Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Why the Gospel?
The period from the Messiah's resurrection to the time of his future appearance represents a “day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2). YEHOVAH God looks with favor on those of Israel who turn to Him in repentance following the preaching of the Gospel. Now is the time when all of Israel ought to be taking full advantage of YEHOVAH’s redemptive offering.
by Brian Knowles
It is well-understood that the
Great Commission of the Church is to preach the Gospel “to all nations” of
24:14). Why do we of Israel need to do this? What’s the point? What is the Gospel anyway
-- and what effect is it supposed to have on those who hear it? Why is it “good
news”? What’s so good about it?
I know a Bible scholar who claims that he can preach the Gospel in under ten seconds. Here it is: “Christ died, was buried, rose again the third day, ascended to the right hand of God the Father, and salvation is available to all who come to God through him.” Did you time it? I’ve heard it done in as little as eight seconds. Suppose you preached that brief message to a pagan Israelite who had never heard the name of Christ -- what effect would it have? -- Probably very little. While that brief statement may contain the essence of the Gospel, there’s not really enough information in it to which to respond.
Let’s take this terse statement of the Gospel and break it down into its component parts.
The Messiah Died
Who was “Christ” and why did he
have to die?
The name “Christ” is the Anglicization of the Greek Christos. That in turn is a translation of the Hebrew Mashiach meaning “anointed” or “an anointed one.” Transliterated into English it is “Messiah.” Christ is therefore not a proper name but a title. He is anointed (chosen, authorized and empowered) by [YEHOVAH] God to play the central role in the divine plan of redemption for the people of Israel. Put another way, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, it is who and what he is: YEHOVAH God’s Anointed One.
The Messiah’s given name is “Jesus” -- again, an Anglicization of the Greek Iesous. This in turn is translated from the Hebrew Yeshua or Y’hoshua (Joshua). In Galilee, where the Messiah was from, it may have been pronounced Yeshu. It means “YHVH Saves.” YHVH is God’s name (Exodus 3:13-15). Since there are no vowels in Hebrew, we have a four-letter name made up of consonants. It’s called “the Tetragrammaton.” It may mean “the one who will be, is, was” -- or something close to that. (Incidentally, “Jehovah” is an incorrect pronunciation as there is no “J” sound in Hebrew or Greek.)
The reason the Anointed One was named “Jesus” (YHVH Saves) is explained in Matthew 1:21, “And she [Mary, the Messiah's mother] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” So the Messiah's name signifies that he is anointed by God to save Israel from its sins. This brings us to the next part of our subject: why did YEHOVAH God’s anointed one have to die to save those of us of Israel from our sins?
YEHOVAH God, for his own reasons, has decreed that “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). The wages of sin is death and all of us of Israel have sinned (Romans 6:23; 3:23; I John 1:8, 10; Galatians 3:22). The world in general lives in spiritual darkness presided over by Ha Satan -- the Adversary. Every person descended from Israel has wittingly or unwittingly incurred the death penalty. We were all on God’s “Death Row.” Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, describes the spiritual condition of all of us of Israel, apart from the Gospel, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient,” (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Our original parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed a simple command from YEHOVAH God, “…the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die,'" (Genesis 2:16-17). You know the story: Eve checked out the fruit of the tree, found it appealing, and took a bite of it. Then she offered it to her husband, Adam. He too chomped down on the forbidden fruit and both immediately found themselves on YEHOVAH’s Death Row.
The Role of Ha Satan
The role of the “serpent” (Hebrew
nachash = corrupter, poisoner) in this story is both significant and
precedent-setting. Here’s the pattern: YEHOVAH God instructs (Torah =
instruction, teaching); Satan corrupts the teaching and rationalizes sin; the
takes the bait and sins; death enters. So the “work of Satan” is to seduce
YEHOVAH's people Israel into sinning by corrupting YEHOVAH’s teaching. In this instance, the devil
challenged YEHOVAH’s instruction by telling Eve that she would not die if she ate
the fruit of the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:4). Furthermore, he said that eating
it would impart God-like wisdom to her (Genesis 3:5). Her own senses told her
that the fruit looked appetizing (verse 6).
Though YEHOVAH’s teaching was clear, yet negative (what not to do and what would happen if they did it), Satan’s was more appealing to the senses and the intellect -- and it was “positive.” They could see apparent benefits to the nachash’s approach. Consequently they were seduced into disobeying YEHOVAH God and sinning. Of course they didn’t die in that instant (if they had, there’d be no Adamic race), they simply placed themselves at the head of the line for ultimate termination. They were dead while they yet lived.
The pattern of this story has been repeated by virtually every Israelite who has ever lived -- except for Yeshua Ha Mashiach. YEHOVAH God instructs, Satan corrupts those instructions, Satan seduces or tempts, the Israelite man takes the bait, and like Adam, sins. Not that everyone of Israel sins the same sin Adam sinned. Each of us, yielding to the evil impulse, sins our own sins. This pattern has long been understood by religious Jews:
“The belief that in every human being there are two urges -- the one to evil and the other to goodness -- figures prominently in Rabbinic ethics…The character of a person is determined by which of the two impulses is dominant within him. ‘The good impulse controls the righteous,’…The evil impulse controls the wicked…Both impulses control average people,” Everyman’s Talmud by Abraham Cohen, p. 88).
