Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 3

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.”

If you prefer to watch a video teaching, click on this link: Watch the video.

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!

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 2

In Part 1 of this teaching series, we reviewed the meaning of “salvation” and the Jewish expectations of what the Messiah will do when he comes, based on both the Tanakh and the Talmud.  Today, in Part 2, we will examine why Yeshua was not, and still isn’t, accepted as the Messiah by the majority of the Jewish population.

If you prefer to watch this as a video, please click on this link: Watch the video.

For the purposes of this discussion, when we talk about “the Jews” during the time of Yeshua’s ministry we are referring to the main portion of the Jewish population living in and around Jerusalem during the First Century. And we need to remember that these people were mostly “Am Ha’aretz“, which means people of the land. The reference is not very complimentary and refers to those who are not well educated regarding the Bible or Jewish tradition. At that time, people looked to the Sanhedrin and their local Levites for instruction and guidance in their worship and how to live. Even today, most of the Jewish people look to their Rabbi for instruction and interpretation, and not to God through the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit.)

As we are told in the New Covenant writings, Yeshua performed many miracles and taught in a different and more meaningful way. Yet, he was not accepted by the majority of the Jews. And, even with the publication of the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant), in modern times “mainstream” Judaism still rejects him, not just as the Messiah but some even reject the idea that he ever existed! And, as we will soon see, the actions “Christianity” has performed against the Jewish people over the millennia have made it nearly impossible for a Jewish person to believe anything a Christian says.

The Jews living during the time of Yeshua’s ministry rejected him based on his inability to meet the expectations they had been taught regarding their Messiah.

First off, Yeshua had no father. The Tanakh tells us the Messiah will be a son (i.e., descendant) of David, and because Judaism is a Patriarchal religion, one’s heritage comes through the father’s line. Because Yeshua was not conceived by Joseph he had no father, therefore he couldn’t be a son of David.

Another reason for the Jewish rejection of Yeshua is because the Bible says that God will raise up a prophet like Moses; however, Jewish tradition stated that the age of prophecy ended circa 300 BCE, centuries before Yeshua was born. Because the Talmud taught there were no more prophets, Yeshua could not be a prophet like Moses.

One of the major expectations was that the Messiah will rebuild the Temple and reestablish the Levitical service. Well, when Yeshua walked the earth, the Temple was there! The service was actively being performed! Therefore, how could Yeshua be the Messiah? Besides, this, there was no peace throughout the world, and under Roman rule there most certainly wasn’t a world government that recognized God as the one and only King of kings ruling from Jerusalem.

The Pharisees, who saw Yeshua as a threat to their political power over the people, also spread lies about him that last to this very day. One of these was that Yeshua changed the Torah because he violated the Shabbat (see John 9:14.) The Rabbis since then have added that Isaiah 53, one of the strongest and most accurate prophecies about Yeshua found in the Tanakh, was not prophesizing about the Messiah but about Israel. They say the references to the suffering servant are a metaphor about the nation of Israel and should not be taken as a literal prophecy about a person. In fact, in modern times this one chapter from the book of Isaiah is not even read in the Synagogue!

One of the strongest and hardest to refute arguments against Yeshua being the Messiah is that the Messiah was to bring salvation to the world, a universal redemption for the people of Israel. Yet, while Yeshua lived that did not happen. There was neither spiritual nor political nor even a social redemption of any kind.

It is easy to understand why it was so difficult for the Jewish people at that time to accept him: he didn’t perform many of the expected events the people had been taught by the Rabbis he was supposed to do, and he was rejected by the leaders of the people.  As we are told in John 12:42, even those in leadership who accepted him as their Messiah kept that fact a secret out of fear of retribution by the Sanhedrin.

But what about since then? What about all that we have learned, the additional events recorded in Acts, the miracles of the Gospels that many other Jews have been able to read about who didn’t know about it then? Why, with all this historical evidence, haven’t the Jewish people readily accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to Israel?

The reason is simple: early Christianity totally separated itself from Judaism at the Council of Nicene, and since then has been such an enemy of Judaism that no Jew in his or her right mind would accept anything “Christian.”

