Tuesday, October 24, 2006
On the up side, we're almost finished with the new synagogue, praise God. The walls are all up (with two exceptions due to plumbing work that needs to be done) and either painted or will be painted this week. The carpet's supposed to come in tomorrow, and we'll be putting the chairs in the sanctuary Thursday. We may actually hold service there this Friday, though the dedication won't be for another week or two. This weekend will be mostly spent moving stuff in (furniture, appliances, food, etc), and after that, while there will still be some decorating to be done, I'll have my weekends back to study and write.
My apologies to anyone who's been disappointed at the lackadaisical updates lately. Hopefully I'll be back on a at-least-one-update a week schedule soon.
Friday, September 29, 2006
The Feastdays of the Torah are divided into three groups—the spring feasts, Shavuot (Pentecost), and then the fall feasts—each of which is linked to a distinct stage of the Exodus and Israel’s instruction at Sinai. In addition, there are at least three minor feasts (that is, those which were not ordained at Sinai) which are also prophetically significant. The key to understanding the Feasts’ prophetic significance is to understand their historical significance.
When YHVH reorganized Israel’s calendar by proclaiming the month of the Pesach (Passover) to be the “beginning of months” (Exo. 12:2), He was establishing that His plan of salvation begins with the Passover. However, to truly understand God’s plan, we begin our brief study not with the Passover, but with the six “silent” months which separate the Passover from the previous Sinai-ordained Feastday, Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Within this “silent period” lie two minor Feasts: Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Israel over the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes, and Purim, which celebrates her victory over the forces of Haman some three centuries earlier as is described in the book of Esther. Hanukkah has an eschatological significance which will be explored in another article, but for now it is enough to note the element these two feasts share in common: Both celebrate YHVH’s “hidden” protection of and provision for His people. Though He did not act with any obvious miracles like fire from the sky or supernatural plagues, nevertheless He brought His people to victory against overwhelming odds: In Purim by the placement of a Jewish queen, and in Hanukkah by giving the Jews might in battle.
These “silent” months between Sukkot and Pesach correspond to the 430 “silent years” which lead up both to the Passover of the Exodus (Gal. 3:17) and the Passover of the Messiah. Both periods were characterized by the lack of a true prophet to lead the people, “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of YHVH" (Amos 8:11). God had not forgotten His people, but it probably felt to them like He had.
When YHVH fulfilled His promise to redeem His people from bondage, it was through the Passover and the death of a Lamb. God’s people were set free from Egypt via the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath. Likewise, God’s people were set free from sin by the blood of the Lamb painted on their hearts, so that they would not die in God’s wrath. The seven days of the Feast of Matzah, in which all the leaven had to be removed from Israel’s houses and no leaven could be eaten, represents the quick removal of Israel from Egypt (in which there was no time to make leavened bread) and the complete removal of all sin in our lives by the sacrifice of Yeshua as we flee the ways of the world.
In the third month after Israel’s departure from Egypt, they arrived at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:1). There God descended on the mountain in fire, with the sound of a shofar (vv. 16ff), and called Moses up the mountain to begin giving him the Torah. According to Jewish tradition, the day that this happened was the day of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, a date consistent with the Biblical record. Like HaBikkurim, the Feast of Firstfruits for the barley harvest, on which Messiah was raised as the Firstfruits of the dead, Shavuot is a firstfruits festival for the wheat harvest. On the first Shavuot, the firstfruits of the nation of Israel began receiving the Torah. On Shavuot after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the firstfruits of the Church began receiving the Torah written on their hearts by the giving of the Spirit of God in the form of fire and with a great sound (Jer. 31:33, Ezk. 36:26-27, Acts 2:3ff).
After giving Moses the first commandments, the Lord called him back up the mountain to receive further instruction, and Moses remained with Him for forty days (Exo. 24:18). It was during this period that Aaron led the people in the sin of making and worshiping the golden calf. When Moses descended again from the mountain and saw this, he smashed the stone tablets on which God had written His commandments, signifying that Israel had broken the covenant they had made to follow all of God’s commands, and many in Israel died, both at the hands of the Levites whom Moses commanded to take arms against their kinsmen, and by a plague sent by God. Moreover, Moses removed the Tent of Meeting (not the Tabernacle, which had not yet been built, but a different tent in which Moses lived and met with YHVH; Exo. 33:7ff) to outside the camp, signifying that the people’s sin was great enough that God had removed the visible place which was the focal point of Israel’s worship and His Presence.
The parallel is not difficult to understand: Forty years after Yeshua ascended into Heaven, Israel still had not repented as a body from her “golden calf.” Just as Israel in the Exodus fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their tradition (in this case, image-based worship), which they learned while in Egypt, instead of worshipping God in the manner in which He had commanded them, Israel in the first century fell into the sin of worshipping God in the manner of their traditions rather than doing so through the Messiah as He had commanded them. While the details differed, the essential core of the sin was the same.
So was the punishment. As Israel in the Exodus was punished by the sword and plague, so Israel in 70 AD was punished by the sword and plague. And as Israel in the Exodus had the Tent of Meeting removed by their prophet, Moses, so Israel in the first century had the Temple removed by the prophet after Moses, Yeshua HaMashiach. The destruction of both Temples took place on Tishbi b’Av, or the 9th of the month of Av. While it cannot be proven, the timing of the Golden Calf incident makes it quite possible that Tishbi b’Av is the day on which Moses removed the Tent of Meeting as well.
In the Exodus sin, God’s fury was so great that He said to Moses, “Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation” (Exo. 32:10). YHVH-Tzva’ot, the LORD of Hosts, was actually planning to destroy the whole nation and start over with Moses and his children! This is, in fact, what Replacement Theology claims that God did to Israel in the first century: destroyed them, and replaced them with the Messiah’s “children,” the Church.
Those who believe that God has cast away His chosen nation need to take another look at Exodus. Moses, who had not joined in the sin of the people, interceded for Israel so that God would not utterly destroy them, though He did punish them, even (temporarily) taking away their place of worship. Are we to think that Yeshua did any less, or that His intercession for Israel would be any less heard? And notice the basis on which Moses interceded for Israel: Not on the basis of their obedience or repentance, but on the basis of YHVH’s Name—that is, His reputation—and His promises (ibid., vv. 12-13). It is on this same basis that YHVH has already begun returning Israel to her land: “Thus saith the Lord YHVH; ‘I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for Mine holy Name's sake . . .’” (Ezk. 36:22).
The Future Fulfillment
“Okay,” the amillennialist answers, “clearly not all of the Jews were destroyed, but the Temple was, and since we are now the Temple of God, there will be no other.” Again, keep reading. After seeing to the punishment of Israel and removing the Tent of Meeting, Moses was told by God, “And I will send an angel before thee . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way” (Exo. 33:2, 3). But Moses, not content that a lesser angel go with Israel, returned up the mountain, and interceded with God for another forty days, going without food or water, until YHVH relented and agreed to send His Presence with Israel. The form in which His Presence went with Israel was in the pillar of fire and cloud which was intimately connected with the Tabernacle:
The Tabernacle of Israel was known by several names. . . The name dwelling from Heb. mishkan, from shakan, to “like down,” a “dwelling,” connected itself with the Jewish, though not scriptural, word Shekinah, as describing the dwelling place of the divine glory. (Unger, F., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, ed. [Moody, 1988] “Tabernacle of Israel,” p. 1238)According to the Talmud, the day on which Moses returned with the second set of stone tablets, showing that YHVH had forgiven Israel and restored fellowship with them, was the day of Yom Kippur (Tractate Taanit 30b), and the forty days that he fasted before God correspond with the forty days of T’shuva (Repentence) that are traditionally observed leading up to the Day of Atonement. (This forty-day period of fasting may be the same forty-day period that Yeshua spent fasting and being tested in the wilderness after His baptism.)
