and so they later deny Yeshua’s Divinity and His Messiahship.
  4. Not having a firm Biblical foundation, not a few of those who deny Yeshua later deny the very existence of God.[15]

Some of these things directly relate to the motives, attitudes, and behavior of some leaders in various sectors in today’s Messianic movement, and the traits that they foster in those whom they teach. Likewise, the Messianic world has much to answer for in regard to being very much behind the curve in terms of its Biblical Studies. Yeshua says some very blunt things to many of our leaders: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42). Interesting times do lie ahead for the Messianic community, because in the future new leaders with sound spiritual motives and attitudes will have to emerge who will help people in faith, and no door will remain closed in how we examine the Scriptures and what topics can be discussed.

I am very sorry to have to say this, but in this season of our development, one of the worst things that could ever have taken place in the Messianic movement has now taken place. We commonly refer to ourselves as a “fully Biblical movement,” and many deride most of the Christian Church because it only focuses on the “New Testament.” Yet the majority of the Messianic world—probably well over 70%—now practices the reverse error. We only focus on the Torah, and largely ignore the Prophets and Writings of the Tanach. (And we wonder why Jewish anti-missionaries often seem to understand the Messianic prophecies better than we do?) Even worse than that, when we do address the Torah, we often only address bits and pieces of it, and most of us consistently fail to interpret the Torah’s instruction against its legitimate Ancient Near Eastern historical context. We have so much work ahead of us to get us back on the right track it is not even funny!

An Answer to Apostate Trends

Per some of the activities that are occurring in today’s Christian Church, many evangelical Believers are desiring to see change brought to their communities. Whether you realize it or not, Christian interest in the Old Testament is right now at an all time high. Christians today who are true to the Scriptures want to know more about the Tanach beyond that of the prophecies that speak of Jesus. They want to know about the foundational stories and commandments which make up the Biblical revelation. Many even want a hands on and interactive faith, learning about God’s salvation history via things like the Passover. They want to take on more in regard to their faith. These things all work in the Messianic movement’s favor.

But how can we see the Messianic movement transition into something useful for the Lord, putting to rest some of the negative trends we currently witness? Whether you are aware of it or not, many Messianic Believers are aware of the problems present in our faith community, and are desiring to see a different style of Messianic expression emerge in the days ahead. This will be a Messianic movement that is far more mission oriented, one that has a greater appreciation for all of the Scriptures, and one in which no person is made to feel excluded. It is a Messianic movement that will be all of the things Ancient Israel was commissioned to be: a light to the nations and a kingdom of priests (Isaiah 42:6; Exodus 19:5-6).

In order to see this new kind of Messianic movement come forth, we do need to be careful in the coming days to make it clear that we are not opposed to the Messianic lifestyle and things like keeping Shabbat or the appointed times or kosher. What we are opposed to, rather, is the way that the current Messianic movement is being run by some of its “leaders”—being run into the ground. We desire to see a Messianic movement come forth that is fixed and rectified of its various problems. Yet in order to see this happen, difficult and self-critical things have got to be said. We have got to recapture what it means to be a people who can testify to others of our good works and God’s wisdom inside of us (Deuteronomy 4:6).

Yeshua says in His Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His teaching that follows in Matthew chs. 5-7 then lists an entire series of issues that have a firm foundation in the Torah. Many of these issues are things that today’s Messianic movement has forgotten, yet are things that many faithful Christians have observed for centuries. We will be considered least in God’s Kingdom if we forget these things, if we have yet to apostatize from belief in Him. I would suggest that we begin with understanding those words, and imploring our Father to mold us into an effective people that can have a positive testimony to the world. But we will have to leave that discussion for another time….

NOTES

[1] BDB, 597.

[2] Heb. im-b’mered.

[3] LS, 107.

[4] Robert Winston Ross, “Apostasy,” in Everett F. Harrison, ed., Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), 57.

[5] Grk. hoi katanagkazontes tēn apostasian.

[6] “lawless one” (NRSV).

[7] Consult Herbert Wolf, “dat,” in TWOT, 1:458-459.

[8] Consult the chapter of the author’s book Torah In the Balance, Volume I, “The Mystery of Lawlessness,” for a further discussion of this.

[9] Consult the author’s article “Encountering Mythology: A Case Study from the Flood Narratives” for an analysis of the meaning of the Noahdic Flood, particularly in contrast to other ANE flood accounts.

[10] Consult the author’s entry for the Book of Leviticus in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic.

[11] Grk. tēn agapēn tēs alētheias ouk edexanto eis to sōthēnai autous.

[12] Consult the FAQ, “Leviticus 18:5.”

[13] Walter C. Kaiser, “Response to Douglas Moo,” in Wayne G. Strickland, ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 400.

[14] BDAG, 314.

[15] For a further discussion of this, consult the author’s article “Answering the ‘Frequently Avoided Questions’ About the Messiahship of Yeshua.”

Are the 144,000 Among Us Today? – March 2020 OIM News


OIM Update
March 2020

As the month of March arrived, a diverse array of circumstances converged that propelled some introspective thoughts about how life, death, disease, and fear are best combatted by absolute faith in the Holy One and His immutable Word. For if one truly believes in what has been recorded and preserved down through the ages in the Holy Writ, the vagaries and challenges of human existence can be interpreted and analyzed if one has godly wisdom, knows the Lord, and understands His ways, as noted in this conclusive proverb: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NASB). However, most critically, every insight or blessing a person receives from the Creator God is a direct byproduct of knowing and revering Him through a personal relationship. This eternal bond is why children of the Most High make the lifelong effort to read, study, and memorize the living Word of God. After all, when unexpected or even anticipated circumstances inevitably arise, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit can prompt the memory to focus the mind on His ineffable Word and its power to instill comprehension, joy, and peace. Such was what has happened to me over the past few weeks as issues of life, death, disease, and fear have erupted.

When it came to life, the reality of aging arrived with the annual reminder of my birth date, and the sobering reality that the big “70” is next on the horizon! For some reason that year appeared to be older than I recalled from the past. But when my 69th birthday came, I was reminded of when I turned 50 almost twenty years ago, with the thought that I probably had more good years behind me rather than in the future. Then the fleeting thought of how fast the past twenty years flew by, also caught my attention! Nevertheless, I was comforted by this sagely passage from Moses, where he reminds us to number our days, in order to present to God a heart of wisdom:

“For all our days have declined in Thy fury; we have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. Who understands the power of Thine anger, and Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee? So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Thy servants. O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, and the years we have seen evil. Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, and Thy majesty to their children. And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:9-17, NASB).

In addition to a birthday celebration, I also had to deal with renewing a term life insurance policy that would be affordable for the next fifteen years. Thankfully, based on the lab results, I was able to qualify for the highest “preferred plus” rate (since the insurance company projected my lifespan to the mid-90s). But looking ahead to my 85th year actuarily speaking, only comforted me when thinking about Caleb, one of my heroes of the faith. After all, when faithful Caleb was 85, he was given what I refer to as the “heart of the watermelon” of the Promised Land, because it was where the caves of Machpelah, the sacred burial site for Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah in Hebron:

“So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully. And now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord has spoken” (Joshua 14:9-12, NASB).

Age did not seem to bother Caleb’s strength, and no doubt, he presented to the Lord a heart of wisdom, after his numbered days ended. Now my goal is to emulate Caleb and maintain health, strength, and the mental acuity to serve the Lord until the race is won (1 Corinthians 9:24)!

On the flip side of life, we had to deal with the death of a dear brother who had suffered for months through strokes and the onset of pneumonia in his waning days. This dear, African American friend, had served in the U.S. Army and retired from the Ford Motor Company, and during my hospital visits, I was more concerned about praying for his caretaker wife, who was bearing the brunt of her husband’s slow march to death. I was honored to be asked to be a pallbearer, and at the family visitation the night before the funeral, I was asked to share about our brother’s life to his family and friends gathered. Almost immediately upon being asked, a passage of scripture from the Book of Ecclesiastes came to mind, that I think best reflected this man’s life, and one that I pray will be understood at my departure. But as I read to those in attendance, I remarked that only people who understand more than just the knowledge of eternity in their hearts, but the very Creator God who placed it there, would comprehend what this passage states:

“A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, NASB).

Most assuredly, the natural mind cannot comprehend what only the spiritual mind can understand (1 Corinthians 2:14-16), and for those without hope, the very concept of the day of one’s death being better than the day of one’s birth, makes very little sense. However, for those with spiritual blessings, the reality that at the end of one’s life, if the journey has been to honor the Holy One and serve Him wholeheartedly and without reservation, then the welcome greeting, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” is all one desires to hear. Of course, the stark reality that death is eventually going to claim us all if the Lord tarries, then it should be a day of celebration that the good fight has been won (1 Timothy 6:12), the race is completed and by God’s grace, as we cross the line from life to death, our chests are extended, breaking the finish line tape with all of our earthly might. That is what I want to do! May God give each of us the grace and faith to receive His reward.

Next came the extended outbreak of a disease that has the world health authorities baffled to the point of almost inciting unparalleled panic primarily because of the proliferation of social media and the connectivity now available to the citizens of the planet, because of the ubiquitous devices that people “never leave home” without them in their possession. Without minimizing the problems associated with disease, imagine a map of the world or graphic statistics that indicate the number of people with influenza (the flu), and the corresponding deaths associated with that viral infection. Quite frankly, after being informed about the average number of deaths in just the U.S.A. in recent years, those numbers would make the highly publicized coronavirus numbers pale in comparison. And yet with the increase in media paranoia, the global community is experiencing a test of its resolve to deal with a disease that has made SARS, MERS, and even Ebola in the recent past seem almost like nothing, relatively speaking. Of course, it is highly recommended that everyone follows the basic instructions for maintaining individual safeguards and hygiene. But rather than panic or let anxiety overtake your thoughts, trust in the Lord and adhere to this ancient advice, from far more critical issues:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua. 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, let your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:6-8, NASB).

In addition, at a home fellowship meeting early this month, the discussion migrated toward the events of the day, which also included the coronavirus and how different people were dealing with it. I was surprised that some were confessing fears, which I personally thought were way overblown. Here I was among Believers and the spirit of fear seemed to start to creep into the home. It was almost like a contagion of sorts, as it seemed to spread from one to another. Almost immediately as the concerns were becoming elevated, my mind went to a number of verses, which literally act to contain fear when it starts to emote. Of course, the primary weapon against fear is faith and this scripture came to mind:

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NASB).

Obviously, among those who follow the Messiah Yeshua, the desire is to please the Holy One and so recalling that no weapon formed against us will prosper also came up among the crowd gathered. But note in this passage from Isaiah that it is prefaced with the reminder that the children of God will be established in righteousness and will not fear:

“In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you. If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you. Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin. No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 54:14-17, NASB).

In conclusion, as life, death, disease, and fear are humanity’s issues that will be dealt with in varying degrees from time to time, the Believing community of faith needs to rely upon the Word of God and our knowledge that the Almighty One is with us and guiding us through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit! The Ruach is always there to not only teach us, but comfort us during these seasons of trials, tribulations, and tests that inevitably arise:

“But the Helper [Comforter], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:26-27, NASB).

And finally, as we celebrate the Feast of Purim this month, let us all be reminded that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we are ambassadors for the Holy One of Israel and commanded to represent Him in whatever troubled or even calm waters where we may be traveling. Let us remember that God is sovereignly in control of all things, and He alone has placed us exactly where He wants us to be a useful vessel to advance His Kingdom on Earth. In Esther’s case, Mordecai reminded her that she was positioned for “a such a time as this”:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NASB).

May we all remain healthy as Spring approaches, and the reminder of the Resurrection that follows the commemoration of the Last Seder, and sacrifice of Yeshua next month! We have much to be thankful for, because our Advocate sits at the right hand of our Heavenly Father, and faithfully intercedes for His followers.

And of course, we are extremely grateful for your prayers and financial support as we seek to advance God’s Kingdom, until the restoration of all things…

Mark Huey


Are the 144,000 Among Us Today?

by J.K. McKee

When many of us have been conditioned to monitor world events, to see if various global and political phenomenon are steering us closer to the return of the Messiah—we have been necessarily conditioned to look for the “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) warned about in His Olivet Discourse. Many of us have been inclined to look at various world leaders of influence, and be prompted to consider, “let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six” (Revelation 13:8, NRSV). Even though we each profess to be born again Believers, who claim faith in the Messiah of Israel—and as such constitute the forces of the Kingdom of Light—many people who study and follow the end-times are far too concerned about the affairs of the Kingdom of Darkness.

Some of the most important players detailed in the Book of Revelation, who actually constitute the forces of the Kingdom of Light, and are to perform some kind of critical tasks or assignments in the anticipated Tribulation period, are the 144,000 sealed servants of the children of Israel:

“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.’ And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel: From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed” (Revelation 7:1-8, NRSV).

“Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless” (Revelation 14:1-5, NRSV).

Several years ago, I was privy to a conversation with a major Messianic Jewish leader (2017), who asserted without hesitation that “The antimessiah is alive on Planet Earth today!” I half-jokingly responded with, “I hope he is in diapers!” If he has still yet to grow up, then it gives our faith community a fighting chance to make a difference in the meantime!

Very recently this past December, I was attending a Messianic Jewish conference, where another leader, who has been a born again Believer since 1965, declared rather stridently that, “The Messianic Jewish movement will give rise to the 144,000 of the Book of Revelation!” I actually tend to be in agreement with this. And, at least wondering whether or not the 144,000 sealed servants of Revelation are alive today on Planet Earth, is no different than wondering whether or not the antimessiah/antichrist is alive as well. But while we can all, quite easily, agree that with the spiritual state of our planet literally going to Hell—and as such is quite ripe for the rise of the false messiah—what about the spiritual state of today’s Messianic movement? Are we actually a faith community which is capable of one day giving rise to the 144,000?

Today’s Messianic movement, because of its emphasis on Jewish evangelism and the Romans 11:26 trajectory of salvation history, tends to pride itself on being “the end-time move of God.” If this is indeed the case, then it becomes increasingly imperative for us to ask ourselves the question, “Are the 144,000 among us today?” Rather than this being some ambivalent mystery or enigma, we should seriously consider whether or not the spiritual and religious culture in the broad Messianic community today is presently seeing these individuals being raised up, and coming to the surface among us. Would the present Messianic movement, and the state of much of its theology, be able to recognize the 144,000 without some dramatic supernatural sign or event associated with them? When I review some of the descriptions given to us of the 144,000 in Revelation, and consider their implication, I would seriously question whether or not today’s Messianic movement—in its present form—is actually capable of seeing the 144,000 come forth from its midst. Some severe reforms, both theological and spiritual, will have to be enacted, in order to see this actually achieved.

Proposals Made About the 144,000

What has been proposed about the 144,000 of Revelation 7:1-4 and 14:1-5 in contemporary theology? Most frequently among Protestant examiners, the 144,000 have been allegorized as representative of “the Church.” This is a line of interpretation most widely based within replacement theology. Israel has been replaced by “the Church,” and thus any Biblical promises or prophecies involving a literal Israel, have to instead be viewed as a spiritual metaphor for the bounty of “the Church.” The 144,000 only being a metaphor of the redeemed of “the Church”—and not a literal 144,000 sealed servants from Israel—is sometimes based on how not all of the formal Twelve Tribes of Israel are included in Revelation 7 or 14; Dan is missing, Joseph is included, and Levi is included.

While among resources and commentaries on the Book of Revelation, one is most likely to find an allegorized approach to the 144,000, there are certainly perspectives one will encounter, which support more of a literal approach. More frequently than not, these are found among dispensational examiners. The famed Ryrie Study Bible is one resource where a literal 144,000 are supported. Commenting on Revelation 7:4, it asserts that “These are Jews from the 12 tribes (12,000 each) who are protected in order to perform some service for God during these days. Perhaps they are evangelists. The omission of the tribe of Dan may be because Dan was guilty of idolatry on many occasions (Lev. 24:11; Judg. 18; 1 Kings 12:28, 29).”[1] It includes further remarks on Revelation 14:4, noting the personal disposition of the 144,000:

“This may simply mean that the 144,000 were unmarried, or it may indicate their purposeful celibate state of separation unto God (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2)…The salvation of the 144,000 will forerun the salvation of a larger group of Israelites, who will turn to the Lord at the end of the tribulation (cf. Isa. 2:3; Rom. 11:15).”[2]

More detailed thoughts on the 144,000 are offered by John F. Walvoord, in the Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament. While he differs from Ryrie in the conclusion that the 144,000 may be end-time evangelists of some sort, Walvoord does take a strong stance against an allegorized approach to these individuals. In his statements on Revelation 7:4, Walvoord summarizes,

“Attempts have been made to identify the 12 tribes here with the church, mostly to avoid the implication that this is literally Israel. The fact that specific tribes were mentioned and specific numbers from each tribe were indicated would seem to remove this from the symbolic and to justify literal interpretation. If God intended these verses to represent Israel literally, He would have used this means. Nowhere else in the Bible do a dozen references to the 12 tribes mean the church. Obviously Israel will be in the Tribulation, and though men do not know the identification of each tribe today, certainly God knows.

“Much speculation has arisen about why the tribe of Dan is omitted. Joseph and one of his two sons, Manasseh, are listed, but Ephraim, Joseph’s other son, is omitted. Thus if Dan were included, there would have been 13 tribes. According to J.B. Smith, Scripture contains 29 lists of the tribes of Israel in the Old and New Testaments and in no case are more than 12 tribes mentioned (A Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 130). The tribe omitted was usually Levi, from which the priesthood came. Inasmuch as it is normal to have only 12 and not 13 tribes, the omission of Dan is not significant. Perhaps Dan was omitted here because it was one of the first tribes to go into idolatry (Jud. 18:30; cf. 1 Kings 12:28-29). However, Dan is mentioned in Ezekiel 48:2 in the millennial land distribution.”[3]

Walvoord makes the following, further remarks on Revelation 14:3-5:

“Reference to the purity of the 144,000 could be recognition that during the difficult times of the Tribulation they could not have led normal married lives. Or it may refer to spiritual purity, often symbolized by virginity (cf. 2 Kings 19:21; Isa. 37:22; Jer. 18:13; 31:4, 21; Lam. 2:13; Amos 5:2). In 2 Corinthians 11:2 the concept of virginity is extended to the entire church, including both sexes.

“Some people believe that the 144,000 will be evangelists in the Great Tribulation. But there is no indication that the 144,000 were preachers or prophets; their testimony was largely from their moral purity and the fact that they were not martyred like many others. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.[4]

More within the realm of our own Messianic faith community, remarks similar to those of Ryrie and Walvoord are seen in the Moody Bible Commentary, edited by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham. In its remarks on Revelation 7:1-8, it first states,

“Four angels were commissioned to delay the winds of judgment until God’s bond-servants could be sealed for protection. The seal indicates God’s ownership and thus protection by God. No more judgment would be exacted against the earth until their safety was assured…[T]hey are rightly related to the Father and bear His seal upon their foreheads. They appear in stark contrast to those who are later seen as identifying with the beast by accepting his mark (13:16).”[5]

The Moody Commentary goes further here, asking, “Were the 144,000 evangelists who had witnessed to the great throng?”[6]

Addressing the personal disposition of the 144,000 in Revelation 14:1-5, it notes something different than the frequent conclusion that these figures are celibate singles:

“The most likely meaning of not being defiled with women and keeping chaste is that they have not engaged in false worship. In the OT, frequently Israel’s idolatry was described as spiritual adultery (Ex 34:11-17; Nm 25:1-9; Hs 1:2; 2:2). The unflagging attention of these faithful servants as on the Lamb, whom they constantly followed around heaven.”[7]

To many evangelical examiners of the past three to four decades—certainly in dispensational quarters—the 144,000 have been approached as 144,000 single male Jews. They are frequently concluded as figures to be sealed, with the expressed intention of evangelizing the unsaved during the Tribulation period, perhaps to be regarded as “144,000 Jewish Billy Grahams.” To dispensationalists, after the pre-tribulation rapture takes place, God will resume His program with Israel, and the 144,000 will be sealed. They will likely be credited with seeing the prophecy of Matthew 24:14 come to pass: “And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come” (NRSV). The 144,000 are commonly thought to be figures embodying the major qualities of the evangelist. And, given the obvious symbolism of the number twelve in the specific quantity 144,000, these figures will to some degree, mirror the position of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Disciples of Yeshua.

Messianic approaches to the 144,000 tend to sit somewhere along dispensational lines, although likely with more appeals made to these figures embodying the qualities of significant persons in the Tanach Scriptures as well, such as Ancient Israel’s Prophets. Not all Messianic interpretations, in fact likely a majority today, hold to the sealing of a literal 144,000 only subsequent to a pre-tribulation rapture. Many of today’s Messianics, while holding to a literal 144,000 from the Book of Revelation, also hold to a post-tribulational gathering of the holy ones or saints into the clouds, prior to Yeshua’s arrival to Planet Earth.

What have Messianic people said about the 144,000?

When investigating the available Messianic materials on the Book of Revelation, not a huge amount has been said about the 144,000—but what has been said, may certainly be regarded as intriguing.

In his Jewish New Testament Commentary (1995), remarking on Revelation 7:4, David H. Stern takes a hardline stance against the view that the 144,000 should be allegorized as representing “the Church.” He stresses that the 144,000 are going to be Jews, and makes the effort to also emphasize the supernatural preservation of the Jewish people throughout history:

From every tribe of the people of Israel. The plain sense…of this phrase is ‘from among the entire Jewish people.’ But many commentators say it refers to the Church….However, the case that the 144,000 from every tribe of the people of Israel means ‘the Church’ is [hard] to make here; because v. 9 below speaks of ‘a huge crowd, too large for anyone to count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.’ Apparently this innumerable crowd of saved Gentiles is to be contrasted with the delimited number of saved Jews in the present verse. Furthermore, to emphasize the fact that these 144,000 are Jews, vv. 5-8 lists the twelve tribes; this would have no immediate relevance to the Church…

“One objection sometimes made to interpreting these 144,000 as Jews is that there is supposedly no reason why Jews would be singled out for special protection. Such thinking contradicts the whole of salvation history as set forth in the Tanakh and reflects an unawareness on the part of Gentile Christian commentators that they have been joined to Israel, that is, to the Jewish people. God, by his grace, has singled out the Jewish people for special protection for thousands of years. After centuries of dispersion and persecution, culminating in the Holocaust, we would not exist at all without such protection. This protection is promised over and over by the Prophets, even when Israel becomes sinful and breaks covenant; though it is not always promised to the entire people, but rather only to a remnant (see Ro 9:27-29, 11:1-32)—such as the 144,000. Moreover the sealing of the Jewish people from judgment corresponds specifically to God’s promise at Zechariah 9:14-16…”[8]

Noting some of the issues in Revelation 7:5-8 about the different tribal lists, Stern appeals to the Nineteenth Century opinions of Yechiel Lichtenstein, who believes that there was a scribal error which did not get corrected in the transcription of Revelation.[9] But, this is a matter of conjecture. What is not a matter of conjecture, is that “If it is meant literally that 12,000 from each tribe are to be selected, it can be objected that no one will know who belongs to which tribe, since genealogies no longer exist. One answer: God, who will be doing the choosing, will know.”[10] It is to be correctly thought that many of the 144,000 will not know what their tribal heritage is, until they are sealed by the Lord. Regarding such sealing (Revelation 7:1), Stern concludes,

“The 144,000 are…Messianic Jews…Their foreheads are ‘sealed’ (7:2-3&N, 9:4) with both the Lamb’s name and his Father’s name (contrast 13:16-17), Of the two t’fillin is worn on the forehead and contains the Father’s name, YHVH (see 13:16-17aN); it symbolizes complete devotion and open profession. These 144,000 will be equally open and devoted about proclaiming the name of the Lamb, Yeshua.”[11]

Stern makes some further claims regarding Revelation 14:4 which need to be recognized as well. His CJB/CJSB says, “These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; they follow the Lamb wherever he goes; they have been ransomed from among humanity as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.” In his estimation, “These are not male celibates, despite the explicit mention of women. Rather, they are people of both sexes who are faithful to God and his Son, as the rest of vv. 4-5 makes clear. Fornication is a common biblical metaphor for idolatry—for several examples from the Tanakh see Ezekiel 16, 23 and Hosea 1-5. Here in the book of Revelation, misdirected worship is explicitly called whoring at v. 8 below, as well as at 17:2, 4; 18:3, 9; 19:2.”[12] Stern does not conclude that being defiled with women is a reference to sexual chastity, but instead denotes abstinence from idolatry. He also thinks that the 144,000 will be sealed from among ethnic Jews of both genders, male and female.

