First Gentile Believers ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to examine the actual conversion of the First Gentile Believers. In this post, we will pause for a moment to examine Kefa’s vision as he was napping before his lunch.

1He began to feel hungry and wanted something to eat; but while they were preparing the meal, he fell into a trance 11 in which he saw heaven opened, and something that looked like a large sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures, and wild birds. 13 Then a voice came to him, “Get up, Jewish, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Jewish said, “No, sir! Absolutely not! I have never eaten food that was unclean or treif.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time: “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the sheet was immediately taken back up into heaven. ~ Acts 10:10 –16 (CJB)

This passage, along with Mark 7:19, deals with Kashrut’s dietary laws in Leviticus 11:1-47.

19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and it passes out into the latrine.” (Thus, He declared all foods ritually clean.) ~ Mark 7:19 (CJB). Yeshua is responding to the question raised in Mark 7:15.

The P’rushim and the Torah-teachers asked him, “Why don’t your talmidim live in accordance with the Tradition of the Elders, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?”

David H. Stern opines on this passage:

Thus, He declared all foods ritually clean, even if the meal participants have not washed their hands. But Yeshua did not, as many suppose, abolish the laws of Kashrut, and thus declare ham kosher! Since the beginning of the chapter, the subject has been ritual purity as taught by the Oral Torah concerning n’tilat-yadayim (ceremonial handwashing) and not Kashrut at all! There is not the slightest hint anywhere that foods in this verse can be anything other than what the Bible allows Jews to eat; in other words, kosher foods. [1]

Going back to Acts 10:12–14, Stern has this to say:

Leviticus 11 specifies that only those four-footed animals that chew the cud and have split hoofs are kosher (“fit”) for Jewish people to eat. No reptiles are allowed, and permitted birds are listed by name. In Kefa’s vision, all kinds of creatures appeared, including those that are non-kosher or treif. [2]

I would highly encourage you to read Leviticus 11:1-47 on your own as it will give you a better understanding of Kashrut’s issue. As we travel through Acts 10, we will run into this issue again as Kefa tries to figure out the meaning of his vision.

I have attached the sermon I gave many years ago on this issue.

Should We Be Kosher

In my next post, we continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion ~ Part 3.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 1

In my last post, we learned about that Jewish Performs More Miracles. In this post, we will begin to examine the actual conversion of the First Gentile Believers. We are going to be spending some time on this topic. So, buckle up and dig as we into God’s Word.

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a Roman army officer in what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man, a “God-fearer,” as was his whole household; he gave generously to help the Jewish poor and prayed regularly to God.

He gave generously to help the Jewish poor. The text does not say “the Jewish poor.” The Greek Laos is frequently a technical term referring to the Jewish people, the people of God, not people in general, hence this rendering.

And prayed regularly to God. Like in the Tanakh (Ruth 1:16), this God-fearing Gentile had accepted the two essentials of true worship:

  • “Your people shall be my people.” Although Cornelius did not officially join the Jewish people, he cared for them as his own.
  • “And your God shall be my God.” He prayed to the God of Isra’el.

 One afternoon around three o’clock, he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at the angel, terrified. “What is it, sir?” he asked. “Your prayers,” replied the angel, “and your acts of charity have gone up into God’s presence so that he has you on his mind. Now send some men to Yafo to bring back a man named Shim’ on, also called Jewish. He’s staying with Shim ‘on the leather-tanner, who has a house by the sea.” As the angel that had spoken to him went away, Cornelius called two of his household slaves and one of his military aides, who was a Godly man; he explained everything to them and sent them to Yafo. ~ Acts 10:1–8 (CJB)

The next day, about noon, while they were still on their way and approaching the city, Jewish went up onto the roof of the house to pray. 10 He began to feel hungry and wanted something to eat; but while they were preparing the meal, he fell into a trance 11 in which he saw heaven opened, and something that looked like a large sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures and wild birds. 13 Then a voice came to him, “Get up, Jewish, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Jewish said, “No, sir! Absolutely not! I have never eaten food that was unclean or treif.

Kefa was in Yafo (9:42), praying on the roof about noon. Hungry and waiting for lunch to be prepared, he fell into a trance. eaten food that was unclean or treif.”

Leviticus 11 specifies that only those four-footed animals that chew the cud and have split hoofs are Kosher or fit for Jewish people to eat. No reptiles are allowed, and permitted birds are listed by name. In Kefa’s vision, all kinds of creatures appeared, including those that are non-Jewish or treif. Treif means “torn” and refers to animals slain by predators and not slaughtered following Jewish practice.

When he heard a voice tell him to eat, he refused. Kefa was a good, faithful Jew who had always obeyed the Jewish food laws. But the voice said, What God has made clean, do not call impure. After seeing two reruns of this message (two or three witnesses are God’s divine confirmation), Kefa woke up.

15 The voice spoke to him a second time: “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the sheet was immediately taken back up into heaven. ~ Acts 10:9–16 (CJB)

Jewish people had preferred death to eating unclean (non-Jewish) food in the time of the Maccabees; thus, Jewish readers would be appalled that God would require anything so disgusting (from the perspective of cultural cuisine) and impious (from an Old Testament perspective). The vision that God can declare anything clean applies especially to the Gentiles Kefa is about to meet.

Kefa had been faithful to the dietary restrictions God had given Isra’el under the old covenant (see Lev 11:1-47). But during his ministry, Jesus had declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19).

