Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is Messianic Judaism?
Answer: See the article, What is Messianic Judaism?.
Question: I am looking for a Messianic congregation in my area but can’t find one.
Answer: There aren’t many Messianic congregations in the United States, and if you do find one in your area, be warned that not all are healthy, so you will need to do due diligence before getting involved. For more information, I recommend you read: How To Distinguish Between Healthy And Unhealthy Messianic Congregations. If you can’t find a healthy Messianic congregation, be an active member of a good evangelical church and supplement what you get there with our services – which are now being streamed live at shema.com – and the Bible studies and teachings on the website.
Question: You wrote that Jews and Gentiles are not required to live in the same way. Do you believe they have a different calling and can live a different lifestyle?
Answer: Messianic Jews and people from the nations share the same calling – we are invited to live forever in the New Jerusalem with the Three-In-One God and the sons and daughters of God and the good angels. However, Messianic Jews and the people from the nations are not required to live the same way. One example: circumcision. The Jewish people, including Messianic Jews, are required to circumcise their boys on the eighth day as part of our responsibility to the covenant made with Abraham. Gentile Christians are not required to do that. I encourage Messianic Jews to maintain a distinct Jewish identity, which is based, in part, on practices found in the Torah, and pass that identity on to their children. On the other hand, I don’t pressure Gentiles to live like Jewish people living under the Sinai-Covenant.
Question: Will God punish me if I choose to live a Jewish lifestyle like Jesus did? If I choose to live a Jewish lifestyle, I’m not renouncing Him or converting, am I?
Answer: Your motivation for wanting to live a Jewish lifestyle is crucial. If you’re doing so because you believe that it’s obligatory and God requires you to keep all the laws of the Sinai Covenant that can be kept (and many of the laws can’t be kept since the temple was destroyed and the sacrifices stopped), you are guilty of the false teaching known as Legalism. That means you are sinning and you are in spiritual danger and you may be punished. However, if you choose to live a Jewish lifestyle, not because you believe that God demands it but because you find it meaningful, you should be OK. You can choose to live a Jewish lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean that you have converted or that you are Jewish. In my synagogue, we have Asians, African-Americans, people from a European background and others who serve the Lord within a Jewish lifestyle, but that doesn’t make them “Jewish.” One warning: don’t allow your interest in a Jewish lifestyle to be the focal point of your faith. I have seen many become so absorbed with Jewish roots and Jewish practices that Yeshua gets crowded out. This might sound strange, but Christianity is about Christ. Messiah is our focus. He is our living Head whom we need to be closely connected to and in touch with and empowered by. We need to carry on His mission of world evangelism. A spiritual diet where Jewish identity is the main course and Yeshua is a side dish is a formula for spiritual starvation.
Question: I’m trying to figure out what religion I am. I was raised Christian but think the Jews have some good points; and in my search to find my religion, I was drawn to you. How can there be something in between Christianity and Judaism? From what I was taught, you either believe Jesus is the Son of God or you don’t. Why do you believe what you do? If I am mostly Christian, but think Jesus was just a blessed man chosen by God to perform miracles, would that make me a Messianic Jew?
Answer: In a way, there is something between Judaism and Christianity. Messianic Judaism is that bridge between those two religions. Why do we believe what we do? On the website, read the teachings under “Apologetics” along with What Is Messianic Judaism? You ask if you are mostly Christian, but think Jesus was just a blessed man chosen by God to perform miracles, would that make you a Messianic Jew? The answer is that believing that Jesus was only a man, even a blessed man who did miracles, is not enough to make anyone a Christian or a Messianic Jew. A genuine Christian is someone who understands that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God, that He came into this world through the incarnation, lived a perfect life, died on the cross to make atonement for our sins, was buried and resurrected and is alive now. When a person understands these things and makes a commitment to become loyal to Yeshua, he becomes a Christian. I pray that happens to you. A Messianic Jew is someone who is Jewish and knows who Yeshua is and has transferred his loyalties to Him. If you are not Jewish, you can’t become a Messianic Jew.
Question: I’m a South African believer and am in the process of “coming out” of the Western Church system. I feel that Messianic Judaism is the unchanged way of practicing a living faith. I am ignorant of what it takes to “convert” to a Messianic Jewish approach and don’t want to live under Law. Could you point me in the right direction? Is there a South African branch of your congregation?
Answer: Evangelical Christianity is just as valid an expression of New Covenant faith as Messianic Judaism. Really, they are two expressions of the same faith. I identify with the Evangelical Church, which is part of the “Western Church” system. So, here’s what I recommend: You have the right to express your faith in a more Jewish way. There’s nothing wrong with that – if your motivations are right – and it seems like they are since you don’t feel obligated to live under the Law. Living a fully Sinai-Covenant observant life is impossible anyway, since the Sinai Covenant is a broken covenant. If you can find a good Messianic synagogue near you, great. If not, if you are not part of a good Evangelical church, join one and get actively involved. Then, supplement what you are getting there with our teachings. We live-stream our services at shema.com and the messages and Bible studies are recorded and available on Tuesdays.
Question: I am a Christian and live in West Papua, Indonesia. I am interested in going back to the Hebrew roots of Christianity. I read many books and started celebrating the Sabbath three weeks ago. I pray during the traditional Jewish times of prayer each day. I stopped eating pork and try hard to eat kosher food. However, my obedience and knowledge are still insufficient. And there is no synagogue where I can go to and pray on the Sabbath. I would like your help so I can celebrate Shabbat and incorporate more of my Hebrew roots. Another burning issue for me is related to conversion: Do I have to convert to Messianic Judaism?
Answer: No, you definitely do not need to do any conversion. You are fine the way God made you! Joined to Messiah by having faith in Him, you are complete! You were born to the parents and people God intended you to be. You are a member of Messiah’s Community, part of the One New Man, God’s new united community made of Jewish people and people of the nations – and that is enough! My recommendation is that, if you are not already, become an active member of an Evangelical church and supplement your interest in your Jewish roots by listening to our services that are streamed and practicing what you can on your own. If the live streaming doesn’t work for you as far as timing, we add the commentary on the weekly Torah portion and the message and the Bible study to the website on Tuesdays in audio and written forms.
Question: I’m a 29-year-old mother of one and I live in central Africa – Congo to be precise. Even though I come from a Christian family, there have been times when I questioned my Christian beliefs. I wondered: If everything I believe as a Christian has its roots in Judaism, then why don’t the Jewish people know Hebrew and know the prophecies about the Messiah, and believe in Yeshua? I was concerned that Christians were wrong about our interpretation of these prophesies. I visited many Jewish websites which had good arguments about passages like Isaiah 53, claiming that it referred to the nation of Israel and not Jesus. I was starting to be persuaded, but had a hard time letting go of my belief in Jesus. Then one day I came across your website, and I must tell you how relieved I was to find Jewish people who believe in Jesus. I was filled with so much joy I cried! Your articles changed my life – especially the one on the fulfillment of Jewish holidays in Jesus Christ. It reinforced my faith and beliefs and helped me understand the Gospel at a whole new level. I am immensely grateful to you for that. My questions are: If Jews and Gentiles are one in the Lord, why do you not call yourselves Christians? I understand everything about not wanting to assimilate and the desire to keep Jewish tradition, but it does not explain why you don’t identify as Christian as the apostle Paul and others did in Acts? I read in one of your articles that all of Israel will be saved in the end. Does that include those Jewish people who have died without believing in Jesus? If the plan is for Jews to all be saved in the end then what’s the use of evangelism since they’ll all come to believe anyway? Thank you so much for what you do. My prayers are with you. Shalom!
Answer: Greetings, and thank you for letting us know how some of our teachings changed your life and helped you in your faith. In answer to your questions, although some Messianic Jews don’t use the word “Christian” to refer to themselves, I do. I identify as a Christian. I call myself a Christian – as well as a Messianic Jew. When Paul teaches us that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11) – he is not teaching us that every individual Jewish person will be saved. Paul makes it very clear earlier in Romans that the majority of the Jewish people are not saved. It is only the faithful remnant who believe in Yeshua who are saved. When he informs us that all Israel will be saved, he is letting us know that a time is coming (connected to Messiah’s return) when the entire nation will turn to Yeshua, and recognize Him and welcome Him – and then the nation will be saved.
Question: Whenever I share with Jewish people that Jesus was Jewish, they agree with me. But then they ask, “Why did He change?” My employer once asked me, “Why did Jesus begin a new religion, and that religion turn around and persecute us?”
Answer: Yeshua never changed. He did not start a new religion. As the Seed of the Woman and the Messiah, Yeshua came to fulfill the ancient promises in the Law and the Prophets and the Writings about Messianic salvation. He came to bring salvation to Israel and to the nations of the world. Nor did great Rabbi Paul change things and start a new religion. Paul never ever contradicted the Son of God! Paul was faithful to serve the Three-In-One God. You need to understand that Paul was raised up by God and specifically sent to bring the teachings of Messiah to a new people – the Gentiles. Yeshua was sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Paul is the great emissary and theologian that Messiah sent to the Gentiles, to make clear what was necessary for them. Paul is unjustly portrayed as the bad guy by many modern scholars, but that is not the case. Paul and his mission are simply misunderstood. He was welcomed by the other apostles. They recognized and approved of his ministry and message to the Gentiles. The great Rabbi from Tarsus understood that the Gentiles were not obligated to keep all of the commands that were directed to the Jewish people, and they could remain within their cultural heritage. The First Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 agreed with Rabbi Paul and extended a “trans-cultural Judaism” (Christianity can be understood as Biblical Judaism that includes the Messiah, but without all the cultural practices of Israel) to the other nations – without ever asking the Messianic Jews to give up their Jewish heritage and practices. Sadly, over the centuries, the Church gradually lost more and more of its appreciation for its Jewish roots. The good news is that those Jewish roots are in the process of being restored!
Question: According to Galatians 3:26-29, all Believers are one in Messiah, and there is no longer Jew or Gentile. Why do you continue to make a distinction between Jews and Gentiles? Aren’t we all Christians now, and no longer Jews or Gentiles? Answer: Let’s look at the passage in question: For you are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua. For all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. Rabbi Paul is not teaching us that all earthly differences between men and women, and between Jews and Gentiles automatically disappear when we become Believers in the Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek is not meant to be interpreted literally any more than there is neither male nor female. Men who believe in Messiah are still men. Women who have encountered Yeshua are still women. In fact, Rabbi Paul teaches elsewhere that there are distinct “roles” for the sexes. For example, spiritual leaders of communities must be men – not women. Men are to be the leaders of the home – not the women. If we understood Paul’s words literally, and there were no longer any differences between men and women, then men could marry men, and women could marry women – something which is clearly wrong. Just as there are still differences between men and women in Messiah’s New Covenant Community, so too there are differences between slaves and those who are free, and there are differences between Jews and Gentiles.
The New Testament itself makes distinctions between Gentile Believers and Jewish Believers. That’s why Paul, who identified himself as “a Jew from Tarsus” could also say to the Gentile Christians in Rome, “I am speaking to you who are Gentiles (Romans 11:13).” In fact, it’s quite possible that differences between men and women and Jews and Gentiles will continue in the Age To Come. In the book of Revelation, even though the Son of God is resurrected and glorified, He is still revealed to be a Man. Even more specifically, He is identified as belonging to the tribe of Judah and the Root of David (see Revelation 5:5). I find it interesting that throughout eternity, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are written on the everlasting gates of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12). In addition, “the nations” will walk by the light of the Eternal City, and the glory and honor of the “nations” will be brought into it. The leaves of the Tree of Life are for the healing of the “nations.” God has ordained that followers of the Messiah come from every nation, tribe, people and language group; and these differences in language, culture and identity remain on Earth, and some may even endure into eternity.
This ongoing difference between Jews and Gentiles manifests itself in several ways. For example, Messianic Jews should be circumcised for religious reasons, since we are still special participants in the covenant made with Abraham. Paul circumcised Timothy, since he had a Jewish mother (see Acts 16:1-3). On the other hand, Messianic Gentiles must not be circumcised for religious reasons, as Rabbi Paul makes clear in his letter to the Galatians. They are to be content with being circumcised in their hearts. However, Gentiles Believers may be circumcised for aesthetic or medical reasons, but not for religious reasons.
So what does Rabbi Paul mean when he writes that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free? He means that for all who have joined themselves to Israel’s Messiah, there is a new equality that we have. Now that the Messiah has come, we have a new and equal access to the God of Israel. He is equally our Heavenly Father. We can all come boldly before His throne of grace at any time. We all share His Spirit. We are brothers and sisters. However, earthly roles and national identities, including Jewish/Israeli identity, remain. Yes, all who genuinely believe in the God of Israel and the Jewish Messiah are “Christians” – but “Christian” simply means a follower of Christ (Messiah – Israel’s Anointed King); being a Christian does not mean that one’s national and ethnic identity are diminished.
Question: I am a Gentile Christian. Galatians 3:29 teaches: If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. That kind of makes us “Jewish” too doesn’t it? Answer: Gentile Christians do not “become Jewish” or “spiritual Jews” or the “New Israel.” However, they have a very significant Jewish identity connection. They have been grafted into a Jewish olive tree (Romans 11). They have the God of Israel as their Father. They are sons of Abraham – spiritual sons, but sons nonetheless. They have the Messiah of Israel as their brother. The Spirit of the king of the Jews lives in them. They are citizens of the New Jerusalem. While Gentile Christians are not Jewish, they have a very strong Jewish identity connection.
Question: Now that I believe in Yeshua, aren’t I a “Spiritual Jew” (Romans 2:28-29)? Haven’t I been grafted into the Olive Tree (Romans 11)? Am I not part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12)? Am I not a son of Abraham (Galatians 3:29)? Answer: We have to be very clear about our use of names and titles. The Holy Spirit is very careful in the Scriptures that comprise the New Testament, not to identify Gentiles as Jews. Gentiles are never told that they “become Jews” or “convert to Judaism.” Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles (the Church) is never said to “replace Israel,” “take the place of Israel,” or be the “New Israel.” What then is the relationship of Messianic Gentiles to the nation of Israel? “Kosher-hearted” Gentiles are sons of Abraham. Abraham is their spiritual father, but that doesn’t make them Jews. They are Abraham’s offspring, but that doesn’t mean that Christians are “Jews” or “Spiritual Israel” or the “New Israel.” Abraham is the father of many nations, but not all those nations are entitled to be called “Israel.” Only those who are descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob can properly be called “Jews” or “Israel.” Gentiles who have found the Messiah are not “Spiritual Jews.” They are “Spiritual Gentiles.” If you look at the context of Romans 2:28-29, you will see that Rabbi Paul is specifically addressing Jewish people. He is teaching us that Jewish people who have saving faith in Messiah are “Jews inwardly” and spiritually circumcised. You might be a wild olive branch that has been grafted in to Israel’s Olive Tree of Salvation and Blessing, but you are a “partaker with us” – the natural branches. You don’t replace us. Yes, Gentile Believers are now part of the Commonwealth of Israel, and have a new citizenship with the Jewish saints, but that doesn’t make you a Jew, any more than Paul having Roman citizenship made him a physical descendant of Rome. Properly identifying Messianic Jews and Gentiles as equal yet distinct is important because of the ongoing differences in their earthly roles and calling. “Replacement Theology” – the teaching that the Church is the New Israel and has replaced the Jewish people, is the result of a flawed interpretation of Scripture. It is wrong and has contributed to considerable violence against the Jewish people.
Question: I have a Jewish father and a Gentile mother. Am I Jewish? Answer: In the modern Jewish community, Jewish identity is determined by the mother (matrilineal descent). If your mother is Jewish, then you are Jewish. Some parts of the Jewish community also acknowledge patrilineal descent (through the father). In fact, the Bible primarily supports patrilineal descent, as can be seen by the many genealogies. We discover in the New Covenant Scriptures that Rabbi Paul had Timothy circumcised, indicating that this inspired emissary considered Timothy to be Jewish, even though Timothy’s father was a Gentile and his mother was Jewish. Therefore, the Messianic Jewish movement accepts both matrilineal and patrilineal descent. This is in keeping with the policy of the State of Israel, which will grant Israeli citizenship to those who have even one Jewish grandparent on either side. Part of the rationale for this is that, if having one Jewish grandparent was enough to get one killed in the Holocaust, it should be enough to be a citizen in Israel.
Question: I’m a Christian who believes in the Jewishness of Jesus. I attend church services on Sunday, but also observe the high holidays at the local Reform synagogue. Am I considered messianic? Answer: In one sense, “Messianic” is another name for “Christian” so I would consider you and all Christians to be Messianic. Follow-up Question: Okay, I’m Messianic. Are there any other ways to describe myself? Messianic Christian sounds redundant. I can’t use Messianic Jew since I’m not Jewish. Answer: You can refer to yourself in a number of ways: A Messianic Gentile; a Gentile Christian; a kosher-hearted Gentile; a genuine Christian who loves the Jewish people and the Jewish Messiah; a person from the nations who is a follower of Jesus the Messiah.
Question: If my great-grandmother was Jewish, would that make my grandfather a Jew also? Answer: Among the Jewish people, there are different ways of determining Jewish identity. Orthodox Judaism accepts matrilineal descent (if your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish). Reform Jews accept both matrilineal and patrilineal descent (if your father is Jewish, you are Jewish). Messianic Jews also accept both matrilineal and patrilineal descent. Israel will give Israeli citizenship (not Jewish identity, but Israeli citizenship) to a person who has one Jewish grandparent on the side of either the father or mother. So in my opinion, yes, your grandfather could be considered to be Jewish, but I don’t know if Israel would give you Israeli citizenship.
Question: Is there a difference between “Jew,” “Hebrew” and “Israelite?” Answer: For many centuries the Jewish community has considered the terms “Jew,” “Hebrew” and “Israelite” (or “Israeli”) to be synonymous. The New Testament affirms this understanding, since it uses all three terms interchangeably. At first the term “Jew” referred exclusively to those who were from the tribe of Judah, but eventually it was applied to people from all twelve tribes. That is why Paul could say that he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews (Philippians 3:5), an Israeli (Romans 11:1), and a Jew from Tarsus, even though he was from the tribe of Benjamin (Acts 21:39). To this day the three terms may still be used to refer to anyone who is part of the Jewish people.
Question: Are there Black Jews? Answer: Yes. The Ethiopian Jewish community is an authentic Jewish community. It goes back centuries and centuries. Christian missionaries worked among Ethiopian Jews in the 1800s and many became believers. Many moved to Israel and there is a significant Ethiopian Messianic Jewish community in Israel.
Question: I am a Gentile Christian who lives in Australia. Although Messianic Jews do not keep the Law to be justified or sanctified, how do they maintain their Jewishness? Answer: Your question about maintaining Messianic Jewish identity is a good one. First, let me say that it is not easy to maintain Messianic Jewish identity through several generations, and many do not succeed. The forces of assimilation into Gentile Christian culture, and also assimilation back into the non-Messianic Jewish community, are very strong. So, here is what I would advise a young Messianic Jewish person to do: Stay focused on the King of the Jews. If possible, become part of a healthy Messianic Synagogue. Try to marry a Messianic Jew and encourage your children to make that same commitment. Circumcise your sons as part of your responsibility to the Abrahamic Covenant. Send your children to a Messianic Jewish summer camp. Develop a love for the Word of God and see it, whether it is the Old or New Covenant books, as at the core of your identity. In particular the book of Hebrews – a book written to Messianic Jews by a Messianic Jew about staying Messianic Jews – is very encouraging. Recognize that the Torah is a huge part of the Jewish heritage and incorporate those parts of it that are meaningful to you. Observe Jewish life-cycle events, like bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and funerals. Understand the Jewish holidays in Leviticus 23 and how each one is connected to Messiah. Have a positive view of Israel. Visit Israel. Learn some Hebrew. Interact with the non-Messianic Jewish community where possible without denying your allegiance to Yeshua. Be committed to evangelism, and especially to Jewish evangelism based on Romans 1 – the Good News going to the Jewish people first. Explore Jewish art, literature, movies. Explore Jewish tradition and observe those parts of Jewish tradition that don’t contradict the Word of God and are meaningful to you. Be encouraged by the contributions of other Messianic Jews like Alfred Edersheim. One last suggestion: live close to a good Jewish deli!
