WHY SHARE THE GOOD NEWS WITH JEWISH PEOPLE?
Jewish evangelism is possible. God promised that there would be a faithful remnant of Jewish people who would turn to the Messiah (Messianic Jews) in every generation (Romans 11:5), especially as we enter the Last Days, when eventually all of Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). The 1990 Jewish Population Survey, published by the Council of Jewish Federations, indicates that approximately 14%to 20% of the 5.5 million Jewish people in the U.S. have some positive faith or association with Yeshua. That’s around 1,000,000 Jewish people! The Messianic Jewish movement is growing. There are more than 150 Messianic Synagogues in the U.S. and 40 in Israel.
Christians are commanded to bring the Jewish people the Good News. Messiah Yeshua commanded His disciples to go to all the world with the Good News about Him, starting with Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8). Christians are commanded to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) and to “comfort My people.” Comfort, comfort My people says your God. Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins (Isaiah 40:1-2). This is a call to Christians to comfort the Jewish people by telling us about the forgiveness of our sins.
There is a priority to Jewish evangelism. The Apostle to the Gentiles instructed the Christians in the heart of the Roman empire: I am not ashamed of the Good News, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).
We will be identified with the best of the spiritual heros of the Faith. Moses in Exodus 32:32, Rabbi Paul in Romans 9:2-4 and 10:1, and Messiah Yeshua in Matthew 23:37 all willingly offered their lives up for the sake of Israel.
Gentile Believers have a special calling to provoke Israel to spiritual jealousy. Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous (Romans 11:11). Those Christians who obey this mandate will fulfill their calling.
Christians owe a debt to the Jewish people. Through Israel the promises and covenants were given. Through the Jewish people came the law, the prophets and the Messiah who has opened up access to God for all. It was through Jewish apostles that the Good News first went to the nations (Romans 9:4-5, Romans 15:27).
God promises blessings to those who share the Good News with the Jewish people. Those that bless the Jewish people will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed (Genesis 12:1-3). Those who pray for the peace of Jerusalem shall prosper (Psalm 122:6). Bringing the Good News is the best blessing you can give us. Not bringing this all-important eternal life saving message is the worst kind of anti-Semitism. For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you (Israel) will perish, and the nations will be utterly ruined (Isaiah 60:12).
It is in the best interests of the Gentiles to bring the Jewish people the Good News (Romans 11:12-15). If Israel’s failure to recognize the Messiah brought untold spiritual riches for the Gentiles, and if Israel’s rejection of Messiah brought about the reconciliation of the world, how much more will our acceptance of the Messiah be! When the Jewish people accept Messiah it will result in the golden age for all the nations of the world. When the Messiah is recognized by the Jewish people, He will return to planet Earth, and reign from Jerusalem over all the nations. For the Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war (Isaiah 2:3-4).
In addition, evangelism is an integral part of the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:15). The preparation of the Good News protects our “feet.” In other words, it is part of our walk (lifestyle) and our self-defense in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. Learning how to share the Good News with Jewish people will better equip our faith with everyone.
True Christians should make up for Christian anti-Semitic teachings and deeds of the past. Since the second century Church leaders have been guilty of anti-Semitic remarks and actions. The teaching has been spread in the Church since the early centuries that the Church has replaced Israel. This false doctrine is not faithful to either the Old Testament or New Testament Scriptures, and is a source of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism in the historic Church has provided a basis for rulers to ridicule, discriminate and even kill the Jewish people. Often these actions have been perpetrated by those who claimed to be followers of the Messiah. Can we blame the Jewish people for so often resisting the Messiah when His followers appear to be anti-Semitic? True Christians need to make reparation for the tragic record of historic Christianity in its dealings with the Jewish people.
UNDERSTAND YOUR JEWISH FRIEND
We are to be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you. To accomplish this goal with Jewish people, it helps to become familiar with Jewish culture, interests, literature and humor. Learn what issues concern the Jewish community most. It helps to read a Jewish paper and Jewish authors, go to a deli, visit a synagogue.
AVOID JEWISH STEREOTYPES
All Jews are not rich, intellectual, religiously knowledgeable, have the same physical characteristics, or think alike. The Jewish community is very diverse in almost every way.
KNOW THE MAJOR BRANCHES OF JUDAISM
Orthodox: Rabbinic Judaism, traditional, observant. Orthodoxy comes from the Pharisees. There is belief in a personal Messiah and in the World to Come. The Talmud is believed by many to be equal to the Bible in authority. This book has influenced Jewish religion more than any other.
Chasidic: It is considered a part of Orthodox Judaism. It started in eastern Europe in late 1700’s. Devotion to the “rebbe,” mysticism, even some “New Age” influence in their theology, like reincarnation. They tend to be isolationist.
Conservative: reaction to Reform Judaism, in between reform and Orthodox. Traditions can be modified but with Orthodox influence.
Reform: Reform Judaism comes from the German enlightenment in the early 1800’s. It liberalized laws and traditions and de-emphasized the supernatural. Jews are able to fit into Western society but retain the morals and ethics of Judaism. There is no faith in a personal Messiah, in heaven or in hell. There is not as much strictness about keeping the Sabbath or keeping kosher or other traditions.
Secular-Humanist: Judaism without God, centering on mankind, and the Jewish people. Organized here in Michigan with the Birmingham Temple, it is now growing throughout the world.
Reconstructionist: started in 1934 by Mordecai Kaplan. Modern and secular in thinking though mixed with Jewish culture in observance.
Approximately 60% of the Jewish population is “unsynagogued” although most still identify as Jews. That makes American Jews among the most “unsynagogued” of Americans. Only 39% of American Jews claim to belong to a synagogue. Approximately 15% are Reform, approximately 15% are Conservative, and approximately 10% are Orthodox. Only 25% report attending synagogue once a month. 33% go on the High Holy Days or a few times a year, while another 23% go to synagogue on special occasions related to rites of passage, like a wedding or a bar mitzvah. This is taken from the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey reported in the February 25, 1994 Detroit Jewish News.
Approximately 60% of Jewish people now inter-marry. The majority of those that inter-marry do not raise their family as Jews.
KNOW THE AREAS WHERE THE JEWISH COMMUNITY COME FROM
Ashkenazim or Ashkenazi Jews: Jewish people from Europe.
Sephardim or Sephardic Jews: Jewish people from Mediterranean and Arab countries.
Sabra: a native born Israeli.
UNDERSTAND JEWISH HURT
Most Jewish people have directly experienced some anti-Semitism during their life. It is difficult for Jewish people to distinguish real Christians and the real Yeshua from the false anti-Semitic Jesus preached by some so-called Christians. Most Jewish people think that all Gentiles are Christians and anti-Semitic under the surface. As a result we have banded together and developed a “we – they” mentality.
Phase #1 You cannot live among us as Jews
Many horrible things have been done to the Jewish people in the name of Jesus by the historic Christian Church. Most Jewish people have some familiarity with the history of Christian anti-Semitism. Soon after the Jewish Apostles died, the leadership of the Church was transferred to people who had no respect for Jews or Judaism. Rather than seeing the Jewish people as erring brothers to whom they were indebted for the gifts of the Scriptures, the Messiah, the Apostles, and the Old Testament saints, the Jewish people were looked upon as reprobates hated by God.
Sentiments in the New Testament expressed against some Jewish leaders by Jewish followers of the Messiah were used by later non-Jewish leaders as an indictment of all Jewish people. Messianic Jews who expressed their faith in a Jewish context were looked at with suspicion. When the Church and the Roman Empire merged around 400 A.D., Jews were reduced from Roman citizens to barely tolerated immigrants. They were forbidden to seek converts. They couldn’t own non-Jewish slaves. They were forbidden to marry with Christians. Severe economic and social sanctions were progressively made by a Church-State collaboration against the Jews that lasted for 1500 years.