Likewise, the day on which Yeshua will return to restore His fellowship with Israel, and direct them in building a Temple greater than that which they built on their own, just as Moses directed Israel in building a Tabernacle greater than the former Tent of Meeting which was taken away from the camp, will be on Yom Kippur. Like the Levitial High Priest emerging from the Holy of Holies to show that God had accepted the sacrifice of the goat on the people’s behalf, Yeshua will emerge from the Holy of Holies in Heaven to show Israel that God has accepted His sacrifice on their behalf.
Yom Kippur is not yet complete. Our High Priest is hidden from our eyes, beyond the veil, making intercession for us day and night, but He has not yet emerged to show all Israel that His blood-stained garments have been turned as white as snow, proving that the Father has accepted the High Priest’s sacrifice on behalf of all Israel, not just the remnant that now believe. When He does, carrying the sign of a covenant restored before Israel even as Moses did, then the Temple promised by Ezekiel will be built, just as the Tabernacle was.
When will the High Priest come forth? On the last day of Daniel’s Seventieth Week when Israel and Jerusalem will “make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24). The word for reconciliation, kaphar, is most often translated “atonement.”
With Israel’s sins atoned for, the way will be made for the final stage of the Messiah’s reconciliation of all things to Himself. Next we will study Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when Yeshua will be officially crowned King over all the nations . . . on His birthday.
In my first article on the Fall High Holy Days, we saw that the Feast of Trumpets is intimately linked by both Yeshua and Sha’ul with Yeshua’s Second Coming on the clouds of heaven, and saw that this corresponded with the expectations of the rabbis. Now we come to the second of the Fall Feastdays, and the holiest day of the Jewish—which is to say, Biblical—calendar: Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth of Tishri, nine days after Rosh Hashanah.
On that day, the high priest would put on a special coat of white linen and carry out a very unusual sacrifice.
And he shall take the two goats, and present them before Yhvh at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for Yhvh, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which Yhvh's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before Yhvh, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. . . .
And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. (Lev. 16:7-10, 20-22)
Today, the sacrifices which were the centerpiece of the Levitical ceremony cannot be held of course, but this does not make it impossible to observe the day. Like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur is not a pilgrimage Feast: No one was required to be in
After a final, festive meal in the afternoon before Yom Kippur, Jews the world over dress in white in remembrance of the High Priest’s white linen robe that he would wear within the Holy of Holies, and at sundown go to what is known as the Kol Nidre (“All Vows”) service. The Kol Nidre is a prayer sung to a haunting cadence, which asks God to release one from any wrongful oaths taken that year. It dates to the Middle Ages, when Jews were forcibly converted to Christianity; they would ask God to release them of the vows taken at the point of a sword. Another traditional song is Avinu Malkeynu (“Our Father, Our King”), which translates as follows:
Our Father and Our King
Our Father and Our King
Our Father and King
Be merciful to us
Be merciful unto us.
For we have done no deeds
Commending us unto You
For we have no deeds commending us to You
Be merciful, save us, we pray.
Synagogue services typically run all day, with observant Jews petitioning God to forgive their sins. Fasting, denying one’s self, is mandated by Torah, and observant Jews will usually refrain from any comforts at all during the day, including bathing, wearing leather shoes, etc. It should be noted that Isa. 58 and Mat. 6:16-18 both speak against fasting to be seen and fasting in lieu of true repentance:
“Wherefore have we fasted,” say they, “and Thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?” Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Yhvh? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? (Isa. 58:3-7)
True self-denial is not the mere restraint from food, though it may include fasting from food (Mat. 6:16-18, 1
Yom Kippur ends with the Neilah (“The Closing of the Gates”) service and a final blast from the shofar. It is said by the rabbis that the gates of Heaven through which our prayers of repentance can rise close at this time, sealing one’s fate for the year. Of course, in the Messiah Yeshua, we may always “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). However, there is still an eschatological truth to the rabbinical belief, discussed in the previous article on Rosh Hashanah.
Of course, it may rightly be asked in what sense can one be atoned for on this day without blood, “for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). One who believes in the Messiah Yeshua, of course, looks to Him and His perfect sacrifice for their atonement. Non-Messianic Jews follow the belief established by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai that acts of righteousness provide atonement (Avot de Rabbi Nathan 4:18). However, even in the Jewish community, the need for blood redemption still runs deep. In the ceremony called Kaparot, practiced only in very Orthodox circles, a chicken is waived over the head three times as the man says,
“This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement. This fowl shall meet death, but I shall enjoy a long, happy life.” After reading several selections from Job and the Psalms, the person lays his hand on the head of the bird as a symbol of identification, it is killed as his substitute, and given to the poor for their final meal before the fast. (Howard and Rosenthal, The Feasts of the Lord, p. 126)
Why is a chicken used instead of a goat, for example? Because goats, bulls, oxen, rams, and lambs could only be offered for sacrifice in the
In Biblical times, of course, a bull and two goats were the sacrifices made. The bull was offered for the sins of the High Priest and the other priests, so that he could be purified before entering into God’s presence. The goats, one for Yhvh and one for the scapegoat would then atone for
Azazel, which only occurs in this chapter, signifies neither “a remote solitude,” nor any locality in the desert whatever (as Jonathan, Rashi, etc., suppose); nor the “he-goat” . . . The words, one lot for Jehovah and one for Azazel, require unconditionally that Azazel should be regarded as a personal being, in opposition to Jehovah. . . We have not to think, however, of [just] any demon whatever, who seduces men to wickedness in the form of an evil spirit, as the fallen angel Azazel is represented as doing in the Jewish writings . . . but of the devil himself, the head of the fallen angels, who was afterwards called Satan; for no subordinate evil spirit could have been placed in antithesis to Jehovah as Azazel is here, but only the ruler or head of the kingdom of demons. The desert and desolate places are mentioned elsewhere as the abode of evil spirits (Isa. 13:21 and 34:14; Mat. 12:43; Luk. 11:24; Rev. 18:2). (Keil, Johann and Franz Delitzsch, Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, [e-Sword version 7.0.0, ed. Rick Meyers, 2000-2003])
And yet, while the “scapegoat” was, in effect, given over to Azazel, to the very Enemy himself, the “two goats . . . must be altogether alike in look, size, and value; indeed, so earnestly was it sought to carry out the idea that these two formed parts of one and the same sacrifice, that it was arranged that they should, if possible, even be purchased at the same time” (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 248). So all speculations that the scapegoat might represent Satan or the Antichrist or some other evil entity fall short. What could these two goats signify other than the dual-natured Messiah Yeshua? He carried away all our sin, just as the scapegoat would be sent into the wilderness with the sins of
A red ribbon was tied in the horns of the scapegoat. When the goat was led out before the people, if God accepted the sacrifice, the ribbon would miraculously turn white as a reminder of the promise that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18). It is most interesting that for the forty years between the sacrifice of Yeshua and the destruction of the
Forty years before the Temple was destroyed the chosen lot was not picked with the right hand, nor did the crimson stripe turn white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the Temple’s Holy Place swung open by themselves, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai spoke saying: “O most Holy Place, why have you become disturbed? I know full well that your destiny will be destruction, for the prophet Zechariah ben Iddo has already spoken regarding you saying: 'Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour the cedars'” (Zech. 11:1). (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 39b)
Hebrews 8 -10 explains that when Messiah completed His sacrifice on the cross, He entered the heavenly Holy of Holies, of which that of the Tabernacle and the Temple were merely copies, to complete the Yom Kippur ritual of atonement. The sacrifice was not accepted because it was being offered by the wrong High Priest:
For Messiah is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others . . . But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. (Heb. 9:24-25, 10:12-13)
But if this is the sole and sufficient fulfillment of the feastday of Yom Kippur, then we have a problem. In every other feastday that we have seen fulfilled in history, the fulfillment took place on that day. Yeshua was offered up on Passover as the Lamb of God, thus taking away our sin just as leaven was removed from the Hebrews’ houses during the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He rose as the firstfruits of the dead (cf. 1
Next: Part 2: The Exodus and the Future
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
As many of you already know, we are entering into the fall High Holy Days, comprised of the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. Just as the spring Feastdays celebrate the First Coming of Messiah Yeshua, and Shavuot (Pentecost) celebrates the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) to the Ekklesia in between the visitations of Yeshua, the Fall Feastdays look forward to His Second Coming—and in particular, the Feast of Trumpets looks forward to His Glorious Appearance in the clouds of heaven!
