Great Persecution of the Faithful Has Hit Yerushalayim

In my last post, we learned that the Emissaries Are Rounded Up Yet Again and Warned by the Sanhedrin. In this post, we learn about a Great Persecution of the Faithful Has Hit Yerushalayim.

Following the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, there arose intense persecution against the Messianic Community in Yerushalayim; all but the emissaries were scattered throughout the regions of Y’hudah and Shomron. ~ Acts 8:1 (CJB) Picking up the story in verse 14: When the emissaries in Yerushalayim heard that Shomron (Samaria) had received the Word of God, they sent them Kefa [1] and Yochanan, 15 who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Ruach HaKodesh. 16 For until then, he had not come upon any of them; they had only been immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua.17 Then, as Kefa and Yochanan placed their hands on them, they received the Ruach HaKodesh.

From a theological standpoint, the work of the Ruach HaKodesh is one spiritual process (Ac 2:38-39). Still, in the experience of the early Kehilah, not all aspects of His work are necessarily manifested simultaneously. Luke emphasizes the prophetic empowerment dimension of the Ruach (Ac 1:8) so much that he rarely mentions other aspects of the Ruach’s work known in the Tanakh and early Judaism; this prophetic empowerment aspect could be in view here, although Philip’s hearers were already converted in 8:12.

Ancient Judaism provides rare examples of laying on of hands for prayer. In the Tanakh, hands were laid on to impart blessings in prayer (Gen 48:14-20). Early converts received the Ruach HaKodesh at the laying on of hands by emissaries or evangelists. Some suggest that this was God’s plan to ensure that new believers received trustworthy instruction and got connected to God’s chosen leaders.

18 Shim’on saw that the Spirit was given when the emissaries placed their hands on them, and he offered them money. 19 “Give this power to me, too,” he said, “so that whoever I place my hands on will receive the Ruach HaKodesh.”

Here we see Shim’on’s true heart. He was used to impressing the crowds with magic; now, he wanted to impress them with his ability to impart the Ruach HaKodesh.

20 But Kefa said to him, “Your silver go to ruin – and you with it, for thinking the free gift of God can be bought! 21 You have no part at all in this matter; because, in the eyes of God, your heart is crooked. 22 So repent of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord. Perhaps you will yet be forgiven for holding such a thought in your heart.

By saying that Shim’on had no part at all in this matter, Kefa confirmed that Shim’on had not truly converted to Messianic Judaism. His heart (meaning his will, affections, allegiance) was still crooked.

23 For I see that you are extremely bitter and completely under the control of sin!” 24 Shim ‘on answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that none of the things you have spoken about will happen to me.”

It is not clear whether Shim’on’s words sprang from genuine repentance or were themselves only more sham, deception, and hypocrisy.

25 Then, after giving a thorough witness and speaking the Word of the Lord, Kefa and Yochanan started back to Yerushalayim, announcing the Good News to many villages in Shomron.” ~ Acts 8:14-25 (CJB)

After several episodes in Shomron, Kefa, Philip, and any other emissaries traveling with them returned to Yerushalayim. They evangelized many villages in Shomron along the way, tearing down ethnic barriers with the global gospel of Yeshua.

In my next post, we will jump forward to Acts 9 to learn that Kefa Performs More Miracles.

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[1] This is another example of Kefa being seen as the early leader of the emissaries.​

Emissaries Are Rounded Up Yet Again And Warned by the Sanhedrin

In my last post, we learned that the Emissaries Perform Many Signs and Miracles and Are Jailed Again. In this post, we learn that the Emissaries Are Rounded Up Yet Again and Warned by the Sanhedrin.

21b Now the Cohen HaGadol and his associates came and called a meeting of the Sanhedrin (that is, of Isra’el’s whole assembly of elders) and sent to the jail to have them brought. 22 But the officers who went did not find them in the prison. So they returned and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked and the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened it, we found no one inside!”