Jewish converts had to swear to forsake all Jewish practices. The following profession is taken from the Church of Constantinople which Jews had to affirm if they wanted to join the Community of the Jewish Messiah: I renounce all customs, rites, legalisms, unleavened breads and sacrifices of the Hebrews, and all the other feasts of the Hebrews, sacrifices, prayers, aspersions, purifications, sanctifications and propitiations, and fasts, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and superstitions, and hymn and chants and observances and synagogues, and the food and drink of the Hebrews; in one word, I renounce absolutely everything Jewish, every law, every rite and custom…
Protestants often didn’t do much better. This is from Martin Luther’s tract, “On the Jews and Their Lies” published in 1543. “What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews?… I shall give you my sincere advice: First, to set fire to their synagogues… in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians… I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed… I advise that their prayerbooks and Talmudic writings… be taken from them… I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb…”
Phase #2 You cannot live among us
During the Middle ages anti-Jewish legislation continued to increase and Jews were herded into ghettos, separated from Christian society, forbidden to own land, deported out of country after country. Eventually they were totally isolated in the Ghettos. Jews were deported from nation after nation in Christian Europe.
Phase #3 You cannot live
The Crusaders massacred thousands of Jews in Europe en route to Israel. Many were burned alive or tortured. When the crusaders conquered Jerusalem they burned to death about 1000 Jewish people in a Jerusalem synagogue as the crusaders sang hymns. Jews were blamed for poisoning the wells of Europe during the Black Death in 1348. Many were killed. The fearsome Inquisition was directed at “conversos,” Jewish converts whose loyalties were questioned. Many were burned at the stake. Periodically the Blood Libel was made – that Jews killed Christian children at Passover and used their blood to make Passover matza. Individuals and entire towns of Jews were destroyed as a result. The persecutions continued with the pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia, usually encouraged by the King or Czar, who were the titular heads of the State Church, and other Church leaders. Eventually this culminated in the Holocaust.
Letter to Editor published in Jerusalem Post (World-Wide Web Edition)
October 14, 1996, by Ike Goldman, Delray Beach FL USA
I understand that you are upset over us, here in Israel. Indeed, it appears that you are quite upset, even angry. (Outraged?) Indeed, every few years you seem to become upset over us. Today, it is the “brutal oppression of the Palestinians”; yesterday, it was Lebanon; before that it was the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Baghdad and the Yom Kippur War and the Sinai campaign.
It appears that Jews who triumph and who, therefore, live, upset you most extraordinarily. Of course, dear world, long before there was an Israel, we – the Jewish people – upset you. We upset a German people who elected a Hitler and we upset an Austrian people who cheered his entry into Vienna and we upset a whole slew of Slavic nations – Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russians, Hungarians, Romanians.
And we go back a long, long way in the history of world “upset.” We upset the Cossacks of Chmielnicki who massacred tens of thousands of us in 1648-49; we upset the Crusaders who, on their way to liberate the Holy Land, were so upset at Jews that they slaughtered untold numbers of us. We upset, for centuries, a Roman Catholic Church that did its best to define our relationship through Inquisitions, and we upset the arch-enemy of the Church, Martin Luther, who, in his call to burn the synagogues and the Jews within them, showed an admirable Christian ecumenical spirit.
And it is because we became so upset over upsetting you, dear world, that we decided to leave you – in a manner of speaking – and establish a Jewish state. The reasoning was that living in close contact with you, as resident-strangers in the various countries that comprise you, we upset you, irritate you, disturb you. What better notion, then, than to leave you and thus love you – and have you love us? And so we decided to come home – to the same homeland from which we were driven out 1,900 years earlier by a Roman world that, apparently, we also upset.
Alas, dear world, it appears that you are hard to please. Having left you and your pogroms and Inquisitions and Crusades and Holocausts, having taken our leave of the general world to live alone in our own little state – we continue to upset you. You are upset that we oppress the poor Palestinians. You are deeply angered over the fact that we do not give up the lands of 1967, which are clearly the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Moscow is upset and Washington is upset. The “radical” Arabs are upset and the gentle Egyptian moderates are upset.
Well, dear world, consider the reaction of a normal Jew from Israel. In 1920 and 1921 and 1929, there were no territories of 1967 to impede peace between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, there was no Jewish State to upset anybody. Nevertheless, the same oppressed and repressed Palestinians slaughtered tens of thousands of Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Safed and Hebron. Indeed, 67 Jews were slaughtered one day in Hebron – in 1929. Dear world, why did the Arabs – the Palestinians – massacre 67 Jews in one
day in 1929? Could it have been their anger over Israeli aggression in 1967?
And why were 510 Jewish men, women and children slaughtered in Arab riots between 1936-39? Was it because of Arab upset over 1967? And when you, world, proposed a U.N. Partition Plan in 1947 that would have created a “Palestinian State” alongside a tiny Israel and the Arabs cried “no” and went to war and killed 6,000 Jews – was that upset stomach caused by the aggression of 1967? And, by the way, dear world, why did we not hear your cry of upset, then?
The poor Palestinians who today kill Jews with explosives and firebombs and stones are part of the same people who – when they had all the territories they now demand be given them for their state – attempted to drive the Jewish state in to the sea. The same twisted faces, the same hate the same cry of “itbach-al-yahud” massacre the Jew! – that we hear and see today, were seen and heard then. The same people, the same dream – destroy Israel. What they failed to do yesterday, they dream of today – but we should not “oppress” them..
Dear world, you stood by the Holocaust and you stood by in 1948 as seven states launched a war that the Arab League proudly compared to the Mongol massacres. You stood by in 1967 as Nasser, wildly cheered by wild mobs in every Arab capital in the world, vowed to drive the Jews into the sea. And you would stand by tomorrow if Israel were facing extinction. And since we know that the Arabs-Palestinians daily dream of that extinction, we will do everything possible to remain alive in our own land.
If that bothers you, dear world, well – think of how many times in the past you bothered us. In any event, dear world, if you are bothered by us, here is one Jew in Israel who could not care less.
UNDERSTAND JEWISH HUMOR
One way of dealing with pain is through humor. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we have excelled in humor. We are outsiders looking in, a minority in a majority culture, which gives us a unique perspective.
PRE-EVANGELISM: GENERAL REVELATION
Most Jewish people don’t have a Biblical world view. Before we can quote the Bible, which is not accepted as an inspired message from God, often it will be helpful to give reasons why there is a God and why the Bible is an inspired message from Him.
The Teleological Argument: the Argument from Design
Creation declares that there is compelling evidence that God exists (Psalm 19:1, Rom. 1:20). There is no excuse for ignorance about God because there is sufficient evidence all around us. Just as we infer an intelligent designer for any product in which we discern evidence of purposeful adaption to some end, so too the universe is full of purposeful design, which tells us that there is an intelligent Designer. The universe is more complex than anything made by man; the Designer must be greater than man. There is order and regularity in the “laws of nature” that operate by precise mathematical formulas. Some great Designer must have designed them. From the earliest times men apart from the Bible have concluded the existence of God based on understanding design in the universe. In his book Metaphysics, Aristotle argued that there must be a First Unmoved Mover, a living, intelligent, incorporeal, eternal and most good being who is the source of order in the universe.
The Cosmological Argument: the Argument from Being
Either the universe always existed, or it had a beginning. The discoveries of modern science are indicating that the universe isn’t eternal, but in fact had a point of beginning. The principle that all material things have a cause is called the Law of Cause and Effect. Because things exist, there must be a First Cause, who is Himself uncaused. Since the physical universe doesn’t have sufficient reason to exist in itself, the reason for the universe’s existence must be found outside the universe, in a Being whose sufficient reason is self-contained.
