It is surprising to consider how pervasive the legacy of Rome is on the global culture. Even those nations which never felt Rome’s touch directly still labor under the political, economic, and social order that the Empire bequeathed to its European children. Tales of the Roman era still find a familiar place in our consciousness. Whether one is looking for the real King Arthur in the detritus of post-Roman Britain, reveling in the semi-mythical exploits of Maximus after the death of Marcus Aurelius, or absorbing the accounts of Christian martyrs in the days of Nero, the grandeur of Rome captivates the imagination. That grandeur certainly includes the glory of the Caesars, the logic of Roman law, the enduring architectural monuments, and the lingering vestiges of Latin, but too often it obscures something else: Rome, the insatiable beast.
Whatever good Rome’s empire accomplished in the half millennium of its existence is forever smirched by the wake of broken civilizations, conquered peoples, and extinct cultures ground into the dust under its boot heels. This is no less true of Britain’s Celts as it is of Judea’s Jews – and of scores of other peoples forever altered by Roman domination.
The story of the Jews should be well known both to Jews and Christians, at least up to a point. Christians will be familiar with the accounts of Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles from the New Testament; Jews will know the accounts of the Great Jewish War that brought the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple, and the epic tragedy of Masada. Thus the first century of this current era is at least generally understood through these two distinct, yet complementary, lenses. What each will find unfamiliar is what happened next: that unexplored dark time between the fall of Masada in 73 CE, and the final destruction of Judea in 135 CE at the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.
Miriam Feinberg Vamosh provides invaluable assistance in shedding light on that dark era through her riveting novel, The Scroll. She weaves her story around a genuine archaeological find from the period: a get, or divorce decree, issued to a woman named Miriam at Masada at the time the last of the Jewish defenders eld the fortress against Rome’s legions. Although nothing more is known of the historical Miriam named in the scroll, Vamosh draws on her own extensive knowledge of the period to create a multi-generational saga that is not only entertaining and educational, but entirely believable.
Documenting Redemption: A Review of Ten From the Nations: Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews, by Rivkah Lambert Adler
The history of humanity is filled with mothers in all eras and all cultures saying to their children the equivalent of, “I don’t care if you don’t like how that tastes. Eat it; it’s good for you.” In my case, it was broccoli, but I can imagine children around the world sitting glumly in front of their food as their mothers tell them they won’t grow up big and strong unless they finish their borscht, ceviche, pho, or ugali. God created mothers to be right about such things, which is why each generation survives and (depending on the degree to which they listen to Mom) thrives.
This principle works just as well regarding nourishment for the mind, soul, and spirit as for the body. That is why those who persevere in reading and studying even when the subject matter is uncomfortable tend to come out much better in the end – smarter, wiser, more tolerant, and better able to cooperate with others in the interest of a greater good. Rivkah Lambert Adler has provided rich nourishment of this sort in her book, Ten From the Nations: Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews.
The groundbreaking aspect of Ten From the Nations is that Adler is among the first (perhaps the first) Jewish scholars to document the global phenomenon of Christians coming to an appreciation of Torah. She describes the phenomenon this way:
All over the world, current and former Christians are becoming aware of Torah. They are learning about, and implementing, what most of the world thinks of as Jewish practices, including celebrating Shabbat [Sabbath] and the Biblical holidays. They are refraining from eating pork and shellfish. They are studying Torah and seeing the Land of Israel, and especially the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, in a new light. They are building positive relationships with the Jewish people.
If most of the events prophesied in the book of Revelation had already taken place, would we live our lives differently? That is the question at the back of the reader’s mind while processing the wealth of data presented by Christine Miller in her book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ Revealed.
Another question one might ask is why the world needs yet another book on prophecy. The answer, like the book, is logical and straightforward: we need an understanding of how the symbols in Revelation correspond to real events and people in the history of the world since the Apostle John wrote Revelation in the year 96 CE. In other words, Miller cuts through the hyper-sensationalized end-of-the-world drama to examine what Revelation really means in a way that readers not only can understand, but can use as a starting point for their own study.