These guards are fortunate that they are Levites policing for the Jewish Temple aristocracy rather than recruits under the Romans or Herod Agrippa I, who might have executed them (see 12:18-19).

24 When the captain of the Temple police and the head cohanim heard these things, they were puzzled and wondered what would happen next. 25 Then someone came and reported to them, “Listen! The men you ordered put in prison are standing in the Temple court, teaching the people!”

Such events would cause these leaders to lose face further.

26 The captain and his officers went and brought them, but not with force because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

The Temple police were afraid of being stoned by the people because Yerushalayim was responding positively to the emissaries. Meanwhile, the Jewish leaders saw their authority slipping away.

27 They conducted them to the Sanhedrin, where the Cohen HaGadol demanded of them, 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name! Look here! you have filled Yerushalayim with your teaching; moreover, you are determined to make us responsible for this man’s death!”

At the time of Herod Agrippa, all but three of the seventy members of the Sanhedrin were Tz’dukim. Therefore in suppressing the Gospel the Sanhedrin was judging it by two Sadducee criteria: (1) it proclaimed the resurrection, which the Tz’dukim denied, and (2) it proclaimed “another king, Yeshua,” which, if true, would be politically subversive, as well as destructive of the cozy, working relationship the Tz’dukim had with the occupying Romans.

The charge against the emissaries is that they are trying to incite unrest against the municipal aristocracy, which the Romans approved, by accusing them of responsibility for Yeshua’s execution. They were more concerned about maintaining their authority than embracing the truth.

29 Kefa and the other emissaries answered, “We must obey God, not men.

Believers should obey the law of the land, but when human law conflicts with God’s law, we must obey God, not men.

30 The God of our fathers raised up Yeshua, whereas you men killed Him by having him hanged on a stake.31 God has exalted this man at His right hand as Ruler and Savior, in order to enable Isra’el to do t’shuvah (repentance) and have her sins forgiven.32 We are witnesses to these things; so is the Ruach HaKodesh, whom God has given to those who obey him.” ~ Acts 5:21b-32 (CJB)

Kefa never wastes an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. Here he knows he must be brief, for the Sanhedrin will not patiently endure a sermon. Yet his message always, even to these determined opponents, is one of hope, one who offers salvation. If anything, Kefa stepped up the pressure on the Sanhedrin (and endangered himself and the others more) by declaring that they had killed Yeshua, whom God has exalted this man at His right hand as Ruler and Savior. Kefa and the other emissaries knew this to be true because they were witnesses of this, as was the Ruach HaKodesh.

In my next post, we will jump forward to Acts 8 to learn that a Great Persecution of the Faithful Has Hit Yerushalayim.

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Emissaries Perform Many Signs and Miracles and Are Jailed Again

In my last post, we learned that not all the Believers were in one accord as Kefa Confronts Hananyah and Shappirah. In this post, we learn that the Emissaries Perform Many Signs and Miracles and Are Jailed Again.

12 Meanwhile, through the emissaries, many signs and miracles continued to be done among the people. United in mind and purpose, the believers met in Shlomo’s Colonnade;

Undaunted by their previous arrest at the Temple (4:3), the emissaries continued to perform signs and miracles among the people they encountered in Shlomo’s Colonnade.

13 and no one else dared to join them. Nevertheless, the people continued to regard them highly; 14 and throngs of believers were added to the Lord, both men, and women.

No one else seems to refer to non-believers that than to other Believers. Many non-Jews attended synagogue and believed in Israel’s God without fully converting and keeping the Jewish Law. In context, people fear to associate with the movement without full commitment, knowing the fate of Hananyah and Shappirah.

15 They went so far as to bring the sick into the streets and lay them on mattresses and stretchers so that at least Kefa’s shadow might fall on them as he passed by. 16 Crowds also gathered from the towns around Yerushalayim, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and every one of them was healed.

Ancient people thought that one’s shadow was attached to oneself. In Jewish Law, for example, if one’s shadow touched a corpse, one was as unclean as one who physically touched the corpse. Some Greeks felt that one could suffer harm through injury to one’s shadow.

