Category Archives: Old Covenant

Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple

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Do we interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, or the New Testament in light of the Old? If Torah was only the shadow of things to come then the illumination would be that which followed — the B’rit Chadasha. To properly interpret the Bible, then, we must read the Old Covenant in light of the New.

Here is the problem. Dispensationalists do just the opposite. They read the Holy text as if it were written yesterday. We have to understand the Bible in the context of the time it was written, and to whom it was addressed — keeping in mind:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Ezekiel 40-48 is one of the most difficult sections of the Bible to understand. Ezekiel — יְחֶזְקֵאל (Yechezqel) meaning “Strengthened By God” — was a contemporary of Daniel and Jeremiah. All three were pre-exilic prophets sent by the LORD to warn the nation of coming judgement and restoration. Ezekiel was taken captive in 597 BC, eight years after Daniel was exiled during the first Babylonian invasion.

While living in Babylon, Ezekiel had a detailed vision of a grand temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple was left destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and the post-exilic temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was modest in comparison.

In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city (Ezekiel 40:2).

A man like bronze, holding a measuring rod, then gave the prophet detailed measurements of a holy temple. The relevance of the vision was to bring shame to the people, and present the shadow of what John would see in the Apocalypse.

As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws (Ezekiel 43: 10-11).

Dispensationalists call Ezekiel’s temple the Third Temple, or Fourth Temple if you include the Tabernacle of Moshe (Moses), Solomon’s temple, and the post-captivity temple of Ezra and Nehemiah (Zerubbabel’s temple) which was later expanded by King Herod; and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

Because the post-exilic temple did not measure up to the grand design of Ezekiel’s vision, Dispensationalists will conclude that it must be an unfulfilled prophesy. They foresee Ezekiel’s temple as being the earthly throne of Christ during the Millennial kingdom.

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Reformed theologians have a problem with these passages because Ezekiel sees not only the restoration of the temple, but all of its attendant ceremonial functions including animal sacrifices. The Rabbin have a problem with Ezekiel’s temple because of all that is missing — the Ark, the Golden Candlestick and the Table of Showbread.

Dispensationalists will say that the animal sacrifices are a ceremonial observance — like the Lord’s Supper — and not for atonement. However, Ezekiel is clearly instructed that the priests will offer bulls and goats to clean, purify and make atonement upon the altar (Ezekiel 43:22-27). Neither orthodox Jews nor reformed Christians interpret Ezekiel literally.

And to suggest a resumption of blood sacrifices in the Millennial age is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His shed blood upon the cross.

To overcome this objection, Dispensationalists — who adhere to a literalist interpretation — have to spiritualize the text, “Oh, it’s only ceremonial like taking Communion.” 

What, then, is the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision? Orthodox Jews interpret visions symbolically, and Christians should do likely. Whereas the Rabbin have difficulty with Ezekiel, Christians possess the covenant that illuminates the substance of shadows.

Messiah is our (Ark) covenant with YHWH (Hebrews 7:22).

Christ is the (show)bread of life (John 6:51).

No candlestick in the light of God’s glory (Rev 21:23).

Dr. John C. Whitcomb presents the Dispensational argument:

Just because animal sacrifices and priests have no place in Christianity does not mean that they will have no place in Israel after the rapture of the Church; for there is a clear distinction made throughout the Scriptures between Israel and the Church … It is obvious that the Book of Hebrews was written to Christians, and we have no right to insist that Israelites during the Millennium will also be Christians, without priests, without sacrifices, and without a Temple … [1]

Dr. Whitcomb is imposing premillennial assumptions that are nowhere found in Scripture. Pre-trib rapture? Jesus said the hour is coming when all will hear His voice and be resurrected to life or judgement (John 5:28-29). Paul said there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Romans 10:12), and not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Romans 9:6). To say that Hebrews was written to Christians is concealing the fact that the book was written to persecuted Jews who were thinking of returning to Judaism and its sacrificial system. If that was heresy then how much more apostate in a carnal kingdom still future?

When we shine the light of the New Covenant upon the Old it becomes evident that Ezekiel’s vision was a shadow of what was revealed to John. As Ezekiel saw his vision from atop a high mountain so, too, was John carried away in like manner. That both men saw a living river flowing from the throne of the LORD is evident that they had a shared vision.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:10).

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12).

As the scroll was sealed by Daniel (Daniel 12:4), but opened by the Lamb (Revelation 5:5) so we understand that Ezekiel and the Apocalypse (John’s vision) are bookends of typology and reality — shadow and fulfillment. Ezekiel and John saw not a carnal kingdom in a supposed Millennial age, but the New Jerusalem descending from heaven after this carnal world is burnt up. Peter wrote that this is the promise we look for — a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells  (2 Peter 2:13).

I have recently posted comments on another blog (thank you Selah) about misinterpreting Zechariah. Dispensationalists will read the book as if it were written yesterday, and apply it to Israel in the future. No, Zechariah was a post-exilic prophet writing to the remnant who returned from Babylonian captivity. He spoke of the coming Branch of David, and judgement (once again) upon the nation Israel.

