Shavuot (Pentecost)

God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Yesha’yahu and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost). In 2019, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Saturday, June 8th. Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, June 9th. Essentially, Jews and Christians will be celebrating on the same weekend, albeit for slightly different reasons.

Scriptural Basis

15“‘From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai. 17You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai. 18Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai. 19Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen. 21On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-21)

Basic Description

Shavu’ot was one of three festivals (Pesach/Matzah & Sukkot being the other two) appointed by Adonai where all Jewish males were to go up to Jerusalem. Shavu’ot means “weeks.” It comes exactly fifty days after Pesach. In Greek, we have come to know it as Pentecost. Pentecost means “fifty.” It was an agricultural festival to celebrate the latter fruits of the spring harvest. Recall that Yom HaBikkurim (First Fruits) immediately following Pesach celebrated the barley harvest and, as Believers, we recognize it as the resurrection of Yeshua – the first fruit from the dead. Shavu’ot celebrates the thanksgiving for the wheat harvest symbolized by the two loaves of challah.

Observance

The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and with great ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai. In addition, blood sacrifices were offered to cover the sin of the people. Since sacrifices can no longer be made with the destruction of the Second Temple, the modern Jewish observance of Shavu’ot has changed. Rabbis calculated that Moshe received the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavu’ot. Hence, the rabbinic name for Shavu’ot is Zman Matan Torateynu (the Time of the Giving of the Torah).

The custom of decorating the synagogue in greenery, flowers and baskets of fruit to symbolize the harvest aspect of Shavu’ot; the practice of marking the holiday with a meal featuring dairy products in recognition of Scripture being described as the pure milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2); and the inclusion of the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth in the service are all the primary reminders of Shavu’ot’s agricultural prominence.

But Ruth’s story sounds another theme, one more relevant to the celebration of Shavu’ot by modern Jewish people and Messianic Believers. When her husband dies, Ruth – a gentile – elects to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, telling her “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16) binding herself willingly to the people Isra’el. Ruth’s story is one of commitment to the Jewish people freely made and to the covenant with God that is the core of the Jewish religion and experience. Like Ruth, the gentile woman who was in the lineage of Yeshua, we have voluntarily said to our fellow Messianic Jewish believers your people will be my people, your God will be my God.

Shavu’ot celebrates the most important moment in the Mosaic covenant – the giving of the Torah to Moshe and its acceptance by Isra’el at Sinai. Shavu’ot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education. Traditional Jews stay up all night on the first night of this festival studying the Torah. In keeping with the theme of Jewish education, Shavu’ot has traditionally been the time when many Jewish schools mark graduation.

Messianic significance abounds in this festival. From God’s perspective, the time of great harvest when large numbers of Jewish believers and later Gentiles came into a personal relationship with Him was initiated at Shavu’ot immediately after Yeshua’s resurrection (Acts 2:40-43). The two leavened loaves of Shavu’ot may, therefore, symbolize Jew and Gentile presented to God and now part of His family. God set us free from slavery to sin by placing His Spirit in us to enable us to live as He intended (Romans 8:1-4). Hence God visibly placed His Ruach HaKodesh in Yeshua’s followers on that important Shavu’ot centuries ago (Acts 2:4).

The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh served as the completion of Pesach, the completion of our atonement, in the sense that through the Ruach, God gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to do evil.

The theme of Shavu’ot can be best summed up by the word revival. Isra’el was called to praise God for the first fruits of the ground, knowing that these early fruits assured the latter harvest. This also applies to the spiritual Kingdom of God. The first fruit of believers at Shavu’ot virtually guarantees a revival in the latter-day spiritual harvest for Messiah. Now we can understand why God included Shavu’ot in the three required festivals for every Jewish male. He had gathered Jewish men from throughout the region to hear the Good News of Yeshua in their own language. They would take that message back home with them to tell their families and friends. As Pesach speaks of redemption, Shavu’ot speaks of revival. The message of Shavu’ot is one of great hope and joy. It was a message heard and accepted by 3,000 Jewish people on that special Shavu’ot (Acts 2:41). Note that 3,000 Jewish people died because of their rebellion of worshipping the Golden Calf at the giving of the Torah.

When Is the Biblical Feast of Shavuot?

Many people desire to know the actual Biblical date for Shavu’ot. It is the only feast that God did not say fell on a specific date in the Hebrew calendar. Rather He gave a formula for calculating the day. Though the traditional Jewish community will celebrate Shavu’ot according to that traditional calculation, there is a difference of opinion on the matter. In the first century, the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date that Shavuot was to be celebrated. The question arose over which Sabbath does Firstfruits (see Vayikra 23:9-14) take place after the day after Pesach, which is generally considered a Sabbath or the regular seventh day Sabbath, i.e. Saturday during the week of Pesach?

The Pharisees claimed the correct day was the day after the first day of Matzah, the sixteenth of Nisan. The Sadducees taught that the correct day was Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. Since the writings of the Pharisees survived and developed into traditional Judaism, their opinion is accepted in modern Judaism.

But who is biblically correct? Remember, the Scriptures state, “you are to count seven full Sabbaths until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

For it to be the day after the seventh Shabbat, the initial Sabbath would have to be the weekly Sabbath. So, it would appear the Sadducees were right. Consequently, I believe that the Sadducees got this one correct. Amazingly, the year that Yeshua died, the sixteenth of Nisan fell on the Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath for the Sadducees as well. God worked it out that neither group would have a reason not to recognize Yeshua as the Firstfruits of the Resurrection.

In my next post, we will return to our series on Yesha’yahu.

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Yeshua: His Better Covenant ~ Part 6

Messianic Jews 9:23-28
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we concluded our examination of Messianic Jews 9:15-22 ~ The New Covenant Validated by the Death of Yeshua. In this post, we’ll continue our mini-series on Yeshua: His Better Covenant which will cover Messianic Jews 9:23-28 concerning Yeshua As the Sufficient Offering for Our Sins.