What sounds to modern ears like a charlatan’s stunt not only reflected genuine faith but was rewarded by complete healing success. Does God heal miraculously today? Some people suppose that all healing ministries are run by fakers pursuing money. We have seen too many instances of that in our recent past. But even physicians who believe neither in God nor in miracles will attest to extraordinary and inexplicable cures for which they deserve n credit, and they will agree that the label “psychosomatic” will go only so far in accounting for them. In other words: Yes, God still heals.

There are several places in the Brit Hadashah, including Acts, where God heled people through surprising means. Besides Kefa’s shadow, these included the hem of Yeshua’s robe (LK 8:44) as well as facecloths and aprons that the Rabbi Sha’ul had touched (Ac 19:12). There was, of course, nothing special about these items; instead, it was the power of God working through the messengers with whom the objects were associated.

17 But the Cohen HaGadol and his associates, who were members of the party of the Tz’dukim, were filled with jealousy.

The Tz’dukim (Sadducees) were politically powerful but never gained the popularity that the P’rushim enjoyed. The Cohen HaGadol and his associates opposed the spread of Messianic Judaism, not merely because they didn’t believe in Yeshua as the Messiah, but because they were filled with jealousy at the following that was building around Him daily as the emissaries preached and performed miracles.

18 They arrested the emissaries and put them in the public jail.

Jails were typically used for detention until trial, not for imprisonment as a punishment. The Roman garrison in this period controlled the Fortress Antonia on the Temple Mount; the Levite Temple police thus jailed the emissaries in a different location, though it might also be near the Temple.

19 But during the night, an angel of Adonai opened the doors of the prison, led them out and said, 20 “Go, stand in the Temple court and keep telling the people all about this new life!”

Having been arrested again for their ministry in Yeshua’s name, the emissaries were set free by an angel of Adonai in such a way that aroused no attention. Some speculate that they were transported directly from the jail to the Temple court, but the fact that the angel opened the doors of the prison and told the emissaries to stand in the Temple court suggests otherwise. We will see a similar episode with Kefa in Acts12:6-10.

21 After hearing that, they entered the Temple area about dawn and began to teach. Now the Cohen Hagadol and his associates came and called a meeting of the Sanhedrin (that is, of Isra’el’s whole assembly of elders) and sent to the jail to have them brought. ~ Acts 5:12-21a (CJB)

The gates of the Temple opened at midnight, but people returned only at daybreak. The hearing for the emissaries had been scheduled for daylight because trials were not to be held at night. Newly freed, we might expect the emissaries to flee Yerushalayim. Instead, they entered the Temple are about dawn and began to do the very thing that had gotten them in trouble in the first place: teach about Yeshua.

In my next post, we learn that the Emissaries Are Rounded Up Again to Be Warned by the Sanhedrin.

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Kefa Confronts Hananyah and Shappirah

In my last post, we learned that The Body of Believers Begin to Share Everything. In this post, we learn that not all were of one accord as Kefa Confronts Hananyah and Shappirah.

1 But there was a man named Hananyah who, with his wife Shappirah, sold some property 2 and, with his wife’s knowledge, withheld some of the proceeds for himself, although he did bring the rest to the emissaries.

The sin of Hananyah and Shappirah was not that they reserved some of the proceeds for themselves but that they tried to create the impression that they had not.

3 Then Kefa said, “Why has the Adversary so filled your heart that you lie to the Ruach HaKodesh and keep back some of the money you received for the land? 4 Before you sold it, the property was yours; and after you sold it, the money was yours to use as you pleased. So, what made you decide to do such a thing? You have lied not to human beings but to God!”

You lie to the Ruach HaKodesh…. you have lied… to God. The Ruach HaKodesh is thus identified with God. Hananyah and Shappirah assumed they were merely lying to the emissaries, but in reality, they had lied to God Himself. Kefa’s question the money was yours to use as you pleased implies that Hananyah and Shappirah would have been justified to sell the land and give only a portion to the community. Their sin lay in their deception and their desire to win praise.

