Judaism today has splintered into several different denominations each with their own respective theology. In order to answer the question this article was written for "Is Judaism a false religion?" a person must first define what a false religion is. Since each religion would like to claim that their belief system is the correct one we must narrow down the field. For the purpose of this article we will define a false religion as a belief system that embraces ideas contrary to what the Bible teaches.
The Cornerstone of Biblical Judaism is the written word of God often referred to as the Old Testament. Some of the books that collectively make up the Old Testament contain historical details of both Israel's obedience and disobedience to God's instructions. This however does not take away from the original inspiration, authenticity, purity and beauty of God's words and wisdom. Rather, it points to both Israel's and the rest of mankind's inability, to follow all of Gods ways, all the time.
Our All Knowing God does not view time like we do. He is able to see from man's beginning to man's judgment time and all time in between. He is able to remain the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. God could see Adam and Eve's choice to eat from the tree of knowledge causing the introduction of sin. Out of grace and mercy for the world God Himself provided the method of Atonement.
The Biblical doctrine of blood atoning for sin may have begun with the first sin. Some people believe with the first sin of Adam and Eve, when they were clothed with animal skins, that blood from those animals became the first substitutionary sacrifice. Later, Moses writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit wrote these words
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul." (Leviticus 17:11).
Leviticus spells out God's detailed plan for using blood as the substitutionary sacrifice. The blood is the visible representative of the invisible soul(1). When Israel worshiped during the times of the First and Second Temples they worshiped using Biblical Judaism. They sacrificed animals as required under Mosaic Law to make a covering for their sins.
Israel celebrated required feast like Passover, Tabernacles and First Fruits (Pentecost). These festivals included the blood sacrifice of thousands of animals year after year. On the Day of Atonement Israel's High Priest represented them before God's presence inside the Holy of Holies. This High Priest used the blood from the substitutionary sacrifice, sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat to make atonement for Israel as a nation. They had Prophets' sent by God to reveal to Israel God's desires and plan, often through prophetic warnings. This was Biblical Judaism at its best. When done with the proper heart and intent, this was probably the closest, purist way to get close to God. Because man falls short on a daily basis, the blood sacrifices were needed every day.
Eventually, over time, because of man made rules, regulations and desires, the integrity of God's word became compromised. Israel didn't always listen to God's Prophets and consequences for being disobedient usually followed.
The substitutionary sacrificial system was in fully instituted at the Second Temple, offering daily sacrifices. Jesus embraced the Old Testament teachings. Of course He knew the true intent behind the Mosaic Law and the way the law should be observed. As a child, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21). He went to the temple to attend Biblically mandated feast celebrations. Jesus, like so many other Jews, felt that the Temple was meant to be a house of worship dedicated to His Father (Luke 2:42-49). As an adult, even during His ministry years, Jesus still attended festival celebrations and used them to teach and heal. He used the Feast of Dedication (commonly known today as Hanukkah) to declare His divinity when he said "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).
Jesus observed the Feast of Passover His last week of life (Luke 22:13-20). This is where our communion ceremony is taken from today. Jesus taught at the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles that those who receive Him would also receive the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Jesus embraced and practiced Biblical Judaism, so we know that at this time in history, even though Judaism had become compromised, it couldn't have been a false religion.
Although Jesus embraced Biblical Judaism, it was the rabbinic alterations that compromised the integrity of God's original intent. This compromise is what caused Jesus to refer to the Pharisees as "Brood of Vipors." Temple worship had partially become something for political gain with the highest position and political title in Judaism, the position of the High Priest, going to Roman patronage appointments. Herod was allowed to appoint the High Priest for whatever duration he desired. After Herod's death the decision belonged to the Roman Governor. The Temple had also become a place of financial gain since some worshipers wanting to offer sacrifices were forced to purchase their animal from inside the temple. This is because the animal was pre-approved as being an acceptable animal for a sacrifice (without blemish), purchased with a special temple coin. Roman coins were deemed to be unacceptable for the purchase of the sacrifice, and this justified the need for the money changers.
This compromised form of Biblical Judaism is what caused Jesus to turn the tables of the money changers over.
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. It is written, he said to them, My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers (Matthew 21:12-13).
With this statement Jesus was referring to two different Old Testament prophets. Isaiah wrote "my house will be called a house of prayer for all people" (Isa.56:7) and Jeremiah wrote "Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight" (Jeremiah 7:11).(2)
Shortly thereafter Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah would be crucified. His death brought with it a choice for the Nation of Israel. Continue with your old ways or embrace Jesus as your substitutionary sacrifice once and for all. Some Jews, following the recommendation of the majority of Jewish political and spiritual leaders, rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Other Jews, like the disciples and those 3000 who came to Israel to celebrate the first Pentecost after the death of Jesus and then received the Holy Spirits saving faith, chose Jesus (Acts 2:41).
There was opposition from most of the Pharisees and Sadducees towards the Jews who believed in their Jewish Messiah. The disciples continued to go to the temple area and bring the Gospel news of Jesus to others. The Sadducees, who did not embrace the idea of prophetic writings or biblical resurrections, ordered Peter to quit preaching the power of the resurrected Christ. This teaches us that the unbelieving Jews still recognized the Jewish believers in Christ as being Jewish. You see, the control of the ruling political party at the temple (the Sanhedrin Court) only had power or control over temple activities and Jewish law. This is how they felt they had the authority to order Peter not to preach in the name and authority of the resurrected Messiah (Acts 4:18). Rome had political and military control outside of Israel's religious affairs.
We also see that Stephen, a Jewish believer, was stoned to death by Jews who didn't believe him and considered what he thought and taught to be wrong (Acts Chapter 7).
We also see opposition from Saul/Paul who attended Stephen's stoning. He was commissioned by the Sanhedrin Court to leave Jerusalem and go to Damascus in search of Jewish believers in Jesus (also known as "the way"). Saul was planning on bringing them back to go to jail for their religious beliefs. Jesus revealed Himself to Saul on the Road to Damascus and Saul transitioned from someone who hates believers in Jesus (Saul) to Paul (He uses his Greek name to write with) becoming what many consider to be the most important contributing author to the New Testament.
Ironically, Paul, feeling led by the Holy Spirit, takes the life saving message of Messiah outside of Israel to the Gentile nations but also teaches at the local synagogue with each new city he visits. Paul often is faced with opposition from the Jewish believers who hear of their Messiah's saving grace.
By the year 50A.D. (18-20 years or so after the death of Christ) mostly due to the mandate of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the Gospel message had went outside of Israel and was claiming a growing number of non Jewish believers in Jesus. The Gentile nations (nations other than Israel) were beginning to be the fulfillment of the prophecy/promise made to Abraham when God told him "and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed" (Gen. 22:18).
The Book of Acts teaches us that Gentiles who embraced Jesus were considered by Paul and Barnabas as converts into a Judaism that embraced Jesus as Messiah.
The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad (Acts 15:3).
