Messianic congregations and Messianic-related activities are increasing in popularity, along with their celebrations of the Hebrew feasts and festivals and the blowing of the shofar.
While this may seem unusual, the historical and biblical evidence demonstrates that following Yeshua (Jesus) was initially an entirely Jewish concept! Jesus kept the Torah or Law of Moses, studied the Jewish Scriptures that many now know as the “Old Testament,” read them aloud at the local synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath)(Luke 4:16), and was called “Rabbi” by his followers.
“There are now tens of thousands of Messianic Jews in the United States alone; some estimate as many as 1.2 million,” according to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), founded in 1915. They report Messianic synagogues springing up in almost every major city across the U.S.
Messianic Judaism is also growing rapidly in other nations as well, including North and South America, Europe, Oceania, the former Soviet republics, North Africa, and especially Israel.
“The foundation of Messianic Judaism is each individual’s personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Messiah Yeshua,” notes the MJAA.
Rather than Jewish people “converting” to Christianity, a Jewish person who believes in Yeshua (Jesus) is accepting the blood atonement of their Jewish Messiah as prophesied in their own Scripture.
“Sometimes Jewish people refer to themselves as Jews who are completed,” the MJAA states.
The rapid increase in Messianic congregations since 1967 has not been limited to those of Jewish heritage. Many non-Jews or “Gentiles” are taking part by studying Hebrew, attending and participating in the feasts and holidays — the roots of the Christian faith. And many are attending Messianic congregations as well.
Since the establishment of the Church, a few years after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, centuries of anti-Semitism began. During the Councils of Elvira and Nicaea (held during the first quarter of the fourth century), many rules and regulations were put in place by the early church to separate from the Jewish roots of the faith.
Many religious leaders tried to erase any connection between a Jewish Jesus and Christianity. These questionable decisions were not God’s highest and best for the Jewish people or the Church, resulting in the separation of Christians from the blessings of their Jewish heritage and the resultant denial of salvation and truth for many of the Jewish faith.
Dr. Chuck D. Pierce, president of Glory of Zion International Ministries, believes a movement back to our roots is transpiring rapidly. “Unfortunately, because of the root of anti-Semitism brought into the Church in Constantine’s day, the Church rejected much of that blessing. The good news is, God is restoring what we lost,” Pierce says.
“We learn how to restore the blessing of our lost Biblical inheritance when we embrace the Jewish roots of our Christian faith. God is not calling Christians to try to be Jews, but He does want us to receive the blessings He gave through the Israelites. That’s true Christianity, the kind of Christianity the apostles knew. We have been grafted into this glorious covenant and have access to all the promises and blessings of the covenant,” continues Dr. Pierce.
History shows that atrocities were erroneously done “in the name of Jesus” which left the Jewish community not just skeptical but repulsed at the thought that Jesus could be the promised Messiah, “Yeshua Ha’Mashiac.”
However, some men and women with Jewish heritage became followers of Yeshua over the centuries by God’s holy revelation. “In the following decades (after the late 1800’s revivals) whole congregations of Jewish believers in Jesus were born. This movement was dubbed ‘Hebrew Christianity.’ ‘Hebrew Christianity’ has since become known as ‘Messianic Judaism,’” notes the MJAA.
Award winning Violinist, Concertmaster, and “Completed Jew,” Dr. Maurice Sklar says, “I believe that God raised up the Messianic Jewish movement in the past 40 years as a herald of the coming of Yeshua our Messiah, the end times restoration of Israel and the Jewish people in fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures, and in preparation for the Messianic Kingdom that Yeshua will establish during the coming 1000 years of the Millennium.’
The One New Man Network writes: “When both Jews and Gentiles come together, as stated in the scripture, we truly do create an abiding place for His Spirit. As the Jewish people bring forth the ancient covenants, and the Gentile Believers bring forth the new covenant, it creates a threefold cord that, as it says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, ‘is not easily broken’… This act of unity and covenant union makes us much stronger than we could ever have been standing on our own. When the first covenant is united with the second covenant, there is a completion that is found lacking if the two are separated from one another.”
So to what can we attribute this rise in attraction to and understanding of the roots of the Christian faith, and the rising numbers in messianic congregations?
- Repentance: There has been much corporate and individual repentance for the atrocities done by so-called “Christians” in the name of Jesus to eliminate, disgrace or seek vengeance on the Jewish people, often blaming them for the death of Jesus. Ezekiel 28: 25 states, “‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob.’” We need to continue to repent that we have not reached out sooner, for this will bring more of the Jewish community to Christ.
