Persecution, Part 1: Martyrdom of the Disciples

We want to take a closer look at a subject that most Christians do not like to talk about, and that is persecution and martyrdom. Actually, persecution of the Truth goes all the way back to the prophets. Yeshua said that the world hated Him and that it would hate us too because we are His followers. He said that they would kill Him and likewise, kill us too. So we want to look at this subject because it plays such an important role in our lives as Christians. Christians in America have not yet been persecuted to the point of death, but we see that the rights of Christians have slowly been taken away; and as the tensions grow from year to year and the hatred mounts against Israel and America, one has to ask themselves, “Will the persecutions in this country ever get to that point? Will the words of our Messiah come true for us here in this country?” So we want to look at the history of persecution starting with the disciples to see if there is any correlation between them and the church today and how they responded to it.

The Martyrdom of the Disciples

A good book to read on this subject is Fox’s Book of the Martyrs. It’s here that we find the persecution and deaths of the twelve disciples. Now we know that Yeshua mandated to His disciples to go out and preach the Word. In Luke 24 it is written that the repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem; and so we see in the Book of Acts that the disciples did just that. On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and preached the message of repentance to the crowd and 3,000 people accepted the offer to repent and accept Yeshua as the Messiah. Can you imagine what a day that was for the disciples? These cowardly men who hid themselves behind closed doors receive the Holy Spirit and now they are empowered and boldly they begin to preach the truth of salvation and they see that their message is received and this great harvest of souls is gathered in that day. What were they to think except that maybe life was going to be good?

But that was short lived. One day when Peter and John went to the Temple for Morning Prayer, there was a lame man at the gate called Beautiful, and when he asked the men for money, they instead gave him something more precious than silver and gold: they healed the man in Yeshua’s name. When the people saw this, they all gathered around Peter and John, who began telling the story of salvation. 5,000 people repented that day and were brought into the fold. But this time it was at a cost. The priests and the captain of the Temple guard along with the Sadducees (who did not believe in the resurrection) arrested them and put them in jail.

The next day, Peter once again gave the message to those of the Sanhedrin; they could not dispute the miracle, so they told Peter and John to never again speak or teach in the Name of this Yeshua or else they would be punished. Peter replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge.” Now Peter said this because the Word of God tells us to obey our authority, and the Sanhedrin was equated to the seat of Moses. Yeshua tells the multitude and His disciples in Matthew 23:2-3, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the chair of Moses; therefore whatever they tell you to obey, obey and do it, but do not do according to their works, for they say and do not.” Peter continued, “For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” This is what Yeshua meant when He said, “You shall be My witnesses (The word witness from the Greek is martus or martur, “one who bears witness by his death,” one who can, or does, claim what he has seen or heard or knows. This places a different light on what most Christians think of when they use this word).”

When they reported back to the believers, they responded with, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the Sea, and all that is in them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant said, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Messiah.'” And after they prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the Word of God with boldness. And so the believers grew in number daily and they continued in prayer and study of the Word and many signs and wonders were being done among the people; and they were esteemed highly, for many people who were sick were healed, some just by the passing of Peter’s shadow. Can you imagine the power of the Holy Spirit when believers walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh?

But persecution always finds its roots in the testing of our faith. The High Priest and the Sadducees, filled with jealousy, put the apostles in jail. But it was God to the rescue, for Scripture tells us, “God is an ever present help in the time of trouble.” An angel came that night and opened the gates of the prison and told them, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of life.” And so the apostles continued in their mission of preaching and teaching the Word of Life.

Stephen

We know in the Book of Acts that Stephen was the first martyr. Scripture tells us that Stephen was preaching the gospel and his listeners were so outraged that they drove him out of the city and stoned him. What could Stephen have said that would have caused the people to be in such a rage that they would kill him? Well let’s take a closer look.

The Book of Acts records in chapter 6 that Stephen was full of faith, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing great wonders and signs among the people. There arose some men from the synagogue of the Freemen. Now, this is the same synagogue that Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, attended and they began disputing with Stephen but they could not resist the Holy Spirit’s wisdom for by which Stephen spoke. So what did he say that caused them to bring him before the council? Well, we get a clue from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 why they reacted the way they did from one who was there: “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Messiah crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser then men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame things which are strong, and the base things of the world and despised, God has chosen the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. By doing this you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and the righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'” So we see that by the very nature of Stephen’s message he put these people to shame.

So they brought Stephen before the council and there it is said that they looked upon him and saw his face as the face of an angel. Stephen begins his defense by giving them a history lesson, and how their history led Israel to the condition they were in at the moment. You see, this is true of all people. We can accept where we have been, but we cannot accept where we are today. Stephen tells them that they are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in the heart. Their ears are not open to hear God and they resist the Holy Spirit. When they hear this, they were cut to the heart and became furious. Unfortunately, they were not cut to the heart so that they rended their hearts and repented, but instead they rended their garments and became furious to the point that they dragged him off and stoned him to death. So heaven opened up and received Stephen, but as he was dying he asked God to forgive them of their sins.

Now Paul, who stood by and held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, I’m sure remembered all that happened that day when in Rome they began disputing with him. He quotes Isaiah, “Go to this people and say, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and return, and I should heal them.'”

The Apostles

Ten years after the death of Stephen, we encounter our next martyr. In the Book of Luke, we find James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John. Herod Agrippa, who had just become the governor of Judea, wanted to make a name for himself, so he decided that he would strike down the leadership of the Christians, this being James; but God used this tragedy for good. Clemens Alexandrinus writes that James’ accuser repented and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself as a Christian and that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. So they both were beheaded at the same time. And so Yeshua’s prophetic remark to James and his mother Salome were fulfilled that He would drink of the same cup as Yeshua (Matthew 20:20-23).

Philip, the first one to be called a disciple, brought the message of repentance unto salvation in Asia. There he was martyred at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and then crucified in A.D. 54.

Matthew the tax collector, who wrote his gospel in Hebrew which afterward was translated into Greek by James the Less, went to Parthia and Ethiopia, was martyred in the city of Nadabah, being slain with a halberd in A. D. 60.

James the Less was elected to be the overseer of the Jerusalem Church and the author of the epistle that bears his name. At the age of 94, he was beaten and stoned and clubbed by the Jews.

Matthias, who was appointed to replace Judas as the twelfth apostle, was stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem.

Andrew, the brother of Peter, preached the gospel in Asia. He was crucified at Edessa. The two ends of his cross were fixed transversely in the ground (X) and this became known as the St. Andrew’s cross.

History records that Mark was a convert to Christianity. He wrote his message of salvation under the watchful eye of Peter, who supposedly was the one who led him to Yeshua. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serpis their idol.

Jude was the brother of James and was called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa in the year 72.

Bartholomew translated Matthew’s gospel into the Indian language. He was cruelly beaten and then crucified.

Thomas, called Didymus, preached the gospel in Parthia and India. After exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.

Luke, the evangelist, wrote his message of truth that bears his name. He traveled with Paul in various countries. Tradition has it that he was hanged on an olive tree by idolatrous priests in Greece.

Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus and tradition has it that he died in 73.

Simon preached the truth in Mauritania, Africa, and Britain in which he was also crucified in 74.

John the Beloved was the brother of James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicia and Thyatira were all founded by him. He was sent to Rome from Ephesus where he was supposedly cast into a pot of boiling oil. He escaped miraculously without injury. He was then banished to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. He was later recalled back. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.

Peter was crucified head down in Rome, though many asked him to flee the city because Nero sought after him. When Peter began to flee the city, he got as far as the city gate when Yeshua appeared to him. Peter asked, “Lord where are you going?” and Yeshua said, “I have come again to be crucified.” Peter, understanding his suffering, returned to the city. He asked to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to die like his Savior.

Paul also suffered death at the hand of Nero. Paul suffered great persecution at the hand of those who did not want to hear truth. But Paul said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in our body the dying of Yeshua, that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Yeshua’s sake, that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believed, therefore we also speak; knowing that He who raised Yeshua will raise us also with Yeshua and present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” Paul was beheaded, but upon his death he knew that there awaited for him a crown of righteousness because he had ran the race and won!

True Light

December is probably the most joyful month of the year. Everyone is shopping and excited to gather with family and friends to celebrate the Holiday Season. Stores and homes are decorated with festivity. All the favorite shows are on television and churches are having their musical programs and people are singing all their favorite Holiday songs. We usually spend the whole month celebrating by eating those favorite cookies and desserts that everyone likes to make to show off their culinary expertise. But what is it that we are celebrating? Well, most people will say Christmas, others may say Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Even though they are all different, they all have one thing in common and that is that they are a celebration of light. So why is light so important to us? December 21st is the beginning of the winter solstice, where the days are at their shortest and the nights are at their longest. Scripture tells us all about the light and why it is so important to us. We are going to look at the True Light.

The Dawning of the Light

It says that in the beginning God created light and this light that was created was the light that came before He created the sun and moon. So what was this light? Well, it was a spiritual light. His own Spirit hovered over the universe and so with the dawn of history, God was present. He divided the light from the darkness and so created good and evil: His kingdom which was light and the kingdom of evil which was to be the kingdom of darkness. And so from the beginning there was this conflict that started in the heavens and continued on earth. We know that the serpent beguiled Eve in the garden and so God cursed the serpent and man, but He did not leave it there because, as always, God gives hope. God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise him on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” So God was saying that this conflict would go on between the kingdoms of good and evil but one day, One would come of the seed of the woman that would change the course of history and even though that One would suffer by the hands of those who were the seed of the evil one, He would have the ultimate victory by crushing his head.

The Sign of the Light to Come

The prophet Isaiah spoke twice about the sign of this Light. Once was to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:14 when Isaiah said, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call Him Immanuel.” And in Isaiah 9:1-7, specifically verse 2: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great Light; those who live in a dark land, the Light will shine on them.” Verses 6-7 continue, “For a child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom.”

The Announcement of Light

There was a virgin whose name was Miriam. She resided in the town of Nazareth in the Galilee. She was engaged to be married to a man named Yosef. Now one day when Miriam was at home (her father’s home, for she was not yet married to Yosef), an angel called Gabriel came and stood before her and greeted her with these words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” To her amazement and confusion, the angel continued, “Do not be afraid, Miriam; for you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son and you will give Him the name Yeshua.” Now we want to stop and look closer at this message. What the angel says next is a reference to the Davidic Kingdom in 2 Samuel 7, where God is speaking to David and how this Son that was to be born was to be the fulfillment of the promise to David. This is important because this is a picture of the Messiah who would come from the line of David. The angel goes on to say, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (compare to 2 Samuel 7:9, 14). The angel said, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David (compare to 1 Kings 2:12), and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end (compare to 2 Samuel 7:13).”