Question: I am a Christian. I don’t like the term “gentile.” It’s used in a derogatory way. Why do you refer to me as a gentile? Answer: The word “goy” in Hebrew means nation and can be translated into English as nation or gentile. It’s a good word and generally refers to a nation other than the nation of Israel. However, there are instances in the Tenach (Old Testament) when the nation of Israel is referred to as a “goy.” In Greek, gentile is “ethnos.” In the New Testament, it simply means people who are not Jewish – even after they come to faith. In Romans 11:13, Paul specifically addresses non-Jewish Christians and uses the term gentile (I am speaking to you who are gentiles). Under Messiah’s New Covenant, individuals maintain their ethnic identity. The Jewish people continue to be Jewish people and gentiles remain gentiles. There is no need to feel insulted if you are called a gentile.
Question: I’m a conservative Jew. My friend considers herself a Messianic Jew and because of that, is getting ashes applied to her on Ash Wednesday. Is that something that is accepted by Messianic Jews? Answer: Your question is somewhat complicated to answer. Here’s why: Messianic Jews have dual identities. We are part of Christianity. We are members of the Christian Church, and we are also part of the Jewish people. And the Messianic Jewish Community is not uniform in faith and practice. Within it, there is a lot of diversity. Some Messianic Jews are members of Messianic synagogues, which have a “Messianic Jewish orientation.” A much larger percentage of Messianic Jews are members of Christian churches, which have a “Gentile Christian” orientation. Since there are many Christian denominations, those Messianic Jews who are part of those denominations may observe some of their denomination’s observances – like putting on ashes on Ash Wednesday. Under Messiah’s New Covenant, we have a lot of freedom when it comes to holidays and observances. Therefore, it’s acceptable to me if your friend wants to participate in Ash Wednesday. She has the freedom to put ashes on herself, just as I have the freedom not to.
Question: Do you believe in the Trinity? Answer: Yes. God is three distinct Persons (not modes or manifestations or ways of revealing Himself). The Father, Son and Spirit share the same divine nature. Being the Son of the Father does not mean that God the Father created the Son, or that the Son was in some way given birth by the Father or is younger than the Father. It means the exact opposite! Just as a human son shares the nature of his human father, the Son shares the same nature as His Father. The Son of God is deity, divine, eternal, uncreated, with life within Himself, sharing all the essential attributes of God with His Father. The Son is equal to the Father in divine nature, however the Father is superior to the Son in position and authority. The Son acknowledges that the Father is superior in position when He calls Him Father and God. The Son sits at the right hand of the Father. The Father sits on the main throne of Heaven, in the place of highest authority. The Son never sends the Father. The Father sends the Son. The Son never commands the Father. The Father commands the Son and the Son always obeys the Father. The Son is the Executor of the Father. Father speaks the word and the Son carries out the word of the Father. An easy way to understand the relationship of the Father and the Son: a distinction of persons; an equality of nature; a hierarchy of authority – the Father being greater in authority than the Son. The Father and the Son – two distinct Persons sharing the same divine nature; sharing the same Spirit (the Spirit is also a distinct Person, although without a body) with the Son submitting to the authority of the Father. That is what the Word of God reveals. That’s what true believers from the earliest times have believed. That’s what true believers still believe.
Question: What happens to a person when they die? Answer: When man was first created, he was made from both material and immaterial parts. The Lord God formed Adam of dust from the “adamah” (ground), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. After sin entered the world (but before Messiah Yeshua came), when a human being died his body returned to the dust from which it came, but his soul went to a place that is most commonly called “Sheol.” Other Biblical names for this “holding place” for the dead are called: Hades, Death, the Pit, the Grave, Abaddon, Destruction, Paradise, and Abraham’s Bosom. The idea of going to Sheol is indicated by the oft-repeated phrase, “he was gathered to his people.”
Sheol is like a waiting room. It is the intermediary and temporary state that takes place after death and before the Day of Judgment. It is not to be confused with either Heaven or Gehenna (Hell), which are the final states of the righteous and the wicked. Before Messiah came to Earth, all people – the righteous and the wicked, went to Sheol when they died. For the righteous, Sheol is characterized by inactivity and a sort of dreamy reflection. It is variously described as a place of thick darkness, a place of forgetfulness, an abode of silence, or a place of rest. For the wicked, it is a place of regret and distress. The Son of God made it clear that there are two sections within Sheol, one for the righteous and the other for the wicked. Upon their death, the righteous (those who share the Faith of father Abraham) go to Abraham’s Bosom, and are gathered into His presence. At their death, the wicked go to another area – a place of regret, remorse and torment (see Luke 16:19-31). There is a chasm fixed between the two sections so that there is no crossing over, so that the righteous and the wicked are permanently separated.
A detailed description of Sheol is found in Isaiah 14:9-18. Isaiah informs us that the wicked dead have some consciousness when they are roused. Their personalities remain intact. They are still the same being, the same person. They still have some recollection of their life on Earth. They still have some title or position that was connected to their life on Earth. They are aware of each other and able to recognize one another. They have some awareness of their condition in the unseen world. They realize that they are weak compared to their previous power on Earth.
The book of Job informs us that the dead do not know what is happening among the living (Job 14:21). Intercourse between the two realms is cut off. When people die they are not allowed to return to this world, this realm. They do not know what is happening here, nor can they influence events here in any way, without the express consent of God, and only in rare instances, such as in the case of King Saul and Samuel (see 1 Samuel 28). This means that there is no such thing as “ghosts” as they are portrayed in popular culture.
When a righteous human being dies, it appears that good angels are involved in his death. Messiah Yeshua, when referring to Lazarus, said that there was an angelic escort for the righteous to Sheol (see Luke 16:22). And it seems that the Malach ha-Mavet – the Angel of Death, is involved in the death of the wicked. Revelation 6:7-8 describes a rider on a pale horse whose name is Death – an angel who has been given authority over the physical death of men. There is another angel following him called Hades, who has power over the souls of those in Hades.
Even the Messiah went to Sheol. He said to the repentant thief on the cross: “this day you shall be with Me in Paradise,” which I understand to be the good part of Sheol. In Peter’s first letter (1 Peter 3:18-20) he revealed that Yeshua went and made a proclamation to the spirits who were in prison. One way that may be understood is that Yeshua descended to Sheol and proclaimed His victory over sin, death, Satan and Sheol. He may have said something like, “I have died, and God has redeemed you, His righteous ones, from this place of waiting. I have conquered sin and death. Death no longer has its power or sting. I now hold the keys to Sheol and Death. This place is under new management!”
Indeed, the Son of God holds the keys to Death and Hades (see Revelation 1:18), and with those keys He locks and unlocks, opens and closes, releases and restrains. Yeshua’s possession of the keys to Death and Hades tells us that He earned the right to release those who were imprisoned in Sheol. Ephesians 4:8-9 may hint at this release. When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men. Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the Earth? One possible interpretation is that Yeshua emptied Abraham’s Bosom and took the souls of Abraham and all those who had been gathered with Abraham, and took Paradise itself with Him when He victoriously ascended to Heaven. Matthew 27:52-53 suggests this release of the captives: The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Since the resurrection and ascension of the Messiah, when a Believer dies, he still goes to Paradise, but Paradise is now above (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). For the child of God, to be absent from the body is to come immediately into the presence of the Lord. The unbelieving, the God-ignoring and the self-willed still go to Sheol (the holding place), to wait for the time of final judgment. On the Day of Judgment they will be raised from Sheol, stand before Messiah Yeshua’s Great White Throne, and there be judged and thrown into Gehenna (Hell, the Second Death, the Lake of Fire), the eternal destiny of the wicked. Then, when they have served their purpose, Death and Hades will themselves be destroyed by being thrown into the Lake of Fire (see Revelation 20:14) This is the Second Death – permanent, and eternal destruction and separation from God. Then only Heaven and Hell will remain. Because of Messiah’s life, death, burial and resurrection, death has been swallowed up in victory, and we can say: O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah!
Question: Does the Tenach (Old Testament) mention people going to Heaven? Answer: It does. Enoch lived in such a way that he was close to God, and so he was taken by the Lord instead of dying like everyone else. That means there is a place (Heaven) where the faithful remnant who walk with God will be taken. The prophet Elijah was likewise taken to Heaven. Heaven is described as being a real place, and the dwelling place of God and the heavenly hosts (2 Chronicles 30:27). In addition, the truth about eternal life in Heaven is taught by concepts like the Tree of Life, which makes eternal life possible (Genesis 3:22); the new heavens and new Earth (Isaiah 65:17); and the Day of Judgment (for judgment to take place, there has to be resurrection). Resurrection and eternal life are explicitly affirmed in Daniel 12:2, Job 19:25-26, Isaiah 26:19, and Psalm 16:11.
Question: Do you believe in the “Ten Lost Tribes?” I was told that they referred to the ten northern tribes that made up the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Were they really lost? Answer: The ten northern tribes were never completely lost. That old myth, which is found in both Jewish and Christian tradition, and is exploited by some cults, is based on a misunderstanding of the Holy Scriptures. The myth of the Ten Lost Tribes presumes that when the Assyrians captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 722 BC, ten of the twelve tribes were carried off into exile, where their identity was lost. This theory, however, ignores important Biblical facts. Before the Assyrian invasion, many people from the ten northern tribes had moved to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In 2 Chronicles 11:14-17 we are informed that after the civil war that split the Jewish nation into two parts: The Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made. Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam the son of Solomon for three years, for they walked in the way of David and Solomon for three years (see also 2 Chronicles 15:9). Also, though Assyria did invade and capture many of the residents of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the Assyrians did not take all of them.
If the theory of the Ten Lost Tribes were correct, they would have already been lost by the First Century, yet the New Testament makes it clear that Jewish people from all twelve tribes were still identifiable. We know that Yeshua and his family were from the tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:2-16). Rabbi Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1). The Priests and Levites were from the tribe of Levi. Anna the prophetess was from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:32). There is other New Testament evidence as well. Rabbi Paul knew that representatives of all twelve tribes were alive and identifiable in his day. Defending himself before King Agrippa, he said, I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve (note present tense) God night and day” (Acts 26:6-7). An entire book of the New Testament was specifically written to the twelve tribes of Israel. Ya’akov (James) the brother of the Lord and the leader of the Congregation in Jerusalem, addressed his letter to “the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” – to Messianic Jews who were living outside of Israel who are from all twelve of Israel’s tribes. None of the tribes can be lost because it is clear that all twelve tribes will exist in the Last Days. 144,000 Jewish people, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes will be chosen to bear God’s name immediately prior to His Return (see Revelation 7 and 14). Perhaps the most important evidence we have is the testimony of the Son of God Himself. When His twelve specially chosen representatives asked Yeshua about their reward for following Him, He answered: You who have followed Me, in the Regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).
No, ten of Israel’s twelve tribes are not lost. The All-Knowing One could never lose anything, let alone the “apple of His eye,” and those He has inscribed on the palms of His hands. Contrary to various theories, the ten tribes did not migrate en masse to the British Isles nor to the United States. They are not American Indians, British Israelites, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Two-House advocates. They all existed in the time of Yeshua, 700 years after they supposedly disappeared, and were still identifiable as Jewish people. They exist today and will continue to exist into the Regeneration. Though most Jewish people today are uncertain of their tribal heritage, God knows, and will reveal it in due time.
Questions: How do you baptize? Do you baptize infants? Answers: Although the Greek word for baptism means dipping or immersion, not all Christians dip or immerse. Many sprinkle or pour water on the person. We believe that immersion is the proper mode of baptism, not only because of the meaning of the word, but because the New Testament indicates that this what was practiced by Messiah and His disciples. Also, immersion best expresses the significance of baptism as it’s used in other places in the New Testament. We also believe that baptism is reserved for those who are aware that Yeshua the Messiah is the risen Lord and have made a serious commitment to follow Him. Therefore we do not immerse infants. We will dedicate infants – but won’t baptize them. However, even though we don’t baptize infants, we recognize the baptisms of churches who baptize infants. However, if someone who has been baptized as an infant comes to us and becomes a member of our community, and has real faith in Messiah, and wants to be baptized as an adult, we will baptize that person.
Question: I understand that I will never be made righteous by the Law, but should Christians be obedient to any part of it because it is good? Does it have a place in the Gentile Christian’s life? Answer: One way to understand the Torah is as Israel’s constitution. However, not all 613 laws in the Torah are meant to apply to everybody. There are laws that only apply to priests. For example, the High Priest couldn’t marry a divorced woman or a widow, whereas a regular Israeli could. There are laws that only apply to the king (like writing his own copy of the Torah). There are laws that apply to men and not to women, and vice-versa. Most of the laws directly apply to the Jewish people, but not the Gentiles. All of us are to “fulfill the Law,” but the requirements of the Law are different.
So what relationship does the Gentile Christian have to the 613 laws of the Torah? The book of Acts records that Messiah’s Emissaries (the Apostles) and the Elders of Messiah’s Holy Community met to decide this very issue. This meeting, recorded in Acts 15, is often referred to as “the First Jerusalem Council.” According to the binding decision issued by the Emissaries and Elders, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, apart from saving faith in Messiah Yeshua, only four things are obligatory for Gentile Christians to observe (see Acts 15, especially verses 19-20, 28-29). I would also include obedience to the Moral Law – laws such as not murdering, not stealing, and not committing adultery. These are moral laws which God has written on everyone’s heart (see Romans 2:14-15).
If someone wants to observe a Biblical holiday or custom, there is the freedom to do so, but there is no obligation to do so. We have the freedom to celebrate the Passover and the Jewish holidays, but also the freedom not to. If someone says, “Messiah is my Passover and I don’t need to celebrate a Passover Seder” – fine. If someone else says, “I want to celebrate the Passover and better remember Messiah my Passover Lamb” – that’s fine too.
However, that being said, there are many principles for godly living that may be applied from the Torah to the life of the Christian. Torah means “teaching” or “instruction,” and it still serves as a teaching guide for Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles (the Church). For example, should a Christian have a tattoo? The New Testament is silent on the subject, but the Torah teaches us God’s will on this practice (see Leviticus 19:28).
Summarizing the Gentiles’ relationship to the Torah, I would say that all that is necessary for Gentiles is to have faith in Messiah Yeshua. That alone saves us. Then there are the four basic requirements in Acts 15. Then there are the moral requirements of the Law that are already written on everyone’s heart. Anything beyond these requirements is optional.
Question: I understand that the First Jerusalem Council didn’t demand that the new Gentile Believers keep all of the commandments right away, but doesn’t Acts 15:21 teach that as these new Believers matured, they should learn Torah at their own pace, and become more Torah observant? Answer: There is a better way to understand Acts 15:21. Acts 15 records the decision of Messiah’s Emissaries (the Apostles) and the Elders of Messiah’s Holy Community (the Church) regarding the relationship of Gentile Christians to the 613 laws of the Torah. In Messianic circles, this meeting is often referred to as “the First Jerusalem Council.” According to the binding decision issued by the Emissaries and Elders, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, apart from saving faith in Messiah Yeshua, only four things are obligatory for Gentile Believers to observe (see Acts 15, especially verses 19-20, 28-29). It was understood that obedience to the Moral Law – laws such as not murdering, not stealing, and not committing adultery, which God has written on everyone’s heart, were also included (see Romans 2:14-15). After these four requirements were given, in the very next verse (15:21), Ya’akov (James) said: For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath. James, the Messiah’s brother and the head of Messiah’s Community in Jerusalem, was not saying that Gentile Believers should start off slow, with just the four requirements previously mentioned, and then move on to more Torah observance, and learn about Torah observance from those in the synagogue. No, Ya’akov was summarizing the Council’s position and making the very same point, but in another way – that all 613 commandments are not required of the Gentile Believers – only those four things mentioned (along with the moral laws that God has written on everyone’s heart), and that this is what Moses taught, and what the synagogues teach. Even today, non-Messianic synagogues teach the same thing – that Gentiles don’t need to become Jews, or follow all 613 commandments, in order to be right with God.
Question: I read your article about conversion and how it’s wrong to convert Gentiles into Messianic Jews, and I’m confused. I have been attending a Messianic synagogue for about a year. I truly feel the Holy Spirit working in my life. I have a hunger to find out what God wants for my life. The Torah and the New Testament make sense now. My confusion is this: As a Gentile, am I not to follow the Torah? I understand that nothing but the atoning blood of the Messiah will save me, not my works or following the Law. Because I am saved, I want to follow the Law. Is this not right – because I am not Jewish? Answer: As a person from a nation other than Israel, your focus is not the Sinai Covenant and Sinai Covenant law-keeping. Your focus is Messiah – getting close to Him, becoming like Him, having character like Him, sharing His values and goals, telling those outside His Community about Him and doing something to build His Community from within. Sinai Covenant law-keeping is optional; it is not required. As a Christian living under Messiah’s New Covenant, you have the freedom to observe those parts of the Sinai Covenant that are meaningful to you.
Question: I am a Gentile believer in Yeshua and I have a question about Torah observance. Would it be wrong to follow Torah if I am not a Jew? I believe that salvation is only though faith in Yeshua and not by works of the Law, but I have been feeling convicted to follow the Law. I know it won’t make me more holy or save me, but I don’t know what to do. Answer: While it is not wrong for a Gentile to follow the Torah, after observing many people trying to do that for a number of years, my opinion is that it’s not spiritually profitable. It’s trading one lifestyle for another. And it can be dangerous. Why? I have seen people lose focus. Their focus becomes Sinai-Covenant observances, rituals and ceremonies, and not Yeshua and the Gospel. Yeshua gets crowded out and “Torah observance” becomes the focus. As they get deeper and deeper into it, they get more and more legalistic, and they get disconnected from the rest of the Church. I have known some who have denied Yeshua altogether. Keep in mind that the Sinai Covenant is a broken covenant, and there is no way to live a true “Torah-observant” life. That being said, if you want to incorporate things from the Torah into your lifestyle, you are welcome to do so. Just don’t lose the right focus! I also recommend that you study the teaching titled Dispensationalism.
Question: A Catholic friend has been asking me about my beliefs. I now consider myself to be Messianic Jewish. He asks why I do “Jewish” things when I’m not Jewish. I explained that I don’t believe what I do – observing Shabbat and the Biblical holidays and eating Kosher – are “Jewish” but are “Biblical” and are for all believers to participate in. He disagrees – that because Yeshua died for us, believers in Yeshua don’t have to observe the laws of the Torah. He said being filled with the Holy Spirit is what leads us through life. Can you help me understand this more? Answer: Your Catholic friend is wrong about a lot of things (see Is Roman Catholicism True Christianity?). But he is right about what is necessary for the people from the nations to observe as part of Messiah’s New Covenant – which is minimal. Sabbath and holidays and keeping kosher are not obligatory. I recommend you read the decision of the First Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, which decided these matters. I also recommend you study the teaching on Dispensationalism until you thoroughly understand it.
Question: I don’t feel comfortable with any churches in my area. I’m not able to join in with them in any heartfelt way. Yeshua is Jewish. All the Apostles are Jewish. Yeshua did not start a new religion. He came to re-direct His own people back to the core of the one and only religion God ever gave humanity. And that only true religion is Jewish, given on Sinai. To follow my Messiah, I must keep the true religion because that’s what my Messiah did. Answer: While I appreciate your emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus and His disciples, regrettably, you don’t understand Messiah’s New Covenant. You are guilty of “legalism,” which is a very serious theological error. Evangelical Christianity is the religion ordained by Yeshua, and Messianic Judaism is part of Evangelical Christianity. You need to reject the false teaching you have embraced and join a good Evangelical church. I recommend you study the book of Galatians and use my commentary on it, which is available on the website.