More recently, the reflective commentary Yochanan (John) Presents the Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah (2018) by Gavriel Lumbroso, offers some general thoughts on the 144,000, concluding that they are 144,000 Messianic Jews:

“Ya’akov [James], the brother of the Master, was known for his intercessory prayers for Israel, but Yochanan [John] had also certainly cried and wept over the fate of the Jewish believers of his day. They were caught between the Roman government’s persecution of Jews, the harassment of the Sadducee-influenced Israelites, and the Gentile believers who rejected and harassed them. At the time of the vision, Yochanan sees some good news. He reassures them that no matter what happens to them in the earthly reality, their heavenly fate was sealed. Twelve thousand from each tribe, or 144,000 Jewish believers, would be given HaShem’s seal of protection…Not only do these receive a seal of protection, but they serve as first fruits…In the vision of the 144,000 sealed Messianic Jews, the Israelites are represented by their own first fruit, and after that, Israel stands as the first fruit for the rest of humanity…”[13]

Lumbroso further observes, regarding the character of these individuals, “Yochanan sees these 144,000 faithful who have stayed close and did not compromise with the beast and its demands.”[14]

It is easy to see that Messianic Jewish interpretations and approaches to the 144,000 are consistent with dispensational views. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Messianic Jewish teachers are most interested in dispelling the idea that the 144,000 are to be allegorized as a symbol for “the Church,” something resultant of supersessionist interpretations. Still, there are finer details regarding the 144,000 to be considered.

What are the 144,000 sealed to do?

There is nothing explicitly stated in the text of Revelation regarding what the 144,000 are specifically sealed to do, and so from that examiners and readers have made various proposals. The 144,000 are often concluded to represent the last declarers of the good news, perhaps commissioned by the Lord to speak forth the Matthew 24:14 “gospel of the Kingdom,” a message involving both personal salvation and the final restoration of Israel’s Kingdom via the impending return of the Messiah. At times, the 144,000 are likened unto the fishers and hunters involved in the final restoration of Israel: “I am now sending for many fishermen, says the LORD, and they shall catch them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks” (Jeremiah 16:16, NRSV).

It is not at all an inappropriate stretch to think that the sealing of the 144,000 is akin to the encounter of Moses at the Burning Bush, the commission of Joshua who lead Israel into the Promised Land, the selection of various Prophets in Ancient Israel, as well as the supernatural encounters of figures like the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road. All of these figures of faith were sealed to perform some incredible work in their generations, so the sealing of the 144,000 by necessity should go beyond the Lord’s faithfulness to preserve Israel and the Jewish people until the end-times.

The 144,000 Are from the Twelve Tribes

Almost all of those you would encounter today, in the broad Messianic movement, should hold to a literal view of the 144,000 being ethnic Israelites. An allegorized view of the 144,000, simply representative of “a harvest of Believers,” comes from a supersessionist hermeneutic. Even a Messianic allegorized view, seeing it as representative of a great salvation of Jewish people in the end-times, should rightly not sit too well with us. A literal view of the 144,000 would see these figures as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—yet it cannot go overlooked that there have been some claims made against this, from the text, for a variety of reasons.

Revelation 7:4-5a first speaks of the sealing of those from the tribe of Judah, “I heard how many were sealed—144,000 from every tribe of the people of Isra’el: From the tribe of Y’hudah 12,000 were sealed” (CJB/CJSB). To many, this bespeaks of an allegorical perspective, because Reuben was the firstborn of Jacob/Israel (Genesis 29:32), and Judah was the fourth born (Genesis 29:35). Yet the placement of the tribe of Judah first, here, is hardly a surprise, given how Judah is given the scepter of authority in Jacob/Israel’s decree, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes” (Genesis 49:10, NASU).

More pressing for some readers, is how the tribe of Dan is totally missing from the list of those sealed in Revelation 7:5-8, and instead Levi and Joseph are included (Revelation 7:7-8). Why is the tribe of Dan absent from among the 144,000? The most frequent explanation offered by various commentaries, concerns a penchant that the tribe of Dan had for pagan idolatry. As is specifically detailed in Testament of Dan 5:4-7 from the Pseudepigrapha,

“For I know that in the last days you will defect from the Lord, you will be offended at Levi, and revolt against Judah; but you will not prevail over them. An angel of the Lord guides them both, because by them Israel shall stand. To the extent that you abandon the Lord, you will live by every evil deed, committing the revolting acts of the gentiles, chasing after wives of lawless men, and you are motivated to all wickedness by the spirits of deceit among you. For I read in the Book of Enoch the Righteous that your prince is Satan and that all the spirits of sexual promiscuity and of arrogance devote attention to the sons of Levi in the attempt to observe them closely and cause them to commit sin before the Lord. My sons will draw close to Levi, will participate with them in all manner of sins; and with the sons of Judah they will share in greed, like lions snatching what belongs to others. Accordingly you will be led off with them into captivity; there you will receive all the plagues of Egypt, and all the evils of the gentiles.”[15]

While today’s Messianic people will be seen to widely conclude that the 144,000 are ethnic Israelites, there are still questions regarding who these will be. That the 144,000 are sealed in twelve sets of 12,000, should be taken as a definite indication that many do not know what their tribal lineage actually is, mainly due to genealogies being lost throughout history. Certainly, the further question can also be raised, whether or not there are going to be people who are sealed among the 144,000, who had little or no knowledge of them being physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. While we need to remain mature about this, it can be recognized how throughout history there have been people whose Jewish ancestry has remained (purposefully) hidden from them. And, there are people who sit outside of the mainstream Jewish community, who may be regarded as legitimate descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes, deported to areas within the sphere of influence of the old Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires—namely various small groups and sects in Africa and India, recognized as legitimate groups by Rabbinical authorities in Israel.[16] So, while it may be that the 144,000 are likely to mainly made of up Messianic Jewish Believers, that God may have a few surprises in store regarding some additional others, cannot at all be discounted.

The 144,000 are sealed to be significant leaders in the end-times, sitting in the tradition of Moses, Joshua, the Prophets, and the Apostles. But simply because they are sealed to be significant leaders of God’s people, during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble or the Tribulation period—hardly means that they are going to be the only leaders. Many non-Jewish Believers with a Ruth calling, who will stick by their Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters in the end-times—until death (cf. Ruth 1:16-17)—will doubtlessly be used by the Lord as well, serving alongside many of the 144,000 shoulder to shoulder. Examples of First Century non-Jewish leaders like Titus, who oversaw the congregations on Crete, should no doubt come to mind. But the 144,000 sealed ethnic Israelites, will definitely serve as a beacon to the world, that the Apostles’ question of “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6, TLV) is finally going to be answered.

What does it mean for the 144,000 to be chaste?

Based on the statements of Revelation 14:4-5, detailing the character of the 144,000, many holding to a literal view of these individuals, conclude that they will be celibate male virgins. As it appears in a Messianic version like the TLV, “These are the ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been redeemed from among mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no lie—they are blameless.” There is little doubting the fact that whoever the 144,000 are going to be, that they are going to have to be sexually pure and above accusation. However, it has to be noted that some versions stop short of rendering the Greek parthenoi gar eisin with “virgins,” but instead may have “for they have kept themselves chaste” (NASU).

Some examiners, as noted previously, do not think that the 144,000 will be celibate, but instead that the reference to not being defiled with women speaks to an abstinence from idolatry. Other people, certainly believing that the 144,000 will be sexually chaste and pure, are confounded regarding who on Earth, among today’s Messianic Jewish community, are going to be found who are virgins. Because of the sexual perversions that have plagued humanity from the beginning—but most especially today—we would, sadly, be hard-pressed at times to find that many young virgins in today’s Messianic movement. Precisely because of the impracticability that many see in finding celibate virgins in today’s world, and especially in a small Messianic movement, it is not a surprise why some consider alternative views of parthenoi gar eisin that include married males and females. This even includes my own deliberations on the 144,000.

Are all of the 144,000 going to be male celibates, who are virgins who have never had sexual intercourse? It is absolutely true that the marriage bed is undefiled (Hebrews 13:4), and that there is a proper, Biblical orientation toward righteous sexuality. I think it is possible that there may be some married males among the 144,000, but on the condition that they remained sexually pure and only had sexual intercourse in the context of marriage. If one is going to be flexible with the requirement for the 144,000 to be chaste, then it means that in addition to there being male celibates, then any male who had sexual intercourse was never defiled by pre-marital or homosexual sins. And indeed, it is to be unfortunately observed that most couples being married today in evangelical Protestantism, enter into a union where at least one of the spouses was involved in some kind of pre-marital sex.

Another point that cannot be dismissed is the strong likelihood of there being females among the 144,000—especially as it is more likely today for females to remain more sexually chaste than males. There is nothing in the text of either Revelation 7:1-8 or 14:1-5 which would disqualify females from being among those who are to be sealed. In fact, if there are going to be any married males, who were sexually pure, sealed among the 144,000—we should absolutely think that their wives are going to be sealed right alongside them, making them a proverbial “power couple” not unlike Priscilla and Aquila (cf. Acts 18:26).

Why do the 144,000 have to be dramatically sealed?

Given the significant apocalyptic drama in the Book of Revelation, why do the 144,000 have to be publicly sealed? Revelation 7:3 attests, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (ESV). The sealing of the 144,000 seemingly takes place in conjunction with some huge ecological catastrophes that will befall Planet Earth during the Tribulation. But if the 144,000 are going to be significant leaders of God’s people during the Tribulation period, why would they need to be dramatically sealed in an event like Moses’ encounter at the Burning Bush or the Prophet Isaiah’s encounter of God’s throne in Isaiah 6? Why would these people not already be recognized as leaders by the faith community at large?

Traditionally, the 144,000 have been viewed as being ethnic Israelites who are single male celibates. In today’s broad Messianic movement, even in the year 2020, there are not that many Messianic synagogues or congregations where one will witness single males serving in the leadership. This is partially based, incorrectly, on a universal reading of instructions such as 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 12 and Titus 2:5, rather than them being situational instructions given to Timothy and Titus, appointing new leaders in response to the circumstances that have arisen in Ephesus and on Crete.[17] Much more concerning, is the widespread complementarianism of too much of today’s Messianic movement, where only married males, and not single males, and certainly not women, are only thought to be qualified leaders and teachers in the Body of Messiah. This complementarianism also, although without any Biblical support, conflates marital status and spiritual maturity—in spite of significant Biblical examples of leaders such as the Apostle Paul, and surprisingly even for some Yeshua the Messiah Himself, never having married.[18]

If the majority of the 144,000 are going to be single male celibates—and today’s Messianic community frequently does not include single males, much less females, into the leadership structure of its congregations—it is hardly a surprise to me why the 144,000 will have to be dramatically and publicly sealed. There may not be any other way for many Messianic people to recognize the 144,000 as the leaders that God has chosen for the end-times!

Are the 144,000 Among Us Today?

Much of today’s Messianic movement claims that it is “the end-time move of God,” precisely and correctly because it focuses on the Romans chs. 9-11 trajectory of salvation history. But how prepared is our faith community, really, to see the 144,000 be raised up among us?

Many of today’s Messianic Jewish unmarried young people are, lamentably, just as sexually active as those in today’s evangelical church are. Today’s Messianic movement, while widely concluding that the 144,000 will be celibate male virgins, does not often incorporate single males, much less females, into the leadership structure of its congregations. Today’s Messianic movement, while widely concluding that (the majority of) the 144,000 will be unmarried, does not consider the married and single estates to be co-equal. Today’s Messianic movement has a tendency to ignore the examples of significant single male leaders in the Scriptures, such as the Prophet Jeremiah, James the Just, the Apostle Paul, and even Yeshua the Messiah Himself. (Significant examples of female leaders, such as the Judge Deborah, Priscilla, or Apostle Junia often do not even get recognized.) What does this say about the environment from which we are expecting the 144,000 to come forth?

With the 2020s now upon us, a significant review of a wide number of issues are in order. We are closer to the return of the Messiah now, more than we ever have been before! And yet, in thinking that the 144,000 are going to come forth from us—we might be hard pressed to find 144 virgins, male or female, Jewish or non-Jewish, in our Messianic faith community today. I, and various others, while being flexible on the details regarding the 144,000, would still expect them to have passed bar/bat mitzvah age, and be closer to the age of 20—than the 144,000 being found sexually chaste solely because they had never gone through puberty!

Many aspects of our current spiritual culture will have to change, if today’s Messianic movement is the faith community from which the 144,000 are going to be raised up. It is not going to be easy, and the conversations which are ahead of us are going to be uncomfortable for many. Yet, the 144,000 will be “beyond reproach” (Revelation 14:5, Phillips). We may not humanly understand how such sexually chaste young men and young women will be raised up from among us. And indeed, many will be surprised one day, when a young man or young woman is dramatically sealed by the Lord—because such persons may have otherwise been overlooked or ignored for a leadership position in the Body of Messiah. It is certainly my prayer that I have already encountered various Messianic Jewish young people who will be among the 144,000 sealed servants of the children of Israel.


NOTES

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, ed. The Ryrie Study Bible, New American Standard (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 1904.

[2] Ibid., 1912.

[3] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 949.

[4] Ibid., 964.

[5] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds., The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 2010.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 2017.

[8] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1995), pp 810, 812.

[9] Ibid., pp 811-812.

[10] Ibid., 812.

[11] Ibid., 830.

[12] Ibid., 830.

[13] Gavriel Lumbroso, Yochanan (John) Presents the Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah (Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books, 2018), 140.

[14] Ibid.

[15] H.C. Kee, “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” trans., in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 809.

[16] For a fair resolution of the controversies caused by the Two-House teaching, consult the author’s book Israel in Future Prophecy.

[17] Consult the author’s commentary The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic.

[18] For a further discussion, consult the author’s book Men and Women in the Body of Messianic: Answering Crucial Questions.

A Question for the Ages – February 2020 OIM News


OIM Update
February 2020

For the faithful followers of Messiah Yeshua, it is a sobering reality that the promised abundant life with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24) remains peppered with seen and unseen trials, tribulations, and tests which inevitably crop up (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Nevertheless, living life by faith is essentially navigating from one conscience choice or decision to another. From a person’s waking moments to his or her slumbering thoughts, the mind is actively deciding where to focus its attention. While trials and tribulations might require survival instincts and self-defensive actions to avoid pain or extinction, the more subtle “tests” of life which invade the mind and thoughts can ultimately determine a person’s destiny.

Providentially, the concept of “tests” filtered into my waking mind the other day while in attendance at a conference of Messianic Jews and Gentiles gathered to praise the Lord, with all determined to advance His Kingdom on Earth. Now admittedly, my thoughts were influenced during the weekend meetings, because I was also convening with three Believers (a Jew and two non-Jews), who I conference call with weekly, to formulate a manual for advancing the Biblical concept of the “one new man” among many in the contemporary Church. Thus, the essence of Paul’s exhortation to the Believers in Asia Minor was percolating in my head:

For He is our shalom, the One who made the two into one and broke down the middle wall of separation. Within His flesh He made powerless the hostilitythe law code of mitzvot contained in regulations. He did this in order to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom, and to reconcile both to God in one body through the cross—by which He put the hostility to death. And He came and proclaimed shalom to you who were far away and shalom to those who were near—for through Him we both have access to the Father by the same Ruach. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. You have been built on the foundation made up of the emissaries and prophets, with Messiah Yeshua Himself being the cornerstone. In Him the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple for the Lord. In Him, you also are being built together into God’s dwelling place in the Ruach” (Ephesians 2:14-22, TLV).

In addition, I have been influenced by and agreed wholeheartedly with a statement made to me by a wise Jewish, elder-leader friend, who has been used by the Lord for the past fifty years to advance the Messianic Jewish movement to where it stands today. A few years ago, he told me that “In order for God to accomplish great advances in His Kingdom on Earth, the Lord has typically used what would be likened to a ‘joint venture’ between Jews and Gentiles.” Upon hearing this declaration, the profundity of it resonated in my heart and spirit. As a result of his perceptive understanding of Biblical history, I have discovered several times throughout the Scriptures where “joint ventures” of sorts are observable. Here are a few examples that come to mind.

First, we see the Israelites’ release from bondage in Egypt, and the miraculous escape from absolute slavery to Pharaoh. But after the Israelites and a mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38) were on their own, and traveling to the Promised Land, it was Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, a Rechabite who knew the Almighty One, who “came to the rescue” and advised Moses to alter his management style, thus preventing potential loss of the revered deliverer at the helm of the desert sojourn:

“It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.’ So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said” (Exodus 18:13-24, NASU).

Thankfully, Moses passed the test of his leadership responsibility and followed Jethro’s advice. Consequently, the march to the Promised Land proceeded, albeit delayed for forty years due to disobedience and lack of faith transmitted to a majority of Israelites by the bad report of the “ten spies” (Numbers 14). Hence, Moses, a chosen son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or Israelite, would heed the instruction of a Gentile Jethro—a joint venture of sorts—resulting in relative order, so that God’s promise to give the Land of Canaan to the liberated Israel would eventually happen.

A second major event in the history of Israel, was the overthrowing of the Jebusites and establishment of the nation with its capital in Jerusalem where God would place His name (1 Kings 8:29). King David was the principal individual God chose to accomplish this task, after years of infighting among the Israelites and the persistent harassment of the Philistines. Nevertheless, when it came to subdue the nations that were preventing the city of David from forming on Mount Moriah, David employed the use of the “mighty men” from a variety of Gentile backgrounds. 1&2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles 11 describe the many different mighty men who were from different nations, who were led by King David and helped him secure the city of Jebus, so Jerusalem would be established as the eternal capital of Israel. This obvious “joint venture” of Jew and Gentile indicates that David passed the test of including people from the nations, to accomplish God’s goal where the Ark of the Covenant would reside, and the Temple would be built.

A third ancient “joint venture” is described in 2 Kings 10, where the anointed King Jehu is tasked with eliminating the worshippers of Baal from Israel. In this critical collaboration, King Jehu of Israel includes righteous Jehonadab, (incidentally like Jethro from the Gentile nation of Rechabites), to join him in destroying the plague of Baal worshippers in a dramatic encounter. This passage of Scripture describes the effectiveness of a Jew and a Gentile “joint venture,” utilizing their respective physical abilities and spiritual giftings, to accomplish a great cleansing of Israel from the poison of Baal worshippers in their midst:

“Now when he had departed from there, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him; and he greeted him and said to him, ‘Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?’ And Jehonadab answered, ‘It is.’ Jehu said, ‘If it is, give me your hand.’ And he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot. He said, ‘Come with me and see my zeal for the LORD.’ So he made him ride in his chariot. When he came to Samaria, he killed all who remained to Ahab in Samaria, until he had destroyed him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to Elijah. Then Jehu gathered all the people and said to them, ‘Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. Now, summon all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and all his priests; let no one be missing, for I have a great sacrifice for Baal; whoever is missing shall not live.’ But Jehu did it in cunning, so that he might destroy the worshipers of Baal. And Jehu said, ‘Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal.’ And they proclaimed it. Then Jehu sent throughout Israel and all the worshipers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left who did not come. And when they went into the house of Baal, the house of Baal was filled from one end to the other. He said to the one who was in charge of the wardrobe, ‘Bring out garments for all the worshipers of Baal.’ So he brought out garments for them. Jehu went into the house of Baal with Jehonadab the son of Rechab; and he said to the worshipers of Baal, ‘Search and see that there is here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but only the worshipers of Baal.’ Then they went in to offer sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had stationed for himself eighty men outside, and he had said, ‘The one who permits any of the men whom I bring into your hands to escape shall give up his life in exchange.’ Then it came about, as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the royal officers, ‘Go in, kill them; let none come out.’ And they killed them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the royal officers threw them out, and went to the inner room of the house of Baal. They brought out the sacred pillars of the house of Baal and burned them. They also broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day. Thus Jehu eradicated Baal out of Israel” (2 Kings 10:15-28, NASU).

Is it not amazing to discover how just these three “joint ventures” achieved great victories for the children of Israel, advancing His Kingdom on Earth? But upon arriving now in the post-resurrection era, the need to employ “joint ventures” intensifies. Hence, the Scriptures referenced above from Ephesians 2 about the need for a “one new man” collaboration is so meaningful.

After all, since Israel has been called to be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), how is it going to complete the task with a limited number of people and millions, if not billions of people to share the Light? The Apostle Paul understood this dilemma completely, especially after he experienced a general rejection of the good news from his own people, but the willing acceptance of the truth about Yeshua from the Greeks and Romans he was ministering to throughout the Mediterranean basin. Obviously, these non-Jewish people groups needed to be reached with the message of Yeshua. Hence, Paul and the other apostles were delighted when Greeks, or Romans, or “barbarians” received the good news and were compelled to take it to their respective families, clans, tribes, or people groups. Clearly this was God’s plan, and the fact that Yeshua and the hope of His calling was resident in the hearts of those born from above, was the fundamental way the Word spread throughout the ancient world to this very day. Ostensibly without the “joint venture” of Jews and Gentiles taking the good news to the world, the spread of salvation would have ended centuries ago. But because the middle wall of separation was torn down, believing Jews and Gentiles have been in the process of building the household of God with the indwelling presence of the Spirit, ever since they have become one in the Messiah Yeshua. This represents the ultimate “joint venture”!

Nevertheless, in the Twenty-First Century, as the return of the Messiah approaches, the formation of the Messianic Jewish movement over the past fifty plus years is a virtual sign that God is fulfilling His promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, it is understood that the return of Jewish people to belief in the Messiah Yeshua, is a telltale indication that the prophesied end-times are here! The restoration of physical Israel to the Promised Land, coupled with the great number of Messianic Jews forming places of worship and reaching out to their family and friends is more proof. However, along with these tremendous spiritual blessings and happenings, there are definite tests which come to those leaders in positions of responsibility. Are they going to recognize the “joint venture” patterns of Ancient Israel as noted above, when it became critical to either follow the advice of or work in concert with certain people from the nations at large? For most assuredly, when it comes to a major Kingdom events such as the restoration of Israel, and the return of the Jews to the Messiah—the need for “joint ventures” is of paramount importance! Certainly, Isaiah prophesied the coming days when the nations will literally carry the children of Israel back to the Land of Promise:

Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations and set up My standard to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders” (Isaiah 49:22, NASU).

