“Sooooo Loving of Israel!”

I wish all of you could have experienced what I experienced Saturday night at the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem Reunion/Refresher!  In a gathering of graduates from the Christian Leadership Conferences at Yad Vashem (2010-2017), we were so grateful to have several African nations represented among us.  We heard from them on Saturday night, and trust me when I say, “The Lord is alive and well, and moving powerfully through men and women committed to the Lord to love Israel!”

We heard from Bishop Joshua Mulinge, not only one of Africa’s most prominent pastors, but also one of the key people responsible for arranging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visits to Africa, and the Africa-Israel Initiative that is joining the continent of Africa together in partnership with Israel.  Africa is poised to move to the forefront of world affairs in a very positive way!  (Though we know Sudan [Cush] and Libya [Put] will refuse to follow!  Check out Ezekiel 38 to see why!)

Bishop Mulinge told us story-after-story of that adventure, but you must understand one thing.  Seven years ago, Pastor Mulinge was a staunch Replacement Theology teacher.  His message to his church and around Africa was that God was finished with Israel and the church was the “new Israel.”  Thus, all God’s promises to Israel are now promises to the church.

He told an amazing story of how the Lord revealed that position as false teaching, then how, after Pastor Mulinge’s repentance, the Lord used a Muslim man to bless the church!  He went on to share account after account of God’s blessings as he and his congregation took Genesis 12:3 to heart:

I will bless those who bless you [Israel],
And the one who curses you I [God] will curse.

You have to hear Bishop Mulinge tell his story, so I’m including it here.  The heading for today’s post will make no sense until you hear his story!  (For clarification, in the audio, what sounds like “judge” is “church,” and what sounds like “parrot” is “parent.”)  I hope you are blessed by this brother’s testimony!

The Leadership Briefing at ICEJ’s Summer Conference

Image result for icej-us summer conference

How fitting!  Just days after President Trump’s historic visit to Israel, and the Jewish celebration of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day, commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem following the Six Day War), I celebrate with Christians from all over America who stand with Israel!

I am attending the Leadership Briefing and Summer Conference of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).  To start things off, we received the briefing from ICEJ leadership and it was glowing!

If you are a Christian and love Israel, yet are unfamiliar with ICEJ, become familiar!  ICEJ has been around since 1980, has a presence in well over 100 countries, and 14 million people are associated with ICEJ, making it the largest ministry in support of Israel in the world.

ICEJ engages in a myriad of projects that educate, promote support for Israel, show compassion, and press for justice on behalf of Israel and we heard from ICEJ leaders such as Susan Michael and Malcolm Hedding.  Here is just a short list of ongoing projects:

  • Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors – founded and run solely by the ICEJ
  • IsraelAid – assisting Jews, Arabs and others in Israel living in poverty
  • Funding and administrative help in helping Jews from around the world make aliyah (return to the homeland)
  • Providing bomb shelters to neighborhoods near the Gaza Strip
  • Providing body armor for IDF and police forces in Israel
  • Providing very low-cost, specialized tours of Israel to pastors/ministry leaders and young people
  • Producing small group Bible studies and providing speakers to churches and organizations to further educate lay people on rightly relating to Israel
  • Coordinating and hosting the annual Feast of Tabernacles, which brings together thousands of Christians from around the world
  • ACLI – American Christian Leaders for Israel.  An initiative of the US Branch, the newly-formed ACLI seeks to provide a unified voice of truth to the American public in support of Israel and the Jewish people.

…and that is honestly a short list!

We were also informed of the hurdles ICEJ (and others in support of Israel) face:

  • Growing Biblical illiteracy.  Fewer people who identify themselves as Christians actually hold a Biblical worldview.  Many don’t understand the Old Testament, therefore, have lost the importance of God’s call upon Israel.  Misunderstanding the Old Testament leaves understanding the New Testament vulnerable to secular ideas.
  • Replacement Theology.  Fitting hand-in-glove to growing Biblical illiteracy, Replacement Theology (RT) is growing in strength.  Emboldened by antisemitic narrative (at times naively, at times purposefully), the basic tenet of RT is that because the Jews rejected God, God has rejected them, thus transferring all the Biblical promises to the church.  RT is espoused by some “big name” evangelicals, and is false teaching.  Be careful who you turn to for spiritual guidance regarding Israel!
  • Growing antisemitism.  College campuses are fraught with antisemitism, as it is often crammed down the throats of unsuspecting students by incredibly liberal professors.  In addition, surveys indicate that 26% of the world is antisemitic. 70% of those have never met a Jewish person.  Furthermore, while only 9% of American adults identify as antisemitic, only 10% hold a strong Biblical worldview!  That must change!
  • Growing influence of Islam.  After 8 years of “free reign” in America, things have quieted on the Muslim front in our country.  But don’t be fooled.  While it would be absolutely inappropriate to lump every Muslim into the same batch (indeed, many are peaceful), the truth is that some are jihadist…and they are very patient.  As soon as the political winds turn again in their favor, they will re-surface in even greater number and severity.  (Consider what is happening in Europe, where they still have “free reign.”)

