So far in this series, we have looked at the meaning of salvation, the Jewish expectations of the Messiah, and why Yeshua ha Maschiach (Jesus Christ) was and has been rejected by “mainstream” Judaism since his first appearance on earth.
Today we will delve into the Christian expectations of the Messiah, who is usually referred to as “Savior” and not “Messiah.”
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One major difference we should point out right at the start between Jewish and Christian expectation and knowledge of the Messiah: Jews were, and still are, waiting and looking forward to the coming of the Messiah; however, Christians never looked forward to his coming- he was already here before Christianity started. Christians have always known who their Savior is, whereas Jews have never known who their Messiah was going to be.
Christian expectation of Messiah is not really an expectation, but more like 20/20 hindsight because what they believe about their Savior is what they have already seen.
They know he was born in a miraculous manner, being of a virgin who was impregnated by God through the Holy Spirit.
They know that he died for their sins, but since most Christian teachings are from the New Covenant, instead of referencing the Tanakh, they look to the Gospels and Epistles for the justification of their beliefs. So, instead of using Isaiah 53 to understand the sacrifice of the Messiah, they refer to 1st Corinthians 15:3. More specifically, within Catholicism, they quote John 20:21-23 not only to state that forgiveness of sin can only come through belief in Jesus but also that Jesus gave men the power to forgive sins through the priesthood. To further confirm forgiveness is only available through Jesus, Christianity references Ephesians 1:7 and Corinthians 5:17.
According to Ephesians 3:19 the Savior is all about love and complete acceptance, which lends itself to another Christian belief, which is that there is no need for the Torah or the laws God gave to Moses.
In my opinion, one of the most anti-Semitic teachings within Christianity is that Jesus did away with the “law” (the Torah) and that the “Jewish Bible” is just for Jews and doesn’t really have any meaning to Christians. It is still scripture, but they concentrate almost exclusively on the New Covenant writings.
Whereas Christians have been taught that the Jewish laws are not valid for them, one sect of Christianity takes it to the extreme. Their belief system is called Replacement Theology. This is the most virulent anti-Semitic sect of Christianity because they believe since the Jews rejected Jesus as their Savior, God has rejected the Jews as his chosen people! Christians (specifically “Born-Again” Christians) are now God’s “real” chosen people, the “Israel of God” that Shaul talks about at the very end of Galatians.
Most Christians haven’t gone this far and have been taught that the Law is really split into two types of law: Moral and Ceremonial. The moral laws are still valid for Christians, but the ceremonial laws are not. For instance, the laws of Kashrut (Kosher) are ceremonial so only Jews have to follow them, whereas murder and adultery are moral laws and they are still valid and must be followed. This belief system is justified by Matthew 5:17. This is where Yeshua said he came to fulfill the law, which has been interpreted to mean the (Mosaic) law was completed in him and therefore is no longer necessary to be followed. It is also confirmed by the teaching that when Shaul (Paul) says that our sins were “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14), that meant the law was also nailed to the cross, i.e. done away with.
This is the same as saying if the car ahead of me makes a complete stop at the stop sign, thereby fulfilling the law for stop signs, then I can just go right through it. Or, if I live my entire life without murdering anyone, then murdering someone will be acceptable and not a sin when I die because I had fulfilled that law. Ain’t that da silliest thing you evah hoid?
Let’s get serious again…Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected and returned to his father in heaven, and will return to destroy the Antichrist and rule over all the earth, forever. And when this day finally arrives, Christians (and many Jews, as well) believe that they will be lifted up and live eternally in heaven.
As we can see, there is a very significant difference between Jewish and Christian understanding of who the Messiah is and what to expect from him when he arrives. How this vast chasm of belief in the same personage came about is what we will examine now.
As far as Jews are concerned, the advent of the Messiah’s coming has always been seen as a national event. He is not here for you or for me, but for Israel…for all Jews, everywhere. Christians see the relationship with their Savior as an individual and singular event: the Savior is here for me and you have to have your own relationship with him. This is a major difference in expectation: the Jewish Messiah’s relationship is with the entire nation of Israel, but the Christian Savior has a personal relationship just with me.
Judaism expects that the changes the Messiah will make will occur at or before his actual coming, and when he is here they will all come to completion. Christians believe that after someone accepts him as their Savior, then there will be some changes that happen (such as indwelling of the Holy Spirit) but most changes in the world won’t happen until his second coming.
Finally, Jews believe that Yeshua did not fulfill or meet the prophecies about the Messiah and Christians believe he met almost all of them, and the ones that he did not fulfill will be fulfilled with his second coming.
This ends our third segment in this series of teachings. In our next lesson, we will review the origins of these vastly different expectations and learn how they developed.
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Until then, l’hetraot and Baruch HaShem!