Religion is the True Parochet

The parochet, for those who aren’t familiar with the Hebrew word, is the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tent of Meeting Moses had built in the desert, in accordance with the instructions God gave him.

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According to the Talmud, it is a sign of respect for the Torah scrolls kept inside the aron kodesh, the holy ark.

In the Tanakh (Exodus 40) we are told that after placing the tablets God gave Moses into the Ark, the curtain was placed between the Ark and the rest of the area.

In essence, the parochet is a type of barrier between God and the people.

When Yeshua gave up his spirit, which was the means for us to receive forgiveness of sins and, thereby, come closer to God, the parochet in Solomon’s temple was torn, from top to bottom, representing that now there was no barrier between us and God.

When the parochet was torn after Yeshua’s death, the Cohanim replaced it, but not too long after that a new parochet was created. This wasn’t one with blue and purple yarn, and it wasn’t one we could see or feel or smell, but it became a barrier between the people and God that is more difficult to pass through than any cloth curtain ever was.

This newer parochet, this invisible and impassable parochet, this impenetrable barrier between God and people is called…religion.

As I have said over and over, God has no religion. God gave instructions to Moses that were to be passed along and taught to the world. These instructions teach us how to worship God as he wants us to worship Him, and also how to treat each other as God wants us to treat each other. They are found in the Torah and we were specifically told that they are to be valid throughout our generations.

That means forever.

Religion, on the other hand, is the creation of mankind and its sole purpose is for people to have power over other people.

Every Judeo-Christian religious sect or denomination professes to worship the one, true God, whose name is spelled Y-H-V-H. And all these different religions agree that he is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow, never changing.

Yet, they all have different ways to worship him and different ways of following his instructions.

The one thing that all religions have in common is that they have developed their own rules, doctrines, laws, traditions, and rituals, most of which have no basis or requirement by God in his Torah, and many of which actually ignore God’s instructions in the Torah.

And what justification do they give for ignoring what God said to do? They blame it all on his son, the Messiah, who they claim told them they don’t have to obey God anymore.

This same son whose testimony throughout his ministry on earth was that he does only what his father in heaven tells him to do!

The Cohanim replaced the torn cloth parochet, but later men like Ignatius and Constantine, followed in turn by the Popes and organizers of new religions like Luther, Young, et.al. , created their own religions, which acts as a parochet separating those who followed them from God by replacing God’s instructions with their own.

So, what are we to do?

My suggestion is that you find out what God said you should do and compare it with what your religion tells you to do, then choose who you want to obey: God or men?

I might add one last thing: before you choose who to follow, you might want to consider that at the final judgment it won’t be the originator of your religion who will be sitting on the Throne of Judgment, it will be God, and he might be a little perturbed with anyone who chose to ignore his instructions.

Just a little something to think about while you still have the time.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Shelach Lecha 2020 (Send forth) Numbers 13 – 15

The Israelites are within sight of the Holy Land, and Moses picks 12 men, princes and leaders within their tribe, to scout out the land, the people, and bring back military intelligence so that the invasion and taking over of the land can be planned.

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The men are gone 40 days and bring back samples of the produce of the land. However, although they say the land is wonderful, they also demoralize the people by saying that the land is full of strong and gigantic people who the Israelites have no chance of defeating.  Except for Caleb and Joshua, the other 10 representatives of the tribes say there is no way they can win.

The people are so demoralized they want to stone Moses, but God intervenes and tells Moses to stand aside so he can destroy these people and make a new nation from Moses. Moses intercedes for the people, reminding God of his forgiveness, mercy, and patience and also arguing (effectively) that if God did destroy these people the other nations, who are in awe of him, would think he was not able to do as he said and bring these people into the land.

So, God relents but only to a point: the men who gave the bad report died from a plague, then and there, and the rest of the people were told they would wander in the desert. God decreed they would wander one year for each day the spies were in the land, so for the next 40 years, the people will wander in the desert until every single one who rebelled is dead. It will be the next generation, the generation born in freedom, who will inherit the land.

After this God reminds Moses of the requirements for worship when they enter the land.

This parashah ends with a story about a man who violates the Shabbat by gathering wood, and when brought to judgment God decrees that he shall be stoned to death by the entire congregation. In order to remind people not to violate the laws, God decreed the wearing of Tzitzit.

I think it really a shame that the generation who had been raised in slavery did not get to enjoy the bliss of living in freedom in the land that God promised to give them, but it was their own fault that they did not get to do that. If they had trusted in God and his servants, Moses and Aaron, the trip to Canaan would have been easier, there wouldn’t have been snakes or plague, and there wouldn’t have been the death of the thousands that the sin at Mount Sinai caused.

If only they had listened and obeyed, but they didn’t, so why didn’t they? Were they stupid?

No, they weren’t stupid, but they had a slave mentality. They weren’t able to live their own lives; they were able to make decisions, but they weren’t able to make good decisions because all of the important decisions, such as where to live, what to do with your life, who to worship and who to trust had been made for them.

After generations of being told what to do and what to think and how to worship, they had become mentally lazy. So, when they were given the chance to advance, to become self-determining, and to learn to trust in God, they failed to do so at every opportunity.

God had performed unbelievable miracles which they saw done in the land of Egypt and throughout their travels in the desert. Yet, despite the evidence, they still couldn’t trust in him when they came to a problem they felt unable to solve on their own. Their mental laziness had turned them into cowards and unable to trust even what they see and hear. They rejected their chance for freedom and demanded to be returned to what they were comfortable with, which was slavery.

This is the same problem we have today. People have been told how to worship and how to act for so long that they accept what they are told and don’t want to consider anything different. Religion has turned people from God-fearing (as God directed us) to religion-worshiping, doing what men have told them they should do instead of as God told us we should do.

This can only result in the same thing that happened to the rebellious Israelites: they will not be allowed into the Promised Land, meaning God’s presence which has been made possible through the Messiah.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be in the Promised Land, and that promise was kept, but not in the way many people expected. God did not renege on his promise to that first generation of freed slaves, they refused to accept it, and God had to wait until there were people desiring to receive the promise.

If you think I am saying that there are many devoutly religious people, whether Jewish, Christian, Born Again or whatever, who worship God, who try to do what they believe is right, but who will be told: “Get thee away from me- I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21), well… you’re right! That’s exactly what I am saying.

And why would God reject those who have called on his name? Because they may have called on his name, but they are not the ones who can receive the promise because they worship as men have told them to do, and not as God said to do.

