The Government and Standards of the Body of Messiah, comments on Rev. 2, 3

In my book Passover, Key to the Book of Revelation, I give a reasonable interpretation of Chapters 2 and 3 as preparation for tribulation.  These letters fit the circumstances of the first century when they were written, but will apply in the last of the last days to prepare the worldwide people of God for the final Great Tribulation.  The congregations are exhorted to maintain passion for Yeshua, not lose their first love, and maintain moral purity and doctrinal truth.  The two actually go together.

The letters are written to the angel, or messenger of each congregation.  I argued that the angel addressed is the leader of the elders of the congregation.  A letter given to a heavenly angel would not have any effect for it has to be delivered to the messenger who can actually deliver it.  The messenger is the one that conveys God’s word to the congregation.  I also argued that we Westerners do not rightly understand the nature of the Body in these cities at that time.  It is not like what we call a local church today. By that time, some Church historians argue that when we talk about the seven churches we should see some as in the thousands. By that time, the signs and wonders with the progress of the Gospel led to thousands of believers who met in houses all in different parts of the city, but they were all linked together in an eldership of the city under a lead elder.  In the early second century, this lead elder was called the bishop.  He was not yet a monarchial bishop as in the later second century but governed with the elders of the city (Presbytery).   If this is a correct picture of the situation in the seven congregations of Rev. 2 and 3 and if the messenger is the leader of the elders and a bishop kind of figure, it would bring a clearer understanding of the circumstances of Rev. 2, 3.

The question is raised how some congregations could be both commended and then also corrected strongly for tolerating bad doctrine or loose morals.  The question is raised, who is being addressed as tolerating sin or error, and who is being called upon to correct it?  Two examples suffice to illustrate this point.  With regard to Pergamum, Yeshua says that they “Hold firm to my Name.”   They did not deny their faith even when one of their leaders, Antipas, was put to death.  They have withstood persecution.   This then leads to the question of how a people like this could also be rebuked for sexual immorality and of eating food sacrificed to idols, and the false gnostic doctrines of the Nicolaitans.  (This compromise with sin would fit the loyalty to the city rituals in connection to sacrifices to the city pagan gods and temple prostitution connected to the sacrifices even if the one gathering in the pagan temple did not actually go into the cult prostitute.)  If the congregation was just one gathering in a large house, how could this be possible?  However, if it was dozens or even many more gatherings in houses under an eldership of the city with a lead elder, then it is easy to see that some house groups could have allowed error to creep in.  The leader of the house gathering was compromised and compromising. The messenger is addressed as responsible for bringing correction or discipline.  We assume he could do so with the authority of the elders of the city over all the house gatherings.

We note the same kind of situation with Thyatira.  The commendation is amazing.  “I know your deeds and your faith and service, and that your last deeds are greater than the first.”  Wow!  This is a great commendation.  However, the contrast is stark.  They allow Jezebel to influence them, a false prophetess, who fosters sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.  This again could well be connected to compromise with the city pagan cult for the sake of civic loyalty but a loyalty contrary to faith in Yeshua.  Again, the angel/messenger has to bring discipline.

When we read these letters in the context of the congregation of the city having many gatherings and most being commendable, but some go astray, we can understand how great commendation can be joined to stark rebuke.  Submission to the elders and the lead elder of the elders is required if there is to be Body discipline.  This gives us a window to government and the importance of elders enforcing doctrinal and moral standards in the first century.

This is a warning for our day.  We indeed are called to enforce standards of good Bible doctrine and Biblical morals and not to compromise with the world or we can lose the Spirit of God, our lampstand of testimony.

The Anti-Missionary Campaign and the Jerusalem Post

For many years I have observed the anti-missionary groups that attack Messianic Jews and Christians who share their faith with the Jewish people. Years ago, the well-known Messianic Jewish apologist, revivalist, and cultural critic, Dr. Michael L. Brown, debated their leading figure.  That anti-missionary was bested so badly that the word went out to not debate Dr. Brown.  There are Rabbis and even some Orthodox ones, who have treated Messianic Jews fairly, honestly presenting who they are, what they believe, and why they disagree.  We had good relations with conservative Rabbi Matthew Simon in the Washington D. C. area and the head of the Rabbinic Council in Washington, Rabbi Joshua Haberman.  Rabbi Haberman even read my book Jewish Roots and asserted that we should be accepted in the Jewish community but that it would take another generation or two.  I am used to the anti-missionary diatribe, and it is almost boilerplate, stereo-typing, and misrepresenting.  One canard is that Messianic Judaism leads to assimilation and is a danger of destroying Jewish identity.  Yet, the foundation of Messianic Judaism, in which I played a somewhat formative role, is a faith commitment that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are called to identify and live as Jews, as part of their people.  Messianic Jews are much more Jewish observant than the majority of Jews.