So we see that Yeshua was the one who would sit on the throne of King David forever. But Miriam was doubtful, she said, “How could this be?” Sometimes God speaks to us such great things that we not only do not understand, but we are frightened by the thought of it. Miriam’s first response was that she was not yet married to Yosef, and I’m sure that even though she was from the line of David, to think that her son would be next in line for the throne was too awesome to grasp. We must understand what ran through Miriam’s mind all in a matter of seconds. Miriam, being quite troubled, was reassured by the angel. Those comforting words that he spoke in the beginning, “Fear Not!” were like healing balm running though her spirit. So the angel continued with, “The Holy Sprit will come upon you.” This reference to the Holy Spirit is one of anointing. If you look at the reference to the anointing of Saul and David, you will see that the Spirit came upon them. So if the Spirit came upon the kings of Israel, then it is only natural that the Spirit or the anointing would have come upon Yeshua upon conception. It is the sign of the Messiah, The Anointed One.

The Foreshadowing of Light’s Redemption

Gabriel goes on and tells Miriam, “The power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The word here for “overshadow you” has the same equivalent in Greek as in Hebrew, tzalel or in Aramaic, tallel, which is often applied to the Shekinah or the Divine Presence descending on a person or object. This word in the noun form tzeil or in Aramaic, tallel, defined as “shadow,” literally and figuratively means shelter. This is the same word used for the booths made during the Feast of Tabernacles, or in Hebrew the Feast of Sukkot, when everyone makes a Sukkah. This represents the Cloud of Glory or the Divine Presence that overshadowed Israel in the wilderness. In the Talmud, this expression is taken as conversion to faith in God based upon Ruth 2:12, where Boaz describes Ruth, the Gentile, as having taken refuge under the wings of God. Ruth later says to Boaz, “Spread your wing over your handmaid” (Ruth 3:9).

There is a parallel between Ruth and Miriam. The sages make it quite clear that when Ruth tells Boaz, “Spread your wing over your handmaid,” it was of the purest of conduct between the two; it was Ruth’s request for redemption since Boaz was her kinsman-redeemer (The kinsman-redeemer was usually a brother or relative of a man who died and left no children. By Torah law they were to marry the widow so that the name of the dead man lived on. This, in effect, was redeeming the widow, for in most cases she would have had no way to support herself and would most likely have become a slave). This term of “coming under the wings of the Shekinah” has become a term in Judaism for conversion for one who comes under the wings of the Holy Spirit. According to the Rabbis, it is like “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Through her conversion and marriage to Boaz, Ruth now becomes one with the tribe of Judah. Ruth became the mother of Obed, who was the grandfather of King David. So too with Miriam, the miraculous overshadowing is like an act of redemption. Miriam was not a convert, nor was Yeshua; but the adoption/redemption imagery is significant. Gabriel tells her that because the power of the Most High will overshadow her (which is alluding to this act of redemption/adoption), Yeshua will be called the “Son of the Most High.”

Let’s put this another way. Because Miriam was not yet married, through the Holy Spirit she conceived and was with child and by this act of overshadowing it is as if God was her Kinsman-Redeemer (because she had no husband), and in so doing, God gave Yeshua His Name. Miriam became the mother of Yeshua, the Davidic offspring who sits on David’s throne forever. She answers Gabriel by saying, “I am the Lord’s handmaid,” alluding to this concept of the Kinsman-Redeemer’s redemption which would one day overshadow us all; for it says, “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” And again it says, “Giving thanks to the Father, who qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” So Gabriel received his answer and he departs.

The Conception of Light

The conception of John the Baptist is based on 1 Chronicles 24 and Luke 1:5. According to Scripture, Zacharias was from the division of Abijah, which was the 8th division. Zacharias would have served in the Temple for Shavuot (Pentecost), which would have put the conception of John during the month of Sivan, which is in June, and his birth right before the time of Passover. John would be the one to proclaim that Yeshua was the Lamb of God, the One who would take away the sins of the world.

It is believed that Yeshua was conceived during the time of Hanukkah, the Season of Light, and born at the time of the Fall Feasts, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the blowing of the trumpets. Remember the angels who announced the birth of Yeshua? It was quite customary to blow trumpets at the birth of a son and, of course, at the sound of the last trumpet Yeshua is coming back! Then there is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement. Yeshua is our atonement. And finally, there is the Feast of Tabernacles: God who tabernacles (dwells) with men. This was Yeshua, who came in the flesh so He could dwell with man.

Let’s take a closer look at this. We know that the angel told Miriam that she would conceive and have a child, so we know that it was not at the moment that the angel spoke to her. It also says that Miriam arose and went with haste to see her cousin Elizabeth in the hill country, to a city of Judah. I think if she would have conceived at that moment, she would not be running to Elizabeth, but to Yosef. When Elizabeth heard Miriam’s greeting, the baby (John) leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she cried out with a loud voice, “Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Here we see a move of the Holy Spirit overtaking Elizabeth and Miriam, and the result was the leaping in the womb of John the Baptist who would be the forerunner to Yeshua, the Light. During this season of light, Yeshua the Light of the world was conceived.

The Light is Born to the World

So the Light was born out of the love of the Father and He was the image of the invisible God. He was the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and He upholds all things by the word of His power. He was given a Name above all names so at the Name of Yeshua the Messiah, every knee must bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And by His Name we are saved. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Yeshua is the “Light of the World.” He is light and there is no darkness in Him. This was the true Light that came into the world to enlighten every man. So the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. We see in the book of Revelation the description of the New Jerusalem: “And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it.” So the One True Light of the World shall be the light for all eternity.

Conclusion

And so the Light has shown in the world as we have seen from the beginning with the separation of the Kingdom of Light from the Kingdom of Darkness, and we see that the King of Light will one day rule and reign in the City of Light, Jerusalem, the City of David and His kingdom will be for eternity. So this year as you celebrate the “Season of Light,” be sure that you bear witness to the One True Light, Yeshua the “Light of the World.” For Scripture tells us that we who were formerly darkness are now light, and so we ought to walk as children of light. For all who walk according to the Spirit of Light shall be called the Children of God. So whatever you celebrate, we want to wish you the very best. Have a great celebration of Yeshua’s birth. Happy Hanukkah and may the miracle of light shine in your hearts! Happy Kwanzaa, and may the first fruit of your harvest be blessed! As you celebrate, be sure to celebrate in the True Light!

Holiness For the Believer, Part 2: A Holy Offering

In our last newsletter, we looked at the subject of holiness, and to get a true picture of what holiness is in God’s eyes, we began to study the text of Leviticus 19, where God says, “Speak to the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'” To refresh our memories, we saw that the first command of God was to respect our parents. Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So here we see that the beginning of holiness starts in the family. Paul, earlier in the book of Ephesians, speaks to wives and husbands. Wives are to be subject to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives. The Scriptures are full of instructions on how to have a holy family life. We then saw that we are to keep the Sabbath. Yeshua said that He was the Lord of the Sabbath; if Yeshua is our Lord, then we too must keep the Sabbath of which He is the Lord of.

Idolatry

So we want to move on to Leviticus 19:4 where it says, “Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods: for I am the Lord your God.” At the time that God gave this command to Israel, the world was pagan. Only Israel was commanded to have only one God and He was known as the God of Israel. Abraham was told to leave his father’s house because of idolatry. So only having one God set Israel apart from the nations. In the greatest prayer that any Jew says, which is the Shema, it says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord alone.” And so Israel only worshiped the one true God.

But man in his very nature rebelled against God. We see this after the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The people were impatient with Moses and God, and they built for themselves a golden calf. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Messiah. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they craved. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’ Nor let us act immorally as some did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” He goes on to say in verse 14, “Therefore my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

So what is idolatry? Do we today make images that we worship? This passage tells us that the people craved evil things, even when they were food and water. Paul gives us a look into this when he says, “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along in humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity, in any circumstances I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Remember, the people got impatient in waiting for Moses, so they made the golden calf. The people wanted food so they murmured and complained, so God gave them manna. They wanted meat, so God gave them quail. But in all these times, God punished the people, and why? Was it wrong to want meat? No, but what was wrong was that the people did not rest in the knowledge that God was not only able to do all things but that God knew that they needed these things. They were impatient with God and so they either took matters into their own hands becoming their own god or they complained to God, making God not compassionate toward their needs, thus disqualifying God not only as their Creator and Father but as the Supreme Deity which makes Him God.

This pretty much defines what idolatry is. So in any area of our lives where we take matters in our own hands, we are then nullifying God as God and the covenant that we have with Him. For in His covenant that we have entered into with Him when we accept Yeshua as our Lord and Savior, God states that He is a faithful God and that He will never leave us or forsake us and He will provide for all our needs. With that fact, we should then be content because if God feels that we should have or have not, He knows what is best for us and by complaining or grumbling, we are then saying to God, “I know better than You,” thus placing ourselves above God. Paul writes in Philippians 2:12-15, “So then my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling and disputing, that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Verse 11 says in 1 Corinthians 10, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the end of the age has come.” So we must then learn from this example, that God hates rebellion and He hates complaining, for they are two forces that drive man from Him.

So John tells us that we are not to love the world, nor the things of the world, because if we do, the love of the Father is not in us, for the world represents the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life which does not come from the Father, but from the world. These things are idolatry and they are ungodly and we are to flee from them. Again, our Heavenly Father knows our need and He will provide that which we need. Is it wrong to pray for things? NO! God tells us to ask, but the answer may not always be Yes. And this is why it is important to pray, so we know the will of God because John continues and says, “And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” We need to learn that holiness is putting God first in every area of our lives and walking in His commands.

Peace Offering

Now as we continue in Leviticus 19:5, we see that God begins to speak about the way to offer up a peace offering. Now this may seem like a strange switch in conversation, but it really is not; for you see, the peace offering was made in conjunction with the sin offering. Another name for the peace offering is the thanksgiving offering. Even though we may not have the sacrificial service in place today, we still must offer up our sacrifices unto God, but we must take a closer look at this verse. It says that we should offer up our sacrifice so that we may be accepted. Why was Abel’s sacrifice accepted and not Cain’s? It says in Genesis 3:3-5, “So it came about in the course of the time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And Abel on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering He had no regard. Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”

So why was one accepted and not the other? Well, because first of all, Abel presented the first of his flock and the best, while Cain just made an offering. How we offer up our sacrifice has a lot to do with the attitude of the heart, which has everything to do with the thanksgiving offering. Do we give God our best or do we give Him whatever we have left? What we give God says a lot about our relationship with Him.

