Posts Tagged ‘Bible Study’

Shavuot is a little known holiday among Christians today. It is ironic to me, since it commemorates the single most important event in Judeo-Christian history—the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. And in the 3,300 years since, the Torah’s ideals—monotheism, justice, responsibility—have become the moral basis for Western civilization.

Shavuot (Hebrew for “Weeks”) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June). Shavuot commemorates the early harvest in the land of Israel. (See Leviticus 23:9-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-11) It is one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals. It also commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Since Shavuot occurs 50 days (7 weeks) after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known in Christian circles as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “50 days.” Shavuot, however, has no connection to the Christian Pentecost holiday.

Many people today are taught that after leaving Egypt on the day of the Passover, only Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. And there, God spoke to the entire Jewish nation and  instructed them to keep the Ten Commandments He inscribed on the stone tablets. (See Deuteronomy 4:1-14) So they mistakenly assume that all of the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament are meant only for Jews. But what most Christians fail to understand is that when the Hebrews left Egypt they were also joined by non-Hebrew people. We read in Exodus 12:38 that a “mixed multitude” went with them. Some perhaps, willing to leave their country after it was laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love for the Hebrews and their religion. And the same laws applied both to the native-born Hebrew and to the foreigner. (verse 49) Also, the Bible never refers to the feasts as Jewish feasts, but the “Feasts of the Lord”. (See Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 2 Chronicles 2:4; Ezra 3:5)

How to Celebrate Shavuot

In biblical times, Shavuot was tied to the agricultural calendar. It originally celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest seven weeks after Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). Counting the omer between the holidays added an element of anticipation of looking forward to Shavuot and a bountiful harvest. On this pilgrimage feast, Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to offer the first portion of their crops to the Lord in thanksgiving for His provision of food.

Celebrating the Spiritual Harvest

But Shavuot is more than the celebration of the first fruits of a physical harvest. Today, we observe it as the first fruits of a spiritual harvest. On the first Shavuot after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit that enabled them to speak so that many people in attendance heard their words in their native tongue! Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the disciples were just drunk. (Acts 2:12)

Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and God had poured out His Spirit in fulfillment of His promise through Joel 2:32-33. When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-39) About 3,000 people were added to the church that same day!

Just as Jesus promised, God sent His Spirit on that Shavuot to enable His people to be witnesses for Him: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Anticipating the Future Harvest

Thus, Shavuot is a reminder that we are living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come when people from every nation will be gathered into God’s Kingdom. Until that final harvest time, God expects us to be His witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all peoples and nations. And He has empowered us for this task. How we celebrate Shavuot can impact the size of that future harvest as we obey God’s commandments and share the gospel to all peoples, nations and tongues.

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Sin has just about wrecked this world of ours—And the Church is not immune to its effects. Just as Israel of old, we too, have forgotten God and replaced Him with our own golden calf. We have bowed down to the idols of humanism, secularism, and government control, and we have reaped the rewards of our actions.

It is probable that a great majority of church members in America today have few convictions against breaking any of God’s commandments. Child sexual abuse has become an epidemic, that the Church rarely speaks out against. (If they speak about it at all) Deception, robbery, and even sexual assaults have become all too common among Christians in both urban and suburban communities across our nation.

A very insidious doctrine has been developed in both Catholic and Protestant theology which has tended to minimize the authority of God’s commandments and moral precepts. It has led many to look lightly upon transgressions and has made sin to appear less objectionable. In fact, sin has become an acceptable mode of life for both youth and adults in the Church. How can this be? Especially among those who profess such high regard for the Bible, and a love for Christ?

This question becomes more significant when we consider the historical position of Christianity toward the Bible’s Ten Commandments. Almost all of the great denominations have confessed that they support the authority of the Ten Commandments, yet very subtle errors of interpretation have crept into the modern Church that has lead to the present state of confused loyalty toward God’s spiritual laws found in the Torah. (The first five books of the Bible) God’s spiritual laws are those that focus on moral precepts and thankfulness to God.

We need to look at God’s spiritual laws and their relation to God’s grace and salvation. It is so easy to accept the popular clichés concerning God’s laws and grace without searching out the biblical facts by which we will finally be judged. We must find authoritative scriptural answers to questions like these: In what sense are Christians free from the God’s law? What does it really mean to be under the law? Does God’s grace nullify God’s commandments? Can a Christian be justified when breaking any of God’s commandments because they are under grace?

We read in Romans that “the wages of sin is death”, (Romans 6:23 ) and that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We might as well replace the word “all” with our own name. Because according to 1 John 3:4, “sin is the transgression of the law,” and we are all guilty. Whose law did we break? God’s law. The shocking truth is that we are all guilty and under the sentence of death! And and in God’s court there are no plea deals or appeals that can reverse the sentence!

