“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’”
How does a person truly know that they are saved? That really isn’t a difficult question to answer. To know Jesus personally is to love Him personally.
This love for Jesus carries its own witness in the heart of every believer. And it is this love for Jesus that becomes the major guidepost in the life of all who belong to Him.
For all true believers, a love for Jesus and faith in Jesus are inseparable. They are very much the same.
Peter puts a face on how the love of Jesus and faith in Jesus are connected –
“…so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable … though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” 1Pe 1:7,8
A Love that is Divine
It is important to understand what distinguishes a believer’s love for Jesus from all other religions in general. Actually it is this love for Jesus that differentiates Biblical Christianity from Orthodox Judaism, from the Isl?mic faith, and from every other religion to be found on planet earth.
A believer’s love for Jesus is the same love that the heavenly Father has for His Son. It is this divine love that encompasses all that salvation in Christ means.
Thus we have the statement, “God is love.” It is this special divine love found only in God, that is poured out into the heart of the true believer. It is this ‘unworldly‘ love that enables the believer to love the way God loves. And so it is this unique love that causes the true Christian to be unlike other people.
In fact the Lord gave one distinguishing sign that would cause people to know that a person belonged to Him. It would be the love sign.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even AS I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:34-35)
What many don’t realize is that the love Jesus is speaking of is a love that is only be found in God Himself. The love Jesus is talking about was not a love to be found in the natural human family before He came into our world. This is why it is so important to understand how God’s love fits into His work of redemption.
Notice how the apostle John uses the term ‘love‘ in his writings. Also note how the apostle identifies this love as a love that is to be found only in God. Thus it is this love in the heart of a believer that gives evidence that a person has truly been born of heaven.
“Beloved, let us loveone another, for loveis from God; and everyone who lovesis born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He lovedus and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1Jn 4:7-11)
The afore Scriptures are self-explaining.
The point being that all true Christians have come to know Jesus Christ personally as the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the One who died for our sins, was buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven; the One of whose eternal blood has been sprinkled on our hearts, and of whom we anxiously await His second coming; the One who is the center of our joy and rejoicing.
It is our love for Jesus and our unique love for one another that sets Christianity apart from all other forms of religion.
This brings me to how Jesus fits into the religions of Islam and of Judaism. I will only address the basic elements of Judaism, as are found in their holy writings, the Talmuds, and the basic elements of Islam, which are found in their holy writings, the Qur’an.
Jesus in Islam…
The teachings about Jesus in Islam are far less pervasive that what you find in Judaism. In Islam, Jesus is given special respect as one of the five great messengers (prophets) of God.
Islam regard Adam as the first prophet and Muhammad as the last prophet. Muhammed’s title is called, ‘Seal of the Prophets.’ The five great prophets (messengers of God), are Noah, Abraham, Noses, Jesus, and Muhammed. None of these are divine.
Islam regards Adam as the first prophet and Muhammad as the last prophet. Muhammad’s title is called, ‘Seal of the Prophets.’ The five great prophets (messengers of God), are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. None of these are divine.
In Islam, Jesus is called the son of the Virgin. However, He is not divine, nor is Jesus accounted as the Son of God; He was not crucified, nor does He have anything to do with the salvation of humanity. The strange one is that while Jesus is considered to be the Messiah, He is not Messiah in the sense as is found in the gospels. Jesus comes in second to Muhammad.
Muslims are taught that when Jesus does return, He will convert the world to Islam.
The point at hand is that while Muslims would never slander Jesus, yet their true knowledge of Him is limited. The people have been trapped in religion of darkness, one that uses militancy as its primary weapon, and one that makes Christianity its arch enemies. In some Isl?mic societies it is a death sentence for any Muslim to convert to Christianity.
The good news is that many millions of Muslim are having their eyes opened and are turning to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Their greatest need is to hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of the Muslims of the world are turning to Jesus because a New Testament has been placed in their hands.
Jesus in Judaism is an altogether different story …
Again keep in mind that there are many levels of Judaism, just as there are many levels of Islam, as well as many levels of Christianity. Actually there are true believers in Jesus Christ among the Jewish people. But religiously speaking that would be an abnormality.
But here I will drawn on the Talmudic writings of the ancient Rabbinic Judaism. These writings remain the holiest books of Orthodox Judaism.
Most people are not aware of how Jesus is treated in the Talmud. Here is a sample:
“He [Onqelos] sent and brought up Jesus the Nazarene (Yeshu ha-notzri) out of his grave by necreomancy and asked him: ‘Who is important in that world?’
Jesus answered, ‘Israel.’
Onqelos: ‘What then about joining them?’
Jesus: ‘Seek their welface, seek not their harm. Whoever touches them is as though he touches the apple of God’s eye!’
Onqelos: ‘What is your punishment?’
Jesus: ‘With boiling excrement.’
There is much more to be said, but this gives the idea. Mary is treated as a whore, and Jesus as the son of a Roman soldier. There are a number of code words for Jesus in the Talmudic writings. None of them very pleasant.
What is the plus side in all this? The plus side is similar to what is happening in Islam. Many Jews are discovering Jesus for who He really is. However, there is a last stage to be reached in Judaism. It began in Jerusalem, it has to end in Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s warfare is not ended.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” (Mat 23:37-39)
Again from the prophet Zechariah:
“And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”
The great question of all generations remains...
Will the Father say to all people,
What have you done with My Son?
Did you treat Him as holy?
Did you trample Him underfoot as nothing of worth?
These questions are eternal salvation questions.
Think about it as you listen to the words of this song – ‘Like a Rose Trampled on the Ground’
May the Lord richly bless you in a discovery of all His will for your life.
“Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior! They will be put to shame and even humiliated, all of them; the manufacturers of idols will go away together in humiliation. Israel has been saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; You will not be put to shame or humiliated to all eternity.” (Isa 45:15-17)
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery–so that you will not be wise in your own estimation–that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.’” (Rom 11:25-27)
There is a mystery that exists between Christianity and Judaism. If you were to categorize the two religions it would be fairly simple: Christianity rests its case upon Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah of the ages. Judaism does not. The picture can be much more complicated but this is the bottom line issue.
Another reason that must be taken into consideration is that the new covenant was actually made with Israel as a people group. This is plainly stated in Scripture. And so the redemption of the cross began in Jerusalem, it reaches into all the world, and it will fulfill its end in Jerusalem.
Yes, Israel is going to turn to Jesus.
A Story not Ended
In this very hour there are untold numbers of Jews who are turning to Jesus as the true Messiah of Israel. The hearts of many Jews are tiring of all the misinformation written about Jesus by their sages and otherwise.
For centuries the Jewish people did not even know that Jesus and all the apostles were ‘sabras’. (Native born Israeli.) It had been planted in their thinking that Jesus was some sort of Roman god, or at best an apostate Jew. Jews everywhere are beginning to realize that Jesus Christ is indeed the Savior of all people.
The heart of the Jew is turning.
