Category: Brian Hennessy

What Is Rejection Theology?

What Is Rejection Theology?

Most Christians are by now quite familiar with Replacement Theology. That enduring malevolent doctrine birthed in the early Christian centuries declaring the Church had replaced Jewish Israel as God’s only chosen people. A doctrine that stands as a sobering reminder of how the thoughts of men, unrestrained by Scripture, will surely go awry.

But as the oak tree has its acorn, Replacement Theology too could not have taken root without a satanic seed first being planted in the minds of men. That is, before the early church could believe it had replaced Israel as the apple of God’s eye, they first had to be sold another lie – that God had totally rejected the Jews! That following the betrayal of Jesus, God had finally washed His hands of that stiff-necked family of Abraham – once and for all.

That corrupt seed I call Rejection Theology.

Admittedly, the evidence against Israel looked bad. Not only had the Jewish nation disbelieved in their own Messiah, they’d participated in helping pagan Rome put him to death. So, 40 years later, when their temple, city and country were destroyed by Rome, and the people carted off to captivity, it sure looked like God had rejected them.

Added to that history was the biblical fact God had already divorced ten of the twelve tribes of Jacob/Israel centuries before. The northern kingdom’s refusal to turn from idolatry left God no choice but to disown them, saying, “I am not your God, and you are not My people” (Hos. 1:9). He then allowed Assyria over the course of five Assyrian kings from 745-722 B.C. to dominate and eventually annihilate the kingdom.

Thus, was Israel’s kingdom destroyed and their inhabitants scattered among the nations (2 Kings 18:11). Now, some 800 years later (70 A.D.), the descendants of the remaining two tribes of Benjamin and Judah had also been driven into exile by the Romans. If God would reject the northern kingdom, couldn’t He also reject Judah? Especially since they were being falsely accused of having committed the bizarre crime of deicide?

Once the blind church leaders had convinced enough Christians that God had rejected the Jews, it was a simple step to say the “Gentile” church was God’s new replacement. If any more proof was needed that God was now with the church, you just had to look at how it was growing and prospering by leaps and bounds. And the Jews? They were now the scum of the Empire.

The slide from Rejection Theology to Replacement Theology became complete in 325 A.D. after the Roman Emperor Constantine declared himself a Christian and convened the Council of Nicaea. With the help of theologians drunk on the heady wine of Greek philosophy, he crafted a new religion and religious system of God to replace Judaism. And while he was at it, he trashed the Jews and their claim to still be the chosen people of God. When the Council ended, God was no longer the God of Israel, but the God of Christianity!*

However, the whole construct was built on a lie. God had never rejected the Jews. Paul couldn’t have made it any clearer: “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). Though they’d rejected their Messiah, still, “from the standpoint of God’s choice, they were beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Rom. 11:28). God hadn’t uprooted Abraham’s faith tree and planted a new “Gentile” tree for those of us who’d come out from the nations. He’d just included us in among the righteous Hebrew branches. With the promise He’d redeem a remnant of Judah at a later time. He would never abandon His sworn covenant promises to Abraham and his descendants. There would always be the remnant that God would keep for Himself – “the seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Rom. 11:4).

Still, Nicaea was a great victory for Satan. When our forefathers swallowed the lie that the Christian Church had replaced Jewish Israel, they had unknowingly swallowed a poisoned pill. They’d accepted the idea that God couldn’t be trusted. Because if He couldn’t, or wouldn’t, keep His eternally sworn promises to Abraham, what assurance did we have He’d keep His promises to us?

It was a monstrous lie, to be sure. But it wasn’t the first time Satan had sold His Rejection Theology to the world. When Judah was exiled to Babylon he’d whispered the same untruth to that generation. God pointed it out to Jeremiah, saying: “Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the Lord chose, He has rejected them’? Thus, they despise My people. No longer are they as a nation in their sight” (Jer. 33:24).

But God’s people weren’t the only ones who suffered from the lie. God suffered also. Having no choice but to exile Israel for their sins made Him look like a weak deity who could not rule His people. It sullied God’s name, as He explained to Ezekiel: “When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord; yet they have come out of the land’” (Ezek. 36:20).