In desperation, many search for a way to be justified in spite of fact that they have broken God’s law. How can the sentence of death be turned aside? Can we atone for our sins by obeying the commandments of God for the rest of our life? Paul gives the answer in language that no one can misinterpret: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Romans 3:20)

There is a logical reason why works will never justify us. A convicted murderer may serve 10, 20 or even 50 years in prison. But because of good behavior, the warden may reduce his sentence. Then soon after completing his sentence, he can try to justify himself, saying that he paid his debt to society. But his crime will still remain on his criminal record that will follow him for the rest of his life. But suppose his sentence is death instead of 50 years? Can the prisoner then hope for a reduced sentence because of good behavior? Never! Even if he should become a model prisoner for a hundred years, the law would still demand his death.

It is the same with us. We have broken God’s law and the sentence is death. And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. (Hebrews 9:22) This is why good works can never justify us from the sentence of death. Only the shed blood of Christ can satisfy the sentence of death on us. (Romans 3:25)

Is the Law still binding?

Now we are brought to the question that has created confusion for multitudes of Christians: If the works of the law cannot save a person, is it therefore necessary to keep the law? Apparently this was a burning issue in the early church, because Paul asked the same question in Romans 6:1: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In other words, does grace give us a license to disobey the law of God? His answer is an unequivocal No! “God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (verse 2 )

Sadly, Christians have invented their own definitions that not only condone lawbreaking, but teach others to do so as well. (Matthew 5:19) The Bible tells us that sin is violating God’s commandments—the law which has been described as irrelevant today by many modern Christians. Don’t be deceived. Every one of God’s spiritual laws and moral precepts are just as timely and needful today as they were when God gave them to Moses, who in turn instructed his people. And nothing has ever happened to make them less binding than they were when God gave them. In fact, if you study the Bible with an open mind, you will discover that Jesus came to bring the full spiritual meaning and intent the law and making it more comprehensive to us. That’s what he meant when he said that he came to fulfill the law. (Matt.5:17)

Countless sincere Christians have been taught and have accepted the idea that the Old Testament was the dispensation of works, but that the New Testament provides for a dispensation of grace. Under this pretzel logic people were saved by works in the Old Testament and by grace in the New Testament. This is simply not true. There is only one way for anybody to be saved—that is by grace through faith. God will not divide people up between those who got saved by works and those who got saved by faith. Those who entered into salvation in the Old Testament were those who trusted the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ, and they looked forward in faith to the atoning death of Jesus. We look back in faith to the same death and are saved in exactly the same way. (See Hebrews 11) The Bible teaches that the entire redeemed host throughout eternity will be singing the same song of deliverance, exalting the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. (Revelation 5: 11-13)

Did Jesus give us a “new law”?

Some try to ignore God’s commandments on the basis of the “new” commandments of love that they say Jesus introduced. It is certainly true that Jesus laid down two great laws of love as a summary of all the law, but did he give the idea that these were to replace God’s spiritual laws? The fact is that Jesus was quoting directly from the Old Testament when he gave those “new commandments” proves that he had no intention of replacing God’s commandments. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) And “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus was merely pointing out the spiritual principles of God’s laws—Unlike the traditions of man taught by the Pharisees. In fact, most of what the apostle Paul spoke about came directly from the Old Testament  Scriptures.

Jesus told a parable of two sons who were asked to work in their father’s vineyard. He asked the Pharisees which son obeyed. After they answered Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.” (See Mathew 21:28-32)

In 70A.D. the Jew’s Temple was destroyed fulfilling Christ prophecy. (Matthew 24:1-2) The Temple’s sad end slammed the door on the Jew’s sacrificial system. Could it be that God allowed the Romans to destroy His Temple because of  the Jew’s legalistic observance of their traditions and ceremonial-sacrificial laws? Or maybe God just wanted them to realize that He doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. (Acts 7:48) They adjusted, of course, creating new rituals and traditions in their synagogues.

Perhaps that is why God will not destroy the Christian’s houses of worship—Even though they are filled with just as many traditions and ceremonies as was practiced in the Jew’s Temple. Because God knows that we too, would just create new places for our rituals and traditions.

Christians today are no different than the Pharisees when we place traditions above obediance to God’s spiritual laws. Scripture warns against any traditions, customs, precepts, or laws that are in opposition to, or contradictory to God’s commandments. (Deuteronomy 12:31) Customs, rituals, and practices such as Christmas, Easter, or Lent are inventions and traditions of men that Jesus warned against. (Matthew 15:8-9)

We must be cautious of the emptiness of the traditions of men passed down through time—even those from our own forefathers or elders. Because when we place more importance on our traditions than we do on God’s commandments we dishonor God and  turn the grace of Christ into sin. (Jude 1:4)

Remember, there is a thin line between holding onto non-biblical traditions and participating in pagan practices.

