Commonwealth and Cooperation
This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.
Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue. Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it. Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.
My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries. The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This journey is beset with many openings for offense. Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended. I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.
Christian Support for Israel: What Does It Mean?
What is the logical outcome of Christian support for Israel? Think through this carefully. It has fundamental impact on the way Christians and Jews interact with each other and with the rest of the world. This question affects not just business dealings, but the entirety of our association – the religious, social, economic, political, and military aspects at all levels from national policy to individual relationships. What do we Christians mean when we encourage one another to support Israel? And what do Jews understand when they hear such things from Christians?
I submit that the Christian intent likely comes from the desire to see Jesus Christ return to earth and fix this mess we have made. Christians understand that the prophecies of Christ’s return involve a great deal of upheaval and Divine judgment, and that Israel is at the center of it all. Christians look to Jews and to the State of Israel as the barometers by which to measure the closeness of Christ’s return. Quite frankly, and quite tragically, that is where this line of thought ends. Christians seek to support Israel only because they understand that some national entity called Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital, must exist at the time of Christ’s return. What happens to that national entity, or more specifically, what happens to the millions of people called Jews who are connected to that national entity whether they like it or not, does not seem to impact the average Christian’s consciousness.
What does enter the Christian consciousness is a vague understanding that the Church must work with Israel and with Jews to ensure the nation’s survival through the coming Tribulation. That translates into activism to ensure proper political, military, economic, and other support for the State of Israel, but it does not necessarily translate into religious, cultural, and interpersonal connections. In other words, in America at least, this means that while some in the Church understand the terms of Genesis 12:3, in which God promises to bless those who bless Abraham and to curse those who curse him, they do not know what to do beyond being as nice as they can to Jews and as ardent as they can in encouraging the United States to think of Israel as the 51st state.
One reason for this is that non-Jewish Christians simply do not understand Jews and Jewish culture. The root cause, however, is one of those pink elephants: the question of Jewish salvation. The prevailing Christian belief is that Jews are not saved because they have not acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. It does not matter that Jesus was a Jew who went by the Hebrew name Yeshua. The problem in Christian eyes is that Jews are still caught up in “legalistic bondage” to the Law of Moses, and that they will remain there until they accept the free gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That formula for salvation is articulated in many places in what Christians call the New Testament, particularly in Ephesians 2:8-9. The problem may not be in what another Jew, Saul (Paul) of Tarsus, wrote in his letter to the congregation at Ephesus, but in the prevailing Christian understanding of salvation. Christians do indeed hope Jews will be saved, but Christian understanding for centuries has been that if Jews are to be saved, they must give up much of their Jewishness and become like non-Jewish Christians.
At this point I must issue a disclaimer: That is not my position. I do believe Yeshua of Nazareth to be Mashiach (Messiah), and I am persuaded that it is not only possible for Jews to believe the same thing and still remain Jewish, but also that non-Jewish believers who seek to follow Yeshua’s example should take on some decidedly Jewish characteristics. I will address that pink elephant shortly.
To return to the current pink elephant, Jews are not ignorant of this prevailing Christian idea of salvation, and are therefore skeptical of Christian professions of support. Jews remember all too well what happened in the Crusades, the Reformation, and the Inquisition. In each of those periods of history, the Christian doctrine of salvation resulted in the forced conversion of Jews to the common definition of Christianity of the day. Those who did not convert faced persecution and death. And then came the Holocaust (Shoah), the ideological offspring and logical end of Replacement Theology. In that darkest of all times, Jews did not even get the choice of conversion; persecution was certain, and death nearly so.
When we consider this troubled history spanning two millennia, it is clear why Jews are unwilling to hear about Christian notions of salvation or conversion. Christians who genuinely desire to connect with Jews, whether in the context of “support to Israel”, or in simple friendship, are also reluctant to address this core matter of their faith lest they bring an offense that would end the relationship.
Thus we arrive at what has become the logical conclusion of Christian support for Israel: an uneasy alliance. Christians are willing to extend material support, up to a point, but are reluctant to engage Jews on a spiritual level for fear of offending them, and perhaps even for fear of converting them. After all, if there are no “unconverted Jews” on earth, then how could God’s judgment and redemption possibly come about according to the various End Times scenarios? Jews, on the other hand, are willing to accept the support Christians will give, up to a point, but are constantly looking over their shoulders, remembering the Christian betrayals of Jews in ages past. Jews know that Christians cannot fully trust them because they remain Jews. Jews, therefore, are quite logically not willing or able to trust Christians any further than they can throw them.
