Upon seeing the name "Bialystok," I cried. Perhaps the previous two hours at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C had effected me more than I realized. My mother and her immediate family, the Hirshbeins, moved to the U.S. from Bialystok, Poland before Hitler’s invasion. Those who escaped survived; the rest of the family perished as the Nazis eradicated the Jewish community of Bialystok.
The Holocaust was not the first atrocity in history, and sadly, according to the prophets, it won’t be the last. The Jewish prophet Zechariah predicted an even more horrible period for my people. About one third of Jewish people in the world were murdered under the Nazis. Zechariah prophesies that two thirds of the Jewish people will be lost in a future tribulation (Zech. 13:8). Why, God, why? Why the Holocaust?
The Enemy of God
Evil exists because of our free choice, which includes the freedom to love or rebel against God. But anti-Semitism is a special kind of evil. The Scriptures are clear regarding the basis for anti-Semitism: spiritual warfare.
The Scriptures inform us that there is an enemy of God, HaSatan (Hebrew for "the adversary"). The Adversary is working to defeat and dethrone God (Isaiah 14:12-14), as impotent, futile, and laughable such a task may seem.
God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The Adversary’s plan is to prove God wrong by nullifying God’s promises made to the Jewish people through the Jewish Messiah. God has promised that the Jewish people would always survive as a people (Jeremiah 31:35-37), and would also be the conduit of the Messiah, the savior of the world.
The Enemy’s Strategy
Satan is trying to remove the Jews as a people, and his strategy is two-fold:
1. Stop the Jews from living! The Psalms describe this most obvious strategy:
"Your foes rear their heads.... They plot against those You cherish ."Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel will be remembered no more" (Psalm 83:1-5).
Simply put: if you destroy the Jews then you can prove God is a liar. For if God can’t keep His people as He promised, then no one can trust any of His promises. Additionally, if Satan can destroy Israel as a people, he proves himself to be greater than God!
Anti-Semitism is anti-God. This accounts for the Pharaohs, Hamans, Herods and Hitlers throughout the centuries. That they are tools of Satan in no way excuses their culpability: we all are responsible for our actions, regardless of who or what influences us in those actions.
2. Stop the Jews from living as Jews! The second, more subtle (though potentially just as effective) strategy is to make Jewish identity repugnant, or at least irrelevant, to Jewish people themselves. In this way, Jewish people would not want to remain Jewish, and Israel would cease to be an identifiable nation before God. In the book of Esther, we read of Mordecai’s bad advice, followed by Esther: "Don’t reveal you’re a Jew" (Esther 2:10). Only when she abandoned that bad advice and revealed her Jewish identity was catastrophe averted.
This same bad advice has been relived by many of our people in every generation; in an attempt to fit into the Hellenistic culture of early second century BCE, some Jews actually had their circumcision surgically reversed! Even today, being Jewish is often so poorly understood that many make no attempt to maintain their heritage.
The shame of it all is that there are some Jewish believers in Yeshua* who do not maintain their Jewish identity. In some cases they didn’t value their Jewishness before they came to faith in Yeshua. For others, it’s because they are told that as followers of Yeshua they are no longer Jews. In any case, by not identifying as Jews they play right into Satan’s plan: to stop the Jewish people from existing as an identifiable people. In so doing, we not only make our faith repulsive to the general Jewish community, we work against the very testimony of God’s faithfulness to the recognizable existence of the Jewish people (Jeremiah 31:36)!
Though he was an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul understood what was at stake: the very faithfulness of God. Would the Good News of Yeshua that Paul proclaimed to Gentiles mean that God had rejected His people? His answer: "By no means! For I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God will not reject his people He foreknew" (Romans 11:1-2).
Every Jewish believer who states "I am an Israelite" or "I am a Jew" (Acts 22:3)—as opposed to "I was a Jew" or "I am a former Jew"—confirms that God keeps His people. God is faithful, and Yeshua is the hope of Israel, not its destroyer!
The Enemy’s Destroyer
Therefore for the sake of testifying of God’s faithfulness in light of this trenchant spiritual warfare, Jewish believers have a responsibility to maintain Jewish identity. In this responsibility we also have a liberty as to how we express our Jewishness, just as the larger Jewish community enjoys its liberty in the various expressions of Jewish identity. However, our lives must in some way declare "Am Yisrael Chai b’Yeshua HaMashiach - the People of Israel live in Yeshua the Messiah!"
God promised that the Redeemer of mankind and the Destroyer of Satan would be the Messiah of Israel (Gen. 3:15).
To prevent his own demise Satan would need to stop this Redeemer from coming and fulfilling His mission. We see how this dovetails with his previous ploy, since the Redeemer was promised to come through the Jewish people (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 49:10; Isa.11:10; 49:5-7). On this point, it seems, Satan has failed, since Messiah has come. But if Satan failed, then why is there still anti-Semitism today after Messiah’s resurrection?
Am Yisrael Chai!
The survival of the Jewish people is the lynchpin of God’s future activity and victory, because the return of the Lord is tied to the repentance of Israel. Yeshua said to our people:
"You will not see me again until you say, Baruch Haba B’Shem Adonai, ‘Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord’" (Matthew 23:39).
Just as David could not rule over all of Israel and remove the adversaries until the people accepted him as king (2 Samuel 5:1-5), Yeshua will not return to reign on the Davidic throne and remove the adversary, Satan, until the Jewish people acknowledge Him as King.
Peter reiterates this point when he proclaims to the Jewish people: "Repent and turn to God, that your sins might be wiped away, in order that the times of refreshing might come from the Lord, and that He might send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you - even Yeshua. He must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised…" (Acts 3:19-21).
The return of Yeshua will "restore everything" and bring "the times of refreshing." Messiah’s reign on earth is tied to the Jewish people "repenting and returning to God."
Therefore, Satan is desperately trying to avoid his own demise by preventing the return of Messiah. He is doing all he can do to destroy Israel and the Jewish people now; at the same time he is trying to make faith in Yeshua so alien and repugnant that no self-respecting Jew, let alone the nation, would ever desire to repent and turn to Yeshua!
Congregations of believers in Yeshua, Jewish or Gentile, who do not endeavor to bring the Good News to the Jewish people, play into this satanic plan to prevent Israel from recognizing their Messiah. Hence, not only must we remember the Holocaust and "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6), but believers should do all they can to bring the Good News of Messiah to the Jewish people around the world.
Why do we need a sacrifice to atone for sins? Normally, people object to the idea of sin and sacrifice: “I don't need a sacrifice! I'm good enough; sin isn't all that important anyway.”
The Issue of Sin Minimized
For most people “sin and sacrifice” are not very relevant issues.
“Sin” for the most part, is viewed as a “moral lapse in judgment” and is “atoned” for with something between a sincere apology and a life sentence. The basic consideration is that “people are generally good,” with a few obvious exceptions.
I remember handing out Good News literature several years ago in NYC. It was a few weeks after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). I saw one of NY’s finest, and since his Police ID revealed he was from “my side of the family”, I offered him a brochure. When he saw that the title spoke of the need for atonement and forgiveness, he said, “Forget it; I don’t need that, the people I arrest need that message.”
“Really,” I said, “and where were you on Yom Kippur?”
“In the synagogue,” he shot back, “where I’m supposed to be!”
“And what did you do in the synagogue?” I asked.
“Why, I was…” and his voice trailed off as his fist started automatically beating his chest, as all orthodox are trained to do as they repent of sins on that Day.
His voice changed and he said, “okay, I’ll read one of your pamphlets”. As he thought of Yom Kippur, he remembered as well that on the Day of Atonement all must acknowledge they’ve sinned.
As Jewish people, we know that at least once a year we are reminded by the Law not to be self-righteous (Leviticus 23:29). In the Prophets and the Writings, the Scriptures are perfectly clear regarding the sinful nature of people:
“All we, like sheep, have gone astray; each one has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
“All of us are as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it.” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“There is none that does good, no, not one.” (Psalms 14:3)
“In Your sight no can be justified.” (Psalms 143:2) Etc.
God calls “sin” (rebellion and disobedience to God) “wicked” and deserving of judgment. A person calling “sin” unimportant doesn’t make it any less deadly than changing the label on a bottle of poison to read “fruit juice”. In fact, now it becomes even more dangerous as you might mistakenly think taking a drink would be good for you!
If this seems like an overstatement, understand that it’s the Scriptures that reveal how disastrous sin is:
The Prophet Ezekiel said, “The soul that sins, it shall die!” (Ezekiel 18:3)
This is the eternal judgment also spoken of by Daniel the Prophet; that there is a time of resurrection coming when eternal judgment will be dispensed: “Those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan. 12:2)
Isaiah reveals that though people think they pray and are heard by God, their sins actually break that prayer connection.
“It’s not that God is unable to hear you or help you, but your sins have made a separation between God and you, so that He will not hear you.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)
God’s way of Atonement
God’s way of forgiving sins is as misunderstood as the problem of sin. People often discuss whether the Temple, which was a place of sacrifices, will ever be rebuilt in Jerusalem. The problem with rebuilding the Temple is not a Moslem Mosque on the Temple Mount, but 2000 years of traditional teaching, which has erroneously taught our people that we don’t need blood atonement for sins. The Scriptures, however, state only blood sacrifice can atone for sins: “The life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)
In fact, Yom Kippur is only a Day of Atonement if God’s way of atonement (Leviticus 16), the blood atonement, is observed. Merely acknowledging your sins is no more effective than an apology can remove a murder charge. Sin is that horrific to God, the offended party.
Messiah is God’s final Sacrifice for Atonement
All the sacrifices were to picture the final, perfect sacrifice that God himself would provide in the Messiah.
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken and afflicted by God. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…the lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…He was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of my people was He stricken…He shall make His soul an offering for sin…My righteous Servant shall justify the many, for He shall bear their iniquities…He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53: 3-12)
What is pictured for us is the fact of God’s provision for our sins through the Messiah’s atonement. The prophet starts out the chapter asking, “Who has believed our report?” (53:1). That’s still the question: Who will believe God and His view of sin and way of forgiveness. All who trust in Messiah for their atonement have forgiveness of sins and an eternal relationship with God.
To some it appears that followers of Yeshua (the Jewish way to say Jesus) are deflecting, if not avoiding the “painful” truth by believing in “the Second Coming”. “Why would it be necessary for Messiah to come twice?” The doubtful ask, “Didn’t He do it right the first time? And if he is the Jewish Messiah, as you claim, where in the Jewish Scriptures does it say anything about two comings of the Messiah?”Two Pictures of Messiah: To reign, and yet, to be rejected
The issue of “two comings” of the Messiah is neither non-Jewish nor particularly unusual to Jewish thought. For two millennia the rabbinical community has been discussing, pondering and conjecturing the possible ways to resolve paradoxical and seemingly contradictory references to the Messiah in the Jewish Scriptures. On one hand, the Scriptures present a picture of the Messiah reigning:
“The kings of the earth take their stand against the LORD and His Messiah…The LORD laughs at them…saying, “I have installed My King on Zion” (Psalm 2:2-4).
“Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, that I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper…” (Jeremiah 23:5).
In these portions, and in many others (Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Psalm 45:6,7; 110:1-7; Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:10; Zechariah 14:3,4, 16; etc.) Messiah is pictured as ruling and reigning over the enemies of God. This is a time of peace and joy, Israel is the chief of nations again, and the Lord and the Davidic throne are gloriously established in Jerusalem.
But alongside of this exalted scene, there is also the picture of Messiah rejected: “And the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing” (Daniel 9:26).
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Surely, He took upon Himself our griefs and sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God and afflicted by Him. We did not esteem Him… Who of His generation considered Him? For He was cut off from the land of the Living for the transgressions of my people to whom the stroke was due” (Isaiah 53:2-8).
“I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see Me mock me and hurl insults… you lay me at the door of death…they have pierced My hands and my feet…” (Psalm 22: 6-16).
In these portions and many others (Isaiah 49:7; 50:6; Psalm 69:4-22; Zech. 11:12; etc.) Messiah is seen as rejected and suffering in innocence for the sins of others, even as Israel is in spiritual blindness and judgment. Two different works of Messiah are presented:
- He will suffer and die for sins;
- He will reign and rule in peace.
These two, contrasting Scriptural pictures of the Messiah have brought about various theories of how the Messiah would be both reigning, yet rejected; a celebrated victor, while also a sacrificial victim.
There are many ideas about Messiah quite prevalent in rabbinical literature*. There are the ideas of a ‘Resurrected Messiah’; a ‘Leper Messiah’; Two Messiahs (‘Messiah Son of Joseph’, that will innocently suffer as Joseph suffered innocently, & ‘Messiah Son of David’, who will reign as David reigned); a ‘Beggar Messiah’; etc. Traditional Jewish scholarship has worked to understand these two very different pictures of the Jewish Messiah.Two comings of Messiah revealed!
Hosea the Prophet speaks to the subject as well, as he presents God speaking to wayward Israel:
“Then I will go back to My place until they admit their guilt and seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek Me” (Hosea 5:15).
We see God offended at Israel’s sins and “going back to [His] place [Heaven] until they admit guilt.” The implication is that when they “admit their guilt”, then He will return to them. This is clearly stated in Israel’s response to the Lord’s leaving:
“Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3).
Though He had left, they had confidence He would also certainly reappear. There was hope in the Lord’s statement that their admission of guilt would bring about His return. In light of all this discussion it should surprise no one that the Messiah Himself would come and clarify these apparently contradictory pictures of His work. Similar to the portion in Hosea, Yeshua says to Israel:
“You shall not see me again until you say ‘Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord'” (Matthew 23:39).
Following Yeshua’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (going back to His place), Peter proclaims to the Jewish crowds in Jerusalem:
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away, that the times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you, even Jesus. He must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago in the holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21).
The New Covenant revelation regarding the two works of Messiah is not new. It is a clarification and fulfillment of what the Jewish Scriptures prophesied: that Messiah would come to die for our sins, be raised from the dead, go back to His place, and return when our people acknowledge their guilt and call out to Him. As Joseph was at first rejected by his brothers, then later accepted; and also as Moses was first rejected by Israel, then later was accepted, so also Messiah would be rejected and then later accepted.
The return of the Messiah is mentioned many times in the New Covenant (Matthew 24-25; I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-5:9; Rev. 22; etc.). This is because the Jewish scriptures will be fulfilled in every detail. Just as Messiah had to suffer and die for sins, so He will also return to reign and bring peace.
The Jewish Scriptures predict that one day our people “will look unto Me whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son” at His Second coming (Zechariah 12:10). So look to Him now, trust in the atonement He made by His death for your sins, and receive the new life that He gives to all who come to Him!
*Sukkot 52a,b; Gen. Rabbah LXXV, 6; XCV; XCIX, 2; S.S. Rabbah II, 4; Num. Rabbah XIV, 1;Sefer Sippurim Noraim 9a-b, 10b; etc
Because Jewish history is filled with persecution by many 'so-called Christians', I often hear questions that presume guilt---"Isn't the New Testament anti-Semitic? Doesn’t it teach Christians to hate Jews? What about Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust?"
The New Testament is Jewish?
It’s a shock to many people when they discover just how Jewish the New Testament is! Jeremiah the prophet foretold that God would give the New Testament (or New Covenant, Brit Chadasha) to our people: “Behold, the days are coming when I will make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah. It is not like the covenant that I made with your fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord….for I will forgive their iniquities and remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:31-32, 34).
This New Covenant is what Messiah Yeshua (the Jewish way to say Jesus) initiated when He came to make atonement for sins. This was to establish the basis of the New Covenant relationship between God and His people: God’s forgiveness of sins through Messiah’s atonement for all who will believe.
As a young Jewish man growing up in New York, I thought the “New Testament” was a combination religious rulebook for Gentiles and an anti-Semitic instruction manual. I was surprised to find out the New Covenant is actually the Lord’s love letters to those who seek Him.
The Jewish Messiah's Love
And as far as being a cause for anti-Semitism, this could only happen for those who have never read it’s pages. For in this Jewish book, Yeshua is presented as “the King of the Jews”. Yeshua is shown crying over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), fulfilling the Law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17) and in His daily activities, identifying only with the Jewish people (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24). How could any so-called follower of Yeshua claim to have the King of the Jews in their hearts and also hate the Jewish people? Absurd! Rather, true Gentile followers of the Jewish Messiah love the Jewish people. The life and teachings of Yeshua give no justification for any kind of hatred, let alone hatred of His Jewish people. “For the love of Messiah controls” them (2 Cor. 5:14). It is rather to be said that anti-Semitism is proof of the ignorance of Messiah and His teachings.
True Followers of Jesus Love the Jewish People
The experience of the Holocaust of the 1930’s and 40’s, as well as other anti-Semitic persecutions, are often thought of as an expression of “Christian” hatred toward the Jewish people. The *Holocaust was no such thing at all. Gentile governments have routinely used and abused the label of religion in a futile attempt to justify their pragmatic and evil (as at times like the Holocaust,) national interests. In the Hebrew scriptures as well, the same truth is revealed: anti-Semitism is anti-God (see Psalm 83:1-5).
True Gentile followers of Messiah were persecuted, imprisoned and murdered by the Nazis for helping the Jews in their areas. Jewish believers in Messiah were killed as quickly as the other Jews. There was nothing about the Holocaust that represented anything taught in the New Covenant or by any faithful follower of Messiah.
The Real Cause of Anti-Semitism
The New Covenant teaches us how the Jewish Messiah came to resolve a problem that is universal: the problem of sin. The sin that motivated and manifested itself in the Nazis is essentially the same problem all people have: rebellion against God. The sin problem ends when a person, any person, acknowledges their sin to God and places their trust in Messiah Yeshua.
I had the opportunity to speak at a Businessmen’s Breakfast, where I shared the message of Good News in the Messiah. I invited the people there to respond to God’s love and forgiveness in the Jewish Messiah. Of those who responded, I remember one businessman who burst into tears. Up to that point he had been an anti-Semite. But now he was convinced of his sinfulness and wanted to repent. After we prayed he mentioned that he was stunned to have heard the message of forgiveness and new life in the Jewish Messiah from a Jewish man! It became clear to him that his anti-Semitic feelings were just one symptom of his rebellion to God…affirming the scriptural truth that anti-Semitism is anti-God… and anti-Messiah.
As evil and offensive as anti-Semitism is, all sin is offensive to God. Though some sins are not nearly so blatant, God is aware of them all. All who sin need to repent in order to be forgiven and cleansed of their sins. The message of Good News is for all who will trust in Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of the world, Yeshua.
It seems rather strange to many Jewish people that the Messiah could have come, and yet comparatively so few Jews believe it.
Many times the question sounds like this: “So, with all the scholars and rabbis searching to discover the Messiah, you’re the only genius to figure this out?”
The number of living Jewish people who believe in Yeshua (Jesus’ Jewish name) numbers somewhere between 200,000 to over a million. Though this number is not insignificant, it’s still not the majority of the Jewish people. For many, there’s the idea that the truth is determined by a majority vote. But as much as this may play a role in the politics of men, this has little to do with the truth of God.
In the Jewish Scriptures (Tanakh), the prophet Isaiah declares that most Jewish people would not recognize the Messiah when He would first come: “Who has believed our report? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him as a tender shoot, as a root out of dry ground; He would have no majesty that would attract us, nor any beauty that we would desire Him. He is despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not” (Isaiah 53:1-3).
God knew and revealed to Isaiah what may not seem all that hard to figure out: The majority of people don’t want God’s way of salvation, not even religious people! In fact, that’s exactly what Isaiah goes on to say: “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned his own way; but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
It was prophesied that although He would be our sin-bearer, the true Messiah would be rejected by the majority of the Jewish people when He would first come. Isaiah makes this matter crystal clear by further stating: “The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob to the *Mighty God” (Isaiah 10:21).
God recognized that only a “remnant”, a very small portion of the whole nation, would believe and make “teshuvah” (repentance). Only this remnant would “return to the Mighty God”. This prediction is fulfilled in the Jewish people (like myself) who have come to believe in Yeshua. The New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31-34) also compares the present situation of the Jewish majority with their apostate condition in the time of Elijah the Prophet: “Even so, then, at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5).
Though the Scriptures make clear the phenomenon of general unbelief, there will be some who still wonder how the Rabbis could have “missed it”. The Messiah that God promised and sent was not the 'Messiah' the world or the rabbis were looking for. They wanted a Messiah who would immediately remove Roman domination from Israel and return Israel to its former glory.
But the purpose of Yeshua’s coming was to die for sins; and rather than vindicate the self-righteous judgements of the rabbis, He insisted that the religious leaders of Israel repent as well! That was intolerable for the rabbinical leaders. Though many did accept the Messiah, the majority of the Jewish people and Rabbis rejected Yeshua, just as the prophets predicted.
But there will come a time when our people as a nation will come to believe in Him. The Prophets also predicted: “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son” (Zechariah 12:10).
“The stone which the builders rejected shall become the chief of the corner” (Psalms 118:22).
One day our people will trust in Yeshua, their Messiah and King.
We also see it was foretold that today a “remnant of Israel” believes in the Messiah. You can be part of that “remnant”, if you will acknowledge Yeshua for what the Tanakh and New Covenant declare Him to be, the Messiah of our people. Shalom!
Of all the miracles the Bible attributes to God, it seems the ‘virgin birth of Messiah’ arouses the most controversy. But the same Bible that reveals God declares the virgin birth to be a historical fact. Some question whether it can be considered a scientific fact since it can not be observed nor repeated. But then what miracle can be? The virgin birth of Messiah is simply another unique and miraculous work of God!
An Issue of Miracles
Miracles may be irrelevant for those that dismiss the possibility of God. But if God is even a possibility, then so are miracles. “Still,” you might think, “the virgin birth is hard to believe.” Actually, it depends on how big your God is! For the One who is the Creator of all, no miracle is too difficult, and thus, no miracle should be dismissed out of hand.
Moreover, for Jews, miracles are the only rationale for our own existence. After all, if left to the preferences of the Egyptians and Pharaoh, the Persians and Haman, or the Nazis and Hitler, we Jews wouldn’t be here at all! Yet while other ancient peoples have come and gone (do you know any Hittites?), the Jewish people remain. God promised to keep us as a people, and miraculously He has done it.
Miraculous births are a big part of that story. God decided to bless the world through a people by whom the Messiah would come (Gen. 12:3). God chose to use Abraham and Sarah, and as the Scriptures teach us, Abraham was old, and Sarah was barren (Gen. 11:30). Thus the obvious problem is that God purposely chose to make a nation from the one couple that couldn’t have kids!
Rather than this being a problem, this was the point. If the promise of God would effectively bless the world, then it would take the power of God to make it happen. And miracle of miracles, Isaac was born. Isaac then marries Rebecca. She too was barren, but again God intervenes (Gen. 25:21). And again with Jacob, and Rachel, who was barren (Gen. 29:31) Again, God miraculously provides a miracle birth (Gen. 30:22-24).
To recap, biblical history shows that the existence of the Jewish people is based upon miracle births from God. So rather than seeming abnormal, a miracle birth for the Jewish Messiah should be expected. After all, shouldn’t we expect the most unusual Person in the universe to have a most unusual entrance through His birth? His unique nature would actually require it!
The Prophecy of a Virgin Birth
God actually told us to expect a virgin birth for the Messiah. As far back as the very first messianic prophecy we see this same hope: “And I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
God promised to remove that Serpent of old, Satan, the father of lies and anti-Semitism, through the Redeemer, who would come from ‘the seed’ of the woman. This is God’s first attention-getting clue: a woman would be the instrument of Messiah’s coming.
In the prophet Isaiah we read Messiah’s prophetic birth announcement:
“The Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Some object against the word ‘virgin’ as an accurate translation of the Hebrew word almah. Yet in the Hebrew Scriptures, the word almah is used seven times (Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; Prov. 30:18; Ps. 68:25; Song of Sol. 1:3; 6:8), and every time it speaks of young women who have not had sexual relations.
In the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE, the Hebrew Scriptures were for the first time translated into Greek. According to tradition, it was done by seventy Rabbis, which accounts for the name Septuagint, which means 70. They translated almah as parthenos, or “virgin.” This was centuries before Messiah and thus objective, rightly used by the New Covenant (Matthew 1:23). There is no solid ground for thinking ‘virgin’ is an inaccurate reading of the Isaiah text.
It is sometimes argued that a different Hebrew word, betulah, would have served as a closer word for ‘virgin’. However, the two Hebrew words are largely synonymous (cf. Gen. 24, where Rebekah identified as both), and therefore either would make the point. In fact, it is not clear whether betulah would actually have been a good choice, since it is also used for a widow in Joel 1:8.
What’s in a name?
But, why the name “Emmanuel” in Isaiah 7 rather than “Yeshua"? Many places in the Hebrew Scriptures tell us about Messiah, each giving us a different “name.” In Isaiah 9:5(6), His name is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince Of Peace.” In Jeremiah 23:6, He is called “the Lord our Righteousness.” In Isaiah 7:14 it is “Emmanu El.” As opposed to a “given name,” each of these names describe some quality of God’s nature or character.
Emmanu El (two words) means “God is with us.” God will neither leave nor forsake us in our sins, for Messiah, the hope of the House of David, will come. We have, by faith in Messiah, the eternal relationship with God which our lives desperately need. For in Messiah Yeshua “God is with us!”
Isaiah told wicked King Ahaz that “if you will not believe you not will be established” (Isaiah 7:9). The same is true for each of us. Let us have faith in the God of Israel’s greatest miracle, Messiah, that we may be eternally established before Him.
(*Yeshua is the name Jesus in Hebrew)
The Premise of the Law
There's a common misconception about why the Law (or Torah*) was given. That misconception is that by keeping the Law the Jewish people merit righteousness before God. In other words, "We Jews don't need salvation through your Messiah Jesus because we're made holy by keeping the Law.
(*Technically “torah” means instruction or teaching, “to point things out”, but its commonly accepted meaning is “Law”.) After all aren't the Jews God's chosen people? Weren't we set above the other people of the world by God?" Close, but no bagel. As popular a thought as this may be, it is without scriptural basis.
The Law of Moses is actually a conditional covenant or agreement. Notice what God stated when the Law was given: "Now therefore if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you will be a special treasure to Me above all the people; for all the earth is mine.” (Exodus 19:5)
We read the same idea in the reiteration of the Law: "And it shall come to pass, if you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and do all His command- ments which I command you this day, then the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come on you, and overtake you, if you shall heed the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:1-2).
After this follows 12 verses of blessings. Once more the words "if" and "then" are emphasized. These words describe a conditional covenant or agreement. The phrase "conditional covenant" means that the benefits are only received when the conditions are met. For instance, if I said to my son, "if you clean your room, then I will give you a dollar". If he didn't clean his room, he could not expect to receive the payment. But what if he partially cleaned his room, would I be bound to pay him? If I wrote up the agreement the way that God wrote the Torah, I would still owe him nothing. You see, in the earlier Deuteronomy portion another word is italicized: “all”. In other words, God's obligation to reward His people depends on them first obeying all His commandments. (It's been determined there are 613 laws in the Jewish Scriptures). Any expectation for rightful blessing under the Law is dependent upon our perfect obedience to the Law.
As if this is not clear enough, the Deuteronomy portion restates the same idea in the negative.
"But it shall come to pass that if you will not heed the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deut. 28:15).
Then follows 53 verses of curses.So what happens if there is imperfect obedience, if even only one commandment is disobeyed? If you don't do "all" God legislated then all the curses will come upon you. To those of us that see imperfect yet sincere effort as "good enough", this can seem shocking and even unfair: "How does God expect anyone to get blessed with that impossible standard? Doesn't He want to bless His people?" This brings us to the purpose of the Law.
The Purpose of the Law
The purpose of the Law is to demonstrate how holy God is and our desperate need for His mercy. Its purpose was never to reveal how good we are or how deserving we are of God's blessing. God had made an unconditional covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12: 1-3 etc.). On the basis of the Abrahamic covenant, the Jewish people's existence and survival (and land) is guaranteed. But, unless we think such great promises demonstrate our worthiness rather than God's graciousness, God provided the Law to show us what we're really like (Deut. 9:6; etc.). In the Law itself there are provisions for our moral failures (sins). That's why there's so much material on the sacrifices for sin (Lev. 1-7; etc.), and the need for atone-ment, as in the Day of Atonement. A cursory, yet objective reading of the Scriptures makes it plain: the Law reveals our sinfulness, not our righteousness. The Law is like a perfect mirror that can only reveal our flaws, but do nothing to improve them.
The Promise beyond the Law
Not only can we not adequately keep the Law, but also the Law can not keep us as a people, either. We are kept as a people (and even blessed) by God's mercy and gracious promises. When Israel's sin of the Golden Calf deserved God's utter destruction (Ex. 32:10), Moses didn't plead for their welfare on the basis of the Law he had just delivered, but on the basis of the gracious Abrahamic Covenant (Ex. 32:13).
The Law gave God the prerogative to judge His people by His objective, holy, legal standard. God wants His people to recognize His holiness, the evil of their sins, and absolute graciousness of His promises.
It would only be the Law in all of it's holy demands upon Israel ("You shall be Holy even as the Lord your God is holy", Lev. 19: 2) that would demonstrate Israel's constant need for mercy. This would prepare God's people for the coming of His ultimate demonstration of mercy, Messiah. God's Messiah would provide final atonement for sins though His own sacrifice: "He was bruised for our iniquity…The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all…He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgressions of my people, to whom the judgement was due...He bore the sin of many" (Isaiah 53:5, 6, 8, 12).
As we read the actual Scriptures, as opposed to the rabbinical traditions concerning the Law, we face a Holy and yet loving God. Before Him we all fall morally short, but we also see One who has mercifully provided the promise of forgiveness and life to all who will trust in His Word.
Individually as Jews, or corporately as Israel, it is the gracious promise of God that is our Hope. This promise is fulfilled in Yeshua Hamashiach (the Jewish way of saying Jesus the Messiah), even as the *New Covenant proclaims:
"…Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write” (John 1:45).
(*see also Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Sometimes humor can best illustrate a biblical misunderstanding. An Irish man talking with his Jewish friend: “Saul did you hear the great news? My son Patty has become a priest!”
“Nu, so what’s the big deal about that, John?” Saul asked.
“It’s a very big deal, Saul. As a priest he can one day become a Bishop!” John responded.
“So what’s the big deal about that?” Saul again asked.
“Saul, as Bishop, Patty can one day become a Cardinal. Imagine my son the Cardinal!” John was getting excited now.
“Nu”, Saul repeated, “but what’s the big deal about that, John?”.
John sputtered out, “ Saul, my friend, as Cardinal, Patty can be...Oh, be still my heart…he can become Pope!!”
And Saul again asks, “So nu, what’s the big deal about that, John?”
Now impatient, John demands, “So what do you expect, for him to become God!”
Almost triumphantly, Saul says, “ And why not, one of our boys made it!”
The mistaken notion is this: that Yeshua (the Jewish way of saying Jesus), as a man, became God. This is not the message of the Scriptures. The scriptures are quite clear on this point: “no man can become God!” But on the other hand, “nothing is impossible for God!” (Genesis 18:14; Luke 1:37). What the Jewish Scriptures prophesied and the New Covenant declares is that in Yeshua, God (Adonai) became a man; i.e., God came 'in the flesh'. Three questions normally raised on this issue help us consider it more fully.
Can God come in the flesh?
To find this answer let’s visit Abraham in Genesis 18. In Gen. 18: 1 the text states that “God appeared to Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre.” In the next verse it states that “as he lifted his eyes, three men stood by him”. Abraham and Sarah then prepared food for these “guests”(18:3-8). Was it merely a vision? Impossible, for not only do you not prepare food for a vision, but also visions don’t eat, and these men did (“and they ate”, 18:8).
Now two of these three “men” are later identified as angels (compare Genesis 18:22 & 19:1). But the third one that ate (v.8), spoke (v.10) and walked (v.16, 22) with Abraham is identified as the LORD, Himself. In 18:13, the text states “And the LORD said to Abraham….” The word translated 'LORD' throughout this portion is the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew letters that make up the sacred Name of God: yood, hey, vav, hey, (pronounced by some as Yahweh, or Jehovah).
Do the Jewish Scriptures teach that God came in the flesh? Clearly the answer is “yes!” But, biblically, was Messiah expected to be God incarnate? The prophets, especially Isaiah and Micah, most directly answer this.
“For a child shall be born to us and a son shall be given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6-v.5 in the Hebrew text)
This portion is traditionally* recognized as “Messianic”: " 'I have yet to raise up the Messiah,' of whom it is written, for a child is born to us (Isa. 9:5).” Isaiah predicts that one coming from the “Galilee” (9:1) will bring “light”, “joy” (9:2-3) and “victorious peace” (9:4-5) because He is the Prince of Peace (Sar Shalom), indeed the Mighty God (El Gibbor). This “child to be born” is the theme of Isaiah 7: 12. Where it states He would be “born of a virgin” (7:14), He is “the root of David” that Gentiles will trust in (11:10) as well the remnant of Israel (10:20-23). The truth of who this One will be is reiterated when it says that not every Jewish person will believe, but only “the remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God [El Gibbor, again]” (10: 21).
Micah the prophet not only gives further detail about His Divine Nature, but also specifically where He would be born. “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, little among the thousands of Judah, out of you will go forth for Me, one who will be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from days of eternity” (Micah 5:2-v.1 in the Hebrew text). Micah clearly states that Israel’s Ruler would not only be “born”, in Bethlehem, but his “goings forth” would be from eternity (olam). That is, He who would be born in Bethlehem is God, the Eternal One!
Thus the Messiah, the One to bring peace, joy and life to all who would believe (the remnant), the One who would be born in Bethlehem, yet live in Galilee, this One is the LORD, the Mighty God Himself!
But, does the New Covenant proclaim Yeshua as Messiah and God? The word “Christ” is a transliteration, not a translation. It should be translated “Messiah” (Anointed One), from the Greek, “Christos”. Thus, “Christ” is not Yeshua’s last name, but His title, Messiah. Hundred’s of times the New Covenant unequivocally declares Yeshua to be the Messiah. Similarly His Deity is declared hundred’s of times as well by His title Lord and His identification as the LORD of the Older Covenant (Mark1: 1-3; Hebrews1: 8-12; etc.).
The New Covenant writers were clear regarding His Divine nature: “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” (John 1:1, 14).
Mostly, Yeshua’s Divinity was assumed, and written about in order to make an application for our lives: “Each of you should not look merely to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as Messiah’s. Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but humbled Himself, taking on the form of a servant, coming in human appearance. In that form of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient until death, even death by the cross” (Philippians 2:4-8).
What amazing love is demonstrated in the humility of our Messiah! The One who is the Eternal God, Adonai, came in the flesh to die for our sins that we might have forgiveness, life, joy and peace by trusting in His atoning sacrifice for our sins.
No man can become God. But God incarnates His Life and Love through Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, and Savior of the World.
*Midrash Rabbah on Deuteronomy (Debarim), p. 22
It all depends on who Yeshua is! The New Covenant presents Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah (John 1:41, 45, 49, etc.). If He’s not the Jewish Messiah then no one should believe in Him, because His credentials as Savior of the World are based on His credentials as the Messiah of Israel. If He is the true Messiah, then it is kosher that I as a Jewish person believe in Him. And I would be a Jew in good standing with God, even if no one else agreed.
For argument’s sake, suppose that Yeshua is a false Messiah. In the eyes of rabbinical authority I must still be seen as a Jew. Why? Because, believing in a false messiah does not make any Jew a non-Jew. For example, in 132 c.e., Simon Bar Kochba was as a leader during the Jewish revolt against Rome. Rabbi Akiva (a very famous rabbi) declared Bar Kochba to be the Messiah, although at the time Bar Kochba had none of the accepted credentials. The declaration appears to have been a pragmatic attempt on Rabbi Akiva’s part to unite the Jews against Rome. However, no Jewish authority has ever said, “Akiva is no longer Jewish for believing in a false messiah.” If, after endorsing a false messiah, Akiva is still considered to be a Jew in good standing, then one who believes Yeshua is Messiah cannot be considered otherwise.
In a synagogue on Long Island, New York, I once gave a presentation of why I believed Yeshua is the Messiah. Afterward, the senior rabbi stood up and declared, “Nadler, you’re no longer a Jew because of your belief in Jesus!”
“Rabbi,” I responded, “If the Bostoner Rebbe says I’m still a Jew, though a wayward Jew, and if the Encyclopedia Judaica declares I’m still a Jew, though a wayward one, then on what basis can you say I’m no longer a Jew?” “Well,” the rabbi said, “perhaps I’m wrong.” “Rabbi,” I quietly responded, “maybe you’re wrong about more than just that?” To my astonishment, the synagogue audience of over a hundred Jewish people erupted into applause. It was apparent to all who would consider the issues objectively that a Jew who believes in Yeshua is still a Jew, whether the rabbi approves or not.
In the New Covenant book of John the early believers in Yeshua described him as “the Messiah;” “the One spoken of in Moses and the Prophets;” “the King of Israel,” and so on. They consistently saw Yeshua in a Jewish frame of reference, as the centerpiece of Jewish history.
Please notice also how these believers understood themselves. In both Acts 21:39 and 22:3 in the New Covenant, Paul declares first to the Romans, then again to his own Jewish people, “I am a Jew from Tarsus.” Now at this time, Paul had been a believer in Yeshua for well over twenty years. So it isn’t that he’s confused or that he’s trying to say one thing to the Romans, and something else to the Jews. Paul doesn’t say that he “was a Jew,” or “an ex-Jew from Tarsus,” or a “former Jew,” etc.—Paul considered himself a present-tense Jew.
In Romans 11:1, Paul reiterates his Jewish identity when he raises the rhetorical question, “Has God forsaken His people (Israel)?” He then answers, “Not at all! For I am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” His first “proof” that God has not forsaken Israel is himself. God chose a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5) so that the Gentile world would never think that God would forsake “a people whom He foreknew.”
Today it’s the same story. Every Jewish believer living his or her present-tense Jewish identity testifies, “Am Yisrael Chai b’Yeshua HaMashiach!” - The people of Israel live in Yeshua the Messiah! For if the Lord would break His promises to Israel, why should anyone else think Him trustworthy regarding the Good News of Yeshua?
Many people, both Jewish and Gentile, are unaware that the New Covenant does not restrict in any fashion Jewish believers from identifying and living as Jews. Yes, coming to faith in Messiah Yeshua is a radical change, a heart transformation of turning from sin and to God. That said, the New Covenant only builds upon and fulfills the ethical, moral and spiritual teaching and revelation of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. So, in the New Covenant we read that the early believers continued attending the Temple and synagogue, kept the feasts, circumcised their Jewish children, and kept other aspects of the Law, not to deny Messiah’s authority or to show they merited righteousness, but for the sake of identifying with their own people. In short, they remained Jewish (Acts 3; 20:6, 16; 1 Cor. 16:8; Acts 16:1-3; Matt. 11:29; Acts 15:10).
Unfortunately, because of church history, there’s a lot of “stinking thinking” on this subject, even among Christians. A few years back, I was invited to speak on a secular radio call-in show in Miami, Florida. I received a number of “you’re-no-longer-a-Jew” calls from Jewish listeners. Then a call came in from a more polite gentleman: “Mr. Nadler, now that you’re a believer in Jesus you’re no longer a Jew, for the Bible says that ‘in Messiah there’s neither Jew nor Greek.’”
I recognized the Scripture portion and responded over the air, “Oh, you mean Galatians 3:28, ‘there’s neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; for we are all one in Messiah Jesus’.”
“Exactly,” the caller replied.
“Then let me ask you a question. Are you a believer?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
“Great. Are you married?” I asked.
“Well, yes, I’m married,” he slowly answered.
“Is your wife a believer?”
“Yes, she’s a believer,” he responded after a longer pause.
“Well,” I said, pausing to catch my breath. “If you’re a believer and still a male, and your wife is a believer and still a female, then I’m a believer and still a Jew. The verse in Galatians is not teaching that we lose our identities in Messiah, but that there’s only one way to God for all people.”
An extremely long pause, then “You mean... I’m still Jewish?”
“If you were born a Jew,” I responded, “then you’re still a Jew.”
“Hallelujah!” he shouted over the airwaves, “They told me I was no longer Jewish.”
Yes, it has been said that one cannot believe in Jesus and still be Jewish. However, if, as the Jewish Bible teaches, Yeshua is our Messiah, then trusting in Him is the most Jewish decision one can ever make!
When we read the Scriptures we discover that they don’t attempt to prove God exists, rather, God is presented as a reality. Just as one never has to prove the reality of parents to a child, the child’s own existence proves there must also be biological parents. So also, one need not prove the reality of the Creator to the creature. Hell is likewise presented. And yet, the absolute holiness and justice of God requires consequences for evil behavior. If a person can get a life sentence without possibility of parole for evil perpetrated against a mere man, then why should it seem so strange for one to get an eternal life sentence for evil perpetrated against the Eternal God?
The Fact of Hell
The Psalmist writes,“The wicked will return to Sheol, even all the nations who forget God” (Psalm 9:17). “Let death come deceitfully upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol, for evil is in their dwelling, in their midst.” (Psalm 55:15).
The psalmist uses the common word for Hell, “Sheol.” This word can also refer to the physical grave, so context helps us determine its usage. Since all people die, the writer would not be referring merely to death or the grave (no great punishment for the wicked), but to the eternal punishment of Sheol/Hell.
The Prophet Isaiah writes, “Nevertheless, you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you saying, ‘Is this the man who made the world tremble, who shook kingdoms…” (Isaiah 14:15-16). The Prophet reveals that there is consciousness and recognizability in punishment of Sheol/Hell.
The Prophet Daniel writes, “And many of those that sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”(Dan. 12:2) Daniel reveals that the final judgment of Sheol/Hell follows death, is “everlasting” (“olam”, as is heaven, or everlasting life), and is disgraceful and contemptible (literally, an abhorrence).
The New Covenant is consistent with the Older Covenant regarding these same truths about Hell/Sheol. (Matthew 25:41 “eternal fire”, 46 “eternal punishment”; Mark 9:43-48 “into Hell, into the unquenchable fire”; 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “pay the penalty of eternal destruction”; Heb. 9:27 “it is appointed for man to die once and after this comes judgment”; Rev. 14: 11 “…the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night…”; etc.).
It’s not that the Bible means to frighten anyone into following God, not at all. But it does reveal the facts of the hereafter. Actually, the amount of space the Scriptures spend on Hell is comparatively very little. The Bible generally reveals Great News about God, Messiah, love, heaven, forgiveness, etc.
The Fairness of Hell
What seems most difficult to some is what appears to be the inherent unfairness of Hell. “After all, why would a good person have to be punished alongside a Hitler just because he didn’t follow God’s way? Isn’t that unfair?”
First let’s understand that no one deserves heaven. This is God’s special place and no one who sins deserves to be there (see Psalm 15:1). God’s standards for heaven are high: to be with Him, you must be like Him, “Be holy as the LORD your God is holy” (Leviticus 19:2). Therefore who ever goes to heaven doesn’t earn it; entrance to Heaven is not based on fairness. Whoever goes there gets there on the basis of God’s sovereign, gracious love. On the other hand, since we’ve all sinned (see Ps. 14:3; Isa. 53:6; etc.), we all deserve Hell. We earned it. (How to avoid Hell is brought up later in this article)
The Scripture teaches that each one gets the punishment in Hell they individually deserve. There are differing degrees of punishment in Hell, determined completely on what you deserve (similarly, there are differing degrees of reward in heaven).
1. Judged according to their deeds.
“…The dead, the great and the small, were standing before the throne…. And the dead were judged…according to their deeds” (Rev. 20:12).
This portion teaches that if Bill and Joel were doomed to judgment, and during their lifetimes Bill embezzled ten thousand dollars, but Joel only stole one thousand (or told ten lies to one lie), Bill’s punishment may be ten times greater than Joel’s punishment because his evil deeds were ten times worse. That’s fair.
2. Judged according to their knowledge.
“And the servant that knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with that will, shall receive much punishment. But the one that did not it, and committed deeds worthy of punishment, will receive little punishment. To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12: 47-48).
Now, let’s say Bill and Joel were both doomed to hell, and during their lifetime each of them stole ten thousand dollars. This portion teaches that if Bill learned that’s it’s wrong to steal and stole anyway, but Joel was not taught this truth, Bill’s punishment would be greater than Joel’s, because Bill knew better. He will be held more accountable for the knowledge he received. Joel still gets punished, for he still did deeds worthy of punishment, but to a lesser degree. That, too, is fair.
3. Judged according to their “status”.
“Not many of should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
This portion teaches that different levels responsibility can receive different levels of punishment. Bill and Joel are both guilty of embezzling ten thousand dollars each. However Bill was Joel’s teacher (or Rabbi, Pastor, President). Bill’s punishment may be greater than Joel’s, since his position demanded a higher level of responsibility. Rank may or may not have its privileges, but it certainly demands greater accountability before God. Again, this is fair. The Scriptures teach that Hell is very fair. Tragically, in Hell people finally get what they justly deserve.
The Fleeing from Hell
“The rich man also died and was buried. In Hell, where he was in torment,… he called...‘I have five brothers…warn them, so they will not also come to this place of torment’ ” (Luke 16:23-27).
Many times people might foolishly say “I want be with my buddies in Hell” or “I want to be with my brother and father in Hell.” But do you know what they want? They want to warn you to do whatever it takes to avoid Hell! God wants you to avoid Hell and come to Heaven. He’s not willing to overlook sin, but He does love you. That’s why He sent the Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua died as atonement for sins, just as the Jewish prophets predicted (see Isaiah 53).
If you will trust in God’s provision for forgiveness, you will receive new life, and heaven, as a gift of God!