The article in the last Friday, Dec. 29, edition of the Jerusalem Post Magazine section, entitled, “Uncovering missionary efforts.” was the same boilerplate but more troubling.  Why?  It was the timing.  Messianic Jewish congregation leaders in Israel have listed over 1000 Messianic Jews who are serving in the war, both in Gaza, in the north against Hezbollah, and in the West Bank.  I am personal friends with some of these Messianic Jews.  Their patriotism is stellar.  In the midst of the war, the Jerusalem Post editor approved a boilerplate article full of misrepresentation of Messianic Jews, fostering mistrust and division.  Where on earth was the editor’s mind or wisdom?  Do they ever seek a Messianic Jewish response?  They slandered good people by name!

The writer, Atara Beck, gives some credit to Christian Zionists who are supporting Israel in this dark time, but even then undercuts this credit by discrediting one such ministry that requires all that come to serve with them to sign a statement that they will not seek to share their faith with Jewish people in Israel while working with them. So much for the leading of the Holy Spirit in this ministry. However, even this ministry is slammed because its leader hopes that their acts of unconditional love will eventually lead to the Jewish people softening their hearts and embracing Yeshua.  And this is so terrible?  This is total hypocrisy from the writer.  Why?  Because Orthodox Jews, Evangelicals, and Messianic Jews all believe that one day all will embrace the true Messiah and Israel and the nations will be one under the rule of Israel’s true Messiah.  Orthodox Jews believe that this is not Yeshua/Jesus but will be a yet-to-be-revealed person, but they believe all will convert to faith in the true Messiah and become Noachides.  Messianic Jews and Christians believe that the true Messiah is Yeshua/Jesus.  For Evangelicals and Messianic Jews to not believe that someday Israel will confess him would be to deny their own faith.  Isn’t this obvious?  Not to the anti-missionary who is blind to the contradiction. Even the Catholic Catechism, paragraph 674, puts out the faith statement that one day Israel will confess Him and that this will lead to his return.  Yet, the Catholics have rejected an explicit missionary effort to the Jews.  This does not mean that Catholics think that Jews coming to faith is wrong.  Such Jewish believers are embraced, like the late Jewish Cardinal Lustiger of Paris who called himself a Messianic Jew.

The anti-missionary does not engage with the Messianic Jewish arguments and respond honestly after showing that he or she has understood it.  They cannot present it objectively but have to resort to diatribe and propaganda. When they present their apologetic against faith in Yeshua it is a pile of distortions an misrepresentations as fully shown in Mike Brown’s masterpiece six volumes, Answering Jewish Objections.

Messianic Jews and Bible believing Christians have different views on approaching Jewish people, but all agree that Yeshua is the Messiah and by definition this means that Israel will eventually embrace him. However, other than that they have different views on  practical engagement with Jewish people.

  1. Most believe in a legitimate witness of sharing faith with Jewish people as led by the Spirit with the hope the Spirit will enlighten and bring a change of heart and faith in Yeshua.
  2. Some believe in overt public witnessing and proclamation in streets and in media and some do not.
  3. A minority believe that only Jews should share their Yeshua faith with Jews since if Gentiles share it could lead to assimilation.
  4. A minority believe that the Jewish people have their own covenant status and acceptance with God if they are committed to God and that sharing faith should be avoided.  If Jews come to faith, it should be by a supernatural act without a witness from another follower of Yeshua.  This seems to be the case with the leaders of one of the ministry leaders described in the Jerusalem Post article.

Unlike the implication of the tone of the article, Messianic Jews are not stupid people who just bought into propaganda. That is what you would conclude from the article.  On the contrary, many are intelligent and thinking people and a larger and larger number of Messianic Jewish scholars are doing great work. They have Ph. D’s from Duke, Cambridge, Emory, New York University, Tel Aviv, Hebrew University, Bar Ilan and other famous schools.  For all, believing in Yeshua is by revelation of the Spirit and sometimes a response to real miracles. For many, they have responded to overwhelming evidence (see my book, The Biblical Worldview, An Apologetic)

We are grateful for those Jewish leaders who though they do not believe in Yeshua, engage with Messianic Jews with honesty and seek an objective engagement.  A few have even written books arguing for mutual respect.  (See Rabbi Cohn Sherbuck, Messianic Judaism.