At this time Christ followers, consisting of a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, were considered by some to be a different sect of Judaism. Similar to the Sadducees (most High Priests), Pharisees (scribes and religious leaders), and Essenes (protectors of the Dead Sea Scrolls), Messianic Jews embraced Judaism in their own way by accepting Jesus for who He really was, the Jewish Messiah.
Judaism now contained these four sects underneath one umbrella but not for long.
It is important to understand the role of circumcision in Biblical Judaism. Through the Old Testament, Biblical Judaism looks at circumcision through a letter of the law legal perspective. Through the New Testament, circumcision is viewed through a Spirit of the law perspective.
Old Testament Circumcision
Abraham is considered the first Jew because God made the Old Testament Covenant with him and an outward circumcision was the physical sign of belonging to this covenant.
"And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you (Genesis 17:11).
The combination of Jewish and Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah caused confusion over weather or not Gentiles needed to observe Jewish legal principles commanded by God in the Old Testament. One of the topics of discussion was the ritual act of circumcision.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses" (Acts 15:5).
The Pharisees felt that in order for Gentiles to believe and receive the blessings promised by the Jewish Messiah they should have the traditional biblical outward sign of belonging to the covenant which was the circumcision. Around the year 50 A.D. a special meeting was conveyed known as the Jerusalem Council. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles led by Paul, Peter and James prepared a statement that did contain some lifestyle guidelines but made it clear that keeping all the Mosaic laws and celebrating rituals were not a requirement for the salvation of the Gentiles (The Jerusalem Decree-Acts 15:23-29).
At this time Biblical Judaism, which included some of the religious practices of the Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees continued with its status quo. The temple was still standing and they felt no need to embrace the Messiah as their blood atonement. They chose instead to rely on the temple sacrifices.
Messianic Judaism had to ask the question. If Gentiles are allowed salvation through the Jewish Messiah but yet are not obligated to follow the law to receive this salvation then were they still obligated to follow the law themselves? There is no doubt that Jesus Himself embraced the true law, customs and culture of Judaism in His day. But did anything change with His death or better yet, did anything change with His resurrection that proved Him to be an acceptable sacrifice once and for all?
The Jewish disciples continued to meet at the Temple even though the sacrifice of the animals was still going on. It was a great place to teach from, declaring to other Jews the Messiahship of Jesus. From the time of Jesus death (around 30-32 A.D.) until 70 A.D. many Jewish customs both biblical and rabbinical (man made) continued to be embraced by the followers of Jesus.
During this 40 year period (30A.D.-70 A.D.) there were both Messianic Jews who relied on the blood of the Messiah for atonement and the rest of Israel who relied on the sacrifices at the temple. For the most part, mainstream Judaism (Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes) would no longer recognize believers in Jesus as a sect of Judaism. They wanted to practice Judaism the old way, under the Old Covenant. They rejected the idea that with the blood of Jesus came the introduction of the New Covenant prophesied about in Jer. 31:31.
"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, (Jer.31:31).
For those Jews who counted on the temple sacrifices to take care of their sin an interesting historical fact has been left behind for us to know.
On the Day of Atonement a priest would tie a thread of scarlet (red) to a place in the temple. A goat would then be sent off into the wilderness, carrying away Israel's sins, as part of the High Priest atonement ceremony. The High Priest would also sprinkle blood inside of the Holy of Holies. If and when God found the sacrifice acceptable, the string would miraculously change color from scarlet to white. This was considered to be a sign that Israel's' sins were forgiven. It is believed that this may be what was referred to by the prophet Isaiah when he said:
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).
The sages have recorded in the Talmud that "For forty years before the destruction of the Temple the thread of scarlet never turned white but it remained red" (Talmud-Mas.Rosh HaShana 31b).
These words are sometimes used to support the Christian teaching that, from the time the Messiah died for our sins no other sacrifice has been acceptable to God.
There were lots of Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. Reference is made to them in such passages as Acts 4:4; 6:7; 14:1; 21:20.
In the year 70 A.D. God in His sovereign wisdom allowed the Second Temple to be destroyed. This brought a complete end to the possibility of animal substitutionary blood sacrifices for the Jews (Most sacrifices had stopped a few years earlier due to Roman opposition). Whatever was left of Biblical Judaism was at the end of its 40 year crossroad. This allowed some Jews to see the wisdom of Jesus as Messiah. It also raised the question for the religious political leaders such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, where do we go from here?
This is where Old Testament Biblical Judaism ends and Rabbinical Judaism begins.
There is a difference between Old Testament Biblical Judaism and the Rabbinical Judaism which began to excel in development after 70 A.D. Without the blood sacrifices available to serve as a covering for sin, the rabbis would need to look for an alternative method of trying to obtain God's forgiveness.
Judaism's spiritual leaders, faced with this problem came up with a variety of solutions. The Christian (Messiah following) sect of Judaism (Messianic Jews) recognized and faithfully accepted that Jesus would be their sacrifice. Now the rest of Judaism needed something to hang on to. This is why the main changeover occurred from old Biblical Judaism to a new Rabbinical Judaism. While Biblical Judaism had called for the animal's blood sacrifice to represent man's soul, (Leviticus 7:11) there could be none.
Rather than accept what the Christian/Messianic Jews embraced, which allowed the substitutionary blood sacrifice to continue indefinitely through Jesus' death and resurrection, rabbinical Judaism began to focus on a different avenue of redemption and forgiveness. This would require changing the focus of The Day of Atonement holiday. Without the blood sacrifices Judaism's most sacred day of the year was going to have to change one way or another.
The rabbinical focus would now be on three keys that could bring you to redemption. Those three are prayer, penitence, and charity.(3)
Through Prayer: In place of the actual service involving the sacrifice of the animals (avoda service), prayers were written that contained some of the same liturgy. The service changed from one that was literal and physical into one that was oral and metaphorical.
Through Penitence: Showing regret or remorse for the sins you have done was part of the definition of confession. The Rabbis taught that "Neither sin-offering nor trespass-offering nor death, nor the Day of Atonement can bring expiation without repentance (Tosefta Yoma 5:9).
They believed that penitence had the effect of an immediate pardon for a transgression of a positive commandment while suspending judgment in the case of a violation of a negative commandment (Yoma 86a).(3)
Through Charity: The Rabbis taught that repentance and benevolence together plead for man before God's throne (Shabbat 32a). Some other rabbinical teachings on charity include the belief that someone who gave charity in secret was greater than Moses (Baba Batra 9a). That charity delivered from death (Baba Batra 10a) and that Jerusalem would be redeemed only through charity (Shabbat 139a).(3)
With these changes should come one major question. The one question that everyone should ask is "Who gave the Rabbis the authority to change the word of God"? Obviously prayer, penitence and charity are all good things. God wants those things in addition to the blood sacrifice (Lev. 17:11) not in place of it. The Christian Jews could see that God in His sovereignty allowed the Second Temple to be destroyed so there could be no other choice for the blood sacrifices other that Jesus as the permanent Sacrificial Lamb. That is why John declared:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).
