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The Sabbath

​In recent years we have seen a trend away from the tradition of keeping all stores closed on Sunday. But though it is a sign that commerce is taking precedence over every other aspect of our culture, this a healthy trend, because it sets the stage for an important transition. YHWH, our Creator, said He would once more shake the heavens and the earth--everything that can be shaken. (Haggai 2:6) And though many have the highest motives in wishing to honor the Messiah's resurrection, Sunday worship is something that can--and must--be shaken, because it was never Yahweh's idea.

This may come as a surprise to some people, so let's look at what Scripture itself actually says.


Which day of the week is the Sabbath?

At Mt. Sinai, Yahweh commanded via Moses:

"Remember the Sabbath day, in order to keep it set apart. Six days shall you labor and accomplish all your work, but the seventh day is a day of ceasing for Yahweh your Elohim; on it you shall do no work." (Exodus 20:8-10)

So there should be no question about which day of the week He considers holy. In fact, this command is repeated more often and in more detail than any other of the Ten Commandments, possibly because YHWH knew it would be the one that would most often be neglected. He tells us to "remember" it. So the Sabbath was not something new with Moses; it was already holy. Ever since creation, the seventh day had been established as the day of rest:

"Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart as holy, because on it He had rested from all His workmanship..." (Genesis 2:3)

How important is the Sabbath?

Even before He made the covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, YHWH used the Sabbath as a "litmus test" to see whether they would obey His commands. If anyone did not gather enough manna on the day before the Sabbath, they did not have food that day. (Exodus 16:23ff) So you can see how important the Sabbath is in screening out who can move to a higher level in their drawing near to Him.

The first three commandments deal with our relationship with YHWH Himself; the latter six with how we relate to our fellow man. The Sabbath is a "hinge" tying both of these together, for it allows both us and those who would other-wise have to work for us to have no other responsibility but to focus on Him for that day.

YHWH says to stop working on the Sabbath even in times of harvest, when it seems the work cannot wait. (Ex. 34:21) This means His commands take precedence over everything else. But He promises to provide for those who honor Him. (1 Sam. 2:30; Ex. 34:24; Lev. 26:3-13)

The gates through which the entrance to the Temple sanctuary could be seen were only open on the Sabbath and the other festivals Yahweh prescribed. This symbolizes how important these days are to accurately understanding Him.

And if we say we are followers of the Messiah, we need to "walk as He walked":

"As was His custom, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day..." (Luke 4:16)

But wasn't the Sabbath day changed?

In practice it has indeed changed, but it was not instigated by either the Creator or Yeshua the Messiah. The Bible does, however, tell us of someone else who "will think to change the times and seasons..." (Daniel 7:25) He is identified as "the fourth beast"—the fourth dynasty of kings in a series of world powers that oppressed Israel, starting with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. History shows us clearly that the fourth was Rome.

After Messiah's "Called-Out Community" had been persecuted by the Roman government for three centuries, Emperor Constantine suddenly reversed this trend and decided that everyone under Roman rule would now become "Christian" so that the empire would be unified. However, he made many changes to the historic faith.

The Romans already worshipped the sun on the first day of the week, and, as with many other pagan festivals, Constantine continued to let the public have the day off, and just declared that it had a new significance. It later became mandatory for everyone to stop working on "Sun-day". After all, the public could not stop working for two days per week!

But doesn't Sunday commemorate the Messiah's resurrection?

Yeshua arose sometime before the sun rose on the first day of the week. (John 20:1) In honor of this, in the Russian language, the first day is even known as "Resurrection Day".

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with adding a holiday to commemorate a special act of Yahweh in history; Hanukkah and Purim are examples of such festivals that He did not command but did accept, as evidenced by Yahshua's coming to the Temple during Hanukkah (the "Feast of Dedication", John 10). But He forbids us to worship Him in pagan format. (Lev. 20:23; Deut. 12:2-4) The Roman "day of the sun" was just that.

Some early believers may have been remembering the Messiah's resurrection on the first day of each week, but they did not see it as replacing the Sabbath. (That was 4th-century Pope Sylvester's doing, not YHWH's.)  Nor was it ever commanded in Scripture. Indeed, the popes arrogantly claimed to have made this change just to prove they had authority to do so. But YHWH clearly says we may not add any universal command to those He has already given. (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18)

Aren't all days meant to be holy?

"One [man] indeed judges one day to be more important than another day, while another esteems every day..." (Rom. 14:5)

Some take this to mean that all days are equally holy. No Scripture may be interpreted to make it contradict other Scriptures, especially the Torah. (Isaiah 8:20) So this verse must be taken within that framework laid out previously.

The definition of "holy" itself means "set apart", "in a class of its own", or "separate". If every day is "set apart", then in practicality none is special, because we cannot stop working every day. We are to be holy every day. But Yahweh has set apart one day of the week to serve as a picture of the thousand-year-long Messianic Kingdom after six "profaned" millennia. It is one day overtly dedicated to nothing else but Him.

Didn't the Apostles meet on the first day of the week?

"And continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their meals with gladness and singleness of heart." (Acts 2:46)

"And daily in the Temple and in every house, they did not cease to teach and proclaim Yeshua the Messiah." (Acts 5:42)

Thus their meetings were not limited to the Sabbath, and they did include the first day, but did not single it out as anything special.

"On the first of the week, when the disciples had gathered together to break bread, being about to depart the next morning, Paul conversed with them... until midnight." (Acts 20:7)

Biblically, a day begins at sundown (Gen. 1:5), so a new week begins at sunset on Saturday. Acts 20:8 says there were many lamps in the place, again meaning it could not be a Sabbath, a day when no fire may be kindled. (Ex. 35:3) However, there is a ceremony just after a Sabbath ends, called Havdallah ("making a distinction"), in which lighting lamps does play a prominent part. So this was really the latest hours of what we now call "Saturday night".

The only other directive in the New Testament regarding the first day of the week was that everyone set aside some money on the first day of the week to prepare for particular collection Paul would take up when he visited. (1 Cor. 16:2) He never says anything about meeting on that day. He probably meant to set it aside as soon as they were paid, in which case it could not have been seen as a Sabbath, since on Sabbath there are to be no financial dealings.

"...My sabbath... is a sign between Me and the descendants of Israel throughout your generations, so that you might know that I am Yahweh who puts you in a separate category." (Exodus 31:13)

"A sign" here means a token or constant reaffirmation of the relationship, as a wedding ring is used today. Elsewhere when Scripture says, "throughout your generations", it means "forever".

There is a significance in Yeshua's rising from the dead on the first day of the week, but it lies not in which day of the week it was, but in which week it was. The first day of the week following Passover also bears a special significance that no other "Sunday" during the year does.

The day after the Sabbath following Passover is known as "Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest", when the best of the grain was brought as a tribute to its Provider at the Temple before any of the crop could be eaten. (Lev. 23:9ff) That day was already on YHWH's calendar for every year, and Yeshua gave it a fuller meaning. But just as the bread and wine He told us to remember Him by were part of one particular meal (Passover), and not meant to become a separate ritual, that Sunday's meaning does not necessarily carry over to every Sunday!

The Sabbath is a day to assemble for just one of these many "appointments" that YHWH has made with Israel. (Lev. 23:3) Y'shua's followers initially followed this same calendar, but when the Jews revolted against Rome, many Gentile believers distanced themselves from "Jewish" practices (though they are commanded by YHWH). The divergence only became more pronounced as many tried to make Christianity distinct from Judaism. But this was not YHWH's intent. He wanted all who follow Him to be one community, having the same rules:

"Do not let the son of the foreigner who joins himself to YHWH say, 'I'm sure YHWH makes a distinction between me and His people... Everyone who keeps from defiling My Sabbath, and takes hold [and confirms] My covenant, I will even bring him to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer." (Isaiah 56:3, 6-7)

Clearly, Sunday worship has no foot left to stand on, and we have veered from YHWH's original intent. But He is restoring all things, and keeping the Sabbath is a big part of returning to Him:

"You will rebuild the ancient ruins, raise up the foundations of many generations, and be called 'the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in', IF you turn away... from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy [day] of Yahweh, honorable; and honor him, not paying attention to your own interests..." (Isaiah 58:12, 13)
The New Covenant

​A verse taken out of the context of the whole of Scripture can put the wrong "spin" on what the passage actually means, even making it seem to contradict the rest. Here is a prime example:

"In that he says, 'A new covenant', he has rendered the first old. Now what is wearing out and growing old is ready to be destroyed." (Heb. 8:13)

Many misconstrue this to be saying that the "New Testament" conflicts with the "Old". While there are some important differences, this is quite the wrong approach to take. In the original Greek, the word here for "new" means "fresh", in contrast to what is now "lack-luster" in comparison. (2 Cor. 3:7-11.)

