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. 

Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., Biology of Belief

I consider the Biology of Belief to be an important book. For many years, I have heard the statement from Dr. Lipton, a Ph. D. cell biologist formerly of Stanford, that a person always does what he or she believes in their heart – not what they profess.  

Over 50 years of pastoral experience has taught me how true this is!  How many times I have been disappointed by passionate professions that came to nothing!  More than 50 years ago I remember a couple who were about 30 years old.  The husband spoke to me at the end of our service and stated that his experience at our services was the best thing he had experienced in a congregation.  They said they would become part of the community.  We were a small congregation, and I was excited.  We could use an energetic, young, and enthusiastic couple who were excited about my preaching and the worship service.  That was the last time I ever saw them.  This pattern of profession without follow through was repeated countless times in my experience, for congregational commitment, marriage recommitment, financial discipline, devotional life, breaking bad habits, disciplining children, and so much more.  Time after time, people would make a profession of commitment and then?  This is a common pattern seen in some circles where there are invitations to come forward and repent of sin.  Some come forward over and over and never change.  I came to understand that a person may think they mean what they say, but it is not a heart commitment.  The goal of preaching, small group formation, and the presence of the Spirit in power is to bring profession to real belief, that is heart conviction.  When heart conviction is established, real change happens.  This has been so in our in our marriage where we have learned to live in love. 

Lipton’s book, though ending with new age spirituality and a belief in life after death, provides a philosophical/scientific case to explode the mechanistic materialistic understanding of science.  He shows that cell biology itself disproves such mechanistic views. Rather the cell itself, and its very membrane shows a level of purpose and adaptation.  I think he proves his case that we are not determined by our genes, but genes and cells respond to environments.  In the debate between genes (nature) and nurture, he comes down on the side of nurture.  He also notes that quantum physics presents us with an ultimately spiritual world and the physical is a manifestation of that reality.  While not positing the design thesis like Dr. Gerald Schroeder, The Science of God and The Hidden Face of God, Lipton’s book would give credibility to those who so argue.  We see in the book by one of America’s most famous philosophers, Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, an amazing rejection of Darwinism as usually understood.  He still seeks to remain an atheist but notes that evolution seems to be connected to something of mind that permeates the material world, maybe in a more animistic sense.  As C. S. Lewis said, “An atheist can not be too careful nowadays.”  There are dangers everywhere to challenge that atheism.  Bruce Lipton’s book is one of those challenges. 

Most of Lipton’s writings are presented to disprove the materialistic science that has dominated western culture.  He then goes on to show that our lives are determined by our beliefs, but not the superficial level of belief of the conscious mind, but the deep level of beliefs in the subconscious.  This level of belief actually changes our cells.  A joyful and successful life is all about establishing the right beliefs.  This requires reprograming our subconscious.  Lipton is not just arguing for positive thinking (Norman Vincent Peale- The Power of Positive Thinking). He states that this usually does not work.  Rather methods are presented to get to the deeper subconscious.  This almost seems like a new age parallel to Word of Faith teaching (Kenneth Hagin) were the confession of the Word goes deep into our inner man, heart or spirit, and changes our lives.  It produces deep belief/conviction.  

The book is moving in the right direction but is quite short of biblical faith.  The Bible teaches the importance of faith and it does not mean just mental ascent or even profession, but something deeper and more settled.  In the Bible, such change comes from the power of the Word that becomes grafted into our hearts.  It comes from community formation whereby the individual changes on the subconscious level.  In the Life Model Works movement, Jim Wilder and Michael Hendricks (The Other Half of Church) argue that discipleship formation produces habits and settled conviction that can only happen in the sociological context of committed community together with mature people who impart themselves.  The challenge is that we have to get our beliefs deep down inside and really agree with what the Bible says in its promises and its moral and behavioral instruction.  This is a key to seeing spiritual and physical healing in our ministry to others.  

My takeaway from Lipton’s book is to remember that for ourselves and those whom we pastor, we are seeking to see belief formation on the deeper levels of both the conscious and unconscious mind, both the left and right brains!   It is also to be confident that we live in an ultimately spiritual world. 

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.