- Eschatology: There has been increased recognition that we are getting closer to Jesus’ second coming and that we must know more about where and when He will return along with the eschatology (the study of the End Times) regarding this amazing coming event. We recognize that Yeshua is not coming back to Oklahoma, Los Angeles or New York City, but to Jerusalem; therefore we need to know more about the city and why He is returning there. Many believe that the restored Jewish state, with Jerusalem as its capitol one day will be the seat of government of the Messiah at His return, as written in Is 2:3: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” The Bride of Christ is to be preparing for the Feast in the heavenlies, and for that we should know these customs, feasts, symbols and deep meanings now. When He comes for His Church, it should look like the First Church as in the Book of Acts.
- The Land of the Bible: Since the Six-Day War in 1967 when there was an influx of people of Jewish heritage making Aliyah (a return to their native land of Israel to live), there has been very active tourism to Israel by Christians to see the birthplace of Jesus, the tomb, the Upper Room and many other sites of both the Old and New Testament. This has peaked our interest in Israel, the land of the Bible and all things Hebraic. Without studying the history of the Bible, the birthplace of the Messiah, and the city of Jerusalem, we are missing many blessings of deeper understanding which makes it all more real to us. When Christians visit Israel, their lives are changed forever and most want to learn more after having been there.
- Current Events: The news regarding the Middle East and the enraged animosity from the countries that surround Israel causes a desperateness to find out more about our Jewish history and the biblical reasons behind the conflict. This resurgence of interest in the land of Israel increased exponentially after Sept.11, 2001. We recognize that we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as it says in Psalms 122:6, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” Our interest is inflamed to know more details about the city, the nation, and its people so that we know more specifically how to pray.
- Alignment with Israel: Christians are recognizing that is it time to align with and bless Israel since we know that the Bible says in Gen 12:2 and 3 regarding the nation of Israel: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”. Increasingly, individuals and ministries have established ties with Israel, supporting and praying for the Jewish people through on-the-ground ministries. These ministries range from providing for those that wish to make Aliyah from other countries, to aiding the poor, to ministries of evangelism, to ministries providing such specific items as bomb shelters and wedding dresses for Israel’s inhabitants.
- God’s Hand of Blessing: We see that God is indeed blessing Israel as it is the most prosperous country in the Middle East with exports in medical, petroleum, scientific, electronic and software advances, as well as being the world leader in the development and use of solar energy. The land of Israel is blooming in trees and agriculture, flowing with water with the most developed water system in the Middle East; green in the midst of the vast desert. Israel enjoys the highest standard of living of any country in the Middle East and is one of the countries with the highest life expectancies in the world. We also see the hand of the Lord when the Israeli army goes to battle with miracles flowing. All these facts raise our interest in the land of the Bible and its people, demonstrating to us that the hand of the Lord is indeed upon them. Deut 6:15 says: “Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’” As the world is attracted to the land of Israel and we see God’s hand of blessing upon that land, we know it is time to recognize that the return of Messiah is near; therefore it has become even more imperative to reach out to those of Jewish heritage for their salvation (Ezek 36:24).
- The Feasts: In exploring the Hebraic traditions, customs, and commandments by God to obey the feasts and celebrations, we find deep meaning and purpose behind them, with everything pointing to Yeshua as the promised Messiah. The feasts were a holy rehearsal for the Messiah who came and is coming once again. As many believe Messiah is returning once again during one of the Feast times, we need to know when these Feasts occur, what transpires, and why He might return at that time. We honor the Father by celebrating the Feasts and customs in the way they were celebrated in the time of the Bible. Of course, we don’t have to do the feasts or the law as a religious ritual since Yeshua was already made the perfect sacrifice; however, it behooves us to practice them as commanded by God since it causes our faith to arise, causes a deeper understanding, honors and reflects Him.
- Our Jewish Heritage: Christians are finally understanding that Jesus, the disciples, Paul and most of the early establishers of the Christian Church were, in fact, Jewish and that The One True God is the Mighty One of Israel. Christians are beginning to recognize that they are grafted in as recorded in Rom 11:24-26: “For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” When the “Gentiles” realize their Jewish heritage, reach out to and love their Jewish neighbors, the Jewish people come to recognize Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah.
- To Provoke to Jealousy: We recognize that the Bible calls us to make those of Jewish heritage jealous as it is written in Romans 11:11: “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” This word “jealousy” is not meant in a negative sense by the Lord, but in a positive sense as in provoking them to seek the truth of Yeshua and the fact that He has already come once, and will return again very soon. To “make the Jews jealous” is to demonstrate God’s power and love, to comprehend their customs and beliefs, and to understand and respect them more in the most loving way.