Reverence for Law

A coherent and safe society requires just laws and reverence for law.  Nowhere in world history does reverence for law attain the height of the revelation of the Law from God at Mt. Sinai.  We see that reverence in the movie The Ten Commandments.  That movie actually reflected the reverence for law that was so well established in the United States at that time.  However, we do note the unjust laws that deserved protest, the Jim Crow discrimination laws, and discrimination policies that targeted Jews and African Americans in many parts of the United States.

The great philosopher at the end of the 18th century, Immanuel Kant, argued that society would fall apart if there was not a general reverence for law.  He also argued that belief in God and rewards and punishments after death were necessary to sustain an adequate reverence or fear so that society would be law-abiding.

All societies, however, that attained greatness, whether ancient China, India, Babylon, or Egypt maintained a reverence for law.  The problem in many societies was that the ruler was above the law and in some cases was considered divine with the authority to make law.  This was not the case in Biblical Law.  Indeed, Biblical Law requires the King to submit to the Law and precludes him from making laws contrary to God’s stated Law.

Paul in Romans 13 councils disciples of Yeshua to be submitted to the authorities and law of the land (so far as it does not contradict Biblical Law, as in Acts 5).  If there is a contradiction, then for conscience’s sake, we must disobey and suffer for our protest.  Paul also argues in Romans 2 that those who were not given the Law of God do rightly perceive much that is just and true though not on the level of Biblical Law.

One of the most painful aspects of our societies in the West and especially in the United States is that political leaders do not fulfill their oaths to uphold the law.  The remedy for this disobedience to the law, the double standards in enforcing the law, and even a gross intention and action to ignore and not enforce the law, is impeachment.  Officials that violate the law can be removed by legislatures.  However, in the United States today political leaders are stymied by disagreement on upholding the law and do not remove officials that violate their oaths to uphold the law.  Obedience to the law has been undercut by the claim that the law in general in the West was a manifestation of white supremacy and systemic racism.  This leads to disdain for the law.  We see the same disregard for immigration law.  If the law is not good, legislatures can change it, but it must not be ignored by the political officials who can decide without legislative authority what laws to enforce and what to ignore. Most of the law system in the West has been good and much based on a combination of Biblical law and some very wise Roman laws. British common law was also based on these sources.

However, this lack of reference for law today translates into social anarchy and puts us on a  road that is leading to dystopia.  At Christmas season many watch the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.  One recalls the vision experience of Jimmy Stewart as the lead actor, being shown a world where he never existed.  The wicked Mr. Potter gains total control of the town and renames it Pottersville (nothing against the town of the same name on the southern end of Schroon Lake, New York).  He does not revere law and exercises despotic power.  When reverence for law is lost, those who have despotic power control the society.  People obey out of fear for their lives but not out of respect for good law.  The result is the dystopia of Pottersville, full of crime, prostitution, homelessness, poverty, grime, and despair.  What a great paradigm for what is now happening in the United States.  Our cities have become like Pottersville.

Messianic Judaism, like Reformed Christianity, is strong in upholding the Law of God, the Torah.  When you read my book Jewish Roots, I hope you enjoy the presentation of the role of the Law of God as a constitution for ancient Israel to produce a just and model society. The Law does not save us but shows the goodness of God in his intention to organize societies in a just, humane and loving way.

Communion and Passover

I recently read a wonderful book by a Catholic scholar, Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Passover.  Not too long ago, I read a wonderful book by the late French Catholic scholar, Louis Bouyer, Eucharist. It is wonderful to see a developing interest in the original context for understanding the Bible. I will not emphasize Bouyer’s book in this post. I will write a bit about it. I should note that the term Eucharist, meaning thanksgiving, is very Jewish in rooting and comes from the blessing prayer, or thanksgiving prayer Yeshua prayed before the bread and the wine. “Blessed are you Lord our God” … is the Jewish thanksgiving formula. 

Boyer argues that the liturgy for the Communion service in the ancient Church was based on Jewish synagogue liturgy which itself was based on Temple liturgy. He presents a strong case that the most basic prayer, the Amidah or the Shemoneh Esreh (the 18 Benedictions) formed the basic prayer for the communion liturgy. Grace after meals and elements of the Passover liturgy were integrated into the liturgy as well. For post Temple Judaism, the Amidah prayer is prayed as a substitute for sacrifices with the hope that God will accept this prayer in lieu of bringing an actual sacrifice. Hence the prayer is repeated in the morning and evening as were the sacrifices. In the Christian version of the prayers, the worshipper does not offer the prayer as a substitute for the sacrifice, but as a liturgy to enter into the meaning of the sacrifice of Yeshua and to receive the life that flows from His death and resurrection. When we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy in the Amidah worship prayer, we enter into the experience of being in very Holy place of God (Eph. 2:5). This leads to taking the bread and the wine. 