Question: What happens to Jewish people who don’t believe in Yeshua? Are they lost and going to Hell? Answer: Incredibly, there are many so-called Christians, and even some Messianic Jews today, who suggest that Jewish people don’t need to believe in Yeshua in order to be saved! They teach that since the Jewish people have a covenant with God, they don’t need the New Covenant of the Messiah; or they teach that all religions will get everyone to Heaven. Little could be farther from the truth! Very early in human history, our first parents rebelled against God, and sin and death took control of humanity. Instead of drawing nearer to God, Adam and Eve ran away from HaMakor – the Source of Life. The entire world was now cursed, along with all mankind; Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, and forbidden to eat from the Tree of Life. The whole world (which includes the Jewish people) remains dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). The whole world is perishing, decaying and headed for destruction like a rotten piece of fruit (John 3:16). Rabbi Paul, the great theologian sent to the Gentiles, wrote the Church at Rome that he was not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Paul made it clear that Jewish people not only are not exempt from the need to receive Yeshua, but in fact the Good News is supposed to go to us first! Paul went on to declare that all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law (the Jewish people) will be judged by the Law… we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 2:12, 3:9, 23).
Simon Peter, one of the leaders of Yeshua’s Emissaries, standing before the Sanhedrin, declared to the priests, Torah scholars and rabbis of Israel that there is salvation in no one other than Yeshua of Nazareth, and there is no other spiritual reality anywhere in the universe which can bring us salvation. It doesn’t get much clearer than that! John, one of the other Emissaries and Yeshua’s closest friend, wrote that, He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. It’s as simple as that. The Son of God Himself said that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that apart from placing faith in Him, no man could get to the Father. Rabbi Yeshua said to a group of Jewish leaders (men who believed in God, who knew the Torah, who went to the Temple in Jerusalem and who offered sacrifices): Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins (John 8:24). If we could be saved by Judaism, Messiah Yeshua wouldn’t have said to a Jewish man like Nicodemus that it wasn’t enough to be born once, even if one was a knowledgeable or pious rabbi. Even a leading Torah-teacher like Nicodemus needed to be born again – to undergo a spiritual rebirth, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. There are scores of places in the Holy Scriptures which teach that all of humanity (including the Jewish people) is utterly lost, and that each and every Jewish person (along with everyone else), in order to be saved, must hear and believe the Good News about the Messiah.
Pretending the dying patient isn’t sick doesn’t help the patient. Acknowledging that he is sick, and then administering the appropriate medicine is what the dying patient needs. Allowing Jewish people to die without Yeshua is spiritual malpractice of the highest order!
What about those who say that Jewish people have never really heard about the Messiah, or that an anti-Semitic Jesus was presented to them by a corrupt church? Ignorance is no excuse. Hosea warned us that “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” We are responsible for the information given to us through Moses and the prophets. Yeshua said: They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them (Luke 16:29). We have the revealed Word of God, written by our own Jewish prophets, which clearly points us to Yeshua. Didn’t Moses specifically promise that God would raise up another great prophet, like himself, who would speak the words of God to us, and if we didn’t listen to that prophet, God would judge us severely (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19)? The Son of God claimed that He was written about in our very own Torah! The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me (John 5:45-46). No Jewish person is going to appear before God and say, “Judge of the whole Earth, I’m not responsible for not believing in the Savior you sent to us. I never knew.” Or, “Master of the universe, I didn’t like the way Yeshua was presented to me. Besides, my rabbi told me not to believe in Him, so it’s not my fault.” These excuses won’t be accepted! We are responsible for choosing the spiritual leaders to whom we listen. We are warned not to listen to false teachers. If the blind mislead the blind, so that both fall into a pit, both are responsible.
While it may be true that much of the Church has presented a Yeshua that has been stripped of His Jewishness, many true Christians have also shown us the love of God, often at great cost to themselves. Besides, there has also been a remnant of Messianic Jews in every generation. For example, there were many Messianic Jews in Poland before World War Two. I am told that there were four Messianic Synagogues in Warsaw before the Holocaust, and that there were many Messianic Jews who were sent to the concentration camps, who had a Jewish witness to the reality of Yeshua to their fellow Jews.
There are some today who teach “Two-Covenant” theology, the idea that God has one saving covenant with the Jewish people, and a different saving covenant with the Church (the New Covenant); therefore Jewish people don’t need to accept Yeshua, since He is part of the New Covenant. That’s terribly wrong! The Messiah and His New Covenant was presented first to the Jewish people! It was specifically predicted by the prophet Jeremiah that the New Covenant was to be made with the Jewish people (see Jeremiah 31:31-34). While it is true that the people of Israel have had several covenants with God (the covenants made with Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant made with Yeshua), that does not mean that an individual Jewish person can reject a covenant and still be saved. The fact that Israel has a national covenant with God does not save every individual Jewish person. After all, not all Israel are Israel. Since the coming of the Messiah, it is only those Jews who have welcomed Messiah Yeshua and the New Covenant who are saved.
There are certain theological boundaries that distinguish between orthodoxy and heresy: Inspiration of the Scriptures, the Trinity, the Deity of Yeshua, and the sanctity of human life in all of its stages. The need for all people, including Jewish people, to personally receive Messiah Yeshua in this life in order to be saved, is one of those boundaries that separates orthodoxy from apostasy. Every true child of God must repudiate any teaching that crosses this boundary whenever and wherever it occurs, and call it by its true names: heresy, apostasy, compromise and cowardice. If your denomination, pastor or rabbi isn’t teaching the clear truth from the Word of God on the lostness of mankind (including the Jewish people), and the need for all people to accept Messiah Yeshua in order to experience atonement, forgiveness and salvation, I would encourage you to bring the truth to their attention. If they don’t listen, then seek a new spiritual leader who does teach the truth.
Question: One of my co-workers said God loves all people, even atheist and homosexuals. Isn’t that saying He loves the world? That doesn’t sound right to me. Answer: While God loves the world (see John 3:16), that does not mean that every sinner, atheist and homosexual will go to Heaven. There is a difference between love and acceptance. Messiah taught us that the majority will go to Hell: Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. God loves atheists and homosexuals – enough to have sent His Son who provides salvation – to those who repent and become loyal to the Father and the Son. I suggest you meditate on the third chapter of John, which should clarify these things for you. And, I hope that you yourself are loyal to the Messiah. If not, you should become so immediately.
Question: The Torah speaks about the righteous being “gathered to their people” when they die. I do not like the idea of my family not being there to gather me to be with them when I die. Or worse, that they could have to endure a hellish situation! And I feel the same about my fellow Jewish people everywhere. But I am concerned that close members of my family who don’t know the Messiah will resent me trying to help them become Messianic Jews. I don’t want to be estranged from them! I am walking a difficult road. What can I do? Answer: I, too, hate the thought of my family and my people going to Hell. However, denying that they are presently headed there doesn’t help them. It is better to be estranged from family and people and be faithful to warn them, than to neglect our duty to proclaim the Good News. If we don’t warn them, we will be like the watchman who saw danger approaching and didn’t raise the alarm. That watchman will have blood on his hands and will be punished (see Ezekiel 33). How will they hear, and why will they consider, if we who are closest to them don’t tell them, and if we are not insistent about the reality of Hell and the importance of salvation and eternal life that only comes through faith in Messiah Yeshua?
Question: How were Jewish people saved before the coming of the Messiah? By keeping the laws? Answer: Jewish people who lived before Yeshua arrived were saved according to the same principles we are today – by having faith in God and His Word and by having the blood of atonement. Abraham is a good example. Abraham believed in the Lord; and the Lord counted it to Abraham as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Abraham had faith in God and faith in God’s Word. As a result of that, the Lord considered Abraham to be righteous. In addition to faith, the blood of atonement was essential to salvation. The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood, by reason of the life that makes atonement (Leviticus 17:11). The animal sacrifices provided the blood of atonement; however, it provided only a temporary covering for sins. The blood of bulls and goats, rams, lambs and doves could never fully atone for human beings, since human beings are more valuable than animals. Then, when the Messiah arrived and made the ultimate sacrifice, His atonement was applied backward in time to those who had faith and had the temporary atonement provided by the animal sacrifices. Just like us today, they received ultimate atonement because of the Messiah.
Preface To A Question: My Orthodox Jewish friend recently died. This woman loved God but never knew who Jesus was … Answer: I have to challenge your statement about your friend loving God. Your friend may have had a zeal for God not according to knowledge, but she did not have genuine love for God. The Word of God is clear that all of humanity (including non-Messianic Jewish people), is at war with God. We are part of a great rebellion against God. We are not in a right relationship with God. We don’t have peace with God. We don’t love God. It is the one who knows and loves the Son and submits to Him who truly loves the Father. The Messiah said to a group of very religious Jewish men: If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God (John 8:42). If I had a good son who was very much like me, and someone disliked or ignored him but claimed to love me, I would know that his claim to love me was false. How can he love me if he hates my son who is just like me? The same holds true of love for God the Father and God the Son. Yeshua is the perfect reflection of God the Father. He shares the Father’s name and nature, deity and essence. He always did everything that pleased His Father. How can someone claim to love the Father but hate the Son, who perfectly reflects who God is? Consider the words of John: Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah (the anointed, God-ordained prophet, priest and king sent by God)? … Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22-23).
Question: According to the five books of Moses, for sins to be forgiven, animals had to be sacrificed. Since the temple was destroyed, animals are no longer sacrifices. I’m a Christian and know that the Messiah is the final sacrifice for everyone. Since most Jewish people don’t accept Jesus or His sacrifice for us, how do they believe their sins are forgiven? Answer: Those Jewish people who are genuinely concerned about atonement (unfortunately, a minority) believe that by following the laws of Judaism, and by prayer and repentance, the scales of justice will be tipped in their favor. Sadly, they are wrong. All people, the Jewish people included, need faith in Messiah and His sacrifice to have their sins forgiven.
Question: Where does the New Testament teach that it’s wrong for Christians to convert to Judaism/Messianic Judaism? Answer: The decision of the First Jerusalem Council, which decided this issue, is recorded in Acts 15. The book of Galatians is also about this issue. A simple and clear statement against conversion is found in 1 Corinthians 7: Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. For a detailed teaching against conversion, see Conversion?.
Question: How can a Christian become a Messianic Jew? Answer: Under Messiah’s New Covenant, a Gentile (a non-Jew, a person from a nation other than Israel) can’t become a Messianic Jew and doesn’t need to. Here’s some good news: A Gentile Christian is welcome to join a Messianic synagogue like ours and be treated as an equal. There is no need to become a Messianic Jew – and it is wrong for you to try and do so. No conversion! Follow-up Question: I’m not sure if your answer satisfies me. I don’t see why, if we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, we can’t serve Him in the same way. Answer: Messianic Jews and people from the nations who follow Messiah do serve Him in the same way – by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves; by holy living and developing godly character; by proclaiming the Good News to the Jewish people first and also to the nations; and by building up Messiah’s community from within. We serve Messiah the same way – but that doesn’t mean that Gentiles become Jews or need to adopt a Sinai Covenant lifestyle, especially since the Sinai Covenant is a broken covenant.
Question: It’s common in movies for a Jewish man to marry a Christian woman and she converts with no hassle. Does this really happen or does it only happen in the movies? Answer: It does happen. Reform Judaism makes it relatively easy for conversion – which arouses the ire of Orthodox Judaism. And I don’t like it either. If you are a Gentile Christian and serious about what God wants, you don’t want to “convert.” Be who God made you to be and ask your Jewish boyfriend to acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah and join a good Messianic synagogue – or end your relationship to him. Here’s some good news: If you did marry a Jewish person, you wouldn’t be Jewish, but your children would be Jewish. That is a legitimate way of becoming part of the Jewish people.
Question: Since becoming a Christian, I have a new heart that loves the Jewish people. I have been reading and desiring to learn more about Yeshua, and His Jewish background. Now I want more information about becoming a Messianic Jew. Answer: I am delighted by your growing appreciation of the Jewishness of Yeshua, and touched by your love for my people, and that you are willing to become a Messianic Jew. However, it is wrong for you to “become a Jew” or “convert to Judaism” – even “Messianic Judaism.” It is the clear teaching of the Word of God that Jews who believe in the Messiah remain Jews, and don’t become Gentiles. It is also the clear teaching of the Word of God that Gentiles who believe in the Messiah remain Gentiles, and don’t become Jews.
God does not want everyone to become a Jew. God does not make any mistakes, and He specifically ordained that you come from the parents, people and nation that you came from. The God of Israel is a God who created much diversity, and Messiah’s Community was designed to be made up of both Jews and people from every nation, people and language group. Further, I would call your attention to Rabbi Paul’s wise admonition in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, about the necessity of Jews remaining Jews, and Gentiles remaining Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles are to remain in the calling in which they are called. Africans remain African when they come to believe in Messiah; Chinese people remain Chinese, Europeans remain European, and Jews remain Jews – part of their people, and part of their culture.
Being a Gentile is not a negative or bad thing. It simply means that you were born to a nation other than the nation of Israel. The word “Gentile” is a good Biblical term that is used to differentiate the Jewish people from the other nations. I like to call those Gentiles who are part of our movement “Kosher-hearted” Gentiles, Messianic Gentiles, Gentile Believers, or Christians. All are good terms.
Consider the fact that now that you have found the Jewish Messiah, you lack absolutely nothing! You have been grafted into Israel’s Olive Tree of Salvation and Blessing. You have been reconciled to the God of Israel. Joined to Yeshua, the King of the Jews, you are complete! Every spiritual blessing in Heaven is yours! You are a fellow citizen with the Messianic Jews and the Jewish saints who lived before the Son of God came to Earth, and will live forever with us in the New Jerusalem. That should be enough for all of us!
Question: I am Jewish. I am marrying a Christian man. We would like you to officiate the ceremony. Let me tell you how I found you. First, we were looking for a rabbi and a priest. Not that many rabbis are willing to co-officiate an interfaith wedding. They are willing to officiate it, but not so much with a priest. Then we found a slew of rabbis from Humanistic Judaism – but most of them don’t believe in God. That was weird to say the least. So that was not an option. Then my fiancé’s brother came up with a great idea – a Messianic rabbi! You would be marrying people of the two religions that you believe in. We hope you are interested and can help. Answer: I’m glad that you reached out to us, but I don’t think I will be able to marry you, and here’s why: For us, marriage is about becoming “one flesh.” It’s a coming together of a man and a woman in every way – physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. And a good marriage involves being joined to the Community of the Messiah, so that the full one-flesh relationship can be nurtured and strengthened, and so if children come, they can be raised in Messiah’s Community. If that’s where the two of you are at, or are willing to head in that direction, let me know.
Question: I am the pastor of a church. A woman came to me seeking help for her granddaughter who is romantically involved with a Jewish man. The granddaughter is a member of this church. Apparently the man is encouraging the granddaughter to learn more about Judaism. What should I tell her? Answer: I have seen this situation repeated many times; and you, pastor, should not marry them until he becomes a believer. Even though the woman who is considering marrying this Jewish man is a member of your church, she is not a serious Christian. In fact, she may not be a real Christian at all. If she were serious about pleasing God and doing His will, she would know that it is wrong for a believer to marry a non-believer. If, after being warned not to become unequally yoked, she goes ahead and marries him, she will find her husband to be an obstacle preventing her from serving the Lord fully and from raising her children to follow God and Messiah. Like an ox and a donkey that are yoked together but don’t have the same strengths and temperament and therefore can’t even plow a straight furrow together, a husband and wife who don’t share the true Faith will have different strengths and interests, pulling each other in different directions. They will be unable to achieve a spiritually strong family life. Typically the kids from this kind of marriage grow up with a father who is their role model who is against Messiah and who undermines them in the most important area of their life – their spiritual life. I have had many Christian women come to me with tears, filled with regret for having disobeyed the Lord’s command not to be unequally yoked. I urge you to do everything in your power as this young woman’s pastor to discourage her from making a terrible mistake.
Question: I have a daughter who is planning to marry another woman. Should I go to the wedding? If I don’t, I will hurt her feelings and jeopardize our relationship. Rabbi Glenn’s Answer: I am sympathetic to your plight. To attend the ceremony is to imply an endorsement of the union, which your biblical convictions preclude. Refusing to attend may very well alienate you daughter. How, then, to affirm your love for her while honoring the Lord above all?
Scripture clearly calls us to honor God and His Kingdom above every other relationship. Yeshua said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” The reality of this situation is that attending the wedding will convey the impression that your principles are negotiable, and for the sake of convenience can be set aside. Not going to the wedding will convey the impression that you are inflexible and harsh. But ultimately what anyone else thinks of you is irrelevant. You have to be able to live with a clear conscience. Perhaps you can privately convey to your daughter this tension, assure her of your love for her, and let her know that, as hard as it is for you, you must put God’s kingdom first. My prayer is that your daughter (and, by extension, others who will learn of your absence) will understand. In that sense, yours is genuine love. Yes, your daughter will be hurt, but also will have the choice to forgive you for not attending.
It isn’t a foregone conclusion that the relationship will be forever broken. Statistically speaking, most homosexual unions do not endure, but are short-lived. Consequently, there is a real possibility that your daughter’s partner will be out of the picture before long. In the meantime, assure your daughter that while your love for her will not change, you cannot support the choice she is making.
Question: Isn’t it OK to pray to the saints who have already died? After all, you can find an example of the “Communion of Saints” in the book of Revelation. The angels and saints are seen offering incense to God, which are the prayers of God’s faithful. Those in Heaven pray for those on Earth. It is the ministry of intercession – a ministry binding on those on Earth as well. They pray for us and we pray for them. We do not cease to be part of the mystical body of Christ because we shed this mortal frame. Answer: While the saints in Heaven may be praying for us, there is a huge difference between that and the saints on Earth praying to or for the saints in Heaven. There is no Biblical justification for that. We are instructed to pray to God alone – never to any human being. There is only one mediator between God and human beings – the Son of God, who is fully God and fully man (1 Timothy 2:5). We don’t pray to angels. We don’t pray to human beings who have died (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), nor do we pray for them. They are beyond the help of our prayers. Their lives and their justice are in the hands of God. I am comforted that the saints in Heaven may be praying for the saints on Earth. I am greatly disturbed when the saints on Earth pray to or for the saints in Heaven! The one is permitted, but the other forbidden.
Question: Shouldn’t we pray to God using His proper name (YHVH, the Tetragrammaton)? How can we “call on the name of the Lord” if we don’t use His proper name? With all the verses that talk about calling on the name of the Lord, how can I say I love His name if I never use it? Even more importantly, if we are to call on the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13), how can we be saved if we don’t use His correct name? Answer: “YHVH” is a name that is usually translated as “Lord.” It is used approximately 7,000 times in the Tenach (Old Testament), more than any other name or title for God. It is also referred to as the “Tetragrammaton.” which means “The Four Letters.” because it comes from four Hebrew letters: Yud, Hay, Vav, Hay. This is the special memorial-name that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am; and He said, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I Am has sent me to you … this is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations (Exodus 3:14-15). This name comes from the Hebrew verb that means “to be.” YHVH emphasizes God’s absolute being. He is the source of all being, all life and all existence. He has being inherent in Himself. Everything else derives its existence from Him. YHVH denotes God’s utter transcendence. He is beyond His creation. He is the Eternal One, without beginning and without end.