Charismatic in Name Only

It was the end of October 1967.  I was in a time of great skepticism as I worked hard on courses in my junior year at Wheaton College.  A chapel forum included the pastor of a nearby church who claimed that the people of his church had received the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and practiced their expression.  Maybe I could find a miracle to confirm faith.  Soon after I found myself on a double-blind date with a new friend.  As we left the women off at the Wheaton College nursing school, we spoke about the chapel speaker.  We both wanted to go, and so we went together in my car the following week for their Sunday evening gathering.   

The church would later grow to over 600 in its evening meeting with many Wheaton students and a handful of professors as well.  At this point in time, the gathering was small, maybe 35 people.  There were tongues and interpretations, prophecy and prayers for healing.  It was a small intimate meeting. The questions loomed.  “Were these people really speaking from a supernatural Spirit?  Is this really I Corinthians 14 in practice?  I attended this church from then until the end of May 1969.   At that time, the church represented what was happening in the early charismatic movement.  It was a movement whose leaders and people were zealous to practice the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and who would regularly manifest tongues, interpretation, prophecy, healing, deliverance, and more.  For those who experienced those exciting days, it was like a return to the book of Acts.

In recent years I have connected to leaders, congregations, and movements of congregations that were zealous to practice the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit and to see miracles.  More recently, I pointed to the famous John Wimber and his Vineyard congregational movement.  His large congregation of 7,000 in Anaheim, California, which I visited in 1989, was notable for the manifestations of the Spirit and even in the very large congregation. This included tongues, interpretation, prophecy, words of knowledge prophecy, amazing healings, and more.  There would also be manifestations of prophecy and healings on the cutting edge of evangelism.  Wimber practice a freer orientation in his large gathering than in our practice where only those who were vetted for maturity would minister publicly in the spoken gifts.

In recent years we have been concerned that our congregations really experience the gifts of the Spirit as a normal part of their life together.  We have invited Sid Roth, Robbie Dawkins, and last year Randy Clark.  I think our last conference in Tikkun America made the greatest gains.  We desire that our congregations’ experience be a supernatural normal.

I have noticed that many congregations that claim to be charismatic or Pentecostal seem to rarely practice public gifts of the Spirit if at all.  They are not manifested in the larger service or in home groups (the house gathering is rightly understood as the context in I Cor. 14).  We see many that do not promote immersion (baptism) in the Holy Spirit on a regular basis.  Perhaps the majority of congregations in Israel are known as charismatic.  However, one senior leader who has been ministering for decades told me that most congregations simply do not practice seeing people immersed in the Spirit by speaking in tongues or the other gifts of the Spirit.  I see this in America too, even with Vineyard congregations that were formerly very oriented to gifts and manifestations.  How can this be?

I have written before on what I call the second law of spiritual thermodynamics.  The general second law of thermodynamics says that the Universe is in a process of entropy increase, meaning that the Universe is using up energy and will come to energy exhaustion.  Unless there is an infusion of energy outside of the Universe, this entropy will lead to the death of the Universe.  In the same way, it seems that individuals and congregations need periodic infusions of the energy of the Holy Spirit.  As one person said, the Bible says we are to “Be being filled by the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), but we are leaky buckets.   This might be part of the explanation. Unless we are zealous to live Spirit filled, this can indeed happen.

However, I think part of the problem is that leaders have been sold on directions that are producing a sub-normal congregational life.  My sense of this was greatly increased after reading Randy Clarks two books, Baptism in the Spirit, and Intimacy with God through Obedience. The magisterial book The Cessation of the Charismata by John Mark Ruthvan was also an amazing read.

Here is my sense of the reasons.

  1. First, many leaders though having had a charismatic experience, baptism in the Spirit and speaking in tongues, just do not know how to impart the experience to others or promote it in their congregations.  They do not have confidence in themselves to promote it.
  2. Secondly, many leaders to not have confidence to govern a gathering with charismatic manifestations.  They back off due to their insecurity.  This could be overcome by training under those who are capable in this, but they do not seek out this training. They may give themselves to the excuses in the next reasons given below.  These reasons, however, are not necessarily due to insecurity but may be.
  3. It is thought that charismatic manifestations will be a distraction in large gatherings and will turn away seekers who will be confused and put off.  Of course, that may happen but if done in right order with good government, my experience is that this reality really draws people.  There are churches like Wimber’s that had many thousands, and the reality of real words of knowledge and healings drew thousands.
  4. Some leaders of large congregations see that what they are doing is drawing large numbers.  The multi-media, upbeat professional type worship, and engaging message with humor draws many.  These services are managed to the minute and all is planed out to perfection.  There just is no space for spiritual manifestations. These are in two groups.  Those who believe that ministry with the gifts is important and foster it in small groups and those who do not foster it at all though they may have experienced immersion in the Spirit and pray in tongues.