In my next post, we continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion ~Part 2. In this next post, I will deal with Kashrut’s issue, as stated in Acts 10:15, Leviticus 11:1:47, and Mark 7:19.

Click here for the PDF version.

Pesach and Hag HaMatzah ~ 2020

(Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread)
God’s Appointed Times

We return to God’s Appointed Times from the Tanakh.  Both Pesach (Passover) and Hag HaMatzah are tied to the remembrance of the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  The principle Scriptural reference for Pesach is in B’midbar (Exodus) 12:1-13 and Hag HaMatzah in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:5-8.  In 2020, Pesach starts on the eve of April 8th and Hag HaMatzah on the eve of April 9th.   This eight-day remembrance ends at sundown on April 16th.

For Believers in Yeshua, this time can be a great time to reflect not only on the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage and death of the first-born by the shedding of the lamb’s blood on the doorpost; but also on the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross.  His death and resurrection paid for our sins and purchased for us eternal salvation.

I’ve included a great video from Friends of Israel which takes you through the Pesach Seder.

I have attached a PDF version of an explanation of the traditional Pesach Seder provided by Chosen People Ministries.  Click here.

However, for those of you who want to have a Scriptural-based observation of Pesach, I highly recommend Kevin Geoffrey’s “Behold the Lamb and Preparation Guide.”  Click here to order.

Isra’el’s Only Savior ~ Yesha’yahu 43:1-13

In my last post, we conclude our examination The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 42:18-25. In this post, we learn of Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13.

1 But now this is what Adonai says, He who created you, Ya‘akov, He who formed you, Isra’el: “Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I am calling you by your name; you are Mine.

One of the things I’ve learned in my walk with Adonai is that names are important to Him. Calling a person by his or her name indicates a high level of familiarity. I was named after my uncle, who died before my mother was born. She wanted to honor his struggle with life. I’ve since learned that my name, Donald, means world ruler and overcomer. Although I have held several top management level positions in my previous career, I have never aspired to be a world ruler. But I have taken the overcomer attribute to heart.

Adonai gave Isra’el its name when He changed the name of the patriarch Ya’akov to Isra’el (see Genesis 32:28). The intention of this prophecy is expressed clearly at the start don’t be afraid. Adonai informed His people about their coming deliverance to keep them from caving into fear.

2 When you pass through water, I will be with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you will not be scorched – the flame will not burn you.

The waters can be naturally dangerous, just like the fire mentioned in the second half of the verse. However, the waters can stand for the forces of chaos and evil (see Daniel 7:1-9) or personal duress (see Psalm 69:1-3). The promise that Adonai will be with His people is a covenant formula that indicates the close relationship between Adonai and His people.

3 For I am Adonai, your God, the Holy One of Isra’el, your Savior – I have given Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and S’va for you. 4 Because I regard you as valued and honored, and because I love you. For you, I will give people, nations in exchange for your life.

The Persians successfully invaded Egypt and gained control of Cush (Ethiopia) during the reign of Cyrus’s successor, Cambyses. S’va’s location is disputed. [1] Adonai is willing to give much more than these three countries in place of His people.

5 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. I will bring your descendants from the east, and I will gather you from the west; 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Don’t hold them back! Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth,

Adonai will gather His people from all over the world. As we know in our lifetime, He is fulfilling that promise since the establishment of the modern state if Isra’el in 1948.

7 everyone who bears My name, whom I created for My glory – I formed him, yes, I made him.’”

The impending exile would not result in the eradication of Adonai’s special people. After all, He created them. They will preserve their distinct identity and not be merged into foreign populations.

8 Bring forward the people who are blind but have eyes, also the deaf who have ears.

Being blind and deaf is a reference is to spiritual insensitivity.

9 All the nations are gathered together, and the peoples are assembled. Who among them can proclaim this and reveal what happened in the past? Let them bring their witnesses to justify themselves, so that others, on hearing, can say, “That’s true.”

The challenge to find someone among the nations who could tell the significance of past events is another sarcastic comment on the mute, powerless idols of the nations.

10 “You are my witnesses,” says Adonai, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you can know and trust me and understand that I am He – no god was produced before me, nor will any be after Me. 11 I, yes I, am Adonai; besides Me, there is no deliverer.

I’m glad our Father keeps it very simple for people like me who can get confused so easily. There is salvation in no one else! For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved! ~ Acts 4:12 (CJB)

12 I have declared, saved, and proclaimed – not some alien god among you. Therefore, you are My witnesses,” says Adonai. “I am God.

Adonai called to the assembled nations to be a witness. He also called on His people, whom He identified as His servant, to be His witnesses. The calling of witnesses associates this passage with the courtroom. Not only is Adonai better than the foreign gods, but those gods do not exist at all. The nations were silent when asked to witness to their gods’ work in their lives. Adonai’s people functioned as Adonai’s witness to the fact that He had saved them in the past.

If you don’t see Adonai, don’t hear from Adonai, don’t know Adonai, could it be because there’s a strange god in your life? Is it because there is some other passion or priority that is keeping you from seeing the true Adonai? Other gods, other preferences will obscure your vision of the true and living Adonai. They will cloud your spiritual perception very definitely.

13 Since days began, I have been He. No one can deliver from My hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” ~ Isaiah 43:1-13 (CJB)

Adonai makes it clear that He is the One we should follow.

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy in Yesha’yahu 43:14-28.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

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.


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.

Click here for PDF version.

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.

Click here for PDF version.

[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).


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.

Click here for PDF version.

[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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