Although some pronounce YHVH as Jehovah or Yahweh or some other way, we no longer know the proper pronunciation. The Jewish people stopped pronouncing this name by the third century A.D. out of fear of violating the commandment: You shall not take the name of YHVH your God in vain (Exodus 20:7). According to Jewish tradition, the Tetragrammaton may not be pronounced under any circumstances. Another name, “Adonai.” is usually substituted in place of YHVH. But even if we did know the proper way to say YHVH, that misses the point. “Calling on the name of the Lord” is not about pronouncing certain syllables the right way. God’s name represents who He is. God’s Name stands for His essence, nature, attributes, character, power and authority. One can call on the name of the Lord without using the Tetragrammaton. One can call on the name of the Lord by using any of the dozens of names and titles for God that are used in the Bible! When we call on the name of the Lord, we are declaring who God is, asking for His help, and conducting ourselves accordingly. In a similar way, praying “in the name of Jesus” doesn’t mean praying a prayer (perhaps even a bad or misguided prayer) and then tacking on “in Jesus’ name, amen” at the end of the prayer. When we pray in the name of Yeshua, it means that we are praying as He would pray, praying according to His authority, and in agreement with His mind and will, praying a good prayer that receives His approval and blessing. One doesn’t have to add the words, “in Jesus’ name” to pray in Jesus name! For example, if I pray, “God of Israel, Father of Yeshua and my Father too, I pray for so and so’s daily bread, and that he would sanctify Your name today, and that You would not lead him into temptation today,” even though I am not saying “in Jesus’ name,” I am still praying in the name of Yeshua because I am praying as He taught us to pray, praying as He would pray, and praying according to His will. My prayer is acceptable because I believe in Yeshua and am joined to Him by faith. As further evidence of this, I would point out that there aren’t any prayers in the New Testament that end with “in Jesus name, amen.” Even “The Lord’s Prayer,” a model prayer in which the Son of God instructs us how to pray, does not end this way. When Rabbi Paul writes: whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Yeshua (Colossians 3:17), he doesn’t mean that when we drink a glass of water, we must say “in Jesus name” before or after drinking that water. When we put on clothes, we don’t need to say, “I have put on this particular garment in Jesus name.” When we take a walk, we don’t need to say, “this walk is done in Jesus name.” It means that everything we do is something that pleases the Son of God and about which He approves.
Question: I am a Christian. Why aren’t my prayers being answered? There are promises that God has made that don’t happen to me. For example: No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. I have seen much good withheld from me, and not just from my life, but many others. The Scriptures also say: Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will bring it to pass. This is not an experience in my life, and it doesn’t seem to be the experience of many others, either. Answer: God answers prayers that are prayed according to His will and prayed in the name of Yeshua. All too often we don’t pray correctly. We pray for things that, if God granted them to us, might harm us and others. Also, you need to be careful about claiming the promises that were given to the Jewish people as part of the blessings of the Sinai covenant. God does not promise to give those who are part of Messiah’s New Covenant all of the same blessings that He promised Israel for faithfulness to the covenant mediated by Moses. He promises us our daily bread and enough things to meet our needs, along with trials along the way. Most importantly, He promised that His grace would be sufficient for us to get us through life’s journey. My answer to you is – trust God; understand to whom the various covenants and the promises that are part of them are specifically directed; and like the disciples, ask the Lord: Teach me how to pray.
Question: Is it right to address our prayers to the Holy Spirit rather than to Father or Son? I heard one preacher praying to the Third Person of the Trinity exclusively without mentioning God the Father or God the Son. What do you think? Answer: I find it strange to address prayers to the Holy Spirit. Almost all the prayers in the Bible are addressed to God the Father. I think there are good reasons for that. The Father is the One seated on the main throne of Heaven; He is superior to the Son and the Spirit in position and authority. In addition, one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is not to point us to Himself, but to point us to Yeshua, who points us to the Father. When the disciples asked the Son to teach them to pray, He instructed them to pray to our Father in Heaven. The standard way of praying is to direct our prayers to God the Father, knowing that we have access to Him because we are joined to His Son and because our prayers are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Question: I have heard many people claim that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Does God hear the prayers of Jewish people and Muslims who have not accepted Jesus? Answer: Yes and no. The book of Proverbs tells us that the prayer of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. The man who is not in a right relationship with God often prays for the wrong things, and if God answers his prayers, it only solidifies that person in that wrong relationship. God may answer the prayers of an unbeliever – if they are good prayers and come under the will of God, and if those prayers are moving that person closer toward God. Those answers to prayer can be part of God’s goodness that help lead a person to repentance. Good prayer begins by acknowledging the true God, the God of Israel, the Three-In-One God. Good prayer is preceded by faith, confession of sin and genuine repentance. Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments (Joel 2:12-13). Only after knowing who God truly is, and after confession and repentance, are we able to pray correctly and make our requests known to Him. Prayers that are heard and answered should be prayed by a person who knows the Three-In-One God, and prayed in the name of Yeshua – as Yeshua Himself would pray. Muslim and non-Messianic Jewish people are not in a right relationship with the Three-In-One God. The Lord may respond to some of their prayers, but is not obligated to do so. Many people who call themselves Christians are also not right with God. Do you think that God is impressed with the prayers of those who defy the Lord by being pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, or those who are greedy and immoral? For the past 50 years many Americans have turned their backs on God. We have removed many of His principles from our schools, courts, media and culture. Do you think the Holy God is obligated to hear and answer the prayers of a nation or its representatives who are aiding and abetting the murder of 3,000 babies every day?
Question: God has put a great love for Israel and the Jewish people in my heart. I weep every time He brings them to mind, which is almost daily. I pray for Israel and its government, the Israeli Defense Force, and the Jewish people almost every day. I pray for their protection, for Divine strategies, for exposure of all the enemies’ plots, schemes and plans and that this information would get into the hands of those who need to know. I pray that all those who are in positions of authority would be of one mind. I pray that the Jewish people would be awakened to their rich heritage. I pray that the children of Israel would know the peace of God. I pray that the Jewish people and the nation of Israel continue to be blessed with creative ideas, inventions, and excel in every field so that the world would see the hand of God on them. I pray for the United States, that God would give us leaders who are determined to bless Israel and defend the Jewish people. If there is any way that I need to adjust my prayer, anything that I can pray in addition to what I’ve mentioned, or any way that I can bless the Jewish people, please share that with me. Answer: Those are very good prayers and it delights me to know that you are praying for my people like this. I recommend you add the following prayers to your list: that more and more Jewish people become receptive to the Good News; that more and more of us turn to the Messiah and are saved; that more and more Christians stand with Israel; that the Church implements Romans 1:16 – bringing the Good News to the Jewish people first; that Christians become passionate about Jewish evangelism; that God sends more laborers to work in the Jewish harvest; that Messianic congregations and evangelistic ministries to the Jewish people prosper.
Question: Why is it that there are times when I don’t feel the Lord in my life? Answer: What you are feeling is normal. Almost all Christians and Messianic Jews experience times when they don’t feel close to God. It feels like He is not there. God designed us with emotion, and our emotions can vary. There are times when we are on the mountain top and feel very close to God and there are times when we are in the valley of the shadow of death and feel far from God. During those times when we don’t feel close to God, we remind ourselves of the truth: that we live by faith, not by sight. That means that we live by what we know is true – that Messiah promised to never leave us or forsake us; that Messiah assured us: “I am with you always”; that His Spirit lives in us, no matter how we are feeling. One other thing: If we are not feeling close to God, it may not be a matter of our emotions. Sin creates a barrier between us and God. If we are allowing sin in our life, we need to identify it, confess it, turn from it, and ask the Lord to fill us with His Spirit. That should help us feel close to God once again.
Question: Why has the Church rejected God’s laws and substituted pagan practices? Doesn’t that make the Church pagan? Answer: No, the Church is not pagan, although there are a few pagan practices that should be eliminated. The early Gentile Christian leaders understood that salvation came through faith in Messiah alone, and that Yeshua was sufficient for them. They also understood that they didn’t need to adopt a Jewish lifestyle to be part of the people of God. They understood the decision of the First Jerusalem Council, that Gentile Believers were not obligated to observe Jewish customs and days. Apart from faith in Messiah Yeshua, only four observances were considered obligatory for Gentile Believers (see Acts 15, especially verses 19-20 and 28-29), along with obedience to the Moral Law – laws such as not murdering, not stealing or committing adultery – laws which God has already written on everyone’s heart. They understood the admonition of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles: “as any man called already circumcised? Let him not be uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised … Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called (1 Corinthians 7:18, 20). Jewish people don’t need to stop living the lifestyle and calling to which God has called us, nor do Gentiles need to start living as Jews. The early Gentile Christian leaders understood that the best way to reach their own people with the Good News about the Jewish Messiah was to frame that message within the context of their cultures. So, instead of eradicating certain pagan practices, they felt the Kingdom of God would be better served by introducing and integrating Messiah into those practices.
Patrick, whom the Lord used to bring the Good News to Ireland, is a great example. After Patrick arrived in Ireland as a missionary, the greatest showdown of his ministry occurred in the early morning hours of his first Easter Sunday, when Patrick came face to face with druid priests and Irish chieftains. There were many kingdoms in Ireland, but one high king who dwelt at Tara. Part of the pagan worship marking the change of season from winter to spring was lighting a fire. The fire at Tara was ignited first. But on the hill of Slane, Patrick preempted the high king and the druid priests by lighting the Easter fire. Patrick was summoned before the king and he explained that he was bringing the new light, the Light of Messiah, the Savior and Light of the world. Patrick was not punished, but instead allowed to go his way and continue his work. Patrick used this pagan custom to proclaim the Good News, and the result was that in 29 years of ministry, Patrick baptized over 120,000 Irishmen and planted 300 churches. Through Patrick, much of Ireland came to the Messiah. (This information about Patrick is based on the article, “Who Was Saint Patrick?” by David Kithcart, published at www.christianity.com.) Did Patrick instruct his new Irish believers to begin living like the Jews? Did he instruct them to have their own Passover Seders and celebrate Sukkot? Was his message to these new Believers, “Now that you have the Messiah, you must also start observing the 613 commandments of the Torah, as the Jewish people do?” No!
There are certain pagan practices which contradict the Word of God that they cannot be sanctified and should not be used at all. For example, many pagans had shrines, in which they prayed to their gods, including a mother-god figure. It seems that, instead of giving up this idolatry, some nominal Christians simply substituted Mary and the saints, and kept their idols and pagan shrines. Praying to “the saints” (fellow human beings who have died), or using statues and icons, are practices which are incompatible with Biblical worship. I also find the “Sacrifice of the Mass” – if it is practiced with the understanding that we are literally eating the body of the Messiah, and literally drinking His blood, to be pagan, since the Bible expressly forbids cannibalism and the consumption of blood (Leviticus 17:10).
How can we tell if a tradition or practice is good and can be engaged in, or pagan and must be rejected? If a practice itself is neutral (lighting candles, drinking wine, wearing a six pointed star), good meaning can be brought into it. But if the practice is specifically forbidden by the Word of God, it must be rejected. Also, when it comes to these traditions, they must be understood to be optional, and not required. When a tradition is insisted upon, that crosses the line into legalism.
Question: Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate it? Answer: No, Christmas is not a pagan holiday. The early Christian leaders understood the decision of the First Jerusalem Council (see Acts 15), that the Christians from the nations were not required to observe all the laws of the Sinai Covenant and that, apart from faith in Messiah and obedience to the Moral Law – laws such as not murdering, not stealing, or not committing adultery (laws that God has already written on everyone’s heart) only four observances were obligatory for the Christians from the nations. The early Gentile Christian leaders understood that the best way to reach their own people with the Good News was to frame that message within the context of their cultures. So, instead of eradicating pagan holidays, they removed the pagan darkness from them and replaced them with the light of Messiah. They kept the outward form but changed the inward substance. I agree with David Brickner, who, writing in the Jews for Jesus Newsletter (December 2000), made the following observations: “Some Christians are quick to point out that December 25th was regarded as the birth date of the ancient Iranian mystery god Mithra, whose followers worshiped him as the Sun of Righteousness. The date also corresponds closely with the winter solstice, that day when the sun shines furthest from the equator and the daylight in the northern hemisphere is shortest. Many ancient cultures celebrated the winter solstice with traditions of gift giving and merrymaking, as well as decorating their homes with greenery and lights. Could such traditions in Christmas celebrations be the devil’s plot to sow paganism into the body of Christ? Some believe that destructive pagan roots are so pervasive in the December Advent season that Christians ought not observe Christmas at all. But we need not hold such a dark view of Christmas. It seems likely that the December celebration was promoted in order to replace pagan celebrations. It would have been a good choice on the part of early Christian leaders who wanted to establish Christ’s preeminence in hearts of people from a wide array of cultures. If some of these people adapted familiar customs to worship Emmanuel rather than the false gods they had rejected, shouldn’t we rejoice? As long as the customs are not immoral, unbiblical or idolatrous, why not worship the Lord in ways that are meaningful within the context of one’s culture? If new believers were going to be tempted by their old pagan religions, perhaps their old festivals and life cycle events would present the greatest temptation. By focusing on the birth of Christ at such a time, perhaps those early church leaders were putting a wonderful missions principle to work, sanctifying that which was ungodly and pagan by giving the day a new and wonderful meaning in Christ. The Lord Himself employed a similar principle when He commanded the children of Israel to observe certain festivals. All three major Jewish feasts found in Deuteronomy 16 corresponded to Middle Eastern harvest times. Pagan nations held festivals of their own during these times, often filled with immoral rituals. God knew that Israel might be tempted and drawn into the corruption and idolatry of the surrounding nations, particularly during these harvest times. In His goodness, He gave Israel sanctified holidays to observe during these times. He gave them holidays to reflect His truth and not pagan myths. The Israelites were celebrating God’s provision at the same time the pagans were celebrating and entreating their gods for a good harvest the following year. Yet they were very separate celebrations. Perhaps we can view Christmas in a similar way – not the exact same way, since it is a man-made tradition, but with the understanding that there is a godly principle at work here. Christmas need not be dismissed as a pagan holiday. Those who choose not to celebrate should have that liberty, and those who do choose to celebrate should have the same liberty.”
Question: On your website, you have a section about holidays, but you didn’t answer the question about whether you consider Christmas valid or not. Do you believe Christmas, and also Halloween, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July should be celebrated? Answer: Christianity is about Christ – knowing Him as the living Lord, being connected to Him, being loyal to Him, receiving power from Him, having His Spirit living in you, sharing His Gospel with those outside His Community, doing something to build His Community from within. Christianity is not about external observances. It is not about a list of “dos and don’ts” – don’t touch this, don’t look at that; do this day but not that day. It is not about what you eat or what you drink. When it comes to non-essential matters like holidays, each individual has the freedom to choose what is meaningful to observe. For further teaching on this issue, I recommend you study the message I recently gave on Romans 14.
Question: If Sunday is the first day of the week, and sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday is the Sabbath and should be kept holy, then why do Christians worship on Sunday? Answer: Before 66 AD, it was advantageous for the new Gentile Believers to be closely associated with Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people. Prior to that time the Jewish people had a special relationship with the Roman Empire, and Judaism was a religion that was tolerated. The first Gentile Christians were considered to be part of Judaism, and came under its protection. All this changed, however, in 66 AD, when the Jewish people revolted against the mighty Roman Empire. From that time on, the Jewish community was looked upon with suspicion and distrust, and it became disadvantageous to be identified with Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people. After Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, and later, when the last of the Jewish Apostles died, a trend away from Jewish observances developed in the Gentile Christian communities. Then, in 132-135 AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian, this movement away from Jewish observances intensified as a result of a second, failed, Jewish revolt against Rome. The Second Revolt was crushed, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish people were forbidden to enter it. Many Gentile Believers no longer wanted to be identified with the Jewish people or culture, and deliberately disassociated themselves from our holidays, customs and traditions. So, instead of worshiping on the traditional Sabbath day, as the Jewish people, including Messiah Yeshua and the Apostles, had done for over a millennium, the first day of the week, the “day of the Sun” was chosen. The Christians infused it with new meaning, focusing on the Messiah’s resurrection. It was no longer the “day of the Sun,” but the “day of the Son” and “the Lord’s day.”
It seems that the motivating factors behind switching from Saturday to Sunday were historical, not Scriptural. No one at that time is recorded as having said, “Aha, Yeshua rose from the dead on Sunday. The Church must switch to Sunday worship!” It simply did not happen that way. Meanwhile, during those early centuries there continued to be Messianic Jewish communities which continued to worship on Shabbat, and considered sunset Friday evening until sunset Saturday evening to be the Sabbath.
There is room for both the traditional Jewish Sabbath observance, as well as worshiping on the first day of the week. Rabbi Paul makes it clear that Jewish people need not live like Gentiles, nor Gentiles live like Jews. As God has called each, in that manner let him live (see 1 Corinthians 7:17-24) – which would include days of worship. The Apostle to the Gentiles specifically pleads for tolerance when it comes to religious days (see Romans 14:5-6). When the First Jerusalem Council met to decide the relationship of Gentile Believers to the Laws of God, Sabbath observance was not required.
I would ask my Gentile Christian brothers to show this same kind of tolerance for the special calling and lifestyle of Messianic Jews. Just as the Messianic Jewish leaders at the First Jerusalem Council did not require our Gentile brothers to conform to our customs, today’s Gentile Christians, who far exceed us in numbers and influence, should now extend to us the same grace and courtesy.
Question: Is the Sabbath on Saturday, or is Sunday (the first day of the week and Lord’s day) the new Christian Sabbath? Answer: Sunday may be the new Christian Sabbath, but not because God Himself changed the seventh-day Sabbath to a first-day Sabbath. The first day of the week may be the Christian Sabbath, but it is because Christians have the freedom to worship God within their cultures and institute their own traditions – not because God ordained a switch from Saturday to Sunday. The following thoughts are based on the works of Samuele Bacchiocchi (deceased) and Clifford Goldstein. Both men were/are Seventh Day Adventists (which I consider a cult). In spite of being in serious error about many things, they have produced some good information about the Sabbath.
Has the Sabbath been switched from Saturday to Sunday? The Son of God never changed the seventh-day Sabbath to the first day of the week. Throughout His life, Yeshua consistently observed the Jewish Sabbath (Luke 4:16). In fact, Messiah never even mentioned the first day of the week! If the Sabbath were switched, you would think that the Head of the Messianic Community would institute this dramatic change Himself, or at least mention it. But nowhere in the first four books of the New Testament (the Gospels) is it recorded that Messiah ever changed the Sabbath to Sunday. In fact, our Supreme Rabbi informed us that a seventh-day Sabbath would still be kept, at least by Israel, in the future, immediately before His Second Coming (see Matthew 24:20). Even though many people assume that the Apostles became the first Christians and worshiped on Sunday, Messiah’s foundational disciples did not change the Sabbath to Sunday. They did become Christians (followers of the Messiah), but they also continued to identify and live as observant Jews. They followed the Jewish Messiah in a Jewish way, which included observing the Sabbath. Even after the resurrection, Luke 23:56-24:1 shows that the followers of Yeshua hadn’t been taught to abandon the Sabbath. Acts 1:12 mentions that the apostles were still observing the Sabbath and were aware of the Sabbath limitations regarding travel. This indicates the attitude prevailing among the apostles and Luke at the time of the writing of Acts in the 60s AD. The Jerusalem Congregation, the mother of all the churches, observed the Sabbath (Acts 21:20-21). They were zealous for the Torah. Even Rabbi Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, observed the Sabbath, along with Jews and Gentiles living outside the land of Israel (see Acts 13:14, 42, 16:13, 18:4, Acts 21:21-24). We know from history that Messianic Jews continued to observe the Sabbath for centuries.