Paul says, “In everything give thanks.” We are always to give thanks to the Lord. Thanksgiving is having a grateful heart. We are to come into God’s presence with thanksgiving, enter His gates with thanksgiving, present our requests with thanksgiving. It is good to give thanks to the Lord because it is good to have a grateful heart. The thanksgiving offering was in conjunction with the sin offering because after we have come to God broken and contrite, repentive of our sin, then we are to be thankful; for if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us. So now that we have been forgiven, we now have peace with God.

In verses 6-8 it continues with how the offering may be eaten. Torah tells us that the meat should be eaten the same day or the next day, but what remains on the third day should be burned in the fire. And everyone who eats it on the third day will commit iniquity, for he has profaned the holy things of the Lord and will be cut off from his people. Now you have to remember that we are talking about holiness and what sets God’s people apart from the pagan world. This may seem to make no sense to get rid of good meat, but once again God’s laws were not to be questioned, but obeyed. But this is very interesting because if you remember, Yeshua was our sin offering and God’s holy sacrifices were not to see decay. Could this be why He rose on the third day? “For you will not abandon My soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27, 13:35).

Gleaning

Leviticus 19 goes on in verses 9-10, “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit from your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.” God cares for the poor and needy and this is what sets us apart from the world. John writes, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Yet, you see the world doing so much for the poor and needy. Why is that? It is not because the love of God is in them, for many of Hollywood and others do not even believe in God; in fact, they hate God and all that He stands for. But it’s because it has become the social thing to do. It is called Humanism. It actually is the result of us not needing God. It is works done for man’s glory. Yeshua says, “When giving do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the assembly and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your giving may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” We do not give for our fame and glory, but for the glory of God. Yeshua tells us to let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven. The difference here is that we are to do it in such a way that will give glory to God and not us.

Another way that we are separated from the world is that we are to give even to our enemies. This is what holiness looks like. So we may not have a field or a vineyard, yet we can still give to the poor and needy. James writes further, “If a brother or a sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” We are to love by giving and we are to have faith by doing, not sparingly, for God loves a cheerful giver and by the measure we give, it will be given back to us. This is a picture of holiness, one who walks contrary to the world’s ways, who dares to set himself apart for godliness, who says it is far better to keep God’s Laws then to have the riches of the world for a season. God says, “Be ye holy as I am holy.”

Are we ready? Are we willing? If so, then we must in faith walk as He walked and we must do as He did and we must live as He has shown us to live by keeping His commands. Peter writes about those who have found God and have chosen to live a life now of holiness: “You have already lived long enough like people who don’t know God. You were immoral and followed your evil desires. You went around drinking and partying and carrying on. In fact, you even worshiped disgusting idols. Now your former friends wonder why you have stopped running around with them, and they curse you for it.” Maybe this is what you have found to be true; if it is, then you know that you have been set apart. This passage goes on with how we are not to steal or lie or take vengeance, but we are to love our neighbor and do right by him. When we look into Torah, is there anything different about it than what we find in the Apostolic Scriptures? There is only one standard of holiness, One God, One Spirit and one way to be saved and that is through Yeshua, who is the Word made flesh.

Holiness For the Believer, Part 1: Be Holy for I Am Holy

We want to look at a subject that is not talked enough about and that is holiness. Most people do not really know what holiness is. They do not understand the concept of it. Yet, as believers and God-fearers, we should all be walking in holiness. So what is the definition of holiness? According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, holiness is sanctification. It signifies a separation to God. It is characteristically called godliness. In other words, we are to be like God. But you may say, “When we accept Yeshua into our lives, we are then sanctified.” This is true, but that is only our position in Messiah. Just as we know our position is that we are seated in the heavenly realm with Messiah, yet we all know that in the physical we are here on Earth, so too in our position of being sanctified, we must live out our daily lives being set apart from the world. Most Christians go through life making themselves believe that they could never walk in God’s ways or keep the commandments of God and so they don’t. Christians say, “Yeshua perfectly kept the commandments of God so that we wouldn’t have to.” But this is not so. We are told that we are to keep the commandments of God and live according to His ways. Yeshua said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” By thinking that all we need is Yeshua, then we can live and act however we please; we begin to think that the sacrifice of Yeshua is some kind of season pass that allows us to jump in and out of the realm of God when we choose. This is a gross misuse of grace. Paul asks, “Should we go on sinning because of grace? Absolutely not!”

When you follow God’s ways, you will see that you can stay on the straight and narrow path and if you should stray, then God has made a way for us to return and it is called repentance, the turning back to God’s ways. The question is, do we have a willing heart to follow God’s ways? Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership has righteousness and Torahlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Messiah with Belial, or what have believers in common with unbelievers? Or what agreement has the Temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty. Therefore having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” We see that with God we must be separate. So how do we attain to holiness? We are going to look at what separates us from everyone else.

You Shall Be Holy, for I Am Holy

When Peter wrote, “You shall be Holy for I am Holy,” in his first letter to the Messianic believers, he was quoting from the Book of Leviticus. In fact, three times God says these words to not just Moses or Aaron, but to the whole congregation. In other words, God does not want just the High Priest or the Prophet or the Man of God, the Pastor, or the Deacons to be holy, but God wants everyone to be holy. The whole community of believers, the congregation, corporately and individually must be holy. So we are going to take a closer look at holiness because we want to see just what holiness should look like in the life of a believer and in the life of the community according to God’s Word.

Now, it is important that our lives line up with the Word of God and not with the words of a teacher or preacher because the Holy Spirit needs to be our teacher. It is alright for a teacher or preacher to spur you on and challenge you to keep God’s Word, but it is God’s Word that must abide in us and it is God’s Word that we must obey. Peter, who was a Torah-keeper, knew these words about being holy. One of the yearly sections of Bible reading in Torah is called Kedoshim. Each week, a section of the Torah is read and each section is called a Parasha. The name of each Parasha gets its name from the beginning lines read in that Parasha. So Kedoshim starts in Leviticus 19:1-2, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”‘” So let’s start at verse 3 of Leviticus and see exactly what is considered holy to God.

Honor Your Father and Mother

“Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father.” Timothy says that in the last days (which refers to any time after Yeshua’s death), children will not honor their fathers or mothers. Yeshua Himself dealt with this when He told the Pharisees that their tradition of Corban, which was something set apart to be a gift to God, nullified the commandment to honor and obey one’s father and mother because people would say that they could not financially support their parents because a portion of their money was set apart, or Corban, to God. Yet in reality they never did give that money to God.

So how do we honor and obey our parents? We take care of them when they become sick or too old to care for themselves. Too often we are quick to throw our parents into a nursing home and let someone else take care of them. There are times when we have no choice in doing this; then we are to see to it that they are comfortable and we are to call and visit them regularly. There is nothing more disturbing than when you go to a nursing home and see these elderly people who have no one to come and visit them. We are to provide for our parents if they do not have the means to provide for themselves. The Bible tells us that a person who does not provide for his own family members when in need is worse than an unbeliever. We are to reverence our parents and not speak evil of them. This was the story of Noah when his son Ham saw Noah naked because Noah had been drinking and uncovered himself. Ham should have just covered up his father, but instead he told his two other brothers and they went into Noah’s tent and covered him. When Noah awoke, he cursed Ham because he was disrespectful to him by speaking to others about his nakedness, revealing his short-comings. To honor our parents is one of the Ten Commandments and the only one which has a promise. All too often we fall short of this command to reverence our parents. So when we honor our parents in these ways, we become separated from the world, for the world disregards their parents and speaks and does evil to them.

Keeping the Law

In the same verse 3 of Leviticus, God says, “You shall keep My Sabbaths; I am the Lord your God.” God created time and space. As He created the world and the universe which houses it, He also was creating the day: “And God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning the second day” (Genesis 1:8). To God, the day begins at sundown and goes till the next sundown. He has a lunar calendar; this alone sets apart the believer from the world which uses a calendar that is based on the worship of the sun. Pagans worshiped the sun god and so all the names of the days and months are pagan gods. God created the week, which ended with the keeping of the Sabbath on the seventh day. The Bible tells us that God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which He had created and made. From the beginning, from creation, God set apart certain days that were His special days and these days are called His Appointed Times. It is believed that Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, and so on that day it is the New Year.

These Appointed Times of God are so special to Him because on these days He chooses to be with us in an especially close way. God says that we can come to Him anytime, so can God have times that He chooses for Himself that He wants to meet with us? God created the Sabbath just for us to have the time that we can take out of our busy week and spend time with Him. Yeshua kept the seventh day Sabbath; is He not our example? If He thought that we should not keep it, wouldn’t He have said so? He said many times using these words, “If it were not true I would tell you.” So too with the seventh day Sabbath or with any of God’s Appointed Times, He kept them all. If they were not for the keeping, He would have told us so! He is the Word of God, the very Word that we obey. Yeshua said, “I did not come to annul the Torah, but to uphold it.” When Paul wrote, “Messiah is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” he did not say that Messiah was the end of the Law, but only for righteousness. In other words, believers were still to obey God’s laws and commands, but their righteousness was now in Messiah. We want to look at the Sabbath and what it stands for and then we will have a better understanding of why God made it holy.

The Sabbath

First of all, the Sabbath is the seventh day. Seven is the number of completion.

1. God had completed His work.

1A. Yeshua Himself said, “It is finished (or complete),” on the cross and then He too rested on the Sabbath.

1B. When we become believers in Yeshua, we then are complete. We are set free from our dead works. We have crossed over from death to life, from darkness to light.

2. God rested on the seventh day because His work was completed.

2A. “For we who believe enter that rest… For the one who believes has entered His rest and has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”

So let’s stop there for a moment. Yeshua is our rest. He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Yeshua is the Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath was made for man. When we follow in the footsteps of Yeshua, we crucify our flesh as He did and we die to ourselves. Now we take the yoke of the Kingdom, which is the Word of God, and we carry it on our shoulders. In so doing we find rest for our souls. God’s laws are not heavy, they are not a burden, but they are a joy to our soul, refreshing us. As Psalm 19 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than fine gold; sweeter than the honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” This is a picture of the Sabbath. This is a picture of holiness.

In the book of Hebrews, the writer states, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you come short of it.” There were some who did not enter that rest because of disobedience, because of unbelief. When we keep the seventh day Sabbath, we are actually living out that promise of rest. We are living out that picture of the redeemed of the Lord resting in God forever. If the Kingdom of God is near as John the Baptist, Yeshua, Paul, and all the others preached that it is, then we must live out the Kingdom in our lives, and this is one way we can do that: by entering His rest on the seventh day. It is holiness, it is godliness, and it is what separates us from the world.

We will continue our look at holiness the next time.

