Tuesday, January 5, 2016

True Jews

  It seems to be all the rage to be a Hebrew in Christian circles and I must confess it  boggles me.
  Whether it's the replacement theology crowd or the black Hebrew folks or the Hebrew roots movement or any of a dozen other little factions,  everybody appears to want to be a part of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  With clear  New Testament passages  referring to "a better covenant" built on "better promises" it really befuddles me why you would want to be  'Judaism 2.0' or the 'new Israel' or 'spiritual Jews'.  This goofiness continues to blow in like a Santa Anna  from the  desert, and   so again we tackle this issue from maybe a slightly different angle. I will do my best to not get bogged down , and if it seems like I am repeating myself it's because I am, having written several thousand words on this in the last few months (herehere, here here, here, here, here, here, here and ummm... here ).
  Let's start with the basics.  1 Cor 10:32 says "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:"   There are 3 groups mentioned in that verse, and they are mentioned separately because they are not the same thing.   That's simple, right?  Romans 2:9-10 is written to one of those groups (the church at Rome), but mentions the other two groups, which still leaves us with three groups. They are treated as three different groups because they are three different groups, and only a man with either a motive or reading comprehension issues could  mix the two.
  A man is either born a physical descendant of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, or he is born the physical descendant of some other cluster of folks.  This other cluster of folks are Gentiles. The Bible has  quite a bit to say about Gentiles, and most of it is remarkably unflattering to those of us who were born under those conditions.  But the Bible is also  quite clear that when a lost Gentile  receives salvation he is "born again" of "incorruptible seed" and he moves from his natural birth, with its accompanying doom to a spiritual birth with "life and life more abundant".  He becomes "a new creature" with an "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled". The promises made to the saved Gentile are legion, and are worth their own study, but it is important to note that according to Ephesians 2 ( "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh,...") if you are saved you are technically no longer a Gentile.  The part of you that matters is brand new. You may still be black, or Chinese or Portuguese, but the part of you that is those things has an appointment with a hole in the ground. Someday it will drop away and all that will be left will be the new man, created in Christ Jesus.
  God removes you from the group you were born into (Gentile ) and places you in a new group (the church of the living God). He performs the same operation  when an Hebrew accepts Christ.  As Ephesians 2:4 says , "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us..".  God took people from two separate groups (Jew and Gentile) and united them in His Son into one group ( the church). Ethnically you may be a Jew, but if you are saved,  then spiritually you are part of the church.  Ethnically you may be a Gentile, but if you are saved then spiritually you are part of the church.
  Having said all that, who in the world then is this group in  Rev 2 and 3?  The passages in question is verses 8-10 of Rev 2; "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
  Also in Revelation 3 we see these folks referenced;"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."

   In the passages at hand, there is nothing that says  the church is being harassed or attacked or persecuted by these false Jews, though that's a common teaching. All it says is that God is aware of their blasphemy and their lies, with a  prepared end to both. Now it very may well be that there was some confrontation there, but the passages doesn't actually say there was. So what's going on in these scriptures?
   Replacement theology postulates that there are true Jews and false Jews in the passage, with the true Jews being the church of the living God, and the false Jews being adherents of Judaism.  An interesting house of cards is built by appealing to Romans 2:28-29 , with Romans 12 either downplayed or woefully misunderstood. An embarrassingly rank handling of Galatians 6 is sometimes trotted out.   This theology is sometimes buttressed  by rabbit-trail diatribes about how either the modern-day descendants of Abraham Isaac and Jacob are impostors, or that they are so  wicked that God has forsaken them and cancelled all the promises he made to them. Follow the theology to its natural end and you wind up with saved Gentiles being assigned a tribe and occupying the land of Israel during the millennial reign of Christ as the only way to fulfill Old Testament promises.  To do so, the replacement advocate must ignore the specific nature and conditions of those verses, and cherry-pick their application.
 This is error, and it is error that leads to other errors. But it isn't sufficient just to say that the other guy is wrong, a reasonable explanation must be offered in its place, and so I submit to you an hypothesis which I think is not only consistent, but can actually be applied without punching a hole in the Old Testament.
 God gave to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a religious system consisting of various ordinances, holy days, sacrifices, et al ( Romans 3:2).  This system was supposed to point them, both as a nation, and as individuals to Jesus Christ (Gal 3:24, Luke 24).  Depending on  the condition of his heart (Mark 4)  a man would have found himself in one of two groups.  One group's heart was prepared for the  appearance of Christ (Luke 2:25), and one group's heart was not ( Mark 11:18).  The first group are true Jews according to Romans 2:28-29, and they are not unique to  Jesus' generation. They may not have understood it all, but they knew something was coming, and when it arrived in their lifetime, they received it. The second group  heard the gospel and rejected it, so God rejected their religion. Paul says in Galatians that he had been part of the ‘Jews religion’ but wasn’t anymore.  That explains who that crowd in Rev 2 is. They are Christ–rejecting members of the Jews religion who are still claiming to have the inside scoop on God, never realizing God left them behind as individuals when they rejected His Son. By doing so they were committing blasphemy (1 John 2).
  Carrying the hypothesis forward, examples of both groups existed all over the ancient world ,  and not everyone who was part of the first group got a chance to meet Jesus Christ in person. Some of them were still waiting for the consolation of Israel even after the resurrection. News traveled a lot slower back then.  But when a person  showed up in their town or synagogue showing from the scriptures (Acts 18:19) what Christ had done, the first group wanted to hear more , and the second group wanted them to shut up (1 Thess 2:14). A true Jew didn't stay a Jew for long; upon salvation he became part of the church. This still happens,by the way. There are  descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob today that  have the gospel explained to them and receive Christ.  These true Jews remain ethnically Jews, but become part of the church spiritually.
  Now that leads us to an interesting impasse. If a Hebrew who accepts Christ leaves the exclusive promises of the Old Testament (land, health, prosperity, etc) and  finds himself under the  promises found in Christ, who gets the land, health and prosperity?  Well I have an explanation for that....