Many Christians believe that God’s Old Testament Laws were done away with and fulfilled by Jesus’ death and resurrection—that we are no longer under the Law, but under grace and we no loner are required to observe many of them—Including the Holy Feast Days.

But whose Feasts are they?

Even before the Old Covenant was ratified and before he scaled Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God, Moses was instructed about Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. God told Moses, “Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.“ (See Exodus 12:12-17)

Note that in Exodus 12:38 it says that a “mixed multitude” went with them—ie; non-Hebrew people, or Goyim. (Hebrew for other nations) Some, perhaps were willing to leave their country because it was laid waste by plagues; others may have been Egyptian slaves who saw the Exodus as a chance for freedom. And perhaps still others left out of a love for the Hebrews and their religion. The point is, is that there were always non-Jews living among the Israelites.

Concerning these Goyim, God told Moses, “If there are foreigners living among you who want to celebrate the LORD’s Passover, let all their males be circumcised. Only then may they celebrate the Passover with you like any native-born Israelite. But no uncircumcised male may ever eat the Passover meal. This instruction applies to everyone, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner living among you.” (Exodus 12:48-49) In other words, God’s instructions applies to EVERYONE—whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner!

We learn in Leviticus 23 that ALL the feasts of the Bible are “festivals to the Lord.  And each of the seven annual Feast observances, God commands Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (Lev. 23:2) He leaves us with no doubt as to whom these observances belong. They are God’s Feasts—not Israel’s; and not feasts just for the Jews! So Scripture proves that all these special annual festivals and Sabbaths belong to God and are given to those who seek to truly know and love Him.

But where are the Goyim today?

First, we need to understand that all Jews are Israelites; but not all Israelites are Jews. Just like all Navajos are Native American; but not all Native Americans are Navajo. When God called Abraham, He promised him that because of his obedience, his descendants would become a great nation and that in him all nations of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3) The physical blessings God gave Abraham would continue through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, also called Israel, whose 12 sons were the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. There was also a spiritual promise that all nations would be blessed through Jesus Christ, who was a descendant of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-34)

The Jews make up the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, But who are the other 10 tribes of Israel today? Although the Bible does not specifically name the modern nations representing all of these people, there is biblical, historical and archaeological evidence that make it possible for us to positively identify the United States, Britain and many of the nations of Western Europe as the nations where descendants of the 10 tribes of Israel largely reside today.

Although God had promised that He would punish the people of ancient Israel for their sins, He also promised that He would not completely destroy them. Instead, God said He would preserve them as He scattered them among the nations.

Speaking through the prophet Amos, God said: “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the LORD. For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.” (Amos 9:8-9)

The introduction to the book of James says, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” which confirms that some in the early New Testament Church knew where at least some of the descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel were located.

The Bible also indicates that the ancient Israelites would eventually migrate in a northwesterly direction away from Jerusalem. According to a prophecy in Isaiah 49:6, God will not only “restore the preserved ones of Israel”, but He will also “give light to the Gentiles”. (Goyim) In verse 12 we read that these people will come from “the north and the west” back to Jerusalem.

When the Assyrians conquered Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, they transported many of the Israelites “to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” (2 Kings 17:6) Shortly after the Israelites came into these lands, scholars note the appearance of people in this area called Cimmerians and Scythians.

The Jewish historian Josephus stated that “the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [Media]; wherefore there are but two tribes [Judah and Benjamin] in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers.” (Antiquities of the Jews, 11.5.2, Complete Works of Flavius Josephus)

In addition to biblical and historical evidence, Scythian burial grounds have indicated a connection between these people and those of Nordic ancestry. In July 2006 in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia near China and Russia, scientists made a rare find. German scientists who were part of the discovery team reported that the extremely well preserved mummy of a Scythian warrior was that of a 30 to 40 year old man with blond hair. Blond hair, of course, is a characteristic of Europeans not Mongols. Prior to the discovery of this mummy, artifacts obtained from numerous Scythian burial grounds had likewise indicated that these people were related to Europeans rather than Mongols.

This should prove to anyone with an open mind that the people of the United States, Britain and many of the nations of Western Europe are the actual descendants of the tribes of Israel. Only God could arrange things in order to fulfill His prophecy of Amos 9:8-9 to scatter the house of Israel among all nations! While this historical knowledge is not critical for salvation, it does help one to better understand our connection to Israel and end-time prophecies.

But what about the “New Rules” in Acts 15?

In Acts 15:19-22 we read, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.”