Huh? What could they have done that was so terrible? Good question. Here are some examples:

  1. During the Crusades hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered because they refused to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and reject Judaism (even his name was changed from Yeshua to Jesus to remove any trace of “Jewishness” from their Messiah);
  2. The Inquisition also saw the torture and slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Jews, not to mention all Jews being expelled from Spain, if they refused to reject Judaism and accept Jesus as their God (by now God, himself, was being left behind as Christianity gave all glory to Jesus);
  3. Because to a Jew, all non-Jews are Gentiles, a Gentile is the same as a Christian. During the Second World War, the Nazi’s (really, only a select group of them) murdered millions of Jews, but do you know what was inscribed on their belt buckles? “Gott mit uns”, which means “God is with us.” This statement of divine hatred for Jews was no different than what had been heard by Jews being killed by Christians since the second century; and
  4. The on-going persecution of Jews by the Gentile (Christian) world.  The Pogroms in Russia, the rejection by America of Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany, and even today we see the constant unjustified accusations by the media against Israel through the use of fake news and purposefully not showing the Israeli side. Don’t even ask me about the unbelievable injustice against Israel being done at the United Nations. As far as I am concerned, it should be renamed “The United Nations against Israel!”

To conclude today’s lesson, let’s review why the Jewish people haven’t accepted Yeshua as their Messiah.  The answer is two-fold: first, during his ministry, Yeshua did not perform many of the activities that the Messiah was supposed to perform based on Talmudic interpretation of the Tanakh, and he was rejected by the power elite of the Jewish people.

Secondly, and I believe even more influential in why Jews have rejected Jesus, is the historical and continual hatred for and persecution of Jews by “Jesus-loving” Christians that began as early as the end of the First Century. That was when the Gentile followers of Yeshua first began to separate themselves from their Jewish roots and reject the Torah. This separation was “set in stone” with Constantine and the Council of Nicene in the Third Century, which created the dogma and traditions of modern Christianity.

Should we really be surprised that Rabbis throughout the centuries have taught against Jesus Christ and the religion he created, which has tried to destroy Judaism? Why would any Jew even think of accepting or believing anything that is in the Christian Bible?

The rejection by the Jewish people of Jesus Christ as the Messiah is completely understandable when we consider the above reasons.  I was, as most every Jew is, brought up being taught that Jesus Christ was a Jew who rejected the Torah and Judaism, creating his own religion that wants to destroy Jews.

Next time we will look into what Christians believe their Messiah will do, and why there is such a difference between the Jewish and Christian expectations.

 

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Until then, l’hitroat and Baruch Ha Shem!!

 

Expectation is Everything

I was in the Sales field for about 15 years, between 1992 and 2007, and the title of today’s message is one of the most important lessons I learned about being able to have a successful sales career. 

I am sure all of you reading this have found the most disappointing purchases you have ever made were the ones where what you got wasn’t anything at all like what you expected. That can be the fault of the salesperson, or yourself, or both- neither one really explaining or listening to the other, and ending up having an unrealistic expectation.

 This same thing has happened with Yeshua and the Jewish people, which started in the First Century and is still present, today. 

The Tanakh (Old Covenant) has very explicit expectations of what the Messiah will do. He will regather Israel (Ezekiel 38:16), He will restore the Temple service (Jeremiah 33:18), He will end wickedness and heresy (Zephaniah 3:13),  He will reestablish the religious courts (Isaiah 2:2-4), and He will be a son of David. With these, and the many other Messianic prophecies found in Tanakh, the Jewish people’s expectations for their Messiah, taught to them by their leaders, was for a political savior who would immediately restore the Davidic kingdom, and that it would be just like it was in David’s and Solomon’s times. 

And when you think about it, that expectation wasn’t really all that far-fetched. So, looking back, it is understandable (isn’t it?) that the Jewish people would have rejected Yeshua as their Messiah when He walked the earth because many of the biblical expectations were not met: there was still sin and heresy (in fact, at that time the Jewish political and judicial systems were probably the most corrupt ones we’ve ever had), the Ten tribes were still in the Diaspora, Temple service had not been interrupted (so He couldn’t reinstate it), and He died! Duh! How could this guy be the Messiah and have an eternal kingship if he’s dead?  

These unmet expectations are the reason so many Jews back then rejected Yeshua as their Messiah, and even to this day they are the basis for still rejecting Jesus as Messiah. When you add to that the last two Millennia of the treatment Jews have received at the hands of the “followers of Jesus Christ”, well, it’s no wonder we don’t want anything to do with this Jesus guy. After all, isn’t Jesus the reason for the Crusades, which resulted in thousands of Jews being slaughtered when they didn’t convert?  And wasn’t Jesus the reason for the expulsion of Jews from Spain and her territories, not to mention the torture and murder of thousands of Jews during the 300 hundred years (or so) of the Inquisition? And isn’t Jesus the guy the Nazi’s said was on their side?- the belt buckle of the Nazi uniform had the words, “Gott mit uns” (God is with us) engraved on them. Oh, and let’s not forget the Replacement Theologists who say that God, Himself, has rejected the Jewish people (because they rejected Jesus) and that the Born-Again Christians are now God’s Chosen people. 