However, when Judah returned home from Babylon seventy years later (607-537 B.C.), the belief that God had rejected His people was clearly shown to be false. The same thing when he brought Judah home again in the last century after 1900 years of exile. That’s when we also saw how much suffering those two Christian theologies had caused the Jewish people. They had resulted in centuries of vicious anti-Semitism, culminating in Hitler’s Holocaust, a near genocide. And it brought profound shame to the Christian world for having spawned those theologies. And rightly so.

Today, the doctrines of Rejection and Replacement Theology are themselves being rejected by more and more Christians as the Holy Spirit awakens us to the truth. Only those  poisoned by the fruit of those anti-Semitic lies continue to denounce the Jews and their new-born state.**

But we’re not out of the woods yet. According to the spiritual principle taught by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we have to clean out every speck of this leavened teaching from our understanding. Because even a smidgen of worldly half-truth left in place will leaven the whole loaf of our belief system. And there’s still one large chunk in our breadbasket that needs to be uncovered and discarded–it concerns Ephraim.

It’s one thing to condemn those false theologies as they related to the Jews, the descendants of Judah. But what about the ten tribes of the northern kingdom who were exiled in 722 B.C.? Hasn’t Satan gotten away with the same double lie of rejection and replacement where they are concerned? Hasn’t he convinced us all that because God had called them “not My people” that they too had been written off forever? After all, they’ve been missing now for over 2700 years. Who knows where they are? Surely, we don’t seriously think they’ll be found again, do we? “Israel is swallowed up; now they are among the Nations like a vessel in which is no pleasure (Hosea 8:6-9).

Besides, haven’t all the promises that Ephraim forfeited been given to those nice folks who believe in Yeshua who’ve been coming out of the nations for centuries? The ones who’ve taken Ephraim’s place to be joined with Judah to form the “commonwealth of Israel?” (Eph. 2:12) The ones who are sharing in all the blessings that were once exclusively Israel’s – “the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants…and the promises” (Rom. 9:4)?  Imagine what would happen if a redeemed Ephraim showed up one day demanding to receive their share of the inheritance? Only to learn it had been given to another?

In other words, haven’t we accepted as fact the same lie we were told concerning Judah? That God had permanently rejected Ephraim and replaced them with all these so-called “Gentile” believers (aka, the “Gentile Church”)?

Do you hear what I am saying?

But the truth is, the same eternal commitment God made to Judah to forgive them and bring them home He made also to Ephraim. Just listen to the words of Hosea immediately after he pronounced God’s judgment that they were no longer His people:

“YET, the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to THEM, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said to THEM, ‘You are the sons of the living God. And the sons of Judah and sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader; and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:10,11)

Indeed, the whole book of Hosea gives dramatic testimony to God’s choice, His steadfast love and faithfulness towards His people no matter how often they went ‘a whorin.’ Indeed, in a scene that clearly echoes Yeshua’s parable of the prodigal son, Hosea reveals God’s broken heart towards His missing son, Ephraim.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled (Hos. 11:8).

Then, as if speaking to us today, God promises:

I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim AGAIN. For I am God and not a man [who holds a grudge], the holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath (Hos. 11:9).

The promised restoration of both houses of Israel was certified by all the prophets. Just because Ephraim has been in exile much longer than Judah doesn’t mean God will break His word and forget them. He will be as faithful to them as He was to Judah.*** He is God and cannot lie. In fact, remember the verse I quoted earlier from Jeremiah where God asks the prophet, “Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families the Lord chose, He has rejected them?”

He then answered His own question:

“Thus says the Lord, ‘If My covenant with the day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and have mercy on them” (Jer. 33:25,26).

Not only is it a certainty that a remnant of Ephraim will be coming home to join Judah, it is my belief, and the growing conviction of numerous others – that He already has! At least spiritually (Rom. 9:21-28; Gal. 3:11-18; 4:18).**** We who have come forth from the nations under the New Covenant are surely them! We must be them because the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah was promised ONLY to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). If we are not them, how could the Father have legally allowed us to come into the New Covenant?

So, here’s the situation as I see it. God began with us first by giving us the new heart and the new spirit, along with the promise He would restore us to the land in the last days. He did just the opposite with Judah. He brought them home first with the promise to restore them spiritually afterwards. “For the deliverer will come from Zion, he will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (Rom. 11:26.27).