It must be our prayer that as the end-times proceed, the Holy Spirit will guide those raised up to lead the Messianic Jewish movement to embrace those Gentiles with a Ruth-like call, to work in concert to accomplish God’s plan for the ages! This is a test which has to be passed, because the God of Creation is ultimately fulfilling His Word to not only His chosen people, but all who call upon the name of the Lord from every tongue, tribe and nation.  What a joy to watch that happen in His appointed time…

And as a final reminder on the subject of testing, just be aware of “tests” for all who claim allegiance to the Messiah Yeshua. Remember what Paul stated to the Believers in Corinth regarding their profession of faith:

“For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Yeshua the Messiah is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test” (2 Corinthian 13:4-6, NASU).

Everyone, regardless of whether they are a Jew or Gentile has been, is, and will be tested, until the day the Messiah Yeshua returns to claim His own. May we all in our weakness pass the test and be counted among the redeemed!

Until the restoration of all things..

Mark Huey


A Question for the Ages

by J.K. McKee

One of the most intriguing issues that I dealt with as an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, as a political science major (1999-2003), was the philosophy known as Liberalism. This “Liberalism,” with a capital “L,” is not the ideology that is converse to conservatism as in “Republicans versus Democrats” here in the United States. Liberalism is, rather, an ideology centered around individual rights and free enterprise that every human being is believed to be entitled to. These ideals are adhered to very strongly in the Western democratic world, and they have enabled me to speak my views in a society where the freedom to express one’s own opinion is greatly upheld.

Many Believers, notably those in the United States, greatly respect the freedoms and liberties that we have. According to our system of government, we can worship God in the way we choose and believe whatever we want as long as it does not disrupt the public order. But for many centuries prior to the founding of our country, this was not the case. On the contrary, in the early days of our Messianic faith, following the ascension of Yeshua into Heaven, Believers have continually run into problems with civil authority. The Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) repeatedly tell us that the Apostles ran into problems with both the Jewish religious leaders, who by-and-large rejected the Messianic claims of Yeshua, and with the Roman civil authorities, many of whom believed that they were the cause of an insurrection against the emperor. History later records that many Believers were indeed persecuted and martyred for their faith in Him.

The question for the true Believers since has always been: How do we function in society, yet keep our faith? As we review what has happened to those who since the First Century C.E. have claimed a belief in Messiah Yeshua, different groups of people have responded to this question in different ways.

Four centuries after Yeshua’s ascension into Heaven, Augustine, bishop of Hippo, wrote his work City of God. Whether you agree with his theology or not, his writings have influenced many over the centuries, both Catholic and Protestant alike. He described what he believed to be a split in human life, between one’s carnal and spiritual existence, writing down an incredibly long list of sins and perversions that has tainted and marked fallen humanity throughout the ages with which we should all agree.[1] In describing the human condition, Augustine made the analogy between two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. In Earthly life he believed people must contend with what has been dealt to them in the City of Man, its gross imperfections, and live with the civil authorities as long as they do not harass God’s people for their faith. But as followers of the Lord, the righteous should strive to enter the City of God and its perfections in the hereafter. He says, “In the one [City of Man], the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other [City of God], the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all.”[2]

Many years later this challenge was brought forth by two of the Reformers who greatly shaped Protestant theology: Martin Luther and John Calvin. Luther, in particular, recognized the distinct separation between civil and religious powers. In Luther’s work “The Christian In Society,” he commented that “Both [systems] must be permitted to remain; the one to produce righteousness, the other to bring about external peace and prevent evil deeds. Neither one is sufficient in the world without the other. No one can become righteous in the sight of God by means of the temporal government, without Christ’s spiritual government.”[3] His position was very close to Augustine’s. Do your best in society and be a witness for the faith, but recognize that secular government has its place in God’s eternal plan.

Calvin held to a slightly different position than Luther or Augustine. The author of Institutes of the Christian Religion and numerous other books and commentaries, Calvin actually put many of his beliefs and philosophies to practice in the city of Geneva, trying to facilitate a utopia here on Earth. Calvin did, however, believe in a separation between secular government and religion. He stated in his book God and Political Duty, that “spiritual reign, even now upon earth, commences within us some preludes of the heavenly kingdom, and in this mortal and transitory life affords us some of the prelibations of immortal and incorruptible blessedness…”[4] Although some aspects of God’s Eternal Kingdom could be captured on Earth, which is what Calvin tried to do in Geneva, it was ultimately Heaven where the Believer’s hope rested. Many theologians since have held to the belief that while some elements of God’s Kingdom could be brought to Earth, the Kingdom may not be consummated on this Planet with the Messiah’s physical return.

These examples throughout history demonstrate some of the different attitudes of today’s Christians concerning how they are to function in society. All too often Christians have been of the mindset that they are not to look for a physical, coming manifestation of God’s Kingdom on Earth via the return of Yeshua. Rather, they try to do the best they can here in the present system capturing varied “elements” of the Kingdom, but live knowing that Heaven is better. Surely, we all desire to meet our Lord and Savior in Heaven at the time of our departing this mortal frame, but an intermediate Heaven between death and resurrection is not our ultimate destination.[5] The Hebrew Prophets speak of an age when God Himself will indeed be present among us. Zechariah 8:3 decrees, “I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.” The Lord God, in the Person of Yeshua the Messiah, will physically reign on Planet Earth for a thousand years, and then lead us all into eternity.

One day Yeshua will return and establish His Eternal Kingdom. During the time God has given us on this sphere we must endeavor to do all we can to see that ultimate goal accomplished. We must make sure that we are performing our appropriate role as His Kingdom’s representatives, living the life of the world to come in the present evil age (cf. Galatians 1:4).

We Must Change

When we look back at history, certainly the attitude of separating carnal and spiritual powers was understandable for the times in which the early Reformers lived. They were protesting a Roman Catholic system which had essentially merged spiritual and political authority in Europe, with the pope commanding an incredible amount of power. But what of today? What of the Believers who our Heavenly Father is drawing to Himself in this time, when all too often the tendency in our world is to draw away from the Bible and His Son, Yeshua? An attitude of just “mucking through life” hoping for better on the other side might have worked in the Middle Ages, and even on up until the early 1900s. But it will not work in the Information Age when secularism and ecumenism erode the core foundations of Biblical faith. How are we going to handle the difference between the competing “temporal” and “spiritual” powers? How are we going to know where our hope of salvation rests?

The world is only getting worse and worse, with high rises in sin and lawlessness. We need not fall prey to the deception that the enemy has laid. We must learn to change our lives for the better and return to a foundational grounding in all that the Lord has provided for us in His Word. We must have transformed lives, not only in word, but also in deed.

If as Believers in the Risen Savior, Yeshua the Messiah, we want to properly answer the challenges and tribulations that the world is going to give us in the times to come, we need to do something different. We must not make the separation between “temporal” and “spiritual” that many of those in prior history did, just “living” with the powers that be. We as the Body of Messiah must become that separated people He is returning for. We must desire to see a change here on Planet Earth. As the generation which is first seeing the distinct Hebraic and Jewish lifestyle of the Apostles being restored in significant effect, the initial growth of the Messianic movement, and Jewish and non-Jewish Believers coming together in unity in numbers not seen since the First Century—the call God has given us is much greater than those who have gone before. We must be ready to properly answer the call and take up the challenge.

But His Kingdom is Not of This World…

All too often it has been quoted of Yeshua saying to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

This passage is used by some to justify the idea that we as Believers should not be trying to change others and desire to see His Kingdom restored here on Earth, because supposedly it is only in Heaven. Calvin actually said “it is a Jewish folly, therefore, to seek and include the kingdom of Christ under the elements of this world,”[6] which could possibly be taken as meaning that the coming Kingdom of God on Earth is not ideal,[7] as a popular hermeneutic of his time was to spiritualize or allegorize prophecies concerning Israel’s physical Kingdom for the role of the Church. But when Yeshua said that His Kingdom is not of this world and that His Disciples did not “fight” for Him, the Messiah was speaking that the nature of His Kingdom was not of this world. He was not saying that one day His Kingdom would not be consummated physically on Earth with Him ruling from Jerusalem. He said, rather, “My kingdom is not of this world….But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36, NIV). God’s Kingdom is not to be manifested via human military conquest, but instead begins with the transformation of hearts and minds via the good news; the defeat of Earthly governments comes at the time designated by the Heavenly Father (cf. Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:36).

As Believers in Yeshua, we are still awaiting His return and the full establishment of the Messianic Era. The full reign of His Kingdom—presently—“is” from another place—even though it affects those of us who are redeemed and citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20), yet living on Earth. But for how much longer will this be the case? When will we see the consummation of the ages, and Yeshua return to Earth?

A Challenging Time Lies Ahead

Anyone who studies end-time Bible prophecy should realize that the return of Yeshua is nearing. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper and be aware of how world events are being staged that will one day lead toward a one-world government, cashless “mark of the beast” monetary system, a single world leader, and numerous conflicts that could very well annihilate the human race. Even if we think that some of these things may be decades away, we are still getting closer every year. The Scriptures tell us quite plainly that if the Messiah does not return, “no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22, NKJV; cf. Mark 13:20), an indication of how bad things will eventually be.

Such a message can be very depressing for some Believers, and likewise, more questions are created concerning what we should do if we believe God’s people are to endure the end-times. Will it just be as if we are given “spiritual impartation” and know what to do by the Holy Spirit filling us by “osmosis”? Or in this time of relative tranquility, is the Lord giving us the opportunity to be military officers in training, as it were, so that when the difficult times come, those who are firmly grounded in the truths of His Word may rise up as leaders and proclaim His good news and minister to those in need? Whether or not we are the generation which will see Yeshua return, we have still been given some immense responsibility. We could be the precursor generation to the last generation, or be those who are responsible for raising up the precursor generation to the last generation. We cannot know for certain if we will see the end-times and Second Coming—but we certainly have work to do in order to get there!

The Western governmental system which many of us benefit from presently grants us many freedoms, because much of it is founded in the Bible. This has unfortunately not been the case for many who have gone before us in the faith, such as during the Middle Ages when the Roman Catholic Church held the only copies of Scripture and the masses did not have them, in addition to the almost absolute power it held in Western Europe for many centuries. Modern trends, however, indicate that the time for God’s people to conduct themselves freely in the religious world is waning. The political ideology of Liberalism, while giving Believers in Yeshua the freedom to religiously express themselves as they want, also demands that we respect other religions, and likewise not become “exclusive” in saying that salvation or approval only comes from One Source, Messiah Yeshua. Ecumenism and the belief that all religions worship the same “God” is gaining considerable ground. Those of us who worship and believe in the Holy One of Israel, and are of the sound conviction that Yeshua the Messiah―legitimately known to many by His English name Jesus Christ―is the only Redeemer, need to be firm in our faith as His return draws closer.

The problem is, given all the temptations of the world and modern trends, how are we supposed to do this? Unfortunately, much of modern Christianity, or for that matter the Messianic movement, does not have the answer. Many people in Christianity are looking for a pre-tribulation rapture escape to Heaven, or are falsely mistaken so as to think that the Kingdom is not coming. The Messianic movement today is still developing and maturing, both spiritually and theologically. Much of it still cannot deal with the basic issue of what it is to become in the future. Many do not realize that the overarching goal of our faith is to see God’s Kingdom restored on Planet Earth, not so that we would just see the complete transformation of our individual selves, but of His entire Creation.

We all have a serious challenge in front of us, especially because the growth of and maturation of much of the Messianic movement is being deterred by sensationalists and fundamentalists, who have brought a great deal of false teaching into the camp, all of whom have an agenda, a few of whom have denied the Lord Yeshua.[8] We must be able to confront the deception, knowing Biblical truth and being able to defend the truth, but also knowing that how we conduct ourselves will be the key to us being a people separated from the world and holy unto Him. Ungodly attitudes can decelerate a move of God.

Unfortunately this third part, being set-apart from the world, is the most difficult for many to consider, because it is something that has not been the most readily emphasized by modern Christianity. On the contrary, many Christian teachers have told their students and followers to “blend in” with contemporary society and culture, rather than being separated from it and able to subvert it. Yet the Apostolic Scriptures are replete with examples of how people like the Apostle Paul were able to maintain their separated standing as a part of God’s community, and subvert the pagan religious ideology of his day. A delicate balance indeed.

Although being a separated people unto God might sound like a good idea on paper, putting this concept into practice can be very difficult. We are certainly not called to be a separated people by secluding ourselves in some cave or commune, or by putting our fingers in our ears and hiding under our beds when bad things happen. We must walk upright and be a living and active testimony for our Lord and Savior in our communities and the world at large.

Love is the Key

It can be agreed among born again Believers that there is a strong need for those who have been redeemed and bought by the blood of the Messiah, on how we must be different from the rest of the world. Yeshua directed quite plainly, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). Likewise, He said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Prior to Yeshua instructing His followers to “love one another,” He made a very intriguing statement. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). All too often, many have glossed over this verse thinking that the Messiah was instituting a “new” commandment, replacing it with one of those “Old Testament commandments,” as the “Old Testament Law” is inappropriately perceived as being a series of “strict rules and regulations” that did not have anything to do with love.

On the contrary to what some people might think, this is not the case at all. In Leviticus 19:18, the Lord clearly says, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” “Love” is not simply a “New Testament” concept, as the command to love is clearly issued in the Tanach or Old Testament. Many unfortunately do not realize that Yeshua was directly quoting from Old Testament Scripture when He said “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31).

Not surprisingly, the Greek word for “new” in John 13:35, kainos, can mean “new; of new quality; unused; unknown, unheard of” (CGEDNT).[9] It could be argued that in the First Century the command to love one another—or love outsiders—was not something readily emphasized by the religious leaders of the time, considering the fact that the Jewish people were suffering from Roman occupation in Judea, and other than a brief period of independence provided by the Maccabees, had not been independent since the Babylonian dispersion.[10] It is interesting that readers can view Yeshua’s word as “an unused commandment I give to you,” meaning that the Torah command to love had gone largely forgotten among many of His time. Certainly the depth or dimensions that Yeshua gave to the love required of His Disciples, cannot be overlooked. F.F. Bruce, acknowledging how the command to love (John 13:34-35) is from the Tanach or Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18), simply suggests, “Jesus imparted a new depth of meaning to it.”[11]

We should all agree on the fact that having love for one another, which in turn should create cohesive unity in the Messiah’s Body, will certainly set us apart from the world. Divine love, agapē as it widely appears in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), must guide us. Agapē is so powerful that Yeshua says of it, “Greater love [agapē] hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, KJV).

Yeshua is the embodiment of pure love, and is the example we are to all follow. Yeshua, our Ultimate Friend, laid down His life for us and paid the penalty for our sins with His own blood. Now can we do that for one another? As you continue reading this book, keep this imperative concept in mind. We will be discussing many issues interpreted differently among Believers in the faith. Remember that although there may be differences of opinion, our love for one another is ultimately manifested in whether or not we can die for each other, as Yeshua died for us. This was certainly something “new” to the Disciples of Yeshua. Speaking for myself: I love my evangelical Christian brothers and sisters with the love of Jesus Christ, and because I love them, I want the changes I have made in my life to impact them positively!

How are we to be separated from the world?

Love by itself is an interesting, but often abstract concept. Our faith is most imperatively, to be living and active. It is one thing to say that you love God and love your brothers and sisters, but it is another thing to actually go and do it. What is the evidence of our love for the Lord and for our brethren? What is some important, external evidence of the inward change we have experienced through Yeshua—that will indeed set God’s people apart from everyone else on Planet Earth? The answer is found in Yeshua’s teaching in His Sermon on the Mount:

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Yeshua told His followers that others would see the light that they have through their good works.[12] This is not to say that Believers are saved by means of their works. The Scriptures state quite plainly, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, if each of us has truly been changed by an encounter with God, being spiritually regenerated, we will naturally do good things. The following verse, Ephesians 2:10, further admonishes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” By doing good things, hopefully those of the world will be drawn to us and want to know more about the Almighty One we serve. Our Heavenly Father says, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2, KJV).

But what are “good works”? Most Christians will say that doing good works are following the Divine will of God and doing what He told us. We should all agree with this assessment. However, we should each take serious notice of what Yeshua specifies after telling His followers to have good works. His teaching continues, saying, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

The Messiah came to fulfill the Torah or Law of Moses, meaning that He came to live it out perfectly, so that His followers might ably emulate His example of obeying its commandments. The Greek verb translated as “fulfill” is plēroō. Commenting on this, TDNT validly remarks, “the idea is not simply that of validating the law as distinct from abolishing it. The goal of Jesus’ mission is fulfillment. He does not simply affirm the law and the prophets but actualizes the will of God that is declared in them from the standpoint of both promise and demand.”[13]

It is the Messiah Himself who said that the Torah will continue to remain in effect until Heaven and Earth pass away and all is accomplished. Contrary to what many Christians believe, all has not been accomplished. We are not living in the Messianic Age, and there are many prophecies in the Tanach (Old Testament) that have yet to be fulfilled. The Torah is still in effect and applicable for God’s people today. While Yeshua has come as our everlasting atonement for sin, and some alterations have occurred in regard to the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices (cf. Hebrews 7:12)—there are still eternal principles in the Torah that we are to all follow. The Torah still forms the basis of Biblical ethics and morality, and how God’s people are to be identified as His own. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We are called to emulate Yeshua and follow the Father’s will, just as He did—and just as His first followers did.

What is the Father’s will?

Yeshua will actually assign eschatological penalties to those who teach others to not follow the Torah’s commandments, as He said, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). Even more severe and not to be overlooked is a very sober warning given in Matthew 7:21-23:

“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].”

The Messiah says that only those who perform the will of the Father are allowed into the Kingdom of Heaven. He speaks of those who thought they were in His Divine will, and even performed miracles and cast out demons in His authority, but were not, because they committed lawless acts. The Greek word for “lawlessness” is anomia, which BDAG defines as the “state or condition of being disposed to what is lawless, lawlessness.”[14]

Could we not argue from this that being in the will of God very much includes being in obedience to Him and to His commandments? Consider what the Lord Himself says in Deuteronomy 5:29: “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always,[15] that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” God wants His people to observe His statutes and ordinances so that life may be good for them, and that they might be blessed.

When Moses saw God appearing to him, he proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:6-7e). Moses attested that the Lord is One “keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation” (NRSV). Chesed relates to “God’s relationship with the people or an individual, faithfulness, goodness, graciousness” (HALOT).[16] The Lord says that He will show chesed, “lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:6). While God’s chesed is freely bestowed, the people whom He bestows it to should acknowledge and appreciate such lovingkindness by their obedience.

If we desire to have God be merciful and compassionate upon us in our times of need, then we should endeavor to be obedient to Him and to His commandments. Is it possible that we might overemphasize God’s mercy, sometimes—at the expense of our responsibility to be obedient to Him? Are not God’s grace and our obedience to Him both vital to a right relationship with Him? Might it be that those who do not obey God’s Instruction do not experience His grace and mercy, in the same way that those who do obey Him do?

Loving God and Keeping His Commandments

There is a strong connection between loving God and keeping His commandments. After all, it was the Messiah Himself who said in His Olivet Discourse concerning the Last Days, “because lawlessness shall have been multiplied, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12, LITV). Or, as rendered in the Complete Jewish Bible, “many people’s love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah.”

The Apostle Paul states in Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” The Greek word for “fulfillment,” plērōma, is understood to be “that which is brought to fullness or completion” (BDAG).[17] James the Just similarly says, “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ [Leviticus 19:18] you are doing well” (James 2:8). Love is the overwhelming evidence of understanding what God’s Torah is. When we keep God’s commandments, we will find ourselves learning to demonstrate more of His love, compassion, mercy, and goodness to all we encounter.

God gave us His Instruction out of love—not to be a burden or hassle as many mistakenly believe. The Torah is to keep us safe and within appropriate, acceptable boundaries, not too dissimilar from how Deuteronomy 22:8 originally instructed, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.” For those who love God, His commandments provide the framework for how we are to best experience the relationship He desires with us.

The Apostle John taught extensively about the connection between Divine love, agapē, and God’s commandments. He says in 1 John 5:2-3, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Born again Believers are not to obey the Torah out of some legalistic sense of “duty” or “obligation,” but rather because they love Him and naturally want to follow His Instructions—as the Holy Spirit transforms their hearts and minds and compels such obedience. However, John admonished, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). If we claim to be in the faith yet we fail to keep God’s commandments, and do not really want to obey Him, then are we nothing but liars? This does not mean that we may fail to do things out of ignorance—but what about those who are not at all seeking to obey God? If we fail to seek the Lord’s conviction in our lives, then who are we deceiving: God or ourselves?

The Messiah says in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Yeshua, who is the Lord God made manifest in the flesh, is the Giver of the Torah and the Torah composes His commandments (cf. Isaiah 33:22; James 4:12). Moses told the Ancient Israelites in Deuteronomy 28:9 that “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways.” The Hebrew word for “holy,” qodesh, is defined by BDB as “apartness, sacredness, holiness.”[18] Its equivalent in the Greek Apostolic Scriptures is hagios, from which our English terms “holy” and “hallowed” are derived. If we as Believers want to be a set-apart and holy people, then we must commit ourselves to obey God’s commandments.

In understanding the times and seasons in which we live, the need to be a separated people unto the Lord is only going to increase. Secularism and the idea of universal tolerance of religion are sweeping through at an alarming rate, and we as His people must take steps to preserve who we are, Biblically. The overwhelming issue we face becomes: How will we accomplish this?

Concerning the Last Days and our need to be a holy and separated people, the Apostle Peter might ask us a strong rhetorical question, in stating, “Since everything is going to be destroyed like this [in the Day of the LORD], what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and godly lives, as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12a, CJB).

Let those of us who truly desire to be a holy people unto Him, sanctified and separated from the rest of the world, seek Biblical truth above all else. Let us not be those whom Yeshua called “lawless,” and then are dismissed from His presence. Let us truly seek to be in God’s will and strive to keep His commandments. Let us truly live holy and godly lives as we wait for the Messiah’s return and seek to make a difference in our world, as people at large witness our good works!

NOTES

[1] These sins are, according to Augustine: “gnawing cares, disquiet, griefs, fears, wild joys, quarrels, law-suits, wars, treasons, angers, hatreds, deceit, flattery, fraud, theft, robbery, perfidy, pride, ambition, envy, murders, parricides, cruelty, ferocity, wickedness, luxury, insolence, impudence, shamelessness, fornications, adulteries, incests, and the numberless uncleanness and unnatural acts of both sexes, which it is shameful so much as to mention; sacrileges, heresies, blasphemies, perjuries, oppression of the innocent, calumnies, plots, falsehoods, false witnessings, unrighteous judgments, violent deeds, plunderings, and innumerable other crimes that do not easily come to mind, but that never absent themselves from the actuality of human existence” (St. Augustine, “City of God,” in Mitchell Cohen and Nicole Fermon, eds., Princeton Readings in Political Thought [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996], pp 133-134).