To be a serious Bible student — one who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) — may require that we, like the Bereans, dig deeper into the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

Notes:

1. The Millennial Temple of Ezekiel 40-48 (An Exercise in Literal Interpretation), Dr. John C. Whitcomb.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Rosh Hashanah

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As you read this understand that the LORD, blessed be His name, loves Israel. And I love Israel — enough to speak the truth and overturn some carts.

Three things struck me this day that have churned my soul, and I must write about them as the LORD has so inspired. (This will stub some people’s toes, but it must be shared.)

I was reading the Jewish Press — an article by Yoram Ettinger — about Rosh Hashanah (Hag Sameach). Though not mentioned in the Torah it is a celebration of the Jewish New Year (5776).

There were some interesting bites of information. For example: Why is the pomegranate — engraved on the Ark and sewn on the coat of the High Priest — a featured item at the Holiday meal?

There are 613 genetic seeds in a pomegranate reflecting the 613 statutes of the ceremonial Law, and a customary blessing is typically recited over the meal:

May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Comments are welcomed at the end of the JP article with the exception of those that promote foreign religions, gods or messiahs. More on that later.

Having read the article I then climbed aboard the Bible Bus for my daily study with J. Vernon McGee. He began the session by saying that the Abrahamic Covenant has not yet been fulfilled. McGee is at odds with many Dispensationalists who see, at least, a partial fulfillment in 1948 when Israel became a state.

Later, I was watching Greg Laurie, and he carried on with the theme that God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. What was the promise God made to Abram?

In Genesis 15 the LORD promised Abram an heir (Isaac), and that his seed will possess the land. Abram offered a sacrifice unto God, and while he slept the LORD passed between the carcasses thus affirming His covenant.

In ancient days, two men would validate a mutual agreement by walking between the halves of a slain animal. The LORD put Abram into a deep sleep, and He walked alone between the pieces thus suggesting that the covenant was unilateral, irrevocable and everlasting.

Dispensationalism teaches that the land promise will not be fulfilled until the Messiah returns to establish the Millennial kingdom and reign upon the earthly throne of David in Jerusalem — a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (Jeremiah 33:17). 

Okay, take a deep breath because what I am about to say will cause some to throw stones. Please hear me out because this is historic Christianity — not revisionist evangelicalism.

I believe the land covenant was fulfilled in the days of Joshua (3500 years ago), and that the Messiah is now reigning on the throne of David.

Jesus Christ said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). All of Jewish history pointed to a singular culmination — the coming of Mashiach. Like the Christians, Jews believe in two comings, but it gets complicated. Mashiach ben Yosef is a descendant of Joseph who will prepare the way for Mashiach ben David who will then reign eternally upon the throne of King David.

The zealots — even some of the disciples — thought that Jesus had come to restore the kingdom to Israel even though He said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

This is the stumbling block for Jews. Christ came the first time, but was rejected by His people. He will come again in great glory taking vengeance on those who know Him not (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Understand what I am saying. All has been fulfilled except the Second Coming of Christ which, according to Jesus, will be on the last day — not pre, mid or post but, as Peter wrote, the day of the Lord which will come like a thief in the night to destroy the heavens and earth with fire. All will be removed (you can call it raptured) — some to eternal life and the rest to eternal judgement. Then the new heavens and earth will descend and the saints will live forevermore in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Blessed be His name. (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54, and 2 Peter 3:10).

What about the land promise? Written between 1400 and 1370 B.C. we find the answer in the Old Testament book of Joshua:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it (Joshua 21:43).

You know the history. The Jews are in bondage in Egypt … Moses leads them through the wilderness for forty years … and Joshua provides the details of their conquest and possession of the Promised Land.

Dispensationalists will say that the Jews did not physically occupy all of the land therefore God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. When the LORD promised to return the captives of Babylonian exile only a remnant came home. Many were comfortable with their adapted lives and chose to remain in Babylon.

No. You can’t be a literalist and then deny a matter-of-fact declaration. Consider this scenario: A father promises his son that when he turns sixteen he will give him the family sedan. The son turns sixteen and his father transfers title, but the son — for whatever reason — doesn’t take possession of the vehicle. Has the father fulfilled the promise he made to his son? Certainly.

I will not split hairs over the meaning of take and possess, (Heb. lakad, yarash). Judah fared well in taking and possessing their inheritance while the northern tribes had difficulty with the Jebusites who were quite tenacious.

In any case, Jesus Christ has fulfilled both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Don’t believe me? Would you believe Luke and Peter?

Read Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke in Acts 2.

It is the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been poured out which Peter cites, by the way, as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16) — you know, the one about blood moons, a darkened sun, signs and wonders (Joel 2:28-32) — the prophecy that, according to Dispensationalists, has yet to be fulfilled. Hagee and Cahn are making lots of money selling books on this false teaching.

Joel was using symbolic imagery to convey a prophetic word from God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Revelation utilize the same customary style. For example, in describing the destruction of Babylon, Isaiah wrote:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:10).

The heavenly imagery depicts cataclysmic events, or prophetic fulfillment upon the earth, and is the literary style of ancient Hebrew text.

Peter then addresses the Jews who believed that King David would return to sit on his throne in Jerusalem. They glean this from Psalm 16:10 where David says that the LORD will not abandon his soul in Hades nor allow His Holy One to undergo decay — an unmistakable reference to Jesus Christ.

