, let me just spend a few words correcting that error. What seems to trouble some is the teaching that the Ruach haQodesh will be removed from the earth at this time which means that those who have the Ruach haQodesh will of necessity have to be moved off the earth themselves, or they would be left comfortless and unprotected. So how can Yahweh's people then pass though the Tribulation?
The arguments of the Pre-Tribbers essentially hang on an interpretation of the second chapter of Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians. As you will see, the error of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine basically stems from a lack of understanding of the Hebraic mindset of the author. The error is 'activated', as it were, in the first verse. I am going to use the KJV on this occasion because it was from this translation that the error originally sprung:
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Messiah is at hand." (2 Thess.2:1-2, KJV).
The fatal assumption (doctrinally-speaking) is made that "our gathering together unto Him" is a reference to the 'rapture', literally, a 'gathering into the air' to then be whisked away to heaven. This 'gathering' is, however, called the kevutz galuyot in Hebrew, that is, the gathering of the exiles of Messianic Israel in Diaspora. This gathering takes place during the time of the Torahless one - the Lawless one. Let's read the rest of this passage:
"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called Elohim or that is worshiped, so that he sits as Elohim in the temple of Elohim, showing himself that he is Elohim. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness (Torahlessness) is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way (at the Second Coming). And then the lawless (Torahless) one will be revealed, whom the Master will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless (Torahless) one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason Elohim will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess.2:3-12, NKJV).
What is the Temple of Elohim? It is us - you and me - our bodies (1 Cor.6:19; Jn.4:19-24). When lawlessness or Torahlessness sits on the throne of our hearts - when the Torah is no longer written on our hearts because we have believed the antiMessiah or antichrist lie - then the Ruach haQodesh has no place. These are those who have the Mark of the Beast. This is the "spirit (ruach) of the antiMessiah" (1 John 4:3, NIV), a false Ruach. The spirit which is anti-Torah is the spirit or ruach of antichrist or antiMessiah. It is the spirit that exalts self and opposes all truth and righteousness. These souls are those who will NOT be gathered together with Messianic Israel at the last day because they will refuse - because they do not have the heart of Zion in them. They are they who will not inherit the first resurrection and will not meet Yah'shua in the air when He returns. Both the rebellious believers and the unbelievers must await as disembodied spirits in various forms of imprisonment for a thousand years until the end of that age, the second resurrection and final judgment.
When the heavenly shofar is blown, it will be summonsing and causing the dead who were true to Yahweh and to Torah to rise from the grave, and those who are alive who obey the Torah commandments and have the testimony of Yah'shua. No one else!
Vision of the Clergyman
A week ago Yahweh showed me a vision to warn me of these things. I was shown a Protestant clergyman dressed in his ministerial garb - purple cassock and white dog-collar - whose face was darkened. As I looked at him I could feel a dark spirit coming out of him and the words of Martin Luther sprang into my mind: "You are saved by grace alone!" This, the watch-cry of the Protestant Reformation was a double-edged sword: for not only did it have the positive affect of delivering Christendom from Catholic legalism, priestcraft and bondage and open the way for the grace of Yahweh to fill hearts and set spiritual captives free, but it at the same time set the precedent for antinomianism or lawlessness which only worsened over the centuries to give us the chaos we find in Christendom today. This war-cry has, moreover, created such a deep neurosis in the Christian soul that it has effectively stunted the possibility for complete spiritual growth in the believer.
The Spirit of Luther
Our belief is that Martin Luther was both right and wrong as I am going to show you now. We take neither the extreme lawless evangelical position that we are "saved by grace alone" nor the extreme legalistic Messianic position that we are saved by Torah-observance. My concern today, however, is primarily with the lawlessness which prevents evangelical believers from getting further than Yom haBikkurim in their spiritual growth.
We have a duty to unmask this Lutheran heresy and lie which I aim to do today. For Luther's antinomianism - real or implied - not only condemns millions of evangelical believers to a second-class status in heaven as the "least" in the Kingdom of heaven (Mt.5:19) but it is also a satanic accusation against Yahweh's faithful men and women of the Tanakh who are today seated in glory.