It would seem at first glance that the apostles agreed that the only thing required of the new converts was to abstain from idols, from fornication, from things strangled and from eating blood. But rather than isolate one verse alone and build on that, one must look at the whole chapter. Only in proper context will the meaning become clear. Consider Acts 15:5-11. What group was demanding conversion by circumcision? What was the apostle’s response to this particular group’s demand and why? What does other scripture teach regarding observance for believers—both Gentile and Jewish? Only after answering these questions can one arrive at what this passage is really teaching.

Verse 21 seems to show that while the Torah wasn’t forced on Gentiles all at once, it was understood they would learn it gradually over time, hearing it each week in the synagogues. Just as the Bible isn’t forced on Christians in a day either—they too, receive it over time. The apostle Paul suggested that the new believers be allowed to start off on these four laws so they would have the bare basics to begin fellowshipping with their Jewish brethren and they would learn the rest of Torah each Shabbat at synagogue. Only after pointing out that the Gentiles would learn Torah weekly did it please the apostles and elders to send this letter out to the various churches. (vs 22)

The common misunderstanding.

The mistaken assumption many make is in thinking that all laws in the Old Testament are the same. The fact is, we find five different kinds of law in Scriptures:

  • Spiritual law
  • Civil law
  • Ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial law
  • Judicial-criminal law
  • Natural law

The Feasts (as well as the Ten Commandments) fall into the category of spiritual laws. They reveal the spiritual attributes of God and they transform us spiritually to be more like Jesus when we observe them. They also remind us of how God will always watch over us and protect us with His mighty power.

It was understood by all the apostles that God’s Torah was never changed or replaced. We also know that Jesus considered the “traditions of man” not equal to written Torah, in fact, sometimes the oral tradition (Talmud) violated the written Torah. (Mark 7:7- 9)

The apostles upheld written Torah but frowned on the legalism of oral law. So who is making the demands in Acts 15:5? The Pharisees are. So, Acts 15 is basically dealing with whether Gentiles needed to convert according to Pharisaic tradition; that is, become proselytes to Pharisaic Judaism by circumcision. We know Gentiles could be saved without becoming proselytes—the believing of Cornelius and his family proves this.

Notice that the Pharisee’s complaint wasn’t “we demand that they eat kosher and observe God’s Feast Days and the Sabbaths.” This would be redundant since the Law of Moses already included these individual laws. But circumcision is singled out not as merely 1 of the 613 Pharisaic laws, but instead as the means of making a proselyte to Pharisaic Judaism. That is why Peter argued against this attempt of the Pharisees to put a yoke on the new believers. (Acts 15:7-11)

Note that the oral tradition of the Jews is a burden—Just as some of the oral traditions of the Christian Church is a burden. They are both man’s attempt to enslave others. But in God’s Laws there is freedom. (Leviticus 26:13) God didn’t give us His Laws to enslave us. God gave us His Laws to free us! God’s Laws are never a burden; it is man’s ADDITIONS to God’s Laws that are the burden. (1 John 5:3; James 1:25; Matthew 23:4)

The only laws that were changed by the New Covenant of Jesus were  the ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial laws. The book of Hebrews speaks of that change. (Hebrews 9:9-14)

These ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial laws had been added to the spiritual laws because of Israel’s continued transgressions. (Gal. 3:19) It was imperative that Israel learn the important lesson that sin is a serious thing that separates us from God and requires blood shedding for atonement. But now we rely on the Savior as the ultimate sacrifice, who now intercedes for us as our High Priest. His blood and not the blood of bulls and goats is the only effective antidote to blot out sin. THIS is the change in the law that the Bible speaks of.

We find nothing here or anywhere else in the Scriptures about a change in our responsibility to keep the spiritual laws—meaning either the Ten Commandments or God’s Feast days. Because neither the Commandments nor God’s annual Feast Days are part of the sacrificial laws that were changed with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Did Jesus’ death and resurrection change God’s spiritual laws?

Matthew 5:17 is the scripture that is most quoted in order to show that Jesus did away with the Law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” However, they leave off verse 18 where Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” (NLT)

Is heaven and earth still here? Yes! Has everything in God’s Word been fulfilled? No! Is the Law of God still in effect? Yes! Jesus says it is! Jesus continues to explain the laws and commandments of God when he says: “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (v19)

Although the Ancient Israelites understood the physical basis for keeping the law, they did not comprehend the spiritual intent and meaning of the laws and commandments of God. The part of the plan of God for the salvation of humanity called for Jesus Christ to come and explain the spiritual intent and meaning of these laws and commandments. This is precisely what he did.