It is here that I would like to share the testimony of how certain Jewish notables over time have come to view Jesus. Please take your time to read these testimonies:
The testimony of notable Jews, about Jesus…
Joseph Klausner, Jewish author:
“Jesus was a Jew and a Jew he remained till his last breath. His one idea was to implant within his nation the idea of the coming of the Messiah and, by repentance and good works, hasten the ‘end’…. In all this, Jesus is the most Jewish of Jews, more Jewish than Simeon ben Shetah, more Jewish even than Hillel.”
Modern Jewish theologian and rabbi, Pinchas Lapide, notes:
“The love of Jesus and the academic interest in him and his impact were implanted in me by Jewish teachers like Joseph Klausner, for whom Jesus was ‘The most Jewish of all Jews,’ Martin Buber, who perceived him as ‘his great brother,’ and Leo Baeck, the last luminary of the German school of rabbis, who in the year 1938 at the time of the Nazi Kristallnacht managed to write of him: ‘We see before us a man who according to all the signs of his personality discloses the Jewish character, in whom the purity and worth of Judaism is so specially and so clearly revealed.’”
Heinrich Graetz, considered by many to be the greatest of Jewish historians:
“Like Hillel, Jesus looked on the promotion of peace and forgiveness of injuries as the highest forms of virtue. His whole being was permeated by that deeper religion which contributed to the mildness of his face. He has made humanity honour; he has carried the highest wisdom to the homes of the lowly and the ignorant of the world. He has carried it beyond all barriers of schools and temples, and for this, only, he had to die a death of shame.
“The redeemer of the poor, the teacher of the ignorant, the friend of all that faint with toil and are oppressed with cares must die on the cross. Over the supreme tragedy let the angel of sorrow spread his wings. Veil thy face, sun! Be darkened, sky! Let the earth tremble and men mourn in tears! The most angelic of men, the most loving of teachers, the meek and humble prophet is to die by the death of the cross.
“He felt within himself the call to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel…. He, by word and example, raised the sinner and the publican, and filled the hearts of those poor, neglected, thoughtless beings with the love of God, transforming them into dutiful children of their Heavenly Father. He animated them with his own piety and fervor, and improved their conduct by the hope he gave them of being able to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Moritz Lazarus, philosopher:
“I am of the opinion that we should endeavor with all possible zeal to obtain an exact understanding of the great personality of Jesus and to reclaim him for Judaism.”
Christ was the mouthpiece of God…
Baruch Spinoza, the great Jewish philosopher:
“Christ was not so much a prophet as the mouthpiece of God. Christ was sent to teach not only Jews, but the whole human race; and therefore it was not enough that his mind should be accommodated to the opinions of the Jews alone, but also to the opinion and fundamental teaching common to the whole human race; in other words, to ideas universal and truth.”
Max Nordau, author and Zionist leader:
“Jesus is the soul of our soul as he is the flesh of our flesh. Who then could think of excluding him from the people of Israel? St. Peter will remain the only Jew who said of the Son of David: ‘I know not the man.’ If the Jews up to the present have not rendered homage to the sublime beauty of the figure of Jesus, it is because their tormentors have always persecuted, tortured and assassinated in his name.”
Dr. Claude Montefiore, president of the Jewish Religious Union:
“I cannot conceive that a time will come when the figure of Jesus will no longer be a star of the first magnitude in the spiritual heavens, when he will no longer be regarded as one of the greatest religious heroes and teachers the world has seen….
“The religion of the future will be, as I believe, a developed and purified Judaism, but from that developed and purified Judaism the records will tell, however imperfectly, of perhaps its greatest teacher. Certainly its most potent and influential teacher will not be excluded.
“We Jews do not mind saying that the greatest influence upon European and American history and civilization has been the Bible. But we too often forget that the Bible which has had this influence is not merely the Old Testament. It is the Old Testament and the New Testament combined.
“And of the two,it is the New Testamentwhich has undoubtedly had the greater influence and has been of the greater importance. Jesus is the most important Jew that has ever lived, to whom the sinner and the outcast age after age have owed a great debt of gratitude.”
Hans Joachim Schoeps, Jewish theologian:
“The church of Jesus Christ has preserved no portrait of its lord and saviour. If Jesus were to come again tomorrow, no Christian would know his face. But it might well be that he who is coming at the end of days, he who is awaited by the synagogue as by the church, is one, with one and the same face.”
Let us Jews be thankful there was a Jesus…
Rabbi Emmanuel Weill:
“Let us then as Jews be thankful there was a Jesus and a Paul. I do not know the secret of God, but I believe that Jesus and Christianity were providential means, useful to the Deity in guiding all men gradually and by an effort, keeping pace with the mental state of the majority of men, from paganism up to the pure and true idea of the divinity.”
Rabbi J.L. Levy:
“I have little but contempt for those who cannot see in Jesus of Nazareth something to admire. I have little respect for those who cannot find in the Nazarene something good and worthy of our deep esteem. I personally regard him as one of the greatest spiritual teachers the world has ever known. I look upon him as one of the noblest spiritual teachers the human family has ever had the privilege of observing. We have great faith in the noble character of his life, in the beauty of his teaching that may safely be attributed to him. We have great admiration for the pure life offered for the good of humanity.”
Rabbi H.G. Enelow, D.D., reform rabbi, writer and scholar:
“Among the great and the good that the human race has produced, none has ever approached Jesus in universality of appeal and sway. He has become the most fascinating figure in history. In him is combined what is best and most mysterious and most enchanting in Israel — the eternal people whose child he was. The Jew cannot help glorying in what he has meant to the world, nor can he help hoping that Jesus may yet serve as a bond of union between Jew and Christian.
“What does the modern Jew think of Jesus? A Prophet? Yes, crowning a great tradition, and who can compute all that Jesus has meant to humanity? The love he has inspired, the solace he has given, the good he has engendered, the hope and joy he has kindled — all that is unequaled in human history.”
Rabbi David Phillipson, Ph.D., reform Jewish leader:
“There is no backwardness nor hesitancy on the part of modern Jewish thought in acknowledging the greatness of the teacher of Nazareth, the sweetness of his character, the power of his genius.”
He was a gift of love…
Rabbi Gross of Brooklyn’s Union Temple:
“I, a rabbi of Israel, think we should accept Jesus. I think we should teach Jesus to children much as we teach them about Abraham, Moses and Jeremiah, and the rest of the great teachers and prophets. Jesus, as we all know, was a Jew. He was a gift of love.”
Rabbi Rudolph Grossman, D.D.:
“We Jews honor the Nazarene as our brother in faith, sprung from our loins, nurtured at Israel’s knee, a teacher of sweet and beautiful ideals, a preacher whose influence has been and still is among the mightiest spiritualizing factors in the world.”