The impulse to evil is called in
Hebrew the yetzer ha ra. The good impulse is the yetzer ha tob.
Satan is associated with the former impulse, “’Satan’ is the personification of
wickedness. A significant remark is: ‘Satan, the Jetzer Hara and the
Angel of Death are all one’ (B. B. 16a). It indicates that the prompting to evil
is rather a force within the individual than an influence from without. It also
explains why God permits Satan to be active and does not destroy him,”
Everyman’s Talmud, p. 54.
The evil impulse within us draws us toward sin -- toward fulfilling the illegitimate desires of the flesh and the mind. Satan fans the flames. He pumps the bellows. He performs a number of essential roles in the process of sin, “Satan performs three functions: he seduces men, he accuses them before God, he inflicts the punishment of death (B. B. 16a). He is the seducer par excellence…(ET, p. 56).
We see this pattern of seduction, temptation, sin, accusation and death throughout the Bible and throughout Israelite history. We observe, both in ourselves and others, what incredible lengths we will go to, to rationalize sin -- just as Eve did. It is an inherently Israelite process. Paul wrote, “…as in Adam all die…" (I Corinthians 15:22). The penalty of death, which is the result of sin, which our own flesh and mind produces, egged on by Satan, is the Israelite condition. Apart from the Messiah, we’re all dead in our sins. Paul wrote, “…for all [of Israel] have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).
The world (Greek: kosmos), as a system, is spiritually dead. Paul, the Pharisee, often speaks in his letters of the world system as “darkness.” This is a spiritual darkness brought about by spiritual forces and by Israelite sin. He wrote to the Ephesians and Laodiceans, “For we [of Israel] do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places,” (Ephesians 6:12). These dark spiritual forces are aligned with the Adversary. They gain their power from the Israelite sin that they encourage. When we sin, we enable unclean spirits to gain advantage in our lives. We open doors of opportunity for them to establish strongholds.
The apostle John writes, “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work,” (I John 3:8). The Messiah defeated the devil in the desert, in Jerusalem and on the “mount of temptation,” (Matthew 4:1-10). Consequently, the Messiah is Lord! The devil has no power to thwart anything the Lord does.
The Messiah calls upon us of Israel, as subjects of the divine kingdom, to sever all ties with the devil, and pledge our allegiance to YEHOVAH God. We are called to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In the Messiah, we are reborn at the level of the inner man (John 3:1 ff.; I Peter 1:23); that is, born from above. Instead of serving the flesh and the mind, we now serve the spirit.
The metaphor of the new birth upon conversion is not new or unique to the Christian Israelite faith. It was known and used in Judaism for centuries. The new life in the Messiah makes those of us of Israel Kingdom children. Our citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20), from whence we are reborn. As we honor and serve Yeshua the Messiah, the advancing kingdom is manifested through us.
Our salvation is sealed in the Messiah and in the holy spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). In the present, we of Israel are the vanguard of the advancing kingdom. Study the parable of the mustard seed to understand how something that began so small and insignificant can grow to fill the earth (Matthew 13:31 ff.).
The Significance of the Messiah's Resurrection
In his Gospel, the Messiah proclaimed
the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, he explained it, in his parables he illustrated it, and he
demonstrated it. All this was pump-priming for the apostles who were commanded
to carry the same message out to the dispersed tribes of Israel. He instructed them to make
disciples -- students or learners of the Gospel.
The period from the Messiah’s resurrection to the time of his future appearance represents a “day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2). YEHOVAH God looks with favor on those of Israel who turn to him in repentance following the preaching of the Gospel. Now is the time when the Israelite world ought to be taking full advantage of YEHOVAH’s redemptive offering.
According to the Gospel, the Messiah died, spent “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (the tomb), was resurrected, ascended to heaven, and he now sits at the right hand of YEHOVAH God “to make intercession for us” of Israel. The Messiah’s death paid the penalty for our sins, but his resurrection is essential for our salvation. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those [of Israel] who are fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (I Corinthians 15: 14, 17, 18).
The Messiah has been resurrected, therefore we of Israel can be resurrected: “…Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those [of Israel] who have fallen asleep [died],” (I Corinthians 15:20). When the Messiah appears, all those of Israel who belong to the Messiah will be “made alive” and given “imperishable” bodies just like the Messiah's resurrection body (I Corinthians 15:42, 48-49). For those of us of Israel, “death will be swallowed up in victory” (v. 54). The natural fear of death will be a thing of the past.
In the Meantime
Before YEHOVAH God the Father comes to dwell with men on this earth (Zechariah 14, Revelation 19), three things must happen: 1). This “day of salvation” must be completed; 2). A time of judgment for Israel must come and 3). The time “the restitution of all things” must be entered into. Let’s briefly examine these in order.
The Present Age
As we saw earlier, this is an age
in which salvation is available to all of Israel who are willing to avail themselves of
it. It commenced with the earthly ministry of the Messiah.