Knowing that Judaism must either accept the blood of the Messiah as the final permanent atonement or offer an alternative, the Rabbis' chose to offer the alternative. The authority to do so came from themselves. They wrote opinions on religious issues and combined these writings into a series of books now known as the Talmud. In some areas the Talmud contradicted the Torah (such as the need for the blood sacrifices). Others areas of the Talmud contained more than one opinion on the same issue and therefore contradicted itself.
These Rabbis gave themselves the authority to create and change any opinion, rule or regulation regarding Jewish law. This literally caused Biblical Judaism to become Rabbinical Judaism. Jews had two choices. Recognize Jesus as their Messiah or follow the man made religion of the Rabbis. The Rabbis commonly referred to as "sages" believed that the opinions of the sages had superseded and taken over the role of the prophet (Sifre Bechuk.94 BB 12a, Yev.102a, and AZ36a).
The Rabbis had an idea of when the Messiah would come. The first time Messiah came to Earth, He didn't bring about the political or military freedoms or the world wide peace (absence of war) some of the Messianic Prophecies foretold about. This is one reason some people back then didn't and some people still today don't recognize Him as the Messiah. (The Messiah did receive the title of Prince of Peace from the Prophet Isaiah and He does bring a spiritual peace now to those who know Him. For more on this check out the Isaiah 9:6 prophecies).
The Rabbis knew the Messiah had to suffer and they believed that there would be two Messiah's, one Messiah to suffer for our sins, (the suffering servant from Isaiah 53) and another to deliver political and military freedom to Israel (Zechariah 14:1-4). The rabbis couldn't understand one Messiah coming twice but they did understand the two separate missions the two Messiahs' were expected to accomplish. For more on this rabbinical viewpoint please read The Two Messiah's.
Around 100 years after the death of Jesus, (131A.D.) the Rabbis' realizing the timing was past for the coming of the Messiah, put their faith into another man, Simon Bar Cosiba better known as Shimon bar Kochba or simply bar Kochba. Other variations of his name include Ben Kozibo or Kozba.
Amazingly, one of the most respected writers of the Talmud (Rabbi Akiva) announced that Bar Kochba was indeed the Messiah. Rabbi Akiva supported Bar Kochba to lead the military revolt against the Romans knowing that little Israel alone could never win. But the prophesied Messiah who was expected to deliver Israel could and would easily win this battle. Rabbi Akiva's support for Bar Kochba as Israel's long awaited and now overdue Messiah caused the ultimate separation between Jewish believers in Jesus as the Messiah and Jews who blindly followed Rabbi Akiva's endorsement as Bar Kochba as Messiah.
All Jews wanted to be delivered from Roman oppression. When the Jews who were faithful to their Christian beliefs that Jesus was indeed the true Messiah would not recognize Bar Kochba as Messiah it caused the rest of Israel to finally give approval to the unbiblical idea that Jewish believers in Jesus needed their own religion. The sage's opinion was that if Messianic Jews were not going to recognize the Talmudic sage's opinion that Bar Kochba was the Messiah then they were obviously obeying a different authority.
Rabbi Akiva's (still regarded today as one of the leading biblical scholars of that age) acceptance of Bar Kochba as Messiah teaches us a few things. It teaches us that the writers of the Talmud not only accepted but encouraged the theological principal of the Messiah coming at that general time. Israel now knows and history clearly teaches that Bar Kochba (who had many followers because of Rabbi Akiva's support) was unsuccessful in leading this revolt and died. It also confirms that even the greatest of sages can have their faith misplaced concerning who is and who is not the Messiah.
We can also learn perhaps the biggest lesson of all from the hundreds of thousands of Jews who fought underneath Bar Kochba's leadership. The Rabbis' told what was left of Israel that Bar Kochba was their Messiah and would deliver them from Roman oppression. This caused many Jews to mistakenly give their lives in battle. Unlike earlier times in Israel's history when God helped fight some of their battles, God was not going to allow Israel to win this one. When Israel was obedient to God, there was no stopping them. When Israel was disobedient to God, there were consequences.
This should also teach us that people, (in this case Jews) are willing to give up their lives, perhaps even their eternal destiny, based on what their current spiritual leaders tell them is the truth. In this case, simply because a Rabbi said Bar Kochba was the Messiah. Bar Kochba's support came without the claim of a virgin birth, without any proof of divine healing's or other miracles and without any proof of a resurrected body. There was no claim of fulfillment of Messianic prophesy. All of these things Israel had rejected 100 years earlier in Christ and were certainly not available through any one else. Israel had clearly taken their eyes off of God and placed them on man.
The question should be asked, how many more thousands if not millions of Jews have given up their intended blessings in life and perhaps even eternal life, because these same sages who have a proven inability to recognize the true Messiah, declared Jesus was not the Messiah? Some Rabbis today draw upon what these very sages wrote, to help give Judaism direction. Simply put, Rabbis today (and most over the last 1900 years) draw upon these sages decisions instead of making decisions on their own. In other words, Rabbis today don't believe in Jesus as the Messiah because that is what they have been taught even though these same teachers proved their inability to recognize the true Messiah by mistakenly backing Bar Kochba as their own Messiah.
Daniel spoke about the timing of Messiah's death in Daniel 9:24-27 Prophecy.
The Talmud clearly states that "All deadlines for the coming of Messiah have come and gone-the thing now depends solely on our retuning to G-d (Sanhedrin 97b)."
After Israel's loss of life at the Bar Kochba revolt, Jews were for the most part scattered to the four corners of the word in what is now referred to as the Diaspora (Jewish population living outside of Israel). Whatever country they went to, that country's culture and traditions played a role in shaping the way Judaism was practiced. While some countries allowed Jews to express freedom of their religion others did not. Judaism was already influenced by Roman and Greek culture before the Bar Kochba era a few hundred years earlier. These efforts to reprogram the Jewish way of worship to match the pagan way of worship is what led to the holiday of the Feast of Dedication often referred to as Hanukkah. This process, known as hellenization, involved the idea of everyone having the same culture and customs instead of the Jews keeping their biblical identity unique.
Anti-Semitic events like the Jews killed by Christian soldiers during the crusades and the Spanish inquisition forced Jews to examine their beliefs. In 1492 all Jews were expelled from Spain, the same year Columbus set sail to discover America. Many Jews outwardly converted to "another religion" for the safety of their children. They had little choice, either convert to another religion (Christianity) or be killed. Some children were even forcibly removed from their Jewish homes and forced to be baptized, often as infants.
The Diaspora still exists today, however, with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, some Jews have been returning home. This may possibly be the result of prophetic passages found in Ezekiel Chapter 37, becoming fulfilled during our lifetime.