It is not my purpose to examine why Luther took the position that he did - in my view the Reformation, though 'good' (relatively-speaking) and necessary, was stalled by the political correctness of the then European system of rulers and was never taken nearly far enough, nor did it properly shed its Catholic roots. Our task, as Evangelical Messianics, is both to take the Reformation to its full completion as well as to restore New Covenant Torah to its fullness. Before I examine the theology, let us first of all understand what kind of spirit it was that drove Luther's antinomianism. Of the Jews he said this:
"What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? ... I shall give you my sincere advice: First, to set fire to their synagogues ... in honour of our Lord and to Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians ... I advise that their houses be razed and destroyed ... I advice that their prayer books and Talmudic writings ... be taken from them ... I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain or loss of life and limb ... [W]e will believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is truthful when he declares of the Jews who did not accept but crucified Him, 'You are a brood of vipers and children of the devil ...' I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with the judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnapped children ... I have heard that one Jew sent another Jew, and by this means of a Christian, a pot of blood, together with a barrel of wine, in which when drunk empty, a dead Jew was Found". 2
The implications of such ranting are obvious, quite a part from the fact that they contain many half-truths and untruths. Not that Luther reserved his vitriol for only the Jews but was equally venomous against all his enemies, Christian and non-Christian alike. One must ask oneself the serious question: what spirit was driving this man? Clearly, as we examine his life and works, two different spirits can be discerned - both the Ruach haQodesh and the spirit of the devil. This dual-spirit sadly characterises the Reformation which is one reason we can never acknowledge it as it stands. We acknowledge and receive the good and pure it brought forth but we must of necessity dismiss the rest as belonging to the pit. Speaking of Abraham and his seed (literal and adoptive), Yahweh said:
"I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen.12:3, NIV).
In the light of this we have good grounds to sympathise with those who wonder if Martin Luther was actually saved. I'll not render a judgment on that one other than to say that such judgments are in Yahweh's hands alone. Those rantings were at any rate not of the love of Elohim and there is no evidence that he ever repented of them.
So much for the 'spirit' of Luther and Lutheranism - and incidentally, early his followers took his advice, massacring Jews, peasants, Anabaptists, and Catholics alike. Some of his later followers didn't do much better - the attrocities committed by the Swedish Protestant armies as they marched through Catholic Europe followed in the same barbaric steps as the Catholics they were trying to save Europe from. And whilst it is true that war brings out the best and worst of all people of any or no religion at all, where there is sound moral leadership, these things do not happen. The Catholic Henry V of England is a worthy example to follow.
But back to my vision of the clergyman and what Yahweh was telling me about this Teshuvah season. Messianics often get confused by the Biblical doctrine of grace - the undeserved loving kindness or unmerited favour - of Yahweh so we do need to get this properly resolved. So let us ask ourselves the question: are we saved by grace alone? And what exactly do most evangelicals mean by this?
Saved by Grace Alone?
Everyone of us who has been born again knows without a shadow of a doubt that without grace, salvation is utterly impossible. However, it is my strong assertion, and the position of this ministry, that you will nowhere find in Scripture any doctrine that remotely smacks of 'grace alone', 'grace only' or 'salvation wholly of grace'. It just isn't there. However, we also know this:
"For by [Yahweh's] favour (grace) we were saved by faith, and this was not of yourselves, but is the gift of Eloah (Elohim), not of works, lest a man should boast. For we are His own creation, who was created in [Yah'shua] the Messiah for good works, those, which beforehand Eloah (Elohim) had prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:8-10, HRV).
Paul is here quoting Yahweh from the Tanakh (Old Testament):
"'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am Yahweh, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares Yahweh" (Jer.9:23-24, NIV).
The apostle also says:
"[Yahweh] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Ruach haQodesh, whom He poured out on us generously through Yah'shua the Messiah our Saviour, that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7, NIV).