Rabbi Gustav Gottheil, Ph.D., one of the founders of the Federation of American Zionists:
“The keynote of prophetic religion of the Jewish prophets was holiness of life and purity of heart…. To place the Master of Nazareth by their side can surely be no dishonor to him, nor can it dim the luster of his name. If he has added to their spiritual bequests new jewels of religious truth, and spoken words which are words of life, because they touch the deepest springs of the human heart, why should we Jews not glorify in him?”
Rabbi Maurice H. Harris:
“Unlike the Messiahs before him — all mediocre men — his name (Jesus) has been treasured ever since as one of the great religious teachers of the world…. Let us not lose our Almighty Father in pantheistic vagueness, merging Him in nature; let us view Him as our Living redeemer, our Saviour, for we often need to be saved –sometimes from the world, sometimes from ourselves.”
Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Ph.D., founder of the American Jewish Congress and the Federation of American Zionists:
“Even if Jesus had not been born unto Israel, even if he had borne no relation to the people of Israel, it becomes of importance for Israel to determine for itself what shall be its relation to the man who has touched the world nearly two thousand years as has no other single figure in history….It is no mean joy and ignoble pride in us of the House of Israel to recognize, to honor and to cherish among our brothers — Jesus the Jew.”
Had it not been for Jesus, the Jews would be little known…
Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of England:
“The pupil of Moses may ask himself whether all the princes of the House of David have done so much for the Jews as that Prince who was crucified…. Had it not been for him, the Jews would have been comparatively unknown or known only as a high Oriental Caste which had lost its country. Has not he made their history the most famous history in the world?”
Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler, President of Hebrew Union College:
“No ethical system or religious catechism, however broad and pure, could equal the efficiency of this great personality, standing, unlike any other, midway between heaven and earth, equally near to God and to man….
“Jesus, the helper of the poor, the friend of the sinner, the brother of every fellow-sufferer, the comforter of every sorrow-laden, the healer of the sick, the up-lifter of the fallen, the lover of man, the redeemer of woman, won the heart of mankind by storm. Jesus, the meekest of men, the most despised of the despised race of the Jews, mounted the world’s throne to be the earth’s Great King.”
Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof, reform rabbi, scholar and author:
“Scores of men have believed themselves to be the Messiah and have convinced many of their contemporaries, but those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah have built a great church upon
the rock of their belief. He is still the living comrade of countless lives. No Moslem ever sings, ‘Mohammed, lover of my soul’, nor does any Jew say of Moses, the Teacher, ‘I need thee every hour.’”
Ellis Rivkin, professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College:
“Of these Messianic claimants, only one, Jesus of Nazareth, so impressed his disciples that he became their Messiah. And he did so after the very crucifixion which should have refuted his claims decisively. But it was not Jesus’ life which proved beyond question that he was the Messiah, the Christ. It was his resurrection.”
Pinchas E. Lapide, senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University:
“I have the suspicion that Jesus was more loyal to the Torah than I am as an Orthodox Jew.”
David Flusser, professor of religious history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem:
“I do not think that many Jews would object if the Messiah — when he came — was the Jew Jesus.”
Dr. Chaim Zhitlowsky, Jewish scholar and author:
“Every Jew should be proud of the fact that Jesus is our brother, flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood. We desire to put him back where he belongs.”
Is it only the Jew who is unable to see and hear? …
Constantine Brunner, Jewish philosopher:
“What is this?Is it only the Jew who is unable to see and hear?Are the Jews stricken with blindness and deafness as regards Christ, so that to them only he has nothing to say? Is he to be of no importance to us Jews? Understand then what we shall do. We shall bring him back to us.
“Christ is not dead for us — for us he has not yet lived; and he will not slay us, he will make us live again. His profound and holy words, and all that is true and heart-appealing in the New Testament, must from now on be heard in our synagogues and taught to our children, in order that the wrong we had committed may be made good, the curse turned into a blessing, and that he at last may find us who has always been seeking after us.”
Israel Zangwill, Jewish author:
“We shall never get the future straight until we disentangle the past. To disentangle the past means to re-examine the trial of Jesus — myths woven purposely by our leaders around the greatest and most notable personality in history, only that we may not see and recognize the real Jesus.
“To us, my brethren, in this our day, is given the privilege to reclaim the Christ we have lost for so many centuries. Has not the crucified Christ more than fulfilled the highest and noblest of our greatest prophets? Is not he the incarnation of the essence of what the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets taught?”
When Jews become Christians…
Max Brod, Jewish author:
“I am constantly amazed at the naiveté of our teachers and leaders who are surprised when I tell them that the best of our youth, our intellectuals, become Christians out of conviction…. Our ‘leaders’ do not believe it. To them, a Jew never becomes a Christian unless he wants to better his position.
“That Christianity has drawn to itself such noble souls as Pascal, Novalis, Kirkegaard, Amiel, Dostoyevsky, Claudel, etc., etc., and that it exercises a most overwhelming influence on the most earnest truth-seekers among us, of that our teachers know nothing.”
Gustav Lazlo, Jewish author:
“The movement for the recognition of Christ by the Jews is not a fantasy arising from (my) brain. In the hearts and minds of many men, ordinary men like myself, traders, men of affairs, the fact that Christ is the only leader who can take us anywhere worth going to is coming to new recognition.”
Ernest R. Trattner, Jewish author:
“No Jewish prophet before Jesus ever searched out the miserable, the sick, the weak, and the down-trodden in order to pour forth love and compassionate service. He went out of his way to redeem the lowly by a touch of human sympathy that is altogether unique in Jewish history.”
Sholem Asch, Jewish novelist:
“Jesus Christ, to me, is the outstanding personality of all time, of all history, both as Son of God and as Son of Man. Everything he ever said or did has value for us today, and that is something you can say of no other man, alive or dead….
“Every act and word of Jesus has value for all of us, wherever we are. He became the Light of the World. Why shouldn’t I, a Jew, be proud of that? No other religious leader, either, has ever become so personal a part of people as the Nazarene. When you understand Jesus, you understand that he came to save you, to come into your personality. It isn’t just a case of a misty, uncertain relationship between a worshiper and an unseen God. That is abstract; Jesus is personal.”
Jesus of Nazareth, the Jew of Jews…
Isidore Singer, Ph.D., managing editor of The Jewish Encyclopedia:
“I regard Jesus of Nazareth as a Jew of Jews, one whom all Jewish people are learning to love. His teachings have been an immense service to the world in bringing Israel’s God to the knowledge of hundreds of millions of mankind…. We are all glad to claim Jesus as one of our people.”
Harris Weinstock, labor leader:
“Without Jesus and without Paul, the God of Israel would still have been the God of a handful, the God of a petty, obscure and insignificant tribe. Let the Jew, despite the centuries of persecution and suffering,
“…be thankful that there was a Jesus and a Paul. Let him more fully appreciate that through the wonderful influence of these heroic characters the mission of the Jew is being fulfilled, and his teachings are being spread to the remotest nooks and corners of the world by Christianity.”
An interview with Albert Einstein…
Saturday Evening Post, in 1929:
“To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?”