Some of the elements of Pitre’s presentation are worth evaluating and probably worthy of our embrace as Messianic Jews. Pitre presents the case that Yeshua’s discourse in John 6 in a Passover context about eating His body and drinking His blood has Passover roots. There are several emphases the bread and the wine in this that some do not see in their celebration of communion. 

First of all, the Bread of the Presence (literally the Face) in the Temple, eaten by the priests is connected to eating the bread of the Lord’s supper. The Mishnah, the Jewish application of Law in early rabbinic Judaism going back to the Pharisees, presents the Bread of the Presence as a manifestation of God’s love. This bread is offered with sacrificial wine. In the three pilgrim feasts, the table with the bread is carried out and shown to the people in the words, “Behold, God’s love for you.” The bread and wine of the Last Supper is the bread and wine of His Presence as a sign of the New Covenant. 

Secondly, the feeding of the five thousand has overtones of the miracle of the manna in the wilderness, which was supernatural bread, the bread of angels. Those who asked afterward for Yeshua to do an actual miracle of manna from heaven are asking that He do an actual repeat of the miracle of manna. Why? This was expected in some Jewish traditions at that time as a miracle of the Messiah as the new Moses. However, Yeshua was offering Himself as the supernatural manna, and He is our supernatural bread in fulfillment of the manna expectations. 

Thirdly, Pitre argues that the lambs killed for Passover were impaled after their slaughter. The lambs looked like a crucifixion. The crucifixion of Yeshua as the Lamb of God would have presented an image of the lambs that would find association by first century Jews who experienced Passover every year due to the annual Passover pilgrimage festival. 

Fourthly, Pitre also argues that the seder celebrated the four cups of wine as in the Seder today. This is found in the Mishneh as well. Luke presents us with two cups. The one after the supper, Pitre argues, is the cup of redemption, the third. This is a common view in Messianic Judaism. He also presented a new argument for me.  That is that Yeshua said he would not drink of it again until he would enter into his Kingdom. There was no recording of Yeshua eating the Lamb or drinking the last cup. Yeshua was the Lamb and many have noted that Yeshua and his disciples did not eat the Passover lamb. Pitre also believes Yeshua ended the seder early before the last cup. He then notes that just before He died, He drank the wine offered to him on the sponge, and then gave his spirit up to the Father. Was that the fourth cup? I find this to be more speculative, but possible. 

Pitre is a proponent of the Catholic view that when the bread and wine is blessed and set apart by the priest (a necessary act for the transformation) it becomes the real body and blood of Yeshua. However, this is qualified because he argues that it is not the earthly body and blood but a partaking of his resurrected body and his actual life. This becomes, in my view, closer to the Lutheran view of the real presence. What is the actual body and blood really if it is not the earthly body and blood but resurrected and supernatural? I have argued that the Baptist view that the bread and wine are only part of a dramatic way of remembering and do not really convey the reality portrayed is wrong. Rather we participate in the symbol and receive the real life of Yeshua. Catholics, Anglicans, Moravians, Lutherans and Reformed all explain this in different ways, but say we really enter into and renew the reality of his death and resurrection in us as we partake. It should be the same for Messianic Jews.

I think this book by Pitre richly adds to our Messianic Jewish theology. 

The Orthodox Response to the Worship and Prayer at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount

A great culmination of the 21 day fasting and prayer for Israel’s salvation and world harvest took place on May 28 when 100-120 million joined in prayer.  The central event was at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount where 800 gathered including Lou Engle, Dr. William (Billy) Wilson, the President of Oral Roberts University, Messianic Jewish leaders and so many more. It was a great day. Before the event, a very negative article came out in the Jewish press vilifying this as a missionary event. My readers need to understand that the Orthodox Jewish leaders see all followers of Yeshua, who maintain the hope of Israel embracing Yeshua, as missionaries. The article was, of course, imbalanced, and foolish. Here is what I wrote to the IHOP leaders:  

I wanted to write something more since my response was so brief.