Paul told us this was mystery that he didn’t want us to be ignorant about; to wit:

 “That a partial hardening has happened to Israel (both Judah and Ephraim) until the fullness (lit. “multitude”) of the nations has come in, and so ALL ISRAEL will be saved…For God has shut up ALL in disobedience so that He may show mercy upon ALL” (Rom. 11:25,26,32).

It’s time for all Christians to awaken and see that neither Judah nor Ephraim ever were, or ever will be, rejected or replaced as the “Israel of God” by God. Didn’t God promise Israel, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth?” (Amos 3:2). Nothing has changed in God’s plan to redeem and deliver ALL ISRAEL. We just have to believe it!

 

*The first edict in favor of the “Venerable Day of the Sun” (Sunday) was made at the Council of Nicaea. Until this time, both Christian and Jew generally observed the seventh day Sabbath, according to the Biblical commandment. Nicaea, with its theological anti-Judaism, laid the groundwork for anti-Semitic legislation of later church councils. The Council of Antioch (341 CE) prohibited Christians from celebrating Passover with the Jews. The Council of Laodicea in the same century forbade Christians from observing the Jewish (and biblical) Sabbath. (Some Christians had been observing both Sunday and the Sabbath.) Christians were also forbidden from receiving gifts from Jews or matzoh (1) from Jewish festivals and “impieties.” (2)

**Tragically, evangelical proponents of “Reform Theology” normally include some form of Replacement Theology within their eschatology–e.g., John Piper who regularly decries that the Jews do not abide the “chosen people of God”–therefore, “I will bless him who blesses thee” is grossly misunderstood by Christians as far as offering the Jews any specialty from their Christian counterparts.  Piper falls back upon “justice” trumps all, not Bible prophecy–apparently, Bible prophecy is contrary to the principles of Reform Theology and issues related to “justice.”

*** Doug Krieger takes Ezekiel’s prophecy of the 390 days/years found in Ezekiel 4:1-6 where Ezekiel is commanded to lie on his left side, “and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it, according to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity.  For I have laid on you the YEARS of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days, so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel [aka Ephraim].”  This 390 years must be multiplied 7 times in accordance with the principal of “restitution” in accordance with Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24, 28 or 7 X 390 years = 2,730 years.  Krieger’s thesis is that the year of Hezekiah’s confrontation with King Sennacherib and the final defeat of the Assyrians over the land of Israel occurred in 712 B.C. in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign–i.e., the Assyrians were expunged from Northern Israel, as well.  Also, 712 B.C. was the same year in which King Hezekiah’s life extension took place (he reigned for 29 years – 14 years unto the defeat of King Sennacherib and an additional 15 years–2 Kings 18-20.  Thus 712 B.C. + 2,730 years = 2018 A.D.  Krieger postulates:  “Could this be the commencement of Daniel’s 70th Week and that within the crucible of that week Judah and Ephraim shall be joined in the hand of the LORD and made in reality ONE STICK?”  Especially noteworthy, is Krieger’s chronologies which are 29 years shy of Adam’s Creation Date from that of the venerable Bishop James Ussher (4004 B.C. less 29 years = 3975 B.C. unto 2025 A.D. = 6,000 years given for humanity; with the final 7 years the time of Jacob’s Trouble).

****The “spiritual” aspects of Ephraim are confirmed in the “S”eed of Messiah (Galatians 3-4) where “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Gal. 4:18).  This in no way obfuscates the possible, and most probable (after some 100+ generations from 722 B.C.) that Ephraim’s physical DNA would, as well, be “sown among the nations” (Deut. 4:27; 28:64; Lev. 26:33; Ezek. 22:15; 36:19; Hosea 4:10; 8:8; 9:17; Amos 9:8-9).  Israel of the North is called JEZREEL or “God sows [seed]” (Hosea 1:4-5) – and He certainly has!

Zechariah’s Two-Staff Prophecy

Zechariah’s Two-Staff Prophecy

Most Christians who love Israel know about Ezekiel’s “two-stick” prophecy. But not many are as aware of Zechariah’s “two-staff” prophecy, which is found in chapter eleven of his text.