My answer to this is that this may be a sociological phenomenon but may not have the last that some think.  When Paul said his preaching was with the manifestation of power so their faith would not rest on the merely human (say psychological and sociological, can we have a superior position than Paul and his instructions in I Cor. 12-14?

I believe that the progress of the Gospel will of course be much greater when we walk out fully the pattern that is in the New Covenant Scriptures. I do want to affirm that the preached word itself does have power to convict and can be effective.  However, this is only one great tool in the Holy Spirit tool box.

Here are some guidelines for change.

  1. If you as a leader and are not experiencing the full New Covenant gifts reality in your community, submit to someone who is and learn to foster and govern.
  2. While I believe we should make space for gifts in all our gatherings, the way this is done in large gatherings I believe is best done through vetted people who have proven their quality and who minister in submission to moderating elders.  This is a key to success.  In the smaller house gatherings, as Paul says, there is time for all to express themselves in word gifts.
  3. Read books that will motivate you so you will not accept “charismatic in name only” as acceptable.
  4. Famous Pastor Don Finto, at 92 years old, exhorted us in our Tikkun Israel leaders retreat, to be constantly laying hands on people until we see physical healing, impartation, and soul healing.

I wanted to also say something about prophecy and public tongues that are meant as a spoken word given for interpretation.  I Corinthians does not limit the number of people who can prophecy or give tongues and interpretation.  This would obviously contradict I Cor. 14 which says all can speak in turn. It rather limits us to two or three messages of prophecy or tongues and interpretation at a time.

Paul seems to elevate prophecy for its ability to encourage and convict by supernatural knowledge. Yet, he then notes that tongues with interpretation can really be important was well.  People have asserted that tongues when interpreted is the same thing as prophecy. However, the great Pentecostal scholar, Gordon Fee (my wife Patty’s professor at Wheaton College over 50 years ago) argued that tongues is usually prayer to God and prophecy is a message from God to the people (His Empowering Presence).  My view is that Fee’s analysis of Scripture was correct.  The general sense both in Romans 8 of the Spirit interceding for us beyond what we can speak or comprehend and I Cor. 14 that the one who speaks in tongues speaks mysteries to God, shows that tongues is usually prayer to God.  Fee proves that the phrase praying in the Spirit means praying in tongues.  When tongues and interpretation is exercised in a congregation, the Spirit is searching the deep things of God and expressing the heart of God in prayer beyond mere human ability.  When interpreted it shows this heart of the Spirit and can lift a congregation to great heights in prayer.

It was a strange thing to me as young man to find that classic Pentecostal congregations had tongues and interpretation but few or no prophetic words.  It almost was a culture that was saying that without tongues being spoken first people could not speak by the Spirit. In charismatic circles, prophecy was common but then it was as if their culture was saying why give a public message in tongues since tongues and interpretation were thought to be equivalent to prophecy.  It was as if messages in tongues were superfluous.  Gordon Fee clears up that misunderstanding.  Tongues and interpretation are not superfluous.

How Close Are we to the Return of Yeshua?

I believe we are seeing trends and events today that could mean that we are very close to the return of Yeshua.

I was recently at a convocation-dialogue with 40 key Church leaders and Messianic Jewish leaders, including leaders of Pentecostal denominations and prayer movement leaders.  It was an amazing time.  Our thrust was to see a much more effective growth in Jewish numbers in the Messianic Jewish movement because the increase in the saved remnant is part of what leads all Israel to be saved, to life from the dead (Rom.11:14, 15).   

