THE BIGGER PICTURE
In order for you to understand that you have just stepped into a place in history as a believer in Yeshua, it is meaningful for you to have some understanding of where we are today in God’s unfolding of His plan for mankind. For that reason, please take a few moments to read through this mini-history lesson. Because God has given mankind free will, at times men have made grave errors, even when they think they are doing the wisest of things. This has certainly been true for the church. What began as an entirely Hebrew (Jewish) revival movement, in fulfillment of the prophecies that God had given to Israel for centuries, was quickly infiltrated by non-Jewish influences.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. sent the believers out of the city and environs and out into the world where they preached the Gospel and thousands of people heard the message of the resurrection and the forgiveness of sins and came to the Lord. It was not long before the non-Hebrews outnumbered the Hebrew believers. Many of the Gentile believers brought alone their pet pagan practices and wove them together with their faith in Yeshua. As there were less and less Jews among them to tell them what was error and in violation of God’s commandments, these things became more and more entrenched. At the same time a great misunderstanding of Israel’s place in the kingdom of God led to anti-Hebrew or anti-Semitic biases.
With no Bibles to read themselves (few could read at all), and no leadership teaching them the truths of the Bible, it was assumed that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and so God must hate them. After all, didn’t He oust them from their land? Surely that was judgment, they reasoned. And so they took on the hate against the Jews that they assumed God had for them despite Paul’s words: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1,2). When the emperor Constantine held the Council of Nicea they made some decisions and decided what would be official church doctrine from then on. In reality, it was a peacekeeping effort to unify the pagans with the Christians so an amalgamation of the two religions was codified. Constantine, needless to say, was not born again, nor evidently were those ruling with him, so no one seemed to mind the pollution of what was identified as Christianity. One can trace such things as believing in Mary as the mother of God to the pagan belief of Nimrod’s mother as the mother of god.
Passover was now forbidden but since the resurrection was a necessary part of faith in Jesus, it became linked with the worship of the goddess Ishtar so that we now had Easter rather than Passover, and now the fertility symbols of dyed eggs and those cute little ever reproducing bunnies were incorporated into the celebration of the resurrection. You can see how far from truth the supposed church had come. If you were born in the Roman Empire, that would make you a Christian. No more repentance or leading of the Spirit of God; no more being born again by the Spirit. It was assumed that the Kingdom of God was no being expressed in Imperial Rome and that the pomp of the emperor was the glory of God being seen in mankind.
He made himself the head of the church and declared he carried the apostolic mantle of Peter which essentially made him the first pope. What was outlawed was anything Hebrew. No more Sabbath on Saturday or keeping of the feasts God gave to Israel. And no more Scriptures about which King David had said, “They Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Having turned off the light of the Word of God to Israel, the church plummeted the world into what is called The Dark Ages. During these darkest of days the world which Rome touched was thrust into disease including plagues, poverty, ignorance, superstition, witchcraft, fear and oppression. It would be hard for us today to understand how hard and dark life had become. The blessings of God were simply absent. In time, things did improve but the Catholic (meaning universal) church continued to dominate the people’s lives and livelihood, keeping them in fear of excommunication or hell, which incidentally, one could opt out of by paying large sums of money should one be fortunate enough to have a sufficient amount, to the church. “Indulgences” were sold on a regular basis. One could buy their salvation, but few could afford it. What happened to Yeshua paying the price for our salvation?
Then one Catholic priest named Martin Luther discovered two verses in the Bible that said the same thing: “The righteous man shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17). The year was 1536. With this revelation, men and woman began to once again come to God on the basis of faith and were experiencing being born again and a fresh new relationship with the Lord. This challenged the status quo of the church and threatened the power base of the priesthood and leaders. A bloody war resulted between the Catholic church who defended the status quo and those who protested against the church’s practices. Those protesting became known as Protestants. Today we call them Protestants though they are no longer protesting.
As we know the Protestant Reformation was successful and what is since known as the Protestant church was now free to follow the Lord without many of the constraints and errors of the universal (catholic) church. However, the Reformation was just that, a reforming of the church to do away with much of what was ungodly and unbiblical. But the Reformation was still not a Restoration. And that is what was needed. And that is what appears to be happening today. This being a mini-history lesson and certainly not at all complete, suffice it to say that what the Reformation did not include was the return to the Hebraic ways God had given to Israel and which the first century believers celebrated and observed. Consider that God gave six celebrations or convocations to celebrate with Him each year. Those plus the Sabbath on Saturday makes seven. But the church still celebrates none of those.