At the beginning of his ministry, the Messiah spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth, the Galilean town in which he’d grown up. In his sermon, he cited the book of Isaiah to explain his Messianic mission. “The spirit of the LORD is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news [the Gospel] to the poor [of Israel]. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,” (Isaiah 61:1-2).
This is a description of the “day of salvation” of which we spoke earlier. The Messiah set the pace for this redemptive time. He “went about doing good.” He preached the good news of the inbreaking Kingdom, he healed the sick, he delivered people from demons and he performed miracles in the power of the holy spirit. He taught his disciples to follow his example and to “make disciples” of their fellow Israelites who would follow suit. He said they would do even greater works than he did to advance the cause of the Kingdom (John 14:12).
The original Israelite apostles, carrying the Gospel as the Messiah taught it, went out into the dispersed of Israel to spread the good news of YEHOVAH’s redemptive plan for His people Israel and of his advancing kingdom. Those of Israel who felt the call of the Gospel “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread [may mean the Lord’s supper] and to prayer,” (Acts 2:42).
Eventually congregations were formed. They were based on the synagogue model. They sprouted up all over Judea and the Roman Empire as far away as Britain. (In those days, the entire Roman Empire totaled only about 50 million people. I heard recently that half the people who have ever lived are alive today!) What we now call “The Church” was born.
So long as the original Israelite leadership of the church was alive and functioning, a certain uniformity of teaching and practice was maintained (as per Acts 2:42 and Acts 15). Once the Greek and Latin leaders gained ascendancy, and the Israelite leadership died out, toxic influences began to seep into the Body. Platonism, the allegorical method of exegesis, Gnosticism and outright paganism began to dilute apostolic truth. The church began to take on strange and foreign traits. The metamorphosis was incremental. As early as Jude’s time it was necessary to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3).
Today’s eclectic ecclesiastical monstrosity would scarcely be recognizable to the first Israelite apostles. As I have written elsewhere, the Church, mutated creature that it is, needs a new reformation to return it to the original body of beliefs and practices. The Church has been paganized and Hellenized, politicized and commercialized. In America, it has become a giant marketing machine that has largely lost its moral authority and its spiritual power.
The Messiah, who is the Head of the Church, has allowed his followers free agency. To a large extent, we of Israel have misused it by making bad choices. In the twenty centuries since the Messiah offered his original teachings and example, "Christians" have created a confusing body of beliefs, doctrines, creeds, denominations and liturgies. A newly minted Christian Israelite is faced with the daunting task of sorting this out in an effort to “find the truth.” Most quickly settle for an accessible denomination that seems to meet their needs or appears authoritative.
Within this uncertain cacophony of conflicting sounds, there are occasional notes of truth. When we identify one, we must cling to it and internalize it (I Thessalonians 5:21). The original faith of the apostolic church has not been lost. It may be found in Scripture, but Scripture is subject to misinterpretation. To “rightly divide the word of truth” be must know what we are doing. We should pick our teachers carefully. Ideally they should be able to “work with” the original languages of Scripture: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Furthermore, they should understand the history and nature of the Second Temple period. It was in this milieu that the Messiah’s movement was formed. As a form of Judaism, it was known as “the sect of the Nazarene” (Acts 24:5) or simply “The Way.”
Acts 15 is a key to understanding what the Israelite apostles taught about the relationship of the dispersed Israelite converts to Torah. These subjects are all covered in other articles.
Appropriate Response to the Gospel
What did the Messiah expect the
preaching of the Gospel to produce in its hearers? This question is answered by
the apostle Peter who had preached the Gospel to thousands of Israelites in Jerusalem
in 31 AD. His impassioned presentation elicited the response, “Brothers, what
shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)
Peter’s answer was explicit: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the holy spirit,’” (Acts 2:38). On a somewhat later occasion, Peter embellishes his instruction: “Repent and turn to [YEHOVAH] God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” (Acts 3:19).
The misery of the Adamic condition is largely the result of sin. Sin is a failure to live up to divine standards -- the word for sin (hamartia) literally means “to miss the mark.” Throughout history, YEHOVAH God has communicated his torah (instruction or direction) to His people Israel. He has sent judges and prophets to express His will. He commissioned the Messiah himself and later the Messiah’s apostles. Some of Israel have responded positively to the good news. Others have turned on those who have carried YEHOVAH’s message. The Messiah has many martyrs. He will have more as the world turns against the Christian Israelite faith.
Time is closing in on the Church and on the world. The spirit of anti-Christ seems to be in the air. Many are speaking of this as a “post-Christian” era. Political leftists, professional atheists, Islam, and even some of the pagan religions of Africa, India and Asia are openly attacking Christians with impunity. Windows of opportunity to preach the Gospel are closing. No one is running to the defense of the evangelizing Church. The murder of Christians seldom makes the papers.
If you are reading the Gospel for the first time through this article, I encourage you to seek out a Christian Israelite minister in your local area and get counseled for baptism. The holy spirit is imparted through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18).
-- Edited by John D. Keyser
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Proclaiming the Good News of the Soon-Coming Kingdom of YEHOVAH God Here On This Earth!
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