[2] Ibid., 136.

[3] Martin Luther, “The Christian in Society,” in Ibid., 197.

[4] John Calvin, “God and Political Duty,” in Ibid., pp 202-203.

[5] For a further discussion, consult the author’s article “To Be Absent From the Body.”

[6] Ibid., 202.

[7] Note how Calvin probably did not intend his statement to be viewed this way, even though this is a sentiment of many later teachers and theologians.

[8] Consult the author’s articles “The Quest for Credibility” and “The Top Ten Urban Myths of Today’s Messianic Movement.”

[9] Barclay M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/United Bible Societies, 1971), 90.

[10] For a further discussion, consult the author’s article “The Impact of the Maccabees on First Century Judaism,” in the Messianic Winter Holiday Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[11] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 294.

[12] Grk. hopōs idōsin humōn ta kala erga; “so that they may see your good works” (NRSV).

[13] G. Delling, “plēróō,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, abridged (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 869.

For a further discussion, consult the author’s exegetical paper on Matthew 5:17-19, “Has the Law Been Fulfilled?”

[14] Frederick William Danker, ed., et. al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 85.

[15] Heb. l’hem l’yir’ah oti v’lish’mor et-kol-mitzvotai kol-ha’yamim.

[16] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds., The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 1:337.

[17] BDAG, 829.

[18] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 871.

Is It Impossible to Address Men and Women? – January 2020 OIM News


OIM Update
January 2020

Last month on the precipice of the next decade, the OIM News update challenged and exhorted the “believing” community of faith to go on the “offense,” in the invisible spiritual warfare which has persisted since the Fall of humanity at the Garden of Eden event. Little did we realize it then, that as the year was ending, a significant controversy was churning in the evangelical community because of an editorial article written in Christianity Today. One of my best friends, and another close relative—both claiming long held Christian beliefs—revealed that they were on the opposite side of the divisive directive being declared about the leader of the American republic. Quite frankly, this revelation was quite shocking! In each case, it was apparent that neither person was able to discern the bigger picture from a spiritual perspective. Each was obviously ignorant of some elementary firsthand facts, and clearly propagandized by the prince of the power of air (Ephesians 2:2). Rather than react with a volley of words which could devolve into fruitless arguments or acrimonious debate, we paused and approached the Lord in prayer and supplication, for wisdom on how to delicately handle these disturbing circumstances.

After all, the struggles and battles which occur in the unseen “heavenly” realm—For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12, NASU)—are predominantly perceptible through the imparted “spirit of wisdom” and “revelation in the knowledge of Him,” primarily because the “eyes of the heart” have been enlightened through the lens of spiritual illumination to the hope of His calling:

“[T]hat the God of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Ephesians 1:17-19, NASU).

In other words, according to 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, the fact remains that only those who have received the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God, are potentially capable of perceiving that there are nefarious created entities (noted above) which are allowed to operate in the heavenly realm, negatively impacting the tangible, visible realm where humanity resides. As a result, the “called out” ones, having been appraised with the mind of Messiah, must continually appeal to the Almighty One to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). Nevertheless, the incessant conflict between “natural minded” men and women, and those spiritually appraised, has raged on since the Fall:

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him [Isaiah 40:13]? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:12-16, NASU).

Our family was presented with a dilemma, because of the possibility that a political opinion could cause a serious breach in relationships which go back decades, and even to birth. All sorts of thoughts float through the mind as you try to discern and analyze why people you have known so intimately, are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. You certainly do not want to judge—but as you call upon the Lord for wisdom and direction on how to proceed with the relationship—it is typical that several Scriptures come to mind. In each case, because their frontal, aggressive, spiritual attacks were so intense, even these comments from Yeshua, following His statements about “to whom much is given, much is required,” regarding rewards or punishment to His slaves/servants, were quite sobering:

“Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53, NASU).

Of course, contemplating these verses was alarming! Then upon further prayer and meditation, the following passage came to mind, which seems to be a different perspective regarding the heavenly realm—as well as offering a gentler way to assess and understand the conflict with loved ones that we were experiencing:

“Yeshua presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn”’” (Matthew 13:24-30, NASU).

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, Yeshua, who is constantly referencing the “kingdom of heaven” in His utterances communicated to Him by His Heavenly Father (John 12:49-50), gives His followers a description of what they are going to encounter in the physical realm. Here, although the landowner sowed good seed that is sprouting up as fruitful wheat, the enemy has surreptitiously sown worthless tares in and amongst the eventual harvest. This distinction of the two similar looking plants is noted by the slaves/servants of the landowner, with a request from them on what should be done to the tares. Initially, the impulse from the slaves is to immediately gather up the tares so that they do not impede the growth of the wheat. But the landowner, not wanting to possibly destroy some wheat with a premature extraction of tares from the field, instructs his servants to wait until the ultimate harvest where the separation of tares from the wheat will be completed.

Of course, when contemplating the parable of the wheat and the tares, another parable about the sheep and the goats comes to mind—when at the end of the instruction about how slaves handle the talents they have received, Yeshua contrasts the ultimate disposition of the sheep and the goats:

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:31-34, NASU).

These two parables are extremely explicit regarding the two similarly appearing plants and animals. While from a distance, or even close up, the tares might look like wheat and the goats might resemble sheep—only the Holy One in His ultimate judgment will be able to precisely and correctly separate people or nations for their eternal destination. Therefore, it is not up to His followers to prematurely make that determination. Instead, it is the Believer’s responsibility to continue to share the love of the Messiah and to pray for those individuals (like tares and goats), who might be in the wheat fields or among the herds of the faithful sheep.

With sincere intercession for beloved relatives and friends paramount, there is a disturbing passage from 2 Thessalonians, despite not knowing the precise hour of Yeshua’s return, which also came to heart and mind:

“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, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, NASU).

According to this passage, at some future time, God Himself is going to send a “deluding influence” upon the world. While a political opinion does not necessarily qualify as to what this prophecy describes, it can be considered a “test” of where people are regarding their discernment and understanding of the kingdom of heaven, and how the Holy One has often used flawed humans to accomplish His will upon the Earth. The Biblical examples range from Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Nebuchadnezzer, Jehu, Cyrus, Peter, Paul, and a multitude of others. Of course, if one does not appreciate Biblical and historical events down through the millennia, then they are susceptible to deception. Perhaps this ignorance of facts and lack of Bible study, is why many come to the conclusions they advocate.

Nevertheless, it is the Believer’s obligation to point out the obvious in a loving manner, and pray that what is communicated is received by a willing heart which wants to know the truth about what God is currently doing in the world at this point in time. To that end, the use of Scripture, “sharper than a two-edge sword” (Hebrews 4:12), coupled with firsthand facts, are the two methods recommended, as Believers go on the offense to share not only the good news, but the actual accounts of a matter. To that end, may our efforts bear fruit for the kingdom of God! Because at some point in the future, false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, NRSV).

In conclusion, the key for ALL is to seek the Lord and call upon Him for revelation and understanding in these perilous times:

“‘Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:6-11, NASU).

Perhaps in His mercy, He will use some of us to lead those back from the error of their ways:

“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20, NASU).

May the Lord bless you and keep you—as you go on the offense this year! Thank you for your continued support of our efforts—your valued prayers and offerings—as we continue the vital work of ministry at Outreach Israel and Messianic Apologetics!

Until the restoration of all things,

Mark Huey


Is It Impossible to Address Men and Women?

by J.K. McKee

adapted from Men and Women in the Body of Messiah

Many people in today’s broad Messianic community are willing to question just about everything. There are ongoing debates as to whether or not Yeshua the Messiah is genuinely God, or if He is just a supernatural yet ultimately created being. There are people who believe in doctrines such as psychopannychy (“soul sleep”) and annihilation. There are discussions about the origin of the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), and whether they were originally written in Hebrew or Greek, and what texts should be considered canonical or spurious. There are people who think it is acceptable to include Medieval Jewish mysticism as a part of their regimen of Bible study, considering the Kabbalah to be “okay.” There are people who try to synthesize every single saying of Yeshua the Messiah with the Jewish Sages of many centuries later—and then there are those who want nothing to do with the Jewish Sages. There are those who have put together their own restored “Biblical calendars.” There are even people you will encounter, from time to time, who believe that Planet Earth is a flat disk and not a sphere. And of course, may we never forget all of the ongoing and increasingly diverse series of end-time prognostications we encounter…

Certainly with some of the open-mindedness and variance of opinion “out there”—on a whole host of issues—mainstream discussions and debates taking place in academic Jewish and Christian settings, would seemingly be permitted. It has to be observed, in all of my family’s years (since 1995) of being a part of the Messianic movement, there is one huge issue which Messianic people, congregational leaders, and teachers of note are seldom willing to discuss or evaluate. In fact, this issue is often considered to be off-limits, if not completely Verboten. In spite of there being a range of issues that Messianic people feel free to discuss—including at times strongly questioning the Divinity of Yeshua—it is odd that contemporary discussions over men and women in the Body of Messiah, and specifically women in ministry, cannot frequently be brought up. If there are people we may encounter in our midst who think that certain books of the New Testament might not be too inspired of God, then surely we can discuss whether or not husbands and wives should be co-leaders of their families, and whether or not males and females can be co-leaders of the local assembly.

Where does today’s Messianic community stand on men and women?

To many people in today’s broad Messianic movement, the issues involving the place of husbands and wives in the family, as well as men and women in the local assembly, is a done deal. Husbands lead the family, and wives abide by their husbands’ decisions. Men lead the congregation, and women are there to help facilitate congregational functions. Any position about men and women in the Body of Messiah which might invoke terms such as co-equal, shared responsibility, and mutual submission are often viewed as compromise with the prevailing culture at best, or capitulation to liberal theology at worst. You do not just throw around the term “egalitarian” in the Messianic movement, unless you really are willing to experience some blowback.

“In December 1987, the newly formed Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood met in Danvers, Massachusetts, and wrote the Danvers Statement,”[1] a document that almost all of today’s Messianic congregational leaders and teachers would probably be seen to agree with.[2] Many people in today’s broad Messianic movement would sit to the Right of the Danvers Statement. Anyone holding to any sort of egalitarian position, where women can serve as the equals of men within the teaching and leadership structure of a local assembly—even when agreeing with various remarks within the Danvers Statement—is still going to sit to the Left of the Danvers Statement.

The majority of the formal and academic writing you will encounter, which will invoke the label “Messianic” in some way, will with a handful of exceptions, almost always represent a complementarian view of men and women in the Body of Messiah. The 2001 compilation book Voices of Messianic Judaism, represented essays in favor of women serving in leadership,[3] and those favoring male exclusive leadership in the assembly.[4] In 2013, a chapter on “Messianic Judaism and Women”[5] appeared in Introduction to Messianic Judaism, and while recognizing that there are younger people in the Messianic Jewish movement, at least, considering egalitarian perspectives, that a more traditional role for women as homemakers and serving in a secondary capacity to men, should probably be preferred. It is fair to say that as the 2020s approach, the Messianic Jewish movement will continue to be widely complementarian. However, the younger people in Messianic Judaism are very likely to be more open-minded and considerate of egalitarian perspectives regarding men and women, and specifically female leaders, within the Body of Messiah. It is, however, to be witnessed that a recent Messianic Jewish book released on the issue of marriage (2017), was only intended to be read by men and not by women.[6] This at least demonstrates that facilitating discussions on men and women in the Body of Messiah, where females can expect to be afforded more opportunities, is going to be something long and hard fought in sectors of the Messianic Jewish movement.

When moving outside of the Messianic Jewish movement, into other sectors, complementarian to rigid patriarchal perspectives, involving men and women, are what one is most likely to encounter. The perspectives of the One Law/One Torah sub-movement, reflect those of male leadership within the Body of Messiah, with females taking a secondary role.[7] The Two-House sub-movement, at times, has been favorable to females taking on some leadership and teaching roles,[8] but the Ephraimite movement has also been heavily stigmatized by one of its major leaders endorsing and practicing polygamy[9]—something which evangelical Christian complementarians today, and all evangelical egalitarians, forthrightly reject as an aberration. On the whole, the perspectives regarding men and women one is likely to encounter in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, go beyond complementarianism, and instead will favor a patriarchal view of gender, with (married-)male privilege strongly emphasized.

As we move forward in time—and particularly as more and more Messianic young people receive a higher level of formal theological training than their predecessors—that the pendulum will, albeit slowly, be shifting toward a more egalitarian position of men and women in the Body of Messiah, is inevitable. In our present season, it has already created tensions beneath the surface, as there are doubtlessly reforms which must be instituted regarding our approach to men and women in the Body of Messiah—theological reforms and cultural changes which tend to be opposed in various ways. While many of today’s Messianic leaders and teachers from the Baby Boomer generation recognize some need to maintain a relationship with those of the Millennial generation who will succeed them—there tends to be very poor, cross-generational communication, on issues such as men and women in the Body of Messiah.

Men and Women in the Body of Messiah and Some Personal Messianic Experience

Each of us is affected by our experience when it comes to people in the world at large, in the ekklēsia or Body of Messiah, and especially when it comes to approaching issues and controversies involving men and women. For over a decade now (2007-2018), I have had considerable difficulty and consternation with many in our contemporary Messianic movement, in simply opening up the discussion and dialoguing about issues involving males and females in the Body of Messiah, the equality of men and women, and males and females serving as co-leaders within the assembly and husbands and wives serving as co-leaders of the family. Few of today’s Messianic teachers and leaders are willing to recognize that there are other points of view out there, aside from a complementarian ideology. Far too many are obstinate to give other points of view a hearing, even if it simply means reading through a general resource such as Two Views on Women in Ministry (James R. Beck, ed. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005]).

In my experience, broadly speaking, if one is found in today’s Messianic movement to either adhere to, or at least be strongly sympathetic to, an egalitarian ideology where women will be taking on a higher level of leadership than has been historically and traditionally seen in the Body of Messiah over many centuries—then such a person is widely thought to at best to be compromised, and interpreting the Scriptures irresponsibly. More likely, though, such an egalitarian or egalitarian-friendly person is believed to be in conformity with the spirit of the age and not the Holy Spirit.

What are some of the things I have witnessed, which caused me to reevaluate some of my views regarding men and women?

Even though as of today my family has been a part of the Messianic movement for twenty-five years (since 1995), I have never once been part of a Messianic congregation where women have been incorporated into the leadership structure or apparatus, where the big decisions are made; all of the major decisions have been made by men. In twenty-five years, I have never been part of a Messianic congregation where the male congregational leader has ever said that his wife is his equal. Instead, all that has been emphasized is that the male congregational leader’s wife submits to his authority and leadership—not that the husband and wife share leadership of their family, and are both involved in all major decisions, be they family or ministry related. Coming from a professional middle class family, where both men and women have accomplished some truly amazing things, I have been underwhelmed—to say the least—by a complementarian ideology present in the Messianic movement that is holding us back in far too many ways, especially as we steadily approach the Messiah’s return!

Being part of the Messianic movement from 1995-2004, when I bothered to pay attention to issues involving males and females in the Body of Messiah, I heard some kind of complementarian viewpoint present. On occasion, I would hear opinions reflective of a complementarian-lite approach, which would advocate for a greater inclusion of women in the leadership and decision making structure of Messianic congregations. But early in my Messianic experience, my personal Bible studies were not too concerned with men and women, gender roles, or leadership. When I started my M.A. in Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2005, though, I was immediately thrust into an egalitarian environment. I had no objections of any kind to being taught by female instructors, and certainly to having female student colleagues. Yet I was a bit perplexed when hearing about females being ordained as pastors and leaders. Some of my fellow male students, from various denominational traditions, let their voice be heard how they were opposed to it—and yet other male students were quite supportive. I knew that rushing off to judgment would be inappropriate—and that as I was making many adaptations as to how I was approaching the Holy Scriptures, the theological tools I was employing, and some of my methodology I was having to see altered—that if the Lord wanted me to consider changing my view of women in ministry, it would be done graciously and I would be open.

In a theology class I took in Spring 2006, one of our assigned textbooks was Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), edited by Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, where different topics were presented from multiple perspectives. This is the best way for anyone to encounter the different facets and contours of something debated in theology. One of the topics we had to consider was indeed, “The Women in Ministry Debate.”[10] I found it informative, but was not particularly ready to change my complementarian-lite position—although I did know that I would have to not be dismissive of egalitarians.

By the Spring of 2007, however, things began to steadily change, as I found myself more and more open to an egalitarian ideology. I took two classes that semester at Asbury, Exegesis of Romans and New Testament Introduction. At the beginning of Exegesis of Romans, we spent three weeks analyzing Romans 1 issues involving homosexuality, and our seminary at the time took a firm stance against the homosexual lifestyle and gay marriage. At the end of Exegesis of Romans, we had to weigh some of the demographic details of Romans 16, and reckon with the presence of a female apostle, Junia—something which surely affected present debates over women in ministry. In New Testament Introduction, while the discussion did not arise until near the end of the class, I was first presented with translation and perspective issues in 1 Timothy 2 that I had never heard before. So much of the debate has been polarized between those who hold the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) to uphold a complementarian ideology, and those who think that these letters are Deutero-Pauline and from a generation or two after Paul’s death, that I was quite relieved to hear a perspective which held these letters to be authentically Pauline and that they could be interpreted somewhat differently. Being in a Messianic movement that adheres to the post-resurrection era validity of the Torah, after all, certainly required me to interpret some Pauline passages differently!

By the end of Spring 2007, I had posted an FAQ on the then-TNN Online website, “Women in Ministry,” which presented a number of the options that I had to consider from New Testament Introduction. While presenting multiple points of view, though, I had already privately moved from being a complementarian-lite to an egalitarian. In Summer, 2005, at my local Messianic congregation at the time, in Central Florida, I had witnessed that a new series of elders and deacons were appointed. They were obviously all male. By Spring 2007, over half of these male elders and deacons had been asked to step down or were removed, and some of them who had continued in leadership were incompetent and inept—with a huge (physical) stress placed upon the main congregational leader. Being a seminary student who was having to study many aspects of ministry—especially men and women as co-leaders of the Body of Messiah—I found myself saying things along the lines of, “They would prefer unqualified and unstable men to be in leadership, rather than qualified and stable women, especially when there are clear examples of it in the Apostolic Writings.”

In 2008, while it hit more independent Messianic and Hebrew/Hebraic Roots sectors, there was a wave of teaching that endorsed polygamy as a valid practice for contemporary men in the Body of Messiah. When you have an educational ministry with a website, it does not matter where questions originate or who is asking them, as an issue like polygamy is clearly present in Holy Scripture and all students of God’s Word confront it. This issue, and some of the stir it caused, served as a major roadsign for me that everything regarding men and women in today’s Messianic movement was up for some review. I was very upset at the broadscale silence that I witnessed when the polygamy controversy hit, although I suspect that many just wanted it to go away and not give it any publicity. Recognizing that an endorsement of polygamy was representative of a failure in Messianic Biblical Studies, I wrote two lengthy articles in late Summer 2008, “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah,” followed by “Is Polygamy for Today? The Case Against Polygamy.”[11]

Surely, if there would be voices out there endorsing polygamy, then it would be entirely proper for there to be voices out there endorsing egalitarianism. At the end of 2008, my egalitarian views started to be more consciously integrated into various teachings, as I started the new year by releasing “How Are We to Live as Modern Messianics?” In the Spring of 2009, I also updated the “Women in Ministry” FAQ entry with some more data, as the polygamy fiasco did cause me to start acquiring many resources, books, and commentaries which were somehow related to contemporary debates between complementarians and egalitarians. This was highly important given the fact that within my Wednesday Night Bible Study podcast, I was going through Ephesians (2008-2009), the Pastoral Epistles (2010-2011), and later would go through 1 Corinthians (2015), all letters which have significance to present discussions about men and women in the Body of Messiah.

When our family moved back to North Texas in 2012, my egalitarian ideology was hardly something that I hid from anyone. As I got reintegrated into the local Messianic Jewish community, people knew, when they asked me, that I did not hold to the more standard or customary positions regarding women in ministry, that you would find in the Messianic movement. But, from 2013-2016 I would honestly answer, “It is not the most important issue for me right now, although I am planning to address it another day—and only plan to do so within the venue of our own ministry.” In the Spring of 2017, I heard a congregational message, from a guest speaker, which greatly offended me, as it defended a highly patriarchal view of male authority in the contemporary Body of Messiah. The other day had arrived. Throughout 2017 I worked on the lengthy analysis, “Men and Women in the Body of Messiah: Answering 50 Crucial Questions,” cross-examining the complementarian ideology of John Piper and Wayne Grudem from the resource 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood. This analysis, however, would only be able to address evangelical Protestant complementarianism, and not some of the unique factors present regarding men and women in today’s Messianic movement.

The issue of men and women in the Body of Messiah, however, is one where our family’s experience for almost a quarter-decade, my seminary training, my continued education and review of issues, and our own family’s ideology of wanting all people to achieve great things—can find itself at odds with a majority of the present Messianic movement. Of course, seeing females elevated into greater positions of authority is not a salvation issue, but it can directly influence our effectiveness as we move into the future. We also know that we are not alone in our egalitarian convictions, although many prefer to keep a lower profile about them—mainly because of the small size of the Messianic community. And, like I said several years ago: this is a topic we prefer to address in our own ministry venue, and not necessarily at our local congregation or at major conference events. Yet, given the way things stand now, with great uncertainties in our world and the steady erosion of religious freedoms, it is time for a candid discussion about the place of men and women in the Body of Messiah, and some of the mistakes that our faith community has made.

Approaching Answering Messianic Questions and Issues

While in one’s local Messianic congregation or fellowship, one is more likely to hear complementarian perspectives on men and women in the Body of Messiah, it is hardly as though there is a complementarian monolith within the Messianic movement. When looking slightly below the surface, there is a wider array of opinions detectable. Most of these would be classified as complementarian-lite, with females taking on much more responsibility for leadership and teaching within the assembly, but with the position of senior congregational leader reserved for a male. There are a few, who might be seen to be egalitarian, and be willing to argue, at least in principle, that a female could be a senior leader of a Messianic congregation.

Varied perspectives regarding females in positions of Messianic leadership, is actually not new to the Messianic movement of the Twenty-First Century. In her chapter, “Messianic Judaism and Women,” appearing in the 2013 Introduction to Messianic Judaism, Rachel Wolf discusses how a number of the female Messianic Jewish pioneers were raised in independently-thinking Jewish environments, and were somewhat perplexed when highly conservative Christian perspectives were adopted by much of Messianic Judaism in the 1970s and 1980s:

“Most of the established female leaders in the Messianic Jewish community grew up in Jewish contexts that valued independent thinking. Early Messianic synagogues tended to adopt conservative Christian views, and though some Messianic Jewish women embraced this outlook on women’s roles, others looked to Jewish sources as models. There is tension when it comes to identity because Messianic Jewish women come from a variety of backgrounds, and we find ourselves within a developing Messianic Jewish culture that includes many Gentiles.”[12]

Some of the factors which have contributed to a mainly complementarian ideology prevailing in current Messianic Judaism, do involve some of the formal training of various leaders and rabbis at highly conservative (and dispensational) evangelical Protestant institutions. Not enough were, who have been formally trained in religious studies, or are going to be, theologically exposed to an egalitarian ideology. Many of the Jewish Believers in today’s Messianic movement, raised in either a quasi-progressive Jewish environment or a nominally-religious Jewish environment, as Wolf notes above, are at somewhat of a conundrum as to the limitation of women in today’s Messianic Judaism. Many of the non-Jewish Believers, attracted to the Messianic movement, come from highly conservative theological (and political) backgrounds. My own family would be an exception in this regard, as we are a bit more moderate. Our Wesleyan theological and spiritual heritage has a history of using women, whereas those from other Protestant traditions in today’s Messianic community, are more likely to not have used women as much.