But the phrase quoted is from Jeremiah 31 (written in Hebrew), so it is much more fruitful to study the meaning in Hebrew than in Greek. The Hebrew word for "new" is chadashah. Let's look at how this term is used most often:

The "new moon" is called Rosh Chodesh ("head of the month"). Chodesh is related to chadashah, and actually means "renewing one". There is not actually a different moon there each month, but a "renewal" of the same one.

An often-repeated Hebrew prayer found in Lamentations 5:21 says, "Chadesh yamenu k'qedem". Again, the first word shares the same root as chadashah; here it is a verb. The rest of the phrase reads "our days, as of old" or "like the ancient time". If you want something to be "new" in the sense of "never seen before", you hardly want it to be just like something ancient! But "renew our days [to be] like those of old" makes sense. It is another occurrence of the same kind, which fills the same role or position. So B'rith Chadashah can just as properly be translated "Renewed Covenant" as "New Covenant".

Does this hold true in the way ancient covenants actually worked? Yes. In ancient suzerainty treaties, if the situation changed for one party, a covenant could be amended (or renewed) to adapt to the new circumstance. But only what no longer fit would be revised; everything else remained in effect exactly as before.

If a covenant is to be renewed, there must be a prior relationship between the two parties. With whom does our theme verse say the New Covenant is to be made?

"'Behold, the days are coming', declares YHWH, 'when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah." (Jeremiah 31:31)

It is specifically to be made with both segments or "houses" of Israel! So to even be a participant in the New Covenant, we have to fit one of these categories, Israel or Judah. If we are not, why even bother to argue about covenants that have nothing to do with us? The sins the New Covenant addresses had to have been committed by someone who had been included in the first Covenant.

Once a covenant is violated, it is considered nullified. That's why a replacement was needed: because they had no covenant anymore! The covenant itself was not faulty, but because one of the participating parties, Israel, had broken it, and it could no longer remain in effect and thus had to be renewed. Yahweh had promised certain curses would come upon Israel if they violated the agreement they'd made with Him.

Two curses in particular were put on the House of Israel (not the Jews, who are Judah, but the Northern Kingdom) in Hosea 1 for having considered Yahweh's Torah (the substance of the Covenant as set down in writing) a "strange thing". (8:12). The first was “no mercy”; the second was no longer being “a people”—an identifiably distinct, unified ethnic group. But...

"The days are coming ...when it will no longer be said, 'As Yahweh lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of Egypt', but rather, '...who brought the descendants of Israel up...out of all the lands to which He had driven them... I will send for many fishers, and they will fish them out...because My eyes are on all their journeyings; they are not hidden from My presence. But neither is their guilt hidden from My eyes, so first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, for they have defiled my land [with idols].” (Jer. 16:14-18)

The key to this "doubling" is in Ezekiel 4: the prophet lay on his side for 390 days to symbolize the 390 years of punishment the House of Israel had earned. Doubled, it is 780 years. From the final defeat of the Northern Kingdom (722 B.C.), this comes to A.D. 58—just when Paul was setting his sights on the Gentiles. Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom) had mixed with the Gentiles (Hos. 7:8). So the focus in Yahshua's sending "fishers of men" to all nations was for the sake of the "lost sheep of the House of Israel" hidden among them. Others could respond, which is one reason He scattered them. Outsiders have always been able to join in if they keep the Covenant. But then they are no longer Gentiles, but Israel as well.

Being from the tribe of Judah, Yahshua was still in covenant, and was therefore qualified to restore His relatives to the inheritance they had forfeited, according to the laws of the Kinsman Redeemer (Numbers 27:8-11) as illustrated in the Book of Ruth.

"He is the mediator of the new covenant, so that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called might receive the promise of an eternal inheritance." (Heb. 9:15)
So the New Covenant does specifically address those who were party to the first. "Those who are called" refers to those whose "gifts and calling are irrevocable", that is, Israel. (Rom. 11:29)

Yahshua initiated the renewal of the Covenant at His last Passover, and set it on a firmer foundation—the heavenly Altar instead of the earthly copy (Jn. 20:17; Heb. 7-9), and His untainted blood:

"This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28)

So the sentence of “no mercy” was now up. Individuals, descendants of the very tribes who had once been in covenant, but left it, could now be brought back into covenant with Yahweh. This began to happen. The term usually translated "church" really means, "called-out ones".

James addressed his epistle to "the twelve tribes in exile". Some differences in the renewed version of the covenant are there because we are still in exile and cannot do everything quite correctly. But many took advantage of this grace period. Leviticus 26:18 also says that if they would still not obey, Yahweh would not only increase the sentence seven times. And indeed, the Church eventually forsook the Torah again and created a new religion. Of course, some degree of righteousness has been preserved. But seven times 390 years comes out to 2,730 years, which brings us right up to the present. It's time for the second sentence to be up and for Israel to become a "people"--His unified group--once again. Only when the House of Israel house is fully regathered from among the Gentiles can He fully ratify that covenant with us as a whole “house”.

A "house" in Hebrew has the sense of being a "household"--a family. Israel broke the covenant "though I was a husband to them.'" (Jer. 31:32) The word for "husband" here is Ba'al—which has the connotation of a taskmaster, an overlord. But "in that day", says Yahweh, "you will no longer call Me 'My Ba'al', but rather 'my Ish'—another way of saying "husband", but a much more affectionate way. (Hosea 2:16) It's the same legal relationship, but the change in perspective makes a world of difference!

Yahweh is again calling out for Israel to not just be "saved", but to become all she is meant to be:

"Listen to me, you who ardently pursue righteousness [what is right], who seek after YHWH! Look back to the rock from which you were quarried... Pay attention to Avraham your father." (Isaiah 51:1-2)

Those who want to take the next step into further righteousness need to recognize that they are Israel. The gateway to each of the Temple's courts, as one went inward toward greater holiness, had the same level of sanctity as the court into which it led. We are on the threshold of the Kingdom, so we need to live according to its higher level of holiness. The New Jerusalem is entered only through gates bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. So to really fulfill our whole calling, we must become Hebrews—“those who cross over” out of “Babylon” (Rev. 18), the "world system” that the Church has so deeply bought into as well. If we belong to Messiah, we have to see ourselves as Abraham's children, not Gentiles. (Gal. 3:29; Eph. 2:11) Yahweh scattered us into all the world, but has reclaimed us, and will snatch us back out:

“After all these things... you will bring [My commandments] back to mind among all the nations into which Yahweh your Elohim has cast you out, and ...return to Yahweh ...and obey His voice ...with all your heart and all your soul. At that time Yahweh will recover those who were taken away ...and withdraw and assemble you from all the nations into which Yahweh your Elohim has dispersed you... Yahweh your Elohim will circumcise your heart... so that you will love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart and all your soul... You will turn back and listen to Yahweh's voice, and carry out all His commands." (Deut. 30:1-8)

The Torah (the Law of Moses) is the written substance of the covenant that the people of Israel took on as a never-ending agreement with Yahweh:

"This is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel: ...I will put My Law on their innermost parts, and write it on their hearts. No longer will everyone teach his fellow..., saying, 'Know Yahweh', because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest." (Jer. 31:33-34a)

Yahshua said, "Not one stroke of the Torah will pass away until all is fulfilled." (Mat. 5:18) So this new covenant must be another of the same kind. Unless we have gotten to the point yet of needing no one to teach us, the Torah is still in effect. All Scripture must be interpreted to agree with it. (Isaiah 8:20) Yahweh does not change His mind. The confusion lies in seeing the Torah as a means of justification. But "it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin." (Heb. 10:4) That was never its purpose. Galatians tells us it is meant to be our trainer until we see that Yahweh Himself is really all we need; after that it is to bring us to full maturity:

"Our sufficiency is from Yahweh, Who has also made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit..." (2 Cor. 3:5-6)

The "spirit" behind the letter is what is meant by the Torah being written on our hearts. But we don't therefore forsake the vehicle that got us to that point! When we say something is "on our heart", we mean it preoccupies us. It is all but an obsession! So if the Torah is on our hearts, it hardly can mean it is something we no longer practice! It means we obey not because we have to, but because we long to.