Miller’s premise is that Revelation constitutes the history of the world as it unfolds between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah). She bases this premise on the precedent set elsewhere in Scripture, particularly in the book of Daniel, which presents the prophetic history of the world from the end of the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people to the first coming of Messiah. In a lengthy appendix Miller relates the well-known histories of the wars over the Holy Land between the Seleucid (Greco-Syrian) and Ptolemaic (Greco-Egyptian) kingdoms in the centuries following the death of Alexander the Great. Those wars produced the Abomination of Desolation, in which the Seleucid king Antiochus IV desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and banned the Jews from every aspect of worship of YHVH. As the Jews responded in the War of the Maccabees, YHVH intervened on their behalf to bring the victory memorialized in the festival of Hanukkah. Yet Miller does not stop there; she continues her analysis of Daniel’s prophecies all the way through the ministry of Yeshua and his apostles, making a convincing argument about how they fulfilled the cryptic statement in Daniel 9:27 –
And he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and on the wing of abominations shall be one which makes desolate; and even to that full end, which is determined, is poured out on that which makes desolate.
What Miller does with Daniel in an appendix of her book is a microcosm of what she does with Revelation in the body of the work. She begins with this explanation:
The view that all the events of Revelation are future to us is a relatively new view in the history of the church. Traditionally, Revelation was seen as an unfolding prophecy of the things which will take place between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. This unfolding historical prophecy is in the same manner as Daniel, which set the precedent.
With that introduction, she takes us on a whirlwind tour of two millennia of Roman history.
Astronomical Fact Check: A Review of The Bethlehem Star, The Star That Astonished the World, by Earnest L. Martin
Everyone knows when Jesus was not born. Even the most devoted Christians understand that December 25 is not the date their Savior came into the world. But when exactly was He born?
The average person would say that no one knows. That answer is incorrect. It is possible to know when Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth was born – at least within a few days of the event, if not the actual day. That is the message of Earnest L. Martin’s work, The Star of Bethlehem: The Star That Astonished the World.
If the book considered only the evidence of the Bethlehem Star, it would not be sufficient to establish the case with any degree of certainty. The title, however, does not embrace the comprehensive nature of the work. Martin delves into astronomy and the astrological practices of the ancient world, but that is only the beginning. His quest for truth leads him to investigate multiple avenues of evidence, including Roman, Judean, and Parthian records and historical data, Jewish cultural and religious practices of the era, and clues hidden within the text of the biblical accounts. In the process, he not only establishes with a reasonable degree of certainty when Yeshua was born, but also sheds light on a period that is considered one of the least known in Roman history.
This weight of evidence permits Martin to make this astonishing claim:
[The] historical evidence supports the nativity of Jesus in 3 B.C.E., at the beginning of a Roman census, and (if we use the astronomical indications of the Book of Revelation) his birth would have occurred just after sundown on September 11th, on Rosh ha-Shanah, the Day of Trumpets — the Jewish New Year Day for governmental affairs. There could hardly have been a better day in the ecclesiastical calendar of the Jews to introduce the Messiah to the world from a Jewish point of view; and no doubt this is what the apostle John clearly intended to show by the sign he recorded in Revelation 12.
Many people realized the significance of Ken Rank’s letter to the Jewish people when he published it last week. We have only begun to see the impact of it. Within a few short days it appeared as a guest blog piece in The Times of Israel, and today Breaking Israel News published it along with a deeply moving response by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz.
In years to come, when our God has completed His work of bringing together the fragmented parts of His people, these two letters by Ken and Eliyahu will be counted as major milestones in the process of breaking down the wall between those of us from the Christian side and our brethren from the Jewish side.
Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz
October 11, 2016
Originally published on Breaking Israel News
I received this letter from Ken Rank last week. Rank founded United 2 Restore in order to bring Jews and Christians, or as he prefers to describe it, Judah and Ephraim closer together, in order to “re-build bridges of communication which have been previously burned”. He sent me this letter as part of his personal teshuvah (repentance) for Yom Kippur. My response to him was sincere, and I intend for it to be a part of my Yom Kippur prayers.
One would suppose that the Apostle Paul died without regrets, knowing that he had done all he could to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of YHVH and bring multitudes into it. Then again, Paul was a fallible human being, just like the rest of us. That is why he wrote things like this:
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (I Timothy 1:15 NKJV)
Perhaps Paul’s chief regret was knowing that his actions had kept people out of the Kingdom. Not intentionally, mind you; Paul was zealous for God, just as he testified of his Jewish brethren (Romans 10:1-4). Yet his zeal in persecuting those who believed Yeshua of Nazareth to be Messiah most likely hardened the resistance of many to the message of redemption through that same Yeshua. Afterward, having embraced that message and taken it to the Gentiles, he did his best to help people understand the full truth: that salvation by grace through faith actually makes it possible to live by God’s established standard of righteousness given in Torah.
Tragically, the division that began in Paul’s day is still with us. Judaism and Christianity have taken on completely different identities. There are voices on both sides who realize that the two are not separate religions, or at least YHVH did not intend it to be so. Those voices are now calling for understanding and dialogue. It shouldn’t be that hard since Christians, Jews, and Messianic/Hebrew Roots believers all claim allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; all revere the same Scriptures; all hope for the same promises. Why, then, can’t we all get along?
Ken Rank provides one very important answer to that question. The beginning of the journey toward mutual respect and acceptance begins with humility and repentance (in Hebrew, teshuvah). All of us have more to repent for than we think, and certainly more than we care to admit. But what if our lack of willingness even to consider this question of repentance causes someone to miss coming into the Kingdom? Meditate on that as you read Ken’s letter to our Jewish brethren.
October 7, 2016
Originally published on United 2 Restore
Over the last decade or so, my family has been keeping the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days. We’re not Jewish, but we feel drawn to these days for our own reasons. In the process of observance and celebration, we consider ourselves blessed in many ways. As we annually cycle through the Appointed Times, we build upon those things we learned during the previous years. And, as each cycle comes around, I find my focus narrowing on reconciliation and restoration between and for all of the B’ney Yisrael.
Kingdom Power in Context: A Review of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit by Dr. David E. Jones
A pendulum swing is taking place in the Hebrew Roots movement in America. Many followers of Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) who have sought to embrace the Torah walk He modelled have moved beyond traditional Christianity. In practical terms, that means they have left the organized church in its various denominations and moved into something that looks sort of Jewish (as in keeping Sabbath and observing the biblical Feasts), but retains faith in Yeshua as Messiah. Now that this process has been going on for almost a generation, many are beginning to wonder if we might have left some very important things behind in the church. Things like fellowship, unity, brotherly love, and the Holy Spirit. This does not necessarily mean that Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers are ready to return to the church, but rather that we are beginning to realize the same thing about Christians as we have come to understand about Jews: the things we hold in common are far more numerous and more important than the things which divide us. Consequently, Hebraic believers are now reexamining once again what they believe, taking steps to mend broken bridges and restore precious things which we may have jettisoned too quickly in our zeal to put distance between ourselves and the traditions of man.
Hebraic believers with backgrounds in the Pentecostal or Charismatic branches of contemporary Christianity understand this question in regard to the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaQodesh). At first glance, the Torah observant lifestyle does not seem compatible with what is generally believed to be the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. Yet a deeper study of the Person and purpose of the Spirit reveals something astounding: living by Torah is impossible without Him.