The truth is that “calling on his name” means to turn to him and worship him. It doesn’t mean to shout out whatever name you use for God- it has nothing to do pronunciation and everything to do with worshiping him as he has said to. People who call on his name but worship him and live their lives as some religion says to are not children of the covenant.

And to me, that is as big a travesty, if not more so, then the Egyptian born Jews not being allowed to enter the Promised Land. Here are people trying to do what is right, but they are too mentally lazy to certify that what they are being told is really what God wants. They have that same slave mentality, which we call a comfort zone, and they refuse to let go of it.

Emperor Constantine is not God, we all know that- no argument from anyone on that point. Yet, there are millions of Christians who follow his rules and doctrines, purposefully ignoring what God said they should do, even though they have God’s instructions sitting there on their bookshelf! The path to salvation is right there, but they would rather be told what it means than to read it for themselves and that will be the cause of their destruction.

I am not preaching Legalism; I am pleading for people to make knowledgeable decisions, coming from the knowledge that can only be gained by reading the word of God, from Genesis through Revelation, and asking God to show you what he wants from you. God has a plan for each of us, and we will never know what it is if we listen to people. We have to hear it from God.

Even those of you who have been prophesied about, then later realized the prophecy was correct, I’ll bet if you think on it, you will remember that when you first heard someone tell you what God wants from you, you had already felt it in your heart and spirit.

Learn from this parashah the evils of a slave mentality, which is a tool of the Enemy, and start to grow out of your comfort zone; a religion-based comfort zone is NOT where God wants you to be. Our God is a God of action and growth, not one of sitting around being told what to think, so get with the program and read the Bible daily, asking God to reveal himself to you and make you aware of what he wants from you.

We all start out wandering in the desert, led by men who tell us which way we should go, and we will die in the desert following them unless we change course and follow God.

God is the only one who can lead us to the Promised Land.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

Savior or Son: Why Did He Come?

I wrote a teaching series (it is available through my website) on the differences between the Jewish and Christian expectations of the Messiah. One main difference is that in Judaism, the Messiah is seen as a national savior, whereas Christianity sees him as much more of a personal savior.

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In the Gospel of Matthew, considered by many to be the most “Jewish” of the four, Yeshua is referred to as King and Messiah many more times than in the Gospel of John, unquestionably the most spiritually written and metaphoric of the four, who constantly refers to Yeshua as the Son of God, and (in my opinion) where the idea of the Trinity originated from.

According to the NIV Study Bible, Matthew was written in the 70s, Mark in the mid-60s, Luke around 60, and John probably between 80 and 95, making John the last and oldest of the Gospels. Matthew was written to the Jewish Believers, Luke (most likely) to any Believer, Mark to the Gentile Believers in Rome and John to Gentile Believers.

When Yeshua came to earth and started his ministry, the Jewish population was looking for a political savior which is part of the reason that he wasn’t accepted by the majority, who were more interested in being freed from Roman authority than they were being freed from spiritual slavery.  The Gentiles who accepted Yeshua, on the other hand, did not have any political agenda for their savior; in truth, they never even considered salvation because their culture and religion never had need of a savior.

This difference in the description of the Messiah, along with the political environment at that time, led to a distinctly different approach with the Gospels, which led to the separation between the “mainstream” Jews, the Jewish Believers, and the Gentile Believers.

When Matthew wrote his gospel, the majority of Believers were Jews who accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised, but by the time John was penning his narrative, he was writing to Gentiles who did not have any real idea of the traditional, Jewish understanding of who and what the Messiah would be. John identified Yeshua almost exclusively throughout his gospel as the son of God, which is a description the Gentiles would easily identify with since so many Roman gods and goddesses had children. These Gentiles were experiencing a religious and lifestyle paradigm shift, and that is why the Elders in Jerusalem did not require them to make a total conversion to Judaism, which is what they were learning about, all at once. We read about this in Acts 15, and too many times people totally miss Acts 15:21, where James states these newly converted Gentiles would learn the Torah when they went to Shabbat services and, eventually, become Torah observant.

The Messiah, in Judaic thought, was to regather the people to the Land (Israel), reconstruct the Temple and reinstitute the sacrificial system so that we would be able to receive forgiveness of sin (which is impossible when there is no temple) and thereby once more be in communion with God. In the times of Yeshua, because the temple still existed, they expected the Messiah to free them from the Roman rule so that all the Jews in the Diaspora would be able to return.

The Gentiles had no such expectation or desire, and their main reason for accepting Yeshua was to receive an eternal existence in heaven.  The approach to the Gentiles was rejecting paganism and accepting Yeshua, as the son of God who would be able to grant them eternal joy.

At the time John wrote his Gospel, the Romans were persecuting the Jews because they were revolting against Roman rule. It had always been okay with Rome to allow the Jews to continue to practice their religion, but when it came to kicking Rome out of Israel, that’s where the Romans drew the line.  So, because the Jews were on the Roman hit list, these Gentiles (who were Roman citizens) didn’t want to be associated with the Jews, which is why they didn’t rush into converting to Judaism. Besides that, by the time John wrote his gospel, there were many more Gentiles in this (what had been a) Jewish movement than Jews, and they weren’t in any rush to get in trouble with Rome. So, they started to separate themselves by changing the Sabbath, not requiring more than what the Elders stated in their letter, and trying to stay under the radar with Rome.

This eventually backfired on them, because the only thing Rome hated as much as a rebellion was the establishment of a new religion under their rule.

Eventually, as we know, once Constantine got his hand in it, Christianity, as we know it today, was created with a different Sabbath and man-made holidays to replace the ones God told us we should celebrate.

Since then, Christians and Jews have been at odds with each other, Christians trying to convert Jews and Jews hating Christians for trying to do it. The separation between Jews and Christians has been greatly enhanced because of the difference between how Yeshua is described in the gospels of Matthew and John. I believe this was intentional but never designed to have the destructive influence and results that it has.

The Messiah came to fulfill God’s plan to reconnect with his chosen people, and to also extend grace and salvation to the Gentiles. The Messiah, Yeshua, did that, and once his role as Messiah was completed, he was returned to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. One day, soon (God willing!) he will return as King Messiah, ruling the earth, defeating once and for all the Enemy of God, and completing God’s plan for humanity. At that time, both Jews and Gentiles will see Yeshua for who and what he truly is, both Messiah and son of God, but mainly the Messiah.