“As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
“Have you read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus?”
“Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.”
“You accept the historical Jesus?”
“Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
……. End of quotes ……
Here is a web site with a vast list of notable Jews who turned to Jesus as Messiah and Savior of Israel. Included are testimonies of former Chief Rabbis, of Jewish Nobel Prize winners, Prime Ministers, professors and many more.
There it is. I’ve only scratched the surface. According to one Jewish writer, more Jews have turned to Jesus in the last nineteen years than in the last nineteen hundred hears. Something to think about.
And it has just begun. Paul said that at the proper point in God’s plan of redemption all of Israel will turn to Jesus. Isn’t it interesting that the Bible is the only book on earth that tells history before it happens!
Think on these things. Here is a song for your meditation. ‘Shalom Jerusalem’ by Paul Wilbur.
“So Pilate said to Him, ‘You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above;
“…for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’” (Joh 19:10-11 NASB)
The Jerusalem Sanhedrin represented the supreme leadership of world Judaism. When the chief priests and elders delivered Jesus over to the Roman authorities to be crucified, they set in motion a chain of events that would have negative effects on the Jewish people throughout their generations.
We see this beginning to take form in 70 AD, with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Was the destruction of Jerusalem a judgment from God? According to the gospels, yes. And according to the Talmudic writings, also a yes. While the reasons given may differ, that it was a judgment from God was accepted early on.
Out of the ashes
Out of the ashes of smoldering Jerusalem would evolve a new Judaism that would have no likeness to the ancient worship of Moses and David. There would be no temple, no sacrifices, and no priesthood. The rabbis set about to fashion a new Judaism where they would become the exalted figures. This new Judaism took on the name of Rabbinical Judaism or Talmudic Judaism. It was to become an expanded continuation of the Pharisees. (The Sadducee and the priestly temple ministry disappeared in the destruction.)
The rabbi who carried the greater responsibility for the reinvention of Judaism was Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai. According to John Lightfoot, Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai knew Jesus and most certainly had encounters with the apostles. He was quite possibly one of the Sanhedrin members who held responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus.
It is important to understand that Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai was one of the top religious figures in Jerusalem during the time of Christ and after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Zaccai lived to be 120 years old. He held such an honored role in Judaism that he became known as the ‘Light of Israel, Pillar of the Right Hand, Strong Hammer.’Zaccai was well acquainted with the Christian movement.
Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai escaped the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And in setting about to help create a new Judaism, it was determined that the blood sacrifices were no longer needed, and that prayer, good deeds, and fasting were all that was needed to get God’s forgiveness.
The Death of a Rabbi
The Talmudic writings have a record of the death of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai is. Here is a major religious leader who died without Christ.
“When R. Jochanan ben Zaccai was taken ill, his disciples went to visit him. As soon as he beheld them, he began to weep. His disciples said unto him, ‘O Light of Israel, Pillar of the Right Hand, Strong Hammer, why dost thou weep?’ He answered and said unto them… ‘Now when I am to be led into the presence of the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, who lives and is through all eternities, whose anger — if He is angry with me — is an eternal anger; whose fetters — if He will bind me — are everlasting fetters; and whose death — if He put me to death — is an eternal death; whom I cannot appease with words, nor bribe with money;
“… and not only so, but two ways open before me — the one leading to Paradise and the other to hell (Gehenna), and I do not know upon which of these two ways I shall be led, shall I not weep?‘” (Brachot 28b)
Zaccai had no sense of salvation. Religion cannot give what only God can give. The righteousness peace and joy of God’s kingdom comes from only one place and from one Person. They come from Jesus Christ and they are spiritual attributes (realities) of the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.
The Problem With the Golden Calf
Jesus did not come to give us a new religion. If fact He did not come to give us a religious system at all. Religion is what men do. Jesus came to give us a relationship with the heavenly Father. In our new relationship with heaven, the Holy Spirit places believers into ‘flocks’ that function as families. This is essentially what the Greek word for church means.
[ekklesía speaks of the called out, called together people of God; a body of spiritually free citizens who share in a common heavenly citizenship. These flocks would have pastors and other mature godly overseers who can offer guidance and teaching, but never in the sense of being overlords.]
Isn’t it strange how men go about to invent religions? The new Judaism held all kinds of strange notions about God. Much had to do with the self-honor that the rabbis placed upon themselves.
Like any religious system, this new Judaism had its power structure. The rabbis made themselves as the final voice of God. They were above the ancient prophets. This is why the new Judaism is often called Rabbinic Judaism. They even tell the story in the Talmuds how the rabbis outwitted God Himself.
Wherein is the problem? The problem is that people can become so caught up in honoring a religious system that the system itself takes on the form of idolatry. Their church becomes ‘the‘ church. They find salvation with ‘their‘ church and not necessarily with Jesus Christ.
Thus the golden calf of religion. This form of church idolatry takes on the idea of, ‘My church is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through my church.’ (Don’t laugh. Church idolatry is very real.)
The greater sin
What makes the death of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai even more dreadful comes from something that Jesus said to Pilate. Listen again to what the Lord said to Pilate about authority.
“You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (Cf. John 19:10,11)
Did you catch it? Jesus said, ‘He who delivered Me over to you has the greater sin.’
Why would the Jewish leaders be charged with the greater sin but not Pilate or the Roman soldiers? It was because these leaders knew more about Jesus than they were putting on. Their rejection had to do with knowledge in having rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Many of them knew better and yet they participated in the rejection.
Jesus set forth their great sin:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes:?’“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.
“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.” (Mat 21:42-46)
The Man Who Knew Christ
Let’s see what distinguishes the death of Rabbi Zaccai from another leader who accepted Jesus as the Messiah of Israel? We know that the apostle Paul was formerly a disciple of Gamaliel and a violent persecutor of the church. This man came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. When Paul faced death, this is what we read about him:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (Cf. 2Ti 4:7,8)
Do you see the difference? Rabbi Zaccai was terrified. The apostle Paul was ready for his journey home. What made the difference? It all comes back to the atonement sacrifice. To reject the cross is to reject any hope of salvation. It is not as though Zaccai had no earlier warning. A special letter was sent to Jewish people by an apostolic writer not long before the destruction of the temple. It may have been written by Paul. Zaccai could well have been aware of it.
“For if we go on sinning [the sin of rejecting Jesus as Lord and Messiah] willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Cf. Heb 10:26- 29)
As a minister of 45 plus years I’ve attended the last hours of various believers. These were precious moments. They had no fear. When it neared the time of passage it was as though they were already experiencing the heaven side of their passage. As for others — Well, I’ll leave that unsaid.
How about you? Will you die having rejected Jesus Christ as Lord of your life? Are you one of those ‘golden calf’ people who have replaced Jesus with a religious system.
Or, are you one of those who truly have a relationship with the Heavenly Father by way of His Son Jesus Christ?
Think about it. Again I ask, is Jesus Christ truly the Lord of your life?