Over the years, I have noticed such articles, and some even say that Israel should not partner with Christian Zionists since they think Israel will believe in Yeshua at the end of this age!  Why should they be so upset that people believe this?  If the end of this age comes and Yeshua is revealed, then their arguments against his messiahship are defeated.  But until then, why not partner with Christian Zionists? Somehow all who believe in Romans 11:11-15 and Matthew 23:39 are suspect. Both texts teach that Israel will turn to Yeshua. But other, wiser Jews have argued that holding such a view of the final end is without practical effect, unless coupled with overt efforts of Jewish evangelism in this time before the end. They argue that believing in the final revelation of Yeshua should not cause a rejection of Christian Zionist support since such an eschatological vision does not mean that Jewish people will not be rightly treated. For liberal Jews such point will never come. For them, the answer to this article would be “so what.” For Orthodox Jews the Messiah will come, and it will not be Jesus. They could declare their conviction they look for as the time that the world will all accept the true Messiah, but not Jesus.  And should Christians not support Orthodox Jews and Israel since they believe this? This is all so very stupid. It is true that there is an issue with those who seek to follow the Bible and bring Jewish people to faith in Yeshua. 

There are three types of Christians Zionists.

1.  The first group eschews Jewish evangelism and does not support Messianic Jews who are winning their  people. But they do believe that Israel/Jewry will ultimately confess Yeshua. (Romans 11:15, 25, 26)

2.  The second group does not engage in overt evangelistic efforts. This group might contain individuals who discretely share their faith with Jews.

3. The third group believes that Romans  11:15, “Israel’s full acceptance” implies a growing movement of Messianic Jews (Rom. 11:14-some of Israel) and therefore they strongly back Messianic Jewish works that seek to bring a witness for Yeshua to our people. This is a necessary prelude to all Israel being saved. 

All three of these groups can easily support the 100 million prayer for Israel’s salvation and protection from destruction.   When Mike Bickle speaks about salvation, he is not only speaking of embracing Yeshua, but of being protected from destruction which is a big emphasis right now in this difficult time.

Note as well the Roman Catholic Catechism paragraph 674 below!  This is the unifying idea for all.  It is amazingly so well stated. Is the author in the Jewish Press so ignorant that she does not know this? Probably she is that ignorant and is not aware of what all true Christians confess form all streams of the Church.   

674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”, will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.

This is amazingly so well stated

Event Response 

Since writing the above, I attended the amazing gathering of 800 at the Temple Mount Southern Stairs.  A few hundred ultra Orthodox protestors sought to block our entrance to the Davidson Center entrance to the Southern Steps. They shouted “Missionaries go home.  We don’t want you here.” Many Messianic Jews attended the gathering at the steps and Israel is our home! They pushed and shoved. A few fell down or were hit. Then the police opened up the way into the entrance.  During our meeting they gathered below our site and chanted during the whole time, but they were at a distance. It did not disturb our gathering but actually gave all a sense of the spiritual warfare over Yeshua. We prayed blessing over them to overcome their cursing. 

Articles in the Jewish press were mixed in response. Some were more negative to the Ultra-Orthodox Protestors than to the gathered Christians. One Ultra-Orthodox Jew, Aryeh King, who is one of the Deputy Mayors of Jerusalem said the gathering was a desecration of a Jewish holy place which has nothing to do with Christianity. This is historically totally wrong since this is the area of the water immersion of the 3000 who came to faith on the day of Pentecost (Shavuot). It was place of the immersion into the Holy Spirit of thousands. The location has everything to do with Messianic Jews and Christians. What a foolish and ignorant response! We were all thankful for Mayor Lion who did not cancel the event and for the police who enabled us to enter. 

Losing the Presence and Power of the Spirit 

I have almost 60 years of observing the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. For a time, I rejected the Pentecostal/charismatic orientation (June 1969 to Spring 1974), but then, through Bible study and experience, I fully embraced this orientation as biblical and essential. The evidence is dramatic. As Philip Jenkins documents in The Next Christendom, the progress of Christianity in the majority of the world is with amazing miracles and is Pentecostal/charismatic.  The leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance told me last spring that of 600 million people connected in denominations and streams through the WEA, 400 million are Pentecostal/charismatic.  They are not in name only but practice preaching a Gospel with signs following and gatherings where the gifts and power of God are the norm.  The amazing books by Heidi Baker on her work in Africa and the great scholar Craig Keener in his world survey of the miraculous (1000 pages), The Credibility of New Testament Miracles, gives irrefutable testimony of God’s ways in extending the Kingdom.  This is a key part of the Gospels teaching on the Gospel of the Kingdom. 

We see also the classic teaching on the importance of the power of the Spirit from famous leaders of the late 19th century, D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, A. B. Simpson (Christian and Missionary Alliance) A. J. Gordon of Gordon College fame, and V. Raymond Edmond, President and Chancellor of Wheaton College (1940-1967).  Edmund’s book They Found the Secret emphasized being baptized in the Spirit as a definite crucial experience for all believers. 