David died, was buried and his tomb, said Peter, is with us to this day (Acts 2:29). David isn’t coming back to reign for the prophesy was not about him but the resurrected Son of God.

When David speaks in Psalm 110:1 about the LORD saying to my Lord, sit at My right hand, he is speaking not of himself, said Peter, but of the Mashiach.

Peter was making the case that Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of David:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36). 

As Peter revealed that Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, Paul declared that the promise made by God to Abraham had been fulfilled in this same Jesus:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Galatians 3:16). 

Paul explains that God’s promise to Abram came 430 years before the Law was delivered to Moses. The Law does not nullify the promise which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Because Abram was deemed righteous through faith so are Jews and Gentiles counted righteous — not by the Law which came later — but by their faith in the One who fulfilled the Law, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Galatians 3).

Brethren, we have a problem. I have dared to speak so boldly of Christ at this time of holiday because Israel needs to hear the Gospel that would otherwise be censured.

Citing the aforementioned Jewish Press, understand that Israel (the Jewish people) have rejected Jesus Christ and His atonement. They are in rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The olive tree and grape-vine (symbolic of the nation of Israel) are presented afresh in the B’rit Chadasha:

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree ((Romans 11:17 — NLT).

With regards to Israel being the vine, Jesus said, I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). 

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it (Matthew 21:43). 

McGee and Laurie deride this as Replacement Theology — that the ‘church’ has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Reformers (such as myself) refer to it as Covenant Theology, that is, Old Testament promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ just as the LORD revealed through His prophet (Jeremiah 31:31). Conversely, some evangelicals teach a two-step plan of redemption — one for Gentiles, another for Israel. No, there is only one plan of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The problem is that Dispensationalism has embraced an almost idolatrous love affair with Israel. How did Paul define Israel?

… they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants … (Romans 9:6-7).

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Law); and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

If you, who are Gentile, have been grafted in then you are a Jew, a descendant of Abraham — a High Priest and a Holy nation, God’s very own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

True Israel — the vine being Jesus Christ — consists of believing Jews and Gentiles who have been declared righteous by their faith in Yeshua HaMashiach …

… and in this way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

Stop watching the fig tree and blood moons for your salvation, and keep your eyes on the Lord.

Okay, you can breathe now.

Suggested Reading:

Want to know more about Dispensational Theology? Read our series beginning with the 70 Weeks of Daniel.

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Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

To’aiva: A Rabbi Speaks

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From the writings of Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel (with comments following):

The Torah clearly states its views about the act of homosexuality. The act of homosexuality, i.e. two men having sexual relations, is prohibited (Leviticus 18:22). The act is twice called a To’aiva — an abomination …

If not for the fact that homosexuality is prevalent in Western Society today, there would be little controversy about this Torah sin. It is clearly forbidden and never condoned anywhere in the Torah.

Usually, the Rabbis do not explain the meaning of Torah words. And the meaning of abomination seems reasonably clear — it is abhorrent to God. But in this case, the Talmud does offer a specific explanation. Based on a play on the Hebrew words, the Talmud says that in the act of homosexuality, the person is straying.

The commentaries on the Talmud say that by abandoning heterosexual sexual relations, the person is straying from one of his prime goals in life — to procreate and populate the earth (Genesis 1:28). (See also  Romans 1:26). We will amplify this theme below, but this explanation does not seem to be the abhorrence that the word TO’AIVA implies in the simple meaning. The classic explanation of why homosexuality is prohibited in the Torah is because of straying, i.e. failure to populate the earth. The Chinuch explains that any ‘wasting of seed’ on homosexual relations is preventing procreation and inhabiting the earth, the prime directive of man. This prime directive is echoed by Isaiah 45:18 in describing the purpose of Creation — to be inhabited. This explanation does not point to the unholiness of the homosexual relationship, but, rather, the violation of man’s purpose on earth.

CHINUCH, MITZVAH 209

At the root of the precept lies the reason that the Eternal Lord blessed is He, desires the settlement of the world He created. Therefore, He commanded us that human seed should not be destroyed by carnal relations with males. For this is indeed destruction, since there can be no fruitful benefit of offspring from it, nor the fulfillment of the religious duty of conjugal rights (due one’s wife).

Messiah Gate Says:

To’aiva is not exclusive to the homosexual act. G-d took the life of Onan when he did not fulfill his conjugal obligations towards his deceased brother’s wife:

Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also (Genesis 38:8-10). 

G-d created sex between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and bonding. The most natural form of birth control is the fear of pregnancy. The Pill radically altered — even overturned — the fundamental precepts of Biblical morality. Abortion and gay marriage have further eroded what G-d intended.

I have engaged in a lengthy debate at a gay Christian website regarding arsenokoitais (ἀρσενοκοίταις) as it is referenced in Paul’s epistles, e.g. 1 Timothy 1:10.

Arsen (men, man, male) and koitas (beds, from which we get the word coitus) is understood by gay Christians to be a condemnation of prostitution, pedophilia (pederasty) and idolatry — not homosexuality.

The moderator refutes all of the relevant Biblical text (both Torah and B’rit Chadasha) by reinterpreting Scripture contrary to the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition.