Are you ready to turn to the Lord? Here is a prayer that can help you. Pray it from your heart…
“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer, please drop me a note. I will be happy to offer some guidance that can help you.
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Act 3:19-21)
The eyes of the world are on the Middle East. We are seeing a conflagration (uncontrolled fire) working its way out from the regions of ancient Babylon. The heat is intense in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Israel, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, not to speak of all the ‘***istan’ nations of the former Soviet Union. Keep in view that all these nations with the exception of Israel, are Islamic.
So much for all the diatribe on Islam being a religion of peace.
The apostle Peter told the Jewish people that Jesus had been received into heaven and would stay there, but would send times of ‘refreshing’ [special moves of the Holy Spirit] until the period of restoration of all things.
What did he mean by the term restoration? The Greek term ‘apokatastasis‘ means a restitution of a thing to its former condition. This expression denotes the times when the ‘fullness of the Gentiles’ is completed, and the conversion of the Jewish nation is at hand.
This was a primary concern for the Lord’s Hebrew apostles. Jesus clearly taught that the kingdom of God would be taken away from the nation of Israel until the day came when they would say of Him, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
“‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ Jesus responded, ‘It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.’”
The clock is ticking
This is why May 14, 1948 is so important to redemption history. Israel lost her nationhood in the year 70 a.d. She was brought forth again as a nation in 1948, and took her place among the nations. Thus we have Isa66:8 fulfilled;
“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.”
Then we have this from the Lord:
“And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles [other nations] until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
Some like to think that a nation being brought forth all at once has to do with the church. However, this does damage to the prophecy. Notice carefully that it is not simply a nation, but also a land that will be born in one day. The Hebrew for land [’erets] speaks of the earth. The land took on the name Israel on May 14, 1948, and land of Israel once again took her place among the nations of the world.
Without laboring this too much we also need to understand that the nation of Israel today is not the nation she is going to be. The Jews returning to the land is at the heart of Old Testament prophecy. Yet Israel today is largely secular, with Talmudic Judaism in charge of her religious affairs. The fact that Israel is largely secular is not a bad thing in comparison to the Christ-hating Talmudic religion.
(Most Jews do not hate Jesus. There are even Jewish-Christian churches and synagogues in Israel. According to my sources, the number one topic of discussion among Israelis today is about Jesus. The Lord is stirring their hearts. Any hatred towards Jesus and Christians comes largely from Orthodox-Talmudic Judaism.)
The mystery of the dry bones
When God spoke to Ezekiel about the dry bones, it had to do with the restored captivity of that time. However, it had a deeper meaning that would reach forward to the day when Israel turns to Jesus, and call upon Him as their Lord and Savior..
“He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, You know.’ Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.”’
“Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’” (Eze 37:3-6)
Now lets combine two Scriptures, one from the old and the other from the new. Both with the same goal.
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me [This is Yahweh speaking] whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him [Jesus the crucified One], and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him [Jesus] like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel [the Christ-rejecting nation group] until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved [nation group looks to Jesus]; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’”
The sins of the Christ-rejecting Israel can only be taken away when they come to faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ.
The message to Israel has never changed. When Peter addressed the Jewish leadership, this is what he said:
“He [Jesus] is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:11-12)
No one can ever be saved aside from receiving Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as both Lord and Savior. There are no exceptions.
A house restored
Let’s come back to what Peter said about the times of restoration:
“…that He [the Father] may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Acts 3:20,21)
The Greek term for ‘period‘ is chronos. It speaks of a particular time or space or season of events.
The Greek term for ‘restoration‘ is a double compound. It is only used here. But interestingly enough it is also used by Flavius Josephus for the return of the Jews from captivity, and for the restoration of the year of Jubilee. That is the how the term was understood during the time of Christ.
The period of refreshing and restoration that Peter speaks of has a dual focus. It includes the Church being refreshed during her journey on heart. And while the Church is being prepared for her departure, the Jewish people are being gathered to the land of Israel to fulfill her prophesied purposes. Hence, God is working with the Jews and with the Christians.
For the Jew there is a period of tribulation they must endure before the Savior comes out of Zion. The Bible also gives place for a pseudo-Church during the last hours of this age. (Pseudo refers to something that appears to be true but is not. A false pretender.)
The true church refers to those who are inborn of the Spirit and will not follow anyone other than Jesus, in spite of signs and wonders. The true Church will make her departure from the earth at the proper time. The pseudo Church will follow after lying wonders.
Tears for Jerusalem
Let’s listen to some of the last words that Jesus spoke over Jerusalem.
“When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me UNTIL you say, ‘Blessed is He [Jesus] who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt23:37,38)
So, will the kingdom of God be restored to Israel? Will Israel really turn to the Lord Jesus and become part with His people? Can it be proved by the Scriptures? I believe it can. For your extra study consider these Scriptures: Isaiah 1:26; Jeremiah 23:3-6; Hosea 3:4,5; 5:15; 6:1-3.
That’s it for now.
Here is your song. Let the Lord refresh your heart. ‘There’s a Promise Coming Down’ by Joy Gardner…
“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”(1Co 15:54-55 NASB)
If the fact be told, Christianity is the only religion that sets aside death and judgment for her believers. Every other religion leaves humankind in a state of uncertainty and often even in hopelessness. In this entry I want to deal with that most crucial issue in the human experience, death and judgment.
As a beginning place I’ll share words from three men who represent the best that their religion had to offer; Rabbi Saccai of Judaism, Mohammed of Islam, and the Apostle Paul of Christianity. Each man speaks to what their religious world offered with respect to death and judgment.
Let’s begin with Saccai. Rabbi Saccai lived before and after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. His full name was Rabbi Yochanan ben Saccai. [Yochanan is Hebrew for John.] Some scholars believe that Rabbi Saccai was the ‘John’ who sat in judgment of the apostles and possibly participated in the trial of Jesus.
If that is the case here is the Scripture reference that may apply to Rabbi Saccai:
“On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them [Peter and John] in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’…
“[After the council had deliberated] And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Act 4:5-7,18 NASB)
Yochananben Saccai was so well known and revered in Judaism that when anyone spoke of John of the Sanhedrin, no futher identification was needed. He was so highly regarded in Judaism that he had the title, ‘the light of Israel, the right pillar of the Temple, and its mighty hammer.’
[The Jews loved titles as do many among Christians today. Jesus warned believers against the use of titles. That's why I have little for those who like to be called 'apostle' or 'prophet' so and so. To me it reeks of pride.]
As for Rabbi Saccai, this man was the major influencing factor in giving shape to Talmudic Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d.. But did he deserve the title, ‘light of Israel’? I’m afraid not. That title belongs to one Person alone, the Messiah.