During this period Judaism saw writings materialize that would give direction to those who believed in their man made authority. Writings during this period include:
Mishna: The Mishna was edited by Rabbi Judah the Prince in 170 C. E. in Israel. It is a concise formulation of Jewish law and ethics written in Hebrew containing Biblical, Oral and Rabbinic laws.(3)
Jerusalem Talmud: The Jerusalem Talmud was edited around the year 350 C. E. by Rav Muna and Rav Yossi in Israel. It contains explanations of the Mishna, legislation, customs, case histories and moral exhortations.(3)
Babylonian Talmud: The Babylonian Talmud was redacted in the year 500 C.E. by Ravina and Rav Ashi, two leaders of the Babylonian Jewish community. The language of the Talmud is Aramaic, in Hebrew script (3)
Midrash: A Midrash is a story or tale told to make a point. They are not necessarily 100% factual. While some do have a literal meaning others have a figurative interpretation. The Midrash is a generic term for a group of approximately 60 collections of rabbinic commentaries, stories, metaphors and ethical essays arranged around the books of the Torah, Prophets and Writings. It also includes various commentaries on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Most of the Midrashim (plural for Midrash) date back to the time of the Mishnah and many authors of the Midrash appear in the Mishnah and vice versa. Many of the central concepts and commentaries of the Midrash are part of the oral tradition from Sinai. The most famous collections of Midrashim are the Midrash Rabba, the Midrash Tanchuma, Yalkut Shimoni, Sifri, Sifra and Mechilta.(3)
Zohar: (Written between 125 and 170 A.D.) Rabbi Akiva was considered by many to be one of the greatest sages in Israel during the period of time that the Mishna was written. One of Rabbi Akiva's students (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai) was the author of the Zohar, principle work of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah)(4) This is the same Rabbi Akiva that had endorsed Bar Kochba as Messiah earlier in the article.
Shulkhan Arukh: (sixteenth century) A legal code of Jewish law that is still regarded as authoritative by Orthodox Jews. It was written by Rabbi Joseph Caro.
While several Rabbis offered their interpretations of what the Holy Scriptures from the Old Testament meant to them there were a couple of commentators who really stood out. Their commentaries are closely followed today. They helped to redefine Rabbinical Judaism and give it direction. To some sects of Judaism today, some of these commentaries are considered to be authoritive texts to be followed.
Rashi: (1040-1105) Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak known by his acronym RASHI is the leading commentator on the Bible and Talmud. His works included Sefer HaOrah; Sefer HaPardes; Machzor Vitry; Siddur Rashi; and Responsa.
Maimonides: (1135-1204) The writings of the great medieval scholar Moses Maimonides (The Rambam) reflect the way Judaism became guarded against accepting the idea of God being a compound unity. For more on this please read Lessons From The Shema. Maimonides writings also reflected beliefs in a resurrection of the dead and the coming of the Messiah.
Judaism cannot be completely put into a single all inclusive category. Like some other religions (including Christianity) Judaism today offers a choice of different denominations and doctrines. Ultra Orthodox Jews cling tightly to the letter of the Old Testament law. They do this even though they know that the law cannot be observed in its entirety. This is because the sacrificial system needed in order to obey that particular part of the law is no longer in place. Reform Jews do not even make an attempt to observe all of the law. Instead they decide which doctrines (if any) are applicable to them for today. While some denominations include Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah as part of their belief system others do not. Reform congregations are allowed to be led by gay and or female Rabbis while Orthodox congregations will not allow this. The conservative denominations (often seen as the middle ground between the Orthodox and Reform) have a broad range of practices depending on the individual congregation.
Some Jewish groups have chosen to separate themselves from historical and traditional Jewish beliefs. These groups include Reconstructionist Judaism started in 1920 and Humanistic Judaism started in 1963.
Check out this link for more on the different Denominations Of Judaism.
Just because something is a man made custom or tradition does not in itself make it wrong. The intent behind it says everything about it. Two people can be doing the same action but the intent for each of them can be totally different. For example. Oral tradition teaches that Jews are commanded to light candles at sunset on a Friday night to welcome in the Sabbath. This is not found in the written word but is considered part of oral law. The intent is to help one get into the frame of mind to rejoice in the Sabbath holiday. More importantly, lighting the candles offers the chance to focus on the purpose of the holiday which is a day of rest and a time to focus on spiritual things. Just because someone else is lighting candles on a Friday night with a different intent, whatever that intent might be, even if it brings no honor to God, does not undo the good that lighting the symbolic Shabbat candles is able to accomplish.
In both Judaism and in Christianity, there are man made customs and traditions that do not bring any honor to God. Some even have a pagan source of origination but still may bring honor to God if their intent is right. For example, coming out of Babylonian captivity, the Jewish calendar adopted some of the names for its months using names resembling the Babylonian calendar. The Babylonians named some of their months after Babylonian gods and worshiped those gods. When the Jews gave their months similar Babylonian names it was for a different reason than the Babylonians.
The Babylonian culture had influenced their calendar but not their desire to worship the one true God. In fact, that's why they left Babylonian captivity, in order to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. While most the names of the months are pagan with both calendars, Jews today do not think of the Babylonian gods that the months represent. Instead they use these names of months to keep track of Gods appointed feasts which can bring honor and glory to God if the intent of observing those feast are right.
In Christianity, the birth of the Jewish Messiah (Christmas) is celebrated on December 25th. (Greek Orthodox celebrate Christmas on a different day) The Bible doesn't tell us the exact birth date. No one really knows for sure but there are reasons to believe it is closer to October instead of December. For more on this please check out Was The Birth Of Christ During The Feast Of Tabernacles? The December 25th date was also being used by other pagan holidays in Rome related to the winter solstice. This may include the worship of the Roman god (Attis); the Greek god (Dionysus); the Egyptian god (Osiris); and the Persian god (Mithra).
When Constantine claimed to have become a Christian, other pagan influences were incorporated into Christianity. This included the decision not to celebrate the resurrection of Christ at Passover time. Instead, the resurrection is celebrated on a different date to honor the Roman mythological god Eshtar (Ishtar). This made it easier for the Romans, who worshiped pagan gods to go along with Constantine's order to be more tolerable of Christian beliefs (Edit of Milan around 313 A.D.). This eventually led to Christianity becoming the official religion of Rome (before 400 A.D.).
Christians today don't think about those pagan customs. Even though the origin of the dates of some holidays may have been pagan, it is the intent of the heart that counts most and God knows what's in our heart. If you didn't know the history behind the Dec. 25th or the Easter holiday it just goes to show that someone with good intentions can also unknowingly take part in what was earlier in history the date of a pagan celebration. This article is being written from a Christian perspective asking the question "Is Judaism a false religion"? What if from a Jewish perspective someone asked "Is Christianity a false religion"?
So it is easy to see that man made customs and traditions have worked their way into both Judaism and Christianity. But it is mostly the intent that counts and the intent of both Christians and Jews is to worship the creator of the universe. Yes, Christians and Jews may have some customs that have pagan origins. This alone does not mean they are no longer Christian and Jews. Certainly after two thousand years of religion the religious practices of Christian and Jews both have their flaws.