Yeshua As the Sufficient Offering for Our Sins

23 Now this is how the copies of the heavenly things had to be purified, but the heavenly things themselves require better sacrifices than these. 24 For the Messiah has entered a Holiest Place which is not man-made and merely a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, in order to appear now on our behalf in the very presence of God. 25 Further, He did not enter heaven to offer Himself over and over again, like the cohen hagadol who enters the Holiest Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then He would have had to suffer death many times — from the founding of the universe on. But as it is, He has appeared once at the end of the ages in order to do away with sin through the sacrifice of Himself. 27 Just as human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment, 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him.” ~ Messianic Jews 9:23-28 (CJB)

Wait a minute!! What is verse 23 talking about? Why do heavenly things require… sacrifices at all? Surely they are not defiled, as are the copies, such as the Tabernacle or Temple and its implements. The author of Messianic Jews, still thinking of the excellent efficiency of the sacrifice which Yeshua made, begins with a thought which is fantastic. Let us remember the letter’s primary thinking again is that the worship of this world is a pale copy of the real worship. The author of Messianic Jews says that in this world the Levitical sacrifices were designed to purify the means of worship. Now he goes on to say that the work of Yeshua purifies not only earth but heaven. He has the tremendous thought of a kind of cosmic redemption that purified the whole universe, seen and unseen.

Hugh Montefiore, a Jewish Anglican, writes on this verse:

“What our author meant was this: the purification of men’s consciences, made by means of the heavenly cultus [a system of religious worship], needed a better sacrifice to make it effective than the sacrifices which sufficed for the earthly cultus, which was a mere copy of the heavenly.” [1]

The Messiah’s blood made it possible for undefiled heavenly things to purify defiled sinners. For external cleansing, external sacrifices suffice (9:9-10); but for spiritual cleansing, spiritual ones are needed.

God has so organized the universe that human beings have to die once, not many times as did the animal sacrifices. Space and knowledge do not permit me to delve further into the topic of reincarnation. Suffice it to say that this is the Scriptures’ refutation of the concept of reincarnation, which is found in most Eastern religions. Reincarnation is based on the notion that although the body is naturally mortal, the soul is not; so that after one’s body dies, the soul that was in it migrates, perhaps after an interval of time, to another body.

But our text is correct in proclaiming that first everyone dies; and then, after this comes judgment. Human life is nonrepeatable, one’s actions in this life are judged after death, and there is no opportunity for amendment later.

Yeshua will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him. Here is the most explicit statement in the Bible of the relationship between Yeshua’sFirst and Second Comings. His first coming fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, which predicted that the Messiah would die as an atonement for human sin and be raised from the dead, so that he could appear a second time to fulfill such prophecies as Isaiah 2:2-5 and 9:5-6 (6-7), which say that the Messiah will bring peace to the world and deliver his people Israel from oppression. However, since “not everyone from Israel is truly part of Israel” (Romans 9:6), only those who are eagerly waiting for Yeshua to return can have the assurance that they will be delivered.

My scribbled note in my RSV says that Yeshua purified earth and heaven with His sacrifice for our sins. He took His blood directly to the seat of God.

We have been and continue to be redeemed by His Blood.

In my next post, we move on to Messianic Jews 10:1-10 ~The Superiority and Finality of the New Covenant by examining Yeshua As the Once for All Sacrifice.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Introduction:  Letter to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews)

Letter to the Messianic Jews

Why Study the Letter to the Messianic Jews? [1]

 The easy answer is because it’s the Word of God.  But for me, it’s personal.  After I committed myself to accept Yeshua as my Lord and Savior, I devoured the Gospel of John.  That is still my favorite book of the Bible, and someday I may do a verse-by-verse study of that.

Shortly after finishing that study, I picked up my RSV and Barclay’s Commentary and dove into the Epistle to the Hebrews.  For many years, I was eager to learn about the Jewishness of my faith, and I thought that would be an excellent place to start.  It turned out to be very influential in my later becoming involved in the Messianic Jewish Movement.

My notes on Chapter 2
Click on picture to enlarge.

So why now?  As has been my approach to the topics to share with you, I pray for God to reveal to me where He wants to take this blog.  And He kept reminding me of my early study, and I kept running into more and more citations from Messianic Jews within my daily devotions and readings in other blogs.

Who Wrote Messianic Jews?

 We don’t know for sure who wrote it.  The majority of modern scholars believe Sha’ul did not write it. One reason is that in Rome, where the letter was known from an early date, Pauline authorship was rejected; additional ideas are well presented in other studies. David Stern [2] points to one piece of internal evidence, Messianic Jews 2:3b, where the author writes, “This deliverance, which was first declared by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” It is thought that Sha’ul could not have written these words since he heard and saw Yeshua himself (Acts 9:3-6, 1C 15:8).

Authorship candidates for whom there is no conflict with Messianic Jews 2:3b include Apollos, an educated, courageous Hellenistic Jew who was apparently a charismatic leader (Ac 18:24-19:1; 1C 1:12, 3:4-5); Priscilla, who is mentioned in the New Testament before her husband Aquila four times out of six, notably in connection with teaching when they took Apollos aside and explained to him the Way of God in greater detail” (Acts 18:26; also Acts 18:18, Romans 16:3, 2 Timothy 4:19); Clement and Luke.

We do know that the author was well known in the early church and that Timothy was with the writer (13:23). “The people from Italy send greetings to you” (13:24) may indicate that the letter was written from Italy, although this is not a necessary conclusion. But whoever the author was, as a literary work Messianic Jews is superb: orderly and logical, “in balanced and resonant sentences of remarkable precision, rising to wonderful heights of eloquence.”  Personally, I would not be surprised when we get to Heaven to discover that Priscilla was indeed the author.

To Whom Addressed

This letter and those of Ya’akov, Kefa, Yochanan, and Y’hudah are known as the General Letters since they are thought of as being written to the entire Messianic Community, rather than to Gentiles only (like the majority of Sha’ul’s) or individuals (like the four Pastorals). However, there is a stream of biblical scholarship which holds that of these eight letters, all but Yochanan’s three were written to Messianic Jews. For the present letter, the argument is overwhelming.