Taken altogether- unmet expectations, wrongful teachings, mistreatment, bigotry, persecution- is it any wonder the Jewish people have nearly universally rejected as their Messiah this blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan image of the Jesus Christ we know today? 

So…how do we get around this misunderstanding (and it is a misunderstanding) about who Yeshua is? We start by realizing, within Judaism and Christianity, that what we know today as Christianity, and who we think Jesus Christ is, is wrong. First off, Jesus did not create Christianity: Constantine did, at the Council of Nicene in the Third Century. Without going into an entire history lesson on what happened, let’s simply state that as more and more Gentiles (who were Pagans at that time) were accepting Yeshua (He wasn’t called Jesus until many, many years later) and, thereby, converting to Judaism, all the restrictions of the Torah were too much for them at the start. In Acts (15:29)  there were only 4 absolute “Must Stop Now” restrictions, but when you read the entire passage it is clear that the Elders expected these new converts to learn how to obey the entire Torah as they continued to attend the synagogues. But with the continuing rebellion of the Jewish community against Roman rule, being identified as a “Jew” was becoming more intolerable than being a follower of Yeshua, so those Gentiles who were converting started doing less “Jewish” stuff. As early as the First Century, what was now being called Christianity began to actively separate itself from the Tree of Life it had been grafted into. They changed the Shabbat, they ridiculed and insulted Judaic practices, and by the time Rome accepted Christianity as an approved religion, it had lost most of it’s attachment to Judaism. Then Constantine created Christmas and Easter as a means to make Christianity more “fun” and further separate it from the Holy Days God defined for us. 

That is why today Christianity is not anything like what Christ preached or taught. We need to approach Jews with this information to destroy the expectation that by accepting  Jesus you have to reject Judaism. That is what Jews expect they have to do if they want to accept Jesus as their Messiah, and it is simply not true. 

Once we kill that first expectation of having to reject Judaism, we can then start to kill the next expectation, which is that Jesus taught against Torah. We need to educate people, both Jews and Christians, regarding the false teaching that Yeshua rejected Torah: that is a lie from the pit of Sheol! He not only taught to obey Torah, but He did so by teaching us the deeper meaning of it so we could live it more completely! And Shaul (Paul), John, Matthew and the rest of the gang all lived and taught obedience to Torah. Not as the means of salvation, which was the understanding of Torah then, but as a means of showing God our faithful belief that what He says to do is what is best for us, and to demonstrate our love and thanks to Him through obedience to His word.  

If you have gotten this far, having overcome thousands of years of wrong teaching and bigotry, now you have a chance to show how these expectations, which have resulted in such a massive rejection of Yeshua, are unreasonable. The prophecies were often dual-prophecies, meaning there was a current interpretation, and a future one, as well.  For instance, an argument against Isaiah 53 is that it was talking about Israel as a nation then and there, which could historically be shown, but it was also talking about Yeshua, which wouldn’t happen until far in the future. The expectations that the Jewish people had, and have, of Messiah were based on misunderstanding, not to mention the political and social pressures against accepting Him (back then) due to the corrupt individuals who would lose their power and standing if He had been universally accepted.

Today I can see the spirit of God moving- the regathering of Israel, the Hebraic Roots and Messianic Jewish movements gaining momentum, and the world getting worse and worse- all these point to the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) getting closer and closer. And that means we are getting closer to the return of Yeshua ha Maschiach!   Therefore, let’s educate in a way that edifies people, removing the unrealistic and improper expectations, showing the truth about who Yeshua is and what He teaches, and thereby making it possible for all people to hear the real Good News with unclogged ears and seeing eyes. 

Just doing my job

How often do we hear that God is love? How many times are we reminded by our leaders and fellow Believers that God loves us and cares for us, and that He is all about love? Love, love, love….we all love to talk about God’s love.

But are they really just talking about affection, and not thinking about what it means to be loved by God; at least, not the way God describes it?