The Second Coming, Part 4: Serving the King

Last month we looked at the first three parables that follow Yeshua’s end time dialogue in Matthew 24. We saw in Matthew 25 from the first three parables that we must be prepared, for we do not know the day or the hour that Yeshua will return. We saw that we have a responsibility to do the Master’s work and we need to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do. Now we want to look at the last three parables.

The Parable of the Talents

Yeshua continues His teaching on the kingdom with the parable of the talents. He tells the story about a man who goes on a journey and entrusts his slaves with his possessions. To the one he gives five talents and to the next he gave two talents and to the last he gave one talent, all according to their ability. Now when he returns from his trip after a long while, he finds that the slave that had the five talents had multiplied his talents to ten, the slave who received two multiplied his talents to four, but the slave who received one talent gave him back his one talent. Now the master of the house praises the two slaves that multiplied their talents. He tells them, “Well done good and faithful slaves; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” But to the slave who gave him back his one talent he says, “You wicked, lazy slave. Take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has shall be given more, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that we are the Lord’s workmanship created for good works, which God prepared beforehand; we should walk in them. So you see that just because we are good people and do good works, we must also walk in the way that God has called us to walk. Good works and keeping God’s commandments go hand in hand. We saw in the illustration of the vine and the branches that every branch that does not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the furnace and even those branches that do bear fruit will be pruned to bear more fruit. Now tzedakah, which means righteousness, is our good deeds, the righteousness that comes by faith. “Show me your faith and I will show you my works,” James writes. But these works can not be just any old works, they must be God-ordained works. You see, the master gave the slave an amount of talents according to his ability. Paul writes to the Romans, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Messiah, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” Again he tells the Corinthians, “Now there are a variety of gifts, but one Spirit. And there are a variety of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are a variety of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one He has given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effects of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues… For the body is not one member, but many.”

So God has given each one of us the ability to do something for His kingdom, and it is our responsibility to use those gifts and talents that He has given to us to further the kingdom and bear fruit; in fact, we are told to pursue and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts. We are to serve the Lord with diligence, fervent in spirit, serving Him with joy and gladness. Those that do not use their gifts and abilities for the advancement of His kingdom and to bear fruit are like the slave who buried his talent and was thrown into outer darkness.

The Sheep and the Goats

The next parable that Yeshua tells also is in the lines of service. Matthew does not record Yeshua’s parable, only the interpretation, even though Yeshua gives another strong example of judgment. Yeshua begins by saying, “When the Son of Man comes in all of His glory and sits on His throne, He will gather all the nations before Him. He will then separate the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'” Now I just want to stop here for a moment. Some commentaries call the sheep Israel and the goats the nations. I have even heard that the sheep are the people who treated the Jews kindly after the Church was raptured. But looking closely at this dialogue, we see that God is speaking to all the nations who are on the earth at the time of His coming. “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” Yeshua tells these people that they are blessed of the Father and that they would now inherit the kingdom which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. That sure sounds like Paul who says in Ephesians 2, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Then the righteous (the tzedakah) will say, “When did we do these things?” and the King will answer, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me.”

The sheep are those who heard the voice of the shepherd. Yeshua said, “I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me and follow Me.” Yeshua once again says that His sheep know Him. In Revelation, Yeshua says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” When we hear the voice of the Master, we listen and follow Him and in so doing we keep His commands and do His works which He has predestined us to do. But those who do not listen follow after their own desire; they go about doing their own thing. They show partiality. James writes, “If a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there comes also a man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘Sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves?” James also writes, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” John writes, “But whoever has the world’s goods and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in Him?”

The goats are the ones who see the need but never go out of their way to alleviate the problem. They would never think to visit a jail or volunteer their time at a nursing home or hospital. The Bible tells us to take care of the widow and the orphan, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be hospitable and to be a cheerful giver. Think about the opportunities you have missed that you could have reached out to Yeshua but your attitude or prejudices, even your apathy or laziness stopped you. Yeshua says to the goats, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me.”

The Parable of the King Disguised and Unmasked

Now the parable of the disguised king and the parable of the sheep and the goats became one parable. Yeshua first starts to say, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory…” and then He begins to refer to a king who was not recognized by his subjects. We see this by the response of the sheep and the goats when they say, “When did we see You to feed You and clothe You, etc.?” As we go about our daily lives, we do not think about the things we say and do. The Bible tells us that everything we say and do we are to do to the glory of God. When we are confronted with a situation, we react not on the basis of thinking, “Ah, this is God to whom I am speaking to (or to whom I am showing partiality or loving kindness),” but instead as, “This is my friend (or enemy).” We generally react by what’s in our hearts, good or bad. There have been times in the Bible when people disguised their true identity, like Joseph with his brothers and Yeshua on the road to Emmaus. We see by these two stories as they unfold and when they discover the true identity of Joseph, the brothers were frightened, but the disciples were excited and glad. This is the same results of the sheep and the goats. Now, the original parable of the sheep and the goats has been lost. Matthew only records the explanation of the parable. Many of Yeshua’s parables were taken from stories of His day. But there is a legendary story that the parable of the disguised king could have been the basis for.

The Exile of King Solomon

The story goes like this: King Solomon was punished for his pride and arrogance by the demon prince Ashmedai. He is exiled from his kingdom while Ashhmedai takes on his appearance and assumes his throne. Solomon is forced to beg from house to house. He wanders through the earth, from city to city begging for food. Though he claims that he is the true king and that the man on his throne is an imposter, he was considered as one who was not in his right mind. After some time, the Sanhedrin (the official ruling court of Israel) became suspicious and began to investigate the matter. Realizing what had happened, they restored Solomon to his throne and banished Ashmedai. Once restored to his throne, Solomon was in a position to reward those who had shown him kindness and punish those who had mistreated him.

Conclusion

As we have looked at these six parables, we have seen that it is not enough for us to just call ourselves Christians. It is not enough for us just to sit in a pew every Sunday. We must have a relationship with our Father through Yeshua; we must be one that calls upon His Name and gives glory to His Name daily (Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God), one who seeks Him out and obeys His voice daily (Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted), one that yearns to feed on His Bread, the Word of God (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied), one of true repentance, searching deep within our hearts (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God), one that forgives debtors in love as He is love (Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy), one who does acts of kindness (Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth), and one who lives in peace with his neighbor and his God (Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God).

We must walk as He walked, we must crucify the flesh and say “No” to the world’s ways and pick up our cross in obedience and follow Him, running the race to win the imperishable prize of Yeshua. Then we will know Him and be known by Him so that on that day, He will not come as a thief in the night, but as the One whom we are waiting for, our Bridegroom, for we have prepared ourselves for the marriage and the celebration of the wedding feast prepared for us on that day when the King will say, “Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The Second Coming, Part 3: Ready Yourself for the End

The last couple of months we have been looking at the end times, specifically Yeshua’s dialogue in Matthew 24. We now want to look at six parables that follow in Matthew 25. Yeshua is not only telling His disciples that the time of His return would not be immediate, but these parables give us an important message.

The Thief in the Night

Yeshua tells a parable about a thief that breaks into a house in the night. He says that if the owner of the house knew that the thief was going to break in in the middle of the night that he would have been prepared for him. This illustration was told to His disciples to give them the message that first, no one knows the day or the hour that the Messiah will return, and second, we must be ready. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “While they are saying ‘Peace and Safety,’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman in child birth; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Yeshua.” One thing that we need to note is that Paul is telling us that if we walk as people of the day, then God’s wrath will not be a surprise to us, and being prepared for it will allow us to not be caught up in His wrath. The key here is not that we will not be here when it happens, but that if we are walking with Him, in His ways, seeking Him out, we will know when His judgments will come, for He does nothing without telling first His people, for His people know His voice and listen.

Forty days before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown just for this purpose, to wake people up; and after it is blown, everyone says, “Awake you who are asleep and consider your deeds; remember your Creator and go to Him for forgiveness. Don’t be like those who miss reality in their hunt after shadows and waste your years seeking after vain things which can neither profit nor deliver. Look well to your souls and consider your deeds; let each one of you forsake his evil ways and thoughts, and return unto the Lord, so He may have mercy on you.” Paul and Yeshua certainly knew all about the importance of this fall feast. So we must walk in the light of God’s Word, being sober about God’s ways and being watchful that we keep His commands so we may remain attentive to His voice.

The Parable of the Unfaithful Servant

Yeshua goes on to tell this parable by asking a question, “Who then is the faithful and sensible servant whom the master puts in charge of his household to give them food at the proper time?” The master goes away for a long time. He goes on to show the difference between the faithful servant and the unfaithful servant who He calls wicked. The faithful servant is the one who does his master’s work even when he knows that he is away on a journey and will not be back for a long time. When the master returns, to everyone’s surprise he finds the faithful servant carrying on as though his master remained at home. But the wicked and unfaithful servant is the one who says, “My master has gone away and so now I can do as I please, for he will not know what I do while he is away.”

We want to look at the beginning of this parable. The master puts the faithful servant in charge to feed and care for his household. If we remember, Yeshua says to Peter, “Do you love Me? Then feed My sheep.” And He went on to ask Him this three times, showing the importance of his calling. Any time something is repeated in God’s Word, it was to show the importance or the magnitude of what was being said. So in the parable, the faithful servant was supposed to feed the members of the master’s household. Yeshua, when confronted with feeding the multitude, said to His disciples, “You give them something to eat.” Yeshua the great Shepherd was concerned about the welfare of His sheep and He knew that His sheep needed to eat not only physical food but spiritual food. So, “He called some servants to be apostles and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and some to be teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Messiah; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of stature which belongs to the fullness of Messiah. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by the craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Messiah, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16). There is only one body but many parts and we have all been given gifts and a responsibility to use those gifts for the building up of the body. So the question remains, are you a faithful servant or an unfaithful wicked servant? If you are not using your gifts for God by feeding His sheep, then this parable says that when the master of the house returns, he shall cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; weeping shall be there and the gnashing of teeth.

The Ten Virgins

Yeshua goes on to tell a third parable of the ten virgins. Again He speaks about the kingdom and compares it to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now, five of the virgins were foolish, and why were they foolish? Because they took no oil for their lamps. Five were wise because they took a flask of oil with them. While they were waiting, they all became tired and fell asleep, for the bridegroom was delayed in his coming. When midnight came there was a great shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Then all the virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish now did not have enough oil because they did not anticipate the bridegroom coming so late. But the wise virgins were prepared with plenty of oil. When the foolish virgins asked the wise for oil, they replied, “No, otherwise there will not be enough for us, and you too; go instead and buy some for yourselves.” And so they went to purchase their oil but when they returned they found that all the guests had already gone into the wedding feast and the door was shut. To their surprise, they cried out “Lord, lord, open up for us!” But he answers, “I do not know you.”