Other efforts are being made whose leaders see their efforts as carrying eschatological (last days) implications (last days) leading to his return.   First, there is a huge effort to see every people group have the Bible in their language and to be given an adequate witness of the Gospel by 2033.  I believe that the best scholarship places the death and resurrection of Yeshua at Passover/ Firstfruits in the year A. D. 33.  So, it really could be 2000 years.  I don’t believe in date setting but this is an amazing project with an date that is intentional.  Their vision is rooted in our shared understanding that the Gospel of the Kingdom must be preached to every people group before He returns. (Matt. 24:14, 15).

There is also a great move of unity. We may not see it in each local region, but I hope this will change. However, in China or Indonesia or many other regions, the unity is very strong. The World Evangelical Alliance networks 600 million Evangelicals. Four-hundred million are Pentecostal and Charismatic. They agree with the vision of the 2033 project and see completing the task of world evangelism as preceding the Second Coming. They expect more and more revivals to push this forward. However, on the unity front, they see themselves working for John 17:21 unity. The prayer of Yeshua that his followers will be One that the World might believe is seen, and I believe rightly, to be about the Second Coming.

Our part is the emphasis on making Israel jealous, leading to life form the dead (Rom. 11:14, 15).  This is so important. However, we are joined in the other regards.

These are all happy thoughts.  However, there is a sad aspect to last days events that peoples will be given to gross sin which leads to terrible judgments.  The book of Revelation shows this. Some years ago, the great jurist Robert Bork, a nominee for the Supreme Court, wrote Slouching Toward Gomorrah.  It was a profound book that outlined how the culture was defining freedom in terms of allowing more and more debauchery.  Western culture is no longer slowly slouching toward but running headlong to debauchery.  Some debauchery is even being celebrated as a new “wokeness.”  However, this could be a sign. Could revivals hold back this headlong rush? But as Coach McCartney of Promise Keepers said some years ago, there will be revival on a platter of ruin.  We don’t really know for sure.

However, all of this together could indicate that His coming is soon.

Passion for the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit

In recent years I have been again challenged by the truth that there is so much more Presence and power (ability) in the Holy Spirit available but not received or walked out. In recent years, we have been challenged by Robbie Dawkins who spoke for us in Israel and in America, and Dr. Randy Clark who was our keynote speaker and ministry leader at the Tikkun America Conference at the end of May and early June.  Since that time, I have been reading more books by Randy Clark. I have found his books to be theologically solid and very challenging. (Especially see his Intimacy with God.) He also recommended a book by John Mark Ruthven, The Cessation of the Charismata, an amazing work of scholarship by the late professor of theology at Regent University with over 600 footnotes.  Previously I read Dr. Craig Keener’s monumental Miracles.  Keener’s two large volumes are amazing scholarship, both a theology of the miraculous and its role in evangelism and among believers, while documenting real miracles all over the world.  His book on the Holy Spirit, Gift, and Giver is also a great read. Some years earlier, I read the great volume by Dr.Gordon Fee, His Empowering Presence, on this doctrine in the Pauline writings.

Here is my summary.

The writings show that so much more is available than even most Pentecostals/Charismatics believe and walk in.  Miracles, signs, and wonder will be a key to the harvest in the West just as it is in the majority world.  Much is based on coming to a place where we know the prophetic word (rhema) of the Spirit and the prophetic in us leading us to speak, to pray for, and to see the work of the Spirit in our sharing and in our ministering within the Body and outside to those who do not know Him.  Ruthven proves that the prophetic is a central aspect of the meaning of the New Covenant, a foundational benefit.  However, few really attain it.  For Clark and Ruthven, it should be a normal and very frequently experienced reality.  Clark does a great job of showing how much the Glory of God in the New Covenant Scriptures is connected to his revelation through the miraculous.  Of course, there are other aspects of his Glory, but so many miss how much the desire of Yeshua to reveal his Glory through us is through using us in signs, wonders, and miracles.  Glory of course, has other manifestations including the love etched into the face of a saint or acts of sacrificial love.  However, the miraculous is a central part of fulfilling the prayer of Yeshua in revealing His Glory through us.

Once we understand this, it is hard to understand how people who are charismatic can easily be joined to communities that are not passionately pursuing the Spirit and his power.  For me, I must be joined in a community of people who are in unity in seeking God for more of his presence and power.