Yeshua came to earth to be the Messiah, and being the son of God was not required for that. Instead of identifying him as God’s Messiah, by the time John’s gospel was written and soon after that, men screwed it all up by presenting him in a way that was attractive to Gentiles and not as God intended.

Messiah was to be a stumbling block to those who rejected him, but instead because of what men did he became a stumbling block to the people he was sent to help.

Oy!

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Yeshua: Rejected by Jews and Recreated by Christians

Pretty much everyone knows that when Yeshua walked the earth the Jewish population, for the most part, rejected him as the Messiah, although there were many who accepted him. After his resurrection, he was introduced to the Gentiles in the Middle East and Asia, and they much more readily accepted him as the son of God. By the end of the Third Century, the group called Christians far outnumbered the Jewish population, both in the land and within their own group and had separated themselves so much from how Jews lived and worshiped that they created an entirely new religion.

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By the end of the Second Millennia, Christianity had become so diversified that there are now dozens of Christian sects and religions, all purporting to worship the same God and believe Jesus Christ to be his son and the Messiah, yet their religious rites, doctrine and dogma are significantly different.

So, why do Jews, after all this time, still reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah?

The answer is simple, really: the guy that Christianity proposes to be the son of God and Messiah to the world not only has nothing to do with Judaism but has persecuted, murdered, and forced Jews to convert against their will since the 4th Century. PLUS…they have completely misconstrued and/or replaced what Yeshua taught when he walked the earth.

I mean, when you think about it, that’s a pretty good reason for Jews not wanting to have anything to do with this fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan You-Know-What who hates their guts.

Yeshua was, still is, and always will be Jewish. He is the Messiah who was promised to be sent to the Jewish people to bring them back into communion with God and lead them in their own country. He lived in accordance with the laws that God gave to the Jewish people (he had to- otherwise he would have been a sinner and as such, his sacrifice would not have been acceptable) and he taught others to do the same as he did.

“Wait a minute!”, you say, “If he taught the same things that the Jews already knew, why didn’t they believe him?”

That’s the problem, isn’t it? Why didn’t they believe him?

In my opinion, there are three reasons that the mainstream Jewish population has rejected Yeshua as their Messiah, despite his teachings and the miracles he performed. Two of them were present at the time he was actively teaching, and they were:

  1. The people were praying for a political Messiah, someone to free them from Roman rule and that was not why Yeshua came; and
  2. Jerusalem in the First Century had one of the most corrupt, if not the most corrupt, political and social environment ever within the history of the Jewish people. The king wasn’t a son of David, the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) wasn’t a descendant of Aaron, and many of the members of the Sanhedrin throughout the land were political “hacks” and not truly Levites. The Pharisees and Sadducees, despite their differences, were a strong political and social power, and Yeshua’s teachings were exposing their hypocrisy and corruption. In essence, Yeshua’s influence on the people was a threat to the Jerusalem “Power Elite” and, as such, he had to be gotten rid of. The people would do what their leaders said to do, so they rejected him not on a personal basis, but as a result of being told that if they followed Yeshua they would be ostracized.

The third reason didn’t really come into play until nearly 60 years after his resurrection.

You see, as more and more Gentiles converted from their pagan religion to what was, essentially, Judaism, they had trouble making that paradigm shift from a religion centered on hedonistic pleasure to a religion centered on self-control, righteous living and respect for others. So, the original Disciples who were now the first leaders of the people who had accepted Yeshua were trying to make that conversion more palatable, if you will, by initially having only 4 requirements that had to be immediately followed (Acts 15.) The assumption was that the other instructions that are in the Torah, which is what Yeshua taught, would eventually be incorporated into their lives as they continued to practice Judaism.

And that’s where the whole thing fell apart.

You see, the Jewish population in the First Century was in rebellion against Roman rulership and were being politically persecuted. These neophyte Believers, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, were being persecuted by the mainstream Jews (under orders of the Power Elite) and the last thing they needed was the Romans on their backs, as well. So, what they did was separate themselves from the Jewish population to avoid Roman persecution.

Of course, that backfired because the Jews were allowed to worship their religion but Rome would not stand for any new religion forming in a land they ruled.

In order to separate from Judaism, these followers of “The Way” changed the Shabbat to Sunday, they did not continue to follow the Torah and even disowned their Jewish roots. After Emperor Constantine got involved (circa 325 AD), the people who professed to follow the teachings of Yeshua were a totally different religion than the one Yeshua taught about! Modern-day Christianity is what Constantine invented, as well as this guy Jesus Christ. Jesus is nothing like Yeshua, doesn’t worship God as Yeshua did, doesn’t teach what Yeshua taught, and hates Jews.

Can you see now why Jews rejected, and still do reject, Jesus Christ as their Savior?

So, nu? Now that we understand the problem, how do we solve it? I am sorry to say that I see no way for this problem to be resolved by human means. We can pray for individuals to find the truth about Yeshua, as I did, and for the Christian leadership to retrace their steps back to where the schism between Judaism and Christianity began, and heal that fissure so that we are all on the same path.

Yeah- like that’s gonna happen.

Those of us who know the truth about Yeshua have to be able to present him in a way that Jews will accept him, meaning teach what he taught and try to overcome the many centuries of wrongful teaching regarding Yeshua. We need to show Jews who Yeshua is, and help them to realize that Jesus Christ is NOT the one God sent or the one to believe in: they must know about Yeshua that he is the one to accept.

We also have to teach those practicing all forms of Christianity so they know that the Jesus Constantine created is not the Messiah God sent, and what they have been told Jesus Christ taught is not what Yeshua taught.

This will not happen easily or quickly and we will be fighting an uphill battle because, to be frank, Christianity is a lot easier than Judaism. Jews have the Torah commandments to live up to, but Christians are told Jesus died for their sins and as long as they are a “good person” they go to heaven. They don’t even care about the Acts 15 requirements anymore.

When Yeshua returns and God’s plan of salvation is completed, there won’t be different religions anymore: in truth, there won’t be any religions, only the one way of life that God gave us from the start. Judaism is called a religion, but that is not what God intended it to be: God gave us the instructions on how to worship him and how to live with each other in the Torah and he didn’t expect us to do anything else.

The Torah was never meant to be the rulebook for a religion, but to be the User Manual for how to live.

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Christian or Constantinian?

Wait a minute! Isn’t Constantine the guy who ran the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, where some of the modern Christian doctrines were first formalized?  Didn’t they say Christ was divine there? Didn’t they set up the Christian holidays, such as Easter?

(Actually, they had Easter but couldn’t decide what day to celebrate it.)