The Moral Argument: the Argument from Morality and Conscience
We live in a moral universe. All mankind has an idea of what is good or right that seems to be independent of us. Where did this sense of right and wrong come from? There is a universal belief in God or gods in every society among mankind. Even after seventy years of atheistic communism belief in God couldn’t be stamped out. Where did this knowledge of God come from? Where does man’s conscience come from? Isn’t it logical to presume that there is a higher moral Being who created this moral order and gave us conscience?
When the odds that God exists or does not exist are even, then the prudent man will gamble that God exists. This is a bet that all men must make – the game is in progress and a bet must be laid. Since the odds are even, reason is not violated by either choice. Since there are reasons for both choices, reason cannot determine which bet to make. Therefore the choice should be made pragmatically, based in terms of maximizing one’s happiness. If one wagers that God exists and He does, then one has gained eternal life and infinite happiness. If He does not exist, you have lost nothing. On the other hand, if one wagers that God does not exist and He does exist, then you have suffered infinite loss. If He does not exist, then you have gained nothing. Therefore the only prudent choice is to believe that God exists, and start searching for Him.
SPECIAL REVELATION: DEMONSTRATING THAT THE BIBLE IS TRUE
Challenge people to read the Bible, and ask God to reveal to them whether it is the truth. Challenge them to consider:
The amazing unity of the Bible: it is unique. It was written by forty authors from different backgrounds over 1500 years and yet reads like it was written by one author.
Recent discoveries demonstrate that the Scriptures are accurate historically, archaeologically and scientifically.
The Bible has affected the world more than any other book ever written. It’s the most widely published book ever written. It speaks authoritatively on morals, law, politics, literature, art, science.
It is one of the only books that claims to be the revelation of God to mankind.
It is unique in its ability to tell the future.
FULFILLED PROPHECY ABOUT ISRAEL
The Jewish people are God’s Chosen People. This relationship is everlasting and unconditional. He will never cast us away (Deut. 7:6, Jeremiah 31:35-37, 33:23-26, Romans 11:1).
Due to unbelief, the Jewish people would be exiled from the Land of Israel. Life among the nations would be difficult and precarious in the Diaspora, the “Galut”, the Exile, but we would survive and be preserved (Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Leviticus 26:31-45).
In spite of our disobedience, the Jewish people are still the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8) and beloved by God right now (Romans 11:1, 11, 28).
Israel’s national borders are completely defined (Genesis 15:18-21, Exodus 23:31, Ezekiel 47:13-22). The Jews have a biblical God given right to the Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), Gaza, the Golan, and all of Jerusalem (Genesis 13:14-17, 15:18, 17:7-8; Jeremiah 31:2-5, 33:6-12).
Just before the Messiah’s return, the Jewish people were to be physically regathered from all the nations and established as a nation on our ancient God given land (Psalm 69:35- 36, Isaiah 11:11-12, Isaiah 43:1-8, Isaiah 49:8-13, Zechariah 10:6-12, Ezekiel 36:24-32). We would never be uprooted again (Amos 9:11-15).
Israel’s cities would be rebuilt and the land would experience an agricultural miracle (Isaiah 27:6, 41:18-20; Amos 9:13-15; Ezekiel 36:8-15, 24-28, 33-38) The desert would rejoice and blossom as a rose (Isaiah 35:1-2).
The City of Jerusalem would be returned to the Jewish people (Luke 21:24). Jerusalem is to be remembered and preferred above one’s chief joy (Psalm 137:5-6).
Just prior to Messiah’s Second Coming, God would begin to pour out His Spirit upon the Jewish people and revive us spiritually. Just as we return to the Land of Israel, so we would also return to the God of Israel and Israel’s Messiah (Isaiah 59:18-21, Jeremiah 32:36-44, Ezekiel 37:1-29, Joel 2:28-32).
In the Last Days Jerusalem would become a political “hot potato,” a burden for all the nations (Jeremiah 30:7, Zechariah 12:2-3).
God swore to personally protect Israel and contend with those who contend with us. God is a Zionist! Those who attack the Jewish people will come under God’s judgment (Genesis 12:3, Psalm 121:4, Isaiah 49:25-26, 60:12, Joel 3:1-3, Zechariah 12:2-10, Mt. 25:31-46).
All nations will worship the Messiah in the renewed city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1-4, Zechariah 8:2-3, 14:16).
Messianic Prophecy is extremely helpful in Jewish evangelism. It helps us demonstrate that the Bible is a supernatural book inspired by God, and that the New Testament is the natural continuation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Among the Jewish people the Tenach (Torah, Nevee’eem, Kituveem) is considered to be the Bible, or the Holy Scriptures. The New Testament (Brit Chadasha) is not considered inspired or authoritative. We use the Tenach, especially the Messianic prophecies, to demonstrate that the New Testament is true. Realize that most Jewish people are not familiar with the Tenach. Most have never read it. Most have never studied Messianic prophecy.
Use Clear Messianic Prophecies
Some say that over 300 prophecies were fulfilled at the First Coming. We need only need to know 20 of the most literal predictions. The writers of the New Testament saw everything fulfilled in the Messiah, which was a common rabbinic way of understanding the Scriptures. The New Testament authors applied passages to the Messiah that may not be as literal as a modern skeptic would like. For example Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23, and Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15.
- Be able to show that there is a New Covenant not like the one made at Sinai (Jeremiah 31:31-33). See Hebrews 8:6-13, 9:12-22, 10:4-24, Luke 22:15-20.
- Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem and yet originate from the days of eternity (Micah 5:2). See Matthew 2:1-6, Luke 2:1-20.
- Messiah was to be a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). See John 7:40-43, Acts 3:22-23.
- Messiah was to enter Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, and yet in triumph (Zechariah 9:9). See Matthew 21:1-9, John 12:12-16.
- Messiah was to be rejected by the majority of Israel, especially the leaders (Isaiah 53:1-3, Psalm 118:22). See John 1:11, 12:37-43, Acts 4:1-12.
- Messiah was to be tried and condemned even though He was innocent (Isaiah 53:8).
- See Matthew 27:1-2, Luke 23:1-25.
- Messiah was to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:14-17). See Matthew 27:31, Mark 15:20, 25.
- Messiah was to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7). See Matthew 27:12-14, Mark 15:3-4, Luke 23:8-10.
- Messiah was to be beaten and spit on (Micah 5:1, Isaiah 50:6). See Matthew 26:67, Mark 27:30, Mark 14:65.
- They were to cast lots for Messiah’s garments (Psalm 22:18). See Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24.
- Messiah was to be mocked and taunted (Psalm 22:7-8). See Matthew 27:39-43, Luke 23:11, 35-36.
- Messiah was to suffer with transgressors and pray for his enemies (Isaiah 53:12). See Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27.
- Messiah was to die as an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:5-6, 8, 10-12, Daniel 9:24-27, Zechariah 9:9, 12:10, Psalm 16:10, 22). See John 1:29, 11:49-52, 1 Corinthians 15:53.
- Messiah was to be raised from the dead (Isaiah 53:12, Psalm 16:10). See Matthew 28:1- 10, Acts 2:22-32. Yeshua’s resurrection validates His message and ministry. It is God’s seal of approval on everything that Yeshua did and taught. This makes Him absolutely unique in the history of the world and puts him on a level far higher than any of the prophets of Israel or other religions. It also gives Him the power to help us live a victorious life and overcome man’s greatest enemy – death. Without the resurrection there would never have been a Messianic movement. All the hostile authorities would have had to do to crush the Messianic movement would have been to produce Yeshua’s body. Yeshua’s disciples were in no frame of mind to fabricate His resurrection. They refused to believe it when they heard about it! An immediate resurrection wasn’t part of the thinking of first century Judaism. Only Yeshua’s resurrection could have transformed them from a frightened dispirited group into a fearless band that gave up their lives and transformed the world. The apostles had nothing to gain from making these things up – except death. They were known for their sterling character, not as liars and deceivers.