The day which this year falls on September 23 (beginning at sundown the previous night) is known by many names, but is little understood. The most commonly used today is Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year or New Year, and is regarded as the start of the Jewish civil calendar. (The religious calendar begins on the first of Nisan, fourteen days before Passover, in accordance with Exo. 12:2.) For this reasons, Jews will greet each other with the phrase, “L’shana tova u-metukah,” “May you have a good and sweet new year” or simply “Shanah tova,” “A good year.” In anticipation of this sweet new year, it is customary to eat a sweet fruit, like an apple or carrot dipped in honey.
The Talmud records the belief that “In the month of Tishri, the world was created” (Rosh Hashanah 10b), and its probably due to this belief that it became known as the Jewish New Year. The belief that the world was created on Rosh Hashanah came out of an anagram: The letters of the first word in the Bible, “In the beginning . . .” (B’resheit) can be rearranged to say, “1 Tishri” (Aleph b’Tishri). Perhaps because so little is directly said in Scripture about this day—unlike all of the other Feastdays, there is no historical precedent given to explain why Rosh Hashanah should be celebrated—the rabbis also speculated that Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Samuel were all born on this day.
However, that’s not it’s Biblical name, which is Yom Teruah, the Day of the [Trumpet] Blast:
And YHVH spake unto Moses, saying, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing (Heb. zikrown teruah) [of trumpets], an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto YHVH.’” (Lev. 23:23-25)
And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing (teruah) [the trumpets] unto you. (Num. 29:1)
In each of these passages, I’ve placed “trumpets” in brackets because it’s not actually in the Hebrew text; however, teruah can and usually does mean to sound the trumpet (though it can mean to shout with a voice as well) and the use of a trumpet on this day is considered so axiomatic that there is literally no debate in Jewish tradition on the matter. Specifically, the trumpet used is the shofar. The shofar is traditionally always made from the horn of a ram, in honor of the ram that God substituted for Isaac, and never from a bull’s horn, in memory of the sin of the golden calf.
The shofar first appears in Scripture as heralding the visible appearance of God coming down on
This visitation by YHVH is closely associated with the second of this Feastdays names: Yom Zikkroun, the Day of Remembrance. This is not primarily meant to be a day when the people remember God, but when God remembers His people—not that He has forgotten them, but in which He fulfills His promises to them by Coming to them. In Isa. 27:13, it is the instrument used to call God’s people
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident . . .
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock. . .
For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock. . .
Among the rabbis, the shofar is often associated with the Coming of the Messiah and the Resurrection of the Dead as well. “According to the Alphabet Midrash of Rabbi Akiva, seven shofars announce successive steps of the resurrection process, with Zechariah 9:14 quoted as a proof text: ‘And Adonai the Lord will blow the shofar’” (Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary, 489f). “And it is the shofar that the Holy One, blessed be He, is destined to blow when the Son of David, our righteous one, will reveal himself, as it is said, ‘And the Lord GOD will blow the shofar’” (Tanna debe Eliyahu Zutta XXII). It’s interesting that the rabbis, without the benefit of the New Covenant writings, have come to the same conclusions as the Apostles: That YHVH would visit His people in the person of the Messiah and raise the dead on Yom Teruah (also in the Bablyonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 16b). On Yom Teruah, the shofar not only rouses the people from their complacency, but the very dead from their graves. (See Job 19:25-27, Isa. 26:19, and Dan. 12:2 for the Tanakh’s primary passages on the Resurrection.)
The shofar is an instrument that is very much associated with war (Jdg. 3:27, 2 Sa. 20:1, Neh. 4:18-22, Ezk. 33:3-6). It was used to destroy the walls of
This brings us to the next name for this Feastday, Yom HaDin, Judgment Day. Not only did the shofar sound the call for war, but also the coronation of kings (2 Sa. 15:10; 1 Ki. 1:34, 29; 2 Ki. 9:13, 11:12-14). Therefore, the rabbis have always associated this day with God’s sovereign Kingship over all mankind: “On Rosh Hashanah all human beings pass before Him as troops, as it is said, ‘The LORD looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of His habitation He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works’” (Rosh Hashanah 6b, quoting Psa. 53:13-15). To remember God’s Kingship, it is traditional to eat round objects to remind us of God’s crown (oriental crowns being shaped as skullcaps instead of circlets). For example, challah is made to be round instead of braided as it normally is.
Because this day is associated with God’s judgment, it is also considered a time of repentance (t’shuva) in preparation for Yom Kippur. The Casting (Tashlikh) Ceremony, in which observant Jews gather together at the shores of oceans, lakes, and rivers and cast in stones and/or crumbs of bread to symbolize “casting off” their sins, is performed on this day to a prayer comprised of Mic. 7:18-20, Psa. 118:5-9, Psa. 33 and 130, and often finishing with Isa. 11:9.
He will turn again,
He will have compassion upon us;
He will subdue our iniquities;
And Thou wilt cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:19)
The Talmud (ibid.) goes on to say that on this day, all mankind is divided into three types of people. The wholly righteous were immediately written in the Book of Life (Exo. 32:33, Psa. 69:28) for another year. The wholly wicked were blotted out of the Book of Life, condemned to die in the coming year. Those in between, if they truly repented before the end of Yom Kippur, could likewise be scribed in the Book of Life for another year. For this reason, a common greeting at this time is “L’shana tova tikatevu,” which means, “May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for a good new year.”
The Bible, of course, is clear that one is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (cf. Php. 4:3; Rev. 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, and 21:27) not by one’s own righteousness, but by receiving the Messiah’s righteousness by faith, trusting in Him, and that there is no in-between; one either trusts God or one doesn’t. Nevertheless, a great eschatological truth is preserved for us in this rabbinical tradition. At the time of Yeshua’s Second Coming, all mankind will be divided into three groups. Those who have already trusted in the Messiah will be Resurrected and Raptured to be with Him immediately upon His Coming on the clouds of the sky. Those who have taken the mark of the Beast and have chosen to remain with the Wicked One will be slated to die in the Day of the Lord, which for reasons that are beyond the scope of this essay to address, I believe will last for about a year.
However, there will also be a third group, who neither had believed in the Messiah until they saw Him Coming on the clouds but who also had not taken the mark of the Beast. Many of these will be Jews, who will mourn at His coming and so have a fount of forgiveness opened to them (Rev. 1:7, Zec. 12:10-13:2)—most prominently, the 144,000 of Rev. 7 and 14. Others will be Gentiles who will be shown mercy because they showed mercy to the children of God (Mat. 25:31ff). These are given the opportunity to repent during the period between the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonment, called the Days of Awe—a reference, I believe, to the Day of the Lord.