What’s Your Fruit?

In Matthew 7 Yeshua tells His followers this: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few find it… Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves, you will know them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; and every bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruit. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your Name, and in Your Name cast out demons, and in Your Name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (Torahlessness).’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock; but everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.” You see, the five wise virgins can also represent the five books of Moses, the Torah which is the foundation, and the Rock, which one should build his house on.

Conclusion

So we see from Yeshua Himself that not everyone will enter into the kingdom. This seems to be very contradictive to what we believe. Yeshua here is talking about believers who go about prophesying, casting out demons, and performing miracles, yet Yeshua says to them, “I know you not!” So how can this be? Well the answer first of all is in the fact that Yeshua knows them not. Why does He not know them? Well, He says because they practice lawlessness. In other words, they do not keep His commands. One of the most popular illustrations in the Apostolic Scriptures, I think, is the Vine and the Branches. These verses are about abiding in God and bearing fruit. How do we bear fruit? Well, in verse 10 of John 15 it says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and I abide in His love.” We have also seen from Yeshua that a good tree will bear good fruit; likewise, a bad tree will bear bad fruit. We have seen from the Vine and the Branches that any branch that does not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Verse 5 says, “But if we abide in Him, we will bear good fruit.” Here we see that we must bear good fruit and we can only do that by abiding in Him.

So how do we abide? Well, we start by complying to His commandments. John writes “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him; but whoever keeps His Word, in Him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him; the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” Yeshua was obedient to the Father even to the cross. If Yeshua is truly our Lord, then we too will be obedient to all that He stands for. To be His disciples, we must be as He is. He was a keeper of Torah. He kept all the teachings of the Father. He Himself said that the words He spoke were the Father’s and the works that He did were the works of the One who sent Him. So if we do not keep His commands, how can we possibly have our lives hidden in Him? If we abide in the Lord and He abides in us, then He not only knows us but we know Him.

Paul writes, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Messiah, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Paul believed that we should not put any confidence in the flesh and that the flesh needed to be crucified. We can not have fellowship with the world and with God. John writes, “Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world, and the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” So we see that to abide with God we must put aside the world and its ways so that we can keep God’s commandments. By this we will know God and be known by Him.

When we know God, then we will hear His voice and when we hear His voice, we will hear and obey. The five foolish virgins did not have enough oil for their lamps. Oil is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can not walk according to God’s will for us. He is the one who leads us in all truth. When we walk in the Spirit then we not only walk in truth but then there is no condemnation against us. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we walking in the Spirit?” Our lives must line up with the Word of God. So the five foolish virgins did not have the continual flow of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Remember, the Menorah in the Tabernacle had a constant flow from its source, which was the oil, which kept the light burning continually. This is what the five wise virgins had. Remember, we are the light of the world. When God is our source and we are following Him, then He leads us in all truth. And what is the truth of God? None other than the Word of God, and that truth will bear out fruit because we are walking in His ways. Scripture tells us that apart from God, we can do nothing. All the works in the world will not save you, only God can save you through Yeshua; but to have Yeshua means that we must live by His Word and by His ways, and to do that we must die to ourselves and put on the Lord Yeshua, the Anointed One, who anoints us for every good deed.

Next we will look at the last three parables.

The Second Coming, Part 2: Judgment is Coming

We began last month to look at the end times and what Yeshua had to say about it. We saw that the beginning of Matthew 24 had already occurred during the 1st and 2nd Jewish Revolts. We also saw that the end times began when Yeshua died on the cross and ascended back to heaven. So how far into the end times are we? Let’s continue to look at Yeshua’s “End Times” dialogue.

Yeshua tells us in verses 23-26, “If anyone says to you ‘Behold here is the Messiah,’ or, ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For many false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold I have told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or ‘Behold he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.” Yeshua once again warns His listeners that false prophets would arise. As we have seen, there were many false prophets in His day. But He is referring to the future, because now He tells them that these false men will do great signs and wonders. When we read in Revelation 13, it tells us of one such deceiver: “I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. And he exercised all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.”

As believers in Yeshua, it is our responsibility to test the spirits because not everything that appears to be of God is. This is why Yeshua says, “My sheep know My voice and they listen to Me but they will flee from the voice of a stranger.” Yeshua warns twice that the elect will have to be very discerning so as not to be deceived. We must remember that the Devil is a deceiver and a counterfeit. He mimics God, even here with the healing of the beast who will be healed from a fatal wound. We also must be careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing, for the beast will look like a lamb but be a deadly dragon. Most likely the beast will be someone who is in control of a country, like a Prime Minister or a Dictator; but whoever he is, he will be a smooth talker and most likely from the Middle East. But because of his deception, everyone on earth will pledge their allegiance to him. And they will even wear his mark, for without it people will not be able to buy or to sell.

Yeshua goes on in Verse 28, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” In Revelation 19, it speaks about the call of the birds to the great supper of God to eat the flesh of kings and commanders, mighty men and horses, the flesh of free men and slaves, small and great, this referring to the battle of Armageddon. Now Yeshua wraps up the end times dialogue with verses 29-31, telling us that immediately after the tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear and all mankind will see His coming on the clouds and mourn; and He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet shout and they will gather in the elect from the four winds, from one end to another. There are several places in Revelation where it mentions the sun and moon going dark. The fourth trumpet judgment speaks of a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars being smitten and the fifth bowl judgment speaks of darkness.

If you take the judgments and read them as if they go parallel to each other, you will see that many of them are bringing judgment to similar areas, for example, the sun and moon. You can only destroy something once, so it seems as though there are a series of events that will destroy the seas and the fish. So it’s not necessarily that first the trumpet judgments and then years later the bowl judgments. It’s the same way when you look at what is going on in heaven: if you take all those sections and read them together, you will see clearer what is happening. There is no time in heaven, so we should not break up the Scriptures to make it appear that what is going on is at different times.

The verses tell us that the powers of heaven will be shaken. Well, Yeshua began shaking the powers of the heavens at the cross when He gained the victory over them and He descended to Hell and took back the crown that Adam lost. Now, He will come riding on a white horse; not like His counterfeit who rode to conquer for destruction’s sake, but Yeshua will ride with all of His saints to finish the job by throwing that evil serpent, the Devil, into the abyss for one thousand years. “And I saw heaven opened; and behold a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean were following Him on white horses. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” Zechariah tells us, “They will see Him whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him.”

When Yeshua returns, there will be a great battle. The Scriptures tell us that Yeshua will have a sharp sword in His mouth. This simply means that from His mouth He shall speak the Word of God which is a two edged sword. If you remember, in the Bible it tells us that Yeshua was confronted by the Devil in the wilderness and He fought the Devil by speaking the Word of God to him. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Yeshua tells His followers, “What is it that man can do to you?” The battle is the Lord’s, and He will come and finish the battle and He will save Israel, for it says, “For all Israel will be saved.” The above Scripture then says that He will tread the wine press.

In Revelation, it talks about two ingatherings; one will be that the angel will gather in the elect, and the other will be the angel who will gather in the wicked. It is this gathering of the wicked that the vultures will come and feast on at a great supper that God has prepared for them, referring to the verse in Matthew 28. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Yeshua. For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

Like the second angel that will gather the wicked, the first angel will gather up the elect with the blast of the trumpet. Now, here is where so many Christians are divided. There are those who say we will be raptured before the tribulation, and then there are those who say we will be raptured halfway in between, and then there are those who say that we will be raptured at the end. Well, Yeshua tells us Himself when He will come and gather His elect. He tells us in Matthew 24:29-31 that He will come after the tribulation.

Now, we need to understand this thing we called “The Rapture.” Scripture always refers to God traveling on a cloud. So it should not be unusual that He would gather us up in the same cloud that He is riding on. But where is Yeshua going when He comes? He is going to Jerusalem to sit on the throne of King David forever. And so we too will go with Him to Jerusalem along with those who shall rise first, for His kingdom will never end and where He is, we shall be with Him forever. Yeshua goes on in verses 32-35, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so, you too when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.” In Matthew 16, Yeshua tells the Pharisees and the Sadducees that they could not read the signs concerning His first coming and now He tells the people to read the signs of His second coming.

So what are these signs that we should be looking for? First we must go back to when Yeshua cursed the fig tree. What was the point of that? Well, the fig tree represents Israel. Zechariah tells us that in the Messianic Age everyone will sit under his own vine and fig tree. The vine creates shade and shelter from the heat and rain. Remember the story of Jonah when God allowed a vine to grow and shelter him from the sun? The grape vine provides wine, which represents joy and the fig tree represents food. So Zechariah was telling us that everyone will have everything they need. When Yeshua curses the fig tree, it is because there were no figs on the tree. In so doing, He was symbolically showing His disciples that it was not yet the time of the Messianic Age but that there is a time of judgment coming. We saw this in the dialogue of Matthew 24; judgment did come with the First and Second Jewish Revolts that led to the destruction of the Temple and great persecution for Jews and believers alike. So now Yeshua uses the fig tree again to point to His second coming. So He tells them when they see the branch of the fig tree put forth leaves, the time is near. If Israel is the fig tree, then that is a good place to start. The Bible foretold the gathering of exiles who would return one day to the Land of Israel, and Israel would once again flourish. But to go through all of the prophetic writings referring to this day would be a very long study, well beyond these pages. But the fulfillment of those writings can be stated very briefly as this, that Israel is once again a nation and that the house of Israel has been joined with the house of Judah. So we know that we have to be nearer to the time. In fact, Yeshua says, “Recognize that He is near, right at the door.”

Yeshua goes on to say that this generation will not pass away till these things happen. This passage has been debated for years. Who is this generation? Well, first of all, we must remember that Yeshua has been discussing the future with His disciples. So we must go all the way back to the beginning when they started the conversation in Matthew 24:1 with, “Tell us when will all these things be and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Yeshua started His dialogue telling His disciples of the destruction of Jerusalem. It was this He was referring to when He spoke of the generation who would see these things; so up to now, He has been telling them throughout these verses all that would happen and all that they need to watch for. He goes on now in verse 36, saying, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone,” which concludes their original question, “Tell us when all these things will happen.” In verses 37-41, He concludes with, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there shall be two men in the field; and one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.” Yeshua describes His coming with judgment as just like in the days of Noah; the illustration of the two who are taken and the two who stay has been the doctrine for the rapture, but if we look closely, we see that Yeshua was referring to the flood, in which case He was referring to those being taken in judgment, alluding to the verse talking about where the corpse is, there you will find the vulture (verse 28).