Its Greek title, found on several of the oldest manuscripts, Pros Ebraious (To Messianic Jews), is not part of the original document but must nevertheless be very early. Clearly it is meant to indicate that the book concerns itself with topics of interest to believers in Yeshua who are Jewish ~ the cahanut (“priesthood”), the sacrificial system, angels, Malki-Tzedek, Avraham, Moshe, the Israelites in the wilderness, the biblical covenants, the Tanakh’s men of faith, the role of Torah in the Brit Hadashah, and so on. More specifically, the author wrote to a particular community of Jewish believers whom he knew well and whose spiritual condition he monitored (see 5:11-12, 6:9-10, 10:32-34, 13:18-24).

Date

The content of the letter makes it clear that it was written before a.d. 70, when the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple put an end to the Jewish sacrificial system. The author consistently uses the present tense (“is,” “are”) when speaking of the Temple and the priestly activities connected with it.

Purpose [3]

One of the reasons for this letter was to prepare Messianic Jews for the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. After accepting Yeshua as their Messiah, the Messianic Jews continued to be zealous for the Temple rites and sacrifices, thinking that their beloved city was about to become the capital of the world under their Messiah’s reign. Instead, they were to receive the shock of their lives. By one stroke of the Roman army, the Holy City would be wiped out, and the Temple rites would cease.

This letter was written to explain to the Messianic Jews that animal sacrifices, to which they were so attached, were no longer of any use, that the killing of a bull or a lamb could never take away sin. Those sacrifices had never been intended to be forever; they had been planned to be a sort of picture of the coming sacrifice of the Messiah, and now that Yeshua had come, they had served their purpose. God’s people must look only to Yeshua for redemption and salvation.

In my next post, we’ll begin to examine Messianic Jews 1:1-4 ~ The Deity of Yeshua.

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[1] Today one rarely hears Jews called “Hebrews.”

[2] Throughout this series, I will frequently be quoting from the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[3] Halley’s Bible Handbook.

The Binding of the Dragon

Revelation 20:1-3
The End Times

In my last post, we dug a little deeper into The Three Views of the Millenial Rule of Yeshua. In this post, we begin our exploration of Revelation 20:1-3 ~ The Binding of the Dragon.

“Next I saw an angel coming down from heaven, who had the key to the Abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and HaSatan [the Adversary], and chained him up for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, locked it and sealed it over him; so that he could not deceive the nations any more until the thousand years were over. After that, he has to be set free for a little while.” ~ Revelation 20:1-3 (CJB)

HaSatan’s expulsion from heaven in Revelation 12:9 was connected with the start of the Great Tribulation; here HaSatan’s binding is connected with the Second Coming of Yeshua. Some think the two passages refer to the same event, but in chapter 12 HaSatan made trouble for the earth, while here he is kept from causing trouble. The Abyss was the home of his demons (Luke 8:31). HaSatan’s domain presided over by one of his archangels (Revelation 9:11), now becomes his prison. He had been the ruler of this world, but will not be during the Millennium. The Abyss is not the lake of fire and sulfur in verse 10, which will be the final destination of the HaSatan.

Next I saw an angel coming down from heaven, who had the key to the Abyss and a great chain in his hand. There are two possibilities as to the identity of this angel; either it is Mikha’el the archangel or the Lord Yeshua Himself. It is known from Scripture that no ordinary angel could handle HaSatan in this fashion. Realizing all the destructive ruin caused by HaSatan, it seems only fitting that Yeshua Himself would handle this task. The other reason for selecting Yeshua is the fact that Mikha’el and HaSatan seem to possess comparable power! Remember the dispute between Mikha’el and the Devil, recorded in Jude verse nine: “When Mikha’el, one of the ruling angels, took issue with the Adversary, arguing over the body of Moshe, he did not dare bring against him an insulting charge, but said, ‘May Adonai rebuke you.’”  Mikha’el knew his limitations and left the fate of HaSatan to Yeshua. Oliver Greene comments: [1]

We need not speculate on the identity of the angel in our first verse, it is the angel of the Lord. In Revelation 1:18 we read that Jesus has the keys of hell and death, and He would not trust those keys to anyone else. I believe He personally binds Satan and puts him into the bottomless pit, thus denoting by sealing the pit that the government of Almighty God is behind the prison term of Satan, and will see to it that he does not escape.

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and HaSatan [the Adversary], and chained him up for a thousand years. The Life Application Commentary posses an interesting question:

Why is there a Millennium? Why doesn’t God go straight from Armageddon to eternity? Why this interim and then another final battle – Gog and Magog? We don’t know, but it appears that unbelievers on earth are given the opportunity to experience what the rule of God is like. However, as shown in the following verses, even though unbelievers will experience the reign of Christ, they will continue to rebel against God even without Satan’s deceptive influence. And the moment that Satan is let out of the prison, these people will flock after Satan and go to war against Christ. This will prove their absolute depravity, their true allegiance, and the necessity of the final punishment in the lake of fire.

 He threw him into the Abyss, locked it and sealed it over him; so that he could not deceive the nations any more until the thousand years were over. After that, he has to be set free for a little while. In looking back and reviewing Revelation 9:1-6, the Abyss would appear to be the abode of HaSatan and his demon followers, which raises a question about demons. If Satan is going to be bound for 1000 years, what will happen to the demons during this time? Although Yochanan doesn’t address this question in the book of Revelation, there is a hint of what will happen to them in Isaiah, chapters twenty-four through twenty-seven. These chapters are often referred to as the little apocalypse. A close study of these four chapters will give the Bible student a more complete knowledge as to what all is taking place at this time, in addition to that which is recorded in the book of Revelation.

With a particular interest in the fate of demons read specifically Isaiah 24:21-23: “When that day comes, Adonai will punish the armies of the high heaven on high, and the kings of the earth here on earth. 22 They will be assembled like prisoners in a dungeon and shut up in prison to be punished many years. 23 Then the moon will be confused and the sun ashamed, for Adonai-Tzva’ot will rule on Mount Tziyon and in Yerushalayim, with his glory manifest to the rulers of his people. By this it would seem the demons along with HaSatan will be banished from this earth for 1,000 years.

David Stren gives this background for our consideration. [2]

The ideas of binding demonic beings and of punishing them with eternal fire are also found in the Jewish Apocrypha (Tobit 8:3) and pseudepigrapha (1 Enoch 10:4-17, 18:12-19:2, 21:1-6, 54:4-6; Testament of Levi 18:12; Jubilees 48:15-16), and in Christian Apocrypha (Acts of Pilate 22:2).