Finally, this day is known as Yom HaKeseh, the Hidden Day. It was a day that could not be calculated, only looked for. Ancient
Not so Yom HaKeseh. In the absence of reliable astronomical charts and calculations (which were made only centuries after God commanded the Feasts to be observed), the Feast of Trumpets could be anticipated, estimated to be arriving soon, but until two or more witnesses reported the first breaking of the moon’s light after the darkest time of the month, no one knew “the day or hour.” Therefore, it was a tradition not to sleep on Rosh Hashanah, but to remain awake and alert, a tradition alluded to by Sha’ul: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Th. 5:4-6).
Because of the difficulty of alerting the Jews in the Diaspora when the Sanhedron had decreed the start of the Feast to be, it became traditional to celebrate the first and second day of Tishri together as Yoma Arikhta, “One Long Day.” Is this meant to remind us, perhaps, of when another Y’hoshua (Yeshua) won against his enemies because God cast down great hailstones (like the hailstones of Rev. 16:21) and called upon the Sun to stand still so that they would not escape (Jos. 10:10ff)?
Yom Teruah is a day which ultimately calls all of God’s people together in repentance in anticipation of the glorious Second Coming, in which He will once again visit His people in the Person of the Messiah Yeshua to Resurrect the dead, awaken the living, and judge all mankind together.
Shalom, and Maranatha!
Thursday, August 24, 2006
It is altogether appropriate that any reconciliation of the Gospel accounts begin with Yochanan's introduction, which describes Yeshua's origin (if we can use that term of an Eternal Being) "in the beginning." However, we soon arrive at Yochanan HaTivlei (John the Baptist) describing seeing the Spirit descending on Yeshua as a dove, which is certainly a flashback to His Mikveh (immersion, baptism) as described in Mark 1. This begins the carefully placed time markers which describe the intricate interplay between the two, as Yochanan the Apostle seeks to fill in the gaps in Kefa's narrative (as delivered to us by Mark).
In the following timeline, I'm concentrating primarily on the actions, not the discourses, of Yeshua. This is in no small part because Yeshua, like any traveling preacher, reused His teachings and parables repeatedly, making the issue of when they were "really" delivered a moot point. I'll also leave aside the matter of the birth narratives, which are easily reconciled to each other and which I'll probably comment on closer to Sukkot.
It should also be noted that not all of the Gospel accounts are written in chronological order. While Luke claims to write an "orderly" (that is, in order, chronological) account (1:3), Matthew arranged his material largely by subject, and we are told by Papias regarding Mark's Gospel account:
Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. (quoted by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, ch. 39)Therefore, where Mark or Matthew's apparent chronology seems to contradict that of the other Gospel accounts, I'll tend to favor Luke and John. For example, Mark reports Yeshua's first exorcism after the calling of Kefa, Andrew, Yochanan, and Ya'akov (James), while Luke states that the exorcism happened first, so we'll follow Luke's chronology, since he was more concerned with the "when." For that reason, and because most of the material added by Matthew is in the form of discourses, we won't be referencing the book of Matthew all that much.
A rough chronology may be developed as follows. My apologies in advance; this is going to be a rather long post.
- Introduction of the Word and Light of God (John 1:1-14)
- Yochanan begins preaching in the wilderness (Mark 1:2-8, John 1:15-18)
- Yeshua's Mikveh, or baptism (Mark 1:9-11)
- Yeshua's forty days of temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13)
- First meetings
- Some time later, the priests and Levites come to question Yochanan, who tells them he is neither the Messiah, nor Eliyahu (Elijah, John 1:19-28).
- The day after the inquiry, Yeshua returns to the Jordan, where He is identified as the Messiah by Yochanan to two of his disciples, one of whom is Andrew, Kefa's brother. They stay and converse with Him overnight, after which Andrew introduces Kefa to Yeshua (John 1:35-42).
- The day after that, the four travel to Galilee, where Yeshua calls Philip, who makes introductions with Nathaniel (John 1:43-51).
- The wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11)
- A relatively brief stay in Capernaum (John 2:12)
- The first Passover. Yeshua clears the Temple for the first time and is challenged by the Judean leadership. The midnight meeting with Nicodemus. (John 2:13-3:21)
- Yeshua remains in Judea for a time, with His talmidim (disciples) immersing alongside Yochanan's, causing some jealously among the latter which Yochanan has to rebuke. (John 3:22-36)
- As a result, Yeshua leaves Judea and passes through Samaria to get back to Galilee, meeting the woman at the well. (John 4:1-43)
- After delaying with them for two days, He passes through Nazareth and is nearly thrown from a cliff when He declares Himself to be the fulfillment of prophecy (Luke 4:16-30, John 1:44).
- At about this time, Yochanan is arrested (Mark 1:14-15).
- Yeshua returns to Cana, where a nobleman asks Him to heal his son, which He does. This, according to the account, is Yeshua's second miracle. (John 1:46-54)
- The calling of the fishers of men
- Yeshua goes to Capernaum, where He begins His ministry of healing and casting out demons, including the man in the synagogue and Kefa's mother-in-law (Luke 4:31-44, Mark 1:23-34).
- As a result, Yeshua has to use Kefa's fishing boat as a floating stage to address the crowds. The miracle of the fish and the calling of Kefa, Andrew, Yochanan, and Ya'akov. (Luke 5:1-12, Mark 1:16-22)
- The Galilean ministry (Mark 1:39-6:6), which includes:
- The Twelve are appointed. (Mark 3:13-20)
- Yeshua is rejected by the P'rushim (Pharisees) and begins teaching only in parables (Mark 3:22-4:34)
- Calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41)
- Casting out Legion (Mark 5:1-20)
- Healing the woman with the issue of blood and raising a little girl from the dead (Mark 5:21-43)
- After this, Yeshua sends out the Twelve to operate on their own for a time (Mark 6:1-30).
- While they are gone, He Himself goes up to Jerusalem for an unnamed Feastday and heals a paralytic on the Sabbath, defending His right to do so against the Pharisees (John 5).
- The second Passover (John 6:4):
- The Twelve regather and report their success, and Yeshua takes them across the Sea of Galilee to try to find a quiet place to rest. However, a crowd of 5,000 men followed them, prompting the first feeding miracle (Mark 6:31-44, John 6:1-15).
- Yeshua walks on the sea (Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21).
- Yeshua calls Himself the Bread of Life, possibly coinciding with the Feast of Matzah (Unleavened Bread, John 6:22-71).
- A brief stay at Gennesaret (Mark 6:53-56)
- The Second Galilean Ministry (John 7:1, Mark 6:56-9:50), which include:
- The disputes with the Pharisees over halacha (how to apply Torah; Mark 7:1-23)
- Yeshua and His talmidim withdraw to the border of Tyre and Sidon, where a Gentile woman asks for healing for her daughter (Mark 7:24-30).
- Yeshua heals a deaf and dumb man (Mark 7:31-37).
- The feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9).
- The Pharisees ask for a sign, a blind man healed outside Bethsaida (Mark 8:10-26)
- Kefa's profession of faith (Mark 8:27-33)
- The Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-13)
- The Feast of Sukkot (John 7:2-53)
- Yeshua teaches in the Temple (John 7:14-36)
- On the last day of the eight-day feast, Yeshua proclaims Himself to be the source of the true living water (John 7:37)
- Yeshua forgives an adulteress (John 8)
- Healing a man born blind and subsequent discourse (John 9:1-10:21)
- Hanukkah (John 10:22-39)
- Yeshua withdraws to the region of the Jordan (John 10:40)
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-53)
- Yeshua again withdraws to the wilderness, to instruct His talmidim (John 11:54, Mark 9:30-32)
- The last journey to Jerusalem:
- Yeshua appoints the Seventy and sends them into Judea to announce His coming (Luke 10:1-24), while remaining in Capernaum (Mark 9:33)
- Yeshua passes through Judea, teaching and healing, on His way to Jerusalem. (Luke 10:25-19:27, Mark 10)
- Six days before Passover, Yeshua stays in Bethany. (John 12:1-11)
- The Triumphal Entry, four days before Pesach, on Nisan 10 (Mark 11:1-11, John 12:12-50). This was probably on the Sabbath.