Many Christians pick out Colossians 2:16-18 and mistakingly believe that Paul is telling us not to observe the feasts: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 

Paul is not telling us not to observe God’s festivals or Sabbaths, he is telling us not to let others JUDGE us when we DO observe them! Because, “…These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

And who are those who would judge us? The legalistic Pharisaic Jews and the worldly Christians who would impose man-made ordinances and rules on us. (See vs. 20-22)

The New Testament Christians obeyed God’s spiritual laws

The Apostle John wrote:

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6)

“By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.”(1 John 2:3)

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” (2 John 1:6)

Did the apostle Paul observe God’s Laws?

The New Testament writings raises an important question: Why did Paul observe God’s Feast Days? In Acts 20:6 we are told that Paul observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in Acts 20:16 he observed the Feast of Pentecost. Notice that even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the importance that the apostle Paul attached to keeping a Feast in Jerusalem: “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” (Acts 18:21 KJV) I find it interesting that many Bible translations today have removed the part of that verse that says, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem.” Compare it to the NIV which reads, “But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus.” Why no mention of keeping the feast in Jerusalem? Could the omission be because it offers such strong support for the validity of God’s Holy Feast Days? If all of God’s laws were replaced at Jesus’ resurrection, was Paul wrong to do so?

Did the 2nd or 3rd Century Church Keep God’s Feasts?

There are at least 5 reasons that it can be concluded that the second century church observed the feasts:

  • Jesus did. (John 2:13, 23, John 7:2–14)
  • The apostles did. (Act 2:1; Acts 18:18-21; 27: 9)
  • They are mentioned in both the Old and New testament.
  • It is a sign of the covenant between us and God. (Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:11-13)
  • The symbolism in every one of the feasts all point to Jesus our Messiah.

Passover points to the Messiah as our Passover lamb whose blood was shed for our sins.

Unleavened Bread points to the Messiah’s sinless life

First Fruits points to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous.

Pentecost represents God pouring out His Holy Spirit on His people.

Trumpets represents Jesus’ return for His bride.

Atonement represents when Christ will judge His Church.

Tabernacles represents when we celebrate the wedding feast.

Persecution of Jews and Torah Observant Christians

If God’s laws were not being kept by the early Christians, then certain leaders in the Roman Catholic Church would not have felt the necessity to try to force people not to follow them.

Vatican records declare that millions of people, including Muslims, Jews AND Torah observant Christians were killed by Roman Catholic Clergy and lay-people during 6 Centuries of the Crusades. The Papal inquisition inaugurated the most evil system of extreme tortures, mutilations and deaths lasting up until 1834!

Had Jesus or Paul told us that under the New Covenant we no longer needed to observe the seven annual Feasts, then we wouldn’t have to bother. The reality is, NO ONE in the New Testament said such a thing! In fact, we find a myriad of passages in the New Testament where people intended to keep them and continued keeping them.

Human tradition stops many from observing God’s feasts. Not one professing Christian kept Halloween, All Saint’s Day, Christmas, Lent or Easter until hundreds of years after Christ died. And yet the biblical Holy Days commanded by God have been sadly rejected by most Christians today who instead endorse these pagan practices that were instituted by the Catholic Church.

Let me make myself clear. Obeying God’s commandments and observing His Holy Feast Days have nothing whatsoever to do with salvation. But when my children were young, they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed, or that I would love them less if they didn’t. They obeyed my rules BECAUSE they loved me.

I don’t obey God’s commandments because I think God will love me more; I obey Him BECAUSE I love Him!

 

Recently, many have been voicing their fear while comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. This is strangely reminiscent to me of Barak Obama’s run for president.

Comparing someone to Hitler is as ridiculous as comparing someone to the Antichrist.

Every American president since George Washington has likely been suspected of being the one to usher in the end times. FDR, JFK, Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have all been named by various individuals and organizations as being potential Antichrists. And it most likely won’t be long before Donald Trump is added to that list.

Anyone who studies the Bible would know that the Antichrist will be not be revealed to the world until a great falling away happens first. (2 Thessalonians 2:1- 4)

One has to ask: What would cause a great many people fall away from their faith?

The apostle John states that if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God and has the spirit of the antichrist, which is already here. (See 1 John 2:18; 4:3)

Just as God poured out His spirit onto those who believed, Satan has also poured out his own spirit on those who have rejected God—the spirit of the Antichrist. And without a true repentance and surrender to God’s will, that spirit will continue to grow like a cancer until it destroys all who it infects.

The result of this spirit is people becoming lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (See 2 Timothy 3:1-9)

But it is not the same with those who profess to be followers of Christ. We are to be submissive to rulers and authorities (provided they do not rule against God’s word), to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:2)

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray by various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us—not because of good works done by us, but according to his own mercy through Jesus Christ our Savior. (See Titus 3:1-6; Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 2:1-15)

I can’t help but think how it must break God’s heart to watch His people, whom He created in His own image, argue amongst themselves about worldly matters. So instead of verbally attacking others who don’t happen to agree with your point of view and speaking slanderously about someone you don’t really know, perhaps we can follow the advice of Ephesians 4:29-31: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

But this will involve repenting of our own wickedness and turning over our own tables in our lives.