We can unreservedly unite with evangelicals with a hearty 'Amen!' at these words! The New Testament is jam-packed with statements about grace. The Gospel is a result of Yahweh's grace (Gal.1:6-9). Grace is sufficient and we as believers are called by grace (2 Cor.12:7-10; Gal.1:15). We are saved by grace, the heart is established in right relationship with Yahweh by grace, and we are justified or made right with Him by grace (Eph.2:5,8; Heb.13:9; Tit.3:7). We render acceptable service by grace, and grace imparts everlasting consolation to us (Heb.12:28-29; 2 Thes.2:18). Yahweh's grace makes us better people and helps us in times of need (1 Cor.15:9-10; Heb.4:16). Can anyone disagree with that? Not unless you are an 'unbelieving believer', someone who thinks he has to earn his salvation through Torah-obedience.
We know, and we proclaim, that we are delivered from sin by the undeserved loving-kindness of our Heavenly Father, Yahweh, through the spilled blood of Yah'shua the Messiah, and we declare that any other doctrine is false, pernicious and anathema. We are as evangelical as evangelical can be when it comes to this fundamental truth. BUT - and I underline and highlight this most strongly - BUT there is a very real danger of abusing grace - there is a danger of cheapening grace and in so doing mocking the saving work of Yah'shua. This cheapening and distortion of grace has been going on right the way throughout history since the first century and has led to the encouragement of sinning! Paul warned against this heresy when he declared emphatically:
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" (Rom.6:1-2a, NIV).
And yet Luther, in a letter to Melancthon in 1521, wrote:
"Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more strongly, who triumphed over sin, death, and the world; as long as we live here, we must sin".
Yahweh forbid such nonsense! I have to agree with Dr. Joe Mizzi when he said in response to such heresy:
"There are two great enemies of the Gospel: Antinomianism and Legalism. Antinomianism (meaning 'against the law' or lawlessness) says: Believe in Christ and you are saved. Obedience to God's law is optional; you are still saved even if you keep on sinning. On the other hand, legalism says: Believe in Christ but you need to contribute the merits of your good works to be saved. Both notions are damnable heresies and a denial of the Gospel of Christ. Contrary to legalism, the Gospel says, salvation is a free gift of grace, received by faith, and not of human works. Contrary to antinomianism, the Gospel insists that we are saved by grace unto good works that we should walk in them" 3
Our quarrel with Catholicism is in whose good works - the works of man or the works of Yahweh's Torah? As for Luther, there is no doubt that that part of him was not antinomian, as Mizzi acknowledges. Elsewhere in his writings Luther teaches that we should not sin. Nevertheless, his rejection of Torah is what caused the contradictions in his teachings, the same contradictions that modern lawless Christians are confronted with who nevertheless are forced to acknowledge that Yahweh requires them to observe certain commandments.
One of the distortions of the biblical doctrine of grace is the doctrine of 'grace alone'. This doctrine totally eliminates man's participation in his own salvation. It makes him a helpless victim of Deity's inscrutable will. The 'grace alone' doctrine is so spiritually disabling that it results in man's own spiritual stagnation. Here are three modern statements by the adherents of the false 'grace alone' doctrine:
"The plan of salvation then is seen as an all-embracing divine plan which gives the credit for man's salvation to God alone. No glory, not even a reflected glory, may accrue to man in the matter of salvation. He brings nothing, not even the will to be saved, to God". 4
"Salvation is a free gift from God to certain individuals. We exercise faith in order to be saved, but even our faith is also a gift of God. Faith is the result of regeneration. Unless the Holy Spirit energizes the sinner, that sinner cannot exercise saving faith. Unregenerate man is not capable of turning to God". 5
"We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace
Justification, the pardon of sin, and the promise of eternal life
are solely though faith". 6
Why is the doctrine of grace-alone false? Because it excuses man of any real spiritual responsibility. The New Testament also teaches:
"Though [Yah'shua] 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" (Heb.5:8-9, NIV).
