Faith Brings Salvation!

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What glorious truths are found in Romans 9-11!  It’s like a treasure hunt, and the golden nuggets are invaluable!  I hope you are enjoying this week’s study as we examine the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.  We’re headed into Romans 10 today, but if you missed the previous two posts, I recommend you back up and catch them so that you get the fullness of today’s lesson.

Paul opens Chapter 10 driving home the idea that righteousness and salvation are attained by faith alone, not by works.  Then, he cuts straight to the chase in verses 9-10:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

That’s as plain and simple as it gets!  In fact, if you are following this study (or you simply stumbled upon this post) and you have tried to gain God’s acceptance through anything but simple faith, it is not a coincident that you are here!  He is speaking to you this very moment!  Our Lord longs for relationship with you and you can do nothing to earn it.  Salvation truly is simple: confess and believe!  (Click here for more guidance about how to be saved.)

Salvation is the same for everyone…Jews or Gentiles.  Paul goes on to explain that in verses 12-13 of Romans:

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

However, verses 14-21 allude to the difficulty of the Jewish people in understanding and trusting in faith alone.  To call upon God, they must believe.  To believe, they must they must hear.  To hear, there must be a preacher. Preachers must be sent.

Well, throughout history, God sent “preachers.”  They were called prophets in the Old Testament!  Men such as Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and others foretold of Christ the Messiah who would come to the Jews.  The preachers came…and the Jewish people heard.  Yet, they did not simply believe by faith.  Instead, they tried to keep the law of Moses.

Verse 15 talks about the beautiful feet of those who bring good news (the Gospel).  The Gospel is all about faith and nothing more.  I want beautiful feet, how about you?  I want to share the good news with others (including Jews).  May we all yearn for beautiful feet!

Allow me to divert for a moment.  Sadly, there are very large Christian organizations (such as Christians United for Israel [John Hagee, who denies Jesus as Messiah] and International Fellowship of Christians and Jews [Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein]) who wholeheartedly love Israel and care for the Jewish people, but WILL NOT “preach the Gospel” to them.  (I’m not suggesting obnoxious “in your face” evangelism that is unnecessarily offensive, but about intentionally taking the opportunities God gives to share the love of Christ both in word and deed.)  How sad that the very key thing Paul teaches about regarding Jewish-Christian relations is not innocently overlooked, but intentionally set aside.  (You can find out about Jewish-related ministries and their sometimes veiled objectives here.)

Romans 10:19 compels us to be a nation (people group) willing to show the love of Messiah, in order to make the Jewish people jealous.  Let’s practice what God’s Word commands!

We’re headed for Romans 11 tomorrow, and it gets REALLY good at that point!  So, here’s your homework: go read that chapter, then join us here again tomorrow as we launch into that chapter!

UPDATE: Friends, I just watched a video that corresponds so closely with our study this week about Christian-Jewish relations.  Tune into an interview with Eitan Shishkoff, an American-born “hippie Jew,” who now lives and ministers in Israel.  He has incredible insight into Jewish-Christian relations.  Catch the interview at the 1:19:50 mark here:

Christ Revealed – Episode 9

(Christ Revealed is a 9-part documentary, with a single episode released each day.  This was Day 9, and I believe the video is available only until 6:00pm Pacific time today.)

Is Rabbinic Judaism Jewish?

Hi everyone!  Through Israel College of the Bible, I have studied things such as the Jewishness of Jesus, and learned of the principles of Rabbinic Judaism (how it started, tenants of the belief system, etc).  It has helped me to understand how Judaism subsists without Temple sacrifices and worship, which is what Judaism via the Law of Moses was based upon.

In brief, Rabbinic Judaism took the place of original Judaism once the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  Here is an excellent video, produced by One for Israel, that explains the challenges of Rabbinic Judaism.  Enjoy!

PS: Friendly reminder: Israel College of the Bible is offering a 30% discount on online courses, but the deadline to take advantage of this deal is tomorrow!  (Click on the link for more information about course offerings.)

I have taken several classes and enjoy studying from a Messianic Jewish perspective.  The courses can be as easy or difficult as you wish them to be.  If you want college credit, requirements are much greater than for those who simply wish to take the course for personal enrichment.  If personal enrichment is your choice, you get out of it what you put in!  If you tackle the reading assignments and take the quizzes, you get a sense of how well you have retained the information.  However, if that is not your cup of tea, theoretically, you can simply watch the videos and learn a great deal.

Students have access to the selected course for 6 months, so you study and learn at your own pace.  If you have interest in the topics offered, I highly recommend Israel College of the Bible.