Yeshua warns that in the time before His coming, although the warnings will be sounded, most people will just carry on with life as usual. Noah preached repentance right up to the time of the flood, but no one heeded his warning. So too with us today, the church preaches grace and love and mercy; even though God is all these things, God still has to, and must, judge sin. His people are not excluded. We must repent of our sins and turn back as the Word suggests in its true meaning. We must be holy as He is holy. We can not water down the gospel or sugar-coat it with doctrine that will tickle our ears. No, we must walk the straight and narrow. We must not have any hint of the world in us. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that we may proclaim the Excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Could we be the generation who sees Yeshua return? If we are, then judgment is coming and we should not let it come as a thief in the night. The church needs to wake up and get right with God! We will look at the six parables referring to His coming next.

The Second Coming, Part 1: Birth Pangs of Messiah

We began a series a few years ago about the end time churches and how God calls us to repent and all the opportunities He gives us to do that. Then last year, we looked at how Yeshua clears out the moneychangers and gives a strict warning, and a look at God’s people as a royal priesthood. This year we want to begin a series looking at the second coming of Yeshua. We will begin by looking at Matthew 24-25, with the same narrative in Mark 13 which is considered to be the Eschatological Discourse.

Chapter 24 of Matthew verses 1-3 is where Yeshua predicts the destruction of the Temple and His disciples ask, “When will these things begin, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” We always hear about the “End Times,” especially in Bible-believing churches. There are those who are Pre-Tribulation and those who are Post-Tribulation and then there are those who do not even know what that all means. Well, quite frankly, no one really knows what that all means because we can not totally understand the future until it happens. But this we do know: Yeshua was speaking Hebraicly. So we are going to try to sort it all out with a Hebraic understanding.

Yeshua goes on in verses 4-5; He warns that many will come and mislead people by saying that they are the Messiah. In fact, the best known one was Simon bar Kochba who led many astray, even the chief Rabbi Akiba, by claiming to be the Messiah. Bar Kochba formed an army (remember, Messiah would come and deliver Israel from their enemies) and led a revolt which brought on the Second Jewish Revolt in the years 132-135 AD in which many Jews died. Yeshua’s prediction of the Temple being destroyed was fulfilled in 70 AD during the First Jewish Revolt, and now this great deception takes place which causes many more to die.

In verses 6-8, Yeshua goes on to say that there will be wars and rumors of wars, but don’t be frightened because these things must happen, but the end is not yet. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes; but all this is just the beginning of birth pangs. We have seen over the last century alone that war, famine, and earthquakes have come on us like labor pains and have quickly intensified. We hear so often these days, “This has been the worst storm” or flooding or whatever the natural disaster is, and it is only getting worse. We don’t understand it, so we call it global warming, but it should be called global birth pains, chevlei shel moshiach, “the birth pains of Messiah.” This terminology is from an early medieval midrash called midrash Pesiqta Rabbati. It reads: “In the year in which King Messiah will be revealed, all the kings of the nations of the world will provoke each other… And pangs will take hold of them like unto the pangs of a woman in childbirth. And Israel will tremble and fear, and they will say: ‘Where shall we come and go, where shall we come and go?'” The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah all use this imagery of a woman in labor. But this is only the beginning.

Verses 9-11 continue, “Tribulations and persecutions will come and many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another and many false prophets will arise, and mislead many.” We see this happening during the time of the apostles. Yeshua tells His disciples that because the world hated Him, that they would be hated also because of Him. All but the disciple John were martyred for their faith. Paul writes, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Messiah will be persecuted.” During the time of Nero, the believers were made human torches and burned at Nero’s gatherings. They were also thrown to the lions for his entertainment. As we see in Paul’s letters, many of the believers had gone back into the world and gave up their beliefs. Paul, Peter, and John all warn their readers about false prophets that were in their day misleading the people. The Torah speaks about false prophets and when it does, it always gives a warning. John, in 1 John 4:1, says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” All throughout Scripture it warns believers to beware of false teachers, prophets, and shepherds. Paul writes, “But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

In verses 12-14, Yeshua goes on to say, “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But to the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all nations, and then the end shall come.” John writes, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” We want to stop here for just a moment. What is lawlessness? When we stop to think about it, there is only one law: the Torah. Paul tells us in Galatians that Torah is a tutor, teaching us right from wrong. He says in Romans that, “I would not have come to know sin except through the Torah.” So when we go against God’s Torah, we sin.

The false messiah will be a man of lawlessness. In the Greek, the word is anomia which means “Torah-lessness.” He will be a man who is anti-Torah. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” So Paul was saying that already in his day, people were discrediting the Torah. We see that this happened as the Romans were persecuting the Jews in the First Revolt; they also included believers (anyone who kept Torah), so many believers (mostly Gentile believers) walked away from being Torah observant. Yeshua said that He did not come to abolish the Torah; James calls the Torah perfect, quoting Psalm 19, and he calls it liberty. Paul calls it holy, righteous, and good. We ought to think about God’s Word as a whole and not discredit any part. Paul tells us, “All Scripture is inspired of God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” and he was talking about the Torah. How can a building be built without a foundation? How can a tree grow without roots? Let us not be Torahless people, but people of God’s whole counsel, living by it and obeying God’s commands.

Paul addresses Yeshua’s statement that sin will increase and people’s love will grow cold. Paul writes to Timothy, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.” Again he writes to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and in turn, turn aside to myths. But the one who endures by continuing to walk by the Word of God will remain in the Lord.”

Yeshua tells us in verse 14, “And this gospel will be preached in the whole world.” Even in the Talmud the Rabbis write that the Messiah will not come until all nations have been converted to the belief of the minim (heretics). By this time, believers were considered heretics because they did not keep Torah. So what is this gospel that will be preached? Today there are many gospels; many versions of salvation are taught today. Some say that all roads lead to heaven. But what is the true gospel, the one that John the Baptist, Yeshua, and the disciples preached before there was this denomination and that interpretation? Matthew writes in Matthew 3:1-2, “John came preaching in the wilderness saying, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.'” Matthew 4:17 tells of Yeshua preaching, saying, “Repent for the Kingdom is at hand.” In Mark 1:14-15 it is written, “Yeshua said, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” On the day of Pentecost, Peter tells the crowd to “repent.” Paul tells King Agrippa that he declared to Damascus and Jerusalem and all Judea and even to the Gentiles that they should all repent and turn to God.

But is this the whole gospel? No, but it is the beginning. No one can receive the gospel unless his heart is right. Take the parable of the Sower. The seed that fell on the good soil produced a crop of 30, 60, and even 100 fold. Being “born again” is a matter of the heart. The Sermon on the Mount is all about the matter of the heart. For the heart to be right, you must first repent, make that 180 degree turn in your life. If you lie, you must stop lying; if you steal, you must stop stealing, and so forth. Repentance is the key that opens the door to the Kingdom of God. This is where the true gospel starts. Then we can have forgiveness and redemption through the blood of Yeshua. Then we must walk by the light of the Word of God.

In verses 15-20, Yeshua goes on to say, “When you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of in Daniel standing in the holy place, let the reader beware. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in the house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak… But pray that your flight may not be in winter, or on the Sabbath.” This is a reference pertaining to the time of the Maccabbees, when the Assyrians came into the Temple and desolated it (1 Maccabees 1:54-56). Yeshua warns His listeners that when you see this happen, remember the Macccabees who fled to the mountains (1 Maccabees 2:28). And this is exactly what happened during the Second Jewish Revolt. During the reign of Hadrian, about 132 AD, a Roman temple to Zeus was built on the Temple Mount. The believers, who knew Yeshua’s warning, knew what to do and that is what they did, they fled to the mountains and were safe. But the remaining Jews, first of all, were following this false messiah who began the revolt and secondly, when the Romans attacked, they did not know to flee and were killed. This began the division between believing Jews and their brethren. They were regarded as heretics and many believers in Yeshua separated themselves not only from their Jewish brethren, but from Torah altogether to protect themselves from the persecution.

We want to stop and think about verse 20. Why would Yeshua tell His followers, “Pray it’s not on the Sabbath” if we are not supposed to be keeping the Sabbath? It is important when we read Scripture that we think about what it is saying and then determine if our lives are lining up with what it is saying. No man—whether he be Peter or Paul or a Pope or Scholar or Minister—can change God’s Word or His Appointed Times or His ways. God established the Sabbath, the seventh day, at the time of creation and there is no changing what God has called holy. If we are to be holy as God is holy, then we need to keep what He has called holy.

We have seen that up to this point, Yeshua’s prophetic words came true with the First and Second Jewish Revolts. The Temple is now gone, believing Jews and Gentiles no longer worship together with their non-Jewish brethren, and everyone has scattered, Jews and believers alike. Yeshua goes on in verses 21-22, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short.” Yeshua quotes the prophet Joel, “A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, so there is a great and mighty people, there has never been anything like it, nor will there again after it.” Here the Prophet prophesies about a great, disciplined army that will come and who will be like a consuming fire, leaping over walls and not deviating from their course. They will rush the city and they will carry out the Word of the Lord. Now people take this as saying that the Day of the Lord is God’s judgment on Israel. But if you read Daniel, it reads, “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the Book, will be rescued.”

Now you have to ask yourself, “Can the Jews be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?” And if you say, “No, only if they are believers,” then you must ask yourself, why would they not be raptured with all the other believers? We will answer that question as we go along. The Great Tribulation, or Jacob’s Trouble, or the Day of the Lord, which are some of the names for this time, is going to be a time of great distress. The nations will come up against Jerusalem. It was interesting to see the peace conference in Annapolis when all the nations did come, but they sat around Israel. What a precursor of the end times! Yeshua says that the time will be so terrible that for life to be saved, the time had to be cut short. When you think of the wars from World War I until today, and how many people have died in the last one hundred years in these wars—nearly one hundred million people—and how that cannot compare with those who will die during the Great Tribulation by war and all it brings, can you imagine if God did not shorten the time?

In Revelation 6, the seals are opened and the first is one sitting on a white horse with a bow and a crown and he went out to conquer, a reference to the Antichrist who will come and conquer all nations with a false god and false religion. The next seal is a rider on a red horse, who rides to take peace from the earth with men slaying each other. The third seal is a rider on a black horse who rises to destroy crops and brings famines. The fourth seal is a rider on an ashen horse whose name is Death with Hades following behind, and he went about taking the lives of a fourth of the people on the earth by the sword, famine, pestilence, and by wild beasts. The fifth seal brought martyrdom to God’s people. The sixth seal brings about a great earthquake; the sun will become black and the moon will become like blood. We have seen many of these things begin to happen and increase in intensity especially in the last seven years.