Following is a summary of my rebuttals:

… men with men (arsenes en arsesin) committing indecent acts (Romans 1:27) … 

Paul is quite clear in this passage. Subterfuge is not good hermeneutics. Otherwise I could use 1 Timothy 5:23 to justify getting drunk every night.

(Moderator called me anti-gay.)

With regards to Romans, I have read all of the contrarian viewpoints and they are not dissimilar from the faulty exegesis that asserts G-d destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality.

(Moderator asked me to provide Scriptural support that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for homosexuality and not inhospitality.)

Look, we can’t interpret the Bible from the bias of contemporary mores thousand of years removed from the original text. You can’t defend any type of behavior by asserting that the Bible doesn’t say what it clearly meant to the ancient people to whom it was written.

This is evident in the Halacha (Oral and Written Law) which has preserved the Rabbinic interpretation of Torah that this particular act is to’aiva — an abomination.

It is not difficult to find arguments within Reformed Judaism to support your position. However, orthodox Rabbin hold to ancient tradition. 

Ben Witherington wrote:

The word [arsenokoites] literally and graphically refers to a male copulator (cf. Sib. Or. 2:73; Greek Anthology 9.686), a man who has intercourse with another man. It is true that this term can refer to a pederast (an older man who has sex with a younger man or a youth), but the term is not a technical term for a pederast; rather, it includes consenting adult males who have sexual relationships in this manner, as well as any other form of male-to-male intercourse.

Andreas Kostenberger wrote:

In light of the discussion of teaching in the Old Testament and the book of Romans above, it appears very unlikely that what is universally condemned in the Hebrew scriptures might, in New Testament times as well as ours, be acceptable. Arsenokoitas most likely refers to the general practice of homosexuality.

It appears like that the term arsenokoitas, which does not seem to appear in the extant literature prior to the present reference, was coined by Paul or someone else in Hellenistic Judaism from the Levitical prohibition against males “lying or sleeping with males” (Lev. 18:22). This suggests that the term is broad and general in nature and encompasses homosexuality as a whole rather than merely specific aberrant subsets of homosexual behavior. This is important since some want to make arsenokoitas refer specifically to pederasty.

The argument that Paul’s use of arsenokoitas refers to pederasty falls short on six counts:

a) There was a clear and unambiguous word for pederasty (which Paul did not use), the term paiderastes.

b) The attempt to limit Paul’s condemnation to pederasty is contradicted by Paul’s reference to the male partners’ mutual desire for one another in Romans 1:27.

c) In the same passage in Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian sex, which did not involve children, so that an appeal to pederasty does not adequately account for the prohibition of same-sex relations in this passage.

d) Even if (for argument’s sake) Paul were to censure only pederasty in the passages under consideration, this would still not mean that, as a Scripture-abiding Jew, he would have approved of homosexuality as such. Quite the contrary. In contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world (which generally accepted homosexual acts), Hellenistic (Greco)-Jewish texts universally condemn homosexuality and treat it (together with idolatry) as the most egregious example of Gentile moral depravity.

e) Not only is Paul’s view of homosexuality as contrary to nature in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, but it is also illumined by prevailing views of homosexuality in contemporary Greco-Roman culture.

f) Ancient sources do not support the idea that homosexuality was defined exclusively in terms of homosexual acts but not orientation. Paul refers to both. Some scholars erect a false dichotomy between the two, and then use the false dichotomy to reason that the concept of  ‘homosexuality’ has changed.

Final Word

Arsenokoitais is not a reference to prostitution, idolatry nor pederasty, but (as the Talmud concurs) male-to-male sexual intercourse. How curious that the teachings of Augustine, Luther and the Rabbin are irrelevant in this age of enlightenment — or deception?

Christians who have preserved (in their hearts) the original context of the eternal Word of G-d are a minority in this fallen world. Those in-name-only need to stop imitating an ostrich and prepare for the persecution. The UMC minister who chastised me for predicting a dystopian future because of his gay advocacy should read the headlines. The future is now.

The Master’s Seminary posted an article about the Bible and homosexuality on its website, and within hours received a cease and desist order to take down the post. A lamenting judge told his pastor that, by law, he now has to marry homosexual couples. Said the judge, “I cannot.” Maybe there’s room for him in the jail cell of the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The world will be given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28), but G-d is unchanging and He will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).

Credits:

Homosexuality in Orthodox Judaism, article by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel.

“Arsenokoitais” (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.), article by John Piippo.

Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 198).

Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (with David Jones)..

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Offensive for Christ

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What does it mean to be salt and light?

… for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:6-13).

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:6).

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

We understand that salt is used as a preservative, or flavoring. The lesson is that we are to preserve the Word of God in our hearts, and share it with an unbelieving world. To season our speech with salt is to make the Gospel message more palatable. Bible commentators suggest that we can present an offensive message without being offensive, but how is that possible? When salt is poured into an open wound it stings:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing … For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness … (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Certainly, we don’t want to be offensive nor alienate our worldly friends and family. So we live our lives almost embarrassed, or ashamed of the Gospel. And who wants to be outcast as strange and foolish? Who among us will stand up and be offensive for Christ?

Red Letter Christians are probably offended at the suggestion. Jesus, they will say, was all about love and forgiveness. Oh, so Jesus Christ never offended anyone?