Similarities of Passover and Resurrection Weekend

Welcome back friends!  Yesterday we discovered that the Jewish observance of Passover coincides with the Christian observances of Good Friday and Resurrection Day.  Indeed, the Christian and Jewish events share some similarities, though it is rare that the holidays are observed simultaneously.

Let’s consider some similarities.  The very essence of the Christian celebration of Good Friday and Resurrection Day are deeply rooted in the Jewish feast of Passover, so let’s start there.

Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23:5-14 actually lay out the requirements of the 8-day Jewish commemoration of Passover (which also includes the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits).  However, the Passover account played out as the Israelites escaped bondage from Egypt.  Moses was sent by God to deliver the people, but the Egyptian pharaoh did not heed Moses’ appeal.  Thus, God took action on behalf of His people!

A plague would descend upon Egypt that would take the lives of every first born unless families sacrificed an unblemished lamb and smeared blood on their doorposts.  Hebrew families complied with God’s command and thus, their first borns were spared.

Ultimately, the pharaoh relented, the Israelites were set free, and annually Jews the world over celebrate that release from bondage as prescribed in Leviticus 23.  Passover commemorates their release, the Feast of Unleavened Bread reminds them they had no time to allow their bread to rise prior to escaping Egyptian bondage, and the Feast of First Fruits celebrates giving the first fruits of the harvest as an offering of thanks to the Lord.

In the Christian narrative, Jesus Himself fulfills each of those Jewish feasts!  Jesus was the Passover Lamb, the one sacrificed for your sins and mine.  (John 1:29)  It was the blood of the lamb that caused the angel of death to “passover” their house on that fateful night in Egypt.  It is the blood of the Lamb of God that causes Him to “passover” (forgive) our sins.  Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was crucified on Good Friday, which we commemorate tomorrow.

Jesus also fulfills the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  When leaving Egypt, there was no time for the yeast to cause bread to rise, so they were commanded to remove the leaven (yeast).  Throughout Scripture, leaven is representative of sin.  We are to “leave out” the sin in our lives, and fortunately, that is what Jesus’ forgiveness does for us!  It removes sin as far as the east is from the west!  (Psalm 103:12)  Jesus fulfills the Feast of Unleavened Bread on our behalf!

Finally, Jesus also fulfills the Feast of First Fruits.  The Israelites presented the first of their harvest as an offering of thanks to God.  Miraculously, the resurrection of Jesus makes Him the first fruit of those who will ultimately be resurrected:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
~1 Corinthians 15:20

That is our guarantee that, as believers, we will follow our First Fruit (Jesus) in resurrection.  We will be raised from the dead to live with Him forever!

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.
~1 Corinthians 15:21-23

Indeed, Jesus is our Passover Lamb, our Unleavened Bread and our First Fruits!  All that, we celebrate in the coming week, beginning tomorrow!  Meanwhile, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people, as it was through them that Jesus was revealed to us!  As you celebrate, why not thank the Lord for His people and ask special blessings upon them as they celebrate their feasts!

Who’s Who in Ezekiel 38?

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In the late-1900’s it was prestigious to be named in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.  Having “made the grade,” some paid the high price to be listed among those students, and to have their credentials published for all the world to see.  Of course, no one really cared to read that book, other than those whose names it contained…and then only their own entry!  So much for prestige!

Today we’re going to examine the list of “Who’s Who Among Northern Invaders!”  It could definitely be argued that these nations are prestigious, but probably for the wrong reasons!  This doesn’t seem like a Who’s Who list of which any nation would wish to be named.  But, nonetheless, the Lord names names and predicts His destruction of these nations.

Before we discover the identity of those nations, let’s take a detour to Isaiah 44:6-7.  During the days of Isaiah, Israel was surrounded by false gods, thus the Lord, through his prophet, chose to make a very pointed statement in these verses.  What was the point?

Indeed, Jehovah God is the first and the last, He is able to accurately predict the future, and He did that very well through His Word.  The prophecy in Ezekiel 38 is one such foretelling and, if God says it is so, we can fully believe it!  Thus, let’s hear the Lord’s prediction of what will happen in end times.

Read Ezekiel 38:1-13.

We do not have the luxury in this study of digging deeply into the etymology (study of words) to fully develop the origin of each modern-day nation in the region.  Even if time permitted, we would find that brilliant Bible scholars who have spent decades identifying these lands have differing opinions, particularly regarding Gomer, Beth-Togarmah, and Tarshish. Thus, our objective is not to “prove” the identity of every nation, though you are certainly encouraged to pursue further research.  Rather, the goal is to clearly identify the major players and gain a solid understanding of what general areas these Biblical locales represent today.  In the end, I am confident there will be agreement on the major players, and in the general areas represented.  Please do not allow minor differences of opinion in identification of these nations to be a distraction.

