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What’s the Difference?

written by Asher Intrater
July 01, 2001

This summer in a conversation with Anne Carroll and Renee Branson in Houston, a question arose as to whether there is a difference between sharing the gospel in Israel and sharing it in any other country in the world. Certainly there is no difference in the principles of salvation, the truth of the scriptures, faith in Yeshua and so on. In every country there are certain cross-cultural barriers that have to be overcome.

However in dealing with the Jewish people in Israel, there are a few additional elements and issues that have to be dealt with along with the gospel. So there is a certain difference. Here are a few factors:

1. Covenant with Ancient Israel
Since the people of Israel already had a covenant with God before the time of the New Testament, that covenant becomes the foundation and context on which the gospel must be presented. There can be no contradiction between the two, and the theological understanding of the new covenant must be consistent with the writings of the Law and the Prophets.

There is a certain biblical world view that was established in Ancient Israel. In that world view there was a chosen calling to the people that had to do with the kingdom of God and the coming of the Messiah. The gospel to Israel is an extension of that original covenant.

2. Regathering and Restoration of the Nation
2000 years ago the nation was destroyed and has been in exile ever since. 125 years ago the people began to return to the land. That Israel would be regathered after a long exile was prophesied both in the Old Covenant and the New. This event is of course unique to the nation of Israel, and has an overwhelming influence as to how Israelis understand the kingdom of God. There are prophetic issues here as well as evangelistic ones. The message of the kingdom of God is not one of just personal salvation but also of national restoration. The reestablishment of the nation of Israel becomes a part of the gospel since it is already a part of the biblical message to our people.

As Messianic Jews immigrate to Israel, they are going not only to preach the gospel to the people, but also to take part with the people in this prophesied restoration.

An interesting side issue here is that of the mixture of immigrant cultures. 150 years ago there was a very tiny population in Israel. Almost all of the present population, both Jewish and Arab, have moved and immigrated into Israel. Each of them has brought their own culture and language. Most of the Messianic Jewish community is also immigrant and multi-cultural in nature. This makes for a strange kind of “reverse tower of Babel” syndrome in the clash and confusion of different world views and lifestyles.

3. History of Anti-Semitism
One of the challenges of presenting the gospel to our people is the vein of anti-Semitism in the history of European Christianity. There are deep negative psychological associations in the minds of our people with some basic Christian terminology and symbolism. And for instance it would be almost absurd to think of coming to Israel on a “crusade.” In the eyes of many Israelis Christianity is associated with Nazism, and they try to portray us, the Messianic Jews, as traitors to our people.

4. Anti-“missionary” Efforts of the Rabbis
In Israel there is no religious pluralism. The Ultra-Orthodox community strives to maintain a government enforced monopoly on religion. There are several segments of the Ultra-Orthodox who purposely and aggressively persecute Messianic Jews.

In the New Covenant scriptures we see that Yeshua often had to face strenuous arguments with the Rabbinic leaders. The anti-Yeshua arguments are an important aspect of Orthodox Jewish theology. This anti-Yeshua theology is based on interpretation of prophetic scripture and an application of the laws of Moses. On a day to day basis we come up against the same arguments that Yeshua did in his dealings with the Pharisees.

5. Christian “Holy Land” Identity
Christians of all denominations come to Israel and look to this area as the “Holy Land”. They see this as the “place where Jesus walked”. There is an archeological, historic, and mystical interest in this land that has nothing to do with the salvation of our people. This has developed a Christian community within the land of Israel that serves the “pilgrim” or “Holy Land” image, yet is not involved in effecting the people of Israel.

6. Hebrew Language
During the 2000 year exile the Hebrew language was not used except for religious texts. It became a dead language. In the late 1800’s the Hebrew language was resurrected. The resurrection of the Hebrew language is part of the prophetic restoration of the nation. It is also a unique miracle in History. It is also a restoration of the language which Yeshua and his disciples spoke and in which the Law and the Prophets were written.

The use of the Hebrew language therefore is a much more significant factor than merely learning another language on a foreign mission field. For instance, in Acts 22:2 the crowd in Jerusalem turned attentive to Saul (Paul) when he began to speak in Hebrew. When Yeshua spoke to Paul in Paul’s famous vision on the road to Damascus, Yeshua spoke to him in Hebrew (Acts 22:13).

In addition, because the Old Covenant (Tanach) was written in Hebrew, we use that original text as our text of the Bible. In this way we are not using a smoothed-over and edited translation. We have to deal with textual and grammatical problems when teaching any subject.

7. End Times Prophecies
The sharing of the gospel in Israel is also connected with end time prophecies. Yeshua is coming back soon. He is not coming back to New York or Beijing, but to Jerusalem. His coming will take place at the time of a huge war at which the nations of the world will come against Israel to battle. Yeshua’s coming is to intervene in that war. The great end times war will be seen not only as an attack upon Israel, but as a rebellion against God and the Lordship of Yeshua. He will come back to take up His place as King of the Jews, and therefore as the head of the government of Israel.

In this way, developments in the military and the government of Israel become interwoven with the preaching of the message of Yeshua. If He is the Messiah of Israel than He is connected with government of Israel and the military of Israel. These are very complex issues which must be handled with balance and discernment. The military and governmental implications of the Messiahship of Yeshua may seem almost irrelevant to the preaching of the gospel in other countries, but here in Israel it has an immediate and urgent significance.

An important side issue here is the clash with Islam. Many Christians are martyred around the world by Islamic forces. Islam is the greatest international opponent to Christianity today. However most English speaking Christians are unaware of the battle against Islam. The center focus of Islamic militancy is upon Israel. In a strange way, Israel finds itself on the frontline on the battle between Islam and Christianity, in many ways (although unknowingly) defending the Christian world .

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.

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