Some Jewish customs have worked their way into (or remained since their inception) the church. If you are a Christian you are probably familiar with communion. This ritual act came out of another ritual act, the Passover meal. The Messiah was observing the Passover holiday meal when He instituted the practice of communion. If you say amen after a prayer then you are again practicing a Jewish custom. The word amen is a Hebrew word meaning "so let it be." The word Hallelujah is Hebrew for "Praise the Lord." The point is this. You should focus much more on the intent of the action than the origination of the action itself.
This is the real question. If Judaism (or any other religion) worships a false god then that religion is a false religion. It is true that some areas of Judaism consist of man made customs and traditions. Other areas of rabbinically accepted Jewish law are said to be part of an oral law that is separate from the written law (Mosaic Covenant), with parts of the oral law possibly dating as far back as the days of Moses.
Jews who worship God recognize that there is only one God. This is the very cornerstone of all Judaism found in the passage of prayer known as the Shema. This "one" God that they worship is to them the creator of the universe, the creator of mankind and the God who brought them out of bondage from Egypt. It is the God who gave them the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai and it is this same God that will be responsible for saving Israel during the future prophetic time of The Time Of Jacob's Trouble. It is this God who will some day send the Messiah to deliver them from political and religious persecution. This God is also the God who writes the names into the Book of Life.
This one God is the God who made a covenant with Abraham, foretold of another covenant through the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31) and personally chose Israel among all the other nations of the world for this special covenant relationship. Not because Israel was deserving but because God had and still has a purpose for Israel. God is sovereign and should be able to do what He wants without being questioned. To this day the covenant relationship between God and Israel is often misunderstood, even by the church. Issues like Israel's right to the land God gave them and their place in future prophetic times are sometimes overlooked, ignored or even worse, intentionally opposed.
This one God is the same God who sent the Prophets to Israel to guide them even though sometimes Israel was disobedient and chose to do things their own way. This one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, also Blessed the Nation of Israel with King David. Through King David's blood line God promised the Messiah would be born. This one God introduced the substitutional blood animal sacrificial system and through that covering of sin, grace and mercy has been extended to many. This one God is eternal with no beginning and no end. This one God is capable of being in more that one place at one time (omnipresent) and this one God is now regathering Jews from the four corners of the world bringing them back to Israel, setting up the prophetic stage necessary for Israel In End Time Prophecy to be fulfilled.
If you are a Christian then let me ask you, "Does this sound like your God"?
This one God that the Jews worship is a complex unity meaning that it is made up of more than one component (Christians often use the term person).
Worshiping The Father:
King David worshiped this complex unity when he prayed to his God and King as one God in Psalm 5:3. This one God that Jews worship and pray to asking for things like salvation and forgiveness is sometimes referred to as Avinu Malkeinu (our Father our King).(5) This is also the same Father that Peter gives reference to in Acts 3:13 showing that the Jews who believed in Messiah Jesus still believed in the God of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob).This is the same Father our Jewish Messiah Jesus had in mind when he prayed with his disciples the Lords Prayer "Our Father who art in Heaven" (Matthew 6:9). Both Jews who believe in Jesus and Jews who do not, worship the same Father. This is common ground (as it should be).
There is often confusion over John 8:44 which quotes Jesus as saying You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. Sometimes this verse is used to support a negative view of God's relationship with Israel and the Jews. In the Old Testament Israel is given the title of God's firstborn son (Exodus 4:22). That is how God views Israel even when Israel is disobedient. Jesus does not say that God (The Father) doesn't recognize Israel or the Jews as His firstborn any more. That is because God's love for Israel hasn't changed. What did change was Israel's willingness to follow God's instructions.
When Israel follows God they are in tune with what the father wants. When Israel disobeys God they are in tune with what Satan wants (the same as everyone else). Israel through their intentional rejection of Jesus as Messiah proved to be temporarily following the desires of Satan. Even today Satan loves it when the Jews reject Christ because He knows when the Jews accept Christ Jesus will return to Rule the earth and Satan's influence will be greatly reduced. For more on this check out Israel in End Time Prophecy.
In the John 8:44 passage Jesus is saying that because of Israel's desire not to worship the Messiah they are not truly reflecting what their real Father (God) would want for them. Therefore they were reflecting instead through their behavior what Satan wants. This does not mean that Israel doesn't worship the true Father God the same as the Christians. The Jewish religion worships the true Father in prayer and in doctrine. They do not worship the Father through their actions concerning the recognition of the Son. While their actions reflected disobedience to Jesus, no one was intentionally doing Satanic worship to replace the worship of the true Father.
The parable of the prodigal son says it all (Luke 15:11-32). The father loved the son even though he willingly lived a lifestyle that his father didn't agree with. He never lost his status as son. He did however become disconnected from what his father truly wanted for him. Eventually he realized that he had sinned against heaven and came back home to his true father who openly and lovingly welcomed him back. Israel has often be thought to be the prodigal son by some bible scholars.
This one God has a Spirit that is Holy. This Holy Spirit (pronounced Ruach Hakodesh in Hebrew) is an eternal component of God also, the same way the father is. The Holy Spirit was around when "The Spirit of God hovered above the waters" during the creation process (Genesis 1:2). Sometimes in the Torah (first 5 books of the bible), God's revelation came to man through the power of the Holy Spirit, using visions and dreams (Numbers 12:6). Sometimes, during the times of the Prophets, the revelation came by voice (Isaiah 6:8).
This is the same Holy Spirit that both Christians and Jews believe inspired all the writers of the Old Testament like Moses and Isaiah. Because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit it is useful today even though it is thousands of years old (2 Tim. 3:16). The Old Testament cannot be completely dead or obsolete because there are still Old Testament prophecies that need to be fulfilled and will be fulfilled with the Second Coming of Christ. This is the same Holy Spirit that Peter teaches about in Acts 2:38.
There is however now a difference in access to the Holy Spirit. With the Mosaic Covenant the Holy Spirit would come and go. The Holy Spirit would visit the temple and then leave. It appeared to the Nation of Israel manifested like a cloud and a pillar of fire but after 40 years that disappeared also. The Holy Spirit interacting with people on an individual basis was rare, mostly reserved for the Prophets.
With parts of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) being partially fulfilled (there is still a deeper more complete fulfillment of this covenant coming) the Holy Spirit now indwells or lives inside of each true believer in Jesus. This has been the case since the first Pentecost after the death and resurrection of the Messiah. This was the day God sent His Holy Spirit to live and empower those who believe in the Jewish Messiah and this promise of blessing continues even today for those who have this faith in Christ (Acts Chapter 2).
If this sounds familiar to the Christian reader it should because Christians and Jews both worship the same Father and the same Holy Spirit.
Here is the biggest difference between Judaism and Christianity. Even though Jews and Christians worship the same Father and agree that this Father also has a Holy Spirit there is the question of the Father also having a Son. A Son who is divine in nature the same as the Holy Spirit is divine in nature.