If everyone would do this maybe, just maybe together…we could make our country truly great again.

 

 

This month, many will gather around the dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving. For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams and pumpkin pie.

For years we have been taught that in 1620 the Pilgrims sailed from England on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution and landed at what became Plymouth, Massachusetts. Over 1/2 of them died during the winter of 1620—even though by local standards, that winter was a fairly mild one. The Plymouth settlers were inexperienced at farming and not used to being exposed to the elements. The next year, with the help of the local natives, the pilgrims celebrated their first good harvest and invited a group of Native American allies to celebrate with them. The feast lasted three days. And ever since then, as the story goes, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this is a celebration that is based on a lie.

So what’s the true version of what happened?

The notion that the first Thanksgiving was some kind of cross-cultural love-fest, as it has been portrayed, has even been disputed by historians, who say that the settlers and the Indians were brought together more by their mutual need than by genuine friendship. The two struggling communities were never more than wary allies against other tribes. More like, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

The colonists were actually contemptuous of the Indians, who they regarded as uncivilized, paganistic heathens, and the fragile early peace between Native Americans and the early settlers would soon unravel into a horrific slaughter. When their “Native American allies” were celebrating their own green corn festival, a band of Puritans descended on their village and shot, clubbed and burned alive over 700 native men, women and children.

This slaughter, according to Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was the real origin of Thanksgiving—so proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop in gratitude for God’s destruction of the defenseless Pequot village. Thereafter massacres of the Indians were routinely followed by “days of thanksgiving.”

Native Americans and Israel

Although many of the early European settlers saw the Native Americans as savages (and treated them accordingly), others believed them to be the lost ten tribes of Israel. William Penn, for whom the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is named, was one who believed strongly that Native Americans came from the stock of Israelites. He was well known for his good relationships and successful treaties with the natives.

Although many Jewish scholars and historians have disputed this for years, the similarities between Israelite and Native American culture are remarkable:

They both worship one God. (Or one Great Spirit) Both groups were minorities in the face of enemy oppression—The Native Americans faced off against the expanding European colonists, while the Israelites were crushed by the powers of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Both groups have faced slavery, exile and the threat of genocide throughout history.

But what I find particularly remarkable is the similarities between Native American feasts and celebrations and God’s feasts set in the Bible. Both the Native American celebrations and the biblical Fall Feast Days typically coincide in the late summer and early fall and are tied to the ripening and harvesting of crops. They are both marked with dancing, feasting, fasting and religious observations. Activities vary from tribe to tribe, but the common thread is giving proper thanks to God.

In 1973 Dr. Joseph Mahan, an expert in ancient Indian ethnology of the southeastern Indians of the United States, discovered that the Yuchi tribe of Florida and Georgia amazingly showed strong evidence that they had contact with some form of Judaism in historic times. They had a custom that every year on the fifteenth day of the sacred month of harvest, in the fall, for eight days they lived in “booths” with roofs open to the sky, covered with branches and leaves and foliage. During this festival, they danced around the sacred fire, and called upon the name of God.

The ancient Israelites had virtually the identical custom in many respects. In the harvest season in the fall, on the 15th day of the seventh month, (Tishri) Jews and Torah observant believers celebrate the festival of booths for eight days. (Also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot in Hebrew) They live in temporary booths, covered with branches and leaves from “goodly trees”. This festival, and many others, goes back to the time of Moses and the Exodus from ancient Egypt. (See Leviticus 23)

Dr. Cyrus Gordon, of Brandeis University in Boston, was privileged to sit in on one of the fall harvest festivals of the Yuchi Indians, and listened to their chants, songs, and sacred ceremonies. An expert in Hebrew, Minoan, and many Middle Eastern languages, he was incredulous as he listened to the chants. He exclaimed to his companion, “They are speaking the Hebrew names for God!”

How is it that two totally separated peoples observe the identical custom? And since it has been a long standing custom during Sukkot to invite friends and family to share a meal inside their Sukkah, or shelter, is it possible that it was the Native Americans who invited the Pilgrims to celebrate their own fall harvest feast, and not the other way around?

Summary: 

In any civilization, error can be present, and false spirituality can arise. While I am not suggesting that Thanksgiving should become the occasion for a yearly guilt trip, we would do well to remember, as we sit around the bountiful table with our family and friends, the high price the first indigenous Americans paid for European expansion into their territories. Only by openly acknowledging the sins of our collective past, is it possible to proceed toward a future that all Americans can feel thankful for.