A call to Messianic Jews in Israel, Essay 24 

We have now come to this last short essay.  We have covered the basics of Classical Dispensationalism and our difficulties with this theology.  Now I want to address Israel.  I believe that Classical Dispensational theology is a foreign imposition upon Israel. It is true that we cannot do our Messianic Jewish/Israeli theology without reference to the scholars and theologies that have dominated the Christian world.  In addition, we should have reference to the Messianic Jewish scholars of the Diaspora.  We do affirm the emphasis of Dispensational Theology that Israel, the Jewish people, continued after the first century to be God’s elect people and are still elect.  However, the dispensational ways of definition, that there are two peoples of God, two plans, an earthly plan and salvation for Israel, and a heavenly salvation and plan for the Church are very problematic.  We especially see this breakdown in Paul’s calling Messianic Jews the saved remnant of Israel and also the first fruits that sanctify the rest of the nation of Israel (Rom. 11:5, 16).  At the same time, they are the Jewish part of the one new man of Ephesians 2.  Dispensational ways of defining grace over against law, the tribulation period with the absent church, and more are very problematic.  The sometimes narrow mentality that is so critical of others is not helpful. 

Dispensational theology becomes part of the mentality of people.  People may not have ever been given a systematic presentation, but the way they talk about law (often quite negatively) and grace (often as hyper-grace salvation that requires no repentance or change of life) is very sad.  “You are not going back under the Law, are you?”  “Are you Judaizing?”  In addition, there is no passion for Last Day’s revival and unity.  These hopes should motivate and excite. Even if we do not see them fulfilled in our lifetime, these hopes can lead to greater passion in prayer and cooperation in unity.  There is a profound optimism that the best is yet to be, even the very best for the Body of the Messiah before the return of the Lord.  Yes, darkness will cover the earth, but there will also be a great harvest through world revival. 

Non-Dispensationalists use more adequate language when speaking about the Gospel.  They speak of extending the Kingdom through the Gospel of the Kingdom, whereas dispensationalists only speak of people being saved (not wrong but needs additional language too).  The more adequate language of George Ladd (The Gospel of the Kingdom) and Dallas Willard (Divine Conspiracy) is very helpful.  The wrong language produces some blindness.  We “see” through the language we use. 

Will we in Israel become a movement of supernatural power, revival, and signs and wonders confirming evangelism?  Will we attain John 17:21 unity in Israel and with our church partners?  We believe that all this will happen, but this will require going beyond dispensationalism. 

Are there Dispensations, Essay 23

Sometimes Dispensationalists ask us if we cannot see that it is obvious that there are dispensations, different periods demarked in Scripture that show God’s working in different periods of time with different requirements and tests for the human race.  The answer is yes and no.  Reformed theologians and Calvin himself used the term dispensation to refer to a unique period with unique requirements.  We could all probably use the term dispensation more frequently if it was not associated with a total system of theology, Classical Dispensationalism.   In this essay, I will accept the use of the term but will explain how the problem is Classical Dispensational definitions and descriptions of these dispensations.

There clearly was a change after Adam and Eve fell.  There was a pre-fall period however brief and then the period from that fall to Noah.  The period until Noah was not one without law for it is clear that Noah knew that standards from God (law) were being severely violated by the society of his day.  After the flood, a new era had begun. The salvation of Noah and his family was by grace but required his faith obedience.  After the flood, the promise was given of never again destroying the earth with a flood. Laws were also given, to not eat blood from animals killed for food and to exact the death penalty for murder.  Certainly, many other standards of right and wrong were known.  These standards were no doubt known to Abraham. Before the Covenant of Abraham, we can thus count three dispensations, Innocence, Pre-Flood, and Post flood to Abraham. There is no contrast of grace versus law in these periods. 

A new dispensation began with Abraham and his family but most of the world continued under the covenant God made with Noah. The Noahic Covenant does not end.  However, for Israel, there was a new order of promise.  Dispensationalists sometimes call the period from Abraham to Moses a dispensation of promise, and that it was.  The Abrahamic Covenant continues to be in effect until today.  It was not without law.  Indeed, Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God (Gen. 15:6) but in Genesis 26:5 because he obeyed God’s statutes, ordinances, and judgments.  Abraham knew at least part of the Law of God that was later incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant!  