Does this not bring to mind numerous other Scriptures in the New Testament about our required response? Whilst we cannot earn salvation, the one who desires it must go to source - which is Yah'shua - and obey His instructions. And He has issued hundreds of instructions in the New Testament, including obeying His Father's Torah! There is no passive faith involved here. Let us now see what happens when we embrace the grace-alone doctrine:
1. The sinner's prayer offers no incentive to obey.
First, the scriptures know nothing of 'The Sinner's Prayer.' When Saul was praying, he was told by the preacher, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of Yahweh" (Acts 22:16, KJV - cp. Joel 3:5). You never read of a non-Christian being told to be saved by simply praying. Cornelius was a praying man, however, he was lost (Acts 10:2; 11:14). There are many man-made versions of the so-called 'Sinner's Prayer.' Here's a typical one:
"I know that you have forgiven and pardoned me due only to your grace alone and to the completed work of your Son on the cross
. I thank you that through your grace only I have been forgiven and that your Son did it all for me and that through his righteousness, I am saved
Such a concept of grace-only results in the lost sinner having no incentive to obey. When the people in Acts 2 realised that they were sinners in need of salvation, they cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37, see v.23). Peter did not rebuke them by telling them, "Shame on you, Jesus has done it all for you and you are saved by grace alone," as many modern day grace-only preachers would have told them. In fact, Peter told them what they had to do to be saved. Do you remember what these were? Let me remind you:
"Save yourselves from this corrupt generation ... They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together (i.e. gathered) and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising Yahweh and enjoying the favor of all the people. And Yahweh added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:40, 42-47, NIV).
But those who teach any sort of "gathering" doctrine, or eating together, or meeting every day, are regarded as 'extreme', 'cultic', or whatever - you name it because 'unbelieving believers' just don't want to be responsible. Of evangelicals, only Anabaptists and a few others seem to have got this particular teaching right.
Think about it. The teaching of grace-alone even denies the will of man. Notice again the statement by popular author Jay Green, "He brings nothing, not even the will to be saved, to God" (Five Points of Calvinism, op.cit.). Notwithstanding, the scriptures emphasise the will of man being active in man's salvation. Yah'shua said:
"If anyone chooses to do Elohim's will, he will find out whether My teaching comes from Elohim or whether I speak on My own" (John 7:17, NIV).
It seems we have some work to do! That's what makes us Arminians - we agree with the Methodists in this area. And the next scripture you know off by heart, inside-out and upside-down:
"Then the dragon (Satan) was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey Elohim's commandments (Torah) and hold to the testimony of Yah'shua" (Rev.12:17, NIV).
What spirit is it that makes people selectively choose scripture to support a preconceived doctrine? A spirit that HATES THE TRUTH.
What else does this pernicious grace-alone doctrine do?
2. Grace alone robs man of developing saving faith.
The scriptures teach that, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Elohim" (Rom.10:17, KJV). Yah'shua's miracles are recorded to produce faith in the reader and hearer (Jn.20:30,31). However, in order to have the true grace-alone circumstance, man must not even be allowed to develop faith. Hear again author William Cox: "We exercise faith in order to be saved, but even our faith is also a gift of God. Faith is the result of regeneration. Unless the Holy Spirit energizes the sinner, that sinner cannot exercise saving faith. Unregenerate man is not capable of turning to God" (Amillennialism Today, op.cit.).
Hence, the person taught and influenced by salvation by grace-alone is not interested in developing and exercising saving faith, but he is passively waiting for Yahweh to miraculously impart such faith (cp. Jas. 2: 19-24). Such people do nothing.
3. The teaching of grace-alone offers no provision for personal growth.
The scriptures abound with teaching regarding how the Christian is not to remain a babe in Messiah, but, rather, is to spiritually grow:
"And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Master and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of Elohim" (Col.1:10, NIV).
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Master and Deliverer Yah'shua the Messiah" (2 Peter 3:18, NIV).
In fact, it is a sin to fail to grow:
"Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly - mere infants in Messiah. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" (1 Cor.3:1-3, NIV).
Notice, also, how the scriptures point out that growth involves the will and participation of the Christian:
"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of Elohim's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Heb.5:11-14, NIV).
The doctrine of grace-alone places all emphasis on Yahweh to the point of excluding man. Hence, there is no enjoined responsibility for man to do anything, including spiritually developing in Messiah:
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Deliverer Yah'shua the Messiah" (2 Peter.1:5-11, NIV).
4. De-emphasises teaching the lost.
If salvation is by grace alone, then what need is there to teach the lost the gospel of Yah'shua? Yet, the gospel is presented as Elohim's power unto salvation (Rom.1:16). Throughout the book of Acts, people were taught the gospel in order that they might believe (cp. Acts 16:30-34). If salvation is the product of grace-alone, then man does not need the gospel. I say this because to suggest as Paul did that man must "obey the gospel," means man has responsibility in his salvation and that salvation is not wholly of grace (Rom.10:9-18).
