Category Archives: Messianic

The Great Divide between Church and Synagogue

 

I am delighted to commend this excellent article by Peter Cohen of  Messianic Good News in Johannesburg.

In his introductory remarks to his scholarly work “The Jewish people and Jesus Christ” Jacob Jocz writes:

“Both Judaism and Christianity are the result of a major controversy which took place during the first century and the first half of the second century. This controversy was of a theological nature and centred round the significance of Jesus of Nazareth. Our study has led us to the conviction that the general view, which holds that Judaism remained unaffected by the Christian episode, is untenable. Judaism had been deeply affected by the rise of Christianity and was pushed in the opposite direction. The opposition between the two creeds is thus an integral part of their separate existence. Only in opposition to each other do they learn the truth about themselves.”

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines “anti-Semitism” as: “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.” Much has been written about Christian anti-Semitism and in the two thousand years since the rise of Christianity there have no doubt been grave injustices perpetrated in the name of Christ, just as the intense persecutions in the early church were instigated by the Synagogue. But the real argument is a theological one. The question of who is Jesus stands at the centre of the great divide between Church and Synagogue. In recent times there have been efforts to bridge the divide from both sides, but the only way to bridge the gap between the Risen Christ whom Christians worship and the Jesus whom Rabbinic Judaism could accept is by reducing him to the stature of another Jewish Rabbi.

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Weird and Wacky Theology 2: Will the Jewish Temple be Rebuilt?

This second dose of Weird and Wacky Theology addresses whether the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt. Visit Jews for Jesus website and you can read an article by Zhava Glaser where she asks rhetorically,

“What flour is to bread, the sacrificial system is to the religion revealed in the Jewish Scriptures. It is not a garnish. It is not a flavoring. It is the very substance out of which the Jewish religion was constructed. We can forever design our own substitutes, but they cannot satisfy our yearnings the way God’s own provision can. Though some rabbis might minimize the revealed system of worship and its requirements, can the individual Jew neglect what God says? Can there be a “proper” Judaism without a priesthood, an altar, a sacrifice and a place on earth where God meets the individual?””

For many Orthodox Jews, the answer to these rhetorical questions is clearly ‘no’. They pray three times a day that the Temple will be built in their life time. Some Messianic and Dispensational writers agree. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, for example, writes,

“there will be a sacrificial system instituted in the Millennium that will have some features similar to the Mosaic system… What will the purpose of these sacrifices in light of Christ’s death? To begin with, it should be remembered that the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law did not remove sin either (Heb. 10:4), but only covered them (the meaning of atonement in Hebrew). Its purpose was to serve as a physical and visual picture of what the Messiah would do (Isa. 53:10-12). The Church has been commanded to keep the Lord’s Supper as a physical and visual picture of what Christ did on the cross. God intends to provide for Israel in the kingdom a physical and visual picture of what the Messiah accomplished on the cross. For Israel, however, it will be a sacrificial system instead of communion with bread and wine. The purpose of the sacrificial system in the kingdom will be the same as the purpose of communion of the Church: In remembrance of me.” (Israelology, pp.810-811).

Fruchtenbaum is not alone – he is following the Cyrus Scofield who sees the sacrifices in Ezekiel’s Temple as ‘memorial’ offerings. The problem with this interpretation is that it is not what Ezekiel says! Ezekiel 43:19 says the sacrifice must be a ‘young bull’. O dear…

The idea that the Temple must be rebuilt was popularised by Moishe Rosen. He writes, “…at some point in these stressful days, the ancient Jewish Temple will be rebuilt on the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem… Prophecy foretells the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple and the reinstitution of the sacrifices prescribed in the law of Moses. In a vision of the future Temple, Ezekiel received this word… Some way, somehow, the Temple will be rebuilt, in spite of the fact that two Arab shrines now stand on the only site on earth where this Temple may stand.” (Overture to Armageddon, p. 114).

David Brickner, the present Director of Jews for Jesus also believes this (Future Hope, p. 18). Now before I go any further, let me make it plain, this article is not a criticism of Jews for Jesus. I have invited UK staff of Jews for Jesus to teach in our church and I continue to affirm their evangelistic work – I just don’t agree with the dispensational presuppositions of some of their leaders.

As Fruchtenbaum rightly states, the Temple sacrifices, at best, only ever provided a temporary cover for sin. The daily sacrifices, and the smoke rising from the altar were a constant reminder of the need for a Saviour. How then could God encourage the sacrificial system to be reinstated when he had sent his son Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice, to shed his own blood on the cross to take away our sin? As Glaser rightly concludes her article:

“Isn’t it ironic that it takes the New Testament to tell of the new altar, the everlasting sacrifice and the new high priest through whom gentiles as well as Jews are made holy?”

To suggest, as some Christians do, that sacrifices must be made once more to fulfill Bible prophecy sets one passage of scripture against another, and undermines the New Testament’s teaching that the work of Christ is sufficient, final and complete.