When His disciples had been upbraided by the Pharisees for not washing their hands before eating, Jesus confronted the lawyers for elevating their religious traditions above the commandments of God. He said to the assembled crowd that what defiles a man is not unclean hands but an unclean heart.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” (Matthew 15:12)

If the Pharisees were offended how much more the merchants whose tables were overturned by an irate Christ. The Son of God offended the world system — religious and civil. Can we do no less?

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:24).

This is not the Jesus worshipped by flower-power hippies who have hanging in their VW van a poster of Jesus smoking pot nor liberals who co-opt Christ to promote a social gospel that is lean on theology but heavy on environmentalism, abortion rights, gay marriage, drug decriminalization and feminist radicalism.

I have long-wondered why our nation is so morally bankrupt. If 80% of the populace identify themselves as Christian then how has the nation become so degraded? How do we elect leaders that swear an oath upon the Bible, but don’t believe what it says?

Liberalism.

Government and education long ago were compromised, and now the covenant body of Christ is being sub-divided by false teachers who, like Thomas Jefferson, excise all but the red letters of Holy Scripture.

Red Letter Christians (RLC) are essentially anti-Marcion. Whereas Marcion, branded a heretic, rejected the canon of Scripture (with the exception of the Gospel of Luke and Paul’s letters) the RLC adopts a theology that cedes authority only to the words of Christ.

For some time I have researched “Christian” websites that are anti-Pauline in doctrine. At the core of these ministries is an agenda that promotes freedom of choice and gay marriage. Their theology is based on Matthew 22:36-40 (love is the greatest commandment); and Matthew 25:31-46 (the parable of the sheep and goats as suggestive of a works-based salvation — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the sick.) The faith-based teachings found in the Pauline epistles are only subordinate text. It is evident that Paul is rejected solely on the basis that his teachings are at odds with contemporary society. So we have the right to make the Bible conform to our inclinations?

John Gerstner (Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary) classified the liberal gospel as a gospel of self-esteem. Doing good works makes us feel good, and it softens the ugly truth that there is no good dwelling in us. Like the observant Muslim who thinks he has to do good works to please God, but on the Day of Judgement Christ will say, Depart from me; I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).

Tony Campolo, activist leader of RLC, wrote:

The primary focus of we Red Letter Christians is on what Jesus had to say about the poor. We realize that the only description that He gave of Judgment Day (Matthew 25) was through a parable in which people were evaluated as to whether or not they fed those who were hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned. Because Evangelicals have been steeped in the theology of the Pauline Epistles before they scrutinize the teachings of Jesus in the red letters of the Bible, they have read Jesus through the eyes of Paul.

While he doesn’t deny that evangelicals are very generous towards the poor it does make you wonder what is his real agenda. Campolo insists that RLC is a non-partisan effort to wrestle Christianity from conservative evangelicals who, he says, have hijacked the faith in alliance with Republican politicos who are anti-gay and anti-feminist.

His Christian agenda sounds like the reading of the Democrat platform at the party’s presidential convention. The Gospel is somewhere hidden in a mishmash of environmental activism and wage inequality. When asked his party affiliation, Campolo will typically answer, “That is not the issue.”

So he rails about conservative Christians, but refuses to identify himself as a liberal Christian. Like Hillary Clinton, he is more comfortable with the term progressive as if that can hide a leopard’s spots. Curious how liberals define (or, in the case of marriage, redefine) certain absolutes. Abortion, for example, is not infanticide but free choice.

What liberals have to do is re-interpret Scripture that both Jews and Christians have understood for thousands of years. Progressives (oh, they are so enlightened) will say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality; Leviticus 18:22 suggests that it is unclean for a man to lie in a woman’s bed, and not prohibitive of gay sex; and Paul’s indictment of homosexuality was only a judgement against prostitution.

In any case, they will say, it doesn’t matter what Paul wrote because he doesn’t speak with the authority of Christ.

There is a deception in the church that is blinding the eyes and clouding the minds of those who have not a discerning spirit. The disparagement of Paul within the church is troublesome. Is it Satanic? To diminish Paul’s credentials would be to undermine two-thirds of Christian canon.

We have to be able to answer this question: By what authority did Paul speak?

Peter wrote:

… and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Of course, there are some within the church who doubt the authorship of 2 Peter so this passage would be inadmissible. Very well, then, may I present the testimony of Luke — acceptable even to Marcion:

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:10-16).

Paul was anointed by the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul, himself, testified to the assembly at Galatia:

Paulus an Apostle, not by the children of men, neither by a son of man, but by Yeshua The Messiah and God his Father, he who raised him from among the dead …(Galatians 1:1). — Aramaic Bible

With what, then,  are we left? Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master …

… and …

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

There is light, though, within the RLC. An article, posted on their website, disagreed with Campolo’s interpretation of marriage. The silence of Scripture — that is, Jesus did not specifically condemn homosexuality — is not an affirmation of an act that is clearly condemned in both Jewish and Christian canon. The article honestly cited the Bible’s clarity on marriage, and that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is the Biblical norm.