This impasse grieves the heart of God. He has always desired Jews and Christians to cooperate because he is working through both to bring redemption to the entire world. If that is true, then there should be a way out of this impasse. And, in fact, there is a way. It is the path toward the Commonwealth of Israel. Taking this path requires considerable sacrifice and humility on the part of both Christians and Jews, for it requires all of us to lay down our prejudices, preconceived notions, and paradigms of scriptural truth. Yet if God really does want us to work together, then this is something we must consider carefully.
Common Ground and Uncomfortable Differences
In defining the Commonwealth of Israel, let me begin be reviewing the things Christians and Jews have in common:
– We all believe in the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
– We all believe that God has given His Holy Word to us so that we may know Him and have instructions on how to live.
– We all believe that God will send his Messiah (Christ as the title appears in Greek) to teach us about himself and show the way to connect with God just as our ancestors Adam and Eve connected with him in the days before our unhindered relationship with God was broken.
– We all believe that something has separated us from God, or at least prevents us from achieving our full created potential. Christians call this original sin. It is hard to generalize the various Jewish positions on this question. Sin, when it factors into Jewish belief (Orthodox, Reformed, or Conservative), is defined much the same way that Christians define it as disobedience to God, or even as rebellion against God. The result is the same: separation from the Creator and inability to achieve his intent for humanity.
These areas of agreement provide considerable room for cooperation, but we also have considerable differences that we must take into account:
– Regarding the Word of God, Jews are not willing to acknowledge the New Testament (the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation) as Scripture. Christians acknowledge that all the Old Testament – the Tanakh – is Scripture, but do not consider it as important as the New Testament. In fact, a popular idea in the Church has been that much of the Old Testament no longer applies to Christians because Jesus “did away with” the Law.
– Regarding Messiah, Christians assert that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah because he fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies regarding Messiah and sufficiently established his claim to be the Son of God. Jews cannot acknowledge Jesus as Messiah because, even if he did fulfill those prophecies, they see that Jesus’ followers do not follow God’s Torah (Law, Teaching, Commandments). Messiah should be the one who follows Torah perfectly and instructs God’s people to keep it perfectly, according to Deuteronomy 18:
And the Lord said to me: “What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:17-19, NKJV)
Moreover, God specifically commanded Israel not to follow a false prophet who teaches something other than obedience to the commandments of God:
If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods”—which you have not known—“and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, NKJV)
Thus the argument could be made that Jews do not acknowledge Jesus as Messiah because God commanded them not to. If Jesus really taught people not to obey God’s commandments, then he is a false prophet worthy of death, according to the commandment of God in Deuteronomy 13.
– Regarding salvation, Christians believe that a statement of faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, along with belief that God raised Him from the dead, and with a desire to turn from sins will bring salvation (Romans 10:9). As with the concept of sin, it is difficult to generalize about Jewish beliefs on salvation. Where salvation is articulated as a doctrine, it is tied to the need to reconnect with God by observing the provisions of Torah. This entails keeping the commandments of God and genuine repentance from sin. However, until there is a new Temple with atoning sacrifices, the question of salvation from sin is still largely unresolved in rabbinical Judaism.
Yet even with these differences, Christians and Jews can and must work together in the context of the Commonwealth of Israel. “Commonwealth” is from the Greek, politeia (πολίτης, Strongs #G4177), referring to a political entity like a state or nation. The term is used only once, in Ephesians 2:12. Here is the phrase as it appears in context:
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh – who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands – that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-13, NKJV, emphasis added)
What is the Commonwealth?
This passage illustrates the reconciliation of non-Jews with Jews in an entity we could call “Greater Israel”. The vehicle which makes that possible is the work of Christ, that is, Messiah, Who somehow makes the non-Jews acceptable to God and able to join with Jews in His Covenant.
Admittedly, much of the reasoning presented here is based on New Testament passages, which as stated above Jews do not acknowledge as Scripture. However, all but one of the New Testament writers were Jews, and all were knowledgeable of Torah and used it as their inspiration. One (Paul) was the star disciple of Gamaliel, the premier Torah teacher of the day. Therefore any disagreement Christians and Jews have over the New Testament is not about the principals articulated in the Tanakh, but the way Messiah is to fulfill those principals.