In my examination of addressing some of the specific questions and issues which have arisen regarding men and women in today’s Messianic movement, I ran across the website for an independent Messianic fellowship, and saw the following asked in their FAQ section: “What is your stance on women teaching in the congregation?” I read the answer, and it is obviously reflective of the common position that women are to be valued in the assembly, God can surely use and speak through women, yet ultimately males should be those teaching and leading the assembly as a whole:

Women have equal citizenship with Messiah (Galatians 3:28), are amazing at mentoring in small groups (Acts 18:26), excel at instructing younger females (Titus 2:3-5), and often receive the gift of prophesy (Acts 21:9, Judges 4:4). Yet despite all of this, the bible tells us to not place women in an authority over, or in a teaching capacity to, men in the congregation (I Corinthians 14:34, I Timothy 2:12). Now why would the bible do this, given all the amazing and powerful accounts of women in the scriptures? In II Chronicles 34 for example, when the long lost Book of the Law had been found, King Josiah sent his messengers to speak with a woman named Huldah, on what the Lord wanted them to do. And not only did he hear the prophetic words of Huldah, King Josiah gathered all the elders, men, inhabitants, priests and Levites, then made some decrees based on what she said. So to say Huldah indirectly instructed Josiah’s Kingdom would be an understatement (she did so much more), yet we are still instructed to teach men with other men. The bible does this, to challenge men toward accepting the role God has given them and be ready for the responsibilities of being a man. This has little to do with what a woman is, or is not, capable of doing. So our stance on women teaching in the congregation, is aligned with our instructions from the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), which says for women to refrain from teaching, or having authority over men in the congregation, to encourage our males to accept their spiritual responsibilities. And keep in mind that this does not subtract from women’s equal citizenship with Messiah, ability to teach in small groups, capability to instruct younger females, adeptness with children’s ministries and amazing gift of prophesy….[13]

When I read the statement about Huldah, “to say Huldah indirectly instructed Josiah’s Kingdom would be an understatement (she did so much more), yet we are still instructed to teach men with other men,” I detect that the leaders of this independent Messianic group would privately like to see females in much greater positions of teaching and leadership, yet they have concluded that the Apostolic Writings are limiting of it. I would suspect that there are many people within today’s Messianic movement, who feel the same way. They know that God uses women the same as men, but that because of certain Bible passages, that women cannot be used to the same degree as men in positions of leadership and teaching.

People who are engaged with some of the theological discussions and debates, particularly in evangelical Protestantism, from the past four to five decades, know that one cannot just refer off hand to 1 Timothy 2:12 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, regarding the place of women in the assembly. Complementarian interpreters who are negative to women occupying positions of leadership in the ekklēsia, recognize that there are situation-specific issues in both of these passages. Conservative egalitarian interpreters, recognize that 1 Timothy 2:12 has translation issues, and that there are textual debates involving the authenticity of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

It is undeniable that when I have evaluated some of the evangelical Protestant discussions on men and women in the Body of Messiah—in particular regarding men and women serving as co-leaders in the assembly, and husbands and wives as co-leaders of the family—that today’s Messianic movement has some unique homespun challenges. Because we do believe in some continuance of the Torah or Law of Moses, some are inclined to want to establish a Twenty-First Century quasi-patriarchy, rather than interpret some Torah instructions contextually for Ancient Israel first, before deducing some modern applications. Many of the instructions witnessed in the Torah, were actually case laws intended for Ancient Israel because of circumstances that arose for this burgeoning nation in the Ancient Near East. The bodies of Jewish literature and halachah from the Second Temple period and immediately afterward, bear significant witness to how Judaism has wrestled with applying ancient instructions, for later time periods.

As we approach various Messianic questions surrounding men and women, our purpose cannot be to evaluate all of the internal family decisions that husbands and wives need to make regarding their different responsibilities, their economic disposition, or their sexual practices. Our purpose should be to evaluate whether or not the Messianic movement, as a whole, has misevaluated the Scriptural trajectory regarding what occurred between men and women as a result of the Fall, the restoration of such equality in the post-resurrection era, and the offenses and injustices which have been committed by a sufficient number of today’s Messianic leaders and teachers by relegating females to a secondary place in the assembly and in the home. Discussions on men and women in the Body of Messiah, must also not overlook some of the discrimination which single people have had to endure—but we will leave that issue for another time…

NOTES

[1] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 83.

[2] Ibid., pp 83-86.

[3] Ruth Fleischer, “Women Can Be in Leadership,” in Dan Cohn-Sherbok, ed., Voices of Messianic Judaism (Baltimore: Lederer Books, 2001), pp 151-157.

[4] Sam Nadler, “Male Leadership and the Role of Women,” in Ibid., pp 159-168.

Nadler is also the author of Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations (Charlotte: Word of Messiah Ministries, 2016).

[5] Rachel Wolf, “Messianic Judaism and Women,” in David J. Rudolph and Joel Willitts, eds. Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), pp 98-106.

[6] First Fruits of Zion, with Grant Luton and Russ Resnik, Adam Loves Eve: The Bible’s Guide for Men Seeking a Better Marriage (Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion, 2017).

This book broadly follows the outline provided by Shalom Arush, The Garden of Peace: A Marital Guide for Men Only, trans. Lazer Brody (Jerusalem: Chut Shel Chessed Institutions, 2008).

[7] Tim Hegg (1992). The Role of Women in the Messianic Assembly. Torah Resource. Retrieved 27 February, 2010, from <http://torahresource.com>; What God has Joined Together: Biblical Foundations for Marriage (Tacoma, WA: TorahResource, 2007).

[8] Batya Ruth Wootten, Mama’s Torah: The Role of Women (St. Cloud, FL: Key of David, 2004).

[9] Moshe Koniuchowsky, Sex and the Believer: Shocking Freedom of Sexuality in Torah (Margate, FL: Your Arms to Israel Publishing, 2008).

[10] “The Women in Ministry Debate,” in Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, eds., Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp 225-235.

[11] I would be keen to reference the newly released article, which is negatively disposed toward polygamy, Toby Janicki. “Polygamy: Does the Bible Allow for Multiple Wives?” Messiah Journal Issue 128, Spring 2017/5778.

[12] Rachel Wolf, “Messianic Judaism and Women,” in Introduction to Messianic Judaism, 101.

[13] Messiah Echad. (n.d.). What is your stance on women teaching in the congregation? Retrieved 22 December, 2017, from <http://messiahechad.org/faq>.

The Impact of the Maccabees on Second Temple Judaism – December 2019 OIM News

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?



OIM Update
December 2019

As the second decade of the Twenty-First Century ends this month, the anticipation of what the Lord is going to accomplish during the 2020s ramps up. Clearly, the connection with “VISION” is on the mind of many futuristic thinking people, since optometrists determine visual acuity by this standard of measurement. But what about those spiritually focused Believers who faithfully follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who have received forgiveness by the blood sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah? Are their prayerful expectations of Israel’s restoration and sweeping revival valid? Or in addition, is it finally time for the children of Abraham (“for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham,” Matthew 3:9b) to become the living stones referenced by the Apostle Peter (“you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah,” 1 Peter 2:5)? Are true Believers willing, able, and ready to aggressively possess the gates of our enemies? For most assuredly, this is a sworn promise to the multitude of God’s children who currently exist on Planet Earth:

“Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, ‘By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice’” (Genesis 22:15-18, NASU).

After all, there are some incredible promises sworn to Abraham’s promised seed, the Messiah Yeshua (Galatians 3:16)—but what about the assortment of numerous children, adopted as offspring and fellow heirs with the Messiah, because of unrelenting faith in His accomplished work at Golgotha?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:15-17, NASU).

“And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29, NASU).

Obviously, the covenantal promises to the faithful physical descendants of father Abraham are irrevocable (Romans 11:29), but according to the Apostle Paul, the crucial faith component has been extended to those from a great variety of nations as well:

“For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, ‘A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU’ [Genesis 17:5]) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, ‘SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE’ [Genesis 17:17] (Romans 4:16-18, NASU).

Hence, when some of the written promises of the Almighty to the “believing” community of faith are considered, a number of recent complimentary exhortations from diverse spiritually respected voices have the echo of the requirement that “by the testimony of two or three witnesses” there is confirmation (2 Corinthians 13:1). This is not to say that different prophetic “visions” for the future will indeed come to be, but it is intriguing to notice that there appears to be some cohesion in what unique ministry-oriented people are declaring.

In particular, the two voiced themes of “gates” and “roar” have been notable, especially at this time in history when the American and Israeli people are extremely divided both politically and spiritually. For it is historically evident that the Holy One of Israel allowed the formation of the American Republic, while adhering to Biblical principles, to be blessed materially and militarily to provide the covering for the reconstitution of the State of Israel. However, over the past several decades in the USA, the insidious migration toward secular humanism and the casting aside of the absolutes found in the Holy Scriptures, has led to a perceptible loss of the culture wars. Is this because most Believers have taken a defensive posture, rather than employ an offensive strategy when it comes to fighting the incessant spiritual battles? Is it finally time to not only maintain the spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6:10-17, but actively attack the enemy with the sword of the Spirit?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH [Isaiah 11:5], and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God [Isaiah 59:17]” (Ephesians 6:10-17, NASU).

These words are a vivid reminder that the spiritual warfare which existed in ancient times has never ended. In fact, the wicked forces of evil have only grown more powerful and ubiquitous with the acceleration of technological advances. The ultimate advent of a “one world” governmental “beast” system prophesied in the Book of Revelation, seems just a handful of years away. This potential reality is alarming, but what should those given the promises of the Almighty do to impede the progress of these wicked forces? How about use the one “offensive” weapon found in the armor mentioned above: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God!

It is declared in Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2 that “the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem,” and that in the past month, an effort has been completed to finally begin broadcasting God’s Word in Hebrew from the very gates of Jerusalem and the hills of Zion. Songs are coming forth and spiritual leaders are encouraging their respective flocks to not remain passive but rather, go forth declaring the Word of God in the very gates of the nations where it first arrived centuries ago. Take back the territory that has been lost to the ungodly! Get on the offensive and declare God’s Holy Word with specificity, and utilize His power guided by the Holy Spirit to knock down strongholds and break curses where they exist! For far too long, the Body of Messiah has operated as lambs led to slaughter, instead of joyfully proclaiming God’s truths empowered by the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!

Of course, the VISION for the 2020s must be firmly fixed on the Messiah Yeshua (Hebrews 12:2), the author and perfecter of true faith, in order to hear the voice of His Spirit most clearly. After all, He alone is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and His commands, when it comes to fighting spiritual battles, are without equal and accomplish everything He desires to do at any point in time. So be mindful that the call to be in the Lord’s offensive army comes with individual responsibility to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, NASU), according to His will. In addition, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, NASU), because without fervent prayer and listening to the response of the Holy Spirit and following His lead, the consequences of exercising fleshly motives will be unproductive.

While the imperatives for moving out aggressively to take back what has been inadvertently given over to the enemy of our souls could go on for volumes, suffice it to say, the following two statements from Joel and Amos tend to illuminate some of the confluence of declarations coming forth at this hour. Take some time to meditate upon them and examine what the Spirit of God reveals:

“The LORD roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But the Lord is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, and strangers will pass through it no more” (Joel 3:16-17, NASU).

“For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate. Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5:12-15, NASU).

Finally, as always, it is a privilege to be called into the service of the Holy One of Israel at this critical juncture in world history! Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics do not take our assignments cavalierly, but instead soberly seek the Lord for His guidance and provision in all things. We are blessed to have faithful partners who pray and support our efforts with their offerings and donations. It is our prayer that you will be rewarded for supplying our needs and join with us in the battles for souls as we each enter the next decade of salvation history, and all perform the good works ordained from eternity past (Ephesians 2:10).

Blessings and thankfulness, until the restoration of all things,

Mark Huey


The Impact of the Maccabees on Second Temple Judaism

by J.K. McKee

For most Messianics I know who celebrate Chanukah, they hear a great deal about the military exploits of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple. Many of them honestly take the time to flip through the Books of 1&2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha, the principal historical record that influences our understanding of the wars fought by the Maccabees. When Jerusalem was recaptured and the Temple was rededicated, much more really did take place. This goes beyond the lives of Judah Maccabee and his brothers. Sadly, too many congregations and fellowships that honor Chanukah are not that familiar with this period of complicated history—not only for what took place in the Second Century B.C.E., but how it would influence the First Century C.E.

Good Relations that the Jews Had With the Seleucids

When surveying 1&2 Maccabees, one easily finds how Judea has been encroached between two divisions of Alexander the Great’s divided Greek Empire. The Ptolemaic Greeks dominate Egypt to the south, and the Seleucid Greeks dominate Syria to the north. Originally, it seems that the Jewish nation had fairly good relations with the Seleucid regime, and had no problems serving as a vassal state. Two of the preceding monarchs to Antiochus Epiphanes, Antiochus the Great or Antiochus III (222-187 B.C.E.), and Seleucus IV (187-175 B.C.E.), are recorded to have been favorable toward the Jews.

King Antiochus III actually writes a letter, indicating how a population of Jews are to be moved out of Mesopotamia and Babylon, into Lydia and Phrygia. These are people, he attests, who will be loyal to the state, if they are simply left alone to worship their God and observe their religious laws. They will be productive and honorable citizens. As the historian Josephus recorded,

King Antiochus to Zeuxis his father, sends greetings. “If you are in health, it is well. I also am in health. Having been informed that a sedition has arisen in Lydia and Phrygia, I thought that matter required great care; and upon advising with my friends what was fit to be done, it has been thought proper to remove two thousand families of Jews, with their effects, out of Mesopotamia and Babylon, to the citadels and places that lie most convenient; for I am persuaded that they will be well disposed guardians of our possessions, because of their piety toward God, and because I know that my predecessors have borne witness to them, that they are faithful, and with alacrity do what they are desired to do. I will, therefore, though it be a laborious work, that you remove these Jews; under a promise that they shall be permitted to use their own laws; and when you shall have brought them to the places before mentioned, you shall give everyone of their families a place for building their houses, and a portion of the land for their husbandry, and for the plantation of their vines; and you shall discharge them from paying taxes of the fruits of the earth for ten years; and let them have a proper quantity of wheat for the maintenance of their servants, until they receive grain out of the earth; also let a sufficient share be given to such as minister to them in the necessities of life, that by enjoying the effects of our humanity, they may show themselves the more willing and ready about our affairs. Take care likewise of that nation, as far as you are able, that they may not have any disturbance given them by anyone.” Now these testimonials which I have produced are sufficient to declare the friendship that Antiochus the Great bore to the Jews (Antiquities of the Jews 12.148-153).[1]

Some Colossians commentators note how, even though there were Jews in the region of Phrygia and Lydia going back from much earlier, this group that was transplanted may have been the more immediate forbearers of any Jews in Colossae and the Lycus Valley, that either would have recognized Yeshua as Messiah[2]—or who would have errantly influenced the Colossian Believers.[3]

Seleucus IV did not rule as long as Antiochus the Great, but the Epitomist of 2 Maccabees certainly does issue some complimentary words of him. He remarks, “the kings themselves honored the place and glorified the temple with the finest presents, so that even Seleucus, the king of Asia, defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the service of the sacrifices” (2 Maccabees 3:2-3). The Jewish nation by no means always had bad relations with the Seleucid Greek Empire. As long as they were allowed to worship in the way that the Torah required, things stayed somewhat cordial. Things may have not exactly been perfect, especially since the Babylonian exile—but having to pay tribute to a nearby great power was certainly better than another exile. The office of high priest may have become a political appointment that needed to be approved by a nearby governor or Seleucid monarch—but that was certainly preferable to having no Temple or priesthood.

Bad Relations that the Jews had with the Seleucids

The fact that Judea had become a vassal of the Seleucid Empire, with the high priesthood often up for sale to the highest bidder, meant that sooner or later things were going to get complicated. This is exactly what we see in the opening chapters of 2 Maccabees. The Epitomist records how a certain Simon had told the Seleucid governor Apollonius, that the Temple treasury “was full of untold sums of money” (2 Maccabees 3:6) which were being withheld from the royal tribute. While these funds were found out to be mainly in trust for widows and orphans (2 Maccabees 3:10), and via angelic intervention they were not stolen (2 Maccabees 3:22-30), a trend of incidents began. The high priest Onias was slandered by Simon (2 Maccabees 4:1-5), and so Onias goes to Apollonius and pleads how “without the king’s attention public affairs could not again reach a peaceful settlement” (2 Maccabees 4:6)—with Simon actually being considered a threat to peace in the region.

When Antiochus Epiphanes succeeds his brother, King Seleucus, Onias’ brother, Jason, “obtained the high priesthood by corruption” (2 Maccabees 4:7). Significant actions promoting Hellenism also are seen, with the founding of a gymnasium (presumably where men would train nude) and an order of Antiochenes (2 Maccabees 4:9). The author of 1 Maccabees considers these things to be considerable acts of renegade apostasy, describing,

“In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, ‘Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.’ This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil” (1 Maccabees 1:11-15, NRSV).

Take important notice of how these acts of Hellenism were willfully imposed by a corrupt high priest who wanted to curry favors with the Seleucid Empire. Yet the corruption ran deeper, because when the high priest Jason sends Menelaus, a brother of the Simon who had informed Apollonius of the Temple treasury, to King Antiochus—he loses his high priesthood. The Epitomist of 2 Maccabees recounts, “But he, when presented to the king, extolled him with an air of authority, and secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver” (2 Maccabees 4:24). Menelaus is not at all a person whom the Epitomist of 2 Maccabees approves of, recognizing how he used his high priesthood to appropriate gold objects from the Temple for bribes, and then selling them for personal profit (2 Maccabees 4:32).

Onias, the previously respected and Torah-faithful high priest (2 Maccabees 3:1), now deposed from that office, makes his way to Antioch to protest the crimes Menelaus has committed (2 Maccabees 4:33). Antiochus Epiphanes is away putting down a rebellion in Tarsus and Mallus, and so Menelaus convinces his deputy, Andronicus, to have Onias put away—which he does (2 Maccabees 4:34-35). The murder of Onias, the former Jewish high priest, is met with a great deal of anger, so much so that “many also of other nations, were grieved and displeased at the unjust murder of the man” (2 Maccabees 4:35). When Antiochus returns, he is actually saddened, and has Andronicus humiliated, and then executed on the very spot where Onias was killed (2 Maccabees 4:37-38).

Simply because King Antiochus does briefly show a moment of human feeling, by no means is an indication that he was not an opportunistic leader. A mob scene takes place when Menelaus is away from the Temple in Jerusalem, caused by the sacrilege committed by his brother Lysimachus, creating a huge uproar among the people with Lysimachus himself killed near the Temple treasury (2 Maccabees 4:39-42). Charges are brought against Menelaus over this mob riot, when King Antiochus comes to Tyre (2 Maccabees 4:43-46). Yet as the Epitomist of 2 Maccabees says, “through the covetousness of them that were of power Menelaus remained still in authority, increasing in malice, and being a great traitor to the citizens” (2 Maccabees 4:50, KJV). The relationship that the Jewish nation has with the Seleucid Empire gets increasingly more difficult, due to bribery, corruption, and the desire for certain men to be in positions of power.

Preceding some of the events that we commemorate at Chanukah, visions of horsemen and soldiers had appeared over the skies of Judea (2 Maccabees 5:1-4), as Antiochus Epiphanes is overseeing his second invasion of Egypt. A rumor is circulated that he has fallen dead in battle, and so the deposed high priest Jason uses this as an opportunity to attack Jerusalem and retake his prior office (2 Maccabees 5:5-6). All that can be said is that he utterly failed, and then he has to flee—first to Egypt, and then onto Sparta, where he dies in exile (2 Maccabees 5:7-10).

What happens when there is all of this internal fighting and politicking among the Jews? First, Jewish religious leaders embrace various ungodly ways from Hellenism. Secondly, different men vie for the office of the high priest. And although not entirely unsuccessful in Egypt, Antiochus Epiphanes hears that Judea is in revolt, and he feels compelled to come and “intervene” in what is happening—asserting Seleucid Greek dominance.

Things Fought and Died For

After the failed attempt by Jason to reclaim his priesthood, Antiochus Epiphanes invades Jerusalem, kills many people, and then ransacks the Temple. Sadly enough, the high priest Menelaus is said to have actually collaborated with him, as Antiochus took a great spoil from the Temple:

“Not content with this, Antiochus dared to enter the most holy temple in all the world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to the laws and to his country. He took the holy vessels with his polluted hands, and swept away with profane hands the votive offerings which other kings had made to enhance the glory and honor of the place” (2 Maccabees 5:15-16).

This was not the later, and much more serious defilement that the Maccabees would have to come and clean up—but just a matter of Antiochus Epiphanes wanting to demonstrate his supremacy, as well as make up for an unsuccessful military campaign elsewhere. Even though all Antiochus did here was steal a great deal of sacred objects (1 Maccabees 1:20-24), the Jews were absolutely distraught over it. The author of 1 Maccabees describes how there was great mourning and despair among the people:

“Taking them all, he departed to his own land. He committed deeds of murder, and spoke with great arrogance. Israel mourned deeply in every community, rulers and elders groaned, maidens and young men became faint, the beauty of women faded. Every bridegroom took up the lament; she who sat in the bridal chamber was mourning. Even the land shook for its inhabitants, and all the house of Jacob was clothed with shame” (1 Maccabees 1:24-28).

As terrible as this is, however, the Epitomist of 2 Maccabees observes how because of the sin present, this was considered to be rightful punishment from the Lord:

“But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation. Therefore the place itself shared in the misfortunes that befell the nation and afterward participated in its benefits; and what was forsaken in the wrath of the Almighty was restored again in all its glory when the great Lord became reconciled” (2 Maccabees 5:19-20).

Following this sacrilege, the author of 1 Maccabees further details how Jerusalem was transformed into a military citadel, where the Seleucid Greeks stationed “sinful people, lawless men” (1 Maccabees 1:34). Several years after the sacking of the Temple, Antiochus Epiphanes issues a decree that his entire kingdom “should be one people, and that each should give up his customs” (1 Maccabees 1:41). Many obey his orders (1 Maccabees 1:42), but the Jewish people would prove to be a very serious problem. This would require the Jews to give up various Torah practices, including the Temple sacrifices and worship (1 Maccabees 1:45a-b), the weekly Sabbath and appointed times (1 Maccabees 1:45c), they would have to build idolatrous idols and shrines (1 Maccabees 1:47), and they would have to leave their sons uncircumcised (1 Maccabees 1:48). The decree issued by Antiochus Epiphanes meant that the Jerusalem Temple would itself be desecrated. The author of 1 Maccabees, and the Epitomist of 2 Maccabees, describe what takes place from their two vantage points:

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah (1 Maccabees 1:54).