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 20:1-3 [3]

Premillennialists interpret Next to suggest a chronological sequence following the events of Chapter 19.  Hence the events described in Chapter 20 are to occur after the Second Coming of Yeshua.  They view the angel as Mikha’el the archangel. There can be no doubt that the earth is still experiencing satanically inspired deception today, which challenges any interpretation that this vision would make HaSatan to be currently bound. After his release, there will be one final rebellion following the 1,000-year reign of Yeshua.

Amillennialists believe that Next speaks only to the order in which the visions were presented to Yochanan, not the chronology of its fulfillment. They think that the angel is Mikha’el the archangel or the Lord Yeshua Himself. They see this passage as entirely symbolic. They think that HaSatan was bound by the death and resurrection of Yeshua.

Postmillennialists concur with the Premillennialists as to the meaning of Next, but the successful preaching of the Besorah precedes Yeshua’s Second Coming. His Second Coming will be revealed in verse 9ff.  The view the events of this chapter as following the blowing of the seventh shofar in chapter 11.  They do believe that there will be a Millennium that will result from the preaching and teaching of the Besorah.

In my next post, we’ll examine The Thousand-Year Reign in Revelation 20:4-6.

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[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

The Three Views of Yeshua’s Millennial Rule

The End Times

In my last post, we continued our practice of summarizing the Four Views from the previous segment in our exploration of the Revelation of Yeshua to Yochanan and introduced The Three Views of the Millennial Rule of Yeshua.  In this post, I want to dig a little deeper into those Three Views before examing Chapter 20.

Henry H. Halley defines the Three Views as: [1]

Amillennialism:   This approach suggests that the millennium represents the current reign of the redeemed saints with Christ in heaven. It is thought that the present-day form of God’s kingdom will be followed by Christ’s return, a general resurrection, and the final White Throne Judgment. After this, Christ will continue to reign over the perfect new heaven and new earth for an eternity. In this approach, the 1000 years is figurative and represents an eternal amount of time.

Premillennialism:  This approach (which is the main approach used in his commentary) suggests that the present form of God’s kingdom is rapidly approaching the glorious return of Christ, which will occur after a seven-year period of tribulation. With Christ’s return, Satan will be bound in the Abyss, and the first resurrection will occur. All the redeemed saints in heaven will return to the earth with Christ to reign with Him for a literal 1000 years. This millennial period will be characterized predominately by peace – at least initially. As the millennial period progresses, the earth will become repopulated with people who have free will. Over time, people’s self-confidence and pride will harden their hearts. God will loose Satan for a short time at the end of the 1000 years. Satan will make one last effort to war with God. God will strike Satan and all who have joined to fight Him with a fire that devours them. God will throw Satan into the lake of burning sulfur to be tormented eternally. This is followed by the White Throne Judgment and a second resurrection of the millennial-age saints. Finally, God will establish a new heaven and new earth, where He will dwell with His people forever.

Postmillennialism:  This approach assumes that eventually the world will be evangelized – in other words, all the world’s people will accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. This will result in a long period of world peace called the Millennium. This glorious period of time will be followed by Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of the dead, the White Throne Judgment and the establishment of an eternal new heaven and new earth.

David Stern has some interesting insights from a Messianic Jewish perspective: [2]

Premillennialism alone expects a future Millennium in which the Messiah himself will rule on earth, and I share this opinion. But I also agree with Lance Lambert, a Messianic Jew living in Jerusalem, who writes:

“It is my belief that there will be a millennium. It would not alter my faith or joy in the Lord if there were no such period. I find myself unable to hold such a conviction in an argumentative or hotly dogmatic spirit. If we are honest, both views present us with problems which are not easily answered. The vital need is to be ready for the Lord’s coming and for all that will follow it.” (Till the Day Dawns, Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1982, p. 160)

A millennium of sorts appears in the lengthy collection of opinions about Messianic times found in Chapter 11 of Babylonian Talmud tractate Sanhedrin:

“Rav Kattina said, ‘The world will exist for six thousand years, then for one thousand years it will lie desolate….'” (Sanhedrin 97a)  This passage and a related one are quoted fully and discussed in 2 Kefa 3:3-9.

Likewise, although the events leading up to the Messianic Age are described differently in the Zohar (the central text of Jewish mysticism compiled in the 13th century), it tells us:

 “Happy are those left alive at the end of the sixth millennium to enter into [the millennium of] the Shabbat.” (Zohar 1:119a) Compare this with Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 4:1-11.

Steve Gregg has these additional insights regarding the Three Views: [3]

Each of the Three Views can present an impressive exegetical argument in its defense, each has been advocated by remarkable conservative scholars, and each has enjoyed its own period of prominence in the thinking of the Western church.

Among Premillennialists, there are two significant varieties:  the dispensational and the historic.  The critical departure between these two groups is that the former believe in a special status for the nation of Israel in the redemptive work of God in the End Times, resulting in a restored millennial Temple in Jerusalem complete with Levitical priests and animal sacrifices.  The Historic Premillennialists see the church, rather than ethnic Israel as prominent in the millennial period.  Dispensationalist also believe that the Rapture occurs seven years before the start of the Millennium, whereas others see the Rapture of the church simultaneously with the Second Coming of Yeshua.

Postmilennialists find in Chapter 20 a consummation of history in the 1,000-year reign of Yeshua on earth. Peace will be restored through the agency of the Word of God and the Ruach.

Amillennialists take their name from the denial that there will be a unique golden age of literally 1,000 years, either before or after the Second Coming of Yeshua.  Chapter 20 is understood symbolically or spiritually.  The time frame is seen to be the whole time between Yeshua’s First and Second Coming.

In my next post, we’ll dig into the content of Chapter 20.

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[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook: Deluxe Edition.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[3] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

Sukkot 5778

The Ultimate Sukkah

We interrupt our series on Revelation once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.  This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2017, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Wednesday, October 4th.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43).  Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13).  It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43).  During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).


Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15).  In fact, it is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40).  The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls.   The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams.   It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah.   The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle).   The etrog is a citron.   Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14).  He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot.  We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth.  But we do know; it certainly wasn’t December 25th.  For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80).  The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people   (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come!  The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice.  And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people.  How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time.  God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness.  The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua dwells as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach.  Because of its latter day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God.  The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.  This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem.  They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2)  The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives.  By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain.  He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19).  Can’t you just imagine it?  The feast of the Millennium!  What a party that will be!  This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy.  This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory.  All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22).  The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home.  In fact, John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people.  How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day.  God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness.  The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana!  (Lord, do save us!)  Amen.  Come quickly, Lord Yeshua!  Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Revelation by looking at Revelation 6:8-9 ~ The Fourth Bowl.

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Yom Kippur – 5778

The Day of Atonement

In this post, we take a break from the series on Revelation to observe the second of the fall Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur.

In 2017, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on September 29th.  The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement.   The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are Kippur (noun) and Kaspar (verb).   The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God.  What does “atonement” mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 provides detailed instructions for a unique sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri.  On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray.  The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal.  There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat.  This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15).  That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”  Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

It is important in looking at the Tanakh to realize that in it we see realities acted out that would be unveiled later.  The whole of scripture is a progressive revelation of God.  He reveals Himself more and more throughout human history.   God planned for continuous enactments of reality so that when Yeshua finally came to lay down His life for us, we would realize just what He was doing?  Should we be surprised at the centuries of animal sacrifice, and the stress on the shedding of blood as necessary for forgiveness?  No.  In the repeated sacrifices of the Tanakh we are led to understand that, to God, death has always been the price of life for sinful men.

Yom Kippur in Yeshua’s Time

Vayikra 16:7-10 states that the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) is “to take the two goats and place them before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  Then (he) is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel (scapegoat) (He) is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering.  But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.”

There were also a few traditions that were added to the scapegoat ceremony.  According to the Mishna, lots were drawn to decide the fate of both of the goats.  The lot for the sacrifice said “for the Lord,” and the lot for the scapegoat said “scapegoat.”  The people considered it a good omen if the lot “for the Lord” came up in the Priests right hand.  Also, a red sash was tied to the scapegoat’s horns, and a portion of it was also tied to the door of the temple.  The sash on the temple turned from red to white as the goat met its end in the wilderness, signifying to the people that God had accepted their sacrifices and their sins had been atoned.  This idea came from Isaiah 1:18 which says, “Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

Also stated in the Mishna as well as the Talmud, four events occurred during the forty years before the destruction of the temple which foreshadowed its doom.  (This would have started at the time when Yeshua was sacrificed once and for all.)  For forty years:

  • The lot that said “for the Lord” did not come in the Priests right hand…this was considered a bad omen.
  • The portion of the red sash that was tied to the temple door stopped turning white with the death of the sacrifice.
  • The westernmost light of the temple candelabra would not burn. This was crucial because this was the shammash” (servant) used to kindle the other lights.
  • The temple doors opened by themselves. The rabbis saw the prophetic fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 11:1 that says, “Open your doors, Lebanon, so that the fire can consume your cedars.”  In fact, fires did consume the cedars of Lebanon that may have adorned the inside of the temple.
Yeshua’s Fulfillment

What should surprise us is that God would give His Son for us.  What should amaze us is that the blood spilled on history’s ultimate altar would be His own.  But we should never be surprised that only the sacrifice of another life can exempt one from the death penalty that sin and guilt deserve.  Sacrifice has always been central to the history of God’s gracious dealings with men.  Over and over again, that picture is presented to us.  Over and over again we see the blood.  Over and over – till with awed amazement we look at Calvary and suddenly the pictures from the past merge into one.  And we bow, stunned by the reality.

He died.
He died for me.
He died for you.

Even in ancient times, God lifted the veil to let us peek beyond the shadows of the reality.

Isaiah 53 was long understood by the Jews to speak of the coming Messiah – the Deliverer to be sent to them by God.  In this passage, we have a clear picture of Yeshua, and of sacrifice.

“Like a lamb led to be slaughtered” (v. 7).
“He would present himself as a guilt offering” (v. 10).
“He exposed himself to death” (v. 12).
“Actually bearing the sin of many” (v. 12).

We cannot read these words today with out realizing that they contain God’s explanation for Yeshua’s life – and for His death.

According to Hebrews Chapter10, the sacrifices of old were “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals” (v. 1).  The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (v. 4).  The sacrifices only covered and concealed sin, thus permitting God to overlook His people’s sins until Yeshua could come to take away sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Romans 3:25-26).  What the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed, Yeshua accomplished!  By one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Yeshua, our sins and lawless acts have been forgiven entirely, and we have been cleansed. (Hebrews 10:14) Thus “an offering for sins is no longer needed” (v. 18).  We just need to appropriate for ourselves the atonement of the shed blood of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again.   Their repetition was a continual reminder to Israel that sin, while temporarily covered, must still be dealt with.  The repeated sacrifices served to demonstrate that no animal’s life could ever satisfy the righteousness of God.  What a different message the bread and wine of Communion!  No longer is fresh blood required.  Yeshua has died, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (v.  12).

It is enough. 
Redemption’s work is done. 
By the blood of Yeshua, you and I have been set forever free.

The focal point of God’s atoning work is Yeshua’s death on the execution stake.  Sha’ul wrote, “we were reconciled with God through His Son’s death when we were enemies” (Romans 5:10).  These words not only define the meaning of atonement, but they also reveal the heart of the gospel as well.

At the beginning of His ministry, Yeshua was identified as “the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  The purpose of His coming was “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  He explained His death regarding His “blood shed on behalf of many” (Mark 14:24).

The relation of Yeshua’s death to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Messianic preaching (Acts 2:21; 3:6, 19; 4:13; 5:31; 8:35; 10:43).  Sha’ul proclaimed, “Yeshua died for our sins” (1 Cor.  15:3), that He was the “kapparah – atonement” (Romans 3:25 KJV; “sacrifice of atonement,” NRSV, NIV; “expiation,” RSV), that He became “a cursed on our behalf” (Galatians 3:13), and that those “who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.” (Ephesians 2:13).   Furthermore, Yeshua has been “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28) and has become “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) into God’s presence.  He is the one who “bore our sins in his body on the stake” (1 Peter 2:24).