- The clearing of the Temple on the following day, followed by two days of being tested by the leaders of Israel in the Temple. (Mark 11:12-44)
- Yeshua leaves the Temple for the last time after denouncing Israel's leaders (Mat. 23) and delivers the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13) two days before Passover (Mark 14:1), or just before evening on Nisan 12.
- Yeshua is anointed in Bethany at dinner after sundown on the 13th, after which Judas contracts to betray Him. (Mark 14:3-11)
- The Third Passover:
- The Last Supper (Mark 14:12-31, John 13-17)
- Prayer and Arrest in the Garden of Gethsemene (Mark 14:32-52, John 18:1-12)
- Yeshua's trials before the high priest and Pilate (Mark 14:53-15:15, John 18:12-19:15)
- The Crucifixion and burial (Mark 15:16-47, John 19:16-42)
- The Empty Tomb, three days later on a Sunday (Mark 16:1-11, John 20:1-18)
- Yeshua meets two disciples on the Emmaeus road (Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-35)
- He appears to ten of the Eleven for dinner immediately after (John 20:19-23)
- Eight days later, He appears to the Eleven, now including Toma (Thomas, John 20:24-29, Mark 16:14-18).
- He appears to the Eleven on the Sea of Galilee (John 21)
- The Ascension (Mark 16:19-20)
Why then do so many believe that Yeshua's ministry lasted a full year longer? The traditional view apparently came out of an erroneous interpretation of Daniel's prophecy of the Seventy Weeks--though it's surprising that so many Premillennialists have simply subscribed to that view instead of challenging it. It should be noted that the amillennialist view that Yeshua brought an end to sacrifice and offering in the Cross fails on other fronts, which I'll explain in a dedicated article someday--but the fact that the Bible does not give us a long enough ministry is just the final nail in the coffin.
Is it possible that the unnamed feast in John 5 is another Passover, thus giving us 3 1/2 years? If so, then we have a full year of Yeshua's ministry about which absolutely nothing is said. Moreover, the fact that this feast was not named suggests that it was one of the minor feasts, perhaps Hanukkah or Purim.
Is there a significance to the fact that Yeshua's active ministry was about two years long? I believe so. Remember that Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years--but the first two years were spent at Mt. Sinai, during which they were all being taught by God and being given His Torah. The remaining 38 years were a time of testing and punishment for Israel's lack of faith at the end of which the last of the generation that failed to obey passed away. In the same way, for two years Israel was taught by God in the person of the Messiah Yeshua, after which were 38 years of testing and punishment, concluding with the destruction of the generation who rejected Him.
But just as God raised up a new generation of Israelites to follow Y'hoshua (Joshua) into the Land, He is also raising up a new generation of Israelites to follow Y'hoshua (the longer version of Yeshua).
"The Jews are a peculiar people," wrote America's great longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer after the 1967 war. "Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem . . . But everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab . . . Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world."Shalom
That's an interesting question, isn't it? Is it that we hold Israel to a higher standard? Or is rather that in the postmodern era Israel--unlike Canada, Britain, France, New Zealand--is the only western nation that's found itself fighting an existential struggle? Let's take it as read that a lot of folks don't like Jews. The present conflict then is chiefly of significance as a study in whether the least enervated of western nations is capable of seeing off the terrorist proxies of nuclear Islamists. Because, if Israel can't hold off a resurgent Islam, what chance Norway or Belgium?
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
For the record, the B'rit Chadasha Pages are here, first and foremost, to bring glory to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who manifested Himself in the flesh in the Person of Yeshua HaMashiach, who was the perfect sacrifice made in atonement for our sins. Therefore, while I would happily okay a comment that challenges my beliefs on any subject and respond to it (within a limited scope, since this is not primarily an apologetics site), I am most certainly not going to okay a comment that contains links back to a book which I consider blasphemous or which promotes a false messiah!
No, seriously, I'm not promoting your fringe book and/or website. Don't ask.
Secondly, if you're going to challenge my belief in the validity of Torah or even in the Messiah of Israel, don't do it with vague conspiracy theories and hollow calls for me to "keep an open mind." And certainly don't do it with emotional appeals. I build my beliefs on verifiable facts, thank you, not on speculations that require ignoring verifiable facts.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
None of these pillars of what we used to regard as conventional society is quite as sturdy as it was, and most of them have collapsed. Many mainstream Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political cliches. In this world, if Jesus were alive today he’d most likely be a gay Anglican vicar in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally-friendly car with an “Arms Are For Hugging” sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.On a spiritual note, I'll add that God has made up His mind that those who reject Him shall not be defended either--but those who trust in Him will have the Lord Himself as their shield.
Yet, if the purpose of the modern church is to be a cutting-edge political pacesetter, it’s Islam that’s doing the better job. It’s easy to look at gold-toothed Punjabi yobs in northern England or Algerian pseudo-rappers in French suburbs and think, oh well, their Muslim identity is clearly pretty residual. But that’s to apply westernized notions of piety. Today the mosque is a meetinghouse, and throughout the west what it meets to discuss is, even when not explicitly jihadist, always political. The mosque or madrassah is not the place to go for spiritual contemplation so much as political motivation. The Muslim identity of those French rioters or English jailbirds may seem spiritually vestigial but it’s politically potent. So, even as a political project, the mainstream Protestant churches are a bust. Pre-modern Islam beats post-modern Christianity. . . .
But it’s important to remember: radical Islam is only the top-eighth of that iceberg – it’s an opportunist enemy taking advantage of a demographically declining and spiritually decayed west. The real issue is the seven-eighths below the surface – the larger forces at play in the developed world that have left Europe too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia and call into question the future of much of the rest of the world. The key factors are: i) Demographic decline; ii) The unsustainability of the social democratic state; iii) Civilizational exhaustion.
None of these is Islam’s fault. They’re self-inflicted. If you doubt that, forget about fast Islamifying Europe and look at the most geriatric jurisdiction on the planet. In Japan, the rising sun has already passed into the next phase of its long sunset: net population loss. 2005 was the first year since records began in which the country had more deaths than births. Japan offers the chance to observe the demographic death spiral in its purest form. It’s a country with no immigration, no significant minorities and no desire for any: just the Japanese, aging and dwindling. . . .
The advantage Australians and Americans have is that most of the rest of the west is ahead of us: their canoes are already on the brink of the falls. But Australians who want their families to enjoy the blessings of life in a free society should understand that the life we’ve led since 1945 in the western world is very rare in human history. Our children are unlikely to enjoy anything so placid, and may well spend their adult years in an ugly and savage world in which ever more parts of the map fall prey to the reprimitivization that’s afflicted Liberia, Somalia and Bosnia.
If it’s difficult to focus on long-term trends because human life is itself short-term, think short-term: Huge changes are happening now. For states in demographic decline with ever more lavish social programs and ever less civilizational confidence, the question is a simple one: Can they get real? Can they grow up before they grow old? If not, then western civilization will go the way of all others that failed to meet a simple test: as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1870, “Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended.”
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Stop Hitting Yourself!Immediately following was this little gem:
"Rockets Hit Lebanon Despite Cease-Fire" reads an Associated Press headline from yesterday. Oh, those treacherous Zionists, blasting away at Lebanon despite the cease-fire! Well, actually, no. As the second paragraph of the story reports:Hezbollah guerrillas fired at least 10 Katyusha rockets that landed in southern Lebanon early Tuesday, the Israeli army said, adding that nobody was injured. The army said that none of the rockets, which were fired over a two-hour period, had crossed the border and so it had not responded.This casts the headline in a somewhat different light, no?
