"Go in through the narrow gate; for the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the road broad, and many travel it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Yeshua) Matthew 7:13
There was considerable debate around this sensitive issue when the Jerusalem Post reported that Christian Zionist John Hagee was forming a grouping of ministers called "Christians United for Israel" who believe that, because the Jews have a special relationship with God through the revelation at Sinai, they will be welcomed into Heaven even if they deny Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah. This belief is known as Dual Covenant Theology. The newspaper had to retract the article as misrepresenting John Hagee's views.
But is dual covenant theology valid, and is it biblical?
Basically, those who hold this view believe that there is no need to evangelise the Jews and therefore we can save ourselves considerable effort and possible rejection. Christian Zionists love the Jews, and do not like to think of them being rejected by God, their Father. We want to go and show love to the Jews, in Israel and wherever else we meet them, and I believe this is a vital part of Godís plan; but can we leave it at that?
Christian Zionists have escaped from the Christian, Replacement Theology view of the Jews which holds that we (the church) have replaced them in God's affection. We have repented of the practice of taking a gospel which we do not understand ourselves, based on a selection of verses taken out of context, and treating the Jewish people as ignorant heathens. We often find that the religious Jew had a much deeper understanding of the scriptures than we do (excepting of course the New Testament) and we can be embarrassed by this ignorance unless we are willing to learn from them in genuine discussion. God has graciously given us revelation of our roots in Israel, the Jewishness of our Bible and of our saviour. Starting from this point, we can begin to have worthwhile discussions with Jewish friends.
However, there is always the risk, or likelihood, that relations will cool off when we suggest that their Jewish faith is lacking something that we can provide; that we want to evangelise them. But does that excuse us for saying nothing? We depend on Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, for our salvation and hope of Heaven; can we trust that they do not?
We know that Abraham trusted God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham is among those commended in the letter to the Hebrew believers as follows in Chapter 11 v13,
"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."
We know that God entered into a special covenant relationship with Israel at Sinai when He gave them the Torah (means teaching / instruction Ė not LAW). But how do these covenants, and the additional instructions from God Ė forming the rest of the Tanakh, work out in the life of the Jew?
God said, "If you will keep allÖ." Obey the Torah and all its 613 commandments, you will be right with me. It is fairly obvious that nobody, Jew or Gentile, is going to achieve that standard, and that the Torah will cause the man of faith to throw himself on Godís mercy for forgiveness. David was a man after Godís own heart, but he fell well short of Torah standards. David acknowledged his sin, repented and was forgiven and restored. The Torah included a system of sacrifices for dealing with sins, but the sacrifice had to be offered in faith that God would accept it as a token of his repentance and forgive him. As Habakuk said,
"the righteous will live by his faith" (trusting) (Habakuk 2 v4)This is quoted in Romans 1, ".
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."Anyone who turned the Torah into a system of legalism rather than as a basis for faith/trusting was (and still is) saying to God that, "I can do this without you and your mercy." This is rebellion against God and is not a route to Heaven.
Concerning the issue of acceptance of Yeshua as the (Jewish) Messiah, we need to consider all the scriptures in the Tanakh that point to the Messiah and ask what God required the Jew to do about them. At the dawning of the New Covenant, we meet Simeon who said in Luke 2 v29,
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
Clearly Simeon was a Torah observant Jew who saw in the coming of Yeshua, the fulfilment of Godís promises, both to Israel and to the nations. For him, acceptance of Yeshua as the Messiah (Godís anointed) was the completion of his Tanakh faith; what he had been waiting for.
The letter to the Hebrews talks of the men of faith having died without having received what they were trusting for. There appears to be no evidence that pre-Yeshua faith was independent of the promised Messiah, but that the Old Testament saints were looking forward to his coming. Indeed, David Stern shows in his commentary (page 688) that if the Greek word, "Nomos" in Hebrews 8 verse 6, was translated the same as it is whenever it appears in a Jewish context, it would say,
"But now the work Yeshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, just as the covenant he mediates is better. For this covenant has been given as Torah on the basis of better promises."The (Jewish) writer to the Jewish Messianic believers was saying that Jesus / Yeshuaís covenant is part of the Torah, on which all the Old Testament saints trusted. Therefore, after Yeshua had come, those who chose to reject him were rejecting the Torah.
Coming to the New Testament what do we find about Jewish evangelism? Jesus and his disciples went around the Galilee, Judea and Samaria preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that people should repent and turn to God to be saved. He was preaching to the Jews; plus a few Gentiles.
When the Holy Spirit fell at Shavuot (Pentecost) Peter preached his first Holy Spirit sermon to Jews, and three thousand were saved. (accepted Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah)
At this point we start to have difficulty with nearly all of our Bible translations, since they have been translated seeing the text though Greek spectacles. Typically, the translation refers to "the Jews" as being the others, as opposed to the Christian church. But the "Church" at that time was formed virtually entirely of Jews; and it was not known as "the church" but as the (Jewish) followers of "the Way" or followers of Yeshua from Natzeret; or the Notzreem.