Those who advocate the need for a new Temple and reintroduction of sacrifices (whether for atonement or as a memorial) are nevertheless ignoring the way the image of the Temple is invested with new meaning. Subsequent to Pentecost, the Temple imagery is applied to the Church, the Body of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. For example, Paul, writing to the Church in Ephesus, describes them as part of the new living Temple.

“Consequently, you are … members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy Temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21)

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul quotes from passages in Leviticus and Isaiah, both of which refer to the physical Tabernacle and Temple, and applies them to the Church.

“For we are the Temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’” (2 Corinthians 6:16-17 citing Leviticus 26:12 & Isaiah 52:11)

In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses Temple language to describe how we are to offer, not a dead animal sacrifice but our bodies as living sacrifices as our act of worship (Romans 12:1-2). Peter does the same thing describing the Church using Hebrew imagery associated with the Temple (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16). Christians are, he says, being made into the new house for God, in which Jesus is the ‘precious cornerstone’ (1 Peter 2:5-7).

So the Temple in Jerusalem was only intended to be a temporary building, a shadow pointing to the day when God would dwell with people of all nations through Jesus Christ. The flow of biblical revelation is progressive and moves in one historical direction. Christians who support the rebuilding of the Temple in the belief that future sacrifices will be memorial offerings, or can even atone for sin, are committing apostasy. Why? Because they are trying to reverse the flow of revelation and go back to the shadows when we already have the light of Christ. In the words of the writer to the Hebrews:

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Hebrews 6:4-6).

And that is the final rub. People must choose between a religion and a relationship; between the
words ‘do’ and ‘done’; between law and grace; between the need to offer continual sacrifices for sin or accept the finished work of Jesus Christ in our place; between a physical Temple and a spiritual one; between one in Jerusalem that is redundant and one that encompasses the whole world that is under construction.

For further examples of wacky theology see:

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Weird and Wacky Theology 1: Israel and the Church

As a taster for my new book on the use and abuse of the Bible in relation to Israel and the Church, I plan to highlight examples of eccentric interpretation that lead, at best, to dubious theology, and at worst, to heresy.

Jacob Prasch is a good example. Described as an “authentic Messianic teacher” on the anonymous Seismic Shock blog, Prasch uses the story of Rachel and Leah from Genesis to teach that Jesus did not desire the Church as his bride.

“Jacob came for a bride from his own people. He desired Rachel, but he did not get Rachel at first, but Leah. After he learned to love Leah as much as he did Rachel, he got Rachel as well. In the beginning Leah had all the babies, her womb was most fruitful. But then Rachel conceives. Israel shall be a fruitful vine. Jesus came for Israel. He wanted to marry Israel, but He did not get Israel. He ends up with the bride He did not desire at first, the Gentile church. After He learns to love the Gentile church, then He gets Israel. In the beginning, the church has all the babies. But in the end, Israel becomes a fruitful vine.” (Jacob Prasch)

You can read the context here.

Here’s another example from John Wilkinson, Founder and Director of the Mildmay Mission

“ … the Jewish nation as such is shunted to a siding until the times of the Gentiles run out, to allow the express train to pass, stopping here and there to pick up the Church, and then the Jewish nation will take her place on the main line of the Divine Plan, stop at all stations and take on the world.” (Israel my Glory, 1893, p.134).

As Kevin Daly observes, “In other words what Jesus failed to do by pouring out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Jews will succeed in doing much better once the church is taken out of the way.” Gilbert Bilezikian rightly characterizes this theology as turning the Church into the ‘concubine of Christ‘.

David Brickner, revives J.N. Darby’s eccentric dispensational scheme, suggesting the last two thousand years history of the Church is merely ‘a parenthesis’ to God’s future plans for the Jews, who remain his ‘chosen people’. (see Future Hope, p. 18, 130; J. N. Darby, ‘The Character of Office in The Present Dispensation’ Collected Writings., Eccl. I, Vol. I, p. 94).

By contrast, the Apostle Paul describes the extent of Jesus’ love for the Church in Ephesians 5:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Jesus himself said, ” Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:13-14).

Just before he washed his disciples feet, the Apostle John writes so movingly, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13:1)

Why was Jesus willing to die? The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that Jesus died to reconcile both Jews and Gentiles to God the Father.

“His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:15-18)

The Lord Jesus has broken down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles who recognise him as their Lord and Saviour. It is tragic when some of his followers, Like Prasch, it seems want to focus on that barrier.

Perhaps just as revealing, is the fact that the anonymous author of Seismic Shock, who calls himself the Maverick, regards Prasch as an “authentic Messianic teacher”. He must therefore be a Messianic believer himself (i.e. a Jew who believes in Jesus). No secular Jew would describe a Christian leader in this way. If true, I find this very, very sad, that so-called followers of Jesus would choose to use an anonymous blog to to discredit other followers of Jesus in this way. The Apostle Paul insists,

“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

It seems sad that their love of Zionism appears greater than their love of Jesus.