5. The concept of grace alone plays down the need to restore the fallen.
One can fall from grace, says Paul:
"You who are trying to be justified (made right with Yahweh) by law (Torah) have been alienated from Messiah; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal.5:4, NIV).
In fact, one must take heed lest one fall:
"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor.10:12, NIV)
Consider the teaching of the apostle James:
"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20, NIV).
Again, if salvation is by grace alone, how can James' teaching be explained and what duty would others have to attempt to restore the fallen?
Now I have taken the trouble to look into this in some depth this morning both for the benefit for those of you who were former evangelicals and for those who still are. There is a proper balance that must be sought if all scripture is to harmonise. On the one hand, if we are left just to our own obedience, we're in big trouble:
"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'" (Luke 17:10, NIV).
However, obedience coupled with grace is the consistent message of Scripture and this is the true MESSAGE OF SALVATION:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Elohim - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are Elohim's workmanship, created in Messiah Yah'shua to do good works, which Elohim prepared in advance for us to do" (Eph.2:7-10, NIV).
We are perfectly right to emphasise grace in our teachings, and this is something I have been doing a lot of recently. But in emphasising grace, if I should ever proclaim 'grace-alone', I would be teaching something unbiblical and antiMessiah. Grace is essential because it teaches us how to live the set-apart Torah-conforming lifestyle:
"For the grace of Elohim that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great Elohim and Savior, Yah'shua the Messiah, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:11-14, NIV).
Well I hope that you share this eagerness "to do what is good" with me. It is, at any rate, the passion of my life. If we do not have this doctrine straight we will approach the autumnal festivals with a wrong heart. Indeed, the message of Shavu'ot or Pentecost is that we are under a covenant of obedience to Torah - a covenant which has not been fulfilled or ended yet simply because Yah'shua has not returned to fulfill it at the final Yom Kippur yet!
So why did Yahweh show me this vision of the clergyman? Upon enquiring of Him the meaning of this vision, I received the following answers. Firstly, it is a warning to everyone not to go making antinomian or lawless excuses not to obey the commandments. You would be amazed how many people who were Messianics, who rebelled, who - deciding they would remain 'Christian' - went and found a 'comfort zone' in Lutheranism. That religion, whilst having many worthy features, offers an instant MacDonald's kind of 'salvation', as I call it - an easy takeaway version designed to ease conscience and guilt for sin. The clergy uniform offers a kind of external 'authority' that that assures the sinner of a father-figure taking control and responsibility for bhis actions. Like Catholics, many Lutheran Churches have 'confessionals' where a person can obtain 'absolution' just by talking something out. There is no requirement to live the Torah-obedient lifestyle. Antinomians are stealing your hearts when you trust them! They are no different from Absalom, the rebellious son of King David, who won some of the people's hearts by deceit:
"In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, 'What town are you from?' He would answer, 'Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.' Then Absalom would say to him, 'Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.' And Absalom would add, 'If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice.' Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (2 Sam.15:1-6, NIV).
This is manipulation by one wanting authority who neither had it nor was worthy of it. Now when any man or woman - especially one who is setting himself up as a minister of the Gospel - tells you that it is no sin to disobey Torah because it has been 'done away with', he is a liar and stealing your heart from Yahweh and giving it to the devil if you believe him. And those who listen to, and believe, demons soon start behaving like them.
You all know the fate of Absalom - he was a rebel. He seduced the hearts of the people, gave his father great sorrow, was responsible for the death and destruction of thousands of men, made children fatherless and mothers destitute, defiled some of his father's wives, and did much evil. He met his fate in a tree when his long, fancy hair got tangled in the branches. This man was a seducer of souls, just as lawless believers are who teach 'another gospel'.
Today Yahweh is sounding the blast of the shofar to warn you and me that He is 'coming' to pass judgment on us in two week's time. This is no trivial thing. Whether you choose to reject the moedim or not makes no difference because judge us He will. There will be no excuse for lawlessness.