So if we are asking whether someone is Christian or Constantinian, isn’t that the same thing?

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To answer this, let’s go to the Cloud and ask Wikipedia.

Here is what it says about Constantine (I have condensed this to save space):

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Although he lived much of his life as a pagan, and later as a catechumen, he joined the Christian faith on his deathbed, being baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which produced the statement of Christian belief known as the Nicene Creed. He has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor”, and he did heavily promote the Christian Church.

As for the definition of Christianity, Wikipedia says:

Christianity is divided between Eastern and Western theology. In these two divisions, there are six branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Assyrians. Restorationism is sometimes considered the seventh branch.

To add to what Wikipedia says, within these major divisions there are many sects, such as Amish, Mennonites, Anabaptists, etc.  In all, there are over a dozen different religions that call themselves “Christian”, even though some Christian religions have beliefs in opposition to other Christian religious beliefs.

For the record, Judaism isn’t too far behind, with Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Messianic (although the other sects of Judaism would not recognize Messianic Jews as being Jews.)

Getting back to the original question, let me set some ground rules. Christianity is, for the purposes of this discussion, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is Yeshua ha Mashiach. A Constantinian is someone who follows the doctrines of “The Church”, meaning the doctrines established at the Council of Nicaea and at Ecumenical councils since then. A Constantinian is someone who celebrates Christmas, Easter, Sunday Sabbath, ignores the Torah because it is just for Jews, fasts during Lent, obeys the 8th-day baptism, goes through Catechism, etc., and so forth.

Now we need to identify what is different, if anything, from the teachings of Yeshua and the doctrines of the “Church”, which I will refer to as Constantinian doctrine.

(Yes, I know Constantine did not create all the doctrines of the modern church, but for the purposes of this discussion we will use the term “Constantinian” to refer to modern church doctrine.)

Well, this is actually pretty simple to understand. If Christianity is following the teaching of Yeshua, then whatever is in the Old Covenant is Christianity because Yeshua didn’t teach anything else. In truth, there was nothing else to teach from- even the Talmud wasn’t written down in its complete form at that time. The Talmud is composed of the Mishna and the Gemara; the Mishna was written in 200 CE and the Gemara in 500 CE.

Everything in the New Covenant was not written until well after Yeshua was resurrected and raised back into the heavens; the earliest versions of the Gospels and letters from Shaul (Paul) to his newly formed Messianic congregations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not written until sometime around 50-60 CE. So, because there was no New Covenant, Yeshua could not have taught anything from it.

You might be thinking, “Well, DUH! Steve. Of course, he didn’t teach from the New Covenant, because what he taught became the New Covenant.”  I would say that makes sense, except for one thing- it is wrong.

Within the New Covenant, we have the Gospels, which are eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Yeshua, and the letters that were written by the Apostles, ending with John’s Revelation. Nearly 2/3 of the entire N.C. is made up of the letters from Shaul to the congregations he formed, and their intent was to help these newly converted Believers to stay on the course he set them upon, with regards to learning how to follow the teachings of Yeshua, which (as I stated earlier) are the instructions in the Torah.

The major source of confusion between Christianity (following Yeshua) and modern church doctrine (Constantinian) is that Shaul’s letters were not written to become doctrine, but were only meant to help guide these neophyte Believers in learning how to go from the gluttonous, sinful, sexually perverted lifestyle that they lived their whole lives as worshipers of paganistic gods to righteous, humble and self-controlled followers of God and Messiah. That’s quite a paradigm shift, and no one could do that “cold turkey.”  Shaul’s letters were never meant to be absolute and permanent doctrine but instead just “stepping stones”, designed to help get his congregations past their immediate problems and further along the pathway to living (what we would call today) a Jewish lifestyle.

When we compartmentalize God’s instructions in the Torah as “Jewish worship” we are restricting what God wanted to give the whole world to only about one-fourth of one percent of it. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to learn so that they, as a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) could bring it to everyone.

God has no religion, only those instructions for how to worship him and how to treat each other, and that is what Yeshua taught. The Pharisees had been teaching only the written word or the literal meaning of the Torah (called the P’ shat) but Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning (called the Remes) so that we would know not just what God wanted us to do, but why we should be doing it.

For me, the answer to the original question is that “true” Christianity is the religion which follows what Yeshua taught, which means following the instructions found in the Torah, which the world would call Judaism.

That means Christianity is Judaism, but with one difference: Christians accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised to send, and the “mainstream” Jews do not. Given how many doctrinal differences there are just between Orthodox and Reform Jews, one would think that this difference (Yeshua being the Messiah) would not keep us that far apart, but it does. The reason is because of how Constantinian doctrine has become known as Christianity, which separated itself from Judaism so much that they became totally different religions.

If you call yourself a Christian but ignore the instructions in the Torah, you are a Constantinian. If you are a Gentile who accepts Yeshua as your Messiah and lives according to the Torah (i.e., a “Jewish” lifestyle and worship), you can call yourself a Hebraic Roots follower, a Messianic Gentile, or a Christian, but you are not a Constantinian. And, if you are Jewish (by blood), live according to the Torah and believe Yeshua is the Messiah, you are not a Christian or a Constantinian- you are a Messianic Jew, which means you are still a Jew.

There you have it.  A Constantinian will follow the modern day Christian doctrines, but a “true” Christian will follow the Torah. Also, a “true” Christian and a Jew should worship and live the same way, and only disagree on the matter of Yeshua.

One day, when the Messiah comes to straighten this whole “religion” thing out once and for all, we will have no more religions, no more doctrines, no more confusion, and no more hatred and bigotry. We will only have God, Messiah, and eternal peace.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 4

Up to this point, we have reviewed what salvation means and that it comes from faith in a Messiah. There are certain expectations (based on biblical prophecy) regarding what the Messiah will do, which we have examined from both a Jewish and Christian perspective. In doing so, we have seen a vast difference in what each religion expects, even though this is supposed to be the same Messiah. In this lesson, the fourth part of our series, we will look at how these different viewpoints and beliefs developed over the millennia since Yeshua (Jesus) walked the earth.

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

When Yeshua was with his Disciples, traveling and teaching in the Synagogues and towns throughout Judea, he was preaching from the Tanakh (the “Jewish” Bible) because that was the only “Word of God” that existed. After he was resurrected and returned to heaven, the Disciples continued his teachings. Eventually, they died out and Shaul (Paul) was one of the last of the (divinely appointed) Apostles who taught, and he went mainly to the Gentiles, although he always taught in the Synagogues first.