"I will make a new covenant... not like the covenant that I had made with their ancestors on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—which covenant they broke." (Jeremiah 31:32)

This time the Covenant will not be broken! Let's not leave that privilege only to a later generation.
Salvation

​Brother, are you saved?

Are you sure you know what that means?

In the church system, the focus is “personal salvation”, the redemption of the individual: “Do you know JC as your personal savior?”

But let’s look at how salvation is described and exemplified in the Bible.

Before the crossing of the Reed Sea,

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of YHWH, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.” (Exodus 14:13)

Immediately after that miracle, Moses followed up with a song: “YHWH is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Exodus 15:2)

It is clear from the context that this was a physical salvation of the Children of Israel taking place. Israel is praising YHWH for rescuing them from slavery in a foreign land. 

This rescue was not about the individual. It was about the nation, the people, the Children of Israel. YHWH heard THEIR cries (plural). YHWH remembered THEM. This is a national salvation. Of course Israel was, and is, made up of individuals, but it was for the sake of the nation that the rescue came.

Psalms like the one in 2 Samuel 22 celebrate YHWH’s saving David from one dangerous situation after another. This was not talking about a salvation from invisible forces, but enemies that could be seen and felt.

What about the New Testament (B’rith Khadashah)? What was the expected role of the Mashiach at the time of Yeshua?

It indeed starts out with the idea of salvation highlighted:

  "She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Yahshua, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

What did that mean to people living at that time?

Here is what Yeshua’s followers asked him after his resurrection:

  When they had come together, they asked Him, "Master, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6)

Death had already been defeated, accomplishing “personal” salvation, and still his loyal students asked about the salvation of the nation. And he didn’t say they were barking up the wrong tree, but only that they had to follow a certain order in how they would bring this restoration about: Yahshua told them, “You shall be witnesses to me.” (Acts 1:8) This was his answer to their question of NATIONAL salvation.

Notice that they didn’t ask, “What must we do to be saved?” They had already experienced that. They knew that now they were a part of the salvation plan.

The letters of the B’rith Khadashah are addressed to “all of you”, “the gathering at”, “to the scattered exiles”, etc. He is speaking to the same people, who are being regathered and having the same kingdom restored to them. The New Testament, too, is about the salvation of Israel. Its intended audience is the descendants of the same people who had been saved from Egypt.

  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by YHWH and precious,
  you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to YHWH through Yahshua HaMashiach.
…You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
  who once were not a people (lo-ammi) but are now the people of YHWH, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-10)

This is about a PEOPLE obtaining mercy. Not a lone descendant, but a generation. Not a single priest, but a priesthood. Not an individual, but a nation. Not a special person, but a special people!

After the apostles healed a man at the Temple, they explained to the onlookers:

  "Let it be known to you all [in this case, the Jews], and to all the people of Israel [for whom the Kingdom was to be restored], that by the name of Yahshua HaMashiach of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom YHWH raised from the dead, by him this man stands here before you whole. … Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12)

Why doesn’t it say, “a man must be saved” rather than “WE must be saved?”

Because in Israel the focus is not personal salvation, but the redemption of the nation. This has always been the case.

Yeshua purchased the whole lot. He did not buy you or me. He bought US. He collects us one at a time, but he has purchased a people. He has saved you and me so that WE may be saved. We are not talking about “in our hearts”, but about an actual, physical deliverance.

This is the context of the entire Word of YHWH: a people united with their Elohim in the place He chooses. It is not a book for YOU, it is a book for US!

This is not to say the individual doesn’t need to be rescued. We have need of individual redemption. We as individuals are steeped in sin and rebellion, and need to be rescued from our perversions and the death that they bring. But this is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning.

  "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to YHWH through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we [future tense] be saved by His life." (Romans 5:10)

Through Yeshua’s death we were individually reconciled with Abba YHWH. Our condemnation as descendants of a rebellious Northern Kingdom of Israel was removed, bringing our “spiritual salvation.” But we still have a problem. We are in exile. We still have yet to be saved, not through his death, but through his life. That means through living the way he did—a life of simple obedience, not to a burdensome religious system, but the plain words of the Torah.

This is not a message that is meant to end with the individual. Can you find the phrase “personal salvation” anywhere in the Bible? It isn’t there. The purpose of our “salvation experiences”, as always, is that we might (again) “escape the nations and draw near together.”

  "When You did awesome things for which we did not look, you came down, the mountains shook at Your presence… You are indeed angry, for we have missed the goal-- in these ways we continue; and we need to be saved." (Isaiah 64:3-7)

And we still need to be saved. He delivered us from Egypt, but we went back to Gentile ways:

  “ That which has been is what will be…and there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Jeremiah tells us that there will yet be an even greater Exodus than the first, with Israel being returned from not slavery in just one nation, but from being scattered into many nations and no longer being a people. YHWH’s plan, just as in Moses’ day, is National Salvation for Israel. 

Salvation is not complete as long as we are still in this exile. We have been purchased, but must still be delivered to our inheritance.

We each have a role to play in this. Nobody was saved from Egypt who didn’t get up and walk. Our job is to live like Israelites, being ready to move and not set in our ways, understanding that we will soon be called upon to be a part of a Nation ruled over by Messiah and being willing to do our part in bringing that to pass.

Our gathering must be more than a once-a-week pep rally. You must be involved with others who have heard the same call. You must share in their burdens, their sorrow and their joy. You must put them ahead of yourself, and you must submit yourself to authority. If there is no one else with whom you can practice Torah where you live, then move! You cannot lay down your life for Israel over the internet, you cannot do it with tapes and books. You must do it face to face with full accountability to the community.

So if you have accepted and received personal reconciliation to YHWH through the blood of Yeshua, don’t stop there! Take the next step that we have shown so plainly is YHWH’s intent, and participate in our National salvation!
The Messiah

​Beliefs about the Messiah come from many sources—the Talmud, the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, and more. They reflect long and deeply-engrained traditions. But the oldest and most authoritative writings, the Hebrew Scriptures, are much less clear about this mysterious personage.

It was Jews, not Christians, who first suggested that Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 53 is a messianic prophecy, but Messianics and Christians made it an indispensible doctrine. But does every part fit? Has Yeshua “seen his descendants”? Allegorically, but not literally.

If not every detail stands the test, yet one is dogmatic about it, people will throw the baby out with the bathwater. Though hindsight is better, if we read things back into the prophets from the New Testament rather than interpreting the New Testament by the parameters set by the Torah--the ultimate written authority--we may lose something that is of real importance. But if we take Scripture at face value, without our preconceived doctrines, we can see what YHWH is really trying to tell us.

Messiah (Hebrew, mashiakh) means "one anointed" (to carry out a particular task).

By this definition, there have been many messiahs throughout history--each anointed for a particular task. Yes, Yeshua was one of them—but in a metaphorical sense. The Ebionites, arguably the original followers of Yeshua, considered the endorsement at his immersion (“baptism”) to be the point when he was declared “Son of Elohim” (one idiom for the next king in the line of David). But we never see him actually being anointed with oil by a prophet or priest.

Hizqiyahu, on the other hand--and every king in the line of David who was actually anointed--was a literal messiah.

So, if there have been more than one, and if our definition has gotten a little bit skewed over the centuries, might the “Messiah who is to come” not also be something different from what we have imagined?

As Ross Nichols points out, in Daniel 7:14, the Kingdom is said to be given to one man. In verses 18, 22, and 27 of the same chapter, it is given to a group of people—“holy ones”, plural. This is not a contradiction; Israel needs to function “as one man” to be most effective. And it is hard to imagine any army being organized and disciplined enough to succeed if there is not a strong leader to focus their efforts. But if the Messiah is the head (Colossians 1:18: 2:10, 19), he needs a body to carry out his work. And it, too, seems to be part of the Messiah, as Scripture actually presents it.