However, there is another phenomenon in the West and in Israel.  It is the decline of the reality of Holy Spirit power, signs and wonders and the practice of the charismata. In the early 1980s, in America while I was in the Washington area, I connected to a growing charismatic movement both in denominational churches and new apostolic stream churches.  Our own Messianic Jewish congregation was very much part of all this.  I was so optimistic.  I saw growing unity, people coming to faith, and frequently with a supernatural element.  Then it declined.  What happened?  One of the key charismatic pastoral leaders in Israel, a disciple of the renowned Derek Prince, noted a significant decline form the 1990s in Israel.   How did that happen?

My answer is that the presence and power of the Spirit needs to be always zealously pursued or there will be decline.  Fostering the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit is to be pursued as part of this.  If it is not done, it will decline.  Then, as with some mega churches in the United States, social psychological methods that attract will replace the Presence and Power.  For a season the replacement can look successful, but it is as with Rehoboam, there is a replacement of bronze shields for the gold, and the glory is in the gold. Human beings given what they are, with a tendency for laziness, fear, and offense, eventually are giving to a decline in the Presence and Power. Openness to the Spirit will sometimes produce manifestations that offend the mind but may be legitimate. There needs to be discernment. 

I have a name for this phenomenon.  It is the Spiritual Second Law of Thermodynamics.  The Second Law is known in science as the axiom that the energy of the universe as a whole is running down, dissipating, or going from useable energy to dissipated.  This used up energy is always increasing (the law of entropy increase).  This is why scientists agree that the universe is slowly moving towards energy death.  It will take eons, but this is where it is going.   The only answer is a new infusion of energy from outside the universe itself. Of course, science knows of no such source of new energy but is limited to knowledge in this universe.  It is the same in spiritual life.  We will tend to run down in spiritual power and energy unless we have new infusions of that energy by the Spirit of God.  

Those who are part of movements of congregations with great evangelistic gains tell us how they have maintained their spiritual energy.  Here are some pointers. 

  1. Fostering praying in tongues to build up our inner person is important. As I Cor. 14 says, the one who so prays edifies his spirit. 
  2. Regularly giving invitation for people to receive the gift of immersion in the Spirit. Many charismatic in name pastors do not have confidence to do this since they are in doubt.  They fear nothing will happen.  I recommend that it is Yeshua who does the work, and we need to pray for it regularly and trust him. 
  3. We need to teach people how to hear the voice of the Spirit and how to walk in a sense of His prophetic speaking and leading.  This is not just for prophets but for all (“the testimony of Yeshua is the Spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).  “You can all prophecy.” (I Cor. 14:31)).  We should train them to expect this to happen in our witness to those who are not followers of Yeshua. 
  4. We need to foster the practice of spiritual gifts in our congregations until we see that most do practice the word gifts of I Cor. 12 and 14.  In larger assemblies, people can be vetted by appointed elders before they are released to the public. The reason this is not done is that leaders fear that it will be messy, and they are uneasy about governing. As someone who has done this for over 40 years now and fosters this in our related congregations, I say to these leaders, get over this.  If you want spiritual power, you need to learn how to foster and govern. 
  5. We need to see the leaders and people regularly lay hands on others for blessing and for healing and not give up until we see it happening.  
  6. Of course, all of this depends on motivating our people into personal devotional life where they daily receive new renewal in the Spirit and learn to live their day in the Spirit. 

The great last scholar, Jon Mark Ruthven, argued that life in the prophetic and the power of the Spirit is part of the essence of the New Covenant. We also do pray for revival and trust that revival will lead us back to these emphases. 

A Most Momentous Month, May 2023

The most momentous day in history during my lifetime and maybe in centuries will take place on May 28, 2023. On this day, over 100 million people will be networked for fasting and prayer for the salvation of Israel. Here is a little history. 

In March 1983, Mike Bickle, the founding leader of the International House of Prayer, was given a prophecy that his calling was to raise up a prayer movement that would lead to 100 million intercessors praying for the salvation of Israel. At that point, he had hardly any sense of the importance of Israel/the Jewish people and their irrevocable election. However, he received this word and did have a prayer and fasting time in May 1983 with his local community.  

Now 40 years later, the 24/7 prayer movement has become very large. The point has been reached where over 100 million people are networked for a world prayer day for the salvation of Israel on May 28th. Over one million are embracing fasting and praying for 21 days to lead up to the great day of prayer at the end of May. Lou Engle will lead prayer at the Southern Steps of the Temple on that day. 

In addition, at the end of January, Jewish ministry leaders and Church leaders, some with significant roles in world leadership, came together to discuss the past and future of the Messianic Jewish communities. They committed together to pray and fast on May 28th for the outpouring of the Spirit and greatly needed revival in the Messianic Jewish communities.  