We’ve only peeled a few layers off this theological onion. Liberals within the church dispute essential Christian doctrine regarding the deity of Christ, resurrection, faith and salvation. They teach that confession and repentance are unnecessary in this age of grace. Feed the poor and you’ll be okay. Everything else is religion. Jesus, they will say, had no problem with sinners, but with religious people.

How should we respond? Meekness does not mean that we dim our light or lose our savor. In this ongoing spiritual battle we must courageously decide to be offensive for Christ — in the world and from the pew. Let your light be a blinding light, and your words like a two-edged sword.

Remember: Christian love is corrective — not permissive.

Reference:

The Liberal View of Justification, article by John Gerstner.

Red Letter Christianity: A New Name for Progressive Evangelicals, article by Tony Campolo.

When Red Is Blue: Why I am not a Red-Letter Christian, article by Stan Guthrie.

The Problem with Being a Red Letter Christian, article by Ian Paul.

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Holy Chaos

Ephesians_6-12

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

This topic won’t go away. The seed of this rebellion has not fully germinated — much like the issue of abortion. Make no mistake … we are engaged in spiritual warfare and the Evil One has scored another victory.

New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, elected in 2003 as the first openly gay (non-celibate) bishop in the Anglican Church, since retired, is quoted:

We don’t need to win the argument, but simply change minds. This is going to end with the full inclusion of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the church. Let me tell you a little secret: the conservatives know it, too … there is no stopping it.

Throughout his tenure Robinson used the pulpit to promote the homosexual agenda including same-sex marriage. He praised gay advocates for creating enormous confusion and holy chaos within the church.

This is evil speaking. Pure evil.

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them (Romans 16:17).

I feel like Abraham pleading for Sodom:

“Lord, if there be one righteous man left will You spare the nation?” (Genesis 18:32)

Is there a remnant in the Episcopal church worth saving, or will they be spewed out as the church at Laodicea? (Revelation 3:16)

My soul is afflicted and deeply wounded. Where are the God-fearing men and women?

Where is the “church”?

We are ruled over by those who violate both legal contract (Constitution), and moral covenant (Bible). More sinister are the pulpit liberals who throw away the epistles, charge Paul to be a heretic (for his condemnation of immorality); and who justify their acceptance of transgression because Jesus, they say, was silent on this issue. Shall we discard the moral law? Yeshua came to fulfill, not throw away, Moses and the prophets. When asked about moral issues, Jesus would typically respond, What is written in the Law? (Luke 10:6)

So, no, Jesus did not itemize every jot and tittle of the Law. Nor should He. Making rules based on our fallen sense of justice and fairness is to live outside the will of God, and in disobedience.

If it was sin in the Torah it is sin in the B’rit Chadashah. Nothing is changed. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever  (Hebrews 13:8).

Faithful Christians — distinguished from those who are Christian in name only — are further marginalized and set apart from secular society. We who walk in the light are called hateful and phobic.

We are chastised to love and not judge as if those who recite these commands have any contextual or spiritual understanding of God’s word.

We live in an age where the truth has become a lie, and the “church” apostate. Reformers did not break enough from Rome to rebirth that which was anointed in Jerusalem; and Protestantism has wreaked further division through the establishment of denominated assemblies. Know this — the judgement of God will fall hardest upon the ecclesia.

There is no unity when the papacy has usurped the authority of Christ, and priests commit heinous sexual crimes while the Protestant assembly is fragmented by doctrinal and theological disagreement.

So the church across the street celebrates gay marriage … the one on the corner denies the divinity of Christ … and the parish across town says none of it matters — just count a few beads, recite a few “Hail, Mary’s” and all will be fine. Oh, my brothers and sisters, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth come Judgement Day (Matthew 13:42).

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:23)

Answering an altar call and mumbling a two-sentence recitation does not make you a Christian. Jesus said to follow His commandments and abide in Him:  John 14:15, 14:21, 14:23.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3). 

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned (John 15:6).

If we could ask Jesus for a definition of marriage He would point to Adam and Eve. As for Paul’s condemnation of sexual immorality, well, the apostle was speaking on behalf of our Lord.

When Jesus says, “Truly, truly,” we best take heed:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me (John 13:20).

To the red-letter Christians and Hebrew Roots disciples who frenetically disparage and reject Paul, I ask this question: By whom was he sent?

Of Paul, Jesus said, … he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel … (Acts 9:15).

If you reject Paul … you reject the Son of God (Luke 10:16).

Paul was unmistakably clear. It is dishonest to ignore his writings simply because they offend contemporary mores. But, if you are one who is willing to throw out one-third of the New Testament then may I leave you with the following quote by a church father who is revered by both Catholics and Protestants — St. Augustine:

Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed. For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together whither they walk. Then follows the connection of fellowship in children, which is the one alone worthy fruitTherefore the good of marriage in every nation and for all mankind lies in the purpose of procreation and in chaste fidelity; but for the people of God, it lies also in the holiness of the sacrament. [1]

Marriage is the Holy union of man and wife for the purpose of having children, and as a testimony of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church. That a court of judges can overthrow the foundation of human society — that which was established by Eternal God — should be a clarion call for the truly born again.

The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me (Luke 10:16).

Notes:

1. On the Good of Marriage (De bono coniugali), St. Augustine, 401 A.D.

Credits:

Scripture — New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation, 1995. “Used by permission.”

