Over the years I have been a voice within Messianic Jewish circles to challenge the excesses in our movement. We have often made our culture more important than the gospel itself. Some of us are trying to be “more Jewish than Jesus was.” Our ethnic identity has become an idol. It is not our “movement” as Messianic Judaism that can save anyone – only the death and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua Himself. It is essential that we keep Yeshua as the center of everything we do.
At the same time I am aware that many of you, both Jew and Gentile, have joined us over the years and have never had a clear understanding of the importance of those “Jewish” aspects of the faith. It is for you that I write this article, in a simple way of answering the question, “Why Messianic Judaism?”
1. Cultural Context of the Gospel
“To the Jews I became as a Jew” – I Corinthians 9:20
In the 1970’s when Jewish people started to open their hearts to the gospel, (according to the timing predicted in the New Covenant – Luke 21:24, Romans 11:25), the need was seen, by those who love our people, to present the message of salvation in a way that was culturally relevant. If the gospel should be shared with cultural sensitivity to other peoples, how much more so to the Jews.
In some ways this was no different than cross-cultural evangelism to any people group. However in the case of the Jewish people, what is culturally relevant also happens to be the actual historic context of the writings of the New Covenant. This had the additional benefit of helping Christians understand the teachings of Yeshua in their original context.
2. Consistent Truth of the Torah
“I came not to destroy the Law or the Prophets” – Matthew 5:17
The New Covenant teaches that we are saved by grace. Everyone has failed to keep the Law. Through the atonement of Yeshua’s work on the cross, we are set free from the punishment that is due us for having broken the perfect standard of the Law. In that sense, we are no longer “under the Law.”
However that does not mean that the moral absolutes of the Law are no longer applicable to us. The New Covenant does not “do away” with the Law in that sense, but rather writes it in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31). For any system of truth to be valid, it must be consistent with itself. Contradictions disprove truth. If the New Covenant were to contradict previously given scriptures in the Law or the Prophets, then the New Covenant would not be true.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua does not contradict the Ten Commandments, but rather instructs us as to what is the true “heart-meaning” of the Law. In that sense He makes the Law even more demanding. For those who say we are not required to keep the Law, I ask, “Just which one of those Ten Commandments were you planning on NOT keeping?” Christianity, without a proper understanding of Torah, loses its own moral courage and integrity.
3. Continuing Destiny of the Jewish Nation
“Has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” – Romans 11:1
“What then will their restoration be?” – Romans 11:15
Replacement theology holds that the role of the Jews as the chosen people has came to an end. In other words, the particular calling of the Jewish nation has only a past meaning, not a present one and not a future one. But the New Covenant teaches (Romans 11) that they are still “His people” in the present time, despite their unbelief. And they have a future restoration, which “will then” yet take place.
All true born-again Christians are also “chosen people” in the sense of being part of the international community of faith. However that does not deny the chosen calling of the Jewish people. The destiny of all true believers does not subtract from the calling of the Jewish people, but rather adds to it. The international church is “grafted into” Israel (Romans 11:17).
Rightly understood, the calling of the church actually reaffirms the calling of Israel, rather than replacing it. During the 1980’s, as so many of the apostolic aspects of the first century church were being rediscovered as “restored” and not “dispensed away with”, so was the importance of the restoration of Israel’s destiny as a nation also rediscovered by many.
4. Crucifixion of Israel’s King
“And the inscription was written above: The King of the Jews.” – Mark 15:26
“Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend from the cross.” – Mark 15:32
Yeshua was crucified not only as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, but also as the King of Israel who will soon return to rule upon the earth. It was the sovereign hand of God that guided Pilate unknowingly to have “King of the Jews” written above Yeshua’s head on the cross. From man’s side, the crucifixion was a rebellion against Yeshua’s authority as King, specifically as King of the Jews. It was a rejection of both His Kingship and His Jewishness.