Back then there were, as there always have been, many more Gentiles than Jews, and once the Jewish population had been separated into those that accepted Yeshua and those that didn’t. It is very important to know that both groups were still practicing Judaism- there was no “conversion” event, but what started to happen is that the newer additions to this movement would be mainly composed of Gentiles. As these formerly pagan worshipers accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, they were the ones converting- to Judaism! There were no other religions around- you were either a Roman pagan worshiper or a Jewish God worshiper, and the Jewish ones were obeying what is written in the Torah.

With the advent of more and more Gentiles being added to this group of Messianic Jews, and because this conversion was such a paradigm shift in lifestyle, the Messianic leadership (Elders) in Jerusalem decided to make it easier for them. In Acts 15:20, by a suggestion from Yacov (James, the brother of Yeshua) it was determined that Gentiles converting to Judaism through Messiah Yeshua immediately had to change their lifestyle in this way:

1). no fornication;

2). no eating of blood;

3). no eating of anything strangled to death; and

4). not eating anything that had been sacrificed or devoted to an idol.

The important thing to note is that these were not the only requirements, they were only IMMEDIATE changes that had to be made. James’s suggestion ended with the statement that these new converts would be hearing the laws of Moses in the synagogues every Shabbat.  That clearly indicates James expected that eventually these converts would learn and be obedient to all of the Mosaic Law, completing their conversion to Judaism.

In other words, there was never to be any difference between how Jews rejecting Messiah and Jews and Gentiles accepting Messiah would worship God.

The practice of Judaism was allowed in Judea because Rome had originally been invited into the land to help the Jewish people get rid of the Seleucid kings. Because the religion was well established and an integral part of the society and government, Rome allowed the people to continue to practice it. However, by the time Yeshua arrived, the Jewish population wanted (as discussed earlier) their Messiah to free them from Roman rule. When this expectation went unmet, they began to revolt themselves. This was not viewed favorably by Rome, and there was the beginning of political persecution by Rome against the Jewish people. The first Jewish-Roman War (70 CE) resulted in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the depopulation of the Jewish people (and renaming of Judea to Palestine by the Romans) was the result of the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-135 CE.

BTW– The Western Wall was not a part of Solomon’s temple- it was the remaining section of the wall built by Herod which surrounded the court of the original Temple.

As the population of “Believers” continued to grow, there were many more Gentiles joining than Jews, and eventually (as the original Apostles died out and were replaced) the leadership of this movement was populated by Gentiles and through wrongful interpretations and desire to separate from the Jewish population (which was having its own problems with Rome) led to a separation from Judaism of this new movement being called Christianity.

Let’s go back in history for a moment: when the 9 1/2 tribes of Israel living in the land God promised were split under Jeroboam into the Northern and Southern tribes (Shomron, also called Israel in the north and Judea in the south), the split was as much spiritual as it was political. In the north, idol worship took over and they rejected the Torah and the God of their fathers to worship the many Semitic gods of the surrounding peoples. This was as much a political move as a religious one; by doing this, Jeroboam ensured that his people would not be enticed to return to the southern kingdom.

Now we return to the end of the first century and see the Christian leadership following the example of Jeroboam. By separating themselves from the Jewish population, spiritually, they could try to avoid the Roman persecution by showing they were not Jews. This started with Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early “church” leaders. In 110 CE he changed the Sabbath day to Sunday.

Later, under the rulership of Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicene (third century), the doctrine of modern day Christianity was formed which completed the total separation of Jews and Christians.

Some examples of the Christian doctrine are the changing of the Sabbath day, the ideology of the Trinity, the festivals of Christmas and Easter, and the idea that salvation was available universally and not centered on Jerusalem. These changes, as well as many others, resulted in the total separation between Jews and Christians, which were now totally different religions. Yeshua was no longer a Jewish Messiah- he was now the Christian Savior.

For over two thousand years, between Jews and Christians, there has been animosity, bigotry, and ignorance. During these times the doctrine of the “Church” has been progressively hateful and derogatory towards the Jewish people. Ignatius, who already changed the Sabbath day, also declared (circa 110 AD) that where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism. In or around 200 CE, Origin declared that because the Jewish people rejected Jesus Christ, it is right that their nation was destroyed and that God now offered his joy to the Christians; this is the beginning of Replacement Theology. And we get still more from Ignatius, who also said that living in accordance with Jewish law means that one has not really received Grace. This is still being taught today, which I can personally confirm as I have (more than once) been told that if I do all that “Jewish” stuff I am still “under the law” and not really saved.

When it comes to separating Christians from Jews and fostering hatred and fear, let’s not forget to mention the Crusades and the Inquisition, which (as we learned earlier) led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews by Christians who believed they were doing God’s work.  Spain, the progenitor of the Inquisition, was the world power in the 15th Century when Queen Isabella exiled all Jews from Spain. However, by the end of the 18th Century Spain was not even considered a viable threat, and has never recovered her position as a world power (didn’t God tell Abraham that those who curse him will be cursed?)

As we have already learned, Nazi Germany also thought they were doing God’s work- their belt buckles had “Gott mit uns” engraved on them (God is with us), and from the Jewish perspective, they were no different than Christians.

Lastly, Replacement Theology is a rampant right-wing Christian movement that says, essentially, because the Jews rejected Christ God has rejected the Jews and Born-Again Christians are now God’s true Chosen people, the “real Jews! Of course, the Bible is totally against this, as we can see in the following verses:

Matthew 19:28- Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jeremiah 30:11-I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. 

Isaiah 49:16- Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the son of her womb? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.

Jeremiah 30:31-At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.

In the letter to the Romans, Chapters 9 through 11 Shaul confirms the Jewish people will always be God’s chosen and will one day be grafted back onto the tree of Salvation. He warns the Gentiles not to become proud, which (apparently) they never paid attention to.

One last point regarding Replacement Theology: if they are truly God’s chosen people and the “real” Jews, then why didn’t they speak up during the Holocaust?

This ends lesson 4 of our series. In our next lesson, we will discuss methods we can use to try to reconcile the differences between the Jewish and Christian Messiah.

 

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Thank you for being here and please don’t hesitate to make comments- all I ask is that you be nice.

L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Why Christianity Has Ignored the Torah

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Today I am doing pretty much an opinion piece but the historical references are accurate.