Though atonement is focused in the execution stake, the Brit Hadashah makes clear that Yeshua’s death is the climax of His perfect obedience.  He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the execution stake” (Philippians 2:8).  “Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience through his sufferings (Hebrews 5:8).  Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Yeshua’s obedience with Adam’s disobedience.  His sinless obedience qualified Him to be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 6:8-10).

The atonement for sin provided by Yeshua’s death had its origin in divine love.  No other reason can explain why “God reconciled us to himself by Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 5:18).  The anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only and unique Son” (John 3:16; see 1 John 4:9-10).  This does not mean that God loves us because Yeshua died for us.  Rather, Yeshua died for us because God loves us.  Thus, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Because atonement issues from love, it is always seen as a divine gift, never as a human achievement.

No day was, or is, as sacred to the Jewish community as Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement. 

After the high priest had made atonement for his sins and those of his household, he proceeded with the rites of atonement for the whole community.

“God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah – the atonement – for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.” (Romans 3:25)  Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power and resources for doing so.  We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13) and to punish it (Psalms 5:4-6; Romans 1:18; 2:5-9).   No acceptance by, or fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation.

As a perfect sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19), Yeshua’s death was our redemption.  He paid the price that freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14).  Yeshua’s death was God’s act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his hostility to us that our sins provoked (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Yeshua’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of a renewed covenant, in which Yeshua’s one sacrifice guarantees access to God under all circumstances that cover all transgressions (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:15; 10:12-18).  Those who through faith in Yeshua have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) “in him…  become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We no longer need the blood of bulls or goats.  Yeshua is our perfect atonement.  He is the Messiah!

In my next post, we will return to our series to continue to explore Revelation 16:4-7 on The Third Bowl.

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Rosh Hashanah – 5778

Be Ministers of Reconciliation

In this post, we take a break from our series on Revelation to observe the first of the fall Jewish feasts of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah:  The Key Is Repentance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Biblical References:  B’midbar (Numbers) 29:1–6 and Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:23 – 25 ~ Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets).  In 2017, the holiday begins at sundown on September 20th.

Rabbinic Change:  Since this is the first Shabbat of the Fall Holidays, it has been considered as the “spiritual” New Year.  Hence the name changed to Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year.”  It is also seen as the anniversary of creation; the sacrifice of Yitz’chak; the release of Yosef from Pharaoh’s prison; and, the birth of Samuel, the prophet

The purpose and traditional observance of the Holy Day is summed up in one word – regathering.  Since the fall holidays call us to regather to a pure faith in God, Rosh Hashanah has come to represent the Day of Repentance.  It is the day when people of Israel take stock of their spiritual condition and make the necessary changes to ensure that the upcoming New Year will be pleasing to God.

The shofar is sounded daily to alert the faithful that the time of repentance is near.  The observance takes on a somber character, yet always with a hint of hope because of God’s forgiveness.

The traditional challah is shaped in a circle to symbolize God’s Kingship and the coming of Messiah.  Sweet honey cakes and apples dipped in honey are a real treat and express the hope of a new fresh year.

Tradition tells of three books that are opened in the heavenly courts during the feast of Rosh Hashanah; one for the completely righteous, one for the thoroughly wicked, and one for the average person.  The completely righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life.  The completely wicked are immediately inscribed in the book of death.  The average person is kept in suspension from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are written in the book of death.  Consequently, the Ten Days of Awe are a time of solemn self-examination with time spent in seeking reconciliation and doing good works in the Jewish tradition.

Since the 15th Century, the ceremony of Tashlich is celebrated in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah.  The congregation meets at a river or stream.  Special prayers of repentance are recited, and a portion of Micah is read.  People then take breadcrumbs and cast them into the water symbolizing that our sins are carried away by the water.

Rosh Hashanah has profound Messianic significance!  The rabbis have taught that one day the shofar would sound and the Messiah would come.  According to Rabbi Sha’ul, in the future, all true believers in Yeshua will be gathered to meet Him in the clouds.  The dead in Messiah will rise first, to be followed immediately by those believers alive at the time.  “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar, those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.  So encourage each other with these words.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)  That day will indeed be characterized by joy, delight, and sweetness for those who are called home!  As we observe Rosh Hashanah, we should anticipate the time of Yeshua’s return.

The traditional greeting during Rosh Hashanah is, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu!”  May your name be inscribed in the book of life!  As Messianic Believers, we can rightly say, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu b’shem Yeshua!”  May your name be inscribed in the book of life, in the name of Yeshua!

 Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21Rosh Hashanah: repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  Rabbi Sha’ul wrote to the Corinthians about these key ingredients to our annual observation of this holy appointed time.  As Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new spiritual year, so it is that we become new creations when we are united with Yeshua as our Messiah.

The key idea in this passage is reconciliation.  Because of our rebellion, we are the enemy of God and out of fellowship with Him.  Through the work of the execution stake, Yeshua has brought God and us together again.  God has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world.  The essential meaning of the word reconcile is “to change thoroughly.”  It refers to a restored relationship with God and the lost world.  “And it is all from God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18a)

God does not have to be reconciled to man because Yeshua accomplished that on the execution stake.  It is the sinful man who must be reconciled to God.  “Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to God, efforts that are bound to fail.  The Person who reconciles us to God is Yeshua, and the place where He reconciles us is His execution stake.  He not only reconciles us to Himself, but he gives us the task of reconciling other people to Him.  We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

Another key idea in this paragraph is that God does not count our sins against us.  In the KJV, the term used is imputing.  This is a word borrowed from banking; it just means, “to put to one’s account.”  When you deposit money in the bank, the teller puts that amount into your account.    When Yeshua died on the execution stake, all of our sins were imputed to Him – put into His account.  God treated Him as though He had committed those sins.

What was the result?  All of those sins have been paid for, and God no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Yeshua as our Messiah.  But even more: God has put into our account the very righteousness of Yeshua!  “God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in Gods’ righteousness.”   (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Reconciliation is based on imputation: because the demands of God’s Torah have been fully met on the execution stake, God can be reconciled to sinners. Those who believe in Yeshua, as their Messiah will never have their sins imputed to them again (see Psalms 32:1-2; Romans. 4:1-8).  As far as their records are concerned, they share the righteousness of Yeshua!