Warren Bowles, in his book The Man from Galilee, argues that this phrase from Kefa (Peter) gives us a clue to reconciling these two aspects of Messiah:

“Seeking (to find out) what… the Spirit of Messiah which was in them was referring to...” ” (2 Peter 1:11)

He is talking about prophets who lived long before Yeshua having the “spirit of Messiah”. We see such a spirit descending on Yeshua at his immersion—then working powerfully through him for the next three years. He said that spirit—that same anointing--would come upon those who followed in his footsteps (1 John 2:27), and they would do mightier works than he had done.

So is it such a stretch to say that that “body” that completes the work that the head envisioned could then also be referred to as a “messiah”? There are no capital letters in Hebrew to show us when to make a distinction between a messiah and “the Messiah”—so the question can remain open-ended. A key to proper Hebraic interpretation of the Scriptures is that if something can mean more than one thing, we should at least look at all the possibilities, because it can be true on more than one level.

With that in mind, let’s look at another passage from Daniel:

11: 40. “Now at the time of end, when the king of the south engages in a butting-match with him, the king of the north will storm against him with chariots, war-horses, and many ships, when he enters the territories and overwhelms and crosses over
41. “And he will enter the prominent Land, and many will be scandalized…

45. “And he will plant the tents of his palace between the seas toward the prominent holy Mountain, yet he will arrive at his end, and there is no helper for him.

12:1. “But at that time Mikha’el will come on the scene—the great prince who stands over the sons of your people--when there will be a time of distress such as has not been brought about since [the] nation existed until that time. And at that time your people will be delivered—any who are found written in the document.

The context is when the nation of Yehudah (in today’s terminology, the Jews, or the political nation of Israel) appears to have been betrayed by all its allies, is left alone to fight its battles, and appears to be at “its end”. Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) calls this the “time of Yaaqov (Jacob)’s trouble” (30:7), saying, as here, that it has no parallel in history, but that he will be delivered out of these straits. Z’kharyah (Zechariah), in chapters 12-14, also speaks of such a time where the survival of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) is in doubt. That would be an appropriate time for the Messiah to make his appearance, wouldn’t it?

Instead we see someone called Mikha’el! Who is he? By tradition, he is an arch-angel, the field commander of the army of YHWH as seen in Y’hoshua 5:13-15. But this was probably an inference drawn later, as no name is given for the commander. Outside of Dani’el (and Jude) there are ten other Scriptural mentions of a Mikha’el, and they are all names of human beings. So what would lead us to think this one might not be human as well?

As one Scripture answers the questions raised by another, we have a very strong clue there about who this Mikha’el is. We are simply told in Daniel 10:13 that he is “one of the foremost rulers”. Some even say he is the Messiah. But by now we have seen the possibility that there is a “corporate Messiah”.

Scripture interprets Scripture for us. The above-mentioned passage in Z’kharyah says that, when the nations assemble around Yerushalayim,

YHWH will liberate the tents of Yehudah [the Jews] first, so that the splendor of the House of David … may not be magnified above Yehudah. In That Day, YHWH will surround the inhabitants of Yerushalayim with a protective covering, so that the feeblest among them on That Day will become like David, and the House of David will be like Elohim—like the messenger of YHWH in their presence.” (Zkh.12:7-8)

This is a key. Who are the last known leaders from the House of David? Yeshua and his brother Yaaqov (James), who led his followers after Yeshua’s departure. This is probably why Yehudah and the House of David are spoken of here as two separate entities. Yehudah today (except those who recognize their king) does not represent the House of David, and a distinction is made here between Yehudah and the House of David.

When a kinsman redeems another kinsman according to the Torah, the one who is redeemed becomes a member of the household of the one who redeemed him. So those who recognized the ruler of the House of David as their kinsman redeemer thus become part of the House of David. The followers of Yeshua (mainly the Northern Kingdom of Israel in exile)--are the ones who have carried on the House of David, and are therefore the subject of this prophecy.

The clincher is that phrase, “the House of David will be like Elohim”. The last word in Hebrew is ka’Elohim. The name Mikha’el means “Who is like Elohim?” (“Mi ka'Elohim?”) 

The answer is right here in Z’kharyah 12. It is the House of David--all who consider the Davidic ruler to be their own king. Already many are standing up for Israel, thus marking themselves as ultimately not chiefly identifiable as Christians, but “lost sheep” from the House of Israel or Efrayim, who are still in the "holding tank" of  the Church. They feel a strong connection to Israel, but do not realize who they really are—descendants of Joseph or one of the tribes of Israel that after Solomon became a separate nation from Judah.

The House of Joseph is ready in some ways; they may need only this one piece—a common enemy with Yehudah--to come fully (back) to life. This is how a nation can be born in a day. (Yeshayahu 66:8) This could be "Mikha'el standing up".

Will there be a particular person who is the quintessence of this “Mikha’el”? Z’kharyah draws a connection between the House of David and “the messenger of YHWH in their presence”. In the ancient “law of agency”, one who speaks for another is to be treated as if he were the one who sent him. How much closer could any human being get to being “like Elohim” without literally being Elohim?

So there is no doubt that there will be one head, but he will not stand alone; he will be leading a whole people. By the time the returning Northern Kingdom of Israel is again called “sons of the living Elohim” (Hos. 1:10)—just like the kings in the line of David were (Psalm 2, Psalm 110), they are “in the place where it was said, ‘You are not my people’.” I.e., they are back in the Land of Israel, probably having come out of mere support for Yehudah, still not aware of who they really are.

The very next verse in Hosea describes the two houses of Israel together choosing one head. Could it be this same “Mikha’el” from the House of David? (Compare Y’hezq’el 34:23.)

Z’kharyah 13 describes the “man who is My associate”. Who could that be but the messenger who is “like Elohim”?

Yeshayahu 49:22 speaks of nations bringing our sons and daughters who are still left outside the Land back home on their shoulders after Tzion is amazed to find herself full of children she vaguely remembered but had not realized belonged to her.

Why are the sons and daughters brought separately? Because the men have come as soldiers in advance of them to liberate the city from a siege by all nations, then their families are reunited with them after the battle is won.

So all of these prophecies seem to be pointing to one event or series of events. Messiah turns out to be, at least in part, a whole army anointed for the task of restoring the throne of the House of David to the one man who is worthy to sit on it.

The leader has not shown up yet, but will you let that keep you from training today to be part of that army so you’re fit and ready when you’re “called up”? The Torah is the training; community—building cells that can later merge into that “one body”—is the training ground.

YHWH can bring the king in whatever way and time He wants, but we have a role in “hastening the day of Elohim” (2 Peter 3:12)—bringing that Sabbath of the world, also called the Messianic Kingdom, more quickly than it would ever come if we just sat around waiting for a clock to strike “12” or the moon and stars to line up in a certain way so that the world would all of a sudden, magically, become perfect.

In a way, we are at least a part of Messiah’s coming. Yeshua did not have the type of worldwide communication that is now at our fingertips. The way he told us to find the Lost Sheep of Israel is to light a light and set it on a lampstand. One does not carry a menorah from place to place, or it will be extinguished. But set it in place, and people will be able to see where it is and come find refuge. There must be a place for the lost sheep to come home to, which is why we must establish Israelite communities. As we love one another as ourselves, the light shines more brightly, just as our ancestor Yosef revealed himself only when his brothers needed him most. This cannot be accomplished from a distance, but face to face. We must be there for one another.

Each of us has a part to play in the coming of the Messiah. So don’t wait around for a single figurehead; instead, BECOME part of the Messiah. That way, it doesn't matter whether or not he shows up in the way we expect; the job will still get done.

So when will the Messiah come? When you bring him! Do the part you’re anointed to do, and the Messiah will be here, whether in his final form or not. He'll be here in the way he needs to be here today.
Forgiveness

​Forgiveness of sin is very important to YHWH. But there is a common perception that somehow it was an idea that had not come of age until Yeshua came along—as if the Elohim of the New Testament was more forgiving than He was in the Torah. It may be because of well-known verses like this:

Kefa came to him and said, "Master, how many times may my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Yeshua said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Mat. 18:21-22) 

That sounds like we should forgive anyone who asks forgiveness, no matter what—a “blank check”. However, while this is definitely “long-suffering”, 490 is still a finite number. In fact, 490 years is the limit of how long YHWH put up with Israel not letting the Land rest. (Lev. 26:34-35; 2 Chron. 36:21) If we do the math carefully, it’s also how long He gave the Canaanites to repent after Abraham shined his light among them, before declaring that their cup was full. (Compare Genesis 15:16) That’s where Yeshua got his authority for “seventy times seven”. He was just saying to follow YHWH’s example of how patient to be—and when patience can legitimately run out.