Would it surprise you to learn that the Sabbath is mentioned 50 times in the New Testament, but the first day of the week is mentioned only eight times? Let’s consider all eight references. Matthew says nothing about Sunday replacing the Sabbath. Everything Matthew says about the first day of the week is found in just one place – 28:1. It is a historical reference to the day of Messiah’s resurrection. Mark mentions the first day of the week twice, also referring to the day on which Yeshua rose from the dead. Mark says nothing about it replacing the Sabbath. In fact, Mark said the Sabbath was past before the first day of the week began (Mark 16:1-2, 9), which means the Sabbath was distinguished from the first day of the week. Luke 23:56-24:1 shows that the followers of Yeshua hadn’t been taught to abandon the Sabbath. Luke teaches us that “on the Sabbath (the one following Messiah’s death) they rested according to the commandment.” If any of the apostles should have mentioned a change from Saturday to Sunday, it should have been the beloved disciple John, the last of the Apostles, who wrote his book toward the end of the first century. John mentions the first day of the week in just two places. John 20:1 mentions the empty tomb and 20:19 describes a gathering of the Apostles, who were hiding because of their fear of the authorities. Their meeting on the first day of the week was not a worship service. They weren’t assembled to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection, because they didn’t believe in it yet! If Sunday replaced the Sabbath, John should have said something theological about the first day of the week replacing the seventh day – but he didn’t. In the first four books of the New Testament, all mentions of the first day of the week are reports of historical events that happened, focusing on Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead. But to claim that the Sabbath was switched to the first day of the week, or that Sunday is the new Christian Sabbath, or that Sunday is now holy to the Lord, is something altogether different. Nowhere do Yeshua or Matthew, Mark, Luke or John claim that.
What about the rest of the New Testament? Surely the book of Acts, which records the early history of the Church, would have mentioned this significant change. Acts 20:7 is the only mention of the first day in the entire book of Acts. A group in Ephesus was gathered together to hear Rabbi Paul before he was about to leave them for the last time. Rabbi Paul started that community of believers. He labored there for years. This was his last meeting with them. This could have been a special meeting to see him off. Or since, according to the Bible, the first day of the week begins at sunset, the only example of a first-day meeting could just as well be a Saturday evening as a Sunday morning! In all the rest of the New Testament, the first day of the week is mentioned only one more time – in 1 Corinthians 16:2. It doesn’t mention a public worship service, only that Paul instructed the Congregation in Corinth to put money aside the first day of each week for an upcoming collection for the Messianic Jews in Israel for whom Paul was raising funds. There is nothing said about Sunday being holy, or even a public meeting for worship taking place.
Well, everyone knows that Sunday is “the Lord’s day.” What about “the Lord’s Day?” In fact, the phrase, “the Lord’s day.” is mentioned in only one place (Revelation 1:10) in the entire New Testament! Just because Sunday has been called the Lord’s Day doesn’t mean that is what John is referring to in Revelation 1:10. The Lord’s Day could also be translated “the Day of the Lord.” which refers to that special period of time connected with the Second Coming of the Messiah (see Zephaniah 1:14-18). In fact, the Lord’s Day or the Day of the Lord more likely means Saturday than Sunday. From the very beginning, God made the seventh day special, not the first day of the week. In Exodus 20:10 the Sabbath is called the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In Isaiah 58:13 the Creator calls the Sabbath “My holy day.” The Son of God called Himself “the Lord of the Sabbath” – not the Lord of the first day of the week. Nowhere in the New Testament is Sunday specifically declared to be the Lord’s Day. Nowhere in the entire New Testament is Sunday called holy, or a day that replaces the Sabbath. Nowhere in the entire New Testament is there a teaching passage where it specifically says that Sunday is the new Christian Sabbath.
Historical, not scriptural factors, are what prompted the switch from Saturday to Sunday as the day of worship. After Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, and later when the last of the Jewish Apostles died, a trend away from Jewish observances developed in the Gentile Christian communities. Then, in 132-135 AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian, this movement away from Jewish observances intensified as a result of a second, failed, Jewish revolt against Rome. The Second Revolt was crushed, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish people were forbidden to enter it. Many Gentile Believers no longer wanted to be identified with the Jewish people or culture, and deliberately disassociated themselves from our holidays, customs and traditions. So, instead of worshiping on the traditional Sabbath day, as the Jewish people, including Messiah Yeshua and the Apostles had done for over a millennium, the primarily Gentile Church chose the first day of the week, the “day of the Sun.” The Christians infused it with new meaning, focusing on the Messiah’s resurrection. It was no longer the “day of the Sun,” but the “day of the Son” and “the Lord’s day.” No one at that time is recorded as having said, “Aha, the Son of God rose from the dead on Sunday. The Church must switch to Sunday worship!” It simply did not happen that way. Throughout those early centuries there continued to be Messianic Jewish communities that worshiped on Shabbat and considered sunset Friday evening until sunset Saturday evening to be the Sabbath.
There is room for both the traditional Jewish Sabbath observance and worship on the first day of the week. Rabbi Paul makes it clear that Jewish people need not live like Gentiles, nor Gentiles live like Jews. As God has called each, in that manner let him live (see 1 Corinthians 7:17-24) – which would include days of worship. The Apostle to the Gentiles specifically pleads for tolerance when it comes to religious days (see Romans 14:5-6). When the First Jerusalem Council met to decide the relationship of Gentile Believers to the Laws of God, Sabbath observance was not required.
I would ask my Gentile Christian brothers and sisters to show this same kind of tolerance for the special calling and lifestyle of Messianic Jews. Just as the Messianic Jewish leaders at the First Jerusalem Council did not require our Gentile brothers to conform to our customs, today’s Gentile Christians, who far exceed us in numbers and influence, should now extend to us the same grace and courtesy.
Question: I have been taught that the Ten Commandments are very special and Christians are required to keep all of them; but we keep them by changing the Jewish Saturday Sabbath to Sunday – the new Christian Sabbath. Is this right? Answer: The Ten Commandments are very special. The Creator of the universe manifested His presence on Mount Sinai with an awesome display of power and holiness and spoke the Ten Commandments to an entire nation of human beings! In addition, the Ten Commandments were written on two special stone tablets inscribed by God Himself. In addition, the second set (the first set was broken by Moses) was placed in the most special place on Earth – the Ark of the Covenant, in the Most Holy Place – the place closest to the Presence of God. Yes, the Ten Commandments are very special!
The Ten Commandments are best understood as a summary of the entire Sinai Covenant. There are 603 other commandments that, along with the Ten Commandments, form the Sinai Covenant. The Sinai Covenant is a unity and includes all 613 commandments. For a Jewish person to be fulfilling the Sinai Covenant, all 613 need to be observed – not just the Ten Commandments. It is important to understand that the Sinai Covenant was specifically made between God and Israel and did not include all of humanity. That means that the Ten Commandments are specifically directed to the nation of Israel and are a summary of the Sinai Covenant. There are many teachings and principles and laws and stories that are part of the Sinai Covenant that every Christian should understand, but the Sinai Covenant as a covenant was not directed to Gentile Christians. Gentile Christians are participants in the Noah Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant (the promise of salvation to the nations), and the New Covenant made through the Messiah – but not the Sinai Covenant. Therefore, Gentile Christians are not required to observe the Sinai Covenant (of which the Ten Commandments are a part).
All that is required for Gentile Christians is to have faith in the Three-In-One God, fulfill the Moral Law that is written on every human heart (some of which is included in the Ten Commandments, such as, “You shall not murder”), and observe the Four Requirements found in Acts 15 (abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood). Most of the Ten Commandments happen to coincide with those conditions of faith and practice. Since the Sabbath is not part of the Four Requirements mentioned in Acts 15, there is freedom to observe the seventh day of the week or another day – like the first day of the week. And, since taking one day off every seven days is very beneficial for our physical and spiritual well being, the majority of Christian leaders have strongly recommended that Christians rest every seventh day – on Sunday. However, I recommend that Messianic Jews, because of our unique heritage and because the Sabbath is a special sign between God and Israel (even though it is part of the Sinai Covenant), observe the seventh day of the week. Gentiles have the freedom to do that as well. Practically speaking, Christians wind up observing the Ten Commandments because they overlap the requirements to have faith in God and observe the Moral Law that is written on the human heart and the wisdom that we need to rest. The theological reasons that motivate Gentile Christians to “keep the Ten Commandments” are important; but these reasons do not include “because they are the Ten Commandments” – which should be understood as a summary of the Sinai Covenant directed to Israel.
Question: I read on your website that you believe that proper interpretation is based on approaching the Bible in a literal way using grammar and history. Can you tell me more? Answer: Approaching the Bible in the right way is crucial. The Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. It is full of divine wisdom that is able to lead us to salvation. It is our teacher, guide, ally, and friend. The Bible is so important, so valuable, so helpful. It must be interpreted correctly. Correct interpretation depends on approaching it in a literal way. The most important interpretive principle is the Golden Rule of Interpretation: “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense; otherwise, you get nonsense.” The literal sense is the preferred sense – unless there is a compelling reason to use a non-literal sense. Approaching the Bible with a commitment to the Golden Rule of Interpretation is often understood to mean that every word of the Bible is interpreted in a literal way. But that’s not true. Being committed to a literal approach to interpretation does not mean ignoring non-literal uses of language such as figures of speech, allegories, metaphors, and parables. A literal approach means that, since words mean something and since human beings normally communicate using words in a literal way, that is the way we approach interpreting the Bible. We are to take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise. This is a common-sense, correct approach to using and understanding language and literature, including the Bible. Correct interpretation also depends on knowing the theme of the Bible. The focus of the Law, Prophets, and Writings (the Tenach, the Old Testament) is the coming of the Seed of the Woman, the Messiah, who will fix the catastrophe that took place in Eden. The New Testament writers understood this; and in many ways, using objects, people, events, and prophecies, they pointed to the Messiah. These writers quoted direct messianic prophecies like Isaiah 53 but also indirect messianic prophecies like Isaiah 7:14 and Hosea 11:1. They understood that history, events, and the nation of Israel itself pointed to the Messiah, whom they saw in the holidays; the Temple and the sacrifices; people like Malkee-Tzedek, Moses, Joseph, and David; and events like the Flood, Jacob’s Ladder, and the bronze snake in the wilderness.
Question: Some say that Paul contradicts some of the teachings of Jesus and the other apostles. Is that true? Answer: Absolutely not! Paul was in complete agreement with the other apostles and with Messiah Yeshua. The Son of God appeared to Paul and directly revealed the truth to Paul. Paul always remained loyal to that truth. Peter and James gave Paul the “right hand of fellowship” indicating full partnership and support. If it seems that there is any difference between Paul and the other apostles, it’s because Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and given the task of bringing the message about the Messiah to the other nations – without requiring them to live under the laws of the Sinai Covenant.
Question: I have a Catholic Bible that contains the Apocrypha. Should the books of the Apocrypha be considered part of the Bible? Answer: The books that came to be included in the Apocrypha were written by Jewish men in the Intertestamental Period – the period of time between the end of the Old Testament (about 400 BC) and the beginning of the New Testament (about 30 AD). Those books were written in Greek, not Hebrew. While they can be interesting reading, they should not be understood to be divinely inspired like the books of the Tenach (Old Testament) and the New Testament. The Jewish people never considered the books of the Apocrypha to be Scripture, nor did the early Church. It was only much later in history (1546 AD) that the Catholic Church declared them to be Scripture. The Jewish people and the Protestant Church reject that claim. So do I.
Question: What is Dispensationalism and why do you think it’s important? Answer: For a complete answer, see Dispensationalism.
Question: I know the majority of Christians are not Dispensationalists, and I have heard Dispensationalists mocked. Where do you stand regarding Dispensationalism? Answer: Dispensationalism teaches that the Word of God is to be understood in its historical/grammatical context, and is not to be interpreted symbolically, unless the primary historical/grammatical meaning doesn’t make sense. Therefore, it concludes that there is a difference between the Church and Israel – that the Church is not the same as Israel, and that the Church has not replaced Israel. It teaches that God will literally fulfill His many promises to the Jewish people, and that these promises can’t be expropriated by the Church.
Dispensationalism recognizes that God has made different demands of different peoples at different dispensations (periods, times). It sees a progression in salvation history. For example, what God expected from Adam and Eve before the Fall differed from what He required of them after the Fall. What He expected from people before the Flood changed with the covenant found in Genesis 9. With the calling of Abraham, God expected new things from a new people. With the covenant at Sinai He added new demands to His people. With the coming of the Messiah there is a New Covenant between God and mankind, with new requirements. In the Millennium there will be a new way of doing things. Lastly, in eternity, in the New Heavens, the New Earth and the New Jerusalem, we will experience the final expectations that God has for us.
If we are to avoid misunderstanding, disappointment and confusion, it is important to understand that God has different requirements and rewards for different people in different ages. For example, there are “prosperity teachers” who arrogate to themselves the promises God specifically made to the Jewish people who lived under the covenants made with Abraham and Moses. They take promises meant for Israel such as, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11), and wrongly claim that God has promised every Christian financial prosperity and perfect health. But God does not apply the same physical blessings for faithfulness to us today as He did before Yeshua came. He promises us our daily bread, enough to meet our needs, as well as trials along the way. While there are some teachings among extreme Dispensationalists that are wrong or imbalanced, in general I consider myself a Dispensationalist.
Question: Dispensationalism demands Messiah’s kingdom to be physical. Reformed Theology (Covenant Theology) emphasizes that Messiah’s kingdom is “not of this world” and is present spiritually in His people. Which is it? Answer: If you let the Bible unfold naturally, it is impossible to avoid the importance of the Jewish people and the promises made to my people. Dozens of promises have been made to Israel, including a future kingdom on Earth. These promises are not conditional. These promises must be kept. They cannot be taken away from the Jewish people and reapplied to the Church and applied in a non-literal way. Doing so would make God a liar and unfaithful. When Messiah said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” He spoke the truth. He is the king of another kingdom – the kingdom of God. As the risen Messiah and the Lord of Heaven and Earth, He is ruling now. Part of His kingdom is a spiritual reign over Christians and Messianic Jews. That being said, it is not a case of either/or. It is a case of both/and. Right now, His kingdom is not of this world. But that does not prevent Him from returning to Earth and ruling from Jerusalem for 1,000 years. Both are true.
Question: Ever since I had the encounter with God in which He revealed to me His ongoing faithfulness to the Jewish people for the sake of the Patriarchs, I’ve become passionate about combating Replacement Theology. One of the most common arguments for Replacement Theology is that, since Messiah spoke of His kingdom as not being of this world and since the writer of Hebrews states that Abraham and others were looking toward a better country, a heavenly one, these prove that God is now done with Israel as a physical nation. Messiah has fulfilled all God’s promises given to Israel; although the Jewish people are returning to the land, this return is more a historical “fluke” than the fulfillment of actual prophecy as all prophecies should be taken symbolically and instead should be applied to the Church today. So, here’s my question: When God made His promises to Abraham, how did Abraham understand them? When God promised the land to Abraham and his descendants as an everlasting possession, did Abraham understand God to be speaking of the physical land of Canaan or of Heaven? I’m confident Abraham understood God to be promising him and his physical descendants the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. If God were operating according to how Replacement Theology says He operates, wouldn’t He have deceived Abraham by letting Abraham think He promised one thing when He actually promised something else? Am I right in thinking that, for Replacement Theology to be true, God would have to be deceitful? Is this a sound argument against Replacement Theology? Answer: Your logic is sound. Proper interpretation must always ask the question: What did it mean to the original recipient? For the promises to be divorced from their literal meaning and “spiritualized” and given to the Church would be a breaking of faithfulness to the original recipient. That is something that God would never do. For more information about Replacement Theology, see the teachings at Combating Replacement Theology.
Question: What are your views on the Rapture? Answer: It is clear that there will be a unique Seven-Year-Period-of-Trouble that precedes the return of the Messiah. It is also clear that those saints who are still alive when Yeshua descends from Heaven will be caught up with those saints who have died, and all of us will meet the Lord in the air. I lean toward the position that this meeting in the air will occur before the Seven-Year-Period-of-Trouble begins, but over the years, I find myself less concerned with when it will take place, and more concerned that I am found faithful to the Lord, doing His work and fulfilling my responsibilities, whenever He comes. I think a good attitude is to expect the Son of God to return soon; to pray that we be spared the worst of the Seven-Year-Period-of-Trouble, but also that we be willing to suffer and even die if called upon to sanctify God’s name.
Question: From a Biblical viewpoint, is peace possible between Israel and the surrounding Islamic nations? Answer: Until King Messiah returns to Earth and is ruling from Jerusalem, there will not be an enduring peace in the Middle East (or in the rest of the world). In fact, the closer we get to Messiah’s return, the less peace we will see. Messiah told us: You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (Matthew 24). It’s only when the Son of David is ruling the nations that mankind will hammer our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. It’s only then that nation will not lift up sword against nation and never again learn war (Isaiah 2). Until Messiah returns, it’s possible to have times of temporary peace. However, the teaching of Islam makes an enduring peace with Israel impossible. According to Islam, not only Israel, but all the nations must be converted to Islam – forcibly, if necessary. The nations surrounding Israel want the regathered nation of Israel destroyed and our land for themselves. Ezekiel 36:1-15 seems to be describing this situation. Eventually, all the nations of the world will send their armies to Israel in order to destroy Israel, but Israel will be miraculously saved and the nation will finally recognize the One Whom We Have Pierced (see Zechariah 12).
Question: What is your opinion about “speaking in tongues”? Answer: While I believe that God can do miracles today, and can supernaturally empower people with the charismatic gifts mentioned in the Word of God, very few of the prophecies, tongues (languages), visions, dreams or healings that people claim to be from God genuinely are from God. While I’m open to spiritual gifts, including speaking in languages that have never been learned, I want to be wise and discerning. Speaking in tongues comes in two varieties: The Acts 2 variety is when what is spoken is a human language, and someone who hears the language is able to understand it. The 1 Corinthians 14 variety is when what is spoken is a language that is not known. The ability to speak in a language that is unknown is given to individuals and is to be used for their own spiritual benefit. When this gift is used in a public setting, the following rules must be followed: Only two or three are to speak in an unknown language. They are to speak one at a time. Each utterance must be accompanied by an interpretation so that the message becomes understandable to everyone who is present. The leaders are to determine if the message is a genuine message from God. In my experience, the majority of Charismatic and Pentecostal churches do not follow these rules. And in my opinion, most of what passes for “speaking in tongues” is not the real thing. However, I am aware of some instances of speaking in tongues that I believe were the real thing.
Question: Is there a different between the “baptism of the Spirit” and being “filled with the Spirit?” Answer: The “baptism of the Spirit” is a one-time event that happens at the time of salvation. The baptism of the Spirit takes place when the Spirit of God transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit immerses us into the Father and the Son, uniting us to the Father and the Son and to the other sons and daughters of God. The “filling of the Spirit” is different from the baptism of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit takes place when we get close to God and God gets close to us. Regrettably, all too often we don’t stay close to God. We sin, which creates spiritual distance between us and God, or we slowly drift away from the Lord. When we realize that we are not close to God, we turn to Him, and if we have sinned, we confess our sin. We ask the Lord to fill us with His Spirit – and He does. The baptism of the Spirit happens once at the time of salvation. The filling of the Spirit can happen many times.
Question: I’ve been studying the death and resurrection of Yeshua. On which day of the week did Passover occur, and on which day did Yeshua die? Answer: After studying the evidence, I’ve come to the conclusion that the traditional Christian dating is right. During the last week of Yeshua’s life, Passover began on Thursday night. The Last Supper (a Passover seder) took place on Thursday night. Messiah died the next day, Friday afternoon, on the first day of Passover. Yeshua was resurrected Saturday night or very early Sunday morning. However, what’s more important than knowing the exact timing of Messiah’s death and resurrection is knowing that Messiah died, and therefore we must die – to self, to sin and to the world – and knowing that Messiah overcame death and is alive now and therefore we must serve God in newness of life.