How does this beautiful doctrine of reconciliation motivate us to serve Yeshua?  We are ambassadors with a message.  God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Since we are the ambassadors of Yeshua, this means that the world is in rebellion against God.  He has sent His ambassadors into the world to declare peace, not war.  “Be reconciled to God!”  We represent Yeshua (see John 20:21; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  If sinners reject our message and us, it is Yeshua who is rejected.  What a great privilege it is to be heaven’s ambassadors to the rebellious sinners of this world!

God has not declared war on the world; at the execution stake, He said peace.  But one day, He will declare war; and then it will be too late for those who have rejected Yeshua (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).  Satan is seeking to tear everything apart in this world, but Yeshua and His Messianic community are involved in the ministry of reconciliation, bringing things back together again, and back to God.

Ministry is not easy.  If we are to succeed, we must be motivated by the fear of the Lord, the love of Yeshua, and the commission that He has given to us.  It is indeed a privilege to serve Him!

During these next ten days before Yom Kippur, I encourage you to do some self-reflection.  Is there any unconfessed sin in your life?  Do you need to forgive someone who has hurt you?  Are there any relationships that require a reconciliation?  As we enter into the start of a new spiritual year, resolve to make a fresh start and be ambassadors of Yeshua HaMashiach, “so that in union with Him, we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”

In my next post, we will return to our study of Revelation 16:3 on The Second Bowl.

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Shavuot (Pentecost)

God’s Appointed Times

We will take a break from our series on the Revelation 9 and return to God’s Appointed Times ~ Shavuot (Pentecost).  In 2017, Shavuot will be observed by Jewish Believers beginning at sundown on Tuesday, May 30th.  Christians will be celebrating Pentecost on Sunday, June 4th.

Scriptural Basis

15“‘From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, 16until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai. 17You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai. 18Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai. 19Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen. 21On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 23:15-21)

 Basic Description

Shavu’ot was one of three festivals (Pesach/Matzah & Sukkot being the other two) appointed by Adonai where all Jewish males were to go up to Jerusalem.  Shavu’ot means “weeks.”  It comes exactly fifty days after Pesach.  In Greek, we have come to know it as Pentecost.  Pentecost means “fifty.”  It was an agricultural festival to celebrate the latter fruits of the spring harvest.  Recall that Yom HaBikkurim (First Fruits) immediately following Pesach celebrated the barley harvest and, as Believers, we recognize it as the resurrection of Yeshua – the first fruit from the dead.  Shavu’ot celebrates the thanksgiving for the wheat harvest symbolized by the two loaves of challah.

Observance

The two loaves of challah were brought into the Temple and with great ceremony, waved in every direction before Adonai.  In addition, blood sacrifices were offered to cover the sin of the people.  Since sacrifices can no longer be made with the destruction of the Second Temple, the modern Jewish observance of Shavu’ot has changed.  Rabbis calculated that Moshe received the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavu’ot.  Hence, the rabbinic name for Shavu’ot is Zman Matan Torateynu (the Time of the Giving of the Torah).

The custom of decorating the synagogue in greenery, flowers and baskets of fruit to symbolize the harvest aspect of Shavu’ot; the practice of marking the holiday with a meal featuring dairy products in recognition of Scripture being described as the pure milk of the Word (I Peter 2:2); and the inclusion of the Megillah (scroll) of Ruth in the service are all the primary reminders of Shavu’ot’s agricultural prominence.

But Ruth’s story sounds another theme, one more relevant to the celebration of Shavu’ot by modern Jewish people and Messianic Believers.  When her husband dies, Ruth – a gentile – elects to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, telling her “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16) binding herself willingly to the people Isra’el.  Ruth’s story is one of commitment to the Jewish people freely made and to the covenant with God that is the core of the Jewish religion and experience.  Like Ruth, the gentile woman who was in the lineage of Yeshua, we have voluntarily said to our fellow Messianic Jewish believers your people will be my people, your God will be my God.

Shavu’ot celebrates the most important moment in the Mosaic covenant – the giving of the Torah to Moshe and its acceptance by Isra’el at Sinai.  Shavu’ot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education.  Traditional Jews stay up all night on the first night of this festival studying the Torah.  In keeping with the theme of Jewish education, Shavu’ot has traditionally been the time when many Jewish schools mark graduation.

Messianic significance abounds in this festival.  From God’s perspective the time of great harvest when large numbers of Jewish believers and later Gentiles came into a personal relationship with Him was initiated at the Shavu’ot immediately after Yeshua’s resurrection. (Acts 2:40-43)  The two leavened loaves of Shavu’ot may therefore symbolize Jew and Gentile presented to God and now part of His family.  God set us free from slavery to sin by placing his Spirit in us to enable us to live as He intended (Romans 8:1-4).  Hence God visibly placed His Ruach HaKodesh in Yeshua’s followers on that important Shavu’ot centuries ago (Acts 2:4).

The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh served as the completion of Pesach, the completion of our atonement, in the sense that through the Ruach, God gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to do evil.

The theme of Shavu’ot can be best summed up by the word revival.  Isra’el was called to praise God for the first fruits of the ground, knowing that these early fruits assured the latter harvest.  This also applies to the spiritual Kingdom of God.  The first fruit of believers at Shavu’ot virtually guarantees a revival in the latter-day spiritual harvest for Messiah.  Now we can understand why God included Shavu’ot in the three required festivals for every Jewish male.  He had gathered Jewish men from throughout the region to hear the Good News of Yeshua in their own language.  They would take that message back home with them to tell their families and friends.  As Pesach speaks of redemption, Shavu’ot speaks of revival.  The message of Shavu’ot is one of great hope and joy.  It was a message heard and accepted by 3,000 Jewish people on that special Shavu’ot (Acts 2:41).  Note that 3,000 Jewish people died because of their rebellion of worshiping the Golden Calf at the giving of the Torah.

When Is The Biblical Feast Of Shavuot?