Let’s start with Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”   Now let’s go to Hebrews (Messianic Jews), 12:5-7 in which we are told,”…“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

These are the two verses that I remember best, and I believe there may be a few more. These indicate that discipline is as much a part of love as compassion is. In fact, compassion that extends to truly wanting to do what is best for someone requires that you discipline them when needed. Not in anger, and not cruelly, but to the degree that it is required and with the goal to teach the person how to live.

God’s discipline is designed to do just that- help us to live. Not as useful members of society (although that is a side-benefit) but to LIVE: not die the second death and spend eternity with Him. Certainly more important than getting the Man of the Year award, don’t you think?

And we can see this discipline throughout the Bible, from the Genesis story of Esau’s eviction to the death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. Yes, their deaths were for sinning against the Ruach HaKodesh, but isn’t that a form of discipline? And doesn’t it also teach and discipline those that saw it happen, and (probably) knew them personally?

We live in a world today that is full of victims. Everyone is being attacked and harassed and bullied by everyone else. It has come down to such a level of disgusting childishness that in a corporate or formal environment, the first one to complain wins. The other person is guilty, just as long as someone complains. There doesn’t have to be merit or even evidence, just complain about another person being abusive in language or mannerism, and they are in trouble.

Likewise, since we are all victims without any real responsibility to be accountable, we think that we are also entitled to whatever we feel we deserve. I should get a raise at work because I come in pretty much on time, most of the time. It’s not my fault I did poorly on this test but I paid for the course and so I should be given a passing grade. I didn’t do what you asked of me as a partner or child or spouse, but it’s not all my fault. I should still be given my allowance or whatever.

“It’s not my fault”; “I am not responsible”; “I still should get what I want.” That’s what it boils down to: I want what I want and if I don’t get it it’s not my fault. You have to make sure I get what I want.

You know what I want? I want to get to the Throne of Judgement and hear Yeshua say, “This one is mine, Father.” And then have the Lord God Almighty, Creator of all things, King of kings and Lord of lords, Host of the Heavenly armies and the One and only true God look down at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come into your Master’s rest.”

That’s it. If I get a shack of wood to live in, that’s OK. Anyplace He wants to put me, in heaven or on Earth (the new one, of course) will be fine. I won’t argue about the living quarters, or ask where are the riches I built up, or complain that person has a better home, or anything like that.  Just let me be there because I did my job well.

Yeshua tells of a servant that had worked in the field all day long, then came in and cleaned up the master and served the master his food. The slave was working hard all day and the master was served first. The slave came in dead last for food, rest or anything else. You might think this unjust and cruel- the master should have shown compassion to the poor, tired slave.

Not so. Yeshua, the loving Messiah, the compassionate Son of God, the one who is all about loving each other, said that the slave was doing what he is supposed to be doing. The slave serves, the master is served. That’s how it is, and the slave shouldn’t expect to be given extra credit or treated extra nicely for doing what he is supposed to do.

That’s a hard word, but you need to hear it, just as I do, just as we all do. God does love us, but that doesn’t mean He is an enabler. He expects us to do what we are supposed to do without looking to any special treatment or expecting extra reward for it. We are to pick up our execution stake and follow, we are to run the good race, we are to die to self and we are not just expected to do this, we are required to do it. Without any expectation of reward other than what has been promised. No extra credit, no superior status in heaven. Just do your job as you are told to do it.

Will there be people with higher status in heaven than others? Absolutely. Yeshua tells us that there will be those who are considered great in heaven, so a comparison is made. Those who sin and teach others to sin will be considered the least in the kingdom of God. Your efforts in serving the Lord are going to earn you a place in heaven, but that’s not what matters; you are to do what you are expected to do and not expect anything for it, other than the most wonderful reward that there ever was or ever  can be- eternity with God.

Act on earth as you are expected to act in heaven- do you work as if working for the Lord and not for men, and don’t expect more than what you are promised. If the other guy works much less and still gets the full denarius you received for working in the blazing sun all day, don’t kvetch about it. Take your denarius and be happy.

A job well done is reward enough- desiring and wanting anything more than that is from the Enemy. Be like the Marshall of the old Westerns who, after saving the town, receiving their affection and being asked by the lovely and unmarried school Marm (who secretly loves him) to stay simply says, “Shucks…t’wer nuthin. I was just doing my job.” Then he rides off into the sunset.

If it happens as I hope, and God tells me I did well, I want to simply say, “Thank you, Father… just doing my job.”