- Messiah was to be God (Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Psalm 110:1, Proverbs 30:4). See John 1:1, 20:28, Hebrews 1:8.
- Messiah was to come before 70 A.D. (Daniel 9:24-27). See Luke 1:5, 2:1-7
- Messiah was to be pierced (Zechariah 12:10). See John 19:18, 34-37.
- The Messianic Process Of Elimination
Men———————–Angels (Genesis 3:15) the seed of the woman
Shem———————-Ham, Japhet (Genesis 9:25-27)
Jews———————–Gentiles (Abraham – Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18)
Isaac———————–Ishmael (Genesis 17:19)
Jacob———————-Esau (Genesis 28:13-15)
Jacob had twelve sons but only Judah was chosen (Genesis 49:10). Judah had many families but only the family of David was chosen (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Isaiah 11:1-2). Messiah Yeshua is the Son of David through both Nathan and Solomon, on both His mother’s and His step-father’s side. Luke 3 traces His genealogy through Miriam back through Nathan. Matthew 1 traces His genealogy through Solomon. Only a minute percentage of humanity could qualify to be the Messiah based on genealogical considerations alone, but Messiah Yeshua fulfills the requirements.
Be Able To Use The Six Spiritual Laws
- God loves us and desires that all men experience a life filled with His blessings. God is the source of a satisfying worthwhile life: Psalm 16:11, Isaiah 41:10.
- Man has separated himself from God by sin. Man is a sinner by his actions and by his nature: Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 53:2-4, Psalm 130:3-4, Psalm 143:2, Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 17:9, Job 15:14-16.
- The result of sin is separation from God and eternal death: Jeremiah 31:30, Ezekiel 18:4, Isaiah 59:2-3.
- Man is unable to be reconciled to God through his own efforts or good deeds: Job 14:4, Psalm 49:7, Proverbs 20:9, Jeremiah 2:22.
- God has provided the way of atonement by which reconciliation can be accomplished: The sin barrier can be removed by believing God’s Word and having the blood of atonement. Leviticus 17:11, Psalm 49:15, Isaiah 43:11, 25, Isaiah 53:3-12. The sacrificial system was preparing us for Messiah’s final sacrifice. Sin offering was for an individual, Passover was for a family, Yom Kippur for the nation, Messiah for all people.
- You must by faith receive Messiah Yeshua into your life to be your Lord and Redeemer: Genesis 15:6, Habakkuk 2:4, John 1:12, Revelation 3:20
Words are powerful. The terms, expressions, titles and labels that we use in everyday life are crucial in expressing ourselves to one another. In the realm of politics terms such as hawk, dove, liberal, conservative, left-wing, right-wing, Republican and Democrat help to identify concepts and positions. In Messianic Judaism terminology is extremely important. The last two thousand years of history have seemingly boxed us into an undesirable dichotomy that exists in the minds of people. This thinking purports that one is either Jewish or Christian, a member of Judaism or a member of Christianity. We believe that it is Jewish to believe in the Messiah Yeshua and that He is the fulfillment of Biblical Judaism.
By using Messianic Jewish terminology, we accomplish a number of things. First of all, we put Yeshua back with the proper Biblical and historical Jewish context from which He originated. Secondly, we educate people about the Jewish roots of this faith in the Messiah Yeshua. Finally, this Messianic language is oftentimes more accurate. I encourage all Messianic Believers to use this terminology in order to more clearly express your faith in the Jewish Messiah Yeshua to Jewish people (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). Here are some of the most important terms to understand:
- Yeshua – Yeshua is His original given Hebrew name! “Jesus” is the Hellenized- Anglicized form of “Yeshua,” which means “Salvation.” Yeshua never heard the name “Jesus” in His lifetime. He was always called “Yeshua,” which is very similar to “Joshua,” a common Hebrew name at that time. Good examples of this name in reference to the Messiah are found in Isaiah 62:11, in the Tenach and Matthew 1:21 in the New Covenant.
- Messiah – “the Anointed One.” Some believe that “Christ” is Yeshua’s second name or surname in the same way that we have a second or family name. Actually, “Christ” is a title in much the same way as “President” or “King.” This title is taken from the Hebrew word “Mashiach” or “Anointed One,” which was translated into the Greek “Christos” and later anglicized to “Christ.”
The actual English translation of Mashiach is “Messiah.”
- Messianic Judaism – the movement of Jewish people who have come to believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah of Israel. This movement is worldwide and is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy (synonymous with “true Biblical Judaism”). Yeshua is the fulfillment or completion of Biblical Judaism. As Jews, we have “completed” or “fulfilled” what God wants us to do as Jewish people, that is, accept the Messiah Yeshua as our atonement for sin and come into a personal relationship with God. He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Therefore, how could we, as Jewish people, by accepting the Jewish Messiah become non-Jews? On the contrary, we believe that Yeshua has fulfilled our Jewish heritage and faith. We have not “converted” to another faith, but rather we have been completed because we have found true Biblical Judaism through the Messiah Yeshua (Matthew 5:17).
- Messianic Jew – a Jew who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah and remains Jewish in lifestyle and worship. Jewish people who have found the Jewish Messiah have not converted to another religion but are fulfilled in their Judaism and heritage. The term “Christian” originally meant “follower of the Christ” or “follower of the Messiah.” In and of itself, it is a good term. Unfortunately over time the term “Christian” came to mean more than simply “follower of the Messiah.” To a Jewish person living today, “Christian” does not describe a follower of the Messiah of Israel. It means a “non-Jewish” Gentile churchgoer. It makes little difference if the person is spiritually reborn or is practicing the Christian faith. Many people today have this dichotomy in their minds, that on the one hand, there are Jews and Judaism, and on the other there are Christians and Christianity. You are either one or the other. Accordingly, when a Jew accepts Yeshua he “switches over” from the Jew-Judaism side to the Christian-Christianity side and is no longer a Jew but a Christian. For all intents and purposes, the term “Christian” has become synonymous with “non-Jew” or “Gentile.” We believe that just the opposite has occurred. Messianic Jews believe that we have found the Jewish Messiah and we are now “completed Jews”. Consequently, we choose to call ourselves “Messianic Jews” which identifies us as Jewish people who follow the Messiah. Early Messianic Jews had many names for themselves: believers, elect, remnant, followers of the Way, disciples. Use become a Messianic Jew rather than “convert to Christianity” which implies the giving up of the Jewish heritage.
- Messianic Synagogue or Congregation – a congregation where Messianic Believers can worship and exercise their Jewish faith in the Messiah Yeshua.
- Messianic Rabbi – literally “teacher,” the spiritual leader of a Messianic synagogue.
- Brit Chadasha – the New Covenant or New Testament; those books written in the first century by Jewish writers who believed and followed the Messiah Yeshua.
- Tenach or Hebrew Scriptures – Old Testament. Old Testament implies that there is a New Covenant, something that we are trying to demonstrate is true. Tenach is an acronym from Torah, Nevee’eem and Kituveem, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (Luke 24:44).
- Rabbi Paul – Paul was a rabbi who studied under the feet of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel in the first century (Acts 22:3).