In fact, the Commonwealth of Israel is something God promises in the Tanakh, as seen in the following passages:
For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land. The strangers will be joined with them, and they will cling to the house of Jacob. (Isaiah 14:1, NKJV)
“I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by My name. (Isaiah 65:1, NKJV)
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’there it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel!” (Hosea 1:10-11, NKJV)
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand. And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’ – say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”’” (Ezekiel 37:15-28, NKJV)
These passages indicates Christian tradition is in error in the supposition that God created two entities by which he deals with humanity, namely Israel and the Church. “Church”, is a rendition of the Greek word ekklesia (ἐκκλησία; Strongs #G1577), the congregation or assembly of God. Ekklesia corresponds to the Hebrew qahal (קָהֵל; Strongs #H6951), a term used throughout the Tanakh to refer to the congregation or assembly of all Israel. The evidence of Scripture indicates that God created only one entity: Israel. His purpose since the days of Abraham has been to establish a way for all the nations of the earth to be brought into fellowship with himself through the nation of Israel. From the beginning, the purpose of the nation of Israel was to be a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6) that would serve as a vehicle of salvation for all the nations.
Various Church doctrines over the ages have emphasized the global salvation mission of Israel, but have failed to explain adequately how the Church could fulfill that role, or how Jews fit into this picture. This has led to the error of Replacement Theology, which asserts that the Church is now “Spiritual Israel”, and that Jews are no longer relevant in God’s plan except in terms of the wrath yet to be poured out on them and the rest of the unbelieving world during the Great Tribulation.
The Commonwealth of Israel is not Replacement Theology. It is an understanding that Jews and Christians each have a piece of God’s plan, and that they must join together to understand the fullness of His Counsels. Christians do not replace Jews, but instead join with Jews in the fulfillment of God’s plan for all humanity. This is based on the writings of Paul that those who believe in Yeshua of Nazareth as Messiah are the spiritual seed of Abraham. He presents this train of logic in Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 3:15-29, culminating in this assertion:
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29, NKJV)
Paul does not state here that non-Jewish believers in Yeshua have replaced Jews as the seed of Abraham. Instead, he affirms that non-Jews now have a place alongside Jews in the promises of God. In Romans 11 he uses the symbol of an olive tree for the nation of Israel, stating that Gentiles have been grafted into the tree by virtue of their belief in Israel’s Messiah, and therefore have full part with Jews, the “natural branches” of the tree. In other words, to paraphrase Paul’s statement in Romans 9:6, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews.
God is not finished with Israel. In fact, Israel is much bigger than both Jews and Christians commonly suppose. Messiah will make it possible to reconcile and unite Jews and Gentiles in the Commonwealth of Israel. God did not establish a separate entity called the “Church” through the Person of Jesus Christ. If Jesus, or Yeshua, really is the Messiah, then he fulfilled the Torah of God and made it possible for all people, Jews and non-Jews, to partake of fellowship with God together in the context of his Commandments. As Yeshua himself said:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, NKJV)
If it is true that God is dealing with humanity through a single entity, then Christians as well as Jews may claim to be citizens of Israel – the Commonwealth of Israel that God has established through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and is expanding through Messiah, the Son of David. In that sense, the blessings of Israel do accrue to the “Church”, or ekklesia. However, if the ekklesia is another expression of the Commonwealth of Israel, then the responsibilities and obligations of Israel to keep God’s Commandments also apply to the Church. By this reasoning, the consequences of disobedience are also very much applicable. Specifically, just as Israelites in ancient times were exiled from the land because of disobedience, so also would Israelites at the end of this age be exiled for the same reason. That is why Yeshua could say
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness [Torahlessness]!” (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV)
The Commonwealth and the Symbol of Godly Marriage.
That is a sobering message, but consider it from another perspective. God went through every conceivable obstacle to win his people back to himself, even when we were not willing to acknowledge him. The clearest picture we have of this is in marriage. Here is what God said regarding marriage and divorce:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, NKJV, emphasis added)
It is quite clear from this stipulation in the Torah that remarriage after divorce is not possible. What, then, will happen if God Himself is divorced? He is divorced, of course, as he explains through the prophets:
Thus says the Lord: “Where is the certificate of your mother’s divorce, whom I have put away? Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? For your iniquities you have sold yourselves, and for your transgressions your mother has been put away.” (Isaiah 50:1, NKJV)
“Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:8-9, NKJV)
What hope, then, is there for Israel? Notice God is addressing both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Both halves of the nation sinned, both compelled Him to divorce them, and both joined themselves to other gods. Yet God through Jeremiah says this:
“They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man’s, may he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:1 NKJV)
How can God promise to take Israel back as his bride if he has divorced her and she has given herself to other lovers? If he does so, he breaks his own Law. And if God breaks his own Law, then the whole of the Law is made null and void.