According to verse 2, against who is the prophet to prophesy?  If you said Gog of Magog, you are correct!  Gog is a person, not a place.  In fact, Gog is likely a title meaning “prince, chief or czar,” not a given name; and we’re told that he is the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.  We can be sure that a leader will emerge to lead the nations listed in these verses into battle against Israel.

Ezekiel tells us that God is against Gog and that He will turn him about and put hooks in his jaws, bringing him and his army “out of the north” into battle with Israel.

Interestingly, the Jewish mind would recall their greatest day as the day Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt enroute to the Promised Land.  However, take a look at Jeremiah 16:14-15.  There, the prophet Jeremiah indicates that, though the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of Egypt in the early days, He will bring them “from the land of the north” in the last days.  To date, over 1 million Jews have returned to Israel from Russia, the land of the north!  Unfortunately, from that same land will come Gog and his army.

Northern Invasion Nations

In Ezekiel 38:2, what four geographical entities are listed?  (Remember, Gog is likely the title of a person, not a geographical place.)  Now, let’s identify the modern-day places represented by those ancient names.

  • Magog.  A region to the north whose borders do not seem to be precisely identified.  Ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, indicates that Magog is a land of Scythians to the north.  Some scholars have identified the area of modern-day Georgia as the likely region of Magog.  (Georgia, the Russian state, not Georgia USA.)
  • Rosh.  Most believe Rosh refers to the area of modern-day Russia.
  • Meshech.  Likely referring to modern-day Moscow, Meshech seems to be a contraction of words meaning “to draw out, drag, seize.”
  • Tubal.  Many believe Tubal is modern-day Tolbolsk, an eastern city of Russia.  A few believe Tubal could refer to Turkey.

Now turn your attention to Ezekiel 38:5-6.  What five locales are listed there?

  • Persia.  There is virtually no question surrounding the identity of Persia.  It is undoubtedly Iran, but could also include northern Iraq.  The name “Persia” was used by the Western world, though “Iran” has been the historical name.  In 1935 the shah asked foreign delegates to use the name “Iran.”  Thus, Persia and Iran have been synonymous for ages.
  • Ethiopia.  Sometimes called “Cush” in Scripture, Ethiopia is widely believed to be not only modern-day Ethiopia, but likely Sudan and other areas south of Egypt as well.  In recent history, this area has been home to the National Islamic Front, has been under Islamic dictatorship, and was once the home of Osama bin Laden.
  • Put.  A long-term sponsor and exporter of terror, it is not surprising that Put is undeniably Libya, but probably also includes Algeria and perhaps Tunisia.  (Put is to the west of the territory seen on the map above.)
  • Gomer.  Scholars differ as to the identity of Gomer, though most believe it is the vicinity of either Germany or Turkey.
  • Beth-Togarmah.  Differences of opinion regarding Beth-Togarmah are widespread as well.  Beth-Togarmah could refer to areas of Germany, Turkey, Armenia, Asia Minor or Central Asia (Some simply identify them as Turkish-speaking people in Asia.)

Regardless of total lack of consensus, a glance at the map above reveals that Iran and areas north and southwest of Israel are well-represented in the list provided in Ezekiel 38.

It is also important to realize that this passage includes phrases such as “with all its troops,” and “many peoples with you” leaving open possibilities that other people groups and lands may be included.

Our final look at Who’s Who is from verse 13, where we find a list of people groups who seem to stand around asking questions, but doing nothing to engage the enemy.  Those lands include Sheba, Dedan and Tarshish, but also include other “merchants” and “villages,” indicating others may be involved.  Here is the consensus:

  • Sheba and Dedan.  Widely believed to be Saudi Arabia, though some also include Yemen and Oman (the entire Arabian Peninsula).
  • The “merchants of Tarshish with all its villages.” Widely believed to be the UK, Spain, or Europe; some even speculate the “villages” to include the US and other western nations.

So, there you have it…a look at the infamous Who’s Who!  Do you see the nations listed in verses 3-6 aligning today?  Do you see today’s Sheba, Dedan and merchants of Tarshish standing around asking questions rather than getting involved in defense of God’s chosen land?  I do too!

But we’ve just begun our study of this terrible invasion from the North. Stay with us this week as we dive deeper into the mindset of those who seek Israel’s destruction, and discover their motives. Thanks for sailing with us!

(This teaching originated in the Bible study, Looking for the Blessed Hope.  You will find the entire study posted on the left sidebar.)