In other words, Hananyah owned the land, and he hadn’t been forced to sell it. Even when he did sell it, he was not required to give the community the money. His sin was that he made a commitment to give all of the proceeds to meet the needs of others (like Bar-Nabba did) and then deceptively kept back some for himself – to the detriment of those in need.

5 On hearing these words, Hananyah fell down dead; and everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body in a shroud, carried him out, and buried him.

In the present incident and below, we see that the Brit Hadashah is, so far as justice and judgment are concerned, the same as the TanakhGod is One. He cannot abide with sin. Fraud is a sin, and it is punished. Sometimes the punishment for sin is delayed, but in this instance, the immediacy of the judgment showed everyone that God is real and means business. Love is not a feeling but right action, as Judaism has always taught. Children let us not love with words and talk, but with actions and in reality! (1 John 3:18)

7 Some three hours later, his wife came in, unaware of what had happened. 8 Kefa challenged her: “Tell me, is it true that you sold the land for such-and-such a price?” “Yes,” she answered, “that is what we were paid for it.” 9 But Kefa came back at her, “Then why did you people plot to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The men who buried your husband are at the door. They will carry you out too!” 10 Instantly she collapsed at his feet and died. The young men entered, found her there dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband.

The deception of Hananyah and Shappirah, and in particular Shappirah’s lie to Kefa, was again a test of the Spirit of the Lord. This is a powerful indication of the Ruach’s role in the community and its leadership; Kefa was a mere man, but he was God’s man to lead this fellowship of believers.

Shappirah condemned herself by following her husband into sin and telling the same lie and dropped dead, just like Hananyah.

The marriage bond ought to be the strongest of human relationships. Yet it must never trump a relationship with God. Though a husband is to love his wife sacrificially and a wife is to submit to the leadership of her husband, neither is to follow the other into sin. Our relationship with and commitment to God must always be primary.

11 As a result of this, great fear came over the whole Messianic community, and indeed over everyone who heard about it. ~ Acts 5:1-11 (CJB)

As a result of what happened to Hananyah and Shappirah, great fear came over the whole Messianic community, and indeed over everyone who heard about it. It was evident to everyone that the supernatural work of God was operating in the emissaries’ ministry; therefore, people who hadn’t been taking God seriously before were taking him seriously after that. Church discipline, in fact, is designed to encourage believers to take God seriously concerning sin.

In my next post, we will learn that the Emissaries Perform Many Signs and Wonders and Are Jailed Again.

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The Body of Believers Begin to Share Everything

In my last post, we learned that after being freed, Kefa and Yochanan Attend a Prayer Meeting. In this post, we pick up with Acts 4:32 to learn that The Body of Believers Begin to Share Everything. Although Kefa is not mentioned in this passage, I felt it essential to lay a firm foundation for when we next encounter him.

32 All the many believers were one in heart and soul, and no one claimed any of his possessions for himself, but everyone shared everything he had. 33 With great power, the emissaries continued testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua, and they were all held in high regard.

Notice how the early community of Believers is described: They were one in heart and soul. Unity among the people of God is critical for the revealing of the visible manifestation of His glory. It is what Yeshua prayed for (see John 17:23-23), and it what these first Believers demonstrated and what Sha’ul insisted on (see Eph. 4:3). When there is disunity, the Ruach does not work.

They were all held in high regard by the non-believing Jews, as at Acts 2:47. Nevertheless, thinking positively of Believers is not enough to save unbelievers. Or, saying the same thing in the words of Isra’el’s former Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, “There is a great difference between gathering a good impression and taking the correct view.” [1]

34 No one among them was poor, since those who owned lands or houses sold them and turned over the proceeds 35 to the emissaries to distribute to each according to his need.

As long as there was complete unanimity of purpose and intention among them, the early Believers shared the proceeds from their possessions freely to each according to his need. They were able to do this not because of their strength, but because great grace was on all of them. Therefore, the generosity was, above all, a work of God. Yet, we will learn that trouble is coming.