For further examples of wacky theology see:

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Messianic Good News (and the Perils of Dispensationalism)



Yesterday I returned from Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was attending the Messianic Good News Conference,’Israel in the Last Days

Messianic Good News was founded in 1950 for the purpose of proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus the Messiah to Jews and Gentiles primarily through the written format. They publish and distribute tracts and books for outreach as well as the quarterly, “Messianic Good News,” through which we aim to encourage and equip readers with a deeper understanding of the faith. The ministry originated in Hamburg, Germany in the late 1800’s with the conversion of a young Jew named Arnold Frank. Frank had a burden to share the good news of salvation with the many Jewish emigrants who were passing through Germany hoping to find a better life in the new world. He published and distributed gospel literature and he also responded to their dire physical needs by organising a soup kitchen, a hospital staffed with compassionate Christian nurses and the Mission House, “Jerusalem” to accommodate and disciple the many young Jewish enquirers who were responding to the gospel.

In 1938, at the age of 79 he was forced to flee to Ireland to escape arrest by the Nazis. The mission property was confiscated but Frank continued to minister in Ireland for a further 26 years until his death at the age of 106. Although the Nazis tried to destroy the work he had dedicated his life to, his legacy lives on through the labours of those whom he led to the Saviour.

One of those young men was John Düring, who fled to South Africa in 1938. In 1950, Düring, with Frank’s support and blessing, established the “Good News Missionary Society” primarily as a literary outreach to Jewish people. Düring established a strong witness to the Jewish people through the excellent literature produced by the society. In 2000 the society was renamed “Messianic Good News” and continues to publish and distribute literature proclaiming the good news about the Messiah. They have an office in Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as in America and their literature is also translated into Spanish and German.

It was heartening to meet many Messianic believers at the conference with a passion for the gospel, with a love for Jewish people and a desire to introduce Jesus to them, while at the same time repudiating the false gospel of dispensationalism and Christian Zionism.

One of the speakers at the conference was Kevin Daly, In his talk entitled, ‘The Good News to Israel and the Nations’ he exposed the dangers of dispensational teaching that insists God has a separate plan for the Jewish people apart from the Church. Daly illustrated this error with a quote from ‘Hebrew Roots’ teacher Jacob Prasch. Prasch uses the story of Rachel and Leah from Genesis to teach that Jesus did not desire the Church as his bride.

“Jacob came for a bride from his own people. He desired Rachel, but he did not get Rachel at first, but Leah. After he learned to love Leah as much as he did Rachel, he got Rachel as well. In the beginning Leah had all the babies, her womb was most fruitful. But then Rachel conceives. Israel shall be a fruitful vine. Jesus came for Israel. He wanted to marry Israel, but He did not get Israel. He ends up with the bride He did not desire at first, the Gentile church. After He learns to love the Gentile church, then He gets Israel. In the beginning, the church has all the babies. But in the end, Israel becomes a fruitful vine.” Jacob Prasch

You can read the context for this erroneous theology here. Daly highlights the dangers of this false teaching,

“The Gentile Church was unforeseen, and somewhat of a disappointment and a second prize. Because of God’s failure to get the Bride he always wanted, he extended his favour to the Gentiles. By contrast, Jesus taught that flesh gives birth to flesh and counts for nothing. The NT states clearly concerning the unbelieving Jews: “They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.” (1 Peter 2:8)

Does God’s plan depend on Man, or does Man depend on God’s Plan? The God-centred view is that God’s purposes prevail and unfaithful individuals disqualify themselves from participation. The humanistic, Judo-centric view which Prasch advocates is that God’s purpose was unfortunately frustrated by the non-participation of the Jews. The NT states further that salvation was always part of the Plan contained in the Abrahamic promise, and presents the Church as the fulfilment of God’s “eternal purpose”. The true worshipper, and the type that God desires, is the one that worships Him ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23-24).” (Kevin Daly)

I’ll share more about the conference in later postings.

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Israel in the Last Days

ISRAEL IN THE LAST DAYS – a critical look at popular views of the end times

31 October – 1 November 2008

VENUE: Rosebank Union Church, Cnr. William Nicol Drive and St. Andrew’s Road, Sandton, Johannesburg

The response of many Christians to events in the Middle East is conditioned by their understanding of prophecy. We invite you to deliberate with us over doctrines that have shaped the worldview of many Christians, impacting both foreign relations and recent history.

Our four speakers will examine some of the popular teachings on the end times, ranging from the controversial subjects of who is Israel and who are the rightful heirs to the Promised Land to the speculations surrounding the tribulation and the millennium.

Apart from Peter Cohen and Kevin Daly, who are regular contributors to this website, we have invited two international speakers, Dr. Stephen Sizer and Alan Morrison, who have graciously agreed to participate in the conference.

We realize that these are controversial subjects on which Christians are divided. Our intention is to stimulate debate on these issues which have also affected the way in which the gospel is presented to both Jews and Muslims.

Follow these links for the Programme, Bookings and information on our Speakers.

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