Question: I know that when Yeshua was crucified and resurrected, sacrificing animals was no longer necessary because the Messiah was our sin offering. Do Jewish people who take the Scriptures seriously still offer sacrifices in their Temple? If not, why not? How do today’s non-Messianic Jews believe their sins are removed? Answer: The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed the second time in 70 AD. According to the Torah, that is the only place on Earth where sacrifices can be offered. With no Temple, there can be no sacrifices, so none have been offered by the Jewish people since 70 AD. Today’s “temples” and “synagogues” are not the same as the Temple in Jerusalem. About 1300 years ago, the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock is still there and is preventing the rebuilding of the Temple and the re-institution of the sacrifices. It is a major point of contention between Judaism and Islam. Before the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, “Judaism” (the faith of the Jewish people) was centered around the Temple and the sacrificial system, and brought temporary atonement – waiting for the full and final atonement provided by the Messiah. After the destruction of the Temple, the non-Messianic rabbis radically restructured Judaism – substituting synagogues, rabbis, prayers, study and observance of those commandments that could still be observed for the Temple, priests and sacrifices. They also added many of their own laws, rules and traditions. Non-Messianic Jews who are religious believe that their efforts to observe this man-made restructured Judaism will tip the scales of justice in their favor – but the reality is that it won’t. Only a Judaism based on the full and final atonement made by Messiah will ensure real atonement, salvation and eternal life!
Question: Why did Paul go to the temple and sacrifice animals in Acts 21? Answer: The early Messianic Jews, including Paul, continued to live Torah-observant lives. They understood that, even though Messiah made the ultimate sacrifice, there was nothing wrong about sacrificing animals at the Temple. They understood the sacrifices pointed to Messiah and honored the Messiah. They understood that Yeshua was the fulfillment of the sacrifices, just as He is the fulfillment of the holidays, but having the fulfillment doesn’t mean that the thing that is fulfilled must not be practiced.
Question: I have a friend who was teaching the Book of Revelation. She said that, when the Lord returns and rules on Earth for 1,000 years, the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices would be reinstituted. She cited passages like Jeremiah 33:14-18, Ezekiel 40-46, Zechariah 14, and Malachi 3:1-4. Her interpretation makes no logical or Biblical sense, especially in light of Hebrews 10: where sins and lawless acts have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. I told her she is in error. Can you help me respond to her from the Scriptures?
Answer: Your friend is right. In addition to the passages you mentioned, the Word of God in quite a few other places teaches the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the animal sacrifices. The right way to interpret these passages is by applying the Golden Rule of Interpretation: “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense; otherwise, you get nonsense.” If you apply that rule, it is clear that King Yeshua will return to Earth, establish His Kingdom over the world from Jerusalem, and rule the world for 1,000 years. The Temple will be rebuilt, and the sacrifices will be reinstituted. You should also understand that there were various sacrifices that accomplished different things – not just providing atonement. For example, the peace offering was a prayer expressing the peace that existed between the worshiper and God. The future sacrifices will include burnt offerings which express dedication; and the future sin offerings should be understood in the sense of not providing atonement for sin but as memorials of Messiah’s ultimate sacrifice that brings final atonement – much like the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper do for us today.
Question: Where can I find out what you believe about false teachings? Answer: Go to Shoareem-Gatekeepers.
Question: Is the information in the article, Very Serious Problems With The Union Of Messianic Jewish Congregations still current? Answer: I still have the same very serious concerns with the UMJC that are mentioned in that article; and since that article was written, I have another very serious concern – the issue of converting Gentiles – which some UMJC congregations practice and the others tolerate. See the teaching called Conversion?.
Question: I was raised Catholic but walked away from that religion because of all of the false doctrine. Now I’m a practicing Christian; and I’ve discovered that Christmas and Easter are not God’s holidays. Will I offend God by celebrating Christmas and Easter with my family? Also, God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy. How can I keep the Sabbath holy to honor my God? I don’t live near a Messianic synagogue. Answer: Christians have the freedom to celebrate Christmas and Easter or not celebrate them. For more information see our FAQ section, “Is Christmas A Pagan Holiday?”. Christians also have the freedom to observe the Sabbath or to worship on Sunday. For more information see our FAQ section, “Questions About The Sabbath”. And to give you the theological basis to understand these issues, read the teaching titled Dispensationalism.
Question: Do you believe the teachings found in the Talmud? Answer: The Talmud is a mixture of truth and error; and it is very long. Until you have mastered the Bible, don’t invest time in it.
Question: I am a Jewish teenager who is seeking the truth. I have a question about the validity of the Oral Law. What is your understanding of the Oral Law? Answer: This is how I approach the issue of the validity of the Oral Law: I am completely convinced that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God; that He lived a perfect life; that He was resurrected and is alive now, seated at the right hand of God the Father; that He is Israel’s supreme Rabbi and supreme religious authority. I accept His Law, which has been written down for us by His disciples in the Brit Chadasha – the New Covenant. If these things are true (and I believe they are), the implications are that the traditional Jewish authorities are in very serious error and that their Oral Law is a mixture of truth and error – and a mixture of truth and error is deadly. Therefore it is my opinion that the best way to approach the question about the validity of the Oral Law is to thoroughly investigate whether Yeshua is the Messiah. To do that, I recommend you do three things: Pray to HaShem that He will guide you into all the truth. Study the Messianic prophecies like Isaiah 53 – with an open mind. Read the New Covenant writings, especially the first four books – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you are willing to do that, let me know, and maybe I can be of further assistance to you.
Question: There are many organizations that claim to provide financial aid to the Jewish people in Israel. As a Christian, I have a desire to obey God’s command to spiritually and financially support the Jewish nation. I would appreciate your direction in this area. Answer: I’m so glad that you want to bless the Jewish people in Israel! May the Lord enable many more Christians to share your desire! And you are right. There are many organizations that claim to help the Jewish people in Israel. I would tell you that the greatest need of the Jewish people in Israel (and in the rest of the world) is to hear the Good News about the Messiah. The best way to meet our greatest need is by supporting ministries in Israel that are doing that. Jews for Jesus has an outstanding ministry in Israel and is worthy of your support. Israel College of the Bible, which is training the next generation of Messianic Jewish leaders in Israel, is worthy of your support. Please do not support On Wings of Eagles, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews or Christians United for Israel. In my opinion, those organizations are unworthy of your support. They do not proclaim the Good News to the Jewish people, and they divert precious resources away from ministries that do.
Question: There are many organizations that claim to provide financial aid to the Jewish people in Israel. As a Christian, I have a desire to obey God’s command to spiritually and financially support the Jewish nation. I would appreciate your direction in this area. Answer: I’m so glad that you want to bless the Jewish people in Israel! May the Lord enable many more Christians to share your desire! And you are right. There are many organizations that claim to help the Jewish people in Israel. I would tell you that the greatest need of the Jewish people in Israel (and in the rest of the world) is to hear the Good News about the Messiah. The best way to meet our greatest need is by supporting ministries in Israel that are doing that. Jews for Jesus has an outstanding ministry in Israel and is worthy of your support. Israel College of the Bible, which is training the next generation of Messianic Jewish leaders in Israel, is worthy of your support. Please do not support On Wings of Eagles, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews or Christians United for Israel. In my opinion, those organizations are unworthy of your support. They do not proclaim the Good News to the Jewish people, and they divert precious resources away from ministries that do.
Question: Do Christians, non-Messianic Jews and Muslims worship the same God? And if they do, does that mean their worship is acceptable to God and non-Messianic Jews and Muslims are saved Answer: Christianity, Judaism and Islam are monotheistic religions. They believe in one God who is the Creator of all things. But it’s not enough to believe that there is one God who made all things or worship God apart from Messiah Yeshua. Now that God has fully revealed Himself by sending His Son, faith in the Son is essential for true worship and for salvation, as it is written: Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5). Also, you should know that “Elah” is one of the Biblical titles for God and is used 70 times in the Holy Scriptures and is translated as “God.” Like Elohim, it comes from a root that means strength, might or power. Hebrew and Arabic are closely related languages, and the Arabic word for God is “Allah,” which is the same as the Hebrew “Elah.” Christian Arabic Bibles use “Allah” for God, and Arab Christians pray to Allah. Some Christians mistakenly claim that Muslims don’t pray to the same God as Christians do, that Allah was an ancient moon god; and so, when Moslems pray to Allah, they are not praying to God, they are praying to a false god. That is wrong. When Muslims pray to Allah, they are praying to the Creator. They are praying to God, but their worship of Him is unacceptable. Consider the lesson from Cain and Abel. Both men wanted to worship God. Abel approached God in a God-ordained way, with the blood of an animal that was sacrificed. His worship was accepted by God. Cain approached God in a way that God did not ordain – with a bloodless sacrifice. Cain’s worship was rejected. Even though Cain’s worship was rejected, Cain was worshiping the true God, not a false god. The same principle applies to the Jewish people and to Muslims. Rabbi Paul said of non-Messianic Jewish people who denied that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God, that they have a zeal for God (the true God, not a false god), but are not serving or worshiping Him with sufficient knowledge, knowledge that will save them (Romans 10). Followers of Islam are in the same category. Non-Messianic Judaism and Islam are false religions. Their worship is unacceptable to God. However, it is wrong to tell Jewish people or Muslims that they are worshiping a false god. We tell them their knowledge about God is insufficient and they need to know that Yeshua is the Son of God, and coming to God through Him is the only way to truly worship God.
Question: Isn’t it wrong to call yourself Rabbi in light of Matthew 23:8? Answer: Let’s take a look at Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 23:8-12: Do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on Earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in Heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Messiah. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. One of the most important principles that will help us correctly interpret the Word of God is: “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” The Word of God is to be understood in its historical/ grammatical context. If a passage makes literal sense historically and grammatically, then that is what it means. However, if the literal sense does not make sense, we should seek a non-literal sense. In the passage we are considering, Yeshua’s words about not being called “rabbi,” “father” or “leader” are not meant to be understood literally. If we interpreted these words literally, then we could not call anyone on Earth “father” (without exception). But of course we have earthy fathers, and it is right to honor them with the term “father.” In fact, the Holy Scriptures frequently use the term “father” to describe human beings, even in a religious sense (see 1 Corinthians 4:15). The New Testament also acknowledges the word “leader” as a legitimate term (see the Letter to the Messianic Jews – “Hebrews” 13:17, 24). The term “rabbi” is defined for us in John 1:38 as “teacher.” Again, according to the New Testament, the office of teacher is specifically part of the leadership of the New Covenant Community (see Ephesians 4:11). Ya’akov (James) also acknowledges the office of teacher (James 3:1). So, if the literal sense doesn’t make sense, it is right to seek a non-literal sense. The rest of the passage tells us that the Messiah is concerned about pride among us, about the desire to be exalted, about the desire to rule and not to serve. Those who are leaders and teachers and fathers in the Faith are not to develop an attitude that demands unquestioning submission. They are to be servant-leaders. Nor is Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles to develop an elite group of clergy/priests who are qualitatively different from the rest of the New Covenant community. In conclusion, the titles, “rabbi” “father” and “leader” may be used, but with humility.
Question: What does “Shema” mean? Answer: “Shema” is the Hebrew word meaning “hear.” It is an imperative – a command to listen, and is most recognized as beginning the declaration known as “the Shema,” which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. It is one of the most basic and frequently offered prayers of the Jewish people. Messianic Jews likewise believe that there is only one God, but we believe that this one God is comprised of three Persons – God the Father, God the Son (Messiah Yeshua) and God the Holy Spirit. In fact, when Yeshua was asked by an expert in the Torah which commandment He regarded as being the greatest of all, He answered that the greatest commandment is, Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,” adding that we are required to love this one God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (see Mark 12:28-31).
Question: Why do most Messianic Jews prefer to use the name Yeshua rather than Jesus? Is it because non-Messianic Jewish people show less resistance to the name Yeshua? Is it because of all the persecution of Jewish people done in the name of Jesus? Answer: There are several reasons why many of us prefer to use Yeshua rather than Jesus. First, Yeshua is the actual name of the Messiah. Yeshua means “salvation” or “the Lord saves” and teaches us about the primary purpose of His mission to Earth – to save us from our sins. That’s a great thing to know about Him and constantly be reminded of. Second, many of us prefer to use Yeshua to emphasize His Jewishness, so that the Jewish people, who have been taught that it’s not Jewish to believe in Jesus, are reassured that it’s OK for Jewish people to believe in Him – that Yeshua is one of us and should be welcomed as part of our Jewish heritage. Third, “Jesus” has been associated with anti-Semitism, and so using Yeshua lessens the association of anti-Semitism. One last thought: although I prefer using Yeshua, I am comfortable with using Jesus and use Yeshua and Jesus.
Question: Do Messianic Jews keep kosher? Answer: Some do and some don’t. Many of us who keep kosher, keep what is called “Biblical kosher.” Biblical kosher is simple and based on the laws that are found in the Torah itself: not eating blood (see Genesis 9 and Leviticus 17) and not eating certain kinds of animals (see Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14). We do not follow the traditions of the non-Messianic rabbis, which are extra-Biblical or based on a misinterpretation of the Bible.
For example, one of these extra-Biblical traditions is the tradition to not eat milk and meat together. This is based on a misinterpretation of the command to not boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk. The intent of this command, given by Moses to the Jewish people prior to entering Canaan, was to forbid us from imitating the perverse sacrifices of the Canaanites – like killing a baby goat and boiling it in its mother’s milk and offering it to their fertility gods as a prayer for fertility. This command had nothing to do with eating milk and meat together, or the need for separate sets of pots and pans and dishes, one for milk and one for meat. Consider this: Abraham served milk and meat to his three guests (see Genesis 18). One of those guests was the Lord. The other two were the angels who later visited Sodom. If there were something wrong about eating milk and meat together, Abraham’s guests would not have eaten it.
Consider this, too: The non-Messianic rabbis tell us that for an animal to be kosher, it should be slaughtered by an individual who is trained in kosher slaughtering (a shochet) with one stroke of a sharp knife that has no nicks or dents. The animal must be killed by a single cut across the throat, which severs both carotid arteries, both jugular veins, the trachea and the esophagus. However, if an animal can be hunted and killed with an arrow and still be kosher (as long as its blood is poured out and covered, see Leviticus 17:13), then the laws about the need to slaughter an animal with one stroke of a knife are extra-biblical, man-made traditions.
Question: Is a Bar Mitzvah Biblical or just a tradition? If it’s just a tradition, then why have a Messianic Bar Mitzvah? If there is no Biblical basis for a Bar Mitzvah, why then would we want to follow a “man-made tradition of Judaism” without our precious Messiah and King? Answer: Simply because something is a tradition does not make it automatically wrong. There are many Jewish traditions, and each should be individually judged as being either good, bad or neutral. There are traditions that are anti-Biblical and we shouldn’t practice them, like men covering their heads while praying (see Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11). There are traditions that are neutral, and we may either choose to do them, or not do them, such as lighting Shabbat candles. There are traditions that are good and beneficial to do. For example, the Word of God does not command us to drink wine as part of our Passover observance. It is a tradition that developed before the First Century. But the Son of God Himself used this Jewish tradition, and at His last Passover Seder He took the “cup after supper” and infused it with new meaning that pointed to Himself and the New Covenant that He was instituting between God and mankind. Becoming a Bar Mitzvah is one of those good traditions. Different cultures have various “coming of age” ceremonies, when a young man or woman takes their place as an adult in the community. Sadly, in many cultures entering into adulthood was accompanied by initiation rites that caused pain. For some, danger was involved. Among certain tribes in Africa, a young man became an adult when he killed his first lion. But for the Jewish people, there is no pain or danger. Instead, it is the joyous completion of an initiation which begins at birth, and leads to a gradual immersion of the child in God’s ways, and culminates with an acceptance of personal responsibility. Bar Mitzvah literally means “son of the commandment,” but can be understood as “a man of duty” or “a man of responsibility.” Among the Jewish people it is customary for a thirteen year-old to become a man of responsibility when he comes before the community, and reads from the Book inspired by our Creator. This is a statement that his new manhood is based on the foundation of the Word of God. Our Messianic Bar Mitzvahs are centered on our glorious Messiah and Savior. Most of the portions that are read are the Messianic prophecies that are rarely read in non-Messianic synagogues. For example, my son Ari read Isaiah 53 and my daughter Aliza read the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 11:1-10. Everyone who came received a clear proclamation of who Yeshua is! It was fantastic!
Question: I know that the Jewish people bury their dead. Is it right to practice cremation? Answer: The Jewish people bury what is precious and honorable (like human bodies and old Torah scrolls), and burn what isn’t. The Lord Himself gave us an example of what to do with a human body when He buried the body of Moses (see Deuteronomy 34:5-6 and Ecclesiastes 12:7). Also, burial is more in keeping with the teaching about the resurrection of the body, which one of the important teachings of the Faith. I much prefer burial to cremation.
Question: I’m a Messianic believer who is confused about wearing a head-covering. Are we supposed to follow this? I believe the tradition comes from rabbinic law. I want to be very clear – I have a deep love for the Jewish community and have worn a yarmulka before. I just want to be sure I’m doing the right thing and following the will of God. Answer: I’m so glad that you have a deep love for my people and want to express it. May the Lord raise up millions more like you! However, I prefer you don’t wear a head-covering. It’s a man-made tradition and not a Biblical command. If anything, the Lord wants men under Messiah’s New Covenant not to cover their heads for religious reasons (see 1 Corinthians 11). A better way to express your love for the Jewish people is to wear a Star of David, or a Star of David with a cross in it, or that new symbol of a fish, star and menorah that are merged together. And the best way to show your love to my people is to tell us the Good News about our Messiah, who loves us and is able to reconcile us to God. Knowing Yeshua is our greatest need, and someone who really loves us will try to meet that need.
Question: Did God command every Jewish person to wear a head covering? If so, then why did Paul instruct men not to wear a head covering? Rabbi Glenn’s Answer: Nowhere in the Torah did God command Jewish men to wear a head covering, except for the priests who served at the temple. The wearing of the kippah (also called a yarmulke) arose out of regional customs, and was later enshrined in rabbinical tradition (Talmud, tractate Shabbat, which states, “Cover your head in order that the fear of Heaven may be upon you”). Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 11 regarding head coverings in the worship assembly (no for men, yes for women) had to do with the issue of authority and modesty in first century Corinthian culture. For women, it was an issue of modesty and as acknowledgment of their husband’s authority (prostitutes at that time often went around without a head covering). For a man to cover his head in the local assembly would therefore have been inappropriate. The principle of modesty and authority transcend local culture or time period and should govern the conduct of a believer. But the practice of wearing or not wearing head coverings is a much more localized issue. At Shema we leave this (and other non-essential matters) up to the conscience of the individual. But since there is no biblical command, most of our men do not wear kippahs.
Question: I’m interested in attending your service. Do I need to wear a head-covering? Answer: Head-coverings (kippas, yarmulkas) are optional. Most of the men don’t wear one. In fact, I prefer you don’t. I don’t wear a kippa, but I do wear a tallit (prayer shawl), and you are welcome to wear one too.
Question: I was given some literature that said the Star of David was a pagan symbol, and was used for sorcery. Could you share with me how it originated, and anything that would be of use in sharing how it is not pagan or if it is. Would you share the significance of the six points on the Star? Answer: Jewish tradition says that King David had a six-pointed star on his shield. Some say that the two interlocked triangles represent God and man, but that is only an interpretation. The six-pointed star is a very old symbol used by both the Jewish people and by pagans. I don’t think anyone knows its origins. If you ever are in Israel and visit the remains of the ancient first or second century synagogue at Capernaum, the hometown of Simon and Andrew, you will find Stars of David on it. In addition, six-pointed stars are found throughout creation. Each of the billions of snowflakes that falls in a snowstorm is a unique six-pointed star! Six-pointed stars are also found in the designs of many flowers. A partial list includes: Tulips, Crocuses, Daffodils, Lilies and Daylilies. In other words, God is the Designer of the six-pointed star, and He has used that design in His Creation! Because He is the Designer, and the six-pointed star is His design, it is a good symbol. The fact that some pagans have misused His design doesn’t mean that we can’t use it. In the same way, even though the rainbow is misused by some groups today, nevertheless it is a God-given sign of the covenant that the Lord made with all mankind (see Genesis 9).