We need to de-program ourselves from arrogantly thinking that God would only want to reveal himself (and his laws) to just one part of his creation. We need to realize that God wants ALL of his creation to know him as Father, Creator and supplier of all our needs.

It is also worthy to note that the Native Americans themselves did not choose to identity themselves with the oppressed Jews, but outside powers did that for them.

It is clear that Native Americans possess a special spirituality, that should remind us of the holy teachings given by God—if we would only study God’s holy word and listen to his small, still voice.

Mudslinging, name calling and misleading political ads have always been all too common during election years. But the 2016 election has become more volatile than anyone can remember. Name calling, cursing, lies and violent outbursts at political rallies have become the new norm.

What saddens me more is how many Christians are speaking the same way on social media sites like Face Book, Twitter and Instagram. If someone disagrees with them they are quick to use words like: stupid, idiot, racist, or Nazi.

To make matters worse, these same people who degrade others with their words have professed to being a “God loving Christian” but have a habit of posting memes of inspirational Bible verses right along with others that portray their opposing candidate as the devil incarnate. “Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. These things should not be.” (James 3:10)

I imagine a non-believer reads those things and thinks, “They’re no different than I am.” Or, “If that’s what a Christian is like, I don’t want to be one.” Or, “Christians are such hypocrites!”

In the midst of political and religious debates it’s easier to attack people rather than lovingly challenge someone’s actions and ideas. But that is not what God expects from His children. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Calling someone stupid or an idiot does none of those things.

“A Covenant for Civility” adopted by a number of evangelical leaders in 2010 asserted seven scriptural steps for civil dialogue:

1) Reflect the spirit of Scripture, being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

2) Acknowledge that all people are created in the image of God. “With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. … this ought not to be so.” (James 3:9, 10)

3) Disagree respectfully without falsely impugning others’ motives, character, or faith. We recognize in humility that in our opinions, “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) We will therefore “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

4) Watch the use of language, being neither arrogant nor boastful. “Before destruction one’s heart is haughty, but humility goes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12)

Civility is needed now more than ever. No matter the results on November 8th, civility and Christian compassion will be vital to rebuild community and cooperation in the wake of a contentious presidential election.

Many Christians today believe that the Ten Commandments are still valid, but that after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christians are no longer under the Law, but under grace and the other commandments listed in the Old Testament apply only to the Jews.

They also teach that there are only four rules that were given to the early Gentile Christians coming into the faith, and quote Acts 15:19-20 to prove their point: ”Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”

This passage seems to show that this is true…Until we read verse 21: “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim Him, for He is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

You see, the Torah wasn’t forced on the new Gentile Christians all at once—anymore than Bible verses are forced on us in our churches today. And just as today, it was understood that people would learn it gradually over time, hearing it each week in the synagogues. The four rules that were given to the early Gentile Christians were meant for only a starting point, with the understanding that they would gradually come to know the whole truth as they were taught in the synagogues. In fact, even ancient Israel wasn’t forced to learn Torah in a single day either—they also received it over time.

Christians today generally ignore verse 21 in the above passage because the ramifications are obvious: The Gentile Christians were given these four laws in order to have the bare basics to BEGIN their new life with the Messiah, knowing they would learn the rest of Torah each Sabbath in the synagogue.

There are three important facts that we need to understand: 

  1. Being Jewish is not necessarily associated with a religion. It is associated with a nationality.
  2. The word, ‘Gentile’ simply means non-Jew—or someone from other than the tribe of Judah.
  3. The Hebrew word ‘goy’ means nation, and refers to the fact that goyim (gentiles) are members of other nations, that is, nations other than the Jews. (Tribe of Judah)

So all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews. Just as all Cherokee are Native Americans, but not all Native Americans are Cherokee.

It was only after being confronted by some Jewish believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees who said, “It is necessary to circumcise them (the gentiles) and to order them to keep the law of Moses”, did the apostles decide not to put a yoke upon the new believers “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear”, that they required the new believers to begin with the four rules. (See  Acts 15:5-11)

Circumcision had become a conversion ritual by the legalistic Pharisees just as baptism is often misused today by legalistic Christians as a means of joining a particular church or denomination.

It was understood by all the apostles that God’s Laws were never changed or replaced. We know this from the teachings of Jesus when he said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matt 5:17,18) All will not be accomplished until AFTER Jesus returns.

God spoke through the prophet Malachi and said, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6) And in Hebrews 13:8 we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

If God has not changed, and Jesus has not changed, God’s laws have not changed.

So who or what changed? 