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Birth of the Church

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You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering (First Fruits); there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath … (Leviticus 23:15-16

Shavuot (Weeks) is a Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. It was one of the three pilgrimage festivals — Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Booths) — which required Jewish males to gather in Jerusalem for national worship.

Shavuot (known as Pentecost in the B’rit Chadashah, or New Testament) is counted fifty days from the Feast of First Fruits — the day Yeshua HaMashiach rose from the dead. As the Feast of Weeks celebrates the writing of the Law upon stone tablets, Pentecost celebrates the writing of the Law upon people’s hearts:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their G-d, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33

After His resurrection, Yeshua told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit):

And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, Which, He said, you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. (Acts 1:4-5

This was, as Kephas declared, to fulfill the prophecy of Joel:

Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ G-d says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS … ’ (Acts 2:14-17

Pentecost fulfilled the promise of our Lord :

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (John 14:26

And so it was …

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of G-d.” (Acts 2:1-11

To my Dispensational brethren who believe that the prophecy of Joel is yet to be fulfilled at some future date, may I kindly stand with our brother Kephas (Peter) in affirming the prophetic fulfillment of Pentecost. And to my Pentecostal brothers who associate tongues with salvation, may I allude to Rabbi Sha’ul’s letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same G-d who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

Not all Christians possess all of these gifts. Yes, some have the gift of tongues — others the gift of healing. You may be an arm — someone else a leg — but we are all members of the same body each performing a unique function. Note, also, that on the day of Pentecost the disciples were not speaking gibberish, or some unknown tongue. They spoke in the languages of the various distinct groups who had come from regions afar to worship at the Temple as they were so commanded in the Torah.

To build doctrine on a particular gift is to risk idolatry. We do well to heed Sha’ul’s admonition:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease … (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And G-d has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. [1]

[Note that tongues is at the bottom of the Apostle’s list.]

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31

While the gifts of the Spirit are sensational, we must not error in confusing them with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23); of which love is the greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:34-40)

That is a lesson to remember not just on Pentecost, but always in our Christian walk. Indeed, the Holy Spirit presses me more everyday — not to speak in tongues — but to love like Christ.

Notes:

1. tongues ( γλωσσῶν, glōssōn; γλώσσαις, glōssais — from which glossary is derived).

Ability to speak languages which they had not learned. This gift was one of the primary causes of the growth of Christianity. For by it the preachers of the gospel were able, immediately on their coming into any country, to declare the wonderful things of G-d, without waiting till, in the ordinary course, they learned the language of the country. The persons who were endowed with this faculty, had not the knowledge of all languages communicated to them, but of such only as they had occasion for. This appears from 1 Corinthians 14:18, where the apostle told the Corinthians that he spake more foreign tongues than they all did. (Joseph Benson,  Benson CommentaryPublished By T. Carlton & J. Porter, 200 Mulberry Street. New York, 1857).

(Yeshua) These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues … (Mark 16:17)

… they shall speak with new tongues: or languages, not such as were new made, and had never been heard and known before; but foreign languages, such as they had never learned, or were able to speak, or understood before; and this not only did the apostles on the day of Pentecost, but even common believers at other times … (John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, 1746-8).

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The Kosher Christian

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).

Marie is a gentile Christian who got caught up in the legalistic teachings of Messianic preacher Michael Rood. Please understand that not all Messianic teachers, or those in the Hebrew Roots movement, are rigidly Torah observant. Some, however, are deceived by false doctrines and precepts which deny the very power of the Gospel.

Those who are led astray become very kosher in their behavior and witness. They will almost exclusively refer to Jesus and His disciples by their Hebrew names, and are seemingly disdainful of those who call our Savior Jesus Christ as if that name is somehow unclean.

Sister Marie bought a lamb for Passover. (Sort of reminds us of the children’s nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb.) It was not an easy task to find a perfectly unblemished animal, but she was so excited to be celebrating this God-appointed feast which she believed Gentiles were legally compelled to observe.

Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight'” (Exodus 12:1-6).

In the passage we just read this month refers to the month of Abib, or Nisan which roughly corresponds with the month(s) March-April on the Gregorian calendar. It essentially begins the ecclesiastical year. Passover, in the year this article was written, runs from the evening of Monday, April 14 to the evening of Tuesday, April 22. Pesach (Passover) is a fixed date on the Hebrew calendar as commanded by the LORD. The apparent shift between March-April is because the Jewish calendar is not in sync with the Western calendar as it is based on a lunar cycle which is only 29.5 days per month, or 354 days in a year compared to the 365 days in a solar calendar. To ensure that the appointed feasts occur on the seasonal dates as commanded by the LORD, the Hebrew calendar occasionally adds a calculated leap year, or pregnant year (Shanah Me’uberet) to compensate for the astronomical shift. This means that some years on the Hebrew calendar will have 13 months. In contrast, the Western calendar adds a leap day to the month of February to compensate for the solar shift.

What this all means is that Passover and Easter, while celebrated in Spring, do not fall on the same date. Typically, Easter falls after Passover with the random exception in 2008 when Easter fell on March 23, and Passover fell on April 19.