For if we look at what the rest of the Bible says, we must conclude that forgiveness is indeed conditional.

That word tends to rub some of us the wrong way. It seems to dampen the enthusiasm that results when we experience the wonder of YHWH’s forgiveness. But even in the New Testament, it is undeniable:

  “If you forgive men their slip-ups, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive men their slip-ups, your Father won't forgive your slip-ups either.” (Matt 6:14-15)

Being forgiven is contingent on being forgiving people. But there is also a responsibility on the other side:

  "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." (Luke 17:3)

Notice that second “if.” According to Yeshua, these are prerequisites for forgiveness. There is a progression we must go through if forgiveness is to really be effective. If we neglect that and just blow off others’ offenses against us as insignificant because it is easier to do so, the root of the problem remains, and will certainly show up again. The wrongdoer remains stuck in his bad habits, and nothing is really repaired. And worse, if we forgive some offenses against others, serious injustices can result. 

Because people tend to be blind to how their actions affect others, the one who has been sinned against is the one who is to start the process. We have to show the offenders* how they have wronged us.

Rebuke. Yeshua said that’s the way to accomplish this, but it’s another word we cringe at: “Do I really have to be the bad guy?”

But let's see what the Bible really says about rebuke. You may be surprised.

Here is what the Torah, the foundation of Israelite practice, has to say:

  "You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him." (Lev 19:17) 

Rebuke is equated with love! And not rebuking him is defined as a sin. That is a foreign way of thinking for many people today, but look at more Scriptural testimony that rebuke is a positive thing that we should appreciate and be grateful for:

  "Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you." (Prov 9:8)

  "My son, do not despise the chastening of YHWH, nor detest His correction; for the one YHWH loves He corrects, just as a father [does for] the son in whom he delights." (Prov 3:11-12)

  "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." (Prov 13:24)

  "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed." (Prov 27:5)

  "Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it." (Ps 141:5)

The word translated as "rebuke" in the New Testament means "to forbid, to find guilty”. No surprises there. But it also means “to raise the price of, to value." Now that is not what we expected, is it? By bringing rebuke, we actually raise the value of our brother, and show that we find it worth our time and effort to bring about a needed change in him. That’s why it is a kindness, even if someone has to start with a slap to get our attention.

  "Brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)

This is what rebuking is about. It’s not a patronizing reprimand that comes across as “I’m holier than you, and I will use that as leverage against you.” It is showing someone, through clear Scriptural instruction and not merely based on personal preferences, where they have fallen short of the standard and how they can get back on the right road.

Once rebuked, Yeshua says it is now the offender’s turn to respond: “If he repents.” If someone could be forgiven without repenting, forgiveness would not be worth anything.

Repentance means to reconsider, think differently, then turn and go in the opposite direction, back to the right place that one had left.  

After he rebuked them, John “the Baptist” told those who responded by asking what to do next that they needed to “bear fruit that corresponds to [their] repentance”. (Mat. 3:8) Paul—the man who said more about forgiveness than even Yeshua did—still tells both Jew and Gentile to “do works befitting repentance.” (Acts 26:19-20)

In other words, someone must prove by his actions that he has really repented. 

This implies that forgiveness is not instant. There has to be a probationary season in which one demonstrates that he really has changed before the charges against him should be dropped. 

It has long been a Jewish axiom that the offerings brought on Yom haKippurim (the Day of Atonement, or Coverings) only absolve one's guilt before YHWH; to be fully forgiven one must satisfy the human being that he wronged as well. One cannot be right with YHWH if he is still doing wrong to a neighbor. Y’shua agrees:

  "If you are offering your gift to YHWH at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go, be reconciled to your brother first, and then come back and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with anyone who accuses you, while you are still on the way to the court with him, so he won't hand you over to the judge, and the judge in turn hand you over to the officer, and you won't be thrown into prison. I really mean it, you'll never get out until you pay the last quarter of a cent!” (Mat. 5:23-26)

The one who has been wronged holds the key to that prison. He is dependent on you, because only you can set him free from that obligation:

  "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (Yochanan 20:23)

So use that to his advantage. The Hebrew word for forgiveness is nasa. It means, "to lift", because by forgiving you lift a burden off the sinner. But Scripture says that if you really love him, before you let him out of “jail”, you have to teach him how to avoid repeating the whole scenario, so that he will be the better for it. If any step is left out, it will not work. He will not value the freedom and be ready to use it properly until he has felt the weight.

Repentance involves restoring the balance or trust that was there before he disrupted it. In other words, he has to repair whatever he damaged, whether that is merely physical property or something as serious as someone’s reputation.

Sometimes that is impossible—the proverbial “feathers in the wind”—which should make all of us think twice before we embark on any action that might turn out to be rash. In such cases YHWH may accept “the calves of our lips” in lieu of actual offerings, just so a start can be made back to proper relationships. 

If someone refuses to repent and change his ways, he has to serve his sentence. But don’t give up on your brother. Keep praying that one day he may come around.

In some cases, when a sin is committed in deliberate, high-handed rebellion, there is no forgiveness. No offering is allowed by Torah. Even death is required for some types of wrong, because nothing else can restore the balance to the whole community. 

But on your part, forgive the offender in your heart—not that you let him off the hook, but do not let the situation create resentment within yourself. Release the hold he has over you by his wrongdoing, because otherwise you, too, will remain imprisoned. 

Whatever the case, use the situation for everyone’s benefit. Milk even sin of whatever you can get out of it. Turn it into an occasion for teaching anyone who is ready to digest the lesson, and the bonds that hold us together can become even stronger as we both hold one another accountable yet also treat each other with the consideration we would want given to us if we were the one who stumbled.



*We use the term “offend” in the Biblical sense of causing someone else to stumble, by putting an obstacle in his way. We are not referring to what merely hurts the pride of the thin-skinned among us.
Grace & the Law

​What would you think of a baseball team that threw away all the rules? They might be fun to watch, but they certainly wouldn't be playing baseball. Yet this is exactly what some people think Paul meant when He said we were "no longer under the Law". But all his references to the judgment awaiting the "lawless", as well as his own record of continuing to endeavor to attend the festivals and even offering sacrifices (Acts 18:18-21; 21:21-26, etc.) makes it clear that this is not at all what he was talking about.

Paul did nothing against the Law (Torah), according to Acts 25:8. He remained a Pharisee all his life. (23:6) He told even Gentiles to celebrate the Passover. (1 Cor. 5:8) Yeshua the Messiah himself said he would again celebrate that feast with us in the Kingdom as well. So anything that either of them said which appears to say the Torah was done away with was only meant to be a fine-tuning of where the heaviest emphasis should be placed. Every Scripture must be interpreted within the parameters set up by the Torah. (Isaiah 8:20) Otherwise, we make our Creator,Yahweh, appear to contradict Himself.

We are often reminded that "by grace you were saved...not by works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9) But the very next verse says that Yahweh has prepared particular good works for each of us to walk in! (2:10) That verse literally begins, "We are His poem..."! Each of us is painstakingly crafted into an original work of art that shows never-before-seen facets of who our Creator is and what His love can mean. But we must still "color inside the lines". We have to sail our ship in the proper channels to avoid the rocks, because we are not in a friendly world since that day in Eden.

The Torah's procedural details are the "milk"--the most basic principles we must understand first before we can get to any of the deeper meanings of Scripture. (Heb. 5:12) But many people want to skip right to the meat and forget the milk! Any baby knows that would be disastrous!

Many of Torah's commands only apply in the land of Israel or when the Temple is standing. Some are only for women, others only for men. Only about 200 are applicable literally by most individuals today.