With the exception of Messianic Jews, mainstream Judaism does not recognize Jesus as God or the Son of God or even as the Messiah. They do know that Jesus lived because the Talmud talks a little bit about Him. They even know that He was able to do miracles but do not give the credit to God for the miracles He performed. They also know the tomb was empty after three days (Jewish historian Josephus confirms this in Antiquities 18:63) but hold to the story that someone must have stolen the body. (Jewish leaders had lots of reasons to want to refute Christianity because it reduced their own authority but they could never produce the body of the Messiah inside or outside of the tomb). They know that the Messiah was expected to come around the time Jesus lived but are still under the impression that even though Jesus came at the right time, He still was not the Messiah.
Most of this comes down to revelation. God blesses us by giving us our measure of faith (Romans 12:3). He reveals His truths to us through revelation using the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian who "know" their Jewish Messiah Jesus do so because of the measure of faith and revelation that God has given them. Paul prayed for the Ephesians this way:
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better" (Eph. 1:17).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-8).
Jesus revealed Himself as the long awaited Messiah to the Jews of His generation. They still needed some faith to go along with that revelation. Some had this faith and others didn't. Most Jews who were not around during that generation still had God's Messianic plan revealed to them through the Mosaic Covenant and the writings of the Prophets. God offers revelation through reading His word. Those who sincerely seek the truth about God will be blessed with knowing the truth about His Son.
You may ask yourself if Jews really need the Gospel message since they have a Mosaic covenant that they have chosen to live by instead. The Bible answers that question for us when it says:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
Jews need an avenue for forgiveness and redemption for their sins just like everyone else.
Jesus did go to the Jew first but was rejected. The reasons for His rejection are very complicated. For more on this please read Who Is Responsible For The Death Of The Messiah?
Even though Jesus Himself announced His Messiahship (Isa.61:1) and even though He wept (and still weeps) over Israel's refusal to believe, His rejection was necessary. Somehow in God's sovereign way, God used Israel's rejection of their true Messiah to reach others.
Jesus was rejected by most (not all) of the Jewish political and religious leaders of that generation. Because of this, the Gospel message of good news went out to the rest of the world (the Gentiles). Somehow, this is all part of God's providence. We know Jesus had to suffer in order to bring fulfillment to the messianic suffering servant passages of scripture (like Isaiah 53). With the good news message of the gospel, Gentiles should also understand that their receiving of the Gospel was also for Israel's benefit.
When a Christian lives a life that reflects their faith in the Jewish Messiah it should show in their lifestyle. Not because they have to do good things (living by the letter of the law) but because they should want to do good things (living by the Spirit of the law). So much so, that the Jewish person should look at the Christian and say to themselves "I want the relationship with God that the Christian has." The Bible says it this way:
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous (Romans 11:11).
History teaches us about the pagan holiday dates of Christmas and Easter. History also teaches us that during the Spanish Inquisition Jewish children were taken from their parents and forcibly baptized. We know that Hitler was never excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Ask yourself, does this promote Christianity as a desirable religion? Most churches meet on Sunday and often serve pork during events that may come with invitations to bring others. Has the church placed obstacles in the path of Judaism to make it harder for them to embrace their Jewish Messiah? If you are a Christian, ask yourself if you have done a good job of making others jealous and envious of your relationship with the Lord? Do actions like these truly reflect the love that Jesus had and still has for Israel?
Of course there is little we can do about the past but we should be able to learn from our mistakes or the mistakes of others so they are not repeated. No Christian (or any other person) lives a perfect lifestyle. However, your Christian walk should be inviting to others of all faiths and that includes Jews.
Does the New Testament contain anti-Semitic writings?
Some of the writings in the New Testament reflect internal tension and differences between different groups of religious Jews. Sometimes in context the word "Jews" refers only to Jewish leaders. Both the Dead Sea Scroll and Josephus (both written by Jewish writers) present a negative view of the corruption of the Jewish leaders of that generation.(7) Corruption even reached the highest of the political/ religious offices, that of the High Priest. For more on this please read Corruption In The Office Of High Priest.
Some of the New Testament rebuke of faithless Jews is similar to prophetic rebukes in the Tanach and even inter-Jewish disputes as reflected in documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.(6)
Jesus did refer to those who were alive during his life as an adulterous and wicked generation (Matthew 16:4). He also referred to that generation as unbelieving and perverted (Matthew 17:17). Remember that by Jesus' (God's) standards this description fits most (if not all) generations. God and Moses both describe Israel as being stiff-necked (Exod. 32:9). By God's standard of holiness everyone is a sinner (wicked) at one time or another.
Jesus taught that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery in their heart (Matthew 5:28). Jesus was understandably disappointed with some of the hypocritical behaviors demonstrated by some (not all) of the religious leaders. They had already begun the process of adding their own rabbinical law to God's written law. The fact that their long awaited Messiah was right in front of their eyes and yet they couldn't recognize Him showed just how far some (not all) of the religious leaders had wandered from looking for the truth.
Occasionally the New Testament does reflect some of the religious leaders of that generation in a negative way. However, since this seemed to be the way that other Jewish writers at the time saw the religious leaders it confirms that what was being said was the perceived truth. This is not a question of Christian writers trying to make the Jews look bad. In fact some positive comments can also be found about Israel's priestly leadership (Acts 6:7).
Synagogues of Satan: Sometimes people believe that the New Testament is anti-Semitic because the term "Synagogues of Satan" (Revelation 2:9) is used. Jesus (God) recognizes that Satan can influence almost anyone. The Jews were not exempt from satanic influence. There are many times in the Old Testament that Israel made poor choices being influenced by their own sinful nature. Both times this phrase is used (Revelation 2:9 and 3:9) it is used in reference to people proclaiming to be Jews but who really are not. This is evident through their theology and misguided worship. This term is not in reference to those Jews who embrace the Old Testament and make an ongoing sincere effort to live by its standards.
Satan can create doubt about God's ability and willingness to help someone overcome an obstacle and Israel has struggled with this. Remember the 12 spies Moses sent into the Promised Land with 10 reporting back that they thought the giants living there were too much to handle (Numbers Chapter 13 and 14). All this after witnessing God's awesome redemption of Israel from Egypt.
Satan has some influence in most houses of worship today. Even in the church (body of Christ) Satan can plant seeds of doubt concerning God and His Son Jesus. Just because Jesus used the term "Synagogues of Satan" doesn't mean He was singling out the Jews as being the only people able to be influenced by Satan in a house of worship. Mosques, Churches and Temples are all vulnerable.
Satan's influence also reached the Disciples of Jesus (Matthew 16:23). Even Jesus Himself was not exempt from Satan's temptation. Remember when Satan tempted Jesus 3 times (Matthew 4:1-10). The truth is that the New Testament teaches that Jews along with the rest of the world including Christ and His Disciples have had to have to face Satan's temptation.
If the truth was known some of the teachings of Jesus have even found their way into the Talmud. Consider this passage "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus has traditionally been condemned for reducing the law into these two commandments. In the Talmud we find this passage which was written long after Jesus died. This shows us that some of the teachings of Christ were accepted into Judaism without the acceptance of Christ Himself.
When he went before Hillel, he said to him, "What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it."(Talmud - Mas. Shabbath 31a.