Not long after this, the king sent an Athenian senator to compel the Jews to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God, and also to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and call it the temple of Olympian Zeus, and to call the one in Gerizim the temple of Zeus the Friend of Strangers, as did the people who dwelt in that place. Harsh and utterly grievous was the onslaught of evil. For the temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with harlots and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. The altar was covered with abominable offerings which were forbidden by the laws. A man could neither keep the sabbath, nor observe the feasts of his fathers, nor so much as confess himself to be a Jew. On the monthly celebration of the king’s birthday, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices; and when the feast of Dionysus came, they were compelled to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus, wearing wreaths of ivy. At the suggestion of Ptolemy a decree was issued to the neighboring Greek cities, that they should adopt the same policy toward the Jews and make them partake of the sacrifices, and should slay those who did not choose to change over to Greek customs. One could see, therefore, the misery that had come upon them (2 Maccabees 6:1-9).

Yeshua’s later words to the moneychangers, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN” (Matthew 21:13; cf. Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11),[4] on how people were being shortchanged—as serious as they were—actually seem pretty light compared to what is going on here a century-and-a-half earlier. When the decree of Antiochus Epiphanes was enacted, God’s House literally became a whorehouse!

The considerable bulk of the Books of 1&2 Maccabees is spent detailing how Judah Maccabee and his brothers stood against what was happening, raising an army, and fighting against the Seleucid invaders of Judea. At Chanukah, we remember how they were able to cleanse and rededicate the Temple (1 Maccabees 4:36-59; 2 Maccabees 10:1-8). We rightfully commemorate their tenacity and sacrifice. But do we really think about what they were fighting for? We know they were fighting for the rights of the Jewish people, and for a religion based in God’s Torah, to survive. But do we really understand how the Maccabees fought and died for the injustices delivered against normal, everyday Jews? These were people who did not allow themselves to be engulfed by the corruption of the different priests, or the decrees of the Seleucid Empire. They were people who loved God, obeyed God, and simply wanted to do what was required of God’s chosen people.

There are a number of religious issues that are given attention in 1&2 Maccabees, for which the Jewish fighters, who followed Judah Maccabee, were willing to die. Antiochus Epiphanes’ decree that the Jews should dismiss both God’s Torah and their ancestral customs was very much designed to see them eventually assimilated into the religious and cultural milieu of his empire. You have probably already noticed how many of the Jews appearing in the Books of 1&2 Maccabees have Greek names.[5] But this would even go further—eventually because of Antiochus’ polices there was to be no recognizable Jewish people. The identity of the Jewish people, as the physical remnant of Israel, was understandably tied up in God’s Torah and the Temple. And so, as the author of 1 Maccabees asserts, Antiochus Epiphanes wanted them to “forget the law and change all the ordinances” (1 Maccabees 1:49). If Jews in the Holy Land itself willingly gave up on God and the Temple, what would that signal? Could the Jewish people survive?

The overarching insult for any faithful Jew at the time would be to not only see the scrolls of God’s holy Torah torn up and burned, but also people killed for obeying God’s Law:

“The books of the law which they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death” (1 Maccabees 1:56-57).

While it is easy for us to simply think of the Torah as being a spiritual document, describing how God wanted His people to live their lives in obedience to Him, the period of the Maccabees shows us how it very much became a national symbol—perhaps mores than ever before—of Jewish identity. Jews faithful to God could be rounded up and slaughtered if they obeyed His commandments, not turning their back on Him and worshipping the gods and goddesses of the Greeks. There are a number of specific areas of the Torah that are targeted by the Seleucid Greeks that needed to be put down, beyond just general obedience. Both 1&2 Maccabees record instances how various Jews were martyred because they refused to give into the decrees of a wicked king.

Circumcision

It is not difficult to see that circumcision is a major issue of importance to the time period of the Maccabees. Before the desecration of the Temple by the order of Antiochus Epiphanes, there were already Jewish men who “removed the marks of circumcision” (1 Maccabees 1:15). How did they do this? IDB observes, “When Hellenistic influence grew strong in Palestine, the Jews came into contact with Greeks who did not practice circumcision. Some Jews sought to overcome the effect of circumcision by epispasm, making foreskins for themselves.”[6] According to Josephus, when the gymnasium had been established in Jerusalem, the Jewish men “hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be Greeks” (Antiquities of the Jews 12.241).[7] The Apostle Paul, speaking of a Jewish man first being called to faith in Yeshua, says, “Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision” (1 Corinthians 7:18, NRSV).

Apparently in ancient times there did exist a (primitive) medical procedure that could remove the marks of circumcision. The verb epispaō, appearing in 1 Corinthians 7:18, can mean “to pull the foreskin over the end of the penis” (BDAG).[8] To the author of 1 Maccabees, Jewish men who would go through the hassle of having to stretch over and grow a new foreskin, “abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil” (1 Maccabees 1:15).

Even though there were Jewish men who abandoned the rite of circumcision, and were effectively considered traitors to God—the real attention in 1&2 Maccabees is given to those who continued to circumcise their sons. 1 Maccabees 1:60-61 describes the brutal murder of those who practiced circumcision: “According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” 2 Maccabees 6:10 further says, “two women were brought in for having circumcised their children. These women they publicly paraded about the city, with their babies hung at their breasts, then hurled them down headlong from the wall.” For simply obeying the Torah’s requirement that male children be circumcised (Leviticus 12:3), these women were murdered as criminals against the state.

So serious was this to the Maccabees, that when Mattathias, Judah Maccabee’s father, begins his campaign with those “who offered [themselves] willingly for the law” (1 Maccabees 2:42)—they not only smash down idolatrous shrines, but they also see that uncircumcised Jewish boys are promptly circumcised:

“And Mattathias and his friends went about and tore down the altars; they forcibly circumcised all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel” (1 Maccabees 2:45-46).

Circumcision became an issue that the Maccabean Jews considered to be one worth dying for, especially if Jewish women were unjustly murdered by the Seleucid regime for only obeying God.

Keeping the Sabbath

Another major sign, of Jewish apostasy against the Torah, is considered to be how “Many even from Israel…profaned the sabbath” (1 Maccabees 1:43). While a Creation ordinance (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:9, 11), the Sabbath was also to be a special sign of how God led the Ancient Israelites out of slavery from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15), and how His people could now rest one day each week, being free. Keeping the Sabbath was an integral part of obedience to God, and so it is not at all surprising how when faithful Jews continued to keep the Sabbath—in spite of Antiochus’ decrees against it—they often died. 1 Maccabees 2:31-38 records an incident of how many Jews, who had fled into hiding, were slaughtered because they refused to defend themselves on the Sabbath:

“And it was reported to the king’s officers, and to the troops in Jerusalem the city of David, that men who had rejected the king’s command had gone down to the hiding places in the wilderness. Many pursued them, and overtook them; they encamped opposite them and prepared for battle against them on the sabbath day. And they said to them, ‘Enough of this! Come out and do what the king commands, and you will live.’ But they said, ‘We will not come out, nor will we do what the king commands and so profane the sabbath day.’ Then the enemy hastened to attack them. But they did not answer them or hurl a stone at them or block up their hiding places, for they said, ‘Let us all die in our innocence; heaven and earth testify for us that you are killing us unjustly.’ So they attacked them on the sabbath, and they died, with their wives and children and cattle, to the number of a thousand persons.”

The soldiers who tracked these people down actually gave them the option of recanting on their convictions, letting them keep their lives. These faithful Jews retorted back that they would not profane the Sabbath, and so they were attacked and were killed. When Mattathias and the other Maccabees heard of this “they mourned for them deeply” (1 Maccabees 2:39), recognizing how they died for their piety. Yet at the same time, acknowledging the severe gravity of the circumstances, the Maccabees all agreed that if they were attacked on the Sabbath, that they would defend themselves, lest their entire cause be lost:

“And each said to his neighbor: ‘If we all do as our brethren have done and refuse to fight with the Gentiles for our lives and for our ordinances, they will quickly destroy us from the earth.’ So they made this decision that day: ‘Let us fight against every man who comes to attack us on the sabbath day; let us not all die as our brethren died in their hiding places’” (1 Maccabees 2:40-41).

Today in Judaism, because of examples like this, it is considered appropriate to violate any ritual commandment—save committing idolatry—to save a life. This is why in modern Israel, the military, police, and doctors, can all work on Shabbat. The historical record does include a reference to how, when faced with an opposing force, the Maccabees did fight on the Sabbath (1 Maccabees 9:43-49). At the same time, the Maccabees’ faithfulness to the Torah is recognized, in that they did keep the Sabbath when they could (2 Maccabees 8:24-29).

The record in 2 Maccabees similarly describes how the holy institution of the Sabbath was turned against the Jews. In the two-year time period between Antiochus Epiphanes’ ransacking of the Temple, and his later decree for all to Hellenize which saw the Temple defiled, an Apollonius, captain of some Mysian mercenaries, came to inflict considerable damage on the people (2 Maccabees 5:24). The Epitomist describes how he waited for the Sabbath, when the Jews would not be working, to attack:

“When this man arrived in Jerusalem, he pretended to be peaceably disposed and waited until the holy sabbath day; then, finding the Jews not at work, he ordered his men to parade under arms. He put to the sword all those who came out to see them, then rushed into the city with his armed men and killed great numbers of people” (2 Maccabees 5:25-26).

The Epitomist also records how, along with the women who were murdered for circumcising their sons, “Others who had assembled in the caves near by, to observe the seventh day secretly, were betrayed to Philip and were all burned together, because their piety kept them from defending themselves, in view of their regard for that most holy day” (2 Maccabees 5:11). In the later fighting against Nicanor, occurring after the rededication of the Temple but still in a tenuous time, Nicanor mocks the Jews among his army who ask him to remember the Sabbath day:

“When Nicanor heard that Judas and his men were in the region of Samaria, he made plans to attack them with complete safety on the day of rest. And when the Jews who were compelled to follow him said, ‘Do not destroy so savagely and barbarously, but show respect for the day which he who sees all things has honored and hallowed above other days,’ the thrice-accursed wretch asked if there were a sovereign in heaven who had commanded the keeping of the sabbath day. And when they declared, ‘It is the living Lord himself, the Sovereign in heaven, who ordered us to observe the seventh day,’ he replied, ‘And I am a sovereign also, on earth, and I command you to take up arms and finish the king’s business.’ Nevertheless, he did not succeed in carrying out his abominable design” (2 Maccabees 15:1-6).

Suffice it to say, it is not difficult to see how important the Sabbath would become to later Jewish generations—including the imposition of many extra-Biblical rulings and regulations designed to protect its sanctity. Since people departing from Sabbath remembrance was believed to be a partial cause of Antiochus’ desecration, guarding the Sabbath would have to be enacted to see that a catastrophe would not take place again. While some of the Rabbinical views of guarding the Sabbath might go overboard here or there (m.Shabbat 7:2), we should at least understand why such regulations would be formulated.

Eating Pork

One of the most significant, yet allusive features, of Jewish culture to many outsiders, is in understanding why many religious Jews are adamant about not eating pork. While the Torah does say that the pig is unclean, both Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 also list other animals that are unclean. The only reason why the pig is considered unclean is “because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud.” Also to be noted is “You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses” (Deuteronomy 14:8; cf. Leviticus 11:7). But other than these regulations, what makes the pig so detestable to religious Jews? It all goes back to the Maccabean period, and how the Seleucid Greeks sacrificed pigs in the sacred precincts of the Temple (1 Maccabees 1:47).

But sacrificing swine and other unfit animals on the altar in the Temple is only a part of the problem. The Epitomist of 2 Maccabees records two examples of people who were murdered by the authorities because they refused to eat pork. The first, a scribe named Eleazar, was an old man willing to give up his life rather than eat pork:

“Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, as men ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life” (2 Maccabees 6:18-20).

Eleazar’s colleagues actually urged him to just pretend to eat pork, so that he might save his life in the process, but he refused (2 Maccabees 6:21-23). He responded to them, “Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life…lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion” (2 Maccabees 6:24). He further said, “For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty” (2 Maccabees 6:26). And so for not eating pork, Eleazar went to the rack and was martyred (2 Maccabees 6:28-31).

The second, and by far most serious scene of not eating pork, is witnessed in 2 Maccabees 7. Seven brothers are taken before their mother, and with Antiochus Epiphanes present, each one of them is tested as to whether he will “partake of unlawful swine’s flesh” (2 Maccabees 7:1). 2 Maccabees 7 summarizes how each one of the brothers defiantly refuses to give in, facing a painful death. They appeal to the God of Israel as their final Vindicator, and how they will each be resurrected into the new world He will one day inaugurate. The mother who has had to watch all of this too dies, and all the Epitomist can say afterward is, “Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures” (2 Maccabees 7:42).

The horror of thinking about Torah-faithful Jews being tortured, and dying, for not eating pork, is not something that goes away easily. (And recall here how we are dealing with the broad Biblical period, not Jews during the Middle Ages being forced to convert to Christianity by Roman Catholicism, and then forced to eat pork as a sign of loyalty.) Later in 2 Maccabees, following the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, and as his son Antiochus V becomes king, attempts are made (albeit temporarily) to patch up relations with the Jewish nation. A letter is sent from the new King Antiochus to the Jewish leaders, and permission is extended “for the Jews to enjoy their own food and laws, just as formerly” (2 Maccabees 11:31). For a very brief moment, the Seleucid Greek leaders recognized that forcing the Jews to give up the Torah was a foolish errand. They also recognized how important it was for the Jews to follow their kosher dietary laws, and that by forcing people to eat pork—it only made the Jews hate them even more.

New Theology from the Greeks, or Old Theology for Inspiration?

Today’s New Testament theologians recognize that understanding the period of the Maccabees is extremely important for understanding Judaism in the First Century C.E. It is quite easy to see how the Maccabean crisis, where the Jewish people faced religious and cultural extermination, would leave a significant mark on succeeding generations, and with it a general suspicion of anyone outside of the Jewish community (discussed further). Yet we also cannot overlook the fact that some of today’s interpreters argue that the time period of the Maccabees reflects a significant change in Jewish theology—in particular when it comes to beliefs and convictions that you and I probably hold quite dear to us. Consider the words of George Robinson’s Essential Judaism,

“Belief in the resurrection of the dead, a key element in traditionally observant Judaism’s vision of the Messianic age, dates from the period of the Pharisees, and may be an outgrowth of Greek or Persian influence…According to at least one Jewish historian…the idea of resurrection of the dead gained its first currency at the time of the Maccabees, around the second century B.C.E., a period of great suffering for the Jews. In the face of such trauma…the notion of another life after death promised a final, cosmic release.”[9]

It is correct that in the Apostolic Scriptures, the Pharisees are known for their staunch belief in the resurrection of the dead (i.e., Acts 23:6), but did this view originate entirely from the period of the Maccabees?

Liberal theologians commonly argue that the doctrine of resurrection was not fully developed until the time period of the Maccabees, and it is thus a rather late import to Judaism, not really being witnessed to in the Tanach (Old Testament). It is absolutely undeniable that for the martyrs of 2 Maccabees 7, the resurrection played an important reason in why they willingly gave up their lives. In the future, they would be resurrected and would enter into a new world that their tormenters would not be permitted to enter:

the second brother: “And when he was at his last breath, he said, ‘You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws’” (2 Maccabees 7:9).

the fourth brother: “And when he was near death, he said, ‘One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!’” (2 Maccabees 7:14).

the mother: “Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws” (2 Maccabees 7:23).

It would seem rather difficult to argue that the concept of resurrection was imported from Hellenistic philosophy, because even though there were diverse Greek views about the afterlife (including no afterlife and just oblivion), classic Platonic philosophy argued that death involved the permanent separation of the soul from the body.[10] No future recomposition of a disembodied human consciousness, with a resurrected and restored body, was to take place according to these Hellenists. Many Greeks, and likewise Romans, looked forward to death, and rather than their bodies being buried with respect in anticipation of a future resurrection, they were often cremated and thrown away as though they were garbage.

Was the concept of resurrection a late import to Judaism, popularized during the Maccabean period? No. The Tanach itself does speak of the resurrection. Isaiah 26:19 declares, “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. you who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.” In the dry bones prophecy of Ezekiel 37:6, the Lord declares to a restored Israel “I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive.” And the famed Daniel 12:2 says, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”

If one holds to Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all including genuine prophecies of authentic prophets who bore these names, it should not be difficult to see how belief in the resurrection was not a late import into Judaism from the Maccabean period. From the Tanach, the Maccabean martyrs would have known that their deaths were not in vain. They would one day be resurrected into a new world, where God’s peace and justice reigned supreme, something that their captors would not experience. Yet liberal theologians, in varying degrees, have all dated Isaiah, Ezekiel, and most especially Daniel, rather late.[11] Furthermore, rather than speaking of a future resurrection of righteous individuals, the above prophecies are frequently allegorized, believed to only be speaking of the corporate restoration of Israel.

A much longer account of the seven brothers being martyred is seen in 4 Maccabees chs. 8-12. Interjected into the narrative is a great deal of philosophizing about their faithfulness. Nothing is stated that would contradict the emphasis in 2 Maccabees about the resurrection, but what is added to what they say concerns what happens immediately after death. The seven brothers are portrayed as eagerly waiting to die, taunting Antiochus Epiphanes with these words:

“For we, through this severe suffering and endurance, shall have the prize of virtue and shall be with God, for whom we suffer; but you, because of your bloodthirstiness toward us, will deservedly undergo from the divine justice eternal torment by fire” (4 Maccabees 9:8-9).

When the seventh brother prepares to die, he tells King Antiochus, “on you he will take vengeance both in this present life and when you are dead” (4 Maccabees 12:18). When observations are made of the seven brothers’ death, it is simply asserted, “For if we so die, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will welcome us, and all the fathers will praise us” (4 Maccabees 13:17). These sentiments all point to a belief in some kind of conscious, disembodied state immediately after death. The righteous will experience some kind of time in a Paradise (cf. Luke 23:43), and the unrighteous will experience some kind of punishment, culminating in an eternal torment. The seven brothers who were martyred knew that after death, they would be welcomed into something wonderful, something that King Antiochus would never be able to experience.

Similar to how liberal theologians will argue that belief in the resurrection was late and is not found in the Tanach, so do they conclude that a belief in an intermediate afterlife prior to the resurrection is also a late import from the Maccabean period. Quite contrary to this, though, the Tanach does allude to an existence for the deceased in Sheol, the location of which is often contrasted to be as low in the cosmic spectrum, as Heaven being the realm of God, is high in the cosmic spectrum (Deuteronomy 32:22; Isaiah 7:11).[12] The Torah forbids the Ancient Israelites from consulting spiritists and mediums (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; cf. Isaiah 8:19-20), which very much presupposes that the consciousness of a human person can exist separate from the body. The spirit of Samuel came to taunt King Saul, prior to his defeat (1 Samuel 28:13-15). And, the King of Babylon is actually greeted by other fallen kings, as he enters into Sheol after his death (Isaiah 14:9-11, 18-20).

Without getting into the much larger debate over what takes place between death and resurrection, suffice it to say the Tanach gives ample clues that some kind of temporary, disembodied, post-mortem state, is to be expected for people. The belief in an intermediate afterlife, affirmed by the Jewish Pharisees of the First Century C.E.,[13] by no means had to come as a late import during the Maccabean era—even if ultimately resurrection into a restored Kingdom of God on Earth is to be expected.

The Holy Scriptures teach that a redeemed person’s salvation will not be fully consummated until the resurrection, when the human consciousness and human body will be entirely restored (Romans 8:22-23). This is an affirmation that the human being is different from the animal creation, being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and being partially made of another dimension. An intermediate, disembodied afterlife attended by a future resurrection runs completely contrary to Platonic Greek philosophy, because a Biblical worldview sees the physical Creation as ultimately good. Even if a Believer is to enter into the presence of the Lord at time of death (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23), such a disembodied condition is only a temporary time until the resurrection (Philippians 3:21).[14]

If one is tempted to think that the doctrine of an intermediate afterlife prior to resurrection, originated exclusively from Jewish interactions with the Greeks—he or she really needs to consider the source from which such sentiments originate. Do the teachings of Holy Scripture, something which we believe to be inspired by God’s Spirit via the hands of human beings, not ultimately come from God? Or is Holy Scripture entirely the product of human beings interacting with other human beings—including copying off mythology—adopting it for the sake of the Supreme Being? I say this only to warn you that as important as it is to understand the period of the Maccabees, many liberal theologians and interpreters will consider this to be a time of significant change for ancient Judaism—and you need not be caught thinking that ultimately, Yeshua the Messiah resurrected from the dead, is some kind of “Greek” concept.

The Torah and Establishing God’s True Israel—and the Maccabean Priesthood

When reviewing the complicated events that transpired in the Maccabean crisis, we need to seriously consider putting ourselves in the place of the Maccabees. If we had seen it mandated by law that it was illegal for us to worship God, how would we respond? Many, if not most of us, would “head for the hills” and escape. But in the case of the Maccabees, they stood their ground and fought against it.

The rallying cry for battle by Mattathias was, “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” (1 Maccabees 1:27). The Torah became every bit as much a national symbol as it did a religious symbol for the Maccabees. Those who were loyal to the Torah, were loyal to God and they were loyal to Israel.

Several of the usages of “Israel” or “Israelites,” appearing in 1 Maccabees, have an undeniable nationalistic tenor to them. The Seleucids “drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had” (1 Maccabees 1:53) and “They kept using violence against Israel” (1 Maccabees 1:58). The resolve was that “many in Israel stood firm” (1 Maccabees 1:62), and of those who were loyal that “Many from Israel came to” the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 2:16), assembling “mighty warriors of Israel” (1 Maccabees 2:42), and how they all “gladly fought for Israel” (1 Maccabees 3:2). We see that “the Gentiles in Gilead gathered together against the Israelites who lived in their territory” (1 Maccabees 5:9), but then after being defeated “Judas gathered together all the Israelites in Gilead” (1 Maccabees 5:45), leading them to safety. Other usages of Israel, from a cursory reading of 1 Maccabees, are likely reflective of how the Jews in the Maccabean period were fighting as the covenant people of God, formed at Mount Sinai. There is a definite rhetorical effect of being “Israel” in various places, and of who is loyal to God—something that goes beyond ethnicity.

2 Maccabees too reflects on how the Torah became a symbol of national identity for the Jewish people during this period of crisis. The Epitomist writes how when defeated, Nicanor had to recognize, “that the Jews had a Defender, and that therefore the Jews were invulnerable, because they followed the laws ordained by him” (2 Maccabees 8:36).

As the Torah took on a very nationalistic role during this period, it is also difficult to avoid how the Maccabees themselves took on a very prominent political role. The Maccabean movement started out initially to oppose the persecution and intended Hellenization of the Jews, so that the Torah—and most especially worship of the One True God—would be preserved. Yet after the rededication of the Temple, the Maccabean movement shifted to wanting to impose a political order, an Israel independent from the neighboring powers. Some people, reviewing the historical record of 1 Maccabees, are very uncomfortable with seeing how the Maccabees took over direct oversight of the office of high priest. Furthermore, some of those same people believe that it is inappropriate for us to honor Chanukah, because they think that a non-Levitical priesthood is totally contrary to the intent of the Torah. They overlook some important things.