Why Not Let Israel Find Them?Shalom.
"Bush: Hezbollah Lost"--headline, Middle East Online, Aug. 15
One thing I think the author misses is the necessity for good apologetics teaching. Being able to defend the faith, to articulate why one believes in Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and to be able to demonstrate both to one's self and to others that he or she has not had to check their brains at the church door is more important now than ever: Why Johnny Can't Believe: On the Failure of the Church to Educate.
Part and parcel of this, of course, is educating our kids to know the Bible itself. I can't tell you how many times we reviewed the Parable of the Good Samaritan or the Sermon on the Mount in my youth group as a kid, but we received practically zero instruction on how the whole Bible fit together, what the covenants are and how they related to each other, how the Apostles interpreted the Tanakh (the OT) and its Messianic prophecies, how the Feastdays pointed to the Messiah, etc.
As a result, 2/3rds or more of my "graduating class" fell away from the faith and never came back.
Of course, how can the adults teach the children what they themselves don't know? When I went looking for a new church home some years ago, I found those who taught more than what Hebrews called the "foundation" from which we are to go on to completeness (6:1ff) were few and far between. Indeed, in most churches, you get dirty looks if you ask a question or suggest a subject of study that they don't consider "down to basics."
Frankly, the number of young people falling away should be a massive wake-up call to the adults: We need to give up the "just have faith" aphorisms, give up a little TV time, and study God's Word with the fervor of a person studying the love letters of their dearest, both for our own edification and for the good of our children.
I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but just I wanted to rant and get some things off my chest. :-)
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Maybe he was just trying to avoid an argument, but his words struck me as profound. Since studying our Jewish roots, I've become even more convinced of his wisdom.
In the West, we think of time as linear and of prophecy as simple prediction-and-fulfillment. But in the Hebrew and other Ancient Near East cultures, they think of time as circular--not in an ultimate sense, as in Hinduism, but in the sense that things have a tendency to repeat--and of prophecy as the fulfillment of a pattern.
So then, let's consider a prophecy that there should be little debate on, 2 Sa. 7:12-16:
And when thy [David's] days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But My mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.So, does this prophecy refer to Solomon, or to the Messiah? The answer is both.
Solomon followed his father David, built a house for YHVH's Name, and God established his kingdom. When he committed idolatry, God punished him "with the rod of men"--specifically, the sword of Hadad the Edomite (1 Ki. 11:14) and Jeroboam the son of Nebat (v. 26). But God did not take Israel from him as He did Saul, but waited until Solomon had passed and his son had taken the throne, and even then He took away only the northern kingdom (vv. 11-13). And so David's line continued on the throne.
Yeshua also followed His father David. He is building a spiritual house for YHVH's Name in the Church (1 Pt. 2:5) and will also build a physical Temple for the Millennium (Ezk. 40-48). While He never committed iniquity Himself, He became sin for us so that by His stripes, administered by the rod of men, we could be healed. And though the Father's mercy departed from Him for a brief time as He hung on the Cross, it did not depart forever as it did from Saul, nor was the Kingdom taken from Him--on the contrary, by His eternal life, the throne of David is forever secure.
Examples abound: Isaiah prophecy of a child whose birth would be a sign of YHVH's fidelity to the house of David (Isa. 7:14ff) was fulfilled both in the near term by the prophet's own son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (ch. 8), but it also looked forward to the birth of the Messiah, who fulfilled the prophecy in even more literal detail (e.g., being born of a virgin, being called "God With Us") and went on to fulfill parts of the prophecy that Maher did not (chapters 9-12, which should not be removed from the stream of though begun in chapter 7).
Prophecy may even refer to past events which prefigure future ones. We are all familiar with prophetic types, as when Abraham "sacrificed" his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, or Joseph was sold by his brothers as dead only to be made king over them. Or consider Matityahu's (Mathew's) use of Hos. 11:1 in Mat. 2:15. Consider the prophecy in context:
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.Was Matityahu wrong to quote this as a Messianic prophecy, as Jewish anti-missionaries claim? Or did he perhaps engage in a legitimate bit of "newspaper exegesis," seeing that the Messiah, just like Israel, had gone down into Egypt for safety in a time of trouble, only to come back out to the Land God had promised Abraham? In doing so, Matityahu shows us the connection between the Messiah and Israel, one that cannot be broken.
In fact, numerous of the Psalms which are quoted in the NT as Messianic prophecy were originally written by David to describe his own situation. In many cases, a highly poetic and allegorical description of David's situation, like Psalm 22, describes the betrayal and crucifixion of Yeshua in excruciating and literal detail.
Therefore, I actually agree with the preterist and historicist that the Olivet Discourse actually do prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I even leave open the possibility that the Apocalypse looked backward (being written over twenty years later) to the Temple's destruction even as it looked forward to the eschaton. I also agree with the historicist that the Revelation has within its scope the last 2000 years of Church history.
Where I disagree with both is that it ends there. Therefore, preterism and historicism are not so much wrong as they are incomplete. The chiefmost gripe I have with each is not in what they assert, but in what they deny: That YHVH has yet a place for "Israel of the flesh" in His plan, despite the evidence of our times and the testimony of Scripture; that He will keep all of His promises to the letter; and that there will indeed be a time of great testing for all of the children of Abraham, both the natural seed and those adopted into the Messiah, before Yeshua's bodily return to physically rule over the earth.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Early Church tradition overwhelmingly supports that Yochanan (John) was exiled to the quiet, lonely isle of Patmos during the reign of Domitian, which would put the writing of Revelation somewhere between 90 to 96 A.D. The earliest quote verifying the date of the writing of this book comes from Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of Yochanan the Emissary himself. In about 180 A.D., Irenaeus wrote:
We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign. (Against Heresies, Book V, chapter 30.3)Preterists, whose position requires that Revelation have been written before Jerusalem’s fall in 70 A.D. (for it undeniably claims to speak of events yet future as of its writing), will try to make the case that Irenaeus was actually referring to Yochanan being seen “towards the end of Domitian’s reign” rather than the “apocalyptic vision.” But how many of us would refer to a revered Apostle with the neuter pronoun “that”? The argument that the pronoun was changed in the Latin translation but was correctly preserved in the Greek quote preserved by Eusebius does not hold up, as we'll see in a moment.
Besides which, Irenaeus’ interpretations of Revelation are decidedly consistent with modern premillennialism. Bear in mind that he wrote Against Heresies primarily as an apologetic work. If Revelation were really so manifestly a prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction, wouldn’t the early Church fathers have recognized it and used it as a part of their witness? Yet history tells us that’s not what happened. Only centuries removed from the event was the “discovery” made of Revelation’s supposed intent to prophesy of Jerusalem’s destruction.
Nor is Irenaeus the only person to comment on the time when this book was written. Eusebius quotes Irenaeus and goes on to cite others that were also exiled during Domitian’s reign in support of Irenaeus’ dating:
And they, indeed, accurately indicated the time. For they recorded that in the fifteenth year of Domitian Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, who at that time was one of the consuls of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony borne to Christ. (Ecclesiastical History, Book III, chapter 1; see also Book V, chapter 7).If Eusebius understood the Apostle to have been exiled during Nero's reign, why exactly would he offer the exile of other Christians during Domitian's reign as proof that "they"--his sources, evidentially not limited to Irenaeus--"indeed, accurately indicated the time"? Is it not more likely that a scribal error, or even an original typo, crept into Eusebius' work than to assume that he himself misunderstood Irenaeus' statement so aggregiously? Moreover, the above testimony is sandwhiched between two other chapters describing Domitian's persecutions, which would be absurd if Eusebius understood Irenaeus to be referring to Yochanan being seen in Domitian's reign after an exile under Nero's.