There are plenty of ministers out there who will more than happily soothe your flesh and tell you it is no sin to fornicate, commit adultery, disregard the Sabbath and other moedim. They know how to smooth-talk the sinning soul with flattering words and by this means gain popularity and a following. It's how the false prophets always worked. We have been lied to on a massive scale concerning the true gospel. Princes and kings, always on the lookout for loopholes to sin, have supported these watered-down versions of the Gospel and proceeded to institutionalise them and bolster them with armies and police forces. Today that is a little more difficult, especially in the West, which at least in principle acknowledges the free practice of religious belief and has segregated religion from the state. Therefore in these countries at least a different approach must be made by the purveyors of false religion, chief of which is emotional.
Torah and Love
The false trumpet-call of apostate religion, Christian or otherwise, is this: if it feels good, it's the Ruach. As I have pointed out many times in sermons, feelings have become the inviolate politically-correct standard of our lawless planet. Love is defined by the world in terms of feelings.
However, Yahweh has another view altogether. Love is defined by what we do and in how we treat people, and we find this emblazoned in Torah itself:
"If a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Yahweh your Elohim" (Lev.19:33-34, NKJV).
Sounds rather 'Christian', doesn't it? Surprise, surprise! (see Mt.5:43; 19:19; 22:39). Paul said:
"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the Torah [relating to ones fellow man - Amp.V]. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment (completion, filling-up) of the Torah" (Rom.13:8-10, NIV).
One of the first commandments Yahweh gave to the Israelites was not to look down on a non-Israelite stranger. They were to treat the stranger as someone who had been born among them and to love him as they loved their own. Torah, being the divine teaching of Yahweh, is based not just on 'rules' but on empathy. Their own experience of suffering was supposed to lead them to an appreciation of other people's pain. Their own sorrow was to teach them how to feel with others. This is one of the reasons we are commanded to recall the suffering of our ancestors at Pesach so that we do not forget how to empathise.
Now you and I know that in reality - in the course of every day life - we can't be filled constantly with warm affection for everyone. Indeed, if we see a lot of suffering, it can numb us because we just can't cope with the overload of empathic feelings. This is both good and bad. It's good because we can all too easily suffer from emotional overload but it's bad because it can render us insensitive, hard and callous. Again, there has to be a balance, and times and seasons.
Now when Moses wrote Leviticus 19:33-34 under the influence of the Ruach haQodesh he was not writing about feelings per se. This was a law code and the language was as technical and reticent as any legal ruling where emotion would be out of place. Which leads us to understand something important about the two aspects of divine love that we are all called to learn and apply: you can be both IN mercy and justice as one passionately and emotionally involved, operating through intense feelings as well - as what I would call SURROUNDING mercy and justice without an emotional connection. BUT because both the emotional and non-emotional aspects are born of TRUTH, they are both OF Yahweh. In fact, they balance one another.
I need to explain that because this is a concept I have been struggling to get across for years and having some difficulty. To do this we have to extricate ourselves from our Western cultural upbringing and expectations and enter into the world of the ancients who were inspired to write the Bible. In the Middle Eastern treaties, to love meant to be helpful, loyal, and to provide practical support. The commandment to love was not excessively utopian, therefore, but was within everyone's grasp. Anyone could 'do' it.
As we all know, we don't always 'feel' like doing something. The reasons may be varied. We may be tired, we may be multitasking doing many things at once (in which case you can't possibly 'feel' in all of them), or you may have a spiritual issue that has disabled your ability to feel properly and empathise. Nevertheless, it is still possible to act and in so doing be demonstrating love to your neighbour. And even when our feelings protest, what can then be happening is that a higher function of our being is overriding a lower on, such as the spirit over the flesh.
Love in its total sense - whether your emotions are engaged or not (and ideally they should be at least some if not most of the time) - is therefore immensely practical, as Yah'shua taught. To love is to be helpful, loyal and to give practical support to operate within the will of Yahweh. Obviously sticking by someone loyally and helping out as much as I can while he commits adultery is not love - the context is the whole of Torah - and the worst thing I could do is support someone openly sinning. But I can stick by someone I do not like and feel no emotional connection to because he stands for something that is just and right. Thus in politics, for example, I have found myself supporting people whose overall philosophy I despise. I can respect and honour someone of different beliefs who has integrity and honour more than someone who subscribes to my own belief system who is a scoundrel. Then my loyalty is to the highest principles of truth.