Question: Why did Paul allow people to eat meat offered to idols? Answer: The rabbi allowed people to eat meat offered to idols because he knew that God created everything for us to use; and God is greater than Satan and truth is greater than error. Among the pagans, animals were routinely offered to various gods before they were slaughtered and the meat sold in markets. The ignorance of the pagans shouldn’t affect our use of God’s creation. On the other hand, the Lord’s representative didn’t allow Christians and Messianic Jews to take part in idolatry by directly participating in pagan worship. However, eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol and sold in the market was permitted.
Question: I am studying the topic of wine in the Bible. Several Hebrew words are translated as wine. Do they all refer to fermented wine? I am also interested to know if God permits drinking wine with alcohol. What about alcoholic drinks for believers in Yeshua today? Answer: The wine that is mentioned in the Bible is almost always wine – real wine. In fact, recently I have been learning about wine by making it myself. What I have discovered is that grape juice turns into wine a couple weeks after being exposed to yeast, and yeast naturally occurs in nature. So, the process of fermentation, which changes the sugar into alcohol, begins immediately after the grapes are harvested and the juice is put into containers. That means that in the ancient Middle East, the grape juice would become wine within a couple of weeks of being harvested. This is not just a matter of word study. It is a matter of culture and practice – which very much needs to be considered. The Jewish people have always permitted the use of wine, even celebrated the use of wine. Drinking wine is part of many of our most sacred ceremonies. The same is true of Christianity. Wine, real wine, has always been used in sacred ceremonies and for regular consumption. It was only until fairly recently, and among a small group of Protestants, that the use of wine was forbidden – and in my opinion, improperly forbidden. A Christian is allowed to drink wine or stronger drinks as long as he does not get drunk.
Question: Does the Bible prohibit drinking wine except for medicinal purposes as recommended by Paul to Timothy? I understand there are two Hebrew words in the Scriptures that are translated “wine” and that they mean different things. Is there a kosher wine used for Passover? Is the wine manufactured today very different from the wine in Jesus’ day? Could it be that the wine made then was OK but wine of today is not? I would appreciate your comments. Rabbi Glenn’s Answer: The wine of Yeshua’s day definitely had alcoholic content. Nowhere does the Bible prohibit drinking wine. There are many passages that extol wine as a gift from God to be properly enjoyed. Examples: Melchizedek (Genesis 14); part of God’s blessings to Israel (Deuteronomy 7:13 and 11:14); permitted by God to be enjoyed as part of the tithe to Him (14:26); part of God’s future blessings to Israel (Amos 9:13-14). What the Bible prohibits is drunkenness; in other words, it only becomes an issue when it is abused. Examples: Noah got drunk (Genesis 9). Lot’s daughters purposely got him drunk (Genesis 19). We are warned that (abuse of) wine/drink leads to unruly behavior (Proverbs 20:1). In a parallel way, there is nothing wrong with food, yet the Bible decries gluttony, which is the abuse of food (Proverbs 23:21 warns against both gluttony and drunkenness). Some Christians make a big deal about wine, but if they seek to prohibit it, they have exceeded Scripture and have ventured into legalism.
Question: Is there significance to Yeshua turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana? Is there a prophetic significance to it? I’ve heard answers like, “Yeshua didn’t want the host of the wedding to be embarrassed.” There must be more to it than that. Answer: I’m not aware of any prophecy about turning water into wine. This miracle does have to do with rescuing a family from social embarrassment. It also reveals that Yeshua is aware of all of our needs, including our social relationships, and is willing and able to help us with those. Wine is a symbol of peace, happiness and prosperity (every man sitting under his vine), so this miracle itself can be considered a kind of prophecy: a day that is coming when Messiah will bring peace, happiness and prosperity to the world.
Question: What is your understanding of the Lord’s Supper? Does the bread and wine turn into the literal body and blood of the Son of God? Answer: This is from 1 Corinthians 11: The Lord Yeshua, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”Some observations: The Lord Yeshua, on the night he was betrayed (it was a very special night – the first night of Passover), took bread (it was unleavened bread), and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” When the Lord Yeshua said, “This is my body,” He was not telling His disciples that the bread was literally His body, or would miraculously turn into His body. “This is my body” is non-literal language. It was not meant to be understood literally. We know this because His body was not the bread. His body was separate and distinct from the bread. His body did not turn into the bread. The bread did not turn into His body. The Lord’s use of non-literal language is reinforced by His words: Do this in remembrance of me. The Lord Yeshua was teaching His disciples that eating the bread would help them remember Him, and His sacrificial love for them when, in the future, they ate the bread. The same principles apply to the wine. In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Again, the Lord Yeshua was not telling His disciples that the wine in the cup was His actual blood, or that it would miraculously turn into His blood. When He spoke these words, His blood was in His body. His blood was separate and distinct from the wine. Again, the Lord was using non-literal language, and again, this non-literal use of language is reinforced by the words: Do this in remembrance of me. The Lord Yeshua was teaching His disciples to remember Him, and His sacrificial love for them, and the blood that He would spill for them that enabled them to enter the new covenant, this fabulous new arrangement, this amazing new deal, this tremendous new agreement between God and human beings that grants us so many great benefits – when, in the future, they drank the wine.
Question: I’ve heard ministers teach that if Christians take communion on a regular basis, they can claim their healing and whatever is out of order in their life will be made whole. Is that true? Answer: That’s not true. The bread and the wine do not bring physical healing and perfection of life. The bread and wine are designed by God to remind us of who Yeshua is and what He has done and is doing for us. Eating the bread and drinking the wine is a prayer to come closer to the Son of God, who is close to the Father. By getting close to the Son of God we are able to receive spiritual life and energy from our living leader.
Question: I was considering getting a tattoo of something in Hebrew that was inspirational. I was told by my mom that it is not a good idea to get one, and she referenced 1 Corinthians 6: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. Does this include tattoos? My Christian friends are constantly getting them. Answer: I urge you to reconsider getting a tattoo. I feel very strongly, like the Jewish community has for centuries, that tattoos are wrong. And, even though you may be under Messiah’s New Covenant, I still think it is wrong. Please consider the following: The human body is a work of art by the Greatest Artist of All. How would you feel if you were an artist, and a lesser artist came along and started writing on one of your greatest paintings? His graffiti would be insulting. The Torah teaches us God’s will on this practice (see Leviticus 19:28). Tattoos are unnatural. The more unnatural we become, the further we move away from God.
Question: Is it right to have body piercing? I’m seeing it more and more, and the New Testament is silent on the subject. Answer: I view body piercing, tattoos, odd-colored hair, bizarre haircuts, cremation, the general lack of good morals, the emergence of old gods and the rise of the occult, child sacrifice (abortion), euthanasia, misuse of drugs and alcohol, as all part of an ancient pattern called “Paganism.” Tragically, large segments of Western Civilization are casting off their Judeo-Christian heritage and replacing it with a New Paganism. The new neighbor might not introduce himself by saying, “Hi, I’m the New Pagan on the block,” but if these things characterize his life, that’s what he is. How sad that after centuries of progress in throwing off its pagan past by embracing the Word of God, Western Society is being “repaganized.” So, what should we do? We certainly should show these New Pagans the love of Messiah, but we shouldn’t imitate the ways of Paganism! We should reject these practices and maintain Biblical morals and values that have served Western Civilization so well for almost 2,000 years.
Question: I have a question about the blessings and curses found in Deuteronomy 28. If a person is living for the Lord and is obeying the Lord and keeping all of His commands, should he expect to be blessed with the blessings found in verses 1-14? Or is it unrealistic for a person to expect to be blessed in this manner? Rabbi Glenn’s Answer: The first thing to know is that the Church is not Israel. The blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy 28 were part of a covenant made with a specific people in a specific historical context. The second thing to know is that Deuteronomy 28 was not addressed to an individual but to a nation. Granted, a nation is made up of individuals, but the blessings and cursings are directed to the nation of Israel in relationship to Adonai. Thus it is illegitimate to claim specific promises at the individual level. And, if anyone would claim the blessings promised to Israel, then he should also expect to receive the curses as well. Is that really what is wanted?
Question: The Old Testament is full of promises of blessings. Can’t I, as a Christian, claim those promises? For example, the promise made to Joshua where he was told to be strong and courageous, and if he was, the Lord would be with him wherever he went and would not forsake him, and he would have success (Joshua 1: 5-9)? Why are those not promises for me? Rabbi Glenn’s answer: This is an issue of treating the Word of God with respect – not using it to our own liking. Some of the promises in Scripture were, in fact, meant for all God’s people and across all time. Some, however, were specifically directed to Israel. Some were even more specific – meant for one person at a specific time and circumstance. You brought up the example of God promising to be with Joshua, and exhorting him to be strong and courageous. Obviously, God was speaking to Joshua, son of Nun, not to me or to you. The Lord repeatedly urged Joshua to be strong and courageous, and there is no reason we should not follow that exhortation as well. However, when God promised to be with Joshua through the adversity he was about to face (hostile armies) it was a promise that God would give him and the nation he led victory over their enemies, and that is not something we can claim as a guarantee. If that were true, no righteous person would ever suffer persecution or be martyred – but they were (see Hebrews 11:35-38).
If God doesn’t come through when somebody claims a promise spoken to someone else, they need to understand that God didn’t fail them. They need to understand they had claimed something that was not theirs to claim. Many Christians have been emotionally scarred by thinking they had the right to expect certain outcomes in situations, when God never promised them those outcomes. They may have been entirely sincere, but they were in error. That said, God sometimes honors a person’s sincere faith, despite their claim to a promise not being valid. It speaks to His grace and kindness, not to that person’s “right” to expect it.
One other thing: There are other passages in Scripture where God speaks to all believers, promising to be with us (I am with you always – see Matthew 28:20). Those are promises we can legitimately expect ask Him to fulfill.
Question: I’ve heard lots of messages about the need for Christians to tithe to their church, especially quoting Malachi 3:7-12. Since we are not under the Law, do Christians need to tithe? Answer: I’d like to begin with some historical background. In the time before the giving of the commandments at Mount Sinai, the Torah records that Abraham and Jacob both gave a tenth, a “tithe” or ten percent of what they had. When it comes to our responsibility to give money under the Covenant made with the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, it becomes more complicated, because we are dealing with the economic system of an entire nation. According to my understanding, each year two tithes were required of the Jewish people, along with other special offerings. The First tithe and the offerings took care of the Temple, the Priests and the Levites, and is described in Numbers 18:8-29. The Priests and their families were allowed to eat those parts of the sacrifices that were not burnt on the bronze altar. The firstfruits – the first part of our crops, were also given to the Priests. Our firstborn animals were sacrificed and eaten by the Priests. Instead of our firstborn sons being required to serve at the Temple, the tribe of the Levites were substituted in their place, but our firstborn sons had to be redeemed with five shekels of silver, which was given to the Priests. This is called “Pidyon Haben” – the Redemption of the Firstborn son, which is still practiced among more religious Jewish people to this day. The Levites, who were far more numerous than the Priests, and who assisted the Priests, were supported by the first tithe of the Jewish people. The second tithe is found in Deuteronomy 12:5-7 and 14:22-29. The second tithe was connected to the Seven Year Cycle, and it was designated to take care of the poor, the Levites in the local area, and the worshipers’ needs when they went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the holidays.
There were other important economic principles under the Covenant made at Sinai: every seven years the Land of Israel was allowed to rest. It was not to be planted. God promised to provide enough during the sixth year, so that we could survive until the harvest two years later. Also, every seven years a person’s debts were forgiven (Deuteronomy 15:1-3). If you got into financial difficulty, you were allowed to borrow from a fellow Israeli. He was allowed to loan money to you, but he could not charge interest. At the end of seven years, if you could not pay him back, the debt was to be forgiven. If things became desperate enough, you could be sold into servitude, and work off the debt for six years. The seventh year you were to be released and given enough resources to start off fresh. Every fiftieth year, during the Shanat Yovel (the Year of Jubilee), on Yom Kippur, all property that had been leased was restored to the original owners. If your family had a piece of property that was the family’s inheritance, and things had gone badly for you, you were allowed to lease out your property until Shanat Yovel, when it had to be returned to your family.
If our nation followed all of God’s commands, including His wise economic principles, He promised to bless and prosper us as a nation spiritually, physically, materially and economically. Poverty would be at a minimum; debt, if there was any, would always be manageable. Our people would never become so indebted that the nation would go into a devastating bankruptcy, with all the terrible economic, social and political consequences it brings.
As we turn our attention to the New Covenant Scriptures, it is critical to understand that the Messiah’s Community is not the same as the nation of Israel living under the covenant made at Sinai. We are under Messiah’s New Covenant and functioning in a new dispensation – a new age. Most Messianic Jews and Christians are living outside of Israel, in various nations with their own governments and economic and social systems. When it comes to our responsibilities to give, there are similarities to what came before, but there are differences as well.
Just as the Temple, the Priests and the Levites had material needs, so do Messiah’s congregations. However, Messiah’s Community is not the nation of Israel living under the covenant made at Sinai, nor are our rabbis the Levitical Priests, nor do we offer bulls, goats, lambs and other offerings as the sons of Aaron did at the Jerusalem Temple, nor are we are living under the same economy as the nation of Israel from Sinai to the destruction of the Second Temple. Rather, we are a religious community living within another nation – the United States, with it’s own government and financial and social system. For these reasons, we don’t teach tithing as was commanded to the Jewish people under the Torah. Nor do we like the way that the majority of the non-Messianic Jewish community raise finances. The financial needs of most non-Messianic synagogues are raised by charging their members annual dues. Membership entitles you to various privileges, including admission to High Holiday services. If you don’t pay your dues, many synagogues will not give you a ticket to enter the High Holiday services. We don’t feel that membership dues are the right way to raise the necessary funds for our synagogue. We don’t teach “tithing” and we don’t structure our finances around membership dues. Instead, we teach generous, cheerful giving. We recommend – we don’t demand, we only suggest – that ten percent is a reasonable amount to give – like Abraham and Jacob did before the giving of the Law. Here’s a simple formula for stewardship: give ten percent, save ten percent, and live on the other eighty percent. Give ten percent to your synagogue or church, save ten percent for emergencies, and to pass something on to your children, and live on the rest.
Question: How should we give? Answer: We are to give generously, willingly and cheerfully: Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. That’s generous giving. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7-8). That’s voluntary, cheerful giving. We are to give with the right motives: In 1 Corinthians 13:3 Rabbi Paul writes the following: If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. We must give with the right motives, out of genuine love for the God of Israel, and out of genuine love for man. We give out of love – not to receive back material things. This is one of the reasons I despise the “send your seed money to my ministry to get back thirty, sixty or one hundred-fold return” teaching. We are to give quietly: Yeshua taught us not to call attention to ourselves when we give. If we give to be honored by human beings, we lose our reward. We are to give as secretly and privately as possible (see Matthew 6:2-4). Declaring your giving to the IRS to get a tax break is certainly permissible, and I don’t think that you will lose your reward! We are to give systematically: Rabbi Paul was very concerned about the poor Messianic Jews in Jerusalem, who were being persecuted and impoverished, and so he raised funds from the Messianic Congregations outside of Israel that were prospering financially, to help the poor Jewish believers. Writing to the congregation in Corinth, he instructed them: Now concerning the collection for the saints (poor Messianic Jews in Jerusalem)… on the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). That’s systematic giving. We may even want to give sacrificially: Referring again to collecting money for the poor Messianic Jews in Jerusalem, Paul, writing to the Corinthians, held up the example of the congregations in Macedonia, who in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). That’s sacrificial giving! Remember how the Lord commended the poor widow above everyone else. Messiah Yeshua was more impressed with her two small copper coins given to the Temple Treasury than the much larger gifts of the rich donors, for she gave out of her poverty while the others gave out of their surplus. It’s not so much the amount that we give, but the generous heart that loves God and wants to give – that’s really what is important to Him. I thank God that most of the people involved in our synagogue do give out of love, quietly, systematically, willingly, cheerfully, generously, even sacrificially. I also thank the Lord for our brothers and sisters who are not part of Congregation Shema Yisrael, but who support our service for the Lord.
Question: How do I witness to my Jewish friend? Answer: I’m glad that you want to tell your Jewish friend the Good News about Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. Presenting the Message about the Messiah who can restore us to God and bring us eternal life is the best way to bless Israel and the Jewish people; and God promises to bless those who bless the seed of Abraham. According to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, bringing the Good News first to the Jewish people should be an evangelistic priority for all believers.
Sharing the Good News about the Messiah with Jewish people is not complicated. After years of experience, I have found only a few basic principles are needed.
Be prepared to experience some rejection, as well as some acceptance. For many reasons, this is a difficult area for many Jewish people, and so you have to be willing to handle some rejection graciously. However, many Jewish people are receptive to hearing about Messiah Yeshua, if He is presented to them properly.
One of the biggest barriers that prevents Jewish people from believing in Yeshua is the assumption that if they believe in Yeshua, they will no longer be Jewish. Of course, that is not true. Messianic Jews are more Jewish than ever! But to help overcome this barrier, emphasize the Jewishness of the Messiah. Yeshua is the most Jewish of Jews – a descendant of King David, was circumcised on the eighth day, went to synagogue regularly, as was His custom. He taught and kept the Torah. He is Israel’s Chief Rabbi, our ultimate Prophet, our High Priest, the Messiah and the King of the Jews.
Tell your friend that Yeshua’s disciples were Jewish men who continued to live very Jewish lives. In fact, history tells us that there was a Messianic Jewish movement in Israel for some 600 years after Yeshua came!
Emphasize the Jewishness of the New Testament, which was written by Jews, about the greatest Jew of all. Let your friend know about the possibility of joining a Messianic synagogue, which can be found in most major Jewish population centers, where he and others can live as Jews, and raise their children as Jews. Let him know that he not only doesn’t have to give up his God-given Jewish identity by following Yeshua, but that he will even enhance it!
Try to correct the common misperception that Christianity is against the Jewish people. True Christians are to love all people, especially the Jewish people. If possible, be a true friend and show your friend some genuine love. You might want to communicate that Christians owe a debt to the Jewish people – for the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, for the Messiah, for the Apostles, and for the Church. Whenever possible, stand with Israel and be as supportive of Jewish causes as possible.
Encourage your Jewish friend to read the Bible – it doesn’t much matter where – Old Testament or New Testament. God’s Word is so powerful and self-authenticating that if someone simply starts reading it with an open heart and mind, and prays to God to reveal the truth, they’re 90% of the way there! If the opportunity arises, read Isaiah 52:13- 53:12 with him verse by verse, and discuss how it is fulfilled in the events in the life of Yeshua.
Be fair and warn your friend that there is often a cost to becoming a Messianic Jew, including possible rejection by family, friends and community leaders, but that it is a cost well worth paying.
Finally, be patient. The seeds that are sown often take years to come to fruition. Have the attitude that you are planting seeds, and that it may take time and different circumstances before the harvest arrives.
Question: I have been witnessing to a Jewish friend, and I am surprised that he seems resistant to the Gospel. It seems so obvious to me from the Messianic prophecies and their fulfillment in the New Testament, from the evidence for Messiah’s resurrection, from 2,000 years of history and from my own personal experience, that Yeshua is the Messiah. Why don’t more of His own people believe in Him? Answer: The answer is not simple. There are many reasons for the rejection of the Messiah by the majority of the Jewish people:
Unbelief is not a problem that is unique to the Jewish people. We, like all peoples, are in a state of hostility toward God and repulsed by the truth. The majority of humanity continues to suppress the truth (see Romans 1:18). In spite of 2,000 years of efforts to proclaim the truth about the Messiah, it has been rejected by the majority of the peoples of the world, including the Jewish people.