I believe we are moving into the most momentous of days. I expect we will see a revival in the Messianic Jewish communities. I believe we will also see an alignment of the Church with Israel and the Messianic Jewish community. Toward Jerusalem Council II has been working toward that alignment for 28 years. Our ministry, Restoration from Zion of Tikkun Global has been working for this in parallel to Toward Jerusalem Council II. Tikkun Global itself is our family of ministries that is committed to an alignment that someday will lead to the salvation of Israel. We are all in on the prayer movement from IHOP and have been in partnership for 33 years. If you want to link to IHOP during May for encouragement for your fasting and prayer, please sign in to their streaming service for this purpose. Revival in the Messianic Jewish community will be a game changer. It will establish a more biblical theology of Holy Spirit power and successful advance for the Gospel. Let us pray and believe for great things. 

Congregational and Leadership Government and Accountability

The teaching course on government and accountability in congregations is called polity. To graduate and be ordained in the association I joined (Presbyterian, 1972), I had to take a course in polity. My first congregation, The First Hebrew Christian Church in Chicago, eventually became one of the first four Messianic Jewish congregations that continued into the future in North America. The name was changed to Adat HaTikvah. However, in the days before that, I sought to come to an understanding of biblical polity. What did I come to believe? Here is a little instrument to help people deal with the question. The survey is a yes or no survey. I note that there are some people who would agree with the statements listed. This will help you to think out where you stand in the light of the Bible’s teaching. 

  1. I believe that local congregations should be run by a senior pastor who should make all the final decisions, and all members should submit to him. He may have advisory elders, but the decisions are his to make. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  2. I believe congregations should be primarily governed and run by a plurality of elders without any designated lead elder or pastor. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  3. I believe that though the final authority in a congregation is in the plurality of elders, there should be a lead elder or pastor-teacher that gives leadership and casts the primary vision for the congregation. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  4. I believe that the final authority in a congregation should be by the vote of the members. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  5. I believe that congregation members, though not the final authority, are part of the decision-making process and should confirm major directional decisions and the budget from the elders before the elders can move forward. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  6. I believe congregations should be fully independent. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  7. I believe that congregations and their leaders should be linked in associations and mutually accountable. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  8. I believe that the right model of congregational government and leadership is not independence or under the commandment of an association leader, but semi-autonomous where the decisions are primarily the responsibility of the local elders but where an issue of moral failure or in other crises, the leaders of the association will be involved to help resolve such matters. ( ) Yes ( ) No 
  9. I believe that God raises the leader of an association and all should submit to him as the decision-maker for the association and for all the congregations in the areas where he chooses to make decisions and policy. Other matters are left to the local leaders. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  10. I believe that congregations and leaders are organized better when they are members of associations where equipping leaders can travel to strengthen congregations through their equipping ability. Equipping also takes place in joint gatherings. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  11. I believe that it is important to define government in written documents locally and also in writing for associations so that there are checks and can balances so all are protected from imbalance. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  12. I believe that it is best to not define government in writing, either locally or in associations, since we should just trust one another and be led by the Spirit. ( ) Yes ( ) No
  13. Associations of congregations are stronger and more fruitful if they are led by a visionary and capable leader. ( ) Yes ( ) No  

Are we moving to an amazing replay of first century Israel history?

It is commonly taught that we are seeing a lineup of nations against Israel, a setup that seems like a replay of the first century but with one amazing difference.  Instead of Jerusalem’s destruction, the last days’ final war against Jerusalem will lead to Israel’s full victory with the return of Yeshua.  Zechariah 12 and 14 make this very clear.

One aspect for those who do not live in Israel might seem quite amazing.  It is that the divisions in Israel seem in some ways quite analogous to the first century.  We have Jewish secularists who still desire to be Israeli Jews but are like those who were very Hellenized in the first century.  They like the Sadducees do not believe in angels, demons, or the inspiration of the prophets.  The Ultra-Orthodox are like the strict Shammai Pharisees who believed that living strictly in accord with myriads of multiplied laws would make us so holy that the Messiah would come and bring us victory.  We also have the Zealots of our day who want to take the whole Land now and push the Arabs out of the Land.  Recently, in response to a terrorist attack, some of these modern Zealots have rioted against the nearby Palestinian village, burning cars and houses and shooting at civilian innocents.  These folks and their leaders are not democratic libertarians. The Prime Minister spoke out against this anarchy, but two of the party leaders in his coalition support the reactive violence and are frustrated at him.  Yeshua warned that the Zealots would gain ascendancy and Jerusalem would be destroyed.  As in the first century, there are also religious Jews of a more open and tolerant stream like the Hillel Pharisees of old.  Will the nations unjustly invade, maybe in some kind of U. N. action in response to zealot policies?  Maybe. Or will it be a Muslim invasion of the surrounding nations supported by the rest of the nations (writers W. Shobat and J. Richardson)?  We don’t know.