- One New Man: The Bible speaks about the need for us to become “One New Man” in Jesus, both non-Jews and those of Jewish descent, because Jesus wanted us to be one in Him—Jew and Gentile. There is extra power in this unity, a necessary element for Him to return. The fulfillment of Ephesians 2 for “One New Man” is the breaking down of the wall of separation and destroying the enmity between the Jewish people and non-Jews, in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:13-16 records: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” For this we need to understand deeply the covenants which God established with His chosen people. These covenants (such as the Abrahamic, Noahic and Adamic covenants) in turn become our covenants since we are grafted in when we are saved. The eyes of the Jewish people and the non-Jews are being opened to these truths. Gen 17:7 reads: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
- To the Jew First: We recognize that we need to do more to help our Jewish brethren to see that Yeshua (Jesus) is the one true Messiah. Our interest and biblical mandate is to bring the good news of the Messiah, “to the Jew first” as written in Romans 1:16, is not outdated. Romans 11:26 states very clearly that the Lord has ordained a set time in history when “All Israel shall be saved.” This mission field of showing love, understanding and evangelism to those of Jewish lineage has not been realized nor demonstrated nearly enough. As we see that scales have been falling off their eyes to see the truth, we need to pray for this much more. We recognize a need to get to know our Jewish brothers and sisters more, how they believe and the customs in which they participate. Those of Jewish heritage have the right to embrace their history and customs which are evident throughout the Bible; evident even in Yeshua’s and the Apostle (or Rabbi) Paul’s day.
- DNA Testing: There has been more and ready opportunity to verify Jewish ancestral roots with the advent of new DNA testing and advancements in genealogical verification. This has been especially important to those who are not sure if they have true Jewish heritage or not; and many Christians are finding out they are truly Jewish.
- Exploring the Word: Christians have a hunger for the deep, original meanings of words and symbols of the Bible, and for that there is a need to learn at least some Hebrew. Now it is easier than ever with lower cost programs on the computer, books and schools. There are also many more books of helps regarding the roots of Hebrew customs, word symbols and history. Many leaders in the Church are teaching this in mainstream congregations, not just in Messianic congregations. Studying the deep root meaning of Hebrew words increases our confidence and understanding of the Bible, Yeshua and His ways. It helps us to understand Redemption and the full impact of His sacrifice for us. Christians have also realized that the weekly unified Parsha readings of the Torah, the Haftarah (the prophets), and the B’rit Hadasha (New Testament), read out loud, discussed and explained in depth in the Messianic congregations just as the same Torah and Haftarah readings are read in Temples every Saturday all over the world are so very powerful, prophetic, and stress the importance of God’s Word. The beauty of the Old Testament is that each book and many words and symbols point to the true Messiah.
While some purport that Messianic congregations and the practice of the feasts and commandments of the Old Testament focus on religious legalism, less on the Holy Spirit, and less on the Resurrection of the Messiah and the New Testament, this all does, however, help us to realize the wonder and magnificence of all that points to Yeshua as the Messiah and His soon return. Also, for those of Israeli lineage who are used to their Shabbat (or Sabbath) being a certain way, this is what speaks to them…and that is perfectly alright.
Every congregation or church has its own gifts and strengths as well as weaknesses with one not being better than the other. Covenant truths and blessings, deep meanings, deep respect and honor of God, and joy are indeed a welcoming strength and gift of Messianic congregations.
When the First Council of Nicea was formed in A.D. 325, the date of celebration of the Lord’s resurrection was moved from coinciding with Passover as written in the Bible, to a more Roman practice in order to divest from our Hebraic beginnings. Many other things were changed at this council, and those of Jewish heritage were ousted from any decision making. It is time that this changes with all animosity, ungodly judgments and angst toward those of Jewish heritage, or toward any of those who attend Messianic congregations, ceasing because love and blessings need to prevail for the “One New Man”. Both Christians and those of Jewish ancestry should embrace each other and be in unity, without strife or discord.
Just as the Holy Spirit brought more understanding of eschatology in the proper time, the Lord has been bringing more understanding and revelation of the Jewish people and the land of the Bible steadily, as well as opening the eyes of the Jewish people to truth. If Yeshua really is the Jewish Messiah of whom all the Jewish Law and Prophets spoke, which He is, then it is the most Jewish thing in the world to follow Him!