36 Thus Yosef, whom the emissaries called Bar-Nabba (which means “the Exhorter”), a Levi, and a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field which belonged to him and brought the money to the emissaries~ Acts 4:32-37 (CJB)

Yosef, whom the emissaries called Bar-Nabba. The Exhorter translates the Greek phrase, which can mean “son of counsel,” “son of exhortation,” or “son of encouragement.” Aramaic Bar (“son of”) often has the sense, “one who has the quality of.” The word Nabba is related to the Hebrew root meaning “prophet,” and a prophet is own who counsels, comforts, exhorts, and encourages. Yosef was always comforting and exhorting his fellow talmidim, so the emissaries gave him the nickname. He becomes a prominent figure in Acts 9-15.

Bar-Nabba’s generosity is set in stark contrast to the couple Luke describes next.

In my next post, we will learn that not all Believers were willing to share all that they had by looking at Kefa Confronts Hananyah and Shappirah.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary

Kefa and Yochanan Attend a Prayer Meeting

In my last post, we completed the mini-series of Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 5. In this post, we pick up where we left off in our last series, where we learn that after being freed, Kefa and Yochanan Attend a Prayer Meeting.

23 Upon being released, they went back to their friends and reported what the head cohanim and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices to God with singleness of heart. “Master,” they prayed, “You made heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them.

Why, at the beginning of their prayer, do these Messianic Jews remind God that He made heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them? Not only because it is pointless for mere human beings to fight God (vv. 25-28 see below), but because the talmidim are praying that God will sovereignly give the Messiah’s slaves (see v. 29) power to speak [God’s] message with boldness (vv. 29-31).

25 By the Ruach HaKodesh, through the mouth of our father David, your servant, you said,

‘Why did the nations rage and the peoples devise useless plans? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers assembled together against Adonai and against his Messiah.’

The Book of Acts quotes the Greek of the Septuagint. The Hebrew for Psalm 2:1-2 reads:

Why are the nations in an uproar?
And why do the peoples mutter in vain?

The kings of the earth arise
And the rulers take counsel together
Against Adonai and against his Messiah.

Jewish writings often call attention to a text by citing its beginning; therefore, the reader should understand that the Believers’ prayer of vv. 24-30 is permeated by all of Psalm 2, not just its initial verses. Jewish as well as Christian expositors have seen Psalm 2 as Messianic.

27 “This has come true in this city, since Herod and Pontius Pilate, with Goyim and the peoples of Isra’el, all assembled against your holy servant Yeshua, whom you made Messiah, 28 to do what your power and plan had already determined beforehand should happen.

Goyim and the peoples of Isra’el had united in opposition to God’s holy Servant Yeshua and His followers. Then and now, Believers take comfort in knowing that Yeshua’s sufferings (as well as our own) are not by chance but are determined by God.

29 “So now, Lord, take note of their threats; and enable your slaves to speak your message with boldness!

The early Believers recognized that just as Yeshua had been promised trouble, they too would encounter persecution for proclaiming Him as Messiah. They asked God for the power to speak your message with boldness, even if the punishment should follow.

30 Stretch out your hand to heal and to do signs and miracles through the name of your holy servant Yeshua!”

Besides boldness in testifying, the early Believers expected to receive power from God to heal and to do signs and miracles through the name of your holy servant Yeshua!”

31 While they were still praying, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, and they spoke God’s message with boldness.

They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh. Some of them had been filled before (2:4), but Ephesians 5:18 instructs Believers to keep being filled with the Ruach. They spoke God’s message with boldness. This is a sure sign of being filled with the Ruach, and it is also the purpose of the filling (1:8). A word of caution: this verse should not be used as a proof text for speaking in tongues. That’s not the context.

32 All the many believers were one in heart and soul, and no one claimed any of his possessions for himself, but everyone shared everything he had. ~ Acts 4:23-32 (CJB)

In my next post, we will expand on verse 32 when we learn that sharing everything leads to trouble in the Body of Believers.