Jesus pretty much called it as He saw it. His criticism was mostly for the Jewish religious leaders. When His disciples and followers made poor decisions they heard about it also. He even told Satan to get away from Peter (Matthew 16:23).
Israel's best friends today are Bible believing Christians, precisely because a proper reading of the New Testament will produce love for Israel, not hatred.(6)
Anti-Semitism in the Church: Anti-Semitism exists in much of the world today. The body of Christ (the church) is not exempt. Some pastors erroneously teach that God is done with Israel or that the Church has replaced Israel. And even though Martin Luther (1483-1546) made a great contribution to Christians being able to understand that salvation comes through faith not works, he also wrote some anti-Semitic writings supporting the idea to burn down the synagogues of the Jews. Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism was well known towards the end of his life but is not well known today.
In Mein Kampf, (often read by skin head and neo Nazis groups today) Hitler listed Martin Luther as one of the greatest reformers. And similar to Luther in the 1500s, Hitler spoke against the Jews. The Nazi plan to create a German Reich Church laid its bases on the "Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther." The first physical violence against the Jews came on November 9-10 on Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) where the Nazis killed Jews, shattered glass windows, and destroyed hundreds of synagogues, just as Luther had proposed. November 10th was Luther's birthday.(7) For more on anti-Semitism in the body of Christ check out A Brief History Of Anti-Semitism In The Church.
It is obvious that Christians have not done a good job trying to provoke the Jew with jealousy. It is a good thing that God knows all people fall short and sin. It's too bad some people still don't get that and think that something they have done is good enough to get them into heaven. Think how much sin would accompany someone into Heaven if that was true. Messiah Jesus was the only perfect one and it is His righteousness that is imputed to those who believe and trust in Him, and on that ground alone, they are accepted by God. (This is sometimes referred to as the doctrine of Justification)
Some rabbis taught and still teach that because of the righteousness of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Israel's three founding fathers, that the good works these three patriarchs did will be credited towards people even today. Some Jewish prayers call on God to remember the righteousness of these three men and somehow credit those who are saying the prayers with the founding fathers righteousness. You can see that having someone else's righteousness be given or imputed to another person is a concept that is not foreign to Judaism. In this case the prayer wants the righteousness to come from the three patriarchs instead of Jesus. In Genesis 15:6 God makes it clear that Abraham's righteousness came because He believed (through faith), not because of what he did (through works). Why would it be any different for anyone else?
Judaism's worship of Messiah (Before Birth)
Messiah as Jesus after Birth
Jews worship their Creator.
The Zohar teaches that the Spirit that hovered above the waters during creation was that of the Messiah.
John teaches all things came into being through Christ.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or
rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Most Jews worship the inspired words of the Old Testament (Torah) as their primary authoritive text.
God spoke the universe into existence. Messiah, before He was made flesh, was the word. God used the word as His creating agent during the creation process to create the universe. Jesus is also the word (divine revelation) that makes up the Torah/Bible.
Sacrificial System. The Blood of the Lamb as a substitutionary blood sacrifice for mans sin.
Messiah is identified as The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Jews worshiped each day but The Sabbath was special due to God's commandment to Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
The High Priest made atonement for Israel's sins (Lev. 16:34). The Priestly position was partly a go-between representing Israel before God. Abraham (the first Jew) worshiped the priest Melchizedek (Gen.14:20). The Messiah's priesthood is recognized through King Davis's bloodline.
(The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." Psalm 110:4)
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
First Fruits originated as an agricultural harvest holiday involving the omer offering. It was an unleavened meal offering. In Scripture, leaven is symbolic of sin; thus, an unleavened offering represents that which has no sin.
After the destruction of the temple it gained rabbinical support for becoming a holiday focused on the giving of the law. God gave the law to Moses on this holiday (Tractate Shabbat 86b) and Jews try to live by the "letter of the law". (The Word)
Since Jesus (who was sinless) died on Passover, the 14th of Nissan, and arose three days later, then we can say that the Messiah rose from the dead on the 17th of Nissan (First Fruits). That is why He is called the First Fruits of those who rise from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
God used this holiday to send the Holy Spirit to believers in Messiah so they could now live by the "spirit of the law" empowered by the Holy Spirit Himself.
Feast Of Tabernacles. The last day of this festival included a ceremony known as a Water Libation Ceremony. The pouring out of the water during this ceremony was symbolic of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit during the days of Messiah.
Even though this ceremony is not practiced today because there is no temple, the liturgy can still be found in some Jewish prayer books. One prayer said during the Tabernacle holiday reads:
"Please God! Those who pour water before you, from the springs of salvation may they draw water, save now and bring salvation now.(6)
Even though it was Passover time when Jesus made His Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, He was treated as if He was the long awaited King from the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. When the people threw the Palm branches down, they were saying that they were aware of the Messianic traditions of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) and recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
The Jews worship The Father.
Jesus declared His Divinity with the Father during the Feast of Dedication when He said:
"I and the Father are one." (John 10:30)
God as King of the Jews
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was
born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
|The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
Here we have seen that the Jews worship the Creator of the Universe, the Word, the Blood of the Lamb, the Sabbath, and the High Priest. We also see that the Jews worshiped God during the First Fruits offering, The Feast of Tabernacles and The Water Libation Ceremony. They also worship the Father as the King of the Jews and recognize their God as being their Good Shepherd.
All of these things manifest themselves together and point toward the Messiah Jesus Christ. When someone worships Jesus they worship all of these things in their fulfilled form. When they worship these things individually, they are worshiping the Messiah in His pre-Birth form weather they realize it or not. In other words Jews do worship the Messiah in His pre-incarnate form without even knowing it. They are worshiping an incomplete form of the Messiah.
Ultimately it is up to God who He gives eternal everlasting life to and who He doesn't. No one should second guess God's grace and mercy. Nor should anyone second guess God's judgment and wrath.
God does however make us a few promises that we can all rely on. God promises and teaches (reveals) some of the same things in both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. These biblical principles include:
Old Covenant (Old Testament)
New Covenant (New Testament)
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son-- both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
This is what the LORD says-- Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. (Isaiah 44:6)
Not everyone will end up in Heaven:
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. (Lev. 17:11)
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1)
Jesus read from this passage in Isaiah and then proclaimed that day as having arrived (Luke 4:16-21).
Believing in the Messiah can be a complex issue because He also (the same as the Father and Holy Spirit) has a past, present and future tense to Himself. Some Jews unknowingly believe in some but not all of His positions.
The Past: Today's Jews worship the Messiah in several of His Pre-Birth positions without even knowing it.
The Present: Today's Jews do not worship the Messiah in His present day form as a substitutionary blood sacrifice, High Priest and savior.
The Future: Some of today's Jews realize that the day is coming when the Messiah will come to earth, set up His earthly kingdom and rule from Jerusalem as the King of all Kings. At that time, Jews and Christians (and everyone else on earth) will worship the Messiah in His role as Deliverer and Redeemer and will gladly submit to His Kingdom authority recognizing Him as King of all Kings and King of the Jews.