Adam and Eve forfeited immediacy with Yahweh, opting to look at particular things as either right or wrong, carrying the burden of such "knowledge" in themselves, so they wouldn't have to keep coming back to their Designer, who would gladly have told them how to avoid harm without the agonizing trial and error. So a rigid fence had to be erected to prevent Man's annihilation. The world's way eventually requires dictators or more subtle manipulation if it is to prevent total chaos. But the model of love we follow is no impersonal behaviorism that denies freedom and dignity. The Last Adam restored the lost relationship: He did nothing but what he saw the Father doing. (John 5:19, 30) 

It wasn’t the Law of Moses as a whole that was nailed to the cross--only the curses it carried. Our success at obeying doesn't get us onto--or even keep us on--the team (the theme of Galatians). Our "Coach" realizes we'll make mistakes in the process. But playing by the rules is the only way the team can function as a unit. And how hard we try will determine the lineup in the "game" that really matters--Messiah's coming Kingdom--and who gets to spend most of his time on the bench. (Matt. 5:19; 25:28; Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:19)

If anything, Yeshua raised the standard ("But I say unto you...", Matt. 5). We can't be content just to do good deeds outwardly; they must come from the heart. The specifics of the Torah are only a few concrete examples of what it means to love YHWH and one's neighbor as ourselves--attitudes meant to pervade our every action and thought, i.e., the "spirit" (underlying intent) behind the "letter". But the spirit can never be in opposition to the letter.

When we "listen to YHWH in prayer", we need an objective standard by which to judge when it is really him. And the Renewed Covenant must be interpreted only within the parameters set by His earlier writings.

The "letter" is the only objective standard we have by which to "test the spirits" or define what it means to love Yahweh and love our neighbor, since worldly definitions of love change with the current mood of each culture. Y'shua said the way to prove we love him is to keep his commandments! (John 14:15) They are not different from his Father's commands.


It's Who We Are

We avoid lawlessness because we are now dead to sin; are we to go back to disobeying Torah just to prove its condemnation has been lifted? (Rom. 6:2) Just as physical laws explain how things work, there are also spiritual laws that teach us how to line up with the only way the spiritual world can operate properly. The New Covenant allows YHWH's Law to be written on our hearts. What was once outside us, accusing us because we couldn't obey it, can now be inside us--part of us. We avoid sin because we belong to a "new race" to which sin is foreign and repulsive.

As we have Adam's physical seed in us, we have the Second Adam's spiritual "seed" in us. His "seed" cannot sin, because it is "born of YHWH" (1 Jn. 3:9). Whatever in us sins is still part of the first Adam's dying nature, "the flesh", which will never get any better (Eph. 4:22). Yahweh knows we'll always have the struggle between these two natures, and He has mercy as long as we work with Him rather than against Him. (Heb. 10:26)

At any given moment we can choose whether to walk according to the first or second Adam's nature. But only what our new nature does will survive into the Kingdom (1 Cor. 3:10-14); only its deeds will be rewarded. Yet because of Y'shua, what was once outside of us, accusing us since we couldn't obey it, is now inside us, part of us--the spirit behind the "letter". The two are not in opposition.

But there is another reason the Torah is not just for the Jews. YHWH promised that Jacob's descendants would become a “congregation of Gentiles”. Jacob passed this blessing on to his grandson Ephraim, whose tribe later led the Northern Kingdom's secession from Judah, and became involved in much idolatry, considering the Torah "a strange thing". (Hosea 8:12) These tribes, known as the "House of Israel", departed from the covenant, and became indistinguishably mingled with other nations. But over and over the prophets reiterated that one day Yahweh would nonetheless restore them to the Covenant.

Over 700 years later the Messiah said He had come "only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel". (Mat. 15:24) So He considers anyone who has responded to His message to be a part of Israel. His "congregation of Gentiles" is identified as the ekklesia, or “called-out ones”. Those who left the Covenant are being called back out of any paganism into which they were assimilated, and back into the commonwealth of Israel. That means responsibility to the Covenant our ancestors agreed to at Mount Sinai. The "New Testament" is really a renewal of this Covenant.

We have to think of this "New Covenant" in context of the way the ancient ones worked. If the situation changed for one party, a covenant could be amended. But only what no longer fit would be revised; everything else remained in effect just as before. We do have a different situation since we are in exile. It’s not completely possible to live out every aspect of the Torah without a Temple, or even simply outside the Land of Israel. So we have a stopgap; Y'shua more than makes up for the difference. The Apostles also knew it would take time to make the transition back from living like Gentiles. They decided not to burden us with too much too soon. So they gave only four rules to start with: "Abstain from pollutions of idols, from illicit sexual intercourse, from things strangled, and from blood..." (Acts 15:20)

But they implicitly expected all returnees to keep learning the rest of the Torah:

"...because from ancient times Moses has those who proclaim him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day." (15:21)

In other words, they could learn the Torah lifestyle at a reasonable pace, a little each week, but with a view toward getting to where we no longer need special interim measures.

James, who addresses his epistle to "the twelve dispersed tribes", says the Torah is like a mirror that shows us our "natural face". Though our ancestors forgot their identity, when we look back into the Torah, we can again recognize who we really are--Israel! Paul says that when we look at that mirror, we'll see Messiah's face and begin to look more and more like Him. (2 Cor. 3:18)


Just What is Grace?

So this “age of grace” is like the amnesty granted to an offender. He is allowed to come back home a free man, debts all cleared, but he has to start obeying the laws of his nation again!

Everyday experience tells us that having a few “days of grace” doesn’t mean we don’t have to eventually pay the rent if you want to live there! That Yahweh overlooks past ignorance and our mis-steps while we learn to walk again is a far cry from permission to totally disregard many of His commands!

“Grace”, as used in the Renewed Covenant, is not exemption from Yahweh's requirements, but rather the supernatural provision of power to rise above our natural inability to obey, letting us fulfill the requirements we once found unattainable, just as the law of aerodynamics does not invalidate, but can overcome, the law of gravity. Both laws work simultaneously; if you ride on top of the wave, it does not crash down on you.

So the Torah now becomes not our executioner, but our friend. Paul describes it as our tutor. (Gal. 3) When a child grows up, he’s no longer punished if he touches the hot stove, but he certainly appreciates the information from a mentor about what will happen to his hand if he does! A truly mature son has learned and internalized the reasons his father's rules are beneficial to him. (Ex. 15:26)


Until All is Fulfilled

The Sabbath and the Festivals mandated in the Torah were given as a “statute forever”. If they were annulled, then Yahweh’s word was broken. But Y'shua said nothing in the Torah would be abolished until everything was fulfilled. (Mat. 5:18) In fact, all it literally says is "until everything takes place"--in other words, until history comes to a close. That certainly hasn't occurred yet!

The Festivals are also called “appointments” in Hebrew, and indeed Yeshua kept the first set of appointments that fall during the spring on their very days. He died at the precise moment the Passover lambs were being slain in the Temple. Three days later, he fulfilled the meaning of the Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest, becoming the “firstfruits of those who rise from the dead” (1 Cor. 15).

But not all of them have been fulfilled. There is a second group of festivals that come in the later part of the year, which prefigure the resurrection of the dead, the day of judgment, and the Messianic Kingdom respectively. When we all reach the point of no longer needing any teachers, then and only then will the Renewed Covenant (Jer. 31) be here in its fullness and the old revised.

Some translators have altered the text of Colossians 2:17 to say the Sabbaths, New Moons, and Feasts "were a shadow of things which were to come, while what cast the shadow is the Messiah." But it is actually in the present tense: they "are a shadow of things to come." A shadow still does accurately show the shape of what cast it! It's just not the main point. The commandments are not an end in themselves, but If we say we love Him, don't we want to know as much as we possibly can about Him? And the Torah gives us a fast track, a hands-on way to learn what He wants us to know about Himself.


That's Grace, Not Legalism!

How did "the perfect law of liberty" (James 2:12), which only made David rejoice (Psalm 119), come to be thought of as legalism? "The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good." The only alternative is slavery again--to our sins. (Romans 7)

Because of the Messiah's blood, YHWH can mercifully waive the penalty for our once having abandoned His Covenant. So there are no negative aspects of the Law left. In Hebrew, torah means not so much "law" as "teaching" or "instruction"--the way to navigate in an unfriendly world.