If only these two fathers recorded Yochanan's exile to have taken place in the 90s, this would be enough to put the nails in preterism's coffin. But they were not alone: Victorinus wrote that “when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labour of the mines by Caesar Domitian” (Commentary on the Apocalypse, chapter 10.11), in agreement with Jerome (Illustrious Men, chapter 9) and Hippolytus (On the Twelve Apostles). Nor can the case be made that when the early Church fathers spoke of Domitian in regards to the Apocalypse, they really meant to write ”Domitianou,” a title for Nero, as some have tried to claim. Eusebius speaks of both Nero and Domitian in his works, and never once refers to the former emperor by any name other than Nero. If every early Church father stated in no uncertain terms that the book was written in Domitian’s reign, why in the world would we try to date it decades earlier?
Simply arguing that Irenaeus is fallible is barely a fig leaf of a counter-argument, and amounts to begging the question: The only reason to assume that Irenaeus (and Hippolytus, Victorinus, Eusebius, and Jerome) has the dating of the Revelation wrong is the presumption of preterism, which requires an early date.
Now, if there were any competing traditions from the second through fourth centuries, there might be some reason to doubt all of the above fathers. The closest thing one finds to such a competing tradition is found in the intro of the book in the Syriac version, which reads, "The Revelation which was made by God to John the Evangelist in the island of Patmos, whither he was banished by the Emperor Nero.” However, to cite the Syriac version, you have to ignore the fact that in the original Syriac translation that is dated from the second century, the books of 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation were not included. The others had been put back in by the fifth or sixth century, but there seems to be some doubt as to whether Revelation was included even then. Indeed, one source states that Revelation “did not appear in the Syriac Testament as late as 1562.” Even if we argue that that date is too late, the fact is that the Syriac version of Revelation’s title was written, at a minimum, four centuries after Yochanan recorded it and is contrary to every other manuscript of the book and the witness of at least five early Church fathers. How exactly is this a point in preterism’s favor?
The fact is that there is really no question about the dating of Revelation except among those who require a certain date in order to make their particular interpretations viable. In this regard, it should be noted that a futurist, premillennial interpretation of Revelation does not depend upon the 90 A.D. dating of the book, and in fact will work perfectly well even given an earlier authorship. That being the case, it should be up to those requiring the earlier date to prove their supposition with clear and decisive evidence.
That's not an exact quote, but it sums up a typical Replacement argument. However, it misses Sha'ul's point entirely, as can be demonstrated by the closing arguments of this three chapter long section:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.Now, if we are to assume that in Sha'ul's theology that "Israel" now means the Church, that would mean that the Church is partially blinded until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in, and that the Church is an enemy of the Gospel because of itself. That makes no sense at all. Therefore, it must follow that by "Israel" here, Sha'ul is speaking of the same Israel of which the majority were blinded in vv. 8-10, the same Israel that he starts chapter 9 by describing:
For I could wish that myself were accursed from the Messiah for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Torah, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Messiah came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (vv. 3-5)It is not we Gentile believers who are beloved of God because of the patriarchs--we are beloved solely because of our adoption in Yeshua--but Israel, who received the covenants that God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is Israel who received the Torah, the service of God, and the promises. Sha'ul starts chapters 9-11 by defining Israel in such a way that nobody could mistake him for meaning the Ekklesia, and he ends his argument the same way. How then can some read Romans and suppose that God has forever rejected "Israel according to the flesh"?
Some have tried to get around the conclusion that the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have a special promise that YHVH will fulfill in the future by positing that "all Israel" means instead all of the Jews who join Yeshua's Ekklesia. However, this also fails to explain Sha'ul's final argument. The Apostle, after all, had already acknowledged that there was "at this present time . . . a remnant according to the election of grace" (11:5), and implies that God has always kept and will always keep a remnant of Israel who are faithful to Him despite the lack of faith of the majority (vv. 2-4). So then, if this remnant is the "all Israel" spoken of in v. 29, then Sha'ul, using the future tense, didn't know what he was talking about.
Moreover, we see in v. 12 that "if the fall of them [Israel] be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" In other words, though Israel's current blindness was necessary so that the Gospel could spread to the Gentiles, when "all Israel is saved" the "riches" that will come about will be even greater, even comparible to the Resurrection of the dead (v. 15)!
However, we are not to assume that "all Israel" means that every circumcised Jew is automatically saved--that would contradict Sha'ul's clear teaching of chapters 2-3. Rather, "all Israel" should be understood as "Israel as a whole." If I said, "When Yeshua returns, all America will be saved," we wouldn't suppose that to mean everyone born in America since her inception would be retroactively saved, but rather that the nation as a whole at the time of His Coming would be. Likewise Israel.
Sha'ul uses the imagery of an olive tree and her branches. Branches, in Biblical imagery, do not simply denote individuals, but family lines. Thus, the Messiah is repeatedly called the Branch which comes out of David; that is, David's descendant, many times removed. Now, many of these branches were cut off, pruned, because they refused to put their trust in Yeshua HaMashiach. In turn, branches brought from wild trees were grafted into the cultivated tree of Israel. They become part of the tree, nourished by its sap.
Because we are the graftees, Sha'ul warns, "Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee" (v. 18). When the Church boasts against the Jews, we forget that it is not the Ekklesia to whom Israel must be grafted, it is we who must be grafted into Israel through her Messiah.
But those branches which are broken off have not simply been cast away.
And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (vv. 23-24)This is not simply saying that individual Jews who become Christians can be saved. This is saying that the whole nation can in fact be regrafted back into their rightful promises--and in fact, Sha'ul goes on to say that this is not merely a possibility, but a promise!
The problem is not in the claim that the Ekklesia, both Jew and Gentile, belong to Israel. We do, just as the Galatians belonged to Rome. The problem is the claim that we are Israel, to the exclusion of the Jewish people, and that therefore the present Jewish nation by that name has no claim to it.
Next: A Rift in God's Kingdom
Monday, August 07, 2006
Indeed he does, but you completely take this statement out of context if you think that he's therefore saying that a Gentile Christian is the "real Jew."
In the opening chapters of Romans, Sha'ul is establishing that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (3:23). He starts by demonstrating the sinfulness of the pagan Gentiles (1:18-2:8), then goes on to show that the Jews are also under God's judgment (2:17-3:23). Where the (pagan) Gentiles are condemned because though they have an innate knowledge of God and an innate knowledge of what they consider to be sin when it is committed against them but nevertheless worship the n0-gods and do not repent of what they know to be evil, the Jew is condemned by the Law of the Torah. Both are judged according to the light that God has given them, and both are found wanting.
In 2:17, Sha'ul begins, "Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God . . ." This marks the transition: No longer is Sha'ul establishing the guilt of the Gentile; now he is addressing his own people, warning them that they have no reason to boast. Ergo, when he is addressing the issue of, "Who is a real Jew?" he's not even touching on the issue of the status of Gentile believers!
There is an old Jewish tradition that Abraham will let no circumcised Jew suffer condemnation to Ge'Hinnom (Gehenna, or Hell). Sha'ul here seems to be addressing that tradition. To the Jew that is depending on his circumcision, his Jewishness, and the fact that he knows the Torah to save him, Sha'ul writes, "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?" (2:21). In other words, do you practice what you preach? "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the Torah: but if thou be a breaker of the Torah, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision" (v. 25). In other words, if you go about breaking the Torah, you might as well be a pagan Gentile.