Unbelief in Messiah is a supernatural problem. Our adversary, Satan, the god of this world, is at work, blinding our eyes to the truth. There is a veil covering our eyes, so that we can’t see the Savior (see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). To counter this, we need both to pray for the Jewish people, and boldly and lovingly declare the truth about Messiah to them. When a person turns to Messiah Yeshua, the veil is taken away!
Our blindness to Yeshua is a mysterious part of God’s plan. The Jewish people are in a temporary state of disobedience so that the mercy shown to the Gentiles, which results in their salvation, will, in turn, ultimately result in the salvation of the Jewish people. The Jewish people being shut up in a state of disobedience is part of God’s plan, so that we will understand that we are not worthy of salvation, but that it only comes from His mercy and grace (see Romans 11:30-32). Since we don’t know when the disobedience of the majority will end, and since every soul is precious, we need to actively declare the Good News to all Jewish people!
Most Jewish people today have been influenced by secular humanism and don’t believe that the Tenach (Old Testament) is the divinely inspired Word of God. To deny the divine inspiration of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings is to undermine the New Testament. Messiah said that if we don’t believe Moses, we won’t believe in Him (John 5:46-47). To counter this ruinous view of the Bible, recommend he read a good book on apologetics that shows the reliability of the Bible, such as “More Than A Carpenter” or “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” by Josh McDowell.
Many Christians mistakenly think that the Jewish people know the Tenach (the Old Testament) well, but the truth is that very few Jewish people read the Bible on their own. Even though the Word of God is able to give us the wisdom that leads us to salvation, most Jewish people aren’t familiar with the Holy Scriptures, and the words of the prophet still apply: My people perish for lack of knowledge. We trust the leaders to tell us what is important. But when the blind follow a blind guide, both fall into a pit. An additional problem is that those who are more serious about scholarship study the Talmud, which is a mixture of truth and error, and neglect the study of the Bible. To counter this, you should challenge your Jewish friend to search the Scriptures for himself and read the Messianic prophecies like Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 53, Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9 and 12:10 and Daniel 9:24-27. Challenge your Jewish friend to read the Bible, especially the New Testament, with an unprejudiced mind. Encourage him to pray, using his own words, asking God to show him the truth! God’s Word is powerful and self-authenticating; and if someone simply starts reading it with an open mind, and prays to God to reveal the truth, he is 90 percent of the way there!
Jewish people are immersed in a culture that tells us that Yeshua isn’t the Messiah and that we should not believe in Him, that we will be treated as traitors if we do. To counter this, inform your Jewish friend that throughout our history, in almost every generation only a remnant followed the Lord. The majority almost always went astray (see Romans 11:2-5). Moses and most of the prophets were also rejected by our people. Why should it be different with the Messiah? Let your Jewish friend know there was a faithful minority of Messianic Jews in the first several centuries after Yeshua came. Acts 21 reports that there were tens of thousands of Messianic Jews who were zealous for the Torah! Yeshua’s first disciples were Jewish people who continued to live very Jewish lives. Messianic communities continued to exist in that part of the Middle East for another 600 years. Tell him that there is a growing Messianic Jewish movement today. Remind your Jewish friend that the fear of man brings a snare; that it can be dangerous to go along with the majority, since the majority often goes astray; that it’s far better to be part of the faithful minority than the faithless majority; that there is a cost to become a disciple, but the cost is worth paying; that it is better to be accepted by the God of Israel than it is to be a member in good standing of a people whose majority have gone astray. Tell your Jewish friend the fact that the majority of the Jewish people don’t accept Yeshua is to be expected and actually is proof that Yeshua is the Messiah, since it was predicted by the prophets that the Messiah would initially be rejected by the majority of the Jewish people (see Isaiah 53:1-4 and Zechariah 12:10)!
Most Jewish people are secular and don’t believe the Messiah will come. Those who do believe He is coming are in the minority. And they don’t believe Yeshua is Messiah because they have only been taught to expect a victorious Messiah who will defeat our enemies; bring peace to Israel and the nations; end war, poverty and injustice; regather the Jewish people to the Land of Israel; and rebuild the Temple. Since Yeshua didn’t do those things, they have concluded that He can’t be the Messiah. To counter this partial truth about the Messiah, let your Jewish friend know that Yeshua came the first time as a lamb, not as a lion. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not with power and glory at the head of armies. He didn’t promise political salvation, but spiritual salvation by dying and rising to reconcile us to God. Let your friend know that in the Tenach, there are two sets of descriptions about the Messiah. One group of prophecies describes a suffering Messiah who will die to atone for our sins (see Isaiah 53, Zechariah 9:9 and 12:10, Daniel 9:24-27, Psalm 22). The other group of prophecies describes the victorious Messiah. The right way to deal with both descriptions of the Messiah is to understand that Yeshua is the Messiah who came the first time to suffer and die for the sins of the world. He will come a second time to set up His Kingdom over the entire world. If Yeshua fulfilled the prophecies about the sufferings of the Messiah, rest assured that He will return to fulfill the prophecies about the victorious Messiah!
The separation of the Church from its Jewish roots has made it harder for Jewish people to enter the New Covenant. Because much of the Church became separated from its Jewish roots, even hostile to its Jewish roots (in spite of the warning given by the Apostle to the Gentiles in Romans 11:17-21), Yeshua and the Church were seen by the Jewish community as being non-Jewish. If Jewish people did become believers, the Church did not encourage them to maintain their Jewish identity and pass it on to their children. We were encouraged to assimilate. But maintaining our Jewish identity is very important to the Jewish community. One of the biggest barriers preventing a Jewish person from believing in Yeshua is the mistaken assumption that if he believes in Yeshua, he will no longer be Jewish. To counter this, emphasize that Jesus is Jewish, the Apostles are Jewish, the New Testament is Jewish. Remind him that Yeshua is the most Jewish of Jews! He is a descendant of King David. He was circumcised on the eighth day, spoke our language, lived in our Land, attended synagogue regularly, observed our customs, celebrated our holidays and kept all the laws of our Torah. He is Israel’s Messiah, our ultimate Prophet, Priest King and Savior! Let your Jewish friend know that Messianic Jews are more Jewish than ever; that by becoming loyal to the King of the Jews, he is strengthening his Jewish identity; that believing in the Messiah is the most Jewish thing a person could ever do! Let your friend know about the possibility of joining a Messianic congregation where he can join others in living as Messianic Jews.
If the Church were doing what the Word of God instructed – loving the Jewish people, standing by Israel and making Jewish evangelism a priority – more Jewish people would be challenged to rethink our rejection of Yeshua. But false teaching, wrong practices and negligence in the Church have made it harder for us to hear about and accept Yeshua.
Replacement Theology – the false teaching embraced by most of the Church, that the Church is the new Israel and God is finished with the Jewish people – has undermined the desire of many Christians to engage in Jewish evangelism. Other false teachings that have undermined Jewish evangelism include the notion that “Jewish people don’t need to believe in Jesus to be saved”; the “Two-Covenant Theology” (God has one covenant and way of salvation for the Jewish people and a different covenant and way of salvation for everyone else); and the “love Israel but don’t bring them the Good News” crowd. Giving to ministries like Christians United For Israel or the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which do not give the Good News to Jewish people and instead give millions to anti-Messianic Jewish organizations, diverts precious resources away from legitimate ministries that are actively involved in Jewish evangelism.
Christians are encouraged to bless the Jewish people (I will bless those who bless you) and support Israel as much as possible, but only a few do. Christians are told to make Jewish evangelism a priority (Romans 1:16), but few do. Christians are encouraged to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but few do. Christians should have compassion on us, love us and make us jealous of their relationship with the Three-In-One God of Israel (see Romans 10:1, 11:11), but few do. Instead of loving us and bringing us the Good News about the Jewish Messiah, many Christians have harmed and alienated us. The centuries-long sin of “Christian Anti-Semitism” has made it harder for us to accept Yeshua. To counter this, make a special effort to love the Jewish people and support Israel, Messianic Jewish ministries and congregations. Tell your Jewish friend that Yeshua taught that people don’t really love Him unless they do the things He told them to do, that He never advocated violence or coercion, and that we could tell His true disciples by their love – even for their enemies. Let them know that not all anti-Semitism was caused by real Christians, and there is a difference between Gentiles who are nominally Christian and those who are true Christians. Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, wittily commented “Being born in a Christian home doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being born in a bakery automatically makes you a bagel”! Point out that there have been many true Christians who have given their lives for the Jewish people.
Two thousand years of rejection of Yeshua has worked its way into Jewish culture and theology – and that is not easy to overcome. It will take radical circumstances to overcome 2,000 years of error, but it will happen! All Israel will be saved (see Romans 11:25-26) – by trials and suffering and also by God’s mercy and grace!
Question: Is The New Testament Anti-Semitic? Answer: Sometimes you will hear the accusation that the New Testament is anti-Semitic. The implication is that it can’t be from God. It can’t be divinely inspired. Of course, that’s not true. The authors of the New Testament, who wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, were faithful Jewish men who loved their people. They were no more anti-Semitic than the prophet Isaiah, who, claiming to be quoting the Lord and also using his own words, used scathing terms to describe the spiritual and moral depravity of the people of his generation.
In the opening words of Isaiah’s book, the Lord told us that, even though He had treated us like beloved children, we had rebelled against Him. That made us less intelligent than the ox or donkey, that at least knows who its owner is and where its feeding trough is. We no longer knew our Heavenly Father.
The Lord created the Chosen Nation so that we would know Him and obey Him and bring the knowledge of the one true and living God to the other nations who were in great darkness. But we were no longer fulfilling His purposes. Isaiah described us as a sinful nation that had missed the mark. Our iniquity was great. We were crooked and twisted. We had become a brood of evildoers. We had failed to do what was beneficial, and instead, were doing what was harmful. We were corrupt children. We had become like a rotten piece of fruit or a bad piece of meat that is no longer edible. Isaiah compared Israel to Sodom and Gomorrah. Once we had been like a faithful wife, in an intimate relationship with the living God, but now we were like a prostitute and were alienated from Him. Once we were like silver, beautiful and valuable, but now we were like dross, worthless impurities that are separated from precious metals in the refining process and discarded. Once we were like delicious wine, but now we were like wine that had been diluted with water – tasteless and disappointing. Once we had been full of righteousness, but now we were full of murderers, thieves and greedy opportunists who perverted justice and took advantage of the weak.
Meanwhile, during this descent into depravity, we were outwardly very religious. We observed the holidays. We worshiped at the Temple, praying and making the sacrifices that the Torah commanded. We thought we were close to God but in reality we had abandoned the Holy One of Israel. We were religious hypocrites and the Lord detested our ceremonies. Because of all this, Isaiah let us know that God had decided to punish us. He would send enemies who would invade and devastate us. Jerusalem and our other cities would be destroyed.
Isaiah described the nation’s sins in detail. He used insulting comparisons. He promised that God would punish us with destruction. Was Isaiah an anti-Semite? Of course not! He was a faithful son of Israel who wanted what was best for his people. The men who wrote the New Testament were just like Isaiah. At times they used unflattering language to describe those who opposed the truth, but they also loved their people and assured us of God’s continuing love – provided that we turned back to Him.
There are times when a doctor injects poisons into the body of a cancer patient to help him live. There are times when a surgeon uses painful procedures to help a patient survive. We should learn from Israel’s prophets and Messiah’s representatives that there are times when we must speak bluntly, even unflatteringly. May the Lord send today’s generation of Jewish people men and women like Isaiah and the apostles, who have both the love and the chutzpah to tell us the truth, to be blunt with us when bluntness is needed, and to criticize us when we need to be criticized – so that we can turn back to the Holy One of Israel.
Question: How many Messianic Jews are there in Israel? Answer: A thorough study of the Messianic Jewish community in Israel was published in 1999 by the United Christian Council In Israel in cooperation with the Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies. It is called Facts and Myths about the Messianic Congregations in Israel. Here’s what this excellent study found:
There were 81 groups made up of 69 congregations and 12 house groups. Of the 81 groups, some 57 were founded in the 1990’s. Prior to 1948 there were two congregations. In the 1950’s five congregations were added. In the 1960’s no congregations were added. In the 1970’s seven congregations were added. In the 1980’s ten congregations were added. In the 1990’s 57 congregations were added. In 1948, at the founding of the State of Israel, the number of Jewish believers was fewer than 200. Just prior to the founding of the State, 80 Jewish Believers left the country under “Operation Mercy/Grace,” a rescue mission organized by the Jerusalem Anglican authorities to evacuate “all Hebrew Christians who preferred not to remain within the anticipated new Jewish State.” Following the establishment of the State of Israel, there were no more than 100 Jewish believers. By December 1950, there were approximately 200, including children. By 1960, there may have been as many as 200 adults. By 1967, there were roughly 500, probably including children. By 1976, there are estimated to have been between 500 to 1,000. By 1986, the movement had grown to between 1,000 to 2,500. By 2000, there were perhaps 3,000 to 4,000, including children. That means that out of a population of 4.5 million Jews in Israel, Messianic Jews comprise just one-tenth of one percent! (Since this study is now three years old, the number of congregations and individual believers has probably grown somewhat.)
The majority of congregations have experienced an increase in membership in recent years and, in general, it is the newer congregations which have enjoyed the greatest growth. The major source of growth in the 1990’s was due to the large increase in the number of new immigrants. This has resulted not only in an increase of new Russian-speaking congregations, but also in Russian being the second language in otherwise Hebrew-speaking congregations.
The recent development of Ethiopian Messianic Jewish congregations is closely related to Operation Moses (1984-1985), when many Ethiopian Messianic Jews emigrated to Israel. There are 6 congregations, comprised of approximately 120 adults and 50 children. There are approximately 20 Russian-speaking congregations that have Russian as their first or only language. Half of the members were Believers before they arrived in Israel, and half have come to the Lord since they have been in Israel.
Almost all the groups define themselves as “Messianic.” The vast majority will not use the term “Christian” as a self-designation. This serves to emphasize that a Jew who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah is still Jewish. Jewish substitutes are preferred over Christian terminology and labeling. Denominational names are rare. The vast majority don’t use the terms “rabbi” to refer to their leaders, or “synagogue” to describe their congregation, given the much greater religious nature of Israeli society, in which a rabbi is a qualified, yeshiva-trained individual, and a synagogue is understood to be part of Rabbinic Judaism. There tends to be less use of Torah scrolls, tallits (prayer-shawls), kippas (head coverings) and other rabbinic traditions. Only two congregations have a scroll of the Torah which is regularly read during the service. The decor tends to be simple. The most frequent items are banners or other wall hangings bearing quotations from Scripture. Jewish symbols such as shofars, menorahs, the Star of David, and occasionally the Israeli flag, can be found. The cross is not used as a symbol.
Meetings are held in private homes and rented facilities, including church facilities. A few congregations have their own buildings, and it seems that in each case they were either received as gifts or purchased with funds donated from abroad, rather than collected locally. Congregations meeting in church buildings normally express that they do not find this problematic, but would prefer their own premises. Baptism is performed by immersion and can take place in any body of running water. Preferred sites are the Jordan River and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), while some use the Mediterranean Sea. Some congregations use the facilities of a nearby church. Three congregations with a Lutheran background practice infant baptism, but the majority of congregations will not baptize people below the age of 18. A few baptize children aged ten or a little younger. The majority of the congregations celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a month. Normally, the first Sabbath of the month is chosen. An almost equal number of groups observe the Lord’s Supper either every week, or every second week. Only two congregations share in the Lord’s Supper once a year in connection with Passover. Of the 69 congregations, only 15 had membership lists. Being Jewish or non-Jewish has no impact on membership.
Several of the 81 groups operate with a plural leadership, although in most cases one person is the senior leader. The 81 groups have 78 different leaders. Of the 78 leaders, 55 are Jewish, which is about 70%. Two are Arabs. Some ten of the 55 Jewish leaders were born in Israel. The average age is under 50, and only some five leaders have turned 60. The intermarriage rate among the Jewish leaders is about 50%. Only a few of the Jewish leaders have formal theological training of more than three years; some have a year or more of Bible School, but most have a long period of “on the job training.” The majority of the congregations do not allow women to serve as either elders or pastors. They may be deaconesses, whose function is generally limited to practical tasks. Many of the Russian-speaking congregations are willing to having women as elders, but none actually have them in place. Women are allowed to teach other women, children, and serve in other capacities, such as leading worship, praying, reading, and bringing testimonies.
The theology can best be expressed by the term “evangelical.” There are between 400-500 “Hebrew Catholics” in different Catholic churches and organizations, who see themselves as part of the Catholic Church. The majority of the Messianic Movement do not want closer cooperation with the Hebrew Catholics.
Almost all the congregations celebrate the Jewish holidays in one form or another and view their fulfillment in the Messiah. Most do not celebrate Church holidays like Christmas or Easter. The older congregations have become more Jewishly oriented over the years.
In July 1980, the Amutot Law was passed, known in English as the “Friendly Societies Law.” It provides a legal framework for non-profit and charitable societies to operate. Of the 69 congregations, about half are registered as an Amutah.
With almost no exception leaders expressed willingness to cooperate both locally and nationally. Some leaders admit that willingness to cooperate does not always translate into action. National committees and national conferences are held on a variety of topics and organized by different groups or institutions. A fellowship of leaders of Hebrew-speaking congregations exists with its own planning committee. National leadership meetings are held on average three times per year. A national evangelism committee is structured under the national leadership committee, but operates independently. The Messianic Action Committee came into existence in 1997 in connection with the proposal to the Knesset of a new anti-missionary law. Several congregations are actively involved in Pro-Life work and the struggle against abortion. There is a national social fund. The Ebenezer Home provides care for elderly Messianic Jews. There is an Israeli Bible Society. The Israel College of the Bible is training leaders.
For many congregations and their members, harassment and opposition seem to be an inevitable consequence of being a Messianic Jew living in Israel. The hostility which they often face includes posters publicly exposing individuals or groups, unreliable and biased newspaper articles on congregations and members, threats of and actual loss of jobs, damage to property, death threats, interruption of meetings or attempts to prevent them from taking place, graffiti, arson and so forth. Messianic Jews are routinely lumped together with the cults. However, some congregations have experienced little or no harassment.
Question: I grew up Catholic. However, I’m concerned that the Catholic Church has strayed from some of the teachings of the Bible. Am I right to be concerned? Answer: You are right to be concerned. While the Catholic Church is right about many things, it has added many extra-Biblical teachings that are seriously wrong. That’s the reason for the Protestant Reformation – the recognition that the Catholic Church needed to be reformed. I’m in agreement with those calling for reformation. Here are some of the things that need to be reformed: Messiah rejected man-made traditions and corrupt religious bureaucrats. He appointed godly Jewish men who knew the truth to be the leaders of His Community. They had a simplicity and a purity of devotion to the Messiah Himself. They had a pure faith. To experience salvation, they did not go through other men, or Mary, or create a new priesthood, or invent man-made sacraments. They proclaimed a simple message that Messiah is the source of salvation; and that by having faith in Yeshua, we are saved. That is the simple, pure and true Gospel. It’s very different from a distorted message about the Apocrypha being part of the Scriptures, the pope being the infallible head of the Church, a Roman Catholic priesthood, the demand of celibacy from these priests, the sacrifice of the mass, the bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Messiah, adoring a piece of bread, confession to priests to obtain forgiveness, prayers and masses for the dead, indulgences, the worship of Mary and praying to the saints. Conclusion: Roman Catholicism is a complicated system of Bible teachings combined with the teachings of men that has corrupted the pure faith. Become part of a good Evangelical Church or Messianic Synagogue.
What is Messianic Judaism?
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people and kosher-hearted Gentiles who believe that Yeshua (Jesus’ original name in Hebrew) is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world.