It celebrates only two real holidays, Easter and Christmas, both of which have pagan roots. Both were instituted in the church during Constantine’s reign in an attempt to bring unity to his kingdom between the Christians and those who followed other religions. Just to give you an example of how far the church strayed from its Hebrew roots, the Resurrection of Yeshua took place at Passover. But Passover was entirely outlawed by Constantine and the resurrection was intertwined with the celebration of Ishtar, a fertility goddess of long before. The symbols of fertility connected to Ishtar were colored eggs and those cute little rapidly-reproducing rabbits – which is how we got Easter (Ishtar) eggs and Easter bunnies. Neither have anything to do with the Resurrection of Yeshua.
Yeshua talked about the traditions of men nullifying the Word of God. This would certainly be an instance of it taking place. But we now live in a time in history when things are being restored. The first thing that was restored was Israel to the Land God promised to them. After 1,878 years (between 70 AD and 1948), Israel was restored to her land as a State once again. Only God could have accomplished this after all that time. He did so in fulfillment of the many promises He had given to Israel in His Word. There is a principle in Scripture that goes like this: “The spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual” (1 Corinthians 15:46). Accordingly, there exists a parallel between what happens in the land of Israel and what takes place among the believers. We can track the Jews coming back and reclaiming the land that God promised them and at the same time, spiritual territory being reclaimed by the Lord among the body of believers around the world. Here are just a few but major examples:
In the 1890s the first Jews from Russia, called the Bilu, returned to the land and began clearing swamps and establishing Kibbutzim with an intent on creating a Jewish homeland. At this same time, Jews who had come to faith in Yeshua determined they would not become assimilated into the church culture, but would retain their Jewish identity as believers in their Messiah and the first Hebrew Christian Alliance was formed. So just when Jews are moved, presumably by God, to return to the land, they also as Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua, return to their Jewish identity. The correlation cannot be missed. • Israel became a nation in 1948. She was alive again! At that same year, many healing evangelists were stirred and anointed by God to bring a message of Yeshua as our Healer and thousands came to faith in Yeshua and were healed what were often deadly diseases. • In 1967 Israel regained control of East Jerusalem which included the site of their beloved temple. In that same year that the temple area was once again in Jewish hands, the Holy Spirit came back into the church. With this spontaneous move of the Spirit of God, the Charismatic Renewal began, in which the way was now open for millions of believers to be once again baptized in the Holy Spirit, with evidence of speaking in Tongues which was as rare in the church as the presence of the Holy Spirit. Gaining access to the temple site where the Holy Spirit had first came upon the believers seemed the catalyst for the Holy Spirit to once again come upon believers the world over.
Since then, there has been an increasing interest by a proportion of the church, to learn of her Hebrew roots, to celebrate Israeli feasts, and to enjoy Davidic or Messianic (Jewish) worship. Churches are now having Passover Seders instead of Easter egg hunts. There is a growing awareness of the need for the church to support Israel – indeed Israel is becoming increasingly aware that her only real friends in the world are the Spirit filled born again believers. So where do you come in? There are more Jewish believers today in Yeshua than since the first century. That’s historic right there. But God is doing more to restore a Torah mindset to His true people. By that I mean this: Yeshua made it clear that the greatest commandments are about love. (See Matthew 22:36-38.) We live in a time when the Bible as the Word of God has been greatly dishonored as have its precepts. As a result, we are seeing a greater moral darkness coming upon not only America but the world.
The Scriptures are again being displaced by ungodly practices and beliefs in religions that are not based on the truth of Yeshua’s profound words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Many people feel it is arrogant for believers in Yeshua to think that there is only one way to God. But there is. And Yeshua is the way. While there is a falling away from this truth, God is at work right in the midst of it to bring about a great move of His Spirit among people who will be once again like the first century believers in terms of godly character and motivation to bring the Kingdom of God to as many people as possible. The first century believers changed the Roman world. Before Yeshua returns, by His Spirit He will have prepared a people to be as a Bride for the Son of God, pure and holy, having eyes for no one or no thing but Yeshua. The Bible tells us that in the midst of difficult times before He returns, “the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many….
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 11:32, 33; 12:3). Part of that understanding is what God is imparting to His people today. It means loving as God loves us. It means walking in truth as Yeshua did. But it won’t be accomplished by our trying to do it. That would only be an attempt based on our own efforts. The ways of God can only be accomplished through faith in God doing it through us. It all must come from resting in God, like a Sabbath rest, and not from striving. The trust in God that the first century believers allowed God to impact the world through their obedience to God and their love for Him and for each other. Their expectation was that Yeshua would return at any time.
Today for the first time in history, all the prophecies line up related to Israel. Few things have yet to happen and they could at any moment. Can Yeshua be far from coming? Many expect Him in our lifetime. We who are alive today have an opportunity to be among those who welcome the King to the earth. We have an opportunity as “one new humanity,” Jew and Gentile together, to see the manifestation of the restoration Peter preached on Shavuot all those centuries ago when he said,
“The things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah…has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:18-21).