The "Church" was not just evangelising the Gentiles at that stage. The evangelising was of the Jews, by the Jews. Remember that Jesus gave his great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 v19 and Acts 1 v8,
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."The people of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria still need to hear of and accept their Messiah (perhaps more than ever today, since so many in these territories belong to Islam)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
David Sternís Jewish New Testament and its associated commentary are extremely helpful in putting the early "Messianic Community" into its proper (Jewish) context. In his commentary on 1 John 2 v22-23 and John 14 v6 (on page 772) he discusses Dual Covenant Theology at some length. He observes that ecumenical dialogue always attempts to sidestep the challenge of these verses
"No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also."
"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
So, what should we be doing about this challenge?
Ignorant evangelism of Jews does not work. Jewish people who see Christians still carrying the replacement theology that gave birth to the Crusades will not see anything on offer that they do not already possess. You need to see their deep faith, passion, fervour and delight in God and his Torah to comprehend this. And yet, Shaul (the apostle Paul) who had been a devout and fervent adherent to this faith was completely transformed when he was apprehended by Yeshua. Indeed, in Phillippians 3, Paul lists all his Jewish credentials and then remarks in v7-9,
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."These are strong words, and they are not belittling his Jewish heritage but emphasizing how much more he had obtained by accepting his Jewish Messiah. In his letter to the church in Rome, he spoke of his longing that his Jewish brothers would come to believe. He also spoke of provoking them to jealousy in order to win them. This poses the big question to us followers of the Messiah (Jewish of Gentile); is our faith and love sufficient to provoke Jewish people to jealousy? This should be perfectly possible if we are living a Holy Spirit life. Our record does not seem to have been very good so far.
One appeal of Dual Covenant Theology is the comfort it gives to Christians who love the Jews and canít face the thought that they are not going to Heaven unless they accept their Messiah. (we already face the fact that most of the Gentiles we know are not going to Heaven) Dual covenant theology lets us off the hook for our, corporate, failure to provoke the Jews to jealousy; indeed for all that Christianity has done to alienate Jews from their Messiah.
We can not accuse God of unfairly excluding the Jews from Heaven, as many Jews are turning to Yeshua as their Messiah and their saviour. Sadly, one might say the blame for Jews not believing lies upon the religious leaders who rejected the testimony of the (Jewish) apostles that Yeshua had been raised, proving that he is the Messiah. This rejection of Yeshua as Messiah was institutionalised in rabbinic Judaism by these men and subsequent rabbis, who called Yeshua, "Yesha", an acronym for "may his name be blotted out, and added a prayer to the "Shemoneh Esrei" (eighteen) which puts a curse on those who follow the teacher Yeshua mi Natzeret.
We can not escape the conclusion that the Jews who reject Yeshua have a big problem. For Jews to have certainty of atonement for sin, they need the blood sacrifices of Yom Kippur (Mosaic Covenant) or an acceptable new covenant. Would that be the Brit Hadashah/New Covenant sacrifice of Yeshua or some other? What can Rabbinic Judaism offer?
If Jews have another way to Heaven, then Yeshua / Jesus need not have died and is not the way, the truth and the life. Jesus pulled no punches about unbelieving Jews when he spoke of being the vine Ė Paul adopted a similar picture in his olive tree analogy. Unbelieving branches were cut off but, praise God, they can be grafted back in (more easily than us wild olive branches) if they do not persist in their unbelief.
I believe that all the above points to our need to pray fervently for the work God is doing among His chosen and much loved people. I think the work of evangelising Jews is falling mostly to other Jews, even to the extent of suffering persecution as the early Jewish believers did. May they triumph as the believers did in Acts 4v29.
Having said all that, when you meet Jews who speak with great fervour about their relationship with the God of Israel, you realise that the purposes of God cannot be simply stated in a couple of sentences.
The God of Israel is still working through purposes that are too wonderful to understand. Visit www.thelandofisrael.com and listen to the radio broadcasts of Ari and Jeremy for something to make you think. See also Walking Together
Consider these passages about two groups, from Revelation 7
He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. .................................... After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." ...................................... Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
If the "great multitude" is the believers in the Lamb, who have come out of the great Tribulation* , their number must include the Jews who believe in Yeshua - Messianic Jews. In that case, the 144,000 sealed would appear to be faithful, non messianic Jewish, "servants of our God", for whom God has a purpose and a place.
*The phrase "they have come out of the Tribulation" suggests they came via death / martyrdom?
Wayne Hillsden, Pastor of King of Kings church in Jerusalem gave an excellent address on "One Covenant for All" at the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles. A CD is available from www.icej.org/resources for 20NIS ( 8 USD or 2.5 GBP )
See also pages 196-198 in Jewish New Testament Commentary
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