The message is clear, it is time for Christians to rise up and join the Lord God of Israel in blessing His people.  A key passage for this conference comes from Psalm 102:

But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
    you are remembered throughout all generations.
You will arise and have pity on Zion;
    it is the time to favor her;
    the appointed time has come.

In this 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, the Lord is once again remembered for His faithfulness to His chosen land and His chosen people.  He has arisen and is showing favor to Israel.

The appointed time has come, Christians!  Study about Israel, show support of Israel, stand with Israel and pray for Israel!

Jewish Feasts: God’s Calendar of End Time Events

Hi friends and study partners!  On Sunday we began studying the timing of the King’s return.  We know that spiritual Israel and natural Israel have two different finish lines.  Spiritual Israel (which we defined earlier as believers in Jesus as Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile) look to the rapture, while natural Israel awaits the glorious appearing (following the tribulation, when Jesus actually steps foot on the earth to fulfill the Davidic Covenant).

Please note: the church is not the “new Israel,” and I am not suggesting that the covenant promises to Israel have been transferred to the church.  That is the premise of Replacement Theology, and it is false teaching.  Please study the previous lesson on natural/spiritual Israel to understand the context used here.

So, as we gather once again around the study table, let’s focus on the timing of the King’s return. Scripture gives us many clues regarding His return, but the seven Biblical Jewish feasts lay out God’s calendar and help us understand the timing of end time events.

Interestingly, there are no Jewish feasts to celebrate creation, Noah’s flood, or even the Abrahamic Covenant. While those are certainly important events, God’s calendar for the world was not revealed in any of those.  The feasts point back to what Jews see as the most significant time in their history: the exodus from Egypt.  (Leviticus 23 provides details of each feast.)  Indeed, God revealed His calendar when He instituted the Jewish feasts.

However, regarding feasts, festivals, and Sabbaths, the apostle Paul had this to say:

These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
~Colossians 2:17 [Emphasis mine]

The Jewish feasts are a shadow of what is to come, while Christ is the fulfillment of every feast!  In fulfilling the feasts, God provides a timeline.  Here are the 7 major Biblical feasts of Israel:

  • Feast of Passover
    • Shadow: Jews view Passover as the celebration of freedom.  While captive in Egypt, those who put blood on the doorpost were “passed over” by the angel of death.  (Exodus 12:5-7)
    • Substance: Jesus is our Passover Lamb!  The apostle John declared, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (See John 1:29, 1 Corinthians 5:7b)
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread
    • Shadow: Jews were forced to flee Egypt quickly, leaving no time for yeast to rise. Thus, they ate unleavened bread. In Scripture, leaven is also symbolic of sin. Therefore, this feast is a time of spiritual cleansing for Jews.

      Image result for matzo

      Matzo (unleavened bread)

    • Substance: By the crucifixion of Jesus we are cleansed!  According to Isaiah 53:5, Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and by His stripes we are healed.  Incredibly, we see piercing, bruising and stripes pictured in matzo (unleavened bread).  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
  • Feast of Firstfruits
    • Shadow: For Jews, this feast represents the beginning of the harvest and an offering to the Lord of the firstfruits thereof.
    • Substance: Jesus rose from the grave…the first fruit that opened the door for us!  1 Corinthians 15:20 confirms that Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep! Death will not defeat us!
  • Feast of Pentecost
    • Shadow: Jews celebrate the Feast of Pentecost as the giving of the law (Torah) to Moses on Mt Sinai.
    • Substance: After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, He promised us the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church!

Do you see a timeline forming?  Jesus became our Passover Lamb, He was crucified (becoming the fulfillment of Unleavened Bread), then His resurrection is symbolized in the Feast of First Fruits.  Fifty days later, the Holy Spirit was given!  God’s calendar is taking shape.  But there are three more feasts:

  • Feast of Trumpets
    • Shadow: The Feast of Trumpets is Rosh HaShanah in Hebrew…the civil new year.  It is a time of self examination…similar to our worldly tradition of setting new year’s resolutions.  It is an annual new beginning for the Jewish people. In addition, Numbers 10:1-10 describes 2 silver trumpets associated with this feast that are used to assemble the people and direct the movement of the camp.
    • Substance: 2 silver trumpets hold significant meaning.  Why silver?  Precious metal, though not perfect.  Why two?  Could it be that God intended two trumpets to call together the entire world?  Could it be the two trumpets represent Israel and the church (precious, but not perfect)?  Israel, first, because they are the vehicle of world redemption.  They are calling us to assemble together (though, in general, they don’t recognize who we assemble around).  Secondly, the church is called to “trumpet” the gospel…to spread the good news!  1 Corinthians 14:8 warns: …for if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?  We must sound a clear, sure sound…the Gospel of Jesus! Otherwise, who will be prepared?  But just as importantly, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 tells us that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the LAST trumpet, we will all be changed.  Friends, that is the rapture!  It is next on the calendar!  The feasts give us a chronology of end time events.  Still, there are two more feasts to follow!
  • Day of Atonement
    • Shadow: The Day of Atonement is the most solemn, somber day on the Hebrew calendar.  It is a setting aside of all profane works, and even today, Jews fast during the Day of Atonement.
    • Substance: The Day of Atonement represents Israel’s national salvation…still to come!  We know that as the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and the launch of the Millennial Age.  Zechariah 12:10 says: Then they will look on Me whom they pierced.  Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.  This event is still ahead on God’s calendar.
  • Feast of Tabernacles  (Our study points to this!)
    • Shadow: To commemorate the wilderness wandering, Jews celebrate Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) by building and living in small, temporary shelters.  It is also a celebration of the harvest ingathering and giving of thanks.
    • Substance: Zechariah 14:16-21 tells us that everyone from every nation who came up against Israel will go up to Jerusalem every year to worship the King!  (He must return in order for that to happen!)  This gathering will be the Feast of Tabernacles!  Think of it: national Israel will finally be saved, and the “ingathering” of believers from around the world will take place at this great harvest of souls!  This is the Millennial Kingdom…fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