It may be thought that by "circumcision of the heart," Sha'ul is saying that only Christians--or at least only Christian Jews--are real Jews, since the heart is circumcised by the Spirit (v. 29, Col. 2:11). However, this presupposes that circumcision of the heart is a New Covenant concept connected to the giving of the Spirit at Shavuot (Pentecost). Not so--in fact, there are repeated commands in the Tanakh for Israel to circumcise their hearts (Deu. 10:16 & 30:6 and Jer. 4:4). The idiom therefore does not refer to being "born-again in the Spirit" per se--it means to internalize the external rite. A true Jew is not just one who was born to Jewish parents and circumcised on the eighth day, or who just goes through the motions for the sake of appearances. A true Jew is one who lives his Jewishness, keeping God's mitzvot (commandments) and making them a part of himself, doing so not for the praise of men, but for the praise of God. (Sha'ul is employing a pun here, as Y'hudah means "Yah's Praise.")
Therefore, I don't think that Sha'ul was addressing the issue of faith in the Messiah at all, at least not at this point in his letter. Rather, he seems to be addressing the Hellenized Jew, the one assimilated in all but name. He may even be addressing the synagogue-going Jew who just shows up for the sake of community appearances, the praise of men. But he is not, in my mind, addressing the God-fearing, Torah-keeping (albeit imperfectly) Jew who had not yet come to a conclusion about whether the Messiah had truly come.
On the other hand, he certainly was saying that the truest expression of Jewishness was to put one's trust in the Messiah of Israel! He was also issuing a challenge to his brothers of blood to look at those Gentiles who "have not the Torah . . . [but] shew the work of the Torah written in their hearts . . ." (Rom. 2:14, 15). The reference to the Torah being written on their hearts is a clear reference to the fact that these Gentiles were partakers of the New Covenant in the Messiah (cf. Jer. 31:33). He was challenging his people to observe the Gentile believers and see that they did indeed keep the Torah better than many Jews even without formal instruction as evidence of the work of God's Spirit. (Remember that the Jews had been expelled from Rome for a time, leaving the Gentile believers without those from whom they would normally learn the Scriptures from; Acts 18:2.) Where under the Mosaic covenant, men were to carry out the external actions and internalize them, under the New Covenant YHVH puts His Spirit in us to convert us internally first, and then this internal conversion comes out in our actions.
Does this mean, as some claim, that the external rites like Passover, tzitzit, etc. have no value? Hardly. Do we claim that because we have received Yeshua in the Spirit that the Lord's Supper and baptism have no more meaning? "But those aren't rituals, they're sacraments!" Potayto, potahto. A sacrament is just "[a] rite believed to be a means of or visible form of grace" (Dictionary.com), and the Catholic Encyclopedia agrees that the rituals of the Torah were "the sacraments of the Mosaic Law." Trying to avoid the fact that even those who most strenuously object to any form of the "ceremonial law" still believe that rituals have their place in the New Covenant by playing word games is a losing proposition. (See Why the New Covenant Doesn't Do Away With the Torah for more on this subject.)
So then, what does this mean for us today?
First, it means that we Gentile Christians can no longer use Romans 2-3 to support Replacement Theology, since Sha'ul is addressing the subject of what makes a Jew, not whether a Gentile should be considered a "true" Jew.
Secondly, we Gentile Messianics should stop fixating on trying to prove that we're "really" Jewish, by bloodline or otherwise. Instead, we should concentrate on showing the evidence of the Spirit in our lives by keeping Torah in such a way that a Sha'ul could point to us for an example. That most especially means loving our Jewish neighbors, whether or not they accept us.
Next: Is the Church an Enemy of the Gospel For its Own Sake?
Just a few days later, during our Beit Midrash ("House of Study," i.e., a Bible study), a dear friend in the congregation got upset when I re-stated my belief that simply following Yeshua HaMashiach and keeping Torah did not by default make those of us born to a Gentile heritage (most definitely including myself) Jews.
Let me deal with both of these errors.
First, it is significant that nowhere in the New Testament, the B'rit Chadasha, does any Apostle call the Gentile believers and members of the Ekklesia, the Church, Jews. There are numerous passages where the Ekklesia as a whole is described in the terms that God used originally of Israel (cf. 1 Pt. 2:9 and Exo. 19:6), and certainly it is the centerpiece of Sha'ul's (Paul's) teaching that Jew and Gentile had been made into one Body, one Congregation, with no division between them, by the blood and Spirit of the Messiah. Many quote the following passage:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Messiah Yeshua.Amen! However, many miss the real point of this passage, claiming that this means that Jewish believers should no longer be distinctly Jewish. Oh really? So, men and women should not longer recognize the differences in the sexes? Homosexuality is now okay, since there is neither male nor female? Of course not! So clearly we recognize distinctions between each of the above groups--Sha'ul's point is that all who are in the Messiah, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or economic status, are equally God's children by virtue of their faith. Elsewhere, he writes,
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.What does he mean by that? I think he means that the Jews were the original recipients of the sacred Scriptures in their own language, idioms, and culture, and therefore have a natural advantage in understanding them. Certainly, we in the Messianic movement have found that when we read the NT with "Jewish eyes," as it were, we find troublesome passages opening up to us. Certainly, a Gentile can learn to do so as well, but we have to make a cultural transition.
But even acknowledging this distinction and advantage, Sha'ul continually championed the rights of Gentile believers to full inclusion into the community without becoming circumcised--that is, formally giving up their Gentile nationality and heritage and becoming fully Jewish. "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God" (1 Co. 7:19), he writes. That is, Jewishness is nothing and Gentileness is nothing--it's whether a person keeps the commandments of God that counts.
This is where I grow frustrated with many Messianics. Messianic Jews--that is, those born and raised Jewish--sometimes look at those of us who are Gentile as outsiders. Now, I understand that many Messianic Jewish synagogues exclude Gentiles to create an atmosphere where non-believing Jews can feel at home. I think that they are wrong to return to the error of the first century which the Apostles struggled to overcome, but I understand their reasoning. By the same token, if Rav Sha'ul writes that keeping the commandments of God is for Jew and Gentile alike, by what reasoning do Jewish believers exclude Gentile believers from Torah-observant congregations? "You have thousands upon thousands of Sunday churches," they say. "Let us have our few synagogues." Sure, but what if I am convicted that I should keep the command of God to observe Shabbat? Should I be excluded from doing so for the sake of putting back up the middle wall of partition between us?
Others of my Messianic brethren, often reacting to the above, become obsessed with proving that they really are Jewish. They delve into genealogies, trying to find some trace of Jewish blood. "I must be Jewish," they say. "Why else would I be drawn to worship in a Jewish manner and keep the Torah?"
Gee, I dunno. Maybe because you are immersed into a Jewish Messiah and grafted into the root of Israel?
I make no pretensions to being Jewish. I was born to Gentile parents. As far as I can tell, neither side of the family has any significant Jewish blood. But I will still keep Torah, because I am saved, and I want to be like my (Jewish) Savior in every way. And if the Apostles were willing to undergo persecution for the sake of the Gentiles, and called them Gentiles without insult, who am I to deny my Gentile heritage?
I am a man of two heritages. I am an American, a descendant of John and Priscilla Alden, who came over on the Mayflower so that they could worship God according to their understanding of the Scriptures. My ancestors based Thanksgiving on Sukkot. They fought a war of independence against Britain. I come from a long line of teachers. But I am also grafted into Israel. Their history is my history, their King my King, their God my God. And though they do not yet see me the same way, I regard all Jews as my brothers and sisters by my adoption by the Messiah of Israel.
And therefore I will defend their honor and persons against all attackers as if that were my own--even when, especially when those attacking them do so from under the Christian banner.
In my next article, I'll deal with some of the objections raised by those who want to claim that the Church is not "the true Israel." Until then,
Next: The True Jew