In today's churches one hears much more about grace than about judgment. Both are needed. But a grace period always comes to an end.
Grace is meant to allow us more time to set things straight and pull together more of what we need in order to "pay the rent". But many Biblical prophecies converge upon our own day as the time when the day of reckoning must finally come. And "judgment must begin with the household of YHWH." (1 Peter 4:17)
For all things to be done "decently and in order", it must first begin with the leaders. James tells us, "Brothers, do not let many of you become teachers, knowing that we will receive the stronger judgment." (3:1) But "if we judged ourselves, we would not need to be judged." (1 Cor. 11:31) So how can you, as a leader, judge yourself, and therefore escape YHWH's own judgment?
The word “pastor” is simply the Latin word for "shepherd", so wherever we see something in Scripture addressed to shepherds, we can substitute "pastors", and vice versa. Pastors are not meant to be the only leaders in YHWH's called-out assembly (Eph. 4:11), but this is how it has come to be in most churches, so let's begin where we are, and see where He wants us to be.
The best places to begin are those where YHWH specifically addresses shepherds or pastors:
"Many pastors have destroyed My vineyard. They have trodden My portion underfoot [and] made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness." (Jer. 12:10)
We can already see the harsher judgment He brings to those who should know better.
"This is what the Master, YHWH, says to the shepherds: 'Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves. Shouldn't the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the choicest, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you eat the fattest ones; you are not feeding the flock!… So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and became game for all the wild animals..." (Ezekiel 34:1-6)
"But", you may say, "this is talking about the shepherds of Israel, not of the Church!"
Yet a few verses later He says, "I Myself will both search for my flock and seek them out." (34:11) It was this very passage Yeshua was alluding to when He said, "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save (rescue) what was lost." (Luke 19:10)
What was lost had to have been at home at a prior time. These sheep had been "scattered". What other clues does Yeshua give about just who "was lost", especially in the context of sheep?
We don't have to look far. He said very directly, "I am not sent [to anyone] but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel." (Matt. 15:24)
"My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have caused them to go astray... They have forgotten the place where they are to lie down." (Jer. 50:6)
So these are the same people Yeshua said he had come for. Pastors are fond of repeating Yeshua's parable about the lost sheep, but never seem to keep the story in its original context.
"My sheep hear my voice...and they follow me." (John 10:27) Again, who is he talking about?
If we put two and two together, we see that all who respond to the Shepherd's voice are the "lost sheep of the House of Israel". (Comparing Hosea 1:8-11 with 1 Peter 2:10 and Eph. 2:11-19 demonstrates another of many added evidences.)
One of the short-fallings of pastors for many centuries has been neglecting to tell the sheep who they are and where they are going. If we continue in Ezekiel 34, we see where that is:
"As a shepherd seeks out his flock in the day that he is among sheep that are scattered, so I will seek out My sheep, and deliver them out of all the places to which they were scattered... and I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the lands, and will bring them to their own land..." (34:12-13)
He says nothing about taking them to Heaven, but back to the place their ancestors were exiled from for a season (to which He would then bring the New Jerusalem from Heaven). Somehow this part was lost from the "Gospel of the Kingdom". Yet after the Apostles had spent 40 days hearing the resurrected Messiah teach about the kingdom, what was foremost in their minds was when He was going to restore the Kingdom to Israel. (Acts 1:6) Ezekiel's emphasis on "bringing them out" correlates with the very name of Yeshua's renewed-covenant assembly: ekklesia (the "called-out ones", often translated "church", a word with no self-evident meaning, so it obscures this important focus even further.)
The sheep belong to Israel, not to Rome or any of her daughters. "Churches" are just temporary holding-tanks where the sheep are supposed to be preserved until all is ready for us to become a nation again. You as a leader are to be taking them in that direction. If you aren't, you are leading them astray, no matter how pure your intentions. So although they may be "saved" in one sense, in another they are still lost!
"Those who handle the Law do not know Me. The pastors have also transgressed against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Ba'al, and walked after things that do not profit." (Jer. 2:8)
"Well," you may say, "at least we have nothing to do with Ba'al." But when we see what Ba'al means, it hits frighteningly close to home. Ba'al can be translated as "husband", but not in an affectionate sense; it has the connotation of "overlord", or can simply be a title: "Lord". One of the Ba'als was specifically named Ba'al-Gad, the latter part of which sounds exactly like "God" in American English. YHWH says the names of false gods are not to even be on our lips, but when we pray "Lord God", we are actually naming the name of one of YHWH’s rivals! Now I know most do this ignorantly, and this is why we are making this known while there is time to repent.