Here is the Saccai’s death bed testimony as recorded in the Talmud:
Rabbi Saccai’s deathbed testimony
“When dying, his disciples came to see him. He burst into tears. Ask, ‘Why?’ ‘If I were now to be brought before an earthly king, who lives today and dies tomorrow, whose wrath and whose bonds are not everlasting, and whose sentence of death, even, is not that to everlasting death, who can be assuaged by arguments, or perhaps bought off by money I should tremble and weep; …
“…how much more reason have I for it, when about to be led before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be he, who liveth and abideth for ever, whose chains are chains for evermore, and whose sentence of death killeth for ever, whom I cannot assuage with words, nor bribe by money! …
“…And not only so, but there are before me two ways, one to paradise and the other to hell, and I know not which of the two ways I shall have to go whether to paradise or to hell: how, then, shall I not shed tears?”
Think about Yochananben Saccah’s death bed testimony. Does it sound like he had any assurance in that which was to come?
Then we have this statement from the writings of Islam, concerning Muhammed’s own insecurity.
How Muhammad looked at death
“Muhammad said: ‘By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me.’” (hadith 5:266) - In Islam the only guaranteed way to enter heaven is by martyrdom. This is the driving force of suicide bombers.
Now compare these statements to Paul;
The testimony of the apostle
“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain…But I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”(Phil1:21-24)
Paul carried in his heart what old timers called ‘divine assurance.’ Every true believer carries this assurance.
Can we carry this further? How about the Hindu religion? It is the same. They preach ‘another’ Jesus. He is one of the many reincarnations of God, called an Avatar.
How about superstitions…
It doesn’t matter how many crosses a rock star may hang around his neck, this has nothing to do with Jesus of the gospels. The cross is not some amulet to wear to give good luck. The only cross that saves is the message of the cross. Paul said this message is, “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.“ (1Co1:18)
What then is the point? The point is that there is only one Jesus Christ. He Himself is in the message of the cross. And when Jesus Christ is preached, and received, and accepted as the atonement of our sins, and as Redeemer and Savior, for the believing one there is a seal placed upon their heart.
This seal carries in it the testimony of divine assurance. The seal carries in it the very life that Jesus came to give us. The seal contains the presence of heaven as a continual reminder that we are simply pilgrims on a journey.
And the seal carries in it that the believer has already been judged in Christ and that heaven is the believer’s assured destiny. Christian believers are the very children of the throne.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.“ Joh 5:24
Follow through with these Scriptures.
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Heb 2:14-15 NASB)
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Php 3:20-21 NASB)
” [God] and raised us up with Him [Jesus}, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:6-9 NASB)
Yes, Jesus laid death and judgment in the grave
This is why there is no such thing as a person not knowing if they are saved or not. You either believe in and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, or you don't. There is no middle ground. If you truly trust in Jesus as Lord of your life, this means you have left the world of darkness, that you have turned from your sins, and that you now carry in your heart a divine seal of salvation.
Paul adds to this in saying,
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Rom8:14)
"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ..." (Rom 8:16,17)
John the beloved adds to the record by saying,
"The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself ... and the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life..." (1John5:10)
Now we know why...
...Rabbi Jochanan ben Saccai faced death with tears and dread. and why Mohammed did not know what Allah would do with him. And we also understand why true believers have no dread of death or fear of eternity. It is because God's 'seal' of the heart carries with it the very essence of our heavenly home.
God's children all carry in themselves a heavenly consciousness. We know that this world is not our home. We share in thetestimony of Jesus Christ.
"And He was saying to them [Pharisees], “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” (Joh 8:23)
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, butI chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (Joh 15:19)
“[Father] I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they[all true believers]are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (Joh 17:14)
The simplicity of faith in Jesus
God’s divine seal of assurance goes much much deeper than our emotions. It is a thing of the heart. Paul said that with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. What he is saying is that the confession is an automatic response to what has happened in the person’s heart. We speak what is in our hearts. If Jesus Christ is our Lord, we will certainly let people know it.
The apostle also warns against believers following after strange teachings and following after things that may not be of God:
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.“(2Co 11:3NASB)
Did you catch it? Our entire walk in our journey of life is to be based on a simple devotion to Jesus Christ. Don’t be led astray from the simplicity and purity of your devotion to Jesus Christ.
It is the simple message of faith in Jesus Christ, and in the finished work of the cross that we must preach and tell the world. If we are preaching anything else, there can be no work of salvation. The apostle quoted Isaiah, in saying,
“Lord, who has believed our report [message]?” He then says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Cf. Rom10)
Christ Himself actually speaks to the hearts of men and women in the preaching of the cross. This is what makes preaching so powerful. Paul says it plain enough when he said to the Corinthians,
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1Co2:2)
He then explained why this was the only message he preached;
“So that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (Cf. 1Co2:5)
With all this in mind, let me share just a bit about…
The Jordan message…
Crossing the Jordan is a figure of speech that believers use for our passage into the eternal kingdom of God. As a long time minister of the gospel it has been my great honor to attend to the going home of so many of God’s children. It is as the Psalmist said,
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.”(Psalm 116:15 nasb)
The Lord called me to preach the gospel of His Son when I was twenty-four years old. I will soon be seventy. But the Lord did something a bit extra on my behalf. He has also allowed me to sing the gospel in the form of songs that He has given me.
Some years ago the Lord gave me a song to share about the believer’s journey into His eternal kingdom. The song is entitled, ‘At the Crossing of the Jordan.’
There is nothing professional about the song, but it does carry with it a message from heaven. Take a moment to listen to ‘At the Crossing of the Jordan.’ Its me on the guitar with help from some dear friends and family. The song speaks to our journey home. Let it speak to your heart.
Rabbi Steward Rosenberg, after having observed Christians for years, made this statement; “The stronger a person’s Christian faith, the more Jewish will he regard himself.”
The preeminent Christian theologian Carl Barth said, “The Bible is a Jewish book. It cannot be read, understood and expounded unless we are prepared to become Jews with the Jews.”
Why would two learned men of different religious traditions, Judaism and Christianity, reach such a similar conclusion? The answer is simple. Christianity finds its roots in ancient Judaism. As one writer said, “Christians are spiritual Semites.”
Actually the term ‘Jew’ was a later adaption for the people of Israel. They were originally called Hebrews. Abraham was known as, ‘Abram the Hebrew.’ (Gen14:13) — The term Hebrew is becoming even more popular in Israel today —
And so Paul said, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” [Cf. Gal. 3:29] This is where the idea of spiritual Semites comes in.
The apostolic writers taught that Christians are the spiritual children of Abraham. Without being technical over terms, does it surprise you that anyone would speak of Christians as spiritual Semites?
Whatever the case one of the greatest needs among Christians today is to rediscover our Hebraic heritage. The Church has been living in a Greek-Latin mind set ever since she lost her appreciation for her Hebrew roots. (You can pretty much thank Rome for that. And don’t mistake a rediscovery of our Hebrew roots for the Messianic movement today. That movement can largely be compared to the Judaisers of Paul’s day. Read Galatians.)