This is the thrust of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit, a new book by Dr. David E. Jones, Senior Pastor of Ruach Ministries International in Brandon, Florida. The book grew out of conversations he held with Brad Scott of Wildbranch Ministry. As Scott writes in his Foreword:
We believe that these gifts were ignored, tossed away, changed or otherwise corrupted just as the feasts and the sabbaths were. . . All of the gifts of the Spirit are from the beginning and all of them are a testimony and revelation of the end.
What follows is a thorough examination of the Holy Spirit from a Hebraic viewpoint. Starting with Genesis 1 and moving forward through the Scriptures, Jones establishes two very important points. The first is that the Holy Spirit is YHVH God, nothing less. This may seem contrary to the common Jewish understanding of echad, or one, which for centuries has held that God is an indivisible entity – One and only One. That is not necessarily the sense of the Shema, the watchword of Judaism and Hebraic faith, which states, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NKJV) Jones explains that echad in that verse and elsewhere in the Bible means, “’one’ as something that is unified as one, not necessarily only.” In other words, “the One True God is in perfect unity as one.” Therefore, He can express Himself in multiple ways and still be the same YHVH.
The second point is that the Holy Spirit has been active in the world and in human beings from the very beginning. This is contrary to a common Christian understanding that the “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit did not happen until the events recorded in Acts 2 at the Feast of Pentecost following Yeshua’s ascension. Jones cites several examples of people in the Tanakh (Old Testament) filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to do the works of YHVH. This brings us to the ministry of the Holy Spirit:
We see a common theme throughout all of Scripture in testifying concerning a “spirit-filled” man of YHVH. This testimony is three fold, it consists of: wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Looking at many of the great people of faith, we can see these three things being shown in their lives.
In his examination of Scripture, Jones illustrates these three elements of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding evident in every move of the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. He makes his most powerful argument in presenting the parallels between the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. What he reveals is the continuity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the people of YHVH, both before and after the coming of Messiah Yeshua.
This is perhaps the most powerful and greatest contribution of Jones’ work. It is an understanding that neither traditional Christianity nor traditional Judaism could uncover in that both of them start with the perception that they are separate entities rather than two expressions of the same covenant-keeping YHVH. It takes a Hebraic believer, with an appreciation of both the Christian and Jewish perspectives and an understanding of the Old and New Testaments, to grasp this essential truth. Yet he does not stop there. In the latter chapters, he investigates those controversial questions always present in discussions of the gifts of the Spirit. How are we to account for and deal with such things as the gifts of prophecy and tongues? What role do they and other gifts play in the life of a Hebraic follower of Yeshua? What have we missed by avoiding them? What do we gain by embracing them in the context YHVH intended all along? Jones does well in addressing these questions. The answers he provides may not be complete, but they are an essential component to this ongoing discussion of how the power of the Holy Spirit is to be evident in the lives of YHVH’s people.
The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit is a much-needed work on a component still lacking in Messianic/Hebrew Roots understanding of the Scripture. It is also a powerful addition and enhancement of the Christian and Jewish treatments of the subject. David Jones has done a great service to the believers of all traditions by his balanced and scholarly investigation of the Spirit of the Living God.
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2016. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Something very strange happens when people face an imminent threat to life and livelihood. The strange thing is unity such as would never have been possible otherwise. History provides countless examples, such as the defense of New Orleans in January 1815. When a veteran British force attacked the city, an odd assortment of people turned out to defend their home. They included Regular soldiers of the American army under Major General Andrew Jackson, as well as Creole gentlemen and their American merchant rivals, common laborers, farmers, militia men from far away states, black slaves and free men, and even pirates and smugglers affiliated with the infamous Jean Lafitte. Once the threat was past, these disparate segments of society returned to their separate lives and the circumstances that divided them, but for one glorious moment they experienced the joy of being a people united in a common cause.