Does this sound a lot like Christianity? It should because Christianity could be considered the total manifestation and fulfillment of all of Biblical Judaism. In other words Judaism has had three major developments.
Today, most Jews come to faith in their Jewish Messiah one at a time. Through God's grace the number of Jewish believers in Jesus is growing at an increasing rate. From the first disciples in Jesus generation through today God has always allowed a remnant of Jews to know the truth about the Messiah.
Paul teaches us that even though Israel suffers from spiritual blindness it is only a temporary state.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)
This is actually one of the main reasons for the second coming of the Messiah. Jesus comes back to save Israel from the worlds political, military and religious persecution. He also comes to lead Israel (and the rest of the remaining world after judgment time) into the Messianic kingdom era. That's why Israel will know Him as the King of all Kings with the Government upon His shoulders (Isa.9:6). This event occurs when the Nation of Israel is given by God enough revelation for them to have faith in the Messiah and they are willing to accept it.
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him. (Zechariah 12:10)
When the Jewish people see the wounds of crucifixion in His resurrection body, they will realize that the one whom Israel rejected in His First Coming was their true Messiah. At that time Israel will repent for their previous state of unbelief (Zech. 12:10-14).
This will be complemented by the fulfillment of the words Christ spoke concerning His literal second return to earth. "For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39).
This will cause National Israel to be included in the blessings that the rest of the believers in the Messiah have already willingly received through the blood on the cross and the redemption that it purchased. Israel will then know their Messiah.
In response to their repentance, God will cleanse them of their sin.
"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity" (Zechariah 13:1).
Paul finishes the revelation with this comment.
And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. (Romans 11:26)
Yes, Israel's blindness is only temporary. It is long enough for the gospel to go out to the rest of world. This section of time is often referred to as the age of the Gentiles and we are living in it now. This age ends when the Israel's blindness is removed and the Millennial Kingdom begins.
Judaism is incomplete without the willful recognition of her Messiah. God will however make it complete with the second coming of Christ. In God's perfect timing, Israel (and the rest of the world) will know and worship the Messiah in His completed form. As Isaiah said, "Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear" (Isa.45:23). The New Testament identifies who everyone in kneeling to when it says "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Phil. 2:10). Until then, most Jews will continue to accept the Father and Holy Spirit as God but not the Son.
There is a total reconciliation coming between the belief systems of Jews and Christians. Both look forward to the coming days when the Messiah will come to earth and set up His kingdom ruling it from Jerusalem.
Is there another way to get to heaven without having to go through Jesus? The New Testament does make it clear when it quotes Jesus saying: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). If getting to heaven includes a relationship with the Father then anyone and everyone will go through Jesus one way or another to get there.
Both Jew and Gentile are justified through faith as Paul teaches: Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. (Romans 3:29-30)
We like to believe that the fetus who dies in the womb or the young child that dies without the ability to understand who Jesus is will still go to heaven. Obviously those children do not have the same opportunity to willingly accept Jesus as we do.
There were millions of Jews murdered during the Holocaust because of their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is hard for some of us to imagine a God that gives love, grace and mercy to the most extreme sinners', due to the sinners relationship with Christ. It's also hard for some to imagine this same loving God, at the same time, sending others, who have an incomplete understanding of what the mission of the Jewish Messiah was and still is, to eternal damnation.
It's not that believing in one or two of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit combination is enough to satisfy or please God. We know God is pleased by and through His Son. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased"(Mark 1:11). It's that we just don't know for sure how and when God reveals the ultimate truth about Christ to those who partially embrace Him weather it is knowingly or unknowingly.
In the United States we have freedom of religion and most of us have at least heard the Gospel message. Some countries do not make that freedom available to everyone. Some people will live their entire life and then die without ever hearing the truth about Jesus.
Christians believe that no one gets to heaven without going through Jesus and that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (1 John 5:11). It is unclear how and when this may apply to any of the previous groups mentioned. It is unclear how the Son interacts with those that were unable (not unwilling because being unwilling is having an opportunity to know Christ but choosing not to) to understand the mission of Christ and the Gospel message while they were alive. It is unclear how it applies to Jews who worshiped God before the birth of Christ. It is only clear that in some way, somehow, everyone who receives salvation will go through the Messiah for that Salvation.
Some religious ceremonies may have looked forward to the coming days of the Messiah by embracing the Messiah in His pre incarnate form, but ultimately the Old Testament teaches "What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, And the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. (Isaiah 1:11)
The New Testament confirms this also:
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14)
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4)
God is sovereign and we must respect His decisions even if they are different from what our own decisions would be. That's one reason we are told "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Whatever decision God makes concerning whoever gets into heaven and whoever doesn't. Whatever process He uses to give the "world that he so loved" to know Jesus as the Messiah, who is the only one able to provide us with eternal salvation. Whatever wrath and justice He pours out on those who intentionally choose not to embrace the Messiah after they have had the chance, we should respect that decision. After all, if anyone has wisdom, it is God Himself.
For the Christian who knows they have a saving relationship with the Jewish Messiah Jesus, we are told that we should be full of joy. Knowing that our life here is only temporary but our eternal life sealed in place by the power of the Holy Spirit Himself, is guaranteed because nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
For those who don't have that security, that relationship with the Jewish Messiah, I would like to encourage you to spend some time in prayer. Ask God to reveal the truth to you about this Jewish Messiah Jesus.
God promises that if we come to Him with a spirit of an open mind and a heart of true repentance, along with a sincere confession that we are willing to recognize Jesus as Lord over our own life, and have faith that Jesus was raised from the dead as a sign of the Fathers approval of the ultimate sacrifice, His own Son, who died on the cross for our sins, we will be saved. Hallelujah
Why would anyone want to delay all the blessings that come with knowing this. If you are counting on anything else besides the perfect righteousness of God Himself to get you into heaven, then please ask yourself this question.
Knowing that God came to earth to personally make a way for you (and me) to get to heaven, died on the cross for our sin even though He Himself was sinless and is more than able to provide you with eternal security because of this. Knowing all of this, just what is it that you think you can add to this that doesn't at the same time take away from Gods accomplishment on the cross.
There is nothing you can offer God at all- other than letting His Son take the punishment for your sin.
The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations (Psalm 98:2).
For more information on how the Messiah and the Jewish holidays fit together please read Complete In Messiah.
1). Samson Hirsch commentary of book of Leviticus p.470.
2). John MacArthur Study Bible (Nasb) p.1399.
3). Information from The Biblical And Historical Background Of The Jewish Holy Days, by Abraham P. Bloch is copyrighted material and was used with permission of the publisher. KTAV Publishing, 900 Jefferson Street. box 6249, Hoboken, NJ 07030-0102.
4). Ohr Somayach International
5). The Complete ArtScroll Siddur published by Mesorah Publications, p.120.
6). Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Volume Four by Michael Brown.
8). The Complete ArtScroll Siddur published by Mesorah Publications, p.745.
9). The Messiah in the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.