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The Ultimate Sukkah ~ Sukkot 5781

We continue to interrupt our series on Kefa once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2020, the festival of Sukkotthe Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Friday, October 2nd.

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). It is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based on 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 indeed 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 entirely 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 resides 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 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. 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 Kefa.

Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 5

In my last post, we continued with the aftermath of Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 4. In this post, we conclude the mini-series of the Disabled Beggar when Kefa and Yochanan Are Warned and Freed.

13 When they saw how bold Kefa and Yochanan were, even though they were untrained ‘am-ha’aretz, they were amazed; also, they recognized them as having been with Yeshua.

When they saw how bold Kefa and Yochanan were,… they were amazed. These “hicks” from the Galil dared to address the core of the establishment and tell them they were wrong! It was the Ruach HaKodesh at work in believers who gave such boldness, and He does the same today.

Untrained ‘am-ha’aretz, literally, “people of the land,” just ordinary folks, not systematically educated in the Scriptures and the traditions of either the P’rushim or the Tz’dukim (who together constituted the Sanhedrin’s membership). Jewish people have always had high regard for education, and “education” used to mean education in religious matters primarily. Thus, an untrained ‘am-ha’aretz would be guaranteed low social status, and little would be expected of him. The members of the Sanhedrin could easily spot these Galileans by their up-country accents as persons unlikely to be delivering religious truth. But the Galileans’ lack of training did not affect the truth of their message: there are uneducated pundits and educated fools.

14 Moreover, since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there beside them, there was nothing they could say to discredit the healing. 15 So they told them to step away from the Sanhedrin while they discussed the matter privately. 16 “What can we do with these men?” they asked each other. “Why, anyone in Yerushalayim can see that a remarkable miracle has come about through them – we can’t possibly deny that.

Both the talmidim and the Sanhedrin recognize that there is no valid basis for a legal charge. Still, as custodians of the Temple, they had the police power to control what they consider subversive teachings on what they consider their grounds. Yet rather than repent and believe they focused on damage control.

17 But to prevent it from spreading any further among the people, let’s warn them not to speak any more to anyone in this name.”

They sought to halt the spread of Messianic Judaism at all costs, so they warned them not to speak any more to anyone in this name. It seems they wished to guard their status as religious authorities even at the expense of undeniable truth.

Verse 17 raises an interesting question. How can Luke ( the author of the Book of Acts) know what went on behind locked doors? We know that Yosef of Ramatayim was both a Believer and a member of the Sanhedrin (Mk 15:43); Nakdimon, also a secret Believer, was probably in the Sanhedrin too (Jn 7:50). In all likelihood, in his research (Lk 1:3), he would have consulted them or other Sanhedrin members who came to faith later.

18 So they called them in again and ordered them under no circumstances to speak or teach in the name of Yeshua. 19 But Kefa and Yochanan answered, “You must judge whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God. 20 As for us, we can’t help talking about what we have actually seen and heard.”

Kefa and Yochanan’s reference to what they had seen and heard included their experiences with Yeshua plus what they had witnessed since Shavuot. All told, they had been eyewitnesses to many of God’s revelatory acts.

21 They threatened them some more but finally let them go – they couldn’t punish them because of the people, for everyone was praising God over what had happened, 22 since the man who had been miraculously healed was more than forty years old. ~ Acts 4:13-22 (CJB)

Although the Sanhedrin backed down, they do not admit wrongdoing, which would be a matter of shame.

In my next two posts, we learn more about the last two of the fall High Holy Days.

Click here for the PDF version.

Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 4

In my last post, we continued with the aftermath of Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 3. In this post, we Kefa and Yochanan Are Arrested.

1 Kefa and Yochanan were still speaking to the people when the cohanim, the captain in charge of the Temple police, and the Tz’dukim [1] came upon them, 2 very annoyed that they were teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead and offering Yeshua as proof. 3 The Temple police arrested them, and since it was already evening, they put them in custody overnight.