We might consider as well the example of our Jewish brethren in World War II. Immediately before the war, an Arab revolt in British Palestine compelled His Majesty’s government to issue a White Paper in 1939 which closed the door on Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. This was a political and military necessity for the British; another Arab revolt would threaten their hold on Egypt, their link to India and the Pacific, and the lifeline of the Empire. When faced with war against Hitler’s Germany, Great Britain could not afford to lose that lifeline, and thus European Jews in peril of their lives in the Shoa (Holocaust) lost their last and best chance at escape from the death camps.
One might suppose the Jewish response to the White Paper – particularly among those living in the Land – would be violent rejection and revolt. Some did respond that way, but the most memorable response was by David Ben Gurion, at that time among the most prominent leaders of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish settlers in the Land. He expressed his position this way:
Ben Gurion’s pragmatism was instrumental in establishment of the Jewish Brigade, the only regular military unit of any Allied army in World War II comprised entirely of Jews. The Jewish Brigade served with distinction in the British forces in Egypt, Italy, and Northwest Europe, and it also served as a training ground for Jewish warriors who carried the fight for Israel’s independence after the British Mandate over Palestine ended in 1948.
There is this problem among the people of God: the expectation that He will come along and fix everything that is wrong in the world in an instant. I suppose that perspective comes from the hope that one day we get to live happily ever after in some kind of undefinable paradise where the biggest problem we have for all eternity is deciding what we would like to eat. For time immemorial, Jews and Christians of all varieties have engaged in this hope, expecting that Messiah will make everything all better without us having to do much of anything. Messiah will indeed make everything all better, but the belief that it requires little if any effort on our part, or that it will be a pleasant experience, is nothing more than wishful thinking. Such is the warning to ancient Israel, both the Jewish and non-Jewish parts of the nation:
Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes; who say, “Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; and let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come to pass, that we may know it!” (Isaiah 5:18-19 NASB)
Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it? (Amos 5:18-20 NASB)
The Apostle Paul issued the same warning to followers of Messiah Yeshua in his day, noting the direct linkage of those believers – both Jewish and non-Jewish – to the people of ancient Israel:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. (I Corinthians 10:1-6 NASB)
This is the same apostle who admonished his readers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13). The application of his words is not limited to the ancient Mediterranean world, but to followers of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) down through the ages to this very day. It is important to understand that Paul is not advocating a gospel of works for salvation, but is instead issuing an exhortation for us to take responsibility for what YHVH has given us freely by virtue of faith in Him and His Messiah. From the very beginning our Creator has intended this to be so. Consider His first recorded words to our first ancestors:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28 NASB)
To put it another way, we are intended to rule with God over the part of creation He has placed under our jurisdiction (Exodus 19:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10, 20:4-6; I Peter 2:9-10; II Timothy 2:11-12). More importantly, we are to rule with God as His bride (Isaiah 62:4-5; Revelation 19:7-8).
What does one call the bride of a king? Is it not a queen? The question, then, is this: does the King of the Universe desire a queen who is fully capable of ruling in His Name and whom He trusts to do so, or is He content with a fat, lazy queen who screams at her servants if her food is not cooked to her definition of perfection?
If we think of our eternal destiny in these terms, we begin to see the necessity of trials and tribulations to make us ready for our Creator’s ultimate purposes. As we mature in our relationship with Him we should grow ever more eager for the test rather than building ever more elaborate schemes to avoid it. The eager ones who seek to please their Master will prevail, but those who seek to avoid pain most likely will succeed neither in avoiding pain, nor in prevailing over anything.
This is the subject Ken Rank addresses in his article, “Dying in the Wilderness”, recently published on United2Restore. Be careful! Ken makes some paradigm-shifting observations here. Reading this may cause you to question everything you have been taught about the End Times.
January 6, 2016
Originally published on United 2 Restore
We are part of Israel; we are children of the Most High God. He loves us, He will care for us, He will sustain us . . . and He will leave us in the wilderness with our spiritual baggage intact unless we learn how to get beyond the minutia that we allow to divide us.