- Mikveh, Tevilah, or Immersion – the mikveh is the actual pool of water and “tevilah” is the Jewish ceremony of being “immersed” in water for purification. In the New Covenant, immersion also symbolized purification when Believers in Yeshua publicly confess their faith in the Messiah Yeshua. Christians use the term “Baptism” for this Jewish ceremony.
- Israel – “Palestine” is to be avoided, since it implies anti-Zionist tendencies.
- Good News – the word “Gospel” means “good news” and makes much more sense to a Jewish listener.
COMMON OBJECTIONS TO THE GOOD NEWS
“Jews don’t believe in Jesus.”
“You’re either Jewish or Christian. You can’t be both.”
“If you believe in Jesus, you’re no longer Jewish.”
God made you a Jew and no one can ever change that, regardless of what the majority of Jewish people or rabbis might say. You are still a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Besides, the real question is, “Is Yeshua the Messiah?” If He really is the Messiah, then believing in Him is the truly Jewish thing to do.
The Founder and early leaders of the Messianic Jewish faith were Jewish. They lived as Jews. Yeshua was a Sabra, a descendant of King David, was circumcised on the eighth day, given a Jewish name, went to synagogue, and kept the Torah (Galatians 4:4). The disciples lived Jewish lives: Acts 2:46, 3:1, 18:18, 20:6, 16, 21:20-26, 23:6, 25:8, 27:9 28:17. The Messianic movement was entirely Jewish at its inception. The question in the first century was “Can a Gentile believe in Jesus without first becoming a Jew?”
Our Scriptures are Jewish. The Tenach (Old Testament) provides the foundation of our faith and the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) was written by Jews.
Yeshua taught that He fulfilled, not set aside, the Torah (Matthew 5:17-19).
Rabbi Paul instructed Jewish followers to remain Jewish (1 Corinthians 7:18).
While certain statements in the New Testament seem to attack the Jewish people and have been used to justify anti-Semitism, we must realize that the authors of the New Testament were themselves loyal Torah observant Jews. Some of the criticisms were justified. The High Priests in that day were notoriously corrupt, and is mentioned in other Jewish writings. Some, not all of the Pharisees were self-righteous and works oriented. It is not uncommon to criticize family. An “outsider” needs to be much more circumspect. Compare New Testament criticism of some of the Chosen People in light of similar criticism found in the prophets (Isaiah 1:1-6, 10).
Other distinctly Jewish teachings are:
Atonement with God based on a substitute – the sacrificial system. The” exchange of life” principal” (Leviticus 17:11).
A personal relationship with the God of Israel.
The promised Messiah of Israel.
The unique unity of God (Mark 12:28-31).
A new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
“If Yeshua is the Messiah, why don’t more Jews believe in Him? Why don’t the Rabbis believe in Him or understand this?”
The Messianic movement in the first few centuries was widespread. Acts 21 reports that there were tens of thousands of Jews who believed and who were all zealous for the Torah. There were Messianic communities throughout the Middle East for 500 years.
Some rabbis like Saul of Tarsus have believed in Jesus. In modern times Isaac Lichtenstein, Max Wertheimer, and Daniel Zion, the chief rabbi of Bulgaria during World War Two, believed in Messiah Yeshua.
Many Protestant and Catholic theologians don’t believe that Yeshua is the only way of salvation. It shouldn’t surprise us that Jewish leaders don’t either.
Moses and the prophets were rejected by our people (Numbers 14:1-10, Jeremiah 25:4, 2 Chronicles 36:14-16).
It was predicted that the majority of Israel wouldn’t initially recognize Messiah (Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12:10). The very fact that the majority of Jewish people don’t believe in Him is a strong point for the fact that He is the Messiah!
Throughout our history, it has always been just a minority within Israel, the Remnant, which has faithfully followed God (Romans 11:5).
He came the first time as a lamb, not as a lion. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not with pomp and glory at the head of armies. He came to die to atone for sins. He didn’t promise political salvation, but spiritual salvation. Israel’s leaders couldn’t understand this. God predicted that they wouldn’t understand because of their spiritual condition (Isaiah 6:9-10, 29:9-14).
Jewish people are not brought up to be open minded about this issue. Rabbis are particularly resistant to considering Yeshua’s Messiahship. Can the rabbis be wrong and have made a mistake? Rabbis are not infallible.
“We Jews believe in one God, not three Gods; God can’t become a man.”
We believe in one God. Yeshua Himself taught that the Shema (“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” – Deuteronomy 6:4) was the most important commandment (Mark 12:28-30).
The Hebrew words for “One” are “Echad” and “Yachid.” “Echad,” which is used to describe the oneness of God in the Shema connotes composite oneness, as in the unity of a husband and wife as one flesh (Genesis 2:24). “Yachid,” which is not used in the Shema, connotes absolute oneness as that of an only son (Genesis 22:2). In addition, the plural word Elohim is the most common name for God used in Tenach. There is a singular form, Eloah, but it is used much less frequently. Other hints of this mysterious oneness within God’s nature are found in Genesis 1:26, 11:7, Isaiah 6:1-8, Psalm 45:8, and Psalm 110:1.
God appeared throughout Tenach in human form: Genesis 3:8, Genesis 18, Genesis 32:22-32, Exodus 24:9-11, and as the Angel of the Lord (Genesis 16:7, 9, 11, Genesis 22:1-12, Exodus 3:2-6, Judges 2:1-4, 6:11-22, 13:3-21).
The Hebrew Scriptures teach that God has always manifested Himself as a unity with a plurality. In the Tenach God is described as sitting on His throne in heaven, and at the same time He is everywhere throughout the universe (Psalm 139:7-12), and at the same time God’s Spirit was specially manifested in the prophets, and at the same time God’s Shechinah (glory, the Spirit) was manifested in the Temple (1 Kings 8:27)!
Plural Title: Elohim (Genesis 1:1) is plural and is used 2500 times. There is a singular form “Eloah”, but it is used only 250 times.
Plural Verbs: There are several instances when Elohim is accompanied by a plural verb. When Elohim they caused me to wander from my father’s house (Genesis 20:13). Elohim they appeared to him (Genesis 35:7). Elohim they went (2 Samuel 7:23). Surely there is a God they judge the earth (Psalm 58:11).
Plural Nouns: The LORD He is a holy God
Plural Pronouns: Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8.
Plural Description: Isaiah 48:12-16
“Jews don’t need a middleman. Judaism teaches that a Jew can approach God directly.”
It’s true that a saint or a priest isn’t necessary to speak to God, but we need to approach God on His terms, not ours. Torah teaches us how. There were mediators in the Tenach: Moses (Exodus 32:10-14, 30-32), Aaron (Numbers 16:41-50), Phinehas (Numbers 25:6- 13). Only the high priest could go into the presence of God, only on Yom Kippur, and only with blood to atone for himself and for all Israel. Before rabbinic Judaism we had priests and Levites to appear before God on our behalf (Numbers 18:1-5).
As it was the first redeemer, Moses, so shall it be with the final redeemer. Messiah is a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), a mediator who instituted a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). One provision of that new covenant is that everyone will know God. Daniel 9:24-27 says that ending sin, and everlasting righteousness will come through the death of the Messiah. Isaiah 53 describes Messiah’s death in terms of atonement and mediation (verses 5, 6, 12). Only Messianic Believers can boldly come into God’s presence.
“Jews do not believe in human sacrifice.”
Human sacrifices were unacceptable because they had sins of their own that needed atonement. Sacrifices had to be perfect. The situation with Messiah Yeshua is unique. He was the only sinless human being who ever lived. Only He could make a sufficient sacrifice (See Isaiah 53:10 where the Servant is called a “guilt offering,” the technical word for a sacrifice). Animals are less than man. They could never fully atone for the sins of a human being. Only one higher in value than man could atone for man. Besides, God knew that Yeshua would be raised back from the dead.