Could this be the last millennium? Could this be the last century? Can we be coming to the culmination of all things? Yeshua tells His listeners, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too when you see these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”

Priesthood, Part 6: The Holy of Holies

We have been looking at the priesthood and the Temple over the past year. We began the year with Yeshua clearing out the Temple and making a severe warning. We have seen that as believers, we are called to be a royal priesthood and in so doing we must follow the ways of the Temple. We have seen that there is an order of worship that needs to be followed. We have entered the Temple with thanksgiving and its courts with praise. We have stopped at the altar and, as Yeshua laid down His life, so we too lay down our lives. Because of the offering of Yeshua, we now can repent of our sins and be forgiven. We can be washed in the blood of the Lamb at the Laver. We then may enter into the Holy Place and feast at the table of the Lord and eat of the finest of wheat (God’s Word) so we walk in the light of God’s Word. From there, we come with the fire of our offering and light the incense of our prayers that go up to God. But now we must stop at the veil.

The Temple Veil

The veil separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Behind the veil sat the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. The veil concealed the Presence of God. The High Priest was permitted to pass through the veil and entered the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur. Exodus tells us that, “All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen.” Two cherubs were woven into the veil.

Miriam and the Temple Veil

The following is a story about Miriam the mother of Yeshua. Now this story is taken from a non-canonical gospel, so we can only look at the following in the light of history, and even maybe as a fictional event.

In the days before Yeshua’s birth, King Herod the Great was involved in remodeling the Temple. The craftsmen and builders completed the renovation inside and out without disrupting the Temple service. There is a reference in the Book of John where it tells us that it took forty-six years to build the Temple. That would place the beginning of the remodeling project about a decade before the birth of Yeshua. Part of the remodeling project required the creation of new fabrics for the curtains and veils (the front veil and the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies). According to the apocryphal gospel Protoevangelium of James, which was a third century pseudepigraphical gospel, Miriam (the mother of Yeshua) was one of the women chosen to work on the veils; and there was a council of priests, saying, “Let us make a veil for the Temple of the Lord.” And the priest said, “Call to me the undefiled virgins of the family of David.” And the officers went away, and sought, and found seven virgins. And the priest remembered the child Mary, that she was of the family of David and undefiled before God. And the officers went away and brought her. And they brought them all into the Temple of the Lord. And the priest said, “Choose for me by lot who shall spin the gold, and the white, and the scarlet, and the true purple.” And the true purple and the scarlet fell to the lot of Mary (Protoevangelium James 10).

Within this same gospel is the story of the miraculous conception and miraculous birth of Mary, the girlhood of Mary, her betrothal to Joseph, and the miraculous conception and birth of Yeshua. The Orthodox Jewish scholar Samuel Safrai has suggested that Protoevangelium James might contain some historically based, non-canonical traditions about those events. Specifically, he points to the tradition of Miriam weaving the veil for the Temple. He deems it may possibly contain a kernel of historical truth because it has a direct parallel in the Tosefta Shekalim: “Women used to weave the veils of the Temple… and they were paid from monies donated to the Temple” (Tosefta Shekalim). Thanks to Protoevangelium James, church artwork depicts Mary, before the birth of Yeshua, almost always with a bolt of scarlet cloth. Miriam may have been employed to weave together the fabrics for the Temple at the same time God was choosing her to be used so that Yeshua the living Temple could become the veil; to quote the Psalmist, “Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb.” In Hebrews it says, “The veil, that is, His flesh….” Yeshua is the veil and when He died, the very same veil that His mother may have woven was torn in half so that all who accepted Him may go in.

Tis the Season to Remember Yeshua in the Holy of Holies

We are told that in the Garden of Eden, God dwelt with Adam and Eve and He walked amongst them. How He exactly did that we are not sure. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cast out from the Presence of God, but God would one day again walk among men. The Lord said to Moses, “Let them construct a sanctuary (a Mikdash, a holy place) to My Name, and I will make My Shechinah (Presence) dwell among them.” The word for dwell, shachan, is also at the root of the word Mishkan, Tabernacle. Yeshua is the Tabernacle; He is the Shachan, the Presence.

The Holy of Holies was the place where God’s Presence resided. Behind the veil in the Holy of Holies—or the Most Holy Place as it was also called—sat the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was symbolic of the Throneroom of God. Yeshua is the Mikdash, the Holy Place, for He is the Holy One. The Tabernacle was to be both a holy place and a dwelling place. As we have seen, the Tabernacle teaches us about Messiah. God required a holy place to dwell among His people; so too Yeshua needed a holy place to dwell, and that place was a human body. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory (shechinah), as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” So, to literally translate this verse, it should read, “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us.” When God spoke to Moses to build the Tabernacle, the Targum Yonaton on Exodus 24:22 says of the Tabernacle, “I will appoint My Memra (Word) to meet you there.” Messiah fulfills these Scriptures literally. He dwelt among us in His physical body, a Sanctuary for God, a dwelling among man. Remember, Yeshua said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” It was no coincidence that Yeshua was born during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles.

As the priesthood, we too are the Temple of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit dwells within us and we too must be holy. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul reminds us of this. In 2 Corinthians 6:15-16, Paul says, “Or what harmony has Yeshua with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the Temple of God with idols?” For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God. And they shall be My people.” Holiness (to be set-apart) is mandated to have God dwell within us. John writes, “Fellowship with the world is enmity toward God.”

As the world celebrates the birth of Yeshua, let us remember His holiness (the Holy of Holies) and the miracle of the Word clothing itself within humanity (the veil).

The Ark of the Covenant

The Ark was almost 4 feet long and 2 1⁄4 feet high and 2 1⁄4 feet deep and inside the Ark was the Torah (the spoken Word of God, who is Yeshua), a jar of manna (the Bread of life, who is Yeshua), and Aaron’s budded rod (the authority and fruitfulness of the priesthood of believers who are in Yeshua). The Ark was so holy that only the tribe of Levi could carry it. After Aaron’s sons were struck down because they lit strange fire before the Lord, God told Moses that Aaron and his sons could only enter into the Most Holy Place once a year (Yom Kippur) and then they had to make atonement for themselves and the people. Maintaining holiness requires boundaries. If a holy space is treated like normal space, it loses its sanctity. So on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and he would sprinkle the blood of the sin offering upon it.

The cover of the Ark is called Kaporet which comes from the word Kaphar which means “to cover” or “to atone.” Upon the Ark sat the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat is the place of atonement. Two winged cherubim covered it with outstretched wings—again, a picture of Heaven with the two cherubim before the throne of God. It was here at the Mercy Seat that God spoke to Moses. Thank God through our Lord Yeshua that He has entered in behind the veil with His own blood as the sacrifice once and for all, and now He has become our Great High Priest who lives to make intercession on our behalf!

Hush, God is Present

When we entered into the first veil or door of the Tabernacle/Temple, we entered with thanksgiving and praise, shouting and celebrating; but when we entered into the last veil, we entered in with silence. Entering into the Most Holy Place was done with awe and reverence. In fact, they would tie a rope around the priest on Yom Kippur so if he would die in the Presence of God, they could pull him out because otherwise they would not be able to enter in to retrieve him. All that the priest would say at that time was God’s Most Holy Name. Scripture repeatedly says that we must enter in with a hush. Habakkuk 2:20 says, “But the Lord is in His Holy Temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Zechariah 2:13 says, “Be silent all flesh before the Lord, for He is aroused from His Holy Habitation.” Zephaniah 1:7 says, “Be silent in the Presence of the Lord.” This is an element that we Christians miss. Scripture tells us that we may come into God’s presence with boldness and so we think that we can just barge in on a Holy God. Yes, we can come before God with a confidence because of the sacrifice of Yeshua; in other words, God will not strike us dead if we come before Him. But we must still enter in with a hush.

If we go through the process of entering in with thanksgiving and praise, and we stop at the altar in which Yeshua laid down His life and we too lay down ours by humbling ourselves, crucifying the flesh, and we confess our sins, then going to the Laver we are washed in the blood of Yeshua and receive forgiveness, we then can enter in and feast at the Table of the Lord and eat from the Bread of Life, letting the Word abide in us, placing the Word in our hearts so that we will not sin again which will cause us to walk in the light of the Menorah, Yeshua, and bring our prayers to the Altar of Incense and then come into the Presence of God, quietly, waiting for God to speak to us. All too often Christians do not wait on the Lord to speak to them. All too often our prayers are hindered because of sin and we never are allowed to enter in because of our sins. We forgot to stop and repent. Before we enter into Communion at church—which is fellowship with God—we must examine ourselves and repent of our sins, so why do we not do this every time we commune with God in prayer?

There is a path to worship and we must walk on the path that leads to God. As priests we must do our priestly duties as it is done in heaven. God spoke to Moses and told him to make the Tabernacle exactly like heaven, and the priests were to minister exactly like it is done in heaven. We can not say that the Tabernacle/Temple was just for the Jews. Ezekiel, Zechariah, and many of the prophets spoke of the end times and they refer to the Temple in the Messianic Days. In fact, it says that all the nations will come up for the Feast of Tabernacles and if they don’t, God will punish them. If we will be keeping God’s Appointed Feasts in the Messianic Era including the true Sabbath, shouldn’t we be keeping them now? So too we must follow all of God’s ways now, which includes coming into His Presence with holiness and a reverence. Just think, we wouldn’t come before royalty or even into a courtroom before a judge with outbursts, but with a quietness and respect. How much more so before God Almighty!

Now We Are Ready!

When Moses saw the burning bush and went toward it, God called out to him and told him to take his sandals off for the place where he was standing was holy. Moses hid his face and was afraid to look upon God. Then God told him that He was sending him back to Egypt. When Joshua met the Captain of the Lord’s Army, he fell on his face. Then the Angel of the Lord told him what he needed to do. Isaiah, when he came into the Presence of God, said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” The Angel of the Lord took a coal off the altar and touched his lips. After Isaiah comes into the Presence of God he hears God say, “Whom shall I send?” And he responds, “Send me.” Time and time again when we come into God’s Presence and we are still before Him, God will speak to us and give us the answers that we need or the direction we must go. As we come before the Messiah this Holiday Season, let us come with thanksgiving and praise, but then as we come to Him, let us come believing that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Let us pause in silence and listen for that small, still voice telling us the deep truths of His Word as He calls us into His service. As priests before God, let us be holy as He is holy, ministering to Him, bringing our gifts before Him just like the wise men who brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all of which were used in the Tabernacle. Let us bring the best gift we have, our lives, and as a royal priesthood let us be used as vessels of honor in the hand of our King, Yeshua HaMashiach.