Prior to the desecration of the Temple ordered by Antiochus, the office of high priest was already something that had to be approved by the Seleucid monarch. The opening chapters of 2 Maccabees show how different people vied for the position of high priest—some being loyal to the Torah, and others being opportunists. Inevitably in this environment, men of non-Levitical descent would become high priest. And the larger issue of—Can we even have a high priest and Temple?—cannot be overlooked. This is where a simplistic interpretation of the events will not suffice for us.

Because of the corruption that had been allowed to fester, which included the high priest Menelaus helping Antiochus Epiphanes loot the Temple (2 Maccabees 5:15), it is very easy to see why the Maccabees thought it significant to impose a kind of military government, and see that the old Jewish leadership be replaced with a new Jewish leadership and priesthood. The Maccabees themselves (Jonathan, Simon, and John) becoming “priests” actually did have a basis in prior history, because their father Mattathias, is recorded as being “the son of John, son of Simeon, a priest of the sons of Joarib” (1 Maccabees 2:1; cf. 14:29). “Mattathias’ family might have been a prominent one, since it is so described in 1 Macc 2:17 and because it belonged to the order of Jehoiarib, which is the first in the priestly orders’ list in 1 Chr 24:7” (ABD).[15] Assuming that Mattathias was indeed a legitimate descendant of a recognized priestly line, it would not be inappropriate for his two sons and grandson—in some capacity—to serve as either priests or caretaker priests.

Looking at the two sons and grandson of Mattathias, who serve as priests, what do they actually do? Alexander, one of the men vying for control of the Seleucid throne, writes a letter to Jonathan, brother of the late Judah Maccabee. He says, “‘We have heard about you, that you are a mighty warrior and worthy to be our friend. And so we have appointed you today to be the high priest of your nation; you are to be called the king’s friend’ (and he sent him a purple robe and a golden crown) ‘and you are to take our side and keep friendship with us’” (1 Maccabees 10:19-20). While Jonathan being high priest certainly had political ramifications, as it is said that in attaining this office, “he recruited troops and equipped them with arms in abundance” (1 Maccabees 10:21b), it also had spiritual ramifications: “Jonathan put on the holy garments in the seventh month of the one hundred and sixtieth year, at the feast of tabernacles” (1 Maccabees 10:21a).

The focus of the author of 1 Maccabees, though, is more on the political, rather than spiritual function, of Jonathan as high priest. Later in his record, Jewish diplomats go to the Roman Senate, telling them, “Jonathan the high priest and the Jewish nation have sent us to renew the former friendship and alliance with them” (1 Maccabees 12:3). Likewise, in a letter Jonathan writes to the Spartans, he says, “Jonathan the high priest, the senate of the nation, the priests, and the rest of the Jewish people…” (1 Maccabees 12:6).

After Jonathan is killed, his brother Simon takes over in the role of high priest. When the people know that a successor is to be chosen, they declare “You are our leader in place of Judas and Jonathan your brother” (1 Maccabees 13:8), indicating that the role of high priest has become more political than spiritual. Later in the record, King Demetrius writes to Simon, with the opening greeting, “King Demetrius to Simon, the high priest and friend of kings, and to the elders and nation of the Jews, greeting” (1 Maccabees 13:36). Simon’s role as a political leader can be seen later when “the yoke of the Gentiles was removed from Israel…the people began to write in their documents and contracts, ‘In the first year of Simon the great high priest and commander and leader[16] of the Jews’” (1 Maccabees 13:41-42). The role of Simon as a political high priest is also seen in the narrative of what occurs when the Romans and Spartans hear of Jonathan’s death: “they heard that Simon his brother had become high priest in his place, and that he was ruling over the country and the cities in it” (1 Maccabees 14:17).

There is no significant record in 1 Maccabees of either Jonathan or Simon really performing priestly duties, as much as them exercising political power and diplomacy. We could wonder if these two men really did take on the daily religious tasks of high priest, or instead served more as overseers and caretakers of the office of “high priest”—not too dissimilar to how today the British monarch is considered to be head of the Church of England, and “defender of the faith,”[17] even though the current Queen plays no role in the determination of religious policy. When King David took over Jerusalem, “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief ministers” (2 Samuel 8:18) or “priests” (RSV).[18] This indicates, at least in a titular capacity, that King David probably inherited the role originally possessed by the figure Melchizedek, king of Salem (cf. Genesis 14:18-20). So with this in mind, Jonathan and Simon serving as high priest may have had a more titular role. And such a titular role would have been very important—because of all the corruption that had preceded them, and how what the Maccabees fought for need not have been lost.

The last major figure to occupy the office of high priest is John, the son of Simon, making him the grandson of Mattathias. We do not see that much of him in 1 Maccabees, as he enters in at the close of the book. What we do see is fairly positive, as the author says, “The rest of the acts of John and his wars and the brave deeds which he did, and the building of the walls which he built, and his achievements, behold, they are written in the chronicles of his high priesthood, from the time that he became high priest after his father” (1 Maccabees 16:23-24). This John, while attested to have been supported by the people “because of the benefits they had received from his father” (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 13.229),[19] was not altogether popular with the people, particularly in actions that he took when Jerusalem was later attacked and had to submit again to the Seleucid Empire. Yet later in history, John Hyrcanus did achieve full independence for the Jewish nation, and saw its influence increase.[20]

Prejudices to Overcome

The Jewish people have always had enemies who have wanted to destroy them. Simply read the Book of Esther, and see how there have been people who have wanted to wipe out the Jews—the remnant of Israel—off the face of the Earth. But the Maccabean crisis was a rather unique one, insomuch that a tyrannical king actually wanted to see the Jewish people wiped out via cultural and religious assimilation, a far more insidious form of destruction than just exterminating them by killing. He saw that the Jerusalem Temple was defiled, and that those who followed God’s Torah—circumcising their sons, keeping the Sabbath, and even eating kosher—be put to death. While things later returned to some level of normalcy for your average Jew, with the Temple cleansed and with people permitted once again to keep God’s Law, memories of these events are not at all to be forgotten. So serious is the period of the Maccabees for the Jewish people, that one cannot blame the later Jews of the First Century for not only being suspicious, but even a bit paranoid, when it came to interacting with other people. This was especially true of any outsider who expressed some kind of belief in the God of Israel, connecting themselves to the Jewish community.

How significant an impact did the Maccabees leave on First Century Judaism? Because the Books of the Maccabees are a part of the historical record, and not a part of the Protestant canon, too many of today’s evangelical Christian Bible readers fail to even know about what the Jewish people had undergone prior to the arrival of Yeshua and the missionary endeavors of the Apostles. Not enough of today’s Believers understand the nationalistic role that Torah had taken, precisely because of the injustices decreed by Antiochus Epiphanes, and how many Jews fought and died for God’s Law. The crisis of the Maccabean period would very much be remembered by First Century Jews, and then compounded with more recent history as the Roman Empire had expanded, engulfing Judea in the process.

One of the most significant Rabbinical sentiments seen in the Mishnah, which would have guided a great deal of Jewish identity in the First Century C.E., is “All Israelites have a share in the world to come” (m.Sanhedrin 10:1).[21] With some exceptions, what this would equate to is that all ethnic Jews were believed to be granted an inheritance in the future age simply because they were born Jewish. If an outsider wanted to participate in the future resurrection age, then that person had to become a part of the covenant people. And for many of the Jewish leaders of the First Century, that process began with circumcision—but not so much circumcision as a medical procedure—as much as ritual proselyte circumcision.

In too many cases, this kind of circumcision took precedence to people entering into covenant with God first on the basis of faith in Him. The Biblical pattern seen in the Torah is that the Patriarch Abraham first believed in God, and was then circumcised at a later point in time (Romans 4:9-11; cf. Genesis 15:6). Even though God-fearers were allowed on the outside of the Synagogue, as they expressed some belief in the God of Israel and accepted a basic Torah morality, I. Howard Marshall notes that “such people were regarded as still pagans by the Jews in Palestine, [although] there appears to have been a more liberal attitude in the Dispersion.”[22] Only proselytes who had undergone ritual circumcision would not be considered fully “pagan,” or at least not treated with a high degree of suspicion.

Was not the need to be circumcised based on Torah passages such as Genesis 17:9, 14, which insisted “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations…But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant”? To Jews of the First Century C.E. the need to be circumcised in order to stand in covenant with God was absolute. Yet this was an unbalanced reading of the Torah, because earlier in Genesis 15:6, because of Abraham’s trust in the Almighty, “He reckoned it to him as righteousness”—a covenant status noted before Abraham was circumcised. Belief in God always precedes the sign of the covenant, something that many Jews in the First Century C.E. had overlooked.

It is not at all difficult, though, to see why many First Century Jews would have had an unbalanced reading of the Torah. In lieu of the Maccabean crisis and the illegalization of circumcision by the Greek Seleucids on threat of death, the Jewish religious establishment deemed that circumcision for proselytes was the only viable way for an outsider attracted to the God of Israel to be considered a full member of the Jewish community. Josephus expresses the opinion that the reason God gave Abraham circumcision was “in order to keep his posterity unmixed with others” (Antiquities of the Jews 1.192).[23] To the Jewish person of the First Century, a non-Jew undergoing circumcision was going to do more than lose his foreskin—he was going to become one with an ethnic people in a very significant, physical, and visible way. James D.G. Dunn further describes,

“The Maccabean crisis simply reinforced the teaching of Genesis that circumcision was a ‘make or break’ issue for Jews; insistence on circumcision was integral to the emergence of ‘Judaism’…The position, then, was simple for most Jews: only the circumcised were Jews; only the circumcised were members of the covenant; only the circumcised belonged to the people chosen by God to be his own.”[24]

Having once faced religious and cultural assimilation by the decrees of Antiochus Epiphanes, any outsider wishing to become a member of the Jewish community, would be subject to some extreme scrutiny. Ritual proselyte circumcision would only reckon one a full member of God’s covenant people, requiring a convert to take a significant step in recognizing the God of Israel as his (or even her)[25] single Deity to worship.[26]

Was ritual proselyte circumcision as the main process for one being considered a member of God’s covenant—often over and against faith in God—a direct result of Jewish paranoia stemming from the Maccabean period? What we can detect is that the Maccabean period stirred an entire array of important social and political changes among the Jewish people, that would later affect the mission of the Apostles and the early controversies the ekklēsia would face.

Some theologians today conclude that the Jewish people felt threatened by external forces, beginning with the Seleucid Greek invasion of the 160s B.C.E. all the way to the Roman occupation of Judea. In the 40s C.E.—when the gospel started significantly going out to the nations—an entire series of events helped fuel Jewish xenophobia toward Greeks and Romans, including (but by no means limited to): Caligula insisting that a statue of himself be set up in the Jerusalem Temple (40 C.E.), a series of poor Roman governors and administrators (44-46 C.E.), and the demand that the vestments of the high priest be held for safekeeping by the Romans (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 20.1-9).[27] When we add to this the challenges caused by the Zealot movement, and increasingly disparate relations with Rome—at the very least we see that Jews would often want to remain constrained to themselves and limited in their contact with others.

The xenophobia that many First Century Jews had toward outsiders was also compounded with some of the common views that those same outsiders had toward Judaism. While written near the end of the First Century C.E., the Roman historian Tacitus makes some very anti-Semitic remarks, which could have easily been shared by many of the Greeks and Romans in the Apostles’ era. The following is a fair summary of the social anti-Semitism present:

Whatever their origin, these observances are sanctioned by their antiquity. The other practices of the Jews are sinister and revolting, and have entrenched themselves by their very wickedness. Wretches of the most abandoned kind who had no use for the religion of their fathers took to contributing dues and free-will offerings to swell the Jewish exchequer; and other reasons for their increasing wealth may be found in their stubborn loyalty and ready benevolence towards brother Jews. But the rest of the world they confront with the hatred reserved for enemies…Proselytes to Jewry adopt the same practices, and the very first lesson they learn is to despise the gods, shed all feelings of patriotism, and consider parents, children and brothers as readily expendable (The Histories 5.5).[28]

Simply considering the rise of ritual proselyte circumcision, required in order for an outsider to be reckoned among the redeemed, and common Greco-Roman attitudes toward the Jews—how did this all affect the Apostles’ mission in the First Century?

When we take these things into consideration, we should more easily understand some of the negative attitudes that the early Jewish Believers displayed toward the non-Jewish Believers, which were very difficult for many to overcome. Many of them thought that short of proselyte conversion, that non-Jews should not be allowed into the assembly as members, even if they did acknowledge Yeshua. They would have been very hostile to the Apostle Paul—who taught that the entryway for inclusion among God’s people was faith in Israel’s Messiah, as opposed to more national and/or sectarian identity markers like ritual proselyte circumcision. In his rather emotional letter to the Galatians, addressing the early issue of how non-Jewish Believers were to be considered a part of God’s covenant community, he has to remind his audience that faith in God is what first reckoned Abraham as righteous:

“Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (Galatians 3:7-8).

The issue of faith in God, and by extension the Messiah He has sent—coming first—is considered by Paul to be a gospel issue. His quotation of Genesis 12:3, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed,” is that very early promise of God to bless all via Abraham. Immediately requiring ritual proselyte circumcision of new, non-Jewish Believers, would skew such a serious mandate. Paul is clear in later writing that circumcision does have value (Romans 3:1-2), but in no small part due to the Maccabean crisis, many people in the Jewish community overvalued circumcision and undervalued faith in God. This was an unacceptable understanding for people placing their trust in the Messiah who died for their sins, was resurrected, and then who ascended into Heaven.

The early Jewish Believers would need to quickly get over any prejudices they had toward the non-Jewish Believers. They needed to recognize that all were reckoned as a part of God’s covenant community not via any “works of law” or sectarian halachah (cf. 4QMMT) requiring ritual proselyte circumcision,[29] but instead dia pisteōs Iēsou Christou, “through the faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah” (Galatians 2:16, my translation). People were recognized as a part of God’s covenant community by the faithful obedience of Yeshua to His Father unto death, to atone for humanity’s sin.[30]

For many Jews of the First Century C.E., the Torah, and most especially circumcision, became symbols of national pride and identity. Was circumcision not something that the Maccabees fought and died for? It is certainly understandable that many of the first Jewish Believers, upon hearing that significant numbers of non-Jews were recognizing Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah, would require them to become Jewish proselytes before moving any further. But Biblically given the example of Abraham, this was no different than putting the cart before the horse. Acknowledging Israel’s Messiah as Savior takes precedence over anything else.

After the problems addressed in Galatians, the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 would meet to rule on the claim that some Jewish Believers were making: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). According to these early Jewish Believers, to not be circumcised was tantamount to not being a member of God’s people. The Jerusalem Council ruled against this, concluding that instead the early non-Jewish Believers did not have to undergo ritual proselyte circumcision, because as the Apostle Peter testified, “He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). James the Just would rule that the new, non-Jewish Believers could start their discipleship with four basic principles (Acts 15:19-21).[31] The New Covenant promise of God writing His Law onto the hearts of all His people would come steadily at the right pace (Jeremiah 31:31-34) by His Spirit—and the non-Jewish Believers would start not with circumcision, but with faith in God and in His Messiah, who Himself taught that love for God and neighbor was the essence of the Torah (Matthew 19:16-19; 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28).[32]

While the Maccabees rightfully fought and died for the right of the Jewish people to not only practice the Torah, including circumcision—but also to survive—subsequent Jewish generations would forget the Divine mandate that Israel had to be a light to the nations and a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 49:6). The Apostolic Scriptures give witness to how many of the early Jewish Believers in the Messiah had prejudices to overcome when scores of non-Jews came to faith in the same Messiah. The Pauline Epistles are spent addressing how these non-Jewish Believers are to be reckoned as equal members of the ekklēsia on the basis of their faith, and not whether they had undergone ritual proselyte circumcision (Romans 3:29-30). The most important issue that many early Jewish Believers had to overcome—and even some Messianics today—is seen in Paul’s words:

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Yeshua the Messiah [or, the faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah][33] for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:21-23).

Up until this point in history, the main event that would have defined God’s people would have been the Exodus from Egypt. As important as the Exodus is for Paul (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), the same righteousness of God[34]—“God’s saving justice” (Romans 3:21, New Jerusalem Bible) that delivered Ancient Israel—has now been manifested in an event separate from the Torah. This event is the Messiah’s faithfulness to His Father unto death for humanity’s sin. But the thought that this is somehow contrary to God’s Torah is the last suggestion in Paul’s mind. He is clear to say that “the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it” (Romans 3:20, ESV), preceded earlier with his attestation that the gospel was “promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Romans 1:2).

The ultimate challenge is that if the Torah is viewed too much from the perspective of being a nationalistic possession, one can overlook the fact that it points to something much greater, the Messiah Yeshua, who is “the culmination of the law” (Romans 10:4, TNIV). A main purpose of the Torah is that it condemns all people (Romans 3:10-18)—including Jews (Romans 2:17-29)—as sinners, requiring all people to fall on the Father’s grace via Yeshua for redemption. It was difficult for many of the early Jewish Believers to fully see this, as nationalistic possession of the Torah was sometimes believed to be enough for final redemption, a thought stemming from the long-term affects of the Maccabean crisis.

Appreciating the Maccabees, but Recognizing the Effect on Later Generations

As men and women of faith, we all need to be very appreciative for what the Maccabees struggled and died for. Without the sacrifice of the Maccabees, the Jewish people could have been wiped out, and with them the hope that there would be a chosen people from whom the Messiah would come forth and save the world. I fully believe that every year the Messianic community should remember the Festival of Dedication, Chanukah, and honor what they endured. But we need not remember Chanukah in ignorance of how this period affected later generations of Jews. The message and themes contained in the Books of Maccabees highly influenced the Jews of the First Century, who first heard the good news of Messiah Yeshua. It also gives us a witness to how negative, inappropriate Jewish attitudes toward outsiders in the First Century arose.

These negative Jewish attitudes toward outsiders complicated the spread of the gospel among the nations, in the early decades of the Messianic movement, as many Jewish Believers (but certainly not all) still had ungodly prejudices and paranoia to overcome. For many Jews, even Believers in Yeshua, God’s Torah had become a nationalistic document, rather than a testament to His plan of salvation history and how “the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham” (Galatians 3:8, NRSV; cf. Genesis 12:2-3). Circumcision was a matter of who was “His,” rather than faith in the Messiah designating who was “His.”

How we learn to appreciate what the Maccabees fought and died for, being sensitive to the legitimate Jewish needs of the First Century, but also how many Jewish Believers found it difficult to embrace non-Jewish Believers as their fellow brothers and sisters—will doubtless be a feature of our Biblical Studies in the future. Knowing about the Maccabees, and those who came after them, will assist us greatly in understanding some of the early controversies faced in the Book of Acts, as well as in Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Romans,[35] which affirm how the non-Jewish Believers did not at all have to become proselytes. Knowing about the long-term impact of the Maccabees on the First Century Jewish psyche, can aid us to adequately piece together the complex circumstances of the early Believers.

Most intriguing of all will be examining what the First Century Believers experienced—including all of the prejudices they had to overcome—and how much of it is being paralleled now in today’s Messianic movement. There may very well be more going on than we realize, and we may need to learn the lessons of history a bit closer. We need to learn to be a people who will fight for the sanctity of God’s Torah (1 Maccabees 2:27, 42), but also be a people who should desire their righteousness to be a Divine righteousness based in trusting Yeshua (Philippians 3:9). In so doing, may we learn to overcome any prejudices that may keep Yeshua from being recognized as the Savior of all.


NOTES

[1] Flavius Josephus: The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), pp 317-318.

[2] The gospel made it to Colossae via the preaching of Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), who presumably had heard it during Paul’s tenure in the neighboring city of Ephesus (Acts 19:9-10).

[3] F.F. Bruce, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), pp 8-13.

[4] Cf. Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46.

[5] I.e., the Menelaus of fame was the estranged husband of Helen of Troy, and brother of King Agamemnon, from Homer’s Iliad.

[6] J.P. Hyatt, “Circumcision,” in IDB, 1:629.

[7] The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, 323.

[8] BDAG, 380.

[9] George Robinson, Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals (New York: Pocket Books, 2000), 192.

[10] In the words of Socrates, Plato’s predecessor from the Fifth Century B.C.E.,

“Death, as it seems to me, happens to be nothing other than the separation of two things, the soul and the body, from each other. When, therefore, they are separated from each other, each of them is in a condition not much worse than when the human being was alive, and the body has its own nature” (Gorgias 524b; Plato: Gorgias, trans., James H. Nichols, Jr. [Ithaca and London: Cornell University, 1998], 125).

[11] Consult the entries for Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee. Also consult Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, and Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), for two conservative, evangelical resources.

[12] Sheol is not the same as the grave, as a burial place or tomb in Hebrew is a qever. The Greek LXX and NT equivalent of Sheol is Hadēs, whereas in contrast the word for a burial place or tomb would be mnēma.

[13] Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.14.

[14] For a further, and much more detailed discussion, consult the article “To Be Absent From the Body” by J.K. McKee.

[15] Uriel Rappaport, “Mattathias,” in ABD, 4:615.

This entry, from a largely liberal encyclopedia, does go on to say: “Yet we may suspect some effort on the part of our sources to promote the status of the Hasmoneans” (Ibid.).

[16] Grk. archiereōs megalou kai stratēgou kai hēgoumenou; “eminent high priest, commander-in-chief and ethnarch” (New Jerusalem Bible).

[17] Unlike the Church of England, which has sitting bishops in Parliament, the Church of Scotland has no bishops. However, when the British monarch is in Scotland, he or she is automatically considered to be a Presbyterian. As such, the monarch is permitted to send representatives to the Church of Scotland’s annual General Assembly.

[18] Heb. kohanim hayu.

[19] The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, 350.

[20] “John Hyrcanus,” in Jacob Neusner and William Scott Green, eds., Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 337.

[21] Jacob Neusner, trans., The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988), 604.

[22] I. Howard Marshall, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Acts (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), pp 183-184.

[23] The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, 40.

[24] James D.G. Dunn, Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Galatians (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 96.

[25] In speaking against this ritual proselyte circumcision in Galatians 5:3, Paul directs his words not to “every man,” but panti anthrōpō, “every human being.” While this may sound strange, as it would include females, it really does not if we consider “circumcision” to be a shorthand for ritual proselyte conversion. The issue in Galatians is not against a medical procedure, but instead non-Jewish people undergoing conversion to Judaism to be reckoned as members of God’s covenant people. (Women, of course, would not undergo any physical operation.)

[26] Also not to be overlooked is the erection of a barrier wall in the Second Temple complex (cf. Ephesians 2:14-15), separating the inner sanctuary from the so-called Court of the Gentiles. Those who passed unauthorized were threatened with death (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 15.417; Jewish War 5.194). This ran entirely contrary to the House of God being a place for all nations to stream toward (1 Kings 8:41-43; Isaiah 56:6-7).

For a further examination, consult the commentary Ephesians for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[27] The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, 525.

[28] Cornelius Tacitus: The Histories, trans. Kenneth Wellesley (London: Penguin Books, 1992), pp 273-274. See also Juvenal Satires 14.95-104.

[29] Consult the article “What Are ‘Works of the Law’?” by J.K. McKee.