When we look at the world's legal systems, we feel very little confidence that justice will be done. In contrast, Solomon said the Torah brings "refreshment to our bones" (Prov.3:8). In medieval Europe, those who followed the Torah’s purity rituals were not affected by the Black Plague; Jewish soldiers in the trenches did not get the same diseases that uncircumcised men contracted when they could not bathe for weeks on end. Yahweh said the obedient would receive none of the diseases the Egyptians had. (Ex. 15:26)

"His commandments are not burdensome!" (1 Jn. 5:3)

They really never have been, though certainly they are a nuisance to our more unruly side. They give us guard rails to avoid the sheer cliffs that real life so often brings us to the edge of. "The law" only bears a "police" sense if we respond according to our evil inclination, which opposes it. (Acts 9:5) But we don't need to. We have a positive inclination now too. We're free to walk as children of light, since "now we are light". (Ephesians 5:8)

There’s nothing legalistic about acting like who you really are!
Heaven

​It is a popular belief that those who belong to the Messiah will go to Heaven when they die, and remain there forever. But we need to check every doctrine against Scripture to make sure it is really true. (Acts 17:11)

The first principle of Bible interpretation is to let the Bible interpret itself. The only "Bible" in Yeshua's day was the Hebrew Scriptures. What do these foundational writings tell us about Heaven?

"The heaven and the heaven of heavens are YHWH's, but the earth He has given to the sons of men." (Psalm 115:16)

So mankind's assigned dwelling-place is earth. There is mention of a "third heaven" and a "seventh heaven" which do have more of a symbolic significance. But in both Hebrew and the Greek of the New Testament, the term for "Heaven" is no different from "sky", so whichever you hold as an authority, the doctrine does not stand up to scrutiny.

Yeshua told the repentant thief who was dying beside him that he would be with him that same day in Paradise. But he had also said that during the next three days and nights he would be "in the heart of the earth". (Mat. 12:40) He did not ascend to any heavenly altar with his blood of atonement until after the resurrection (John 20:17), so we may surmise that this Paradise where they both went is not in Heaven as such. In Hebrew, what Paradise (pardes) means is an orchard or garden, and in a special sense refers to the restoration of the Garden of Eden in the Messianic Kingdom. Apparently at death, this man simply "awoke" to find himself in that Kingdom, without having sensed the time lapse in between.

John 3:13 tells us, "No one has ascended into heaven". At least at the time John wrote this, no one had ever been in Heaven. No one who had died had gone there.

Yeshua's words at his final Passover (John 14:2) are commonly thought to refer to Heaven:

"In my Father's house are many chambers... I am going to prepare a place for you..." (John 14:2)
(King James says "mansions", but in King James' day that simply meant rooms, not luxurious homes.)

"The Master Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout... The dead in Messiah shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with Him in the clouds, to meet the Master in the air, and thus we shall be with the Master forever." (I Thess. 4:16-17).

The Greek word for "air" here means "atmosphere", i.e., the realm of the living and breathing, as contrasted with the dead who had been "under the earth" and are now raised up to join those in the land of the living--not necessarily somewhere up in the sky. And the main point of "meeting the Master in the air" is that we be "forever with him". If this is not our motivation, there is no point discussing the finer details. If it is, then wherever he is, whether in Heaven or on earth when he brings the kingdom here, we can be with him forever. And that, not a "mansion" in Heaven, is what really matters.

What we think of as “spiritual” mostly relates to loving and obeying YHWH, but His commands are concrete. Think of “eternity” not so much as another time or an extension of time, but an unseen dimension. In Hebrew it’s olam—“what is hidden”. That could mean in the distant past or farther ahead than we can see. But where we are now is such a horizon to people in other times or places. So heaven meets earth here, too. It’s always parallel to us, not separate, though we can only see it in our peripheral vision, so to speak.

Yeshua's brother Yaaqov (James), his “successor to the throne”, summarized "true, undefiled religion" as "aiding the widow and orphan in their need, and keeping oneself unspotted by the world". (James 1:27) 

That “world”, too, does not refer to the earth, the home we have to preserve for our descendants. When Yaaqov says that whoever befriends the “world” (or more literally, “the order”) makes himself YHWH's enemy (James 4:4), it’s in the context of becoming an insider with the rich while unjustly stepping on others in the process—just one more face of selfishness. So the enemy is not some mysterious demon out there; it’s right within our hearts too. Don’t blame a “devil” for what results from our own attitudes and actions.

In Revelation we see holy people from every tribe and tongue and nation being present around YHWH's throne. But these "clouds" of holy ones also come back with Yeshua to conquer the rebellious nations when he returns to set up his kingdom. So they all end up back on earth, for Yeshua tells us to pray that Yahweh's Kingdom may come "on earth as it is in Heaven". (Matt. 6:10).

The final state of redeemed mankind is this:

"I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away... And I... saw the holy city--"'New Jerusalem'--"coming down from Yahweh out of heaven, like a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven say, 'Behold, the dwelling place of Yahweh is with men, and He will live with them, and they will be His people, and Yahweh Himself will be with them, and be their Elohim." (Rev. 21:1-3)

Thus mankind's final dwelling place is on earth.

An important principle of ancient Hebraic interpretation of prophecy is "That which has been is that which will be". (Ecclesiastes 1:9) In other words, history (especially Israel's) has a direct correlation with what will occur in the end times. One prophecy about Israel in the latter days is that "David My servant will be prince among them." (Ezekiel 34:24; Jeremiah 30:9) Y'shua, being David's descendant, is thus sometimes referred to as "David". So David's reign is a foreshadowing of Messiah's. The first seven years of David's reign were in Hebron until he was able to move his capital to Jerusalem. This hints that the Messiah will be crowned and begin His reign somewhere other than in Jerusalem.

Immediately after Y'shua said, "In My Father's house are many chambers", he said:

"I am going to prepare a place for you, and if I go..., I will come again and receive you to myself." (Jn. 14:3)
These words are taken from the ancient Hebrew betrothal ceremony, the first stage of a marriage. After this, the groom would go away for an undefined period of time (though the approximate time was known) to build a house or otherwise make all the preparations, then return for His bride, usually at midnight and with an element of surprise ("like a thief"), and they would go to the groom's father's house for the actual wedding and enter a special wedding chamber called a kheder, where they would stay for seven days. After that, they would come out and celebrate a feast with the invited guests, then move to the groom's own residence.

A bridegroom was also seen as a king, so the wedding is Y'shua's coronation day as well. Seven days in the kheder suggest that, as with David, the first seven years of his reign will be in "his Father's House".

Where else do we see a seven-year period in prophecy? In the latter part of Daniel chapter 9:

"[The Prince to Come] will confirm the covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will bring a pause in the sacrifice and offering until the consummation..."

After 69 "weeks" (sets of seven years, thus 483 years), the Messiah did indeed do much to accomplish the "end of sin". But the 70th "week" comes after a long pause on the time-clock--"just before the consummation of the age. During this final "week" the earth will finally be cleansed of wickedness. As with Noah's ark, Yahweh has set aside a special place of safety for His beloved ones during that time:

"Come, my people, enter your CHAMBERS. Close your doors behind you; hide for a little while until the indignation is past." (Isaiah 26:20)

"Chambers" here is kheder, telling us that this is the time of a wedding. "Closing the doors" is a major theme in the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, a "rehearsal" of the final judgment day. The same theme is seen in Yeshua's parable of the ten virgins. (Matt. 25) "The indignation" is a common synonym for the "birth pangs of the Messiah", this period when men are being pushed to repent before the gates close. But some will not need to experience the pressure or persecution that others will encounter during that time:

"Because you have carefully guarded My order to remain loyal [without swerving amid great temptations], I will also be careful to keep you away from the hour of testing that is to come upon the whole civilized world to prove the quality of those who dwell upon the earth." (Rev. 3:10)

Just before this, many special blessings are promised to "those who overcome". They are permitted to be forerunners--"the choicest "building materials" for His Temple made of "living stones". (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Cor. 3:10-17)

When it is suspected that someone has leprosy, he is to present himself to the priest. (Leviticus 13, 14) Some are cleared immediately, because it is plain from the start that the symptoms are not those of true leprosy (just as selfishness usually leads to sin, but not always).