However, as in the first century, there is a growing Messianic Jewish community.  In the first century, the destruction of Jerusalem did not lead to repentance and the embrace of Yeshua, though the prophecies He gave were clear and fulfilled.  However, this time, the witness of the Messianic Jews with the whole Body of Believers will lead to the embrace of Yeshua before Jerusalem is destroyed.  He will return to rule and reign forever.

In Memory of Dr. Jack Hayford

Many are writing about Dr. Jack Hayford.  It is remarkable how many leaders see him as a personal friend.  Many are writing about him and their connection.  I have such a story as well.

My connection with Jack began indirectly in the Spring of 1995 when Rabbi Marty Waldman received the vision for a second Jerusalem Council and the project he first called Jerusalem Council II.  It later became Toward Jerusalem Council II.   Marty shared this vision with the three other Executives of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations of which I was one.  Marty was the President.  We confirmed the vision.  Marty said that God spoke to him to fly to Israel where Jack was doing a seminar for Pastors.  If Jack confirmed this, then he was to work to bring it about. We confirmed Marty going and the Union put up money for the trip.  Jack enthusiastically embraced the vision. He said we could use his name, his stationary, and more to foster this vision.  He eventually became the President of the International Church of the Four Square Gospel.  Their executive eventually signed the Seven Affirmations of TJCII.

I first met Jack in person at a Promise Keepers planning meeting after Coach Bill McCartney became convinced to include Messianic Jewish leaders. Jack was warm and welcoming to us.  Subsequently, Coach and Raleigh Washington sponsored a great conference of thousands in Palm Springs, The Road to Jerusalem.  I was a speaker as was Jonathan Bernis, other Messianic Jews, and Jack Hayford.  It was a great conference where I gave the message that is to this day my most listened to, Messianic Jewish Theology in 15 Minutes.  Jack enthusiastically endorsed this message.

Jack sent a wonderful video greeting for my 40th anniversary of ministry in May of 2012 at the Tikkun national conference.

The real lasting fruit came when Jonathan Bernis and met with Jack and the leaders of the newly formed The King’s College and Seminary (now The King’s University.)  We approached him to consider having a Messianic Jewish joint program with our school, Messianic Jewish Bible Institute.  Jack was enthusiastic.  We even interviewed key faculty to vet their understanding of the continued Jewish calling of Messianic Jews.  I became a visiting professor and taught at the Van Nuys campus annually, Messianic Jewish Theology, Apologetics, New Testament, and Eschatology.  Most years Jack and I would have dinner together.  The school was at the Church On The Way campus.  Before the real estate meltdown in 2007-8 Jack gave me a tour of the hospital he was planning to buy for the school.  It would have dorms, classrooms, offices, and more.  Alas, the meltdown ended those plans. Jack’s vision of the school as a school that was flexible in the way of offering courses, academically solid, and which would empower in the Spirit. Jack eventually transferred the school to Gateway Church under Robert Morris.  The King’s University thrives and the Jewish program continues under the able leadership of Dr. David Rudolph.  And yes, I am still a visiting professor.

One year I was so very privileged.  Jack sponsored an annual leadership conference at the Church on the Way.  Amazingly I was invited to present two keynote addresses to over 1000 leaders. One was, What Kind of Church Must there Be to Make Israel Jealous and to see the Return of Jesus?  The second was, What kind of Messianic Jewish Movement Must There Be to see the return of Jesus? Jack graciously embraced these messages and endorsed them at the meeting.

When Jack spoke, he said that he never sought to build a mega-church but a faithful church. And so it was, and it became mega.  Jack had a deep integrity, humility and how we need more like him!  As Jack was aging, he recommended Pastor Jerry Dirman to carry on his work in the Four Square for the Jewish connection.  He was again preparing the way.

In 1986, 1,100 gathered at the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia at the Sheridan Hotel.  The Friday Erev Shabbat service began with Israel’s Hope leading the worship.  There was a processional of Torah Scrolls from the regional congregations.  We sang Jack’s hymn, Majesty.  Harvey Smith, our treasurer, turned to me and said, we might as well go home now because nothing is going to be better than this.  The presence of the Spirit was amazing.  Now Jack arrives in heaven and no doubt hears the human and angel choirs singing Majesty. Goodbye, for now, you were a great friend and friend to the Jewish people and the Messianic Jewish Community especially.