"His watchmen are blind... They are all muted dogs; they cannot bark... They are greedy dogs who do not know [what it means to] have enough, and they are shepherds who cannot discern. They all turn to their own way; each for his own profit..." (Isaiah 56:10-11)
Shepherds are supposed to be the best-informed, yet these have no clue how to teach others how to make distinctions, as between clean and unclean. (Leviticus 10:10) They cannot even sound a warning, possibly because they are watching for the wrong enemies. Exodus 23:8 tells us that it is bribes that blind us. They are unqualified for the task, serving their bellies instead of the flock, and selling out the Kingdom to Mammon. Yeshua the Messiah calls them hirelings. (John 10:12-13) A hireling is one who does something only for pay; he doesn't really care about the sheep. Take a hard look: could this be you?
"Does it seem like an insignificant thing to you to have eaten upon the best pasture, so that you must [also] tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures? And to have drunk of the deep waters, but you must foul the remainder with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which you have trodden with your feet; and they drink what you have fouled with your feet." (Ezek. 34:18-19)
"Feet" is a special term YHWH uses in Hebrew to describe the three pilgrimage festivals. (Exodus 23:14) So "your feet" would mean the man-made festivals the Church has substituted for His. They cloud the purity of His message to the sheep. It is Rome that "changes seasons and laws". (Daniel 7:25) In 1 Kings 12:32-13:5, we see YHWH's specific attitude toward any who replace His appointed times with others. This is what means when He says, "I hate, I despise YOUR feast days." (Amos 5:21) It doesn't mean the days He ordained "as a statute forever" (Lev.16:29-31; 23:21, 31, 41, etc.). He is not so fickle.
"O YHWH, ...the Gentiles will come to you from the ends of the earth and say, 'Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things in which there is no profit!'" (Jeremiah 16:19)
This is in the immediate context of how YHWH would send "fishers" to summon the children of Israel out of every nation where He had driven them, never having forgotten who they are. (16:15-17) Again, the target audience of the "fishers of men" Yeshua sent out was Israel! These are not just any Gentiles, but the House of Israel, who chose to be just like the Gentiles and were thus punished by actually having to become Gentiles. Other Gentiles can join the community of Israel, as always, and that is another reason they were scattered, but the Messiah's primary role was to restore the tribes of Israel whom YHWH had preserved. (Isaiah 49:6; remember what we said about the purpose of the Church? Instead, pastors have made it out to be something that scornfully replaces Israel!)
In Exodus 2 we see some shepherds making a well of water inaccessible to the sheep. "But Moses rose up and freed them, and watered their flocks." (2:17) "Water" in Scripture is often seen as an idiom for YHWH's Word, which is concentrated most pointedly in the Torah of Moses (as symbolized in this passage). By divorcing the Living Word from the written (saying the "Law" is not for today), pastors have been guilty of keeping the purest water from the sheep.
Many pastors recognize that it was not Yeshua or the Apostles who started the tradition of replacing the Sabbath with Sunday. But they have settled for the easier path of going with the flow, saying it doesn't really matter. Many admit Christmas and Easter are mostly pagan, but wouldn’t dare preach against them, because their parishioners love these celebrations too much, and might fire them if they tore away the facade. Do you ever water down your message because your biggest tithers would leave if their toes were stepped on? Then you are worshipping Mammon (wealth or security), which is probably the biggest idol, YHWH's primary rival, in our day.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of YHWH: ...I will require [an accounting for] my flock at their hand, and stop them from feeding the flock, nor will the shepherds feed themselves any longer, because I will snatch my flock out of their mouth, so that they will not be food for them." (Ezekiel 34:7-10)
Paul likewise warns that branches that were grafted in can again be broken off. (Romans 11) Yeshua says the same thing to some of His own congregations:
"Remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds [done] at first, or else I will ... remove your candlestick out of its place." (Rev. 2:5)
A word, to the wise, is sufficient. Repent.