Many people desire to know the actual Biblical date for Shavuot.  It is the only feast that God did not say fell on a specific date in the Hebrew calendar.  Rather He gave a formula for calculating the day.  Though the traditional Jewish community will celebrate Shavuot according to that traditional calculation, there is a difference of opinion on the matter.  In the first century the Pharisees and Sadducees differed on the date that Shavuot was to be celebrated. The question arose over which Sabbath does Firstfruits (see Vayikra 23:9-14) take place after: the day after Pesach, which is generally considered a Sabbath or the regular seventh day Sabbath, i.e. Saturday during the week of Pesach?

The Pharisees claimed the correct day was the day after the first day of Matzah, the sixteenth of Nisan. The Sadducees taught that the correct day was Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. Since the writings of the Pharisees survived and developed into traditional Judaism, their opinion is accepted in modern Judaism.

But who is biblically correct?  Remember, the Scriptures state, “you are to count seven full Sabbaths until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).

For it to be the day after the seventh Shabbat, the initial Sabbath would have to be the weekly Sabbath. So it would appear the Sadducees were right. Consequently, I believe that the Sadducees got this one correct. Amazingly, the year that Yeshua died, the sixteenth of Nisan fell on the Sunday, which is the day after the Sabbath for the Sadducees as well. God worked it out that neither group would have a reason not to recognize Yeshua as the Firstfruits of the Resurrection.

In my next post, we will return to our series on the Revelation 9 as we continue to examine the Description of Locusts.

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Revelation 1:12-20

The Appearance of Messiah

The End Times

In my last post, we continued our verse-by-verse study of The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah to Yochanan.  In this post, we conclude our unpacking of Chapter 1 of Revelation.

12 I [Yochanan] turned around to see who was speaking to me; and when I had turned, I saw seven gold menorahs; 13 and among the menorahs was someone like a Son of Man, wearing a robe down to his feet and a gold band around his chest. 14 His head and hair were as white as snow-white wool, His eyes like a fiery flame, 15 His feet like burnished brass refined in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp double-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.” ~ Revelation 1:12-16 (CJB)

Seven gold menorahs (“candlesticks”).  Exodus 25:31-40 speaks of the seven-branched menorah which stood outside the second curtain in the Tabernacle. The ten gold menorahs in Solomon’s Temple (1 Chronicles 28:15) were carted off to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:19).  In verse 20, the seven menorahs are identified as the seven Messianic communities of verse 11.

Son of Man is Yeshua’s preferred title for Himself as the Messiah (see Matthew 8:20).  Yeshua fulfills three main offices set forth in the Tanakhprophet, priest and king. Yeshua served as a prophet during his life on earth (see Matthew 21:11). At present, he serves as High Priest in heaven (see Hebrews 2:17-3:6; 4:14-5:10; and; 6:20-10:21); this is signified by his wearing a long robe and a gold band around his chest, the clothing of the Cohen HaGadol [High Priest] (see Exodus 28). The rest of the description in vv. 14-15 suggests his future role as judge and Messianic king.

9 As I watched, thrones were set in place; and the Ancient One took his seat. His clothing was white as snow, the hair on His head was like pure wool. His throne was fiery flames, with wheels of burning fire. 10 A stream of fire flowed from His presence; thousands and thousands ministered to Him, millions and millions stood before Him.  Then the court was convened, and the books were opened.” ~ Daniel 7:9-10 (CJB).  Daniel used similar language as Yochanan to describe God the Father.  Thus, we see here Yeshua’s identification with God.

A sharp double-edged sword came from his mouth.  “ See, the Word of God is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword — it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart.” ~ Hebrews 4:12 (CJB) It is the word of God that our Lord will use to both govern and judge the churches.  We will see this imagery again in Revelation 19:15.

Revelation 1:17-19
The Commissioning of Yochanan

17 When I saw Him, I fell down at His feet like a dead man. He placed his right hand upon me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, 18 the Living One. I was dead, but look! — I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Sh’ol. 19 So write down what you see, both what is now, and what will happen afterwards.” ~ Revelation 1:17-19 (CJB)

I fell down at his feet like a dead man.  This vision of Yeshua seems to have caught Yochanan off guard. Rabbi Sha’ul tells us: “So from now on, we do not look at anyone from a worldly viewpoint. Even if we once regarded the Messiah from a worldly viewpoint, we do so no longer.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:16 (CJB).  It is one thing to be told this truth and yet a different thing to experience it.  There was a time when Yochanan felt relaxed enough to lay his head on Yeshua’s bosom, but that is certainly not the case here. Yeshua reaches out, puts His hand on Yochanan and says, Don’t be afraid.  Yeshua identifies Himself again as the First and the Last. However, He adds more truth by calling attention to His death and resurrection. He assures us that He is alive now and forevermore.  He clearly states that he has the keys of Death and Sh’ol [She’ol, Hades, Hell – the place of the dead, according to the Tanakh].

Special Comparative Note on Revelation 1:19 [1]
“What is now, and what will happen afterwards.”

Some dispensational Futurist believe that what is now are the developments that occur in the Church Age as recorded by Yochanan in Chapter 2 & 3 in the form of the seven letters.  They see the entire Church Age to encompass from the time of Yeshua’s resurrection to the Rapture of the Church incorporated in these seven letters.  I’ll get into this further in my next post.

What will happen afterwards could be more literally translated what “are about to” happen afterwards, a fact that Preterist seize upon as further evidence for their belief that the fulfillment of the book would be quick in coming, i.e. the fall of Jerusalem.

Revelation 1:20
A Mystery Explained

“Here is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold menorahs: the seven stars are the angels of the seven Messianic communities, and the seven menorahs are the seven Messianic communities.” ~ Revelation 1:20 (CJB)

One mystery is solved ~ the seven menorahs are the seven churches to whom Yeshua’s letters are sent.  But, who are the angels of the seven Messianic communities? Some say that they are angels designated to guard the churches; others say that they are elders or pastors of the local churches. Because the seven letters in chapters 2 and 3 contain reprimands, it is doubtful that these angels are heavenly messengers.  If these are earthly leaders or messengers, they are accountable to God for the churches they represent.

In my next post, before we begin to unpack the letters in Chapter 2 & 3, we will look at the Structure of The Letters and a Special Comparative Note on both Chapters.

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[1] Material in this chart is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg