Friday, May 29, 2009

A Christian's Response: The Jewish Requirements for Maschiach

This post comes in response to a comment on a previous post, Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up, by a Jew with the charge that Jesus did not meet the full list of requirements for the Maschiach (Messiah). I asked and was given this list by Tabatha aka "A Jew with a View" and so I've decided to post it here with some brief commentary. In a later post, I will provide a more detailed outline of Christian Messianism as it relates to the Jewish criticism of Jesus' claims to the Messiah title, "Anointed One."

My comments here will be color coded:
Already met in Jesus
Promised at Jesus' return
Incorrect exegesis resulting in a false criterion
  • He will be descended from King David (Isaiah 11:1) via King Solomon (1 Chron. 22:8-10)
    Realizing that Jews reject Jesus' lineage because he is not a son of Joseph, I will address this point in a later post, but for here, state simply that Christian theology accepts this as being met in Jesus.

  • The Moshiach will be a man of this world, an observant Jew with “fear of God” (Isaiah 11:2)
    This is the mysterious Kenosis, also rejected by Jews. However, I want to challenge the meaning of "an observant Jew." Observant of Jewish traditional legalism, or of God's law?

  • Evil and tyranny will not be able to stand before his leadership (Isaiah 11:4)
    That's what we're waiting for!

  • There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8)
    That's what we're waiting for!

  • All of the dead will rise again (Isaiah 26:19)
    Unless, of course, you're a Sadducce :-)

  • The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness (Isaiah 51:11)
    According to Romans, it's the remnant that will experience this. Just as it was the righteous Remnant who God saved from exile in the Old Testament.

  • He will be a messenger of peace (Isaiah 52:7)
    In principle, I believe Christians agree with this. However, He will wage war to destroy the enemy before peace can be established.

  • The ruined cities of Israel will be restored (Ezekiel 16:55)
    Close, but not quite. This text does not promise a restoration for all of the cities of Israel, but rather We await the restoration of Jerusalem.

  • Weapons of war will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9)
    Umm... ok, I guess. Not one that Christians emphasize greatly, but probably goes hand-in-hand with the perfect peace that will be established.

  • The Temple will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 40) resuming many of the suspended mitzvot.
    That's what we're waiting for! The Temple represents God's glory on earth. Even though there's some difficulty around the presence of animal sacrifice in view of Christ's eternal sacrifice, but Dr. Constable gives a good description in his commentary.

  • He will then perfect the entire world to serve God together (Zephaniah 3:9)
    What's left after judgment, yes.

  • Jews will know the Torah without Study (Jeremiah 31:33)
    Many view this as having happened, at least partially, with the indwelling. However, this, along with the following verse 34, will happen in perfection when we receive our resurrected bodies at His return.

  • He will give you all the desires of your heart (Psalms 37:4)
    Umm... ok, I guess. But, I do like John Piper's definition that the true desires of our heart are for God Himself.

  • He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful (Isaiah 51:3, Amos 9:13-15, Ezekiel 36:29-30, Isaiah 11:6-9).
    That's what we're waiting for!

  • Once he is King, leaders of other nations will look to him for guidance. (Isaiah 2:4)
    Close, but rather we hold that He will rule over all nations Himself.

  • The whole world will worship the One God of Israel (Isaiah 2:17)
    What's left after judgment, yes.

  • The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)
    I agree. I am of the persuasion, based on Romans 10-11, that ethnic and national Israel will hold a position of higher importance in the Millenial Kingdom.

  • Nations will end up recognizing the wrongs they did to Israel (Isaiah 52:13-53:5)
    And to Christ. Just before they're judged, yes.

  • He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations (Isaiah 11:10).
    Hi, I'm a gentile, and I believe in the Messiah :-)

  • Knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9)
    Can't wait!

  • The Sanhedrin will be re-established (Isaiah 1:26)
    Close, but what Isaiah had in mind was not the Sanhedrin of Jesus' day. He clearly says, judges as in days of old.

  • All Israelites will be returned to their homeland (Isaiah 11:12)
    I agree. I am of the persuasion, based on Romans 10-11, that ethnic and national Israel will hold a position of higher importance in the Millenial Kingdom.

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In My Fathers House There Are Many Rooms...

This post comes in response to a question posed by Tabatha at Tabatha (a self-proclaimed Jew) writes:
There is, I seem to recall, a beautiful piece of writing in the Christian bible; I don't know all of it but it starts with, I think: 'My father's house has many mansions'...?

I've always liked it, though I don't remember where I first read or heard it. It would just be great to learn a bit about the full piece of text?

How do you interpret that first line?

Thanks for asking, Tabatha. I have to admit that I'm hesitant at first--knowing from our past exchanges that you're much more familiar with Jewish tradition than I--to add my commentary on this passage, but I trust that what the Lord has to say through this passage will not be hindered by my commentary. I hope, in fact, that He uses me to illuminate in a way that's glorifying to Him.

The passage comes from John 14:2, during what is called the Passion Week that led up to Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus had predicted his own death in chapter 12, to His own disciples' dismay. Then, in the scene that immediately precedes this text, Jesus then foretells that it will be the denial and betrayal of His own disciples that will lead to His death. Peter, specifically, says He will "follow" Jesus where He goes--which is of course, to death--but Jesus predicts just the opposite for Peter.

Now, we also know from the other parallel accounts of this occasion (the synoptic Gospels) that it was at this very meal where Jesus declares the "New Covenant" in His blood. This brings us, at last to the context of the house and the rooms. One of the clearest descriptions of the old and new covenants is found in Jeremiah 31:32, where God describes the new covenant in this way:
"It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,"

Both covenants, New and Old are likened to that of marriage. God was a "husband" to Israel, leading them by the hand--an affectionate term. Likewise, the Church is called the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5:32. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the covenant of marriage is modeled after God's covenant with His people, rather than that His covenant is modeled after marriage. (See The Nuptial Gospel for deeper discussion)

And so, at last I've laid the contextual groundwork for dissecting the passage of Scripture in question. In John 14:1-4, Jesus tells his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."

Although the Latin Vulgate and the King James versions both translated "rooms" as "mansions"--the better understanding would be "rooms." Literally, it's a dwelling place. But, whereas we consider a dwelling place to be it's own freestanding home, not so in the lower classes of this culture--such as the fisherman, carpenters, and so on. The custom practice was for a bridegroom to work during the year of his engagement on building a new addition, like a lean-to, onto his father's house. This would be where he and his new bride would live in the years after their marriage until, hopefully, someday he could begin his own family or inherit his father's house.

Jesus' message here to His disciples is that, though He is leaving them for a while, He is still their groom. He goes to prepare a place for them in the Father's house. Similar to the first covenant, which was established by the blood of a bull and mediated through Moses, Jesus here is giving a poignant metaphor for the love and care that is represented in the New Covenant, which He was about to confirm by His own blood (Luke 22:20) and would mediate Himself as our high priest (Hebrews 4:14-15).

And if He is departing temporarily, but remains their promised groom, then He certainly will return for them. That is the assurance He offers in verse 3. The eschatological meaning of this is still debated, but whether it is a pre-tribulation rapture that is in view, the descent of the new Jerusalem, or simply a metaphorical description of their reuniting at their own death, the end result cannot be mistaken. We will live in an everlasting loving relationship with God.

In the verses that follow, Jesus goes on to describe the mysterious relationship between Himself and God, their unity as one God-Head, and yet the distinction of Jesus as "the way" to the Father. For a more in depth look at this topic, refer to We Beheld His Glory, We Beheld His Glory Part II, Learning from the Kenosis, and Christ the Mediator.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Christians, Messianics, and Jews

I have been enjoying an exchange of thought and positions with a blogger who calls himself "A Jew with a View." The more I read about his "bouts" with the Messianic Jews, the more I tend to realize that Christianity thinks that a Jew is something entirely different than an orthodox Jew does. Nomenclature is the root of so many arguments.

First, I have to confess that I can understand and relate to several points he has made stating that Jews themselves define what Judaism is, and it excludes those who worship a man--even the God-Man. So, in other words, the prevailing argument is that Messianics are not Jews.

However, I would like to propose that what is meant by Messianics and Christians by the term "Jew" is not the same definition as what an orthodox Jew might mean, and as such, if we can dissect the issue there may be less of an argument.

Messianics (and all Christians who actually understand orthodox theology... probably an equally minor proportion as in Judaism) understand that what it means to be Jewish is to be an Israelite in covenant with the One God wherein, among many other facets, sins are forgiven by expiation through a sacrifice.

If in fact Judaism and Christianity can agree up to this point, then the key difference is not in whether a person follows Jewish interpretation of the covenant--or rather, an acceptable New Covenant as described by the Prophet Jeremiah--but whether their interpretation is in fact one Jewish interpretation.

At this point, it's prudent to point out that there is a varying viewpoint on theology even among those who call themselves Jews today--ranging from orthodox to apostate.

So, the fact remains that a few Pharisees (Paul & Nicodemus), a zealot (Peter), a Rabbi (Jesus), and several fisherman and carpenters who were all themselves Jews were the originators of this new, albeit unorthodox, interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures which undergird Christian theology and Christology. So, is the Jew with a View right in claiming that Messianics are not Jewish? That they have no claim to the name "Jewish?" I don't think so.

If by this point in reading this post you're entirely lost... I would encourage you to read up on the arguments made at and, if you are so inclined, join the discussion!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

So the World May Know You Reign... You Reign in Us.

One of the less fortunate effects of God having placed in me a deep reverence for His sovereignty and the doctrines that acknowledge it has been the thought process that now accompanies any worship experience. Operating out of a deeply rooted understanding that God is wholly and totally sovereign over all things, salvation included, has prompted some questioning over certain worship songs. However, rather than digress into a philosophical conundrum over the phrasing of this lyric or that, I am compelled to write today about a song that I sang yesterday to my God with incredible joy.

In the song, "Reign in Us" by Starfield, the ending chorus says,
"Come cleanse us like a flood and send us out
So the world may know you reign, you reign in us."
As I sang this song aloud it struck me how great a picture this truly is of Jesus' command to tell the whole world about the good news of the Kingdom. That the world may know God reigns, and specifically that He reigns in His people, is exactly how He has purposed for His name to be glorified from as early as His covenant with Abraham. God's reign in Israel was to cause other nations to say, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them" (Deut. 4:7).

In the same way, we are all to reflect the "Kingdom Values"--as our pastor has been calling it in his sermon "Jesus Speaks" series from the Sermon on the Mount. Our message to the world is to be that of proclamation of God's reign, His praiseworthy personhood, and His covenant of love with His church.

Yet, just as I do desire to go out into the world and proclaim that He reigns, and as we the Church are sent out to show that He reigns in us as a body, none of this can be shown without first the cleansing through Christ. The song declares first, "Come cleanse us." That is the prerequisite for His sending us out. When we declare His reign, it is not that we are declaring our choice to allow Him to reign. No, instead, we declare that it is He who re-created us anew, purchased us at a price, adopted us as sons, and now reigns supreme in our lives.

"But, Nick!" someone will exclaim, "The world will hear that as an undesirable dictator-god and not respond." But I ask, for whom do you proclaim? It is for God that we proclaim; it is in adoration of His son that we obey the command to go into all nations; We baptize in the name of the Father, Spirit, and Son; we teach them everything that Christ taught us; indeed it is Christ who is with us always.

So, as our desires are brought in line with God's (a nice plug for compatibalism), we pray "please reign." And, having the cleansing of His blood we are sent out to proclaim that He reigns... He reigns in us.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

John Calvin - Man of the Millenium

I'm starting a new book--a gift from my mother-in-law who is in every way familiar with my Calvinist bent--that is a biography on the great reformer's life. John Calvin: Man of the Millennium is a biography by Dr. Phillip Vollmer designed, as the cover tells me, to be a "family read-along." However, as I read it, I'm rather glad I don't have my family at my feet listening along.

Already about 100 pages into the book, there is nothing disgraceful or deplorable about the book that I should denounce it. However, I haven't found much to praise either, except for Vollmer's fond adoration of Calvin and very apparent respect for the works of his life. In general, as most biographies are, I suppose, the book is valuable largely for one such as myself who is totally unstudied in Calvin's life, but don't look to it for a riveting read.

That's right! Shocked? As one who has developed a theology that even I must admit is distinctly Calvinist, taught it in the church, and argued vehemently for God's sovereignty on this very blog, I am markedly unfamiliar with Calvin himself. This fact, by the way, is why I commonly cause eyebrows to raise by saying, "well, I guess most would call me Calvinist, but I don't use that term." Not that I'm decidedly against it, just that I'm not always sure what is meant by the term in the mind of the one applying it to me and I suppose I should be sure that I know what is meant first, too.

I've already determined that one of my next reads will have to be Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. And, by now, you might ask yourself what in the world I have read. Well, Romans... a lot :-) Not to mention the 65 other canonical books that accompany it. In a previous post, The Layman's Library, you'll notice most of my study includes reference material, commentaries, and of course, audio learning from

All in all, I look forward to enjoying the relaxed pace this weekend of reading my book and escaping work for three days. I do look forward to what I'll learn from it. However, I'm fully aware that as Monday winds down I'll be good and ready for an MP3 lecture on Old Testament Theology, or at least a heated theological debate.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

An Eternal Perspective

As I have been preparing for this week's lesson from James 5:7-12, I can't help but feel a sense of deja vu. Over the past several years, it seems that in nearly every study I've taught, we come across a passage with a similar theme. Live with an eternal perspective. Hmm... could it be this is a significant theme to the New Testament authors? Likely so.

Peter, in chapter 1 of his first epistle, told his readers to rejoice in their inheritance. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, writes on and on about the vanity of vanities in a life lived without eternal perspective. In a lesson that even predates my blogging archives, I distinctly recall Paul's emphasis on the eternal perspective in his discussion on Marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 and of course even more directly in chapter 15.

What's this all amount to? We're living in a temporary state. James has already told his readers, "You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). And, while I can say this and most who read it think to themselves, yes, we already know that. But do we live as though we know it?

There are a small handful of examples James points out in our text for this week. First, have the patience of a farmer. Now, we aren't the landowners, so we don't reap the harvest. We are, as Jesus put it, the workers for the field. But we must be patient. And why is that so hard? Because there's no fun all summer long until the harvest in the fall.

The festival is only when the work is over. Right now, we're sowing and plowing with little immediate payout for our work today--when, oh when, can we finally enjoy the feast of firstfruits that the Church has been awaiting for nearly 2000 years? When Christ returns we will celebrate with unbridled joy. But until that day the sun beats down, weeds keep popping up, and we must live entirely by faith while our wages we await in heaven.

James gives a great example of this sort of delayed gratification--one that we are to take as a model for our ministry on earth. "Take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord," James says (5:10). It's the same thing we read in 1 Peter which I commented on in an earlier article called, "Theopneustos."
They weren't serving themselves at all... ever thought about that? Get a message from God, have no idea what it means, and you're pretty sure nobody in your lifetime ever will, but you record it anyways for the benefit of people to come centuries after you. What a task!
It's impossible for us to fully grasp the notion of eternal life. We're told, however, to live as though we do... or at least try. Why? It's simple: because there is no higher hope. There is no better solace for the suffering servant of God than the hope for things yet unseen. In what has become on of my most often quoted passages, Paul writes: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Cor. 15:19).

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Monday, May 11, 2009


This post comes from my good friend and fellow believer, Adam Daulton:
So I was studying for my Compensation Management final on Friday afternoon during lunch. I was reading about how the cost of compensating employees, especially in the modern world, has gone up. A big area that it has gone up is health care costs. The book mentioned that because people today view death as unnatural, money and resources are spent extending the life of terminally ill people, which eventually roles back to the cost of health care.

This got me thinking. I've never viewed death as unnatural. I've always viewed it as natural as birth, pooping, eating, sleeping, breathing, and everything else that we as humans do. Without death there is no life. Death is just another thing that happens in life, it just happens at the end of it. Death, not only is the end of life on this earth, but defines what life is.

The more I have thought about this view of death being unnatural, the more that I am grateful for my salvation through Jesus Christ and relationship with Him. Don't get me wrong, I love life! I love sunny mornings and thunderstorms rolling over cornfields, but at the same time I do not see life as warding off death. When it comes time for me to die, whether that is today or 50 years from now, it is going to be as natural as going home to eat some of Mom's lasagna.

So that is what I've been thinking this weekend that dying is natural. Just some food for thought...any comments are appreciated!

May there be a road,


Philippians 1:20-21:

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed , but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

P.S. Also, please don't take this as a view for or against extending the life of terminally ill people. It is just a thought on the idea of death being unnatural. Thanks.
I have the pleasure of teaching this Sunday on the topic of taking on for oneself an eternal perspective. If nothing else, the text for this Sunday--James 5:7-12--teaches us that whatever we face in these "last days," it is incomparable to that which we await at Christ's return.