Priesthood, Part 5: The Incense of Prayer

Last month, we looked at the Menorah and the Table of Showbread, also known as the Table of the Bread of Presence. When confronted with the task of feeding the five thousand, Yeshua tells His disciples that they should feed the people. Yeshua tells Peter, “If you love Me, feed My sheep.” So we see that as priests we must be light in the darkness and lead the people to Yeshua and we are to feed the sheep not only with actual bread, but with the Bread of Life. So we want to continue on our path of worship. As we leave the Table of Showbread, after we have feasted at God’s table and our hearts are well-satisfied and we have drunk from the wells of salvation, cleansed and walking in the Light, now we can approach the Altar of Incense.

The Altar of Incense

With the assurance that God is Light and the Bread of Life, the priest approached the Altar of Incense twice a day. The altar was square and made of wood and overlaid with gold. The altar sat in front of the veil that concealed the Holy of Holies. The priest would take fiery coals from the Bronze Altar, the altar upon which the sacrifices were burned. They would take the fiery coals from the Tamid Sacrifices (the Morning and Afternoon sacrifices, which were the two continual sacrifices that burned on the altar) and then they would light the incense which was a special blend, according to God’s specification, upon the Incense Altar. Like all things with the tabernacle, it had to be done exactly as God had spoken. We see in Leviticus that Aaron’s two sons offered “strange fire” before the Lord and they were struck dead. God’s ways must be kept and remember, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There is no new way with God. His tabernacle has not changed.

The incense, which was a special blend, was a sweet aroma which was pleasing to God, and the smoke from the incense went straight up like a pillar of smoke, going straight up to heaven. The incense was offered during the time when the menorah was cleaned, refueled, rewicked, and rekindled. We see that incense was one of the gifts of the Magi to the Baby Yeshua. At the end of the Sabbath during the Havdalah Service, the spice jar is passed around and as you smell the sweet aroma, it is a reminder to us believers of the sweet fragrance of Yeshua. Because there is no temple, the making of the anointing oil and the incense according to God’s specifications is forbidden. So if we can no longer anoint with the specific blend God requires and we can no longer offer up incense, then like the sacrifices, does everything come to a stop? No, because God’s tabernacle in heaven still operates. We saw what replaced the sacrifices and now we will look at what replaced the offering of the incense: prayer.

Scripture tells us in Luke that the multitudes of people were in prayer at the time of the incense offering. This was because of the morning and afternoon prayer which were said during these times. We see in Revelation that the prayers of the believers went up to heaven like the incense which rose straight up from the altar. We want to look at prayer and the different types.

Liturgical Prayer

Liturgical prayers come from the Siddur (prayer book) and were, and still are, the common prayers of the day. Yeshua and His disciples said these prayers, and even the early believers did up to about the 5th Century. Though we see in the Catholic Church that these types of prayers are still common, those are not the prayers that Yeshua said. We want to start with the Morning and Evening prayers (the evening prayers are said in the late afternoon). They were, and still are, said today. The Morning Prayer is called Shacharis and the Afternoon Prayer is called Minchah. We find in Genesis 19 that Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he stood before the Lord. So we see Abraham starting the tradition of the Morning Prayer, the Shacharis, by going to the same spot early in the morning. The Afternoon Prayer, the Minchah, was traditionally started by Jacob. Genesis 24 tells us that Jacob went out to meditate in the field toward evening before sunset. We see in 1 Kings 18 that Elijah waited until right before the time of the evening sacrifice before he built the altar on Mt. Carmel, so when the time came for the evening sacrifice he placed the offering upon the altar and God so miraculously consumed the water and the sacrifice and the altar. We see Daniel praying the Afternoon Prayers on top of his roof. And most importantly, we see Yeshua placed upon the cross at the time of the morning sacrifice/morning prayer and He died at the time of the afternoon sacrifice, the time of the afternoon prayer. If we look at the lives of the Apostles and believers, we see them also continuing this tradition of meeting in the Temple for Morning Prayer. So let’s take a closer look at these two prayers that replaced the Tamid sacrifices, the continual burnt offering.

Morning Prayer

The Morning Prayer starts with “How godly are Your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel. O Lord, through Your abounding faithful love I come into Your house, and reverently I worship You in Your holy sanctuary. I love being in Your house, the place where Your glory resides. Here I bow down to worship You, my Lord and my Maker. Accept my prayer, O Lord, and answer with Your great mercy and with Your saving truth. How lovely are Your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! I long, yes, I pine for the courts of the Lord; my heart joyfully sings to the living God. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I will pursue, That I may live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the graciousness of the Lord and to enter His sanctuary. Teach me Your ways, O Lord, and lead me in the right path. With You is the fountain of life, in Your light do we see light.” We see here that the prayer is going through those steps of worship, entering the gates with thanksgiving and praise, stopping at the fountain of life, the Laver, and entering into the Holy Place and seeing God’s light, His truth. The prayer continues with the daily Scripture, which is the light. Upon hearing God’s Word, the Shema is said, which is a declaration that there is only one God and we will serve Him with all of our hearts and life and strength, and we will teach our children to do the same. After this, Kaddish is said; this is a declaration of God’s glory and holiness. And finally, the Amidah is said, which are the Eighteen Benedictions.

The Afternoon Prayer

The afternoon prayer starts with Kaddish, blessing God’s Name, and then the Shema. On Mondays and Thursdays, part of the weekly Torah portion is read. Again the Eighteen Benedictions are recited, but then we pray for God’s protection as we lay down for the night. We end our prayer with Psalm 134 and Psalm 121, followed by the Aaronic Benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” We sing a song after the Morning and Afternoon prayer. We do not know how much of the Morning and Afternoon prayer, as said today, was said in the time of Yeshua, but we do know that parts of the Eighteen Benedictions go as far back as King David.

Then there are the prayers said during the different feasts and Sabbaths; of course, there are liturgical prayers from Scripture like the Psalms and we can not forget Yeshua’s prayer which is a shortened form of the Amidah, The Eighteen Benedictions, which we call the Lord’s Prayer. But what about the prayers we say from the heart?

Praying From the Heart

Praying from the heart is exactly that, from our hearts. Everything we say in prayer should be from the heart whether it is traditional prayer or any other type of prayer. In fact, everything we do pertaining to God should be done wholeheartedly. God said that when we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him. We are to pray without ceasing. We are to pray with faith and never doubting, trusting God to hear us and answer us. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

There are different types of prayers; there are supplications, intercessions, petitions and requests; in fact, everything we do in life is our prayer to God. Paul tells us that we are to lay down our lives, which is our spiritual worship. Everything we say and do we are to do in the Name of the Lord Yeshua, because it is our prayer, our priestly service before God. Paul writes to Timothy, “I admonish and urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all men. For kings and all who are in positions of authority . . . .” He goes on, “For such praying is good and right and pleasing to God, who wishes all men to be saved and increasingly to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the divine truth: that there is only one God and only one Mediator between God and men, the man Yeshua the Messiah . . . Therefore I want men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”

We, as the Priesthood, have an obligation to pray for one another and for those who are perishing, that all may be saved. We must pray for the Body of Yeshua, for when one suffers, we all suffer and don’t forget that there are believers all over the world today who are suffering for the name of Yeshua. We must pray for our government, not with hate and anger, but that we, as a nation, will live under the Divine Laws of the One True God.

All of our prayers are to be accompanied by thanksgiving. Why? Because all of the burnt offerings were to be followed by a Thanksgiving Offering. When we receive God’s forgiveness, it should cause us to be thankful. Yeshua told a story about two men who had debts which they owed—one a large debt, the other a smaller debt. He asks His disciples which one will be more thankful, and they said the one with the larger debt; and so we should be thankful that Yeshua took our sins upon Himself and when we repent of our sins we are then forgiven. Remember, to light the Incense Altar, they took the coals from the morning and evening burnt offerings, the continual offerings, which should make us think of the time that Yeshua hung on the cross.

Prayer and worship are so closely related to the Tabernacle that it is hard to believe that as Christians we negate the laws that surround it. What we forget is that the heavenly Temple is still in operation and the earthly one with all of its laws and regulations was taken from the heavenly Temple. God is a God of detail; He is not only concerned about detail regarding His Temple, but He is concerned about every detail of our lives. God is also Just and Righteous and we see this in the fact that our prayers can be hindered because of our hearts’ condition.

Hindered Prayer

Now, if our prayers are associated with the Incense Altar which is connected to the burnt offerings, then we see that if we have sin in our lives, our prayers can be hindered. For example, if a husband is not living in a right relationship with his wife, this could hinder his prayers. Yeshua tells us that if someone has a grievance against us we are to leave our offering at the altar and go make things right.

What altar was Yeshua talking about? Well, you may say the altar at the Temple, but would that then apply to us? If not, then the concept of forgiveness would not apply to us either. Or maybe it was for those believers at the time; but then, if Yeshua is our example, should we disregard the things He says? Or maybe the process of worship is the same yesterday, today and forever. One day the Temple will return, but for now, the heavenly Temple still is in operation, and before we can come to God with our sacrifice of praise or even our monetary offerings, we must first make things right between us and our neighbor. If we harbor bitterness or unforgiveness, our prayers will be hindered. We must first humble ourselves and see the need to repent and stop at the altar and lay that sin down. It is as though we are stopping at the cross of Calvary, for the altar and the cross are one and the same. Then we can go to the Laver and be washed by the blood of Yeshua; in so doing we are walking in the light of God’s Word; in other words, our lives must line up with God’s Word. Then we can have fellowship with Him, feasting at His table. From there, we can stop at the Incense Altar and bring our requests and prayers before God. This is a process that we must go through. There is only one path of worship and this is it. Yes, Yeshua died for our sins, but we must still examine our hearts and go through the process. Scripture tells us that a man should examine himself before communion. But it goes on to say, “But if we judge ourselves rightly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.” God is a holy God and so we are to be holy and when it comes to entering into God’s presence, we must be without sin, and if we deceive ourselves, that will only hinder our prayers.

Trusting God

When we have done all that we can do, then the Bible tells us to stand believing. Waiting on God is the essence to all prayer. The Bible tells us to ask and keep on asking and then you shall receive. It is in waiting on God that we grow in perseverance and in character. It is in this waiting and trusting God that the fragrance, the aroma of our prayers becomes more pleasing to God. The true worship of God is found in relying on our Father to be exactly that—our Father—knowing that He will never leave us or fail us. Now, does this mean that we will receive everything that we ask for? No. But this does mean that God will give us what we need and what will be good for us. Only a loving Father can do this. So when we lift up holy hands and praise the One true God, let us always remember that it is through Yeshua our Messiah that we are able to come and offer up our prayers and requests to God our Father. He made the way for us to be forgiven.

Next we are going to look at the veil, which was torn on our behalf so that we can now come into the Holy of Holies.

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