Who are they? Those who prior to this time of testing both "have faith and are zealous for the Torah" (Acts 21:20 )--""those who keep the commandments and have the testimony of Yeshua." (Rev. 12:17) In James' words, those who have both faith AND works, not just one or the other. Yeshua said those who really love Him prove it by keeping His commandments. (Jn. 14:15) Those who keep the Torah (instruction given through Moses) and direct others to do so will be called "greatest" in His Kingdom. Those who do not will be called "least". (Matt. 5:19)

If the priest cannot determine if the man in question has leprosy, he assigns him a seven-day, quarantined waiting period. Then a final verdict of "clean" or "unclean" is made. David spoke of teaching "sinners" the ways of Yahweh. (Psalm 25:8; 51:13) These are the fence-sitters whom Yahweh has not yet placed in the category of wicked ones (to be destroyed) or righteous ones (to be salvaged). They are given one last grace period. During these seven years, everyone is prodded to make a final decision to be either "hot or cold". By the end, they must be one or the other:

"Do not [yet] seal up the contents of this prophecy, because the time is at hand: whoever is unrighteous, let him go on being unrighteous; whoever is defiled, let him go on being defiled; whoever is righteous, let him go one being righteous; whoever is holy, let him go on being holy." (Rev. 22:10-11)

For seven years the "five virgins" who were not ready for the bridegroom may be allowed to prove, through much suffering, where their true loyalty really lies. The King will return to Jerusalem and rescue these who prove not to have leprosy after all. Though they missed the wedding, they may at least become servants in his Kingdom--"on earth.

So we must conclude that nowhere in Scripture does it say that we will be in Heaven forever. It seems there is a period of seclusion for Israel in the Father's presence, but this seems to simply be a special place of being hidden away in safety, away from the kingdoms and armies of the earth, as suggested in Daniel 11:41--not a place up in the air. (cf. Rev. 12:13-17; Mark 13:14; Isaiah 35)

If so, His Dwelling Place will still be there among them, as in the Tabernacle of old. Indeed, before Y'shua establishes his throne in Jerusalem, the reunited Houses of Israel and Judah will together crown "David" (probably through his descendant, but maybe the resurrected David himself) as their common king in this set-aside place. (Ezek. 37:24; Isaiah 16:1-5)

Then they will not just be in the "Father's house", but will be His Dwelling Place made of "living stones". And THAT is what He desires most. 
The Gospel

​Almost every time Yeshua mentioned the Gospel, he associated it with the Kingdom. Some say the Kingdom simply means "YHWH's rule in the hearts and minds of men." While it is certainly that, there is much more to it than that.

Others have gone to the opposite extreme and said that since the New Testament calls it "the Kingdom of Heaven", it must relate chiefly to the afterlife. But Yeshua gives us another clue:

"Pray like this: ...'Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.'" (Matt. 6:9-10)

The Father's will is already being carried out in Heaven. The Kingdom already exists there; our job is to bring it into our realm, for “the heavens are Yahweh’s, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.” (Psalm 115:16)

So mankind’s assigned dwelling-place is earth. How does this square with the way the Gospel is presented today as "how to go to Heaven when you die"? Though Scripture says our incorruptible inheritance is stored up for us in Heaven (1 Peter 1:4), that need not mean we have to go there to get it; it is just kept in a "place" where no earthly ills can affect it, like a bank account in a politically neutral country. Nothing in Scripture says any human being will be in Heaven forever--only that we can be with Yahweh forever.

In Revelation we see holy people from every tribe and tongue present around YHWH's throne. But then they come back with Yeshua to conquer the rebellious nations when he sets up his Kingdom--on earth. At the end of the age we see the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven to earth, and Yahweh making His dwelling place here with men. (Rev. 21)

Just before Y'shua came, proclaiming, "The Kingdom is at hand!" John the Immerser was to "prepare the way”--make a suitable place for Him who is Holy to walk on an earth that is now defiled. (Deut. 23:14)

Heaven is Yahweh's "habitation" (Deut. 26:15). When we try to make a "habitat" for animals, we try to imitate as closely as possible the environment they came from. When Yahweh told Moses to build the Tabernacle, which means, "place of dwelling", He told him to make sure he built everything exactly like like the pattern He had been shown on Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 25:9, 40) They had to be just right, for they were replicas of Yahweh's dwelling place in Heaven. (Heb. 8:5; 9:23)

Later He said He would choose one place in the Land of Israel to establish such a "habitation". (Deut. 12:5) When King Solomon built the Temple, which was a glorified version of the same pattern as the Tabernacle, He recognized that this is what Yahweh had promised. (2 Chron. 6:2) 

But Solomon allowed his foreign wives to bring idolatry into Israel. Yahweh split Israel into two kingdoms. David's throne remained with Judah, but the name "Israel" stayed with the ten tribes given to Jeroboam, who had tried in vain to persuade Solomon's son Rehoboam to lighten their burdens. 

The Apostles understood this. After He had taught them for 40 days after His resurrection, the logical question they had for Yahshua when He led them up the Mount of Olives (where Zechariah says the Kingdom will begin) was, "Is this the time when You will restore the Kingdom to Israel (i.e., the Northern Kingdom, a.k.a. Ephraim)?" (Acts 1:6)

This is what they saw as their mission. They knew the Messiah had to accomplish this, and their expectation must have been heightening as His feet were already ascending that very mountain. The "Great Commission" was a direct response to this query. He did not deny that this was what he came to do, but only said the timing was not their concern, but the Father's. Their job was again to prepare the way--to make sure the Kingdom would have citizens when it came: to make disciples and teach people from all nations. (Matt. 24:14; 28:18-20) Teach them what? "To observe all that I have commanded you". His commands were none other than those YHWH had given centuries beforehand through Moses. "If you love me, keep my commandments" ; He had not come to abolish the Torah, but to give it its fullest meaning. (Mat. 5:17)

So the apostles did just that. Their concern, when many had begun "returning to YHWH from among the Gentiles", was how observant newcomers had to be before they could be accepted into fellowship. not whether they would be observant. They did not want to repeat Rehoboam's error---laying too heavy a burden on the other tribes--so they laid down only the minimum essentials so both Judah and Ephraim could share the same table. But they said the rest of Moses' writings should be learned week by week in the synagogues. (Acts 15)

Both Isaiah (52:7) and Nahum (1:15) tell us,

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad news ("the Gospel"), announcing peace, proclaiming news of salvation."

What is that "peace"? In Hebrew it is not just peace with YHWH. It also includes the idea of national unity--again, the reunification of the two houses of Israel. Nahum adds, "O Judah, preserve the feasts!" Only thus could the Gospel retain its proper focus. So it is tied closely to YHWH's appointed times (Lev. 23), for they teach us a multitude of details about what Yeshua came--and will come--to accomplish.

Yes, it was "too small a thing" for Y'shua to "resurrect the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved ones of Israel" (Isaiah 49:6), but that makes it clear that this was His primary mission. He would also be given the nations as an inheritance, but this "afterthought" or exception to the rule somehow ousted the main focus, and our "airplane" got off track. We ended up in the "way of the Gentiles"--the very place Y'shua told us not to go! He said, "go only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel". (Matt. 10:5-6) Gentile lands would seem to be the only place Ephraim could be found, so "ways of the Gentiles" must mean, "Gentile methods" or customs. (Jeremiah 10:2 had already said they were useless.)

Why did Paul, who was sent to the Gentiles, always begin his search for responsive Gentiles in the local synagogue? Because the "seed of Jacob" in them was now germinating and drawing them back to their roots! They had taken the first step to return and also to reunite with their brother, Judah. Yahweh said not one kernel of Ephraim's seed would be missed, so if a certain part of the world has been unresponsive after being read their rights, we don't have to wait for them to change. Shake the dust off our feet and move on. They probably have very few Ephraimites among them.

It was not a haphazard, shotgun approach aiming at all Gentiles anywhere. Ephraim was in higher concentrations in certain areas than in others. At one point some of the Northern tribes, escaping Assyria, had settled in Bithynia, so Paul expected to find them still there. (Acts 16) But by this time they had moved across the Bosporus Strait--”right where Macedonia is. So that's where he was called.

Some of those "Gentiles" were waiting for His Torah." (Isaiah 42:4) So YHWH said to declare to these "far-off coastlands" that He who scattered Israel would regather it like a shepherd. (Jer. 31:10) They would eventually be the ones to bring Israel's sons back home. (Isa. 60:9)

Unlike Rehoboam, this king from Judah would NOT to lay too heavy a burden on the other tribes. (Matt. 11:30). He would instead serve His people--so this time Ephraim (still in exile) would accept him as King, and the heir to David’s throne would be reunited with His Kingdom! THAT is glad news!