No longer dealing with someone overturning tables in the Temple, the aristocracy is content to follow the law and wait till the next day to try them (night trials were illegal, and most businesses of any regular sort stopped by sundown).

4 However, many of those who heard the message trusted; the number of men alone was about five thousand.

Repeated attempts to suppress the Messianic message only caused it to spread more quickly. On Pesach morning, the Believers in Yerushalayim only numbered 120. In response to Kefa’s sermon that day, another 3,000 were added. Now, with the healing of the disabled man, Kefa’s sermon, and their arrest, the community grew to about 5,000.

5 The next day, the people’s rulers, elders, and Torah-teachers (the Sanhedrin)assembled in Yerushalayim, 6 along with ‘Anan the Cohen HaGadol, Kayafa, Yochanan, Alexander and the other men from the family of the cohen HaGadol. 7 They had the emissaries stand before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”

The parties listed in verses 5-6 represent all the most influential players in the Jewish religious establishment. They made Kefa and Yochanan stand before them, two men against all the powers of Isra’el. Ironic, therefore, that they asked them by what power they had performed the miracle and preached the Gospel.

8 Then Kefa, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people!

Kefa was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, a necessary prelude to his successful confrontation with the Jewish religious establishment. We need to get plugged into that same power source whenever we share the Gospel.

9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done for a disabled person, if you want to know how he was restored to health, 10 then let it be known to you and to all the people of Isra’el that it is in the name of the Messiah, Yeshua from Natzeret, whom you had executed on a stake as a criminal but whom God has raised from the dead, that this man stands before you perfectly healed. 11 “This Yeshua is the stone rejected by you builders which has become the cornerstone. (see Psalm 118:22) 12 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 4:1-12 (CJB)

There is salvation in no one else! For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved! Kefa, here addressing Jews, not Gentiles, and speaking by inspiration of the Ruach HaKodesh, asserts that Yeshua is the only person by whom we (the Jewish people, both individually and collectively) must (there is no alternative) be saved (from eternal destruction and God’s fury due us for our sins). And if there is no other salvation for Jews, who already have wonderful promises from God, how much more is there no other salvation for Gentiles (see Acts 13:47-48; Romans 1:16).

In my next post, we continue with the aftermath of the healing of the man disabled since birth when Kefa and Yochanan Are Warned and Freed.

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[1] Tz’dukim (Sadducees) who denied resurrection from the dead.

Be Ministers of Reconciliation ~ Rosh Hashanah – 5781

In this post, we take a break from our series on Kefa 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 2020, the appointed time begins at sundown on September 18th.

Rabbinic Change: Since this is a Shabbat of the Fall Appointed Times, 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 Sh’mu’el, the prophet.

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

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 Adonai’s forgiveness.

The traditional challah is shaped in a circle to symbolize Adonai’s Kingship and the coming of the 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 thoroughly righteous, one for the thoroughly wicked, and one for the average person. The thoroughly righteous are immediately inscribed in the Book of Life. The completely wicked are directly written 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 – 21. Rosh Hashanah: repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Rabbi Sha’ul wrote to the Corinthians about these key ingredients in our annual observation of this holy appointed time. 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 fundamental idea in this passage is reconciliation. Because of our rebellion, we are the enemy of Adonai and out of fellowship with Him. Through the work of the execution stake, Yeshua has brought Adonai and us together again. Adonai 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 Adonai and the lost world. “And it is all from God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18a)

Adonai 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 Adonai. “Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to Adonai, efforts that are bound to fail. The Person who reconciles us to Adonai 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 fundamental idea in this paragraph is that Adonai 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 our sins were imputed to Him – put into His account. Adonai treated Him as though He had committed those sins.

What was the result? All those sins have been paid for, and Adonai no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Yeshua as our Messiah. But even more: Adonai 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 Adonai’s Torah have been fully met on the execution stake, Adonai 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. Adonai 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 Adonai. 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!

Adonai 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 Adonai.

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 reconciliation? As we enter 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 Kefa.