I have two theories about why Christianity, in general, has ignored the Torah. In truth, most of the Tanakh is ignored, but the Torah, which has been misidentified as “the Law”, is taught to have been done away with by Yeshua’s sacrifice. As such, Christianity has been focused on love and forgiveness, and has marketed salvation through the Blood of Christ as a “Come as you are” party, after which you can “stay as you are.”  

First, we must remember that in First Century Jerusalem there were two religions: Judaism and Roman paganism. When a Gentile repented of their pagan ways and accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, they were converting to Judaism- there was nothing else. When a Jew accepted that Yeshua was the Messiah, he didn’t convert to anything because Yeshua was (and still is) Jewish and taught from the Tanakh, which included the Torah. So, Jews were still Jews and Gentiles were converting to Judaism.

The Elders in Jerusalem gave the new Gentile Believers some time to wean their way (so to speak) off of paganism and into this very different lifestyle by only having 4 absolutely “You can’t do this anymore” items on the list of immediate changes they must make (see Acts 15:19-21.) Soon, there were more Gentiles accepting Yeshua than Jews, and the distance between a Jewish lifestyle and the changes Gentiles had to make was growing further and further apart.

To add to the problem, Rome was persecuting the Jewish population because they were rebelling against Roman rule. This was not a religious persecution, mind you- it was a political one. To the converting Gentiles, though, it didn’t matter- the closer they were associated with Jews, the more under Roman persecution they came. Let’s not forget that the power elite in Judea also was persecuting this new sect of Judaism(it isn’t Christianity yet) because the teachings of Yeshua eroded the power base of the Pharisees, which was a performance-based salvation through which they could control the people by use of traditions they created.

By the end of the 1st Century leading into the 2nd Century, the majority of Believers were Gentiles who changed the rules of worship. The Sabbath was changed to Sunday and Ignatius of Antioch proclaimed Judaism and (now called) Christianity were unable to exist together. At this time we see most of the commandments in the Torah being ignored and the (mostly) Gentile Believers no longer had anything to do with Judaism.

NOTE: this back-fired on the Christians because to the Roman government, what was even worse than rebelling was forming a new religion. The Jewish persecution stopped sometime around the time of the first Jewish-Rome wars (60-90 C.E.)  when Rome had killed thousands of Jews and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. The next devastation of the Jewish population was about 60 years later during the Bar Kochba Rebellion, and by then Christians only had to worry about Rome.

The second reason, in my opinion, that Christianity ignored the Torah is because of a terrible misunderstanding of the “Great Commission”, which is considered a commandment by Yeshua to go out and make disciples of everyone in the world. This is found in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19.

I call it a terrible misinterpretation because it has been used as the justification for slaughtering thousands upon thousands of Jews and Muslims over the centuries (the Crusades and the Inquisition are the best-known means of performing what can only be called a “religious genocide”, but Nazi Germany and the Russian Pogroms are an indirect result of this.) The idea of going throughout the world and spreading the Good News was meant to be a benevolent ministry, not a military incursion where people are forced to convert or die. Any condemnation for rejecting God and/or Yeshua was to be administered by God, not people.

At some point, people realized that instead of the threat of death, to make the “Great Commission” successful market it as a “Once saved, always saved” program, and to sell the idea that “God loves you just as you are, ask forgiveness in his name and go to heaven.” Now that is an easy sell!

“Wow! All I have to do is proclaim Jesus is the Messiah, I am sorry I have sinned, please forgive me in Jesus’s name, Amen…and that’s all? Really? Just repeat the “Sinner’s Prayer” and I will be guaranteed a place in heaven forever? Where do I sign?”

See what I mean? Now, if I came to you and said you need to repent, accept Yeshua as your Messiah and follow the 613 commandments in the Torah, you might want to think about it for a while. Like, maybe, for the rest of your life think about it! It’s not an easy thing to just jump into a completely different lifestyle. There is a Shabbat where you aren’t supposed to buy or sell anything, you aren’t allowed to work on many festival days during the year, and you can’t eat any pork or shellfish. You can’t fornicate, you can’t lie, and you have to do this for the rest of your life! In fact, even after you have repented, if you return to your old ways of sin you will lose the salvation that you were given.

See what I mean? If I am trying to convert people from a gluttonous, sexually free and hedonistic religion to one of moderation, sexual purity and servitude to others, I will not be very successful. However, if I say just proclaim faith in Jesus, ask forgiveness and you are set for eternity, I will get many more people to join the club.

Following the Torah is being made holy, which means you are separated from the world and that results in the world not accepting you. People, human beings, want to be accepted. We are a social animal, and so the true religion that God gave to the Jewish people to bring to the world is not going to be a popular choice. Christianity, especially after Constantine, was and still is being sold as something very simple to change to.

Throughout history, Jews have not encouraged anyone to convert to Judaism- but Christianity is all about converting, and the easier it is to convert without really changing your current lifestyle, the more converts you will get.

So there you have it! Christianity has rejected the Torah because:

  1. they didn’t want to be part of the persecution of Jews by Rome; and more recently
  2. it makes it easier to get converts.

Let me again state that these theories are my own ideas. I expect that most Christians raised and accepting typical Christian dogma will vehemently disagree with me, and most Messianic Jews and Hebrew Roots Christians will agree with me, or at least accept that it is possible things happened this way.

 

What Jews and Christians Agree on That is Wrong for Both

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How many of you have heard someone say “Jews have the Torah and Christians have the Blood of Christ” when talking about the commandments in the Torah and who is supposed to obey them? I know I have, and the general understanding is that Jews and Christians are separated by this idea that Jews need to obey the Torah but Christians don’t because Jesus died for their sins.

Both sides seem to agree to this: Jews say the New Covenant is only for Christians and Christians say the Old Covenant is only for Jews.

Jews use only the Tanakh and Christians reference the Tanakh, sometimes, but generally stay only within the New Covenant. In fact, I believe the vast majority of Christians who have been taught from the Gospels and the Epistles don’t even realize that the writers of those books and letters are all quoting from the Tanakh.

So if both Jews and Christians feel “their” Bible is only for them, why is this wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you why- because the Torah is for everyone and Yeshua died for everyone. Yeshua taught the Torah and the Apostles taught the Torah: that was the only “Bible” around. The New Covenant letters and Gospels were being written as early as the middle of the First Century but didn’t come together until around 367 C.E., nearly three centuries later.

What has happened is that the “grafted in” are trying to take over the tree, and the tree is letting them!