From God’s side, the cross was a declaration of Yeshua’s authority. God was “staking His claim” to rightful government over this planet (Psalm 2). Yeshua’s general authority comes through His position as King of the Jews. If Yeshua is not the king of the Jews, then He is not the king of anything else either. Therefore to deny His Jewishness is to deny His kingship. The cross is God’s demand to accept Yeshua both as a King and as a Jew.
Yeshua is not only the Son of God, but also the Son of David (Romans 1:3). When He returns, He will still be the Son of David (Revelation 22:16). Yeshua has a personal destiny. That destiny is to be King of the Jews. He did so much for us. What can we do for Him? One of the reasons we preach the gospel is to help Him actualize His own destiny – to one day fulfill His role as King of the Jews.
5. Contingency of the Second Coming
“You will not see Me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes…” – Matthew 23:39
God has set a time for the Second Coming in His own sovereign authority. Nothing can stop it. On the other hand, Yeshua gave a certain prerequisite for His return. In speaking to the very same religious leaders in Jerusalem, who rejected Him and whom He called “snakes” for their hypocrisy, He categorically stated that He would not return unless and until they welcomed Him back as King Messiah.
David was anointed to be king early in his childhood (I Samuel 16). However he was not inaugurated as king until the elders of Judah and Israel agreed to do so (II Samuel 5:3). This prerequisite of the leaders in Jerusalem is related to the previous section about Yeshua’s role as King of the Jews. He can’t come back as King of the Jews until there are a number of Jews who receive Him as King.
Satan knows that his reign and influence on this planet come to an end when Yeshua returns (Revelation 20). Therefore if there is anything the devil wants to fight, it is the possibility of a revival in Jerusalem. (For this reason we see the hatred of Yeshua by religious leaders in Jerusalem as being so satanic in nature.) If there is to be a revival in Israel, then the people must first physically return to the Land. That’s why there has been such attack against Zionism – first from Nazism, now from Islamic terrorism.
6. Conflict of the End Times
“I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle.” – Zechariah 14:2
A study of eschatology in the Bible soon reveals that all of the conflicts of the end times culminate in one great last battle, in which the nations of the world gather together to attack Israel. It is at that time that Yeshua returns, intervening in the battle. His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:3) and He will destroy those nations that attacked Jerusalem (12:9).
God considers the attack against Jerusalem to be an attack against Yeshua Himself. Anyone found fighting against Jerusalem at the Second Coming will find himself fighting against Yeshua. This is a focal point of both end times prophecy and of spiritual warfare. (I have developed these points at length in the new edition of the book, From Iraq To Armageddon; so please don’t miss it.)
It is God who summons this confrontation. It is similar to the way in which God hardened the heart of Pharaoh in order to destroy the armies of Egypt in the Red Sea. God sees the final battle over Jerusalem as the final confrontation between good and evil. In that conflict He looks to demonstrate both His power and His righteousness by destroying the combined forces of evil in a stunning and glorious manner. (It is as if God were saying, “Make My Day!” – that great and terrible Day.)
7. Capital of the Millennial Kingdom
“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 2:3
The statement that, “Yeshua has fulfilled all the prophecies about the Messiah” is not true. Those prophecies concerning His birth, death, resurrection and ascension have been fulfilled. Those concerning the Second Coming have yet to be fulfilled.
After Yeshua returns, He will establish His kingdom on earth. There will be peace and prosperity (Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:4). There will be a one-world government, with Yeshua as its King and with Jerusalem as its capital. The nations will come up to Jerusalem, both to celebrate the feasts and to worship Yeshua as King (Zechariah 14:16).
At that time all of the traditional Jewish expectations for the Messianic kingdom will be fulfilled. The Bible even indicates that there will be a rebuilt Temple (Ezekiel 40 ff.). In other words, the future seems pretty Jewish. Yet since it will all take place under the lordship of Yeshua the Messiah, the future will also be quite Messianic.
Jewish people around the world are going to have to get used to that “Jesus” part; and Christians around the world are going to have to get used to that “Jewish” part. So we might as well get started now. And that is what Messianic Judaism is all about. Ultimately, it is not about what Jewish tradition has to say; nor what Christian theology has to say; but what the Bible has to say.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.