Equally, there is a different kind of loyalty which is just as commendable. One of Britain's national heroes is Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson whose defeat of Napoleon's navy at the Battle of Trafalgar saved Europe from despotism. I always held him in the highest regard for his courage. When I discovered that he had committed adultery with Emma Hamilton, the wife of the British Ambassador of Naples, and set up home with her and had a daughter with her, I was furious! But then I got to reading about his wife, Lady Frances Nelson, and when I learned that she remained devoted to her husband and his memory even after his infidelity and death, my heart was just filled with admiration. What loyalty! What love! He had betrayed her but she remained true. And in spite of Nelson's undoubted service to Britain, Europe and the world, for which we have every cause to be grateful, there is no doubt in my mind who of the two was the greater and more spiritual person - his wife. Three cheers for great and noble women!
Anyway, the point of the statute in Leviticus is that talk is cheap and if you don't walk your talk, love is just a pile of hot air. Without 'practical support', saying 'I love you' is worse than nothing. As James said:
"Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18, NIV).
In this way we can know what true love is and isn't. We can see whether those who say they love us or not are actually doing what the King of Love says love is in His set-apart Torah. In judging our fellow believer we must observe what they do. That, at any rate, is how Yahweh is going to judge us this Yom Kippur. He is not going to judge us on the basis of what we have been saying or teaching, however brilliantly we may have been doing it, but on the basis of our lifestyle and the way we have been treating others this last year.
Many people in the community of Messianic Israel have been suffering silently this year and many people have done much wrong. We have also suffered at the hands of those who once walked with us but have chosen the way of the world instead. This is a time of justice and of right-ruling, with Yahweh as the judge. No man judges at Yom Kippur. All of us, great and small, stand before Yahweh spiritually, emotionally and mentally stripped naked in two week's time. He's already judging us. It began with the Teshuvah season - He's showing us, if we'll dare to look, what we have to make right - what we have to change, to get into a vital relationship with Him again, or into a better one. This is the seventh month, with seven Yahweh's number of completion and perfection. And it's us that He wants completed and perfected. The blowing of the shofar is our wake-up call but it's also the call to war because our Adversary, "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8, NIV) and that someone is you and me. We have to "resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:9, NIV).
I know that many of you have been going through hell. Some of you have had your hearts ripped out by the infidelity of lifelong spouses. Some of you have been deserted by friends and soul-mates. Some of you have lost children, homes, and family because of that murderous and devilish covenant-smasher called divorce. I guarantee all have suffered, and are still suffering. And to go through spiritual upheaval at the same time can at times seem 'unfair', but you know what? All of these things "work together" for those who love the truth (Rom.8:28). Yahweh does give you this promise:
"And the Elohim of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Messiah, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" (1 Peter 5:10, NIV).
Those of you who know me know that I am not standing her as a preacher remote to your sufferings because you know what my family and I have been going through too. I truly empathise. For those who are ready to give up, I urge you to reconsider. For remember this - after Yom Kippur comes a time of celebration - Sukkot - which I fully intend to make a day of rejoicing through Yahweh's grace. The prodigals will come home, we just have to patiently wait for them, and in the meantime carry on 'building the Kingdom', as one brother continually exhorts.
I look forward to seeing you again on the ordinary Sabbath in three days' time - I know we will have much to share. Yahweh bless you, fill you with His undeserved loving-kindness - His Grace - and move you to move into action; and thus may He make Yom Teruah 2007 a truly memorable event for us all. Amen.
The so-called 'Pre-Tribulation' Rapture doctrine
Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), translated by Martin H. Bertram, edited by Franklin Sherman: Volume 47, pp.121-306 of Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehman, Luther's Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press and St.Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1962-1974), pp.268-278
Dr. Joe Mizzi, Was Martin Luther an Antinomian? In Just for Catholics (http://www.justforcatholics.org/a161.htm)
Jay Green Five Points of Calvinism, pp.2, 28
William Cox Amillennialism Today, p.33
Baptist Church Manual, Art. 4, p.47, Art.5, p.48