God hundreds of years later made his constitution for Israel through Moses, the Mosaic Covenant material from Exodus 20 through Deuteronomy (Davarim).   The Abrahamic Covenant is not replaced but is permanent.  Thomas McComiskey asserts in his fine book, Covenants of Promise, the Mosaic Covenant was a temporary administration of the Abrahamic Covenant.   It is a covenant of grace, not a law covenant that challenged Israel to find salvation through law-keeping.  We have already written about this.  This brings us to a fifth dispensation.  

The Mosaic Covenant is not abolished but is superseded in the New Covenant.  All that is applicable from Moses for the New Covenant order is assumed to be applied in the New Covenant (Matthew 5:17,18, Romans 8:4). The New Covenant in Yeshua is made with Israel but then is applied to those from the nations who embrace the apostolic witness and are grafted into the Jewish olive tree.  The New Covenant is the permanent administration of the Mosaic Covenant and comes to fullness in the Millennial Age. 

After the return of Yeshua, we will enter the Age to Come or the seventh dispensation, the Millennial Age.  It is also a dispensation of grace with a response of obedience to the law. 

The New Heavens and the New Earth are eternity and not one of the seven just as eternity past before the creation is not a dispensation.  We can therefore see that there are dispensations, but we describe the contrasts and continuum in very different ways. 

The Gifts of the Spirit, the Power of God and Dispensationalism, Essay 22

Reformed theology (Calvin, Reformed Church theologians, and Presbyterian theologians) generally taught that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and power of God’s manifestations were for the purpose of launching the first-century Ecclesia and are not for today.  Once the Bible was written these gifts were no longer needed, especially revelatory gifts since we had God’s written revelation.  The perfect had come, the Bible, and that which was imperfect, the gifts, were no longer needed.  This included the gifts of apostles and prophets in Eph. 4:11 ff.  This was fully argued over 100 years ago in the book Counterfeit Miracles by Princeton Professor Benjamin Warfield.  (Warfield was responding to those who accepted these gifts such as A. J. Gordon of Gordon College and A. B. Simpson of the Christian and Missionary Alliance).  Dispensational teachers picked up this teaching and added a new twist.  The gifts of the Spirit were meant for a transitional period in moving from the Mosaic Dispensation of Law to the New Covenant Dispensation of Grace.  These gifts are not for this present Dispensation of Grace.  This is still in the statement of faith for all faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary.  These views are known as cessationism.  

This is a strange teaching since all of the passages on supernatural gifts (Romans 12, I Cor. 12, 14, etc.) do not give any time limits but assume their continuation until the return of Yeshua.  It is also the consensus of commentators that when “that which is perfect is come” refers to the Age to Come and the Age of the direct rule of Yeshua.  If we add the text from Eph. 4:11 we note that it teaches that the listed leadership gift ministries for the “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” continues until we come to unity and the full maturity of the Messiah.  This is well interpreted in Craig Keeners great book Spirit Hermeneutics.  

The two great refutations of this cessationism are exegetical and empirical.  The most complete exegetical refutation I know is John Mark Ruthven’s, The Cessation of the Charismata.  Professor Ruthven takes on Warfield in a comprehensive review.  He exegetes passage after passage to show that part of the essence of the New Covenant is the presence of the Spirit that shows Himself in the prophetic gifting in all believers.  It is an amazing study.  Also, Gordon Fee’s His Empowering Presence on the teaching of the Spirit in the Pauline corpus shows cessationism to be an impossible interpretation.  

The second refutation is that worldwide, but especially in Southern Hemisphere Christianity, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and signs and wonders are a significant part of the progress of the Gospel.  It is real, miraculous, and not imagination. Today the leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance estimate that they network 600 million Christians, 400 million are Pentecostal=Charismatics, and 200 million non-Charismatics.  Why 400 million?  The supernatural is key to the advance of the Gospel.  Craig Keener is today the President of the prestigious Evangelical Theological Society.  His two-volume set, Miracles, the Credibility of New Testament Miracles is definitive.  The same kind of miracles seen in the pages of the New Testament are happening frequently all over the world, but especially in the Southern Hemisphere.  Keener traveled the world To document many examples of most of the same kinds of miracles as in the New Testament. His book is affirmed by many Evangelical scholars in the United States.   The Classical Dispensational view on miracles today and the supernatural gifts of the Spirit has certainly been refuted.