The Old and New Covenants are one Bible, one story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It starts with the creation of everything, then God chooses a man (Abraham) to be the father of a nation dedicated to serving God; later, God tells that nation they are to be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and he gives them the Torah, his User Manual (if you will) on how they should live their lives. As priests, of course, they are not only to live their lives in accordance with the Torah but they are to teach the rest of the world how to do that, as well. The story continues as we read how the people of God fail to perform their priestly duties, and after the nation suffers a civil war leaving two nations, Shomron in the North and Judah in the South, their constant sinning forces God to disperse them throughout the world. However, that isn’t the end of the story.

There has, from the beginning, been the promise of a Messiah to come and reconcile the chosen people to God, and then all the world will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in accordance to God’s commandments (Torah) when God regathers his people into their land, Israel. The promise of a Messiah comes to fruition in the New Covenant, which is the continuation of the Old Covenant. It starts some 400 years or so after the last entries in the Tanakh and it is Yeshua who is the Messiah. As prophesied, he is not accepted by the masses although he was supernaturally born and portrayed God’s power throughout his ministry. The prophecy that all people will come to worship God begins (properly) with the Messianic Jews (early followers of Yeshua) adding to their numbers from the Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. Despite what has been taught, first century Jews that followed Yeshua never converted to Christianity because Yeshua was, is and always will be a Jew teaching the Torah. As his ministry grew in strength and numbers more and more Gentiles were added as fewer and fewer Jews came to accept him as their Messiah. I suppose at some point there had to be a limit, since there were so many more Gentiles than Jews in the world then, just as it is today.

Starting around the end of the first century, the separation of Yeshua’s followers from Judaic worship to what is today Christianity begins to really “take off” and with the Council of Nicene, Christianity is a totally different religion, persecuting the Jews and re-branding Yeshua as Jesus Christ, the blue-eyed, blond-haired Teutonic image that is what people think of today.

The story ends with the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland and the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) that we read about in Revelation. And, when all is said and done, all people will recognize and proclaim Yeshua as the Messiah and worship God on his Holy Mountain in Jerusalem (the new Jerusalem) as God told us we should, which is found (you guessed it!) in the Torah.

So, nu? What’s my point? My point is this: we need to bridge that gap that people created which God never intended to exist. We need to overcome the bigotry and hatred between Jews and Christians and realize that there is one God who does not have any religion, just laws, commandments, rules, ordinances, and regulations that tell us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other.

One God, one set of laws, one people under God and one Messiah for all. The separation between Jews and Christians serves only to help the enemy of God to be able to take over the world. Anyone, therefore, who promulgates that Jews and Christians should remain separated and that following the Torah is no longer valid or needed is an agent of Satan, whether or not that person realizes it.

If you are Christian, read the whole Bible and you will see there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant. If you are Jewish, rebuke the bigotry and fear that Jews have of the New Covenant. Read a Messianic version of the New Covenant (NOT the King James version, please!) and see that what Yeshua said was not in any way different from what Moses said. Yeshua taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Mosaic law by using a Drash to teach the Remes (look up the exegesis system called PaRDes to see what I am talking about) but never, ever taught against the Torah. He couldn’t! He was and still is, the Living Torah.

For Jews that are waiting for Messiah, you must be open to the idea that maybe, just maybe, he already came and he will be coming back. You can still wait, and I pray you accept him when he returns, or you can open your heart and mind and just simply study about Yeshua now. Remember, the Talmud talks about the Messiah as the Son of Joseph and also as the Son of David, indicating two separate Messianic occurrences.

For Christians, you must be open to hearing that the Torah is what Yeshua taught and the Canon of Modern Christianity is not what Yeshua taught but what Constantine created. You need to read the Old Covenant to really be able to understand what Yeshua was teaching and accept that following the Torah isn’t just for Jews.

Yeshua is Messiah to the world: Jews, Gentiles, Buddhist, Muslims ….everyone! God has no religion and when all is said and done, we who will survive through faith will worship God in the way he instructed his chosen nation of priests to teach us.

Who Really Made Christianity a New Religion?

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Being raised on Long Island as a Reform Jew I was always told that Jesus was a Jew who betrayed his Jewish roots and created Christianity, a totally separate religion which has historically hated and persecuted the Jewish people. Consequently, no real Jew believes in Jesus; in fact, if you believe in Jesus you can’t be a Jew anymore!

I spent 2/3 of my life believing this; fortunately, I have learned the truth about Christianity, who Jesus really was and what he really taught. And through that study and the guiding of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) I have come to accept that Yeshua (Jesus’s real name) was a Jew, still is a Jew, and taught from the Torah. He did not create a new and separate religion at all.

As I studied the New Covenant writings, especially the Epistles of Shaul (Paul) I began to understand that he did not convert to Christianity or write against the Torah and Judaism (as most Christian teachings profess), but remained a Jew and always confirmed the importance of following the Torah. The problem with reading Shaul’s writings is that one has to get into the right “mindset” to understand what Shaul was saying, as well as be trained in biblical exegesis. Shaul wrote to Gentiles that were first learning how to be Jews; there wasn’t anything else to be at that time. You were either a Jew or a Pagan. The early churches he set up weren’t churches at all; at least, not as we understand what a church is today. The first time they were called a “church” was in the early 1600’s, when King James decided to call them that, despite the fact that his bible experts disagreed.  In my opinion, the organizations that Shaul created as he preached the Gospels would be more accurately called “Kehillot“, the plural of the Hebrew word Kehillah which means “community organizations.”  So although Shaul’s preaching has been confused and misinterpreted probably ever since he wrote the first letter, he did not create Christianity as a separate religion.

I finally came to understand that the Christian Canon of today was developed mainly by Constantine at the Council of Nicene in the 3rd Century. The rules and separation of Christian worship from it’s beginnings in Judaic worship was confirmed and finalized, so to speak, by what Constantine did. Therefore, I (and many others I know) have been accusing Constantine of being the real creator of Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism.

I have been wrong.

Constantine definitely is the creator of Christian Canon that all of the modern Christian religions are based on, but he was not the first one to identify Christianity as a religion separate and unique from Judaism. It wasn’t Ignatius of Antioch, either, although he certainly did what he could to separate it (he changed the Sabbath to Sunday and also stated that one cannot have Judaism and Christianity together.) And it wasn’t first declared separate and unique by any of the other early “church” fathers.

Sherman, warm up the WABAC Machine and let’s go back before Yeshua and just after the Maccabees revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which is the story of Hanukkah.”