There is only one remedy: someone must die. If death occurs, then all penalties are paid and the offender may start fresh. That’s what Paul means when he writes:
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (Romans 7:1-3, NKJV)
But there is a problem: Death is so final! How could God overcome this problem of death? I submit to you that there is only one way: if the one who died somehow comes back to life.
According to the New Testament, that is precisely what Yeshua of Nazareth did. He, claiming to be God himself in human form, died taking the penalty of sin for the whole world on himself, and after three days he returned from the grave. In that way he conquered sin and death, and made it possible for God to redeem his bride (Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:68-71; I Corinthians 15:1-28; Philippians 2:5-11). If this is true, then Paul is correct in saying:
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Messiah, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:4-6, NKJV)
The Church usually interprets this passage to mean that Christians are no longer subject to Torah. That is not what Paul wrote; he wrote that the law which barred us from marriage to God is now satisfied not only by the death and resurrection of Messiah, but also by the fact that those who identify with him are also spiritually dead and resurrected. Do you see the beauty of this? God made it possible for two lovers to reunite: He himself, and his beloved Israel. He did that by his own death, and by the resurrection of his bride who had died spiritually already through her sin.
So now we can see why God instituted marriage. It was not just a mechanism for social order and procreation, but a living symbol of his relationship to Israel, the bride through which he is able to have a relationship with all the peoples of the earth. Here is one more passage from Paul, rendered with a slight change of names:
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Messiah. Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Messiah is the head of the ekklesia, the body of which he is the Saviour. Just as the ekklesia is subject to Messiah, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the ekklesia and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the ekklesia to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Messiah does for the ekklesia, because we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Messiah and the ekklesia. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:21-33, NRSV, modified)
If This Is So, How Should We Then Live?
What does this mean for us, Jews and Christians at the end of this present age? If all this is true, then we have far more reason to cooperate than is supposed in the usual rendition of “Christian support for Israel”. We are all of the same family, for we are all the people of God, united by Messiah and by the Torah (Teachings, Commandments) of God. We must put aside our differences and learn to work together in partnership with God at the restoration of his bride, Israel.
For Christians, this means a challenge to reconsider “the Law”. For two millennia the Church has sought to divest itself from anything Jewish. That is why Christians do not keep Sabbath on the day God designated, nor observe the feast days, or Appointed Times, which God instituted. Perhaps it is time to think this through again. If, as Paul says, the Hebraic roots support us, then we had best learn what those roots are.
Some Christians may say this is an attempt to impose legalism on ones whom Jesus has saved by grace, but is it really? Granted, there is much in the Torah that we cannot keep now, such as the “ceremonial law” of the Temple. Many other commandments are controversial given our current culture, but there is still a place we can start. That is with the Appointed Times of God. They are:
- God’s weekly Shabbat, which is on the day we call Saturday, and which is a perpetual sign of God’s Covenant with His People (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 31:12-17; Leviticus 24:8; Ezekiel 20:12).
- The four Spring Feasts, Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost (Shavuot). The first three point to the sacrifice and resurrection of Messiah, God’s Passover Lamb (I Corinthians 5:7-8, 15:20). Shavuot reminds us when God gave both the Torah and the Holy Spirit (Exodus 19:1-6; Acts 2:1-4).
- The three Fall Feasts, Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot), which look to God’s coming to meet with His people in triumph, in judgment, and in perpetuity (Leviticus 23:24-43).
Each of these has prophetic significance, each has fulfillment in Messiah, and each is commanded by God for all Israel to observe “as a statute forever, throughout your generations” (Exodus 27:21, Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, 41). If we truly want to please our Lord, then it should be a little thing to examine these Appointed Times and learn to observe them. If we meet God there, then he will teach us what to do next.
For Jews, this path of cooperation entails a challenge to reconsider the New Testament and see if it is true to God’s Torah. Inherent in that is an invitation to look again at “Jesus Christ”, Yeshua of Nazareth. Is he the Messiah as he claimed to be? Jews are right in saying Messiah should teach His followers to keep Torah (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). See if Yeshua did this. If he did, then it may not be wise to reject his claims just because his followers after several centuries have strayed from his teaching.
This invitation is not an attempt to “convert” Jews, nor to solicit anyone to accept Yeshua’s claims on blind faith. Christians need the Jewish perspective on Messiah. Jews have the oracles of God (Romans 3:1-2), and therefore it is only right that Christians should ask Jews who they understand Messiah will be. Surely we can join together in looking for and hastening Messiah’s arrival. This is our mutual obligation in the interest of fulfilling our God’s desires for all his people. All of us must recognize the considerable connections we have as followers of Adonai Tsevaot (the LORD of Hosts) and work together to gain the fullness of His Counsel.