Friends, the King is coming and we have much for which to look forward!  The feasts serve as a calendar of the end times.  In the Passover, Jesus came to be the sacrificial lamb.  Then He gave His life (fulfillment of Unleavened Bread), and rose again (fulfillment of Firstfruits).  Pentecost came and He sent the Holy Spirit and birthed the church.  The next calendar event is the Feast of Trumpets…the rapture.  That will be followed by Israel’s national salvation (Day of Atonement) and finally the Millennial Kingdom (Feast of Tabernacles).

Are you ready for the King’s return?  For believers in Jesus the Messiah, the rapture is our coronation day!  Lord, come quickly!

Jews and Christians: A Parting of Ways

Let’s go on a historical journey to look at early Jewish-Christian relations, the birth of Rabbinic Judaism, a parting of ways and attempts to reconcile.  It’s a full plate, but I’ll try to keep it interesting!

Over the past few days we’ve established the fact that our Christian roots are firmly planted in Judaism.  This brought about some confusion, and at times, animosity between Jewish Jesus-followers and Gentile Jesus-followers.  Let’s consider how and why that occurred.

At the time of the Temple destruction, Jews began persecuting Jesus-followers.  For example, the Birkat HaManim (“blessing”) was added to the daily Amidah (Jewish prayer liturgy), invoking curses upon followers of Jesus.  (Jews who were unwilling to recite the Birkat HaManim faced excommunication.)

Meanwhile, many Jesus-followers fled to Pella during the Roman invasion, causing them to be tagged as cowards, and conflict grew.

Around the same time, major decisions were being made as to the future of Judaism.  After all, Judaism was built upon Temple worship and offering of sacrifices.  Now that the Temple was destroyed (70 AD), how and where would Jews worship, and how were the sacrificial rituals supposed to continue?  To decide that fate, Jewish leaders met in Yavnah.

It was determined that Temple worship and sacrifices would be replaced by prayer, good deeds and fasting on the Day of Atonement, and rabbis would take a very high place of authority.  Jews were scattered all over the world, so each rabbi interpreted the Torah and Talmud in his own way and led his followers likewise.

One of the final straws in early Jewish-Christian relations occurred as a result of the Bar Kochba Revolt.  The Jewish revolt against the Romans was led by Rabbi Akiva, who declared Shimon Bar Kochba the Messiah.  The Jewish community rallied, but Jewish followers of Jesus had a very serious dilemma.  The disciples of Jesus (and New Testament writers) had taught of false messiahs, now one was put forth in their very midst.  They could not support or fight for a false messiah, so were branded as traitors.

That seemed to cement a definite parting of ways.  In fact, not only were Jews and Christians split, there also came a split between Jewish followers of Jesus and Gentile followers of Jesus.  The Gentile church distanced itself from Jewish roots and showed little concern for anything Jewish.  All Jewish context of Christianity seemed to dwindle as little regard was shown for Jewish roots, and animosity grew toward Jews.

So, history that followed was dark for Jews.

  • In the Middle Ages, Jews were chastised for killing Jesus
  • During the Crusades, European Christians killed many Jews while attempting to capture Jerusalem
  • The Spanish Inquisition was marked by attempts by the Roman Catholic church to force conversion of Jews or face harsh penalties
  • During the Renaissance and Reformations there were added attempts by Christians to force conversions of Jews
  • European Christians took part (or stood by and did nothing) during the Holocaust
  • Even today, there are many Christian leaders who hold to Replacement Theology or are anti-Jewish in other ways

The split resulted in Judaism without the Messiah and Christianity without Jewish roots.

But there is good news, and we will end with it!  Many developments, including the invention of the printing press that enabled the Bible to be printed and distributed to the common man, have brought very positive attempts to reconcile relations between Christians and Jews.  The Word of God so clearly demonstrates the Christians’ Jewish roots, and, with Bible in hand, many came (and continue to come!) to realize those Jewish roots, and are building bridges of reconciliation.

So, Jews are beginning to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, and Christians are recognizing and understanding the Jewish roots of our faith!  Over the next few days we’re going to dig deeply into Romans 9-11, perhaps the most informative chapters regarding Jewish-Christian relations.

Go ahead and read those chapters, and meet us back here at the study table over the next few days!  It’s going to be good!