“Judaism does not believe in original sin. I’m basically a good person.”
The rabbis teach that there are two opposing forces, the “yetzer ha-ra” and the “yetzer ha- tov,” the evil inclination and the good inclination. While modern Judaism might teach that man is basically good, or neutral, the Tenach teaches that man’s basic nature has been affected by the Fall, and that we are all sinful (Genesis 8:21, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 14:1-3, Proverbs 20:9, Isaiah 53:6, 64:6, 1 Kings 8:46, Ecclesiastes 7:20). The Bible teaches that apart from a salvation experience and the indwelling of God’s Spirit, we are powerless to choose the good, do the good, and save ourselves. The Shoah (Holocaust), daily newspapers, and locks on our doors should tell us something about the nature of man.
“How can a virgin have a child?”
Nothing is impossible for God. If He can create the universe out of nothing, causing a virgin to have a child is nothing. In fact one would expect the Son of God to have an unusual birth. Messiah Yeshua’s supernatural birth is consistent with the other miraculous births of some of the great leaders of Israel – the births of Isaac, Samuel and Samson.
“Why did God allow 6,000,000 Jews to die in the Holocaust?”
There is the Biblical Principal that God brings good out of evil. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). One result of the Shoah was the realization that there is no secure place for Israel among the Gentile nations, and that we needed to reestablish our ancient homeland of Israel. The nations of the world felt some compassion toward us after World War II and cooperated in the rebirth of Israel.
There is the Biblical Principal that God restrains human evil. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Hitler’s carnage was eventually restrained. If he had been victorious, all of the world’s Jews would have faced a similar fate.
There is the Biblical Principle that every nation that curses Israel will be cursed by God (Genesis 12:3, Zechariah 1:18-21). Germany was conquered and divided. God has similarly punished all the nations that have attacked Israel throughout history, like Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
There is the Biblical Principle that the greater the knowledge, the greater the responsibility and accompanying judgments. You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities (Amos 3:2). Israel has suffered much because we have a greater responsibility as the Chosen People. Unfortunately, throughout most of our history and especially for the last 1900 years, we have rarely lived up to our high calling to shine forth the knowledge of God to the nations.
There is the Biblical Principle that disobedience brings judgement. Moses plainly warned us of the consequences of disobedience to God in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Israel has always been like sheep among wolves. We never had numerical or physical superiority compared to the other nations. Our strength and protection are in the Lord. When we are far away from Him, we are vulnerable to the stronger nations that have always surrounded and hated us. The Tenach bears witness that when we went astray from God we were conquered by our enemies. When we were right with God we were invincible. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, our exile from Israel for 1900 years, our wanderings and sufferings which culminated in the Shoah, are indications that not all has not been right between us and God since the time of Yeshua and that we are in need of repentance.
There is the Biblical Principle that those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives (Hebrews 12: 5-11). Lack of discipline indicates that one is an illegitimate child and not a true son of God. Israel is still God’s son whom He loves and disciplines so that we may one day share His holiness and experience the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
There is the Biblical Principle that there are levels of judgement (Luke 10:12-14). Hitler and those who willingly cooperated with him will be punished severely on the Day of Judgement. God is more merciful to the oppressed than the oppressor. Not only are there sins of commission but there are sins of omission. Will God leave unpunished those nations, individuals and churches that knew what was happening but turned a blind eye and did nothing? Hitler probably could have been stopped if enough concerned churches, individuals and nations had cared enough and taken appropriate action. God has granted mankind the awesome gift of free choice. He doesn’t violate our ability to choose. He treats us as men, and respects our decisions. Sinful human beings normally misuse their freedom. People chose not to see what was happening. God will eventually judge man for his evil choices (Daniel 12:2, Psalm 37:7-11).
Finally there is the Biblical principle to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). The friends of Job were at their best when they said little and sat quietly comforting Job. Perhaps even better than answers to Israel’s suffering are those Christians who stand with Israel in our grief and mourn with those of us who still mourn. God was not rejoicing but rather was grieving over the senseless loss of life and human potential of the Shoah. In all their affliction He was afflicted (Isaiah 63:9).
“What happens to Jews who do not believe in Yeshua?”
Scripture is very clear about the absolute need to believe in Yeshua. If anyone in Israel doesn’t listen to the prophet like Moses, God will judge him (Deuteronomy 18:17-19). If the Jews in Egypt refused to apply the blood of the Passover lamb on their door their firstborn son would have died. Yeshua said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. He told the Jewish leaders that they would die in their sins unless they believed in Him (John 8:24). Rest assured that God is a fair judge and will take everything into consideration. But you have heard about Yeshua. You are now responsible. Will you be part of the problem or part of the solution?
“Christians have a long history of hatred and persecution toward the Jewish people. A good tree can’t bear bad fruit. Yeshua can’t be the Messiah.”
Yeshua taught us that we need to make a distinction between people who call themselves Christians, who say “Lord, Lord,” and those who do the will of God. He warned us that there would be wheat and tares. Yeshua taught that people don’t really love Him unless they do the things that He told them to do, and that we could tell His true disciples by their love, even for their enemies. Like Yeshua they would pray,”Father forgive them.” There is a difference between Gentiles who are nominally Christian and true Christians. True Christians should love the Jewish people (Romans 11:11). Being born in a Christian home doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being born in a bakery automatically makes you a bagel. A Christian must be born from above. Being born once simply isn’t enough. There have been many true Christians, like Corrie Ten Boom and her family, who have given their lives for the Jewish people.
The Messiah is supposed to usher in worldwide peace, end war, poverty, regather Israel and rebuild the Temple. Yeshua has done none of these things. If Yeshua was really the Messiah, why aren’t we in the Messianic Age?
There are two sets of descriptions of the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. One set of prophecies describe a suffering Messiah who will suffer and die to atone for our sins (Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12:10, Daniel 9:24-27 Psalm 22, Zechariah 9:9). The other set of prophecies describe a victorious Messiah. We have to deal with both descriptions of the Messiah. Rabbinic literature speaks of two Messiahs, Messiah Ben-Joseph (the Suffering Messiah) and Messiah Ben-David (the Conquering Messiah). In reality, there are not two Messiahs who come at one time, but one Messiah who will come twice. He would come the first time to suffer and die for the sins of the world and the second time to set up His Kingdom over the entire world. There must be a change of heart in humanity. Even if we lived in a perfect environment, we would still ruin it and hurt each other if our nature wasn’t transformed. Messiah had to first die to atone for sin, pour His spirit into us and start the process of recreating and transforming human nature. If Yeshua fulfilled these prophecies about the suffering Messiah, rest assured that He will return to fulfill the prophecies about the victorious Messiah.
“Isaiah 53 refers to the Jewish people or the Messianic Age – not the Messiah.”
Other servant passages in Isaiah refer to an individual and not the nation of Israel (see Isaiah 49:6). The text itself makes it clear that it can’t be Israel.
- There is a clear distinction in pronouns. There is a contrast between the “we,” “us” and “our,” while the Servant is described in the third person singular. Isaiah the prophet, a Jew, in speaking of himself and his nation Israel, uses the pronouns “we,” “us” and “our.” He describes the Servant as someone other than himself and his people by using the pronouns “he,” “him” and “his.” Since the speakers are clearly Isaiah’s people Israel (“we”), then the Servant whom they describe (“he”) must be Someone other than Israel. They cannot both be Israel.
- In 53:8, Isaiah declares that the Servant was put to death “for the transgression of my people.” If the servant died for Israel, the Servant cannot also be Israel.