Actually many Christians are not aware that Christianity began as a sect of Judaism. Early Jewish Christians spoke of themselves as ‘the Way.’ (Acts 9:2; 24:14,22) Later Jewish authorities began to speak of Jewish Christians as ‘Notzrim’, or, ‘the Nazarenes’. (Jerome says that Jews cursed ‘the Nazoraeans’. Cir. 400 a.d.)
Only two movements survived.
After the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, only two of these movements survived. One evolved into Rabbinic or Talmudic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism was a take off from the Pharisees.
The other movement took on the name Christianity. Christianity became heir to the ancient faith of Israel in which she longed for her Messiah. Rabbinic Judaism would have her day, but it would be in the far distant future. (Second coming of the Lord.)
Yet in spite of all this, we still share a deep kinship with the Jewish people. Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. The apostles were Jews. The prophets were Jews. The Bible of the early Church was Jewish. In fact the Bible we love is a Hebrew document from Genesis to Revelations. (This is why when Jews read the New Testament, they hear a Jewish voice.)
When Jerusalem was destroyed, Rabbinic Judaism, which had its source in the Pharisees, began to supplant Biblical Judaism, and became anti-Christian. Jesus Christ was rejected as the Messiah. Because of the rejection of Jesus, the Jews would become prey to many false Messiahs. This has been their history.
In early church persecutions, the persecutions were Jews persecuting Jews. Christian Jews were accused of being heretics. Following the destruction of Jerusalem, the two branches of Judaism continued with a love-hate relationship. The issue, however, was that the Christian branch had an atonement in the Messiah. The Judaists had neither atonement nor temple. A new religion had been created. It continues that way to this day.
With the temple gone there was little need for a priesthood in Israel. The Sadducees passed off the scene. Judaism eventually evolved into modern Judaism with its three major groupings; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed Judaism. The Rabbis were at center stage.
As for the other major branch of Judaism, a name change was foretold by the prophets. Peter, who was most certainly a Jewish apostle, told the new covenant believers never to be ashamed of their name as ‘Christian.’ (Cf. 1 Pet 4:16; Isaiah 65:15)
The changing picture.
As Gentiles flooded into the Church, Christianity began to drift from her Hebraic roots. Greek philosophy filled the Church. Dualism became the norm. But it was when Christianity began centering in Rome, that the Church started taking on a strange nature. The Church put on her imperial vestments. She was now ‘the’ religion. She was now ‘the’ kingdom of God manifest in the earth. She could now pronounce curses on any who did not agree with her. And she carried the sword to enforce her will. Saddest of all, the Jewish element of the Church was treated as a step child at best.
(It should be noted, however, that there have always been purer forms of Christianity than that which evolved out of Rome. Keep in mind that the one who has the votes writes the history.)
What eventually happened is that the Greek-Latin aberration of Christianity took the place of the Hebraic form. Darkness began to overtake much of the Church. Paul warned of this. (Cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-6)
Engrafted into the ancient tree of redemption
Paul had also warned Gentile believers not to boast against the Jewish branches who were broken off because of their rejection of Jesus, nor to boast against the Hebraic nature of the Church.
Paul went on to explain that Gentile believers are wild olive branches who have been engrafted into God’s cultivated olive tree. This means that Gentiles were partaking of a completed Messianic-redemptive faith.
The point is that our engraft is into a tree that existed long before New Testament Christianity. The olive tree is metaphoric. It could be said to reach back to Abel. (Many thoughts can come forth from a study on the olive tree.)
As engrafted branches, Gentile believers were to take on the nature of the olive tree, not vice versa. Perhaps it is in this sense that Gentile believers began to feel themselves as having Jewish hearts. (Jewish in the sense of a completed Messianic Judaism.)
While it is true that in God’s salvation code being Jew or Gentile is meaningless, the fact remains that the Church is Hebraic in nature. All believers are spiritual descendants of Abraham. Our Bible is written entirely in Semitic thought form. The more you study, the more you began thinking Hebraically. Paul said that to the Jews alone God committed His oracles. (Cf. Romans 3:2)
Things we have lost.
Now let’s consider some examples of what we have lost from our Hebraic heritage. Often when Christians read and study the Scriptures, our desire is to accumulate knowledge. We gather data. We study with scholastics in mind. However, in the Biblical-Hebrew tradition, God’s people are taught to study the Scriptures in order to draw near to God.
For the ancient Hebrews the study of Torah was the highest form of worship. It was through study that a person came to know God in a personal way. Yet for the Jews who rejected Jesus, the Torah became a closed book in many senses. This is because Jesus is the living Word of God. The Biblical Christian still meets and worships God by meeting Him in the Scriptures.
Then we have prayer. Often Christians are taught that the more we pray the more spiritual we become. The stress is often on long prayers. Certainly there is a place for longer prayers, yet in the Hebrew tradition, long prayers were not that common. In fact, Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees over their pretence of righteousness with the use of long prayer. (Matt. 23:14)
The Jewish people were taught that their whole life was an offering of prayer. Even their work was to be considered worship. The Hebraic emphasis is more on short prayers of thankfulness. (Cf. Matt. 6:5-13; 1 Thess. 5:16-18.)
When Paul says we should pray without ceasing, he was speaking as a Jewish man. As a rule our daily life should to be a continuous activity of short prayers filled with thanksgivings.
Then there is dualism.
Some Greeks felt that anything of the material world was evil. When Paul said that in his flesh dwelt no good thing, he was not calling his body evil. He was saying that there is a principle of sin in fallen man. The Hebrew writers refer to this as the evil inclination. (Yetzer haRa.) Actually we are to rejoice in our humanity.
With the Greeks the highest form of spirituality was to enter into a monastic form of living. Monasticism comes from a root word which means to be alone. What did God say about aloneness? He said it wasn’t good. (Gen. 2:18) It was this kind of thinking that contributed to extolling celibacy in the priesthood.
One of the Latin fathers went so far as to say that when a man and his wife have conjugal relations the Holy Spirit leaves the bedroom.
Nowhere does the Bible teach that a celibate lifestyle is in particular spiritual. Actually it teaches the opposite. The Bible affirms the goodness of marriage and the family. A Biblical requirement of a Christian bishop (pastor) is that he be married.
In the Hebrew tradition the act of love in marriage was and is considered both sacred and joyful. Love in marriage allows a couple to express their gift of maleness and femaleness. If you don’t think God wants us to celebrate the romantic side of
marriage, read the Song of Solomon. Because of our western mindset this book can be embarrassing. It is a love manual. (Cf. Prov. 5:15-20; Eccl. 9:9; Heb. 13:4)
An identity crisis.
Perhaps it is enough to say that we Christians are finding ourselves in an identity crisis. Who am I? What am I about? Where did I come from? You can be certain that many of these questions have their answer in a rediscovery our Hebraic heritage in Christ.
But it is not only Christians who are in an identity crisis. Jews are there also. There is a statistic put out by the Jews that I find quite interesting. They say that over 50% of Jewish men marry outside their culture. Most marry Christian woman. Why would a Jewish man be drawn to a Christian women? Is it possible that it relates to a Messiah hunger in the Jews? Could this be another indicator of the second coming of Christ? I think so. Many walls between Christian and Jew are beginning to melt away.