[30] Consult the article “The Faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah” by J.K. McKee.

For an analysis of the surrounding issues, and engagement with proposals made in contemporary scholarship, consult his commentary Galatians for the Practical Messianic.

[31] Consult Acts 15 for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee (forthcoming).

[32] Consult the article “Is Circumcision for Everyone?” by J.K. McKee, for an analysis that circumcision as a medical procedure (not ritual proselyte circumcision) could have played for some of the early non-Jewish Believers.

[33] Grk. dia pisteōs Iēsou Christou.

[34] Grk. dikaiosunē Theou.

[35] Consult the articles “The Message of Galatians” and “The Message of Romans” by J.K. McKee.

Philippians 3:2-9: Paul, Judaism, and the Torah – November 2019 OIM News


OIM Update
November 2019

For millennia, historians, theologians, and demographers have debated and discussed the concept of “generations,” and how cohorts of people traveled through time and influenced their respective cultures throughout the world. This subject is fascinating, particularly if one is at all concerned about their specific individual ancestry, or how and why they even exist. Personally, I know that those incessant questions in my mind, to a God I inherently knew created the world where I live, were instrumental in drawing me to the walk of faith I now pursue. Praise the Holy One for His faithfulness to those who seek Him and implore Him for the answers that only He can communicate to searching souls, such as the words spoken to the Israelites and Solomon:

“But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29, NASU).

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9, NASU).

From a purely logical perspective, when quietly searching our hearts and minds for revelation about our corporeal existence, according to the Scriptures—it is incumbent upon humanity to ask, seek, and knock on Heaven’s door (Matthew 7:7) in order to receive, find, and ultimately have the understanding that there is a Creator God who lovingly wants to reveal Himself to everyone.

With that said, Margaret, John, and I were privileged to participate in the Messianic Leadership Roundtable (MLR) this month, where we interacted with a variety of Messianic Jewish leaders from a variety of backgrounds, representing multiple generations. However, as non-Jews, with a very different theological upbringing and lengthy American heritages, we engaged in several dialogues with the subject of how the Messianic Jewish community of faith is going to transition from the “pioneer” phase to the “building” phase, in order to fulfill God’s mission to ultimately see all Israel saved (Romans 11:26). After all, since as non-Jews we are entering our twenty-fifth year among those called to be a vanguard for the prophesied spiritual restoration of Israel, we have the advantage of being fairly objective in our observations of what has occurred over the past several decades and what needs to happen in the years ahead.

Interestingly, since in recent months I have been to two reunions of high school and college classmates, and also made aware of my family’s history from northern Kentucky dating back to the 1700s, my daily reading of the Proverbs has had this passage reverberating in my spirit:

“There is a generation that curses its father and does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, and yet is not cleansed from its filth. There is a generation whose eyes are so haughty, whose eyelids are lifted up disdainfully. There is a generation whose teeth are swords and whose molars are knives, to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among humanity” (Proverbs 30:11-14, NASU).

In this proverb, four generations (perhaps successive) do not indicate a very positive reflection on humankind, as the innate sinful nature seems to predominate. Then in my personal analysis of my previous four ancestors, I wondered if there were some parallels. While I did not know my great, great, grandfather, or great grandfather, I have discovered from family records that when ancestors are primarily named for Biblical characters like Samuel, Ezekiel, John, Thomas, Joseph, James, and figures like John Wesley, John Calvin, and even George Washington (my great-great-grandfather), there was certainly a genuine respect for the Bible and even American patriotism. Consequently, I concluded that based on the fruit of my great grandfather, who was president of the Southern Baptist Convention in Kentucky and ran an orphanage for the last forty years of his life, perhaps the blessings of my fathers has been passed down to me in my generation. Maybe, despite the proverb’s description of wicked generations, like every generation which has existed, perhaps down through the centuries like today, there has always been a remnant of godly people, who are receiving God’s blessings by honoring their parents, as stated in the Third and Fifth commandments:

“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6, NASU).

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12, NASU).

For whatever reasons, attempting to analyze my ancestors’ sojourns from Europe to America because of religious persecution (like many Jewish people), allows me to identify somewhat with the Jewish experience. For most assuredly, the Holy One of Israel allowed the North American continent to be somewhat of a safe haven for those seeking freedom from those oppressive powers who wanted the “people of the Book” to perish, so they could control and dominate the world for their own progeny.

Nevertheless, returning to the subject of generational transition, I was reminded of some instructions from the Torah which succinctly describes the timeframe established for the Levitical priesthood and their service to the Holy One. However, since this is a very complicated subject with all kinds of interpretations, I first focused on this elementary declaration found in Numbers 8, where Moses is describing the specific functions of the Levites:

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting. But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more. They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation; but they themselves shall do no work. Thus you shall deal with the Levites concerning their obligations’” (Numbers 8:23-26, NASU).

While this description seems straight forward, when you peruse Numbers 4, the various clans of the Levites are given specific duties and tasks for the men aged 30-50. Hence, there are some interpretations that I have not taken the time to investigate. But for the purpose of this article, suffice it to say that by the time a minister of God reaches the age of fifty, he or she should be at the stage in life where the bulk of the work should be primarily in an advisory capacity to those charged with carrying on the responsibilities of ministry to the Body of Messiah. Lamentably from our observation, that does not happen with regularity. After all, when a minister of God reaches fifty years of age, one is often considered to be in the “prime years” of ministry. This is when all the years of work to build a congregation or ministry should be at its pinnacle of success, if the Lord is pleased with one’s work. Quite naturally, it is difficult for these seasoned saints to relinquish leadership roles and hand it off to younger people, who are chomping at the bit to take the reins of leadership responsibility.

So in a number of conversations at the MLR with my “Baby Boomer” peers who have been used by God to establish Messianic Jewish congregations around the world, I asked them if they have identified a successor and groomed that person to handle the role of rabbi or leader of their life’s work to establish a congregation. Inevitably the answer was “No” or “Possibly,” with a visible grimace that they know down deep in their souls that they need to do this for the health of their congregants going forward. But the problem is this: just about every one of the older congregational leaders were uniquely gifted by the Holy One to be “pioneers” in this end-time move of God during the 1970-1990s to establish Messianic Jewish congregations. This was accomplished in order for “safe harbor” outreaches to be formed, to reach out to their fellow Jewish families, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors with a clear presentation of the claims of Messiah, without the historically (from a Jewish perspective) offensive “Christian” distractions that prevail in typical church settings. Pioneering rabbis and their wives had to be supernaturally gifted to overcome not only the slings and arrows from family members, but also the prevailing ecclesiastical community. After all, is there anything wrong when a Jewish person comes to faith in the Messiah Yeshua and joins a plethora of choices adhering to the Christian faith? Well, of course not. But what the Almighty wants to do and has done through the Messianic Jewish community of faith is to strategically use it to reach an even broader array of Jews from secular, agnostic, atheistic, Reformed, Conservative, and yes, even Orthodox backgrounds. Providentially, the regathering of Jewish people to the Land of Israel from places like the former Soviet Union, Europe, North America, and other enclaves from whence they have been scattered, has been used by the Holy Spirit to bring just enough discomfort to the soul that the claims of Yeshua have penetrated the soul and brought untold thousands into the believing fold.

Now that the numbers of Jewish Believers are increasing almost exponentially around the world, the acceptance of Jews, even in Israel, who believe Yeshua is the Messiah, is rapidly becoming less offensive to the younger generation of Israeli citizens. However, as this growth continues, the average age of Believers continues to decrease, as many younger people are coming to faith. While this is exciting to note, it continues to be a challenge to the “pioneer” generation, who by now (almost 2020), need to seriously consider passing along leadership roles to the “builder” generation which can advance the cause upon the incredible foundation that has been laid. Of course, if that is not successfuly achieved, then a repeat of the forty-year cycles found in the Book of Judges may have an opportunity to reoccur. Consequently, it is our fervent prayer that the Holy Spirit will intervene in the hearts of those chosen to be significant participants in the restoration of Israel on whatever level, and that they would benefit from the examples found in the Holy Scriptures where the transition to new leaders was orderly, God-ordained, and blessed for the next stage in salvation history.

To that end, Outreach Israel Ministries continues to mature and pass along even greater responsibilities to the next generation, with the development of Messianic Apologetics several years ago. It is our profound goal to continue in our ministry efforts as a team dedicated to serving the Messiah Yeshua and His heart to bring people to Him, be they Jewish or non-Jewish. But because our emphasis has been amongst the Jewish contingent, we pray that as the One New Man, Jew and Gentile. come together in ever increasing unity, that our voices will continue to be heard as balanced, scholarly, loving, and wise counsel. Your prayers and financial support allow us to add to the conversation, and for that, we are blessed. May the Lord bless you and keep you, may His face shine upon you and give you His shalom!

Mark Huey

The Waters of Immersion – October 2019 OIM News


OIM Update
October 2019

Now that the appointed times (moedim) of the seventh month of Tishri have ended, I have been reflecting on several things learned and observed during this year’s season of restoration toward the God of Creation. What a joy to follow this pattern for life (the Creator’s calendar) for the past quarter century, and realize how the Holy Spirit uses this time for the saint’s personal sanctification process (John 17:19)—so desperately sought by all who want to truly please, bless, and minister to our Heavenly Father, the Holy One of Israel!

First, because the Book of Jonah is typically reflected upon at Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah, I had the pleasure of reviewing one of my favorite verses, which reminds me of God’s lovingkindness toward those who call upon His Name. This thought came to Jonah after a few days in a great fish, as he was crying out to the Lord for salvation and meditating upon the Holy Temple:

“‘While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness [chesed], but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. that which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.’ Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land” (Jonah 2:7-10, NASU).

Here in unequivocal terms, the prophet admits that worshipping or regarding vain idols or anything other than the Lord God, is a recipe for disaster—or namely, missing the reception of God’s lovingkindness, mercy, compassion, and love (chesed). Of course, no true Believer wants to ever forego God’s grace! But an additional reminder scrolled up in my heart, when the annual Ten Days of Awe commenced on the way to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) on the 10th of Tishri. Since over the years I have found it personally beneficial to meditate upon the Ten Commandments for each of these ten days, the first two commands caught my attention, especially when the concept of an “idol” was thrown into the mix:

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:3-5, NASU).

Obviously, God wants to be God, and He has no competition, except the one which has crept into every human heart since the fall of mankind. That is the idol we call “me, myself, and I”—and see every morning in the mirror. Every person from childhood makes themselves out to be a god, or at the very least, the “captain of their souls,” as epitomized in this poem by William Ernest Henley written in 1875:

Out of the night that covers me

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbow’d.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

But upon examination of my own heart, I recalled a much more profound statement regarding the life we have been given to live by the Messiah Yeshua, which contradicted the poem, and affirmed the command of the Creator God to not only have no other gods—but be wary of idolizing your own life and it’s innate abilities, strengths, character, gifts, talents, looks, intellect, physical prowess, athleticism, or any other acquired attribute that might be placed before worshipping God alone. In other words, we must “lose our lives in order to gain eternal life” (Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33; et. al.):

““If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS [Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Proverbs 24:12]” (Matthew 16:24-27, NASU).

This line of thinking took me back to the words of Jonah, where he mentions vows to the Lord. Providentially, the Torah readings for this late time in the annual reading cycle was nearing the conclusion of the Book of Deuteronomy, and so I had to deal with these verses:

“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised” (Deuteronomy 23:21-23, NASU).

Now this is where the sanctification process went into high gear, because back on February 12, 1992, I made a “Total Commitment-Lordship: Romans 12:1” voluntary vow to the Lord, and actually signed a contract with Him in red ink (signifying in my mind a blood covenant) which clearly relinquished all of my “rights” to Him. In fact, the final statement of the vow was this:

“I give God permission to do anything He wishes to me, with me, in me or through me that would glorify Him.” Signed: W. Mark Huey Date: 2/12/92

Suffice it to say, when you give up all your rights and entrust to God everything you have—including will, mind, emotions, body, future, plans, hopes, dreams, geographical location, home, marriage, family, mate, children, recreation, entertainment, career, past successes, failures, rejections/hurts, habits, finances, problems, time, integrity, character, attitudes, business conduct/relationships, Christian walk, and responsibility to authority and a plethora of other rights—you have essentially become a bond-servant to the Most High. In other words, by giving up your “perceived” rights as a human inculcated by the world system in which we live, you have “lost your life, in order to gain it,” in no uncertain terms.

Naturally, over the past soon to be twenty-eight years, I have not been perfect in fulfilling the vow which I made with my eyes, wide open to the severity of the oath. However, by God’s grace, He has been leading me to frequently reflect on the vow, by carrying a copy of it with me in my wallet, so in those moments of flesh-driven inclinations, I can be reminded of the life I have given to the Lord for His service.

In a like manner, He has given me a wife and an adopted son who both seem to be on the same wavelength when it comes to putting the Holy One first in their respective lives. As a result, we have been faithfully walking out the lives we have been given, to allow Him to accomplish whatever He wants to do through us. At times it has not been easy. But because of our personal and corporate commitment to Him, we would not exchange it “for all the tea in China,” as my mother used to say. In fact, today’s reading (as this is being written) from the Book of Proverbs, summarizes many of the benefits of serving the Messiah as the Holy Spirit leads:

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice…How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver” (Proverbs 16:7-8, 16, NASU).

Thank you all for your prayers and financial support of our efforts to serve the King of Kings, the Holy One of Israel. It has been a privilege and a blessing to be called into His service for such a time as this! May He continue to bless you, and keep you, may His face shine upon you, and may He turn His countenance toward you and give you His peace (cf. Numbers 6:24-26)!

Now do you know why the Apostle John ends his first epistle with this warning: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21, NASU)?  I do, and shutter…

Blessings and shalom,

Mark Huey

Departed Family and the Sovereignty of God – September 2019 OIM News


Inevitably, the work of the ministry that we have been called to walk by faith, always seems to be full of unexpected twists and turns—where the Almighty One is consistently teaching us more about Him and His ways, so we might come to know Him even more intimately. For whatever reasons over the past several decades, the last few weeks of August and the beginning weeks of September, typically have major life altering events occurring within our family. This past month and into September is no different, especially with the homegoing of Margaret’s one hundred year and nine month old mother, Mary Ruth Franklin Jeffries, on August 30 in Jacksonville, FL, and followed by her burial in Birmingham, AL on September 9. An epoch definitely closed in our family, that we are significantly reflecting on!

In a beautiful way, the Lord allowed “M.R.” to slip into His presence on the seventy-ninth anniversary of her wedding eve, where on the next day in 1940, she entered into “marital bliss.” But now she has been reunited with her husband and her predecessors, and will forever enjoy “celestial bliss” with her Savior and a host of saints. Additionally, her funeral took place at the very church in Birmingham where she was married on August 31, 1940 by her father, Bishop Marvin A. Franklin, the senior pastor. Amazingly, the Believers in the crowd were in awe of not only her godly life example, but how the Lord timed her numbered days so that all of the signposts of His fingerprints were evident throughout the transition from life, to death of the physical body, and entrance into Paradise with Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.

Contemporaneous to these events, ministry ventures never cease, as John continues to expand and refine the outreach of Messianic Apologetics, utilizing many of the tools available at our disposal. This year, with the 2020s on our doorstep, Outreach Israel Ministries has begun another “volume” in our efforts to help the Messianic Jewish community mature and grow, as the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21) moves along at the Father’s foreordained pace. In addition to our service at our local Messianic Jewish congregation, as elder (Mark), accountant (Margaret), and New Member/Foundations class teacher (John)—and with all that those responsibilities entail—in my work as a fundraiser for the MJAA’s Joseph Project, coupled with a Labor Day weekend spiritual retreat, and a few books I recently read, the Lord has really been pointing out some very elementary principles that should have been known for quite some time. After all, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29, NASU).

First of all, back in the mid-1990s when the weekly study of the Torah, Haftarah, and applicable Apostolic Writings became my disciplined routine, I had an image appear in my mind that bolstered my desire to diligently consider the designated passages on a regular basis. After all, I had learned that around the globe for millennia, the scattered, God-fearing, Jewish people, faithfully gather to honor the weekly Shabbat in synagogues, congregations, and fellowships where they would worship the Holy One of Israel and study the Word of God. Providentially, the great majority of those seeking communion with the Creator God continue to review the identical Scriptures that the Sages and Rabbis in the Diaspora cataloged centuries ago, back to the time of Ezra, and the return from Babylon. In a systematic way that would allow the student of Torah to complete the “Torah cycle” in 54 parashot or readings, complimented by an appropriate Haftarah selection chosen from the Prophets, Writings, or Psalms. As a result, the command to hear (shema) or listen to the voice of the Lord, and teach children and grandchildren, preserving God’s Word, has been adhered to faithfully in order to preserve the oracles of God (Romans 3:2).

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NASU).

In recollection, the vision I had was simply that of an extremely high radio tower (like what one used to see in broadcasting ads about “Radio Free Europe”) towering over the planet and emanating concentric circles of radio-like waves that were traveling with penetrating power in every direction throughout the universe. Down through the centuries, whether in Shanghai, London, Johannesburg, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, or where ever a synagogue was located, whenever a Jewish businessman attended a Shabbat service—since he would typically know what was being studied that week—the local rabbi would often ask that traveler to share his thoughts or insights on the weekly portion, with the congregational members during the course of the Sabbath rest. Hence, current news and events from around the world were being shared.

In addition to general information, God was also communicating His Word throughout the created order and speaking His voice to those who had properly tuned into His broadcast, like the old analog dial radio receivers. The revelatory impact was available, if one was focused and listened to the designated “channels,” in order to recognize and interpret events or issues that were happening globally, or in their nation, state, county, city, neighborhood, congregation, family, or even individual setting. Such a revelation made me appreciate and better comprehend how the scattered Jewish people have been able to maintain some relative cohesion among themselves, despite the many attempts to eliminate their existence! Consequently, five years of study resulted in the TorahScope series of commentary books. Now, after about a decade since completing these volumes, I simply marvel at God’s desire to instruct His children from the weekly portions, and contribute a weekly “mini-drash” on the Torah reading at our local congregation when I am in town.

Currently through August and September, the Book of Deuteronomy is being studied, as the Hebrew civil calendar year is winding down to Rosh HaShanah, the head of the year celebrated at the end of September, initiating the Fall High Holiday season. In many respects, the last book of Moses’ Torah is essentially a “last will and testament,” and a reiteration of many of the experiences of the forty-year sojourn in preparation for the Israelites to enter the Land of Promise. A considerable amount of instruction deals with Israel establishing a righteous and just society, with details about how they are to live in peace and unity, and rule, govern, and adjudicate when the Promised Land, then filled with pagan peoples, was divided among the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

In addition, because the approach of Yom Kippur occurs on the Tenth of Tishri, the seven weeks of consolation beginning with the Shabbat around the 9th of Av (Shabbat Nachamu-comfort), are preparing people for Shabbat Shuvah (return), which occurs just prior to the Day of Atonement. During these weeks there is a heavy emphasis on Haftarah readings from the Book of Isaiah, because this prophet not only warns about the falling away and coming diaspora, but in contrast, continues to give hope that the Almighty will eventually restore Israel to the Land and fulfill all of His promises.

With the consistent study of Torah as a backdrop this past month, I was led to read two books by Messianic Jewish authors, and a book by a Hebrew Roots teacher, which each gave me some insight into what the Lord is doing at this time with those who are seeking His face, albeit with various motives that only the Holy One knows. Nevertheless, by reading books about (1) the incessant attacks of various demonic spirits, (2) the reality of how the Scriptures have forecast actual historical events up to this very hour, and (3) an autobiography that delineates how mixing diabolical encounters with godly events creates unknown confusion, my faith was actually bolstered. After all, we are all looking through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), and even though we pray that the eyes of our heart (Ephesians 1:18) will be opened to God’s revelation, He only reveals to us individually exactly what He wants us to spiritually know and understand at any point in time.

For a few days, I was led to focus on the reality of the spiritual and tangible “authority,” specifically the Greek word exousia, often translated as authority, power to act, domain, et. al., that the Holy One has purposed to be a part of His created order and delegated as He chooses. Naturally, this led to meditating upon Yeshua’s Great Commission recorded in the last words of the Gospel of Matthew, the temptation of Yeshua by the Devil, the distribution of Earthy powers, and how God expects His children to obey what He has put in place:

“And Yeshua came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority [exousia] has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NASU).

“And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain [exousia] and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.’ Yeshua answered him, ‘It is written, “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY” [Deuteronomy 6:13]’” (Luke 4:6-8, NASU).

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities [exousia]. For there is no authority [exousia] except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority [exousia] has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority [exousia]? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:1-5, NASU).

Of course, while meditating upon these Scriptures, the realization that men and women are subject to each of the various authorities that exist, whether seen or unseen, became abundantly clear! Then, the further understanding that the ultimate solution, to operating in the Spirit-led life, can substantially be found by employing the antidote to combat unseen forces with vigilant and constant faith, and requesting and receiving the spiritual armor referenced in this passage from Ephesians:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers [exousia], against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH [Isaiah 11:5], and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:12-17, NASU).

With all of this in mind, it conclusively dawned on me that our Heavenly Father, through His Word, has ultimately given us the insight, wisdom, understanding, and discernment to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). But in addition, if we are prayerfully listening, fervently asking, desperately seeking, and persistently knocking (Matthew 7:7)—He even gives us tangible evidence that He is absolutely in control of everything that takes place in His Creation. Thus, we can corroborate actions seen and unseen by evidence found in the Scriptures, and the historical records of things actually done, to affirm and prove that He is orchestrating the prophesied “restoration of all things” just as stated in Acts 3:19-21 by the Apostle Peter:

“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” (Acts 3:19-21, NASU).

In fact, if we are perceptive, and follow the further advice of Peter, the Holy One will open up even more of His secrets and remind us of His hand upon all things we are entertaining in our respective walks with Him. Now how awesome is that!

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah will be abundantly supplied to you. Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:4-13, NASU).

One final “reminder,” from the concluding statement made by the Apostle John in his first epistle, comes to mind: little children, guard yourself from idols!” (1 John 5:21, NASU). Now remember, for most people, their favorite idol is themselves. But if you take the words of Jonah literally, those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness” (Jonah 2:8, NASU), the Hebrew word translated as “faithfulness” is chesed, which can also mean lovingkindness or mercy.

In other words, if for whatever reasons, we as Believers worship anything more than Messiah Yeshua, we just might be jeopardizing our ability to not only hear the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10:3, 16, 27), but disobey rather than obey His words. However, if we do not have the listening ears to hear or the pursuing eyes to see what He is doing at various points in time, then it is quite possible that His lovingkindness would not be descending upon us. After all, we could be listening to others or looking somewhere else for truth or interpretation of what is transpiring in the present, and not seeking Him for His revelation and inspiration. That obviously is a place where no true follower of the Messiah ever wants to be located! Instead…

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His face shine upon you, and may He turn His countenance toward you at all times, and give you His peace….To Him be all the glory!

And by the way, thank you for supporting our efforts to advance God’s Kingdom on Earth, each and every day, through your prayers and financial offerings. We are blessed!

Advancing God’s Kingdom on Earth until the restoration of all things…

Shalom and Shanah Tovah!

Mark Huey