- The passage repeatedly claims the innocence of the Servant. 53:4-6 says that His suffering was not for his own sin but for the sin of others. The prophets and Isaiah never characterize Israel or any other nation as perfectly innocent (1:1-31, 64:5). Since Isaiah affirms the Servant’s innocence while at the same time affirming Israel’s guilt, Israel cannot be the Servant.
- The Servant is a voluntary and unresisting sufferer. He willingly accepted His suffering, offered himself as a guilt offering, poured himself out to death. The Jewish people have suffered immensely, but never willingly.
- The Servant is cut off out of the land of the living, and poured himself out to death. Israel never has been and never will be killed. See Jeremiah 31:34-36.
“Religions are all alike. They all have some good points and can help people to lead worthwhile lives. The good people of all religions have a share in the world to come.”
All the nations are in deep spiritual darkness apart from the God of Israel (Psalm 14:1-3, 96:5). The religions, philosophies and ideologies of the nations will not bring salvation. While there is some truth in most religions and philosophies, God has revealed Himself most clearly in and through Israel and the Messiah. He chose the Jewish people to reveal Himself to us, and then from Israel that light was to spread to all the nations (Isaiah 60:1- 3, Micah 4:2). If there is one God, it makes sense that there is only one way to Him. If you were in Egypt and didn’t apply the blood of the lamb to your door, no matter how sincere you were, your firstborn son would have died. Yeshua is the ultimate revelation of God and is the only way to the Father (John. 14:6, Acts 4:12).
Note: INTRODUCE CONCEPTS OF MESSIANIC JUDAISM
What is Messianic Judaism?
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people from all walks of life who believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah and Savior for Israel and the world. Messianic Jews have not stopped being Jewish. On the contrary, we have continued to remain strongly Jewish in our identity, lifestyle, and belief that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and the fulfillment of true Biblical Judaism.
What is the difference between Messianic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism?
Rabbinic Judaism is a Judaism centered around the teachings and writings of the Rabbis. Its formation began over 1,900 years ago when the second temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. Before then, Judaism, or the faith of the Jewish people, was centered around the Temple and the sacrificial system according to the Torah (the Law or the five books of Moses). After the destruction of the Temple the Rabbis reorganized Judaism, adding many new laws, rules, and traditions. Today their writings and commentaries (the Talmud, etc.) form the foundation of Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism consists of several branches: Orthodox (very traditional ), Chasidic, Reform (liberal), Conservative, and Reconstructionist. Some within Rabbinic Judaism are still looking for the Messiah but they are the exceptions. Messianic Judaism differs in that we rely totally on the Scriptures. Our faith is the Judaism of the Bible (Biblical Judaism) and is centered around the Messiah and the worldwide salvation He brings. We in Messianic Judaism believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah and that we don’t have to go through the Sages or the Rabbis to know God. We have access to God because of the great atoning work of the Messiah Yeshua, who has fulfilled us as Jewish Believers and therefore has fulfilled our Judaism (Matthew 5:17).
What is the difference between Messianic Judaism and traditional Christianity?
Christianity is the faith in Yeshua as expressed by His Gentile followers. Christianity today numbers over one billion people in the world, with many denominations and doctrines centered around Yeshua as Savior. For most of the first century A.D., this faith in Yeshua was predominantly Jewish. As more and more Gentiles came into the Messianic faith however, some did not understand its Jewish roots and God’s eternal covenant with Israel. A “de-Judaizing” process set in, a separation from the Jewish roots of the faith and from the Jewish people. This separation eventually led to the formation of a second wing of this faith in Yeshua composed of Gentile Believers, i.e., “Christianity.” While are one in the Spirit with true Gentile Believers, Messianic Jews have our own expression of faith in Yeshua the Messiah. Messianic Judaism holds that it is Jewish to believe in Yeshua and is a return to the Jewish roots of the faith. We observe the Biblical feasts and holidays, while at the same time maintaining that the only way to be saved and truly born again of God’s Spirit is through the atoning work of Messiah Yeshua.
When did Messianic Judaism begin?
Messianic Judaism is actually 2,000 years old, dating back to the time of Yeshua. Yeshua was Jewish. He was raised in a Jewish home and ministered to Jewish people in a Jewish land (Eretz Yisrael). His disciples were Jewish. The apostles were Jewish. The writers of the Brit Chadasha (New Covenant or New Testament) were Jewish, and for a time, the faith was strictly Jewish. Some historians believe that in the first century A. D. more than one million Jewish people, both in Israel and outside of Israel, believed that Yeshua was the Messiah (Acts 2:37-42, 4:4, 21:20).
If Messianic Judaism was strictly Jewish at first, how did Gentiles come into the Faith?
It was always God’s will for the Gentile nations to receive His Salvation (Isaiah 49:6, 42:6). God told Abraham that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). At first the early Messianic Jews did not understand that this was God’s will and proclaimed the Good News only to Jewish people. It wasn’t until the events described in Acts 10 that the Gentiles entered into the Faith. Prior to Acts 10, almost all of the people that the Word of God mentions were Jewish people.
Ironically, the big controversy in the first century was not if it was Jewish to believe in Yeshua (naturally it was) but whether Gentiles could come in without having to “become Jewish!” When Messianic Jews finally recognized that God’s Salvation was also for the Gentiles, they began to share the Messiah with non-Jews as well as with Jews. As a result many Gentiles in the Roman Empire began to come into the Messianic faith.
How was first century Messianic Judaism “transformed” into Gentile Christianity?
When the early Messianic Jews took the Good News of the Messiah to the Gentiles, a great number were brought into this Messianic faith. By the end of the first century A.D., the number of Gentile Believers outnumbered the Jewish Believers. This occurred primarily because there were (and still are) more Gentiles in the world than Jewish people. Through the years, as the number of Gentile Believers increased, they began to dominate this Messianic faith. Some Gentile Believers, not understanding the Jewish roots of their faith and God’s eternal covenant with Israel, wanted to split off and form a separate religion divorced from their Jewish roots (Romans 11:1-2). This “de-Judaizing process” continued until Gentile Christianity emerged as the dominant representative faith in the Messiah. In one of the greatest paradoxes in history, it became alien for a Jew to believe in Yeshua as his Messiah!
When did the early Messianic Jews disappear and why?
Messianic Judaism continued into the seventh century A.D., in spite of the many pressures to give up their Messianic faith. The Rabbis pressured Messianic Jews to relinquish their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah. In addition Gentile Christianity wanted Messianic Jews to abandon their Jewishness. Finally, in the seventh century A.D. the rise of Islam caused great pressures for Messianic Jews as well. Despite all this the real reason for the disappearance of early Messianic Judaism was simply that Messianic Jews lost their “vision.” They no longer saw that it was important to remain Jewish. This was because the majority of Believers in Yeshua were now members of Gentile Christianity. Consequently Messianic Jews assimilated into the Church.
When did the modern movement of Messianic Judaism begin?
Even though Messianic Judaism as a distinct movement faded from the ancient scene in the seventh century A.D. there have always been Jewish Believers in Messiah Yeshua. Beginning in the early 1800’s ever increasing numbers of Jewish people began to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah. The modern movement came to fruition after 1967 when thousands of Jewish people suddenly accepted Yeshua. Why 1967? Because that is when Jerusalem came back into Jewish hands in fulfillment of a prophecy given by Yeshua in the Brit Chadasha (Luke 21:24). This prophecy indicated that when Jerusalem was restored to the Jewish people God would turn once again to His Jewish people in national salvation. Messianic Judaism is a prophetic movement and a direct result of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon His Chosen People (Hosea 3:4-5, Joel 2:28-29, Deuteronomy 30:1-3). Today there are 150 Messianic Congregations in the U.S., 35 in Israel, and in other countries including England, France, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and other countries.