 

After that last Seleucid king was defeated, there was still political upheaval in Judea and the Judeans invited the Hasmoneans to mediate, eventually leading to Roman rule over Judea. However, because the Romans were “invited” in they allowed the Jews to continue to worship in accordance to their religion. This was very unique, since almost every Roman-conquered city or province was forced to worship as Rome did. Under normal conditions, it was illegal for any Roman ruled people to have their own religion (this is important to remember.)

Now we come to the point where the power elite Judeans, who rejected Yeshua as Messiah, needed to get Pontius Pilate to convict Yeshua. So what did they say? They first accused him of blasphemy, but Pilate said that was an internal religious issue and not a legal one. They next accused him of stirring up the people and telling them not to pay taxes, making him an enemy of the Emperor. Pilate didn’t fall for that one, either. Their final accusation was that Yeshua was a King, which he admitted to being but said his kingdom was not of this world, so Pilate had no legal reason to find him guilty of treason. In truth, they couldn’t get Pilate to find Yeshua guilty of anything. They had the same problem with Shaul when they brought him before the Roman rulers of whatever province he was preaching in. But then later, the Jews in the provinces around Judea who wanted to stop the Apostles from preaching about Yeshua found the one argument they could use that got the Romans to take action: they accused the Apostles of creating a new religion! This was against Roman law. The Jewish religion was tolerated by Rome but this new “Way” was denounced as a separate religion from Judaism so Rome had to take action. By the 2nd Century, both Jews and Christians were being persecuted, but for different reasons: Jewish persecution was for political reasons (they were rebelling against Roman rule) and Christian persecution was for religious reasons (practicing a religion that wasn’t approved by Rome.)

So, who really created Christianity as a separate religion? It was the Jewish power elite of the First Century!  We created our own “Frankenstein’s Monster” which turned against us and since then caused us harm and suffering. This was a real surprise to me: imagine…it was us! Jews are the reason that Christianity has become a separate religion from its Jewish roots. Who wuddah tought it?

If the Jewish elite had only ignored the Jews and Gentiles that accepted Yeshua as Messiah, then who knows what might have happened?  But, of course, that didn’t happen and maybe it was, in the long run, for the best. After all, didn’t Shaul write to the Kihillot in Rome (Romans 11:11):

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”

This shows that God’s plan of salvation for the Gentiles could only come through the Jews and eventually we will all be one in Messiah.

Now, for those of you out there who love to take a word or sentence out of context and go off in all sorts of tangential arguments that have nothing to do with the point of the message, let me address the fact that when I say “the Jews” I am not using it as a universally descriptive term but a reference to the power elite of the Judean political system at that time. And let me also say the Jews aren’t the only ones responsible: Ignatius, Constantine and nearly every Pope and Christian leader since the 2nd Century has contributed to making Christianity a separate and different religion. Christianity has become a separate and unique religion from Judaism as the result of the work of many people over many years.

My message today is that Christianity as a separate religion wasn’t proposed or initiated by Yeshua or any of his early followers- it came about as a result of the accusation from the non-Believing Jewish power elite in order to give Rome legal justification to persecute those people who accepted Yeshua as the Messiah.

So Yeshua didn’t create a new religion. Neither did the Apostles or Shaul or Constantine- the ones who first identified Christianity as a new religion were the Jews of the First Century!

WHY I THINK CHRISTMAS ISN’T SO BAD. 

Now, before some of you jump down my throat, please use two of the Fruits of the Spirit: patience and self-control. Read what I say (I will try to keep it short) and then jump down my throat, if you still need to. 
First off, a little background…. the reason that Jews were allowed to remain Jewish when Rome controlled Judea is because they invited Rome in to help them get rid of the Seleucid kings. When the followers of Yeshua (Jesus) began to grow, they were made up of Jews, and of Gentiles (mostly Romans) converting to Judaism. However, by the end of the 1st Century, Rome had problems with the Jews and were persecuting them, but it was NOT a religious persecution. It was a political persecution because the Jews were rebelling against Roman authority. As such, the Jews following “the Way” and the newly converting Gentiles began to separate themselves from the persecuted Jews, which was to be safe from persecution. That backfired, because as they started to form a new religion, that was not acceptable to Rome, and so the (now called) Christians were persecuted; this was a religious persecution. In the 3rd Century, along comes Constantine and he converts to Christianity (now very different from Judaism) and he makes it even more separate, essentially creating modern Christianity.
That brings us up to Christmas. Constantine had a problem, which was how to make Christianity more popular to a people who have worshiped Roman gods for centuries, and most likely will not be as happy to trade them off as Constantine is. The answer: re-boot the holidays! Take the celebratory feeling that comes with their big holidays, and redirect it to a new holiday with the same feel, but make it a celebration of Messiah instead of a pagan god. This is why I don’t think Christmas is so bad- it isn’t worshiping a pagan god, it isn’t a pagan holiday, and it never was. Saturnalia WAS a pagan holiday that worshiped a pagan god, but Christmas was created to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. I believe a lot of the anti-Christmas feeling comes from the fact that it was placed at the same time as the pagan celebration. The reason for that was not to put a different face on the same holiday, but so that it would easily fit into their schedule, and that made it easy for Constantine to switch focus/worship of the population from paganism to Christianity.
Here’s the point- Christmas is not Saturnalia with a new name, it is a totally new and different celebration; Saturnalia was rejected and done away with. Just as the Golden Calf was rejected and destroyed, so too did Constantine do away with Saturnalia, and it was replaced (NOT re-instituted, but replaced!) with Christmas, which is from it’s inception a celebration of Messiah’s birth.
Now, the fact that the birth of Messiah was months earlier in the calendar isn’t relevant to the topic, which is that Christmas was never a pagan holiday. Christmas was created as a righteous memorial to Messiah, and was “timed” to occur at the same time as an old, now rejected, pagan holiday so that it would be an “easy sell” to the populace.
Therefore, I don’t see anything wrong with Christmas so long as the people celebrating it are celebrating Messiah Yeshua. If you really want to come down on someone, come down on the retail companies that have prostituted this celebration into a social event that has made gift giving more important than celebrating the birth of our Messiah.

One last note: Joseph’s brothers conspired to murder him, but Joseph later understood something that I think we need to relate to Christmas (Genesis 50:20): “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” What had been an unrighteous pagan celebration has been replaced and changed into a righteous celebration of the Messiah, who is the ultimate means of saving people’s lives. I think celebrating the birth of our Messiah, whether on the correct day or not, is always a good thing, no matter how it started or where it came from.