Messiah Gate is a ministry that teaches the Hebrew Roots of our Christian faith. There are some churches that will not teach from the Old Testament because their elders have determined that the Law is not relevant to the body of Christ. When the Council of Nicaea (AD 325) established the date for Easter they did so with the not exclusive intention of separating the celebration from the Jewish feast of Passover. Church fathers, though not in accord, believed that it was sacrilegious to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ — who was the paschal Lamb slain from the foundation of the world — while the Jews were celebrating that which only foreshadowed the coming of Messiah. A more agreeable view was that the church wanted to ensure that Easter always fell on Sunday — the day of our Savior’s resurrection.

Many Christians know only the tradition of Easter, and are not taught that Jesus Christ arose on the Feast of Firstfruits — a Jewish holiday — which follows Passover:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 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 15:20-23).

The mystery that was hidden in the Old Covenant was revealed in the New Covenant. The prophets looked forward to the coming of Messiah while Christians look back to Calvary to see His fulfillment. Jesus Christ is the convergence of our faith — both Jew and Gentile.

It is essential that we understand this demarcation. Christians are not commanded — as the Apostle Paul so clearly details in the Book of Romans — to live under the yoke of the Law. Jesus said, Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). Christian pastors will typically use the metaphor of an oxen to explain what Jesus meant by yoke, but they miss the point that His Jewish followers would clearly understand  — that the Law of Moses was a heavy burden to carry.

Messiah Gate is not Torah observant. That is, to say, we don’t teach that Christians should go out and slaughter a lamb for Passover. Keep in mind that the law would require you to clean your house of every last crumb of chametz (leaven) before you even sat down to enjoy your roasted lamb!

Well, in a short while sister Marie became personally attached to her lamb. As Passover approached she decided that she couldn’t kill the animal, but at least she had the cleanest house on the block as she spent days with a spoon and toothbrush cleaning every cupboard and sofa cushion of bread crumbs. But that misses the point, too. My Christian brothers, the LORD will not strike you down for eating a bowl of oats during Passover although it’s good for the soul to eat a little matzah. No, what the Lord instructs us to do is remove the sin from our lives — not the bread crumbs from under the stove.

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

The Apostle Paul exhorts us, then, to celebrate the feast. What feast? Of course, he is referring to Passover. The early Christians, who were mostly Jewish, continued to observe the holy convocations, or feast days while recognizing that HaMashiach Yeshua is the fulfillment of all that was prophesied.

When Christians celebrate Communion, or the Eucharist, they are observing a very Jewish ceremony. The breaking of bread was the centerpiece of the Last Supper, and we are told that the disciples continued daily in their prayers and communion (Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46) even as Paul instructed the assembly at Corinth:

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

You can partake of this observance in the quiet of your home. All you need is some grape juice and a cracker. We prefer using Concorde grape juice and matzah. During Passover week our local market sells a five-pound box of matzah for almost free.

When studying the Bible it is essential that we understand not only the symbolic context, but also its literal fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Simply read aloud the following prayer as we share together in communion with our Lord:

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He bore my sins and my punishment in His body upon the cross, and by His stripes I am healed. He restores me before Adam and reconciles me to the Father. He offered Himself up as a perfect, pleasing sacrifice wholly acceptable to the LORD. He is the bread of life (John 6:51). Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. He poured out His blood at Calvary for the forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). His blood cleanses me of all my iniquity. He clothes me in a white robe of righteousness, and the blood of His covenant blots out the record of my sins to be remembered no more. We eat of this bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of Him for He said that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the coming of the Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29). Blessed we say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus. Come to gather your body and to claim your bride so that our Father who is in heaven may be exalted.’ To God be the glory forever and ever.

Amen.

And everybody’s invited over to Marie’s house for Passover dessert. I think she’s serving coconut macaroons in chocolate shells. Bring your own jelly beans! (Her little lamb just loves ’em.)

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Editor’s Note: Even before the Council of Nicaea, as early as 150 AD, the church debated when to celebrate the Resurrection, or Christian Passover. Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle, went to Rome to discuss the matter with Bishop Anicetus. They had differing opinions, but did not break fellowship over the matter. The church had a problem with the Jewish calendar which shifted the date of the Resurrection one or two months from the approximate date that was generally agreed upon which meant that the Christian Passover would not always fall on a Sunday — the day of our Lord’s resurrection — and on occasion it might even fall before Passover which was not acceptable.

That the early church, in fact, observed the Resurrection within the week of Passover is not disputed. Polycarp understood from John’s teaching that the Christian communion would commence on Nisan 14 concurrent with the start of Passover. This view was held by the early church fathers Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp) and Tertullian.

When we consider the pagan traditions of Easter it is important to understand that the early church — well before the Council of Nicaea — had good faith discussions to maintain unity and fellowship. They had their differences as to when and how to observe the Resurrection but, as Irenaeus wrote:

And yet nevertheless all these lived in peace one with another, and we also keep peace together. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always [so] observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other.

Finally, it is true that Easter has been corrupted by pagan influences, but no more so I should think than Christmas. The church will surely answer for her sins, but whether a brother is right to observe the Resurrection on Passover, Firstfruits, Good Friday or Easter I will have to defer to John’s disciple and keep fellowship with all (Romans 14:5).

Suggested Readings: Our Passover Lamb, Resurrection Day

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