What is the importance of Messianic synagogues to this movement?
Messianic synagogues are the heart of the Messianic Movement, Messianic communities and the center of Messianic life. A Messianic synagogue is where we can collectively believe in Yeshua, live a Jewish lifestyle, raise our children to be Jewish, and worship the God of Israel in a Jewish manner with Jewish Believers. Interestingly enough, just as Messianic Judaism is not new, Messianic synagogues are not new either. From Biblical and historical records, we know that there were Messianic synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, as early as 50 A.D.! (James 1:1, 2:2, Hebrews 10:27). Messianic synagogues range in size anywhere from 10- 15 up to several hundred members.
Do Messianic Jews believe that they should keep the Law of Moses?
Yes and no. The Torah (or Law of Moses) is composed of 613 Mitzvot (commandments), in the Tenach that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai involving the festivals, the Ten Commandments, sacrifices, kashrut (kosher laws), etc. Generally speaking, Christianity maintains that the Law is completely dead now that Yeshua has come and that we should have nothing to do with it. We, as Messianic Jews, recognize that one cannot be saved through the Law, because the only way to be saved through the Law is to keep all of the commandments perfectly. This is impossible because we have a sinful nature (Deuteronomy 27:26, Ecclesiastes 7:20). At the same time, while the Law cannot save, it is far from being dead. The moral precepts of the Ten Commandments are carried into the New Covenant. We find the Biblical holidays particularly edifying. There are many other areas of the Law that are valuable to us today as well. Rabbi Paul in the New Covenant makes it very clear that all Believers have liberty in the Messiah Yeshua (Galatians 5:1), which means freedom from the Law as well as freedom to keep the Law as we desire. Paul kept the Law as much as he could, as did the other early Messianic Jews, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:17).
Who is a Jew?
This is a question that has been debated for centuries. One cannot be considered Jewish strictly on the basis of religion, because most Jewish people today are not religious. The same applies to any definition of a Jew based on culture, as well. According to Rabbinic Judaism, to be considered a Jew, one must have a Jewish parent (in particular, a Jewish mother). This rabbinic definition is not Biblically correct. The Scriptural definition of a Jew is someone who is a physical descendant of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob which is carried primarily through the father.
For example, Moses had a Gentile wife and King David’s great-grandmother was Ruth, the Moabitess, yet their children were all considered Jewish. In Acts 16:1-3 it is recorded that Paul had Timothy, who was the son of a Messianic Jewish mother and a Gentile father, circumcised. Paul considered Timothy to be a Jew. Therefore the Scriptures indicate that if either parent is Jewish, one can identify himself or herself as being Jewish and can claim himself as a part of God’s Chosen people.
What is the relationship of Jewish Believers to Gentile Believers?
In Temple days a “middle wall of partition” existed in the Temple that physically separated Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles could not enter past that point and were relegated to what was called the “Court of the Gentiles.” According to the New Covenant Scriptures, this “middle wall of partition” has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). In fact, according to Rabbi Paul, Gentile Believers have entered a Jewish faith (Romans 11:24), and have become spiritually circumcised and part of the Commonwealth of Israel. Gentile Believers are one with us because the Spirit of God dwelling within a Jewish Believer is the same Spirit within a Gentile Believer. Our ethnicity, heritage and background may be different, but God has made us one in the Spirit (John 10:16).
Can Gentile Believers be members of a Messianic synagogue?
Yes, and most Messianic congregations do have non-Jewish members. To be a member of a Messianic congregation as a Gentile Believer, one must have a burden and love for the Jewish people, understand what God is doing among the Jewish people, and have a “Ruth-like” calling to God’s Chosen People. Praise God for the many wonderful Gentile Believers who have had such a love for Israel!
What is God’s will regarding intermarriage between Jew and Gentile?
When a Jew marries a Gentile there is an inherent danger of assimilation into Gentile society, and therefore a serious risk of being permanently lost to the nation of Israel. Rather than assimilating, we believe that it is God’s will for the intermarried couple to be Jewish, to live a Jewish lifestyle, and to raise their children as Jews in much the same way that Ruth the Moabitess made her choice to become part of the Jewish nation (Ruth 1:16-17). Even in the New Covenant, Rabbi Paul had Timothy circumcised into the nation of Israel because his mother was Jewish and his father was not (Acts 16:3).
Should Jewish Believers join a Messianic synagogue?
Generally speaking, Messianic Jews should be members of Messianic synagogue. The reason? Because we have an eternal covenant with God that goes back to Abraham. Our history is unique in that we were not just chosen out of many nations, but were formed by God through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be a special blessing to this world. God has a purpose and a calling for the nation of Israel and this covenant relationship is eternal (Gen. 17:1-8). If God has made an eternal covenant with us as Jewish people, then it is incumbent upon us to keep our covenant relationship with Him. It is God’s desire for Jewish people not to assimilate but to continue to be Jewish. The desire and our eternal relationship with God is evidenced by the preservation of the Jewish people for the past 2000 years, and the fact that God has supernaturally restored the State of Israel today. The primary way a Jewish Believer can continue to live a life as a Jew and not assimilate away from his Jewish people is to be a member of a Messianic synagogue. In a Messianic synagogue, a Jewish Believer can continue to worship the Lord in a Jewish way, celebrate the Jewish festivals, raise his children as Jews and be a testimony to his family and people.
Do the Jewish People Have A Right To The Land of Israel?
Fact #1. The Land of Israel belongs to God (Leviticus 25:23).
Fact #2. The Land of Israel was given by God to the Descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:7, 17:7-8).
Fact #3. The Land was not given to the Descendants of Ishmael, or the others sons of Abraham, but to Isaac (Genesis 17:18-19, 25:5-6, 26:3, Hebrews 11:18).
Fact #4. The Land was not given to Esau, but to the Descendants of Jacob (Genesis 28:4, 13-15, 35:11-12).
Fact #5. Israel’s sin and captivity never changed this right to the Land (Leviticus 26:44-45, Deuteronomy 30:1-5, Jeremiah 16:15, 31:10, Isaiah 43:5-7, Ezekiel 37:21-22). I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them… I will also plant them on their land and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them, says the Lord your God (Amos 9:14-15).
Fact #6. This covenant of the Land is irrevocable. God’s gifts and call have not been revoked (Romans 11:28). More than forty times it is recorded that God swore an oath to give the Jewish people the Land of Israel (Genesis 26:3, 50:24, Numbers 14:16, Deuteronomy 9:5, Psalm 105:8-11). God cannot break an oath (Hebrews 6:16-18). The eternal covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants has not been set aside or replaced by the New Covenant. Though most Jewish people have not yet responded to the Messiah, this has not invalidated God’s plan for us, which He will ultimately fulfill.
Fact #7. God prophetically calls this restored State “Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11-12). I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them (Ezekiel 37:21-22).
Fact #8. Christians should stand with Israel. God says that the Gentiles will nurture and assist the Jewish people in their reentry to their land. Isaiah envisions the leaders of the nations would help the Jewish people and nurture them: Thus says the Lord God, Behold I will lift up my hand to the nations, and set up My standard to the peoples; and they will bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. And kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses (Isaiah 49: 22-23). It is a Christians’s divine mandate to help us in the fulfillment of our unique call. Gentile believers must do more than observe what God is doing with the Jewish people. God is asking us to get involved in helping.
Acknowledgements: Arnold Fruchtenbaum, John Fischer, Sid Roth, William Craig, David Chernoff, Barry Rubin, Moishe Rosen, Michael Rydelnick.