There is a final caution. In our search for roots, we should not reject everything that is not Hebraic. Neither should we get on a Jewish lust trip. No person is ever closer to God than being in Christ Jesus. What we should do is rejoice in the diversity and beauty of Christianity while seeking to learn more about our true Biblical heritage.
Yes, we do share a heart with the Jewish people. But we have to remember that new covenant people have been given a new name. Christian means those who belong to the Messiah.
So Pilate *said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
(Joh 19:10-11 NASB)
“So Pilate said to Him, ‘You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above;for this reasonhe who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’” (John 19:10-11 NASB)
In the time of Jesus, the Jerusalem Sanhedrin represented the supreme leadership of world Judaism. When the chief priests and elders delivered Jesus over to the Roman authorities to be crucified, they set in motion a chain of events that would have negative effects on the Jewish people throughout their generations.
We see this taking form in 70 AD, with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Was the destruction a judgment from God? According to the gospels, yes. And according to the Talmudic writings, also a yes. While the reasons given may differ, that it was a judgment from God was accepted early on.
Out of the ashes
Sadly enough, out of the ashes of Jerusalem would evolve a new Judaism that would have no likeness to the ancient worship of Moses and David. The rabbis set about to fashion a Judaism where they would become raised figures. This new Judaism would become known as Rabbinical Judaism or Talmudic Judaism. It would become an expanded continuation of the Pharisees. (The Sadducee and the priestly temple ministry disappeared in the destruction.)
The rabbi who carried the greater responsibility for the reinvention of Judaism was Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai. According to John Lightfoot, Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai knew Jesus and most certainly had encounters with the apostles. He was likely one of the Sanhedrin members who held responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus.
Zaccai escaped the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He afterwards determined that the blood sacrifices were no longer needed, and that prayer, good deeds, and fasting were all that was needed to get God’s forgiveness.
It is important to understand the time line of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai. He was one of the top religious figures in Jerusalem during the time of Christ and up to and after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Zaccai lived to be 120 years old. He held such a honored role in Judaism that he became known as the ‘Light of Israel, Pillar of the Right Hand, Strong Hammer.’ Zaccai was well acquainted with the Christian movement.
The sad note in all this comes from the Talmudic writings themselves where the death of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai is recorded.
“When R. Jochanan ben Zaccai was taken ill, his disciples went to visit him. As soon as he beheld them, he began to weep. His disciples said unto him, ‘O Light of Israel, Pillar of the Right Hand, Strong Hammer, why dost thou weep?’ He answered and said unto them… ‘Now when I am to be led into the presence of the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, who lives and is through all eternities, whose anger — if He is angry with me — is an eternal anger; whose fetters — if He will bind me — are everlasting fetters; and whose death — if He put me to death — is an eternal death; whom I cannot appease with words, nor bribe with money; and not only so, but two ways open before me — the one leading to Paradise and the other to hell (Gehenna), and I do not know upon which of these two ways I shall be led, shall I not weep?‘”
The Judaism that Zaccai held great responsibility for sallied forth with all kinds of strange notions about God. But the prophets said this would happen. The strangest notion of all had to do with the self-honor that the rabbis placed upon themselves. In honor of Zaccai, we hear in Bava Bathra that this Rabbi was said to understand the language of devils, of trees, and of angels. Of course this is pure fabrication.
It should be noted that the Talmud sets precedence for necromancy. (The belief in magical spells that harness occult forces or evil spirits to produce unnatural effects in the world; conjuring up the dead, especially for prophesying.)
But there was a purpose in this new Judaism. The new Judaism had to have its own power structure and authority. The rabbis set themselves up as the last voice of God. This is why the new Judaism is often called Rabbinic Judaism. They even went so far as to tell the story of how they outwitted God Himself.
Now back to a bit of history on Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai. Does the Bible itself ever call attention to this rabbi? Perhaps so. According to Lightfoot, who is one of the preeminent Christian scholars on the Talmuds, Rabbi Zaccai was most likely the ‘John’ that sat on the council who commanded Peter and John to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. The gathered rulers included, “Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.” (Cf. Acts 4)
The reason that the name John is mentioned without further identification is because Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai was so well-known among the Jews that no other term was required. Note how the John is placed right in the center of Annas, Caiaphas, and Alexander. It says they were all of high-priestly descent. This would include John.
As I mention earlier, it is quite likely that Rabbi Zaccai knew Jesus and was involved in His being turned over to Pilate. Notice carefully what happens when the apostles are brought before these men. It says, “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (v13)
What makes the death of this rabbi even more frightening comes from something that Jesus said to Pilate. When Jesus kept quiet, Pilate says, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”
Listen carefully to the Lord’s response: “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”(Cf. John 19:10,11)
The greater sin
Did you catch it? Whoever delivered Jesus over to Pilate was charged with ‘the greater sin.’ This can only mean that those noted beforehand, that is Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent, would be charged with this greater sin.
Why would these leaders be charged with the greater sin but not Pilate or the Roman soldiers? It was because these leaders knew more about Jesus than they were putting on. Is it possible that some of them actually knew that Jesus was the Messiah? This seems to be the case. Read the parable of ‘the landowner who planted a vineyard’ and the story is made clear. (Cf. Mat 21:33-45)
Take note of how the Lord ends the afore parable:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes:?’“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.” (Mat 21:42-46)
Would you like to see what distinguishes the death of Rabbi Zaccai and a rabbi who accepted Jesus as the Messiah of Israel? Whether we can apply the term ‘rabbi’ to Paul before he became a believer is not known. We do know that Paul was a disciple of Gamaliel and a persecutor of the church. When this apostle was facing death, this is what we read about him:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (Cf. 2Ti 4:7,8)
Do you see the difference? Rabbi Zaccai was terrified. The apostle Paul was ready for his journey home. What made the difference? It all comes back to the atonement sacrifice. To reject the cross is to reject any hope of salvation. And it is not as though Zaccai had no warning. A special letter was sent to Jewish people by an apostolic writer not long before the destruction of the temple. In it we read:
“For if we go on sinning [the sin of rejection of Jesus] willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Cf. Heb 10:26- 29)
As a minister of well over 40 years I’ve attended the last hours of various believers. These were precious moments. There was no fear. And when it neared the time of passage, there was a special anointing that came upon the child of God. It was as though they were already experiencing the heaven side of their passage. As for others — I’ll leave that unsaid.
However, there is much more to the story. One day the Jewish people will realize that they’ve been duped and misled in their Talmudic religion about Jesus. God spoke through the prophet, saying,
“Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” (Isa 29:14)
It seems to me that day is not too far removed from where we are today.
Well, we do know that there is a heavenly Jerusalem. It is called ‘the city of God.’ Here is a song you will enjoy. It is titled ‘Jerusalem’ by the Hoppers…