“When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32)

Unfortunately, that is exactly what we did. We gentiles have dispossessed nations and then adapted their ways and served their gods. We have exchanged God’s Holy Feast Days and His laws for pagan rituals and human traditions.

Even though Jesus and all of the apostles observed all of God’s laws and Holy Feast Days, they also knew that there would be those who would claim the power to change God’s Law. Through the prophet Daniel we are warned of just such a man. Describing the “little horn power”, Daniel prophesied saying, “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws…” (Daniel 7:8-25) The apostle Paul warned that this blasphemy was already at work and that it would come not from an outside influence, but from within the Church itself! (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

The Roman emperor Constantine, a self proclaimed sun-worshiper, professed conversion to Christianity, though his actions suggest his “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine heart change. Later, as Christianity grew, church leaders wished to increase the numbers of the church. In order to make the gospel more attractive to non-Christians, pagan customs were incorporated into the church’s sacraments and holy days—such as Sunday worship, Mass, Lent, Christmas and Easter.

The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:8, See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” And yet, all of the holidays celebrated in churches across the globe are “according to human tradition” and are pagan in nature.

Many Protestant Christians refuse to acknowledge that most of their own church doctrines are based on teachings from the apostate Roman Catholic Church. The most common example is when the Catholic Church changed God’s 7th day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11) to the 1st day Sunday worship. Millions of Christians now worship on Sunday, even though God has commanded us to observe HIS Sabbaths, (Exodus 31:13) and that it is a sign between us and God, to show that we belong to Him. (Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:20)

This change of God’s laws by the Catholic Church has even been documented in many of the Catechism literature:

In the Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine

Q. Which is the Sabbath day?

A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.

Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?

A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.

(Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS.R., (1946), p. 50)

In the Catholic Christian Instructed

Q. Has the [Catholic] church power to make any alterations in the commandments of God?

A. Instead of the seventh day, and other festivals appointed by the old law, the church has prescribed the Sundays and holy days to be set apart for God’s worship; and these we are now obliged to keep in consequence of God’s commandment, instead of the ancient Sabbath. (The Catholic Christian Instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifices, Ceremonies, and Observances of the Church by RT Rev. Dr. Challoner, p. 204)

[It is important to note here that the Catholic church is not referring to God’s Feasts of the Bible when mentioning their own feasts and holy days.]

In An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine

Q. How prove you that the church hath power to command feasts and holy days?

A. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same church.

Q. How prove you that?

A. Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the church’s power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin; and by not keeping the rest [of the feasts] by her commanded, they again deny, in fact, the same power. (Rev. Henry Tuberville, D.D. (R.C.), (1833), page 58)

Ignatius Bishop of Antioch (98-117A.D.) wrote in his ‘Epistle to the Magnesians’: “For if we are still practicing Judaism, we admit that we have not received God’s favor…it is wrong to talk about Jesus Christ and live like Jews…”

The Roman Catholic John Chrysostom preached the following in 387 A.D.: “The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now…If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies…Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them?” (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. )

2 Timothy 2:15 commands us to, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God expects us to know His Word so that we can act on it. Proper Bible study of both the Old and New Testaments leads to approval from God. Paul explained that people are the servants of whatever and whoever they obey. (Rom. 6:16- 23)

We read in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

I particularly like the New Living Translation: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

What most people fail to realize about this verse is that The Law, The Prophets and other writings of the Old Testament were the only Scripture available when Paul wrote this to Timothy!

I once had a conversation with a woman about Christmas and showed her from Scripture how Jesus could not have been born on December 25th. I also explained how all of the symbols used during the Christmas season were pagan in nature. Sadly, at the end of our conversation she said, “I know that what you’re saying is true, but my family has always celebrated Christmas this way and I can’t change now.” At that moment she went from ignorance to rebellion. And God says, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)

Sadly, most Christians today feel the same way. Even though they know that all of the holidays they celebrate in their church are pagan in nature, they still continue to observe them as if they are commanded by God. Jesus disputed this when he said, “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

If God commanded that certain Holy Feast Days be kept, then shouldn’t you be certain why you choose NOT to observe them? No matter how comfortable a lifelong practice may be, shouldn’t you base your decision to continue doing it on hard evidence from Scripture instead of assumptions and traditions?

If God does not change, then neither will His Law. “My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.” (Psalm 89:34) “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14)

In 1 John 5:3 we read: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” Mathew Henry writes in his commentary on 1 John, “As God’s commands are holy, just, and good rules of liberty and happiness, so those who are born of God and love him, do not count them grievous, but lament that they cannot serve him more perfectly.”

God’s laws are not burdensome. It is man’s additions and changes to God’s laws that are burdensome. And if we say that we love God but refuse to obey him, then we will end up just going through the motions:

Word of God