Both “branch” prophecies refer to Judah and Ephraim, the two divided kingdoms of Israel. But whereas Ezekiel’s two sticks are prophesying a glorious future reunification of the two nations, Zechariah’s two staffs are speaking about a contentious separation. What makes Zechariah’s two-staff prophecy so perplexing, though, is that when he gave it, the two kingdoms had already been separated for about 400 years! Surely the prophet knew that. So, what was he saying? Let’s see.

The prophecy begins with God commanding Zechariah to “pasture [shepherd] the flock doomed for slaughter” (Zech. 11:4). The doomed flock we understand is the people of Israel whose corrupt spiritual shepherds have led them astray. And as we know from history, the shepherd he’s portraying is our coming Messiah.

We know he is “Yeshua” because the wages Zechariah receives for his labor as the good shepherd come to thirty pieces of silver, which he is then instructed “to throw to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued” (vs. 12,13). Those words are the very ones quoted in Matt. 27:9,10 to show how Judas’ sell-out of the Messiah had been prophesied long before.*

Knowing the good shepherd is Yeshua is a huge clue. Because it tells us the first century is the time when this prophecy would be fulfilled.

                                        He breaks the first staff
As Zechariah sets out in his role as the good shepherd, he takes with him two staffs. One he calls “Favor” and the other “Union” (11:7 NASB). It doesn’t take long before he sees why God called the flock “doomed.” Both the sheep and the shepherds are completely lawless. In disgust, he breaks in pieces the staff called “Favor.” And the people of that day immediately grasp “this was the word of the Lord” (vs. 11). And the message is clear: God’s covenant favor and protection of Israel would be withdrawn unless they repent.

Fast forward five centuries to Yeshua’s day when this prophecy would come to pass. Not much has changed. The people’s hearts are still far from God. Yet in Yeshua, God is giving them one last chance to repent and retain God’s favor. All they had to do was believe he is the good shepherd that Zechariah had portrayed. If they couldn’t figure it out by observing his miraculous ministry, they just had to listen to his words. He had told them, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (John 10:11). And sadly, even after he confirmed his words by giving up his life for the sheep, the majority still did not believe. And only a remnant was saved.

Forty years later the nation learned what the removal of God’s favor meant when Rome stormed the city and slaughtered the “sheep.” But that would be the last time He’d have to exile Israel for breaking their covenant. Because Israel now had a new eternal  covenant. One not based on laws that could be broken. But based on a word of promise He’d sworn to Abraham long before concerning an inheritance that could now be received through faith in Yeshua. It was an unbreakable covenant promise because it depended on Him, and Him alone, to keep  it. And He always would.

                             Zechariah breaks the second staff
But what about Zechariah’s second staff, “Union?” Well, this is the puzzling part of the prophecy. Because right after Zechariah tosses the thirty pieces of silver to the potter, he says:

“Then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel” (vs. 14).

Now, as I noted earlier, the brotherhood between Israel and Judah was already broken. It happened around 920 BC when the northern kingdom split from the House of David. But Zechariah is prophesying the breakup around 520 BC – 400 years later. What’s more, when this prophecy would be fulfilled in the first century, 900 years would have passed since the brotherhood had been shattered! So, what’s going on here?

The only way to say that the brotherhood would be broken in the first century, and it makes sense, is to realize God must have somehow reunited them in Yeshua. But the only joining together we see in the New Testament is a bunch of goyim being united to a remnant of Judah in Yeshua … “so that in himself he might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:13-15).

Well, it shouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce, since the Jews are Judah, then all those non-Jewish believers coming forth from the nations must have been a remnant of Ephraim. Ezekiel’s two-stick prophecy truly was finally coming to pass at that time! But if the brotherhood was being reunited then, why was Zechariah smashing his staff called “Union?”

                                        Jews vs. Christians
Well, what does history tell us? Although the first century witnessed a historic reunion of the two kingdoms in Yeshua, nevertheless a huge rift occurred afterwards between Jewish Israel and the followers of Messiah. First, the Jews began to persecute and harass the followers of Messiah. Then, after the Jews were exiled, and Ephraim (who soon became the dominant membership in what came to be called the “Christian Church”) had gained the upper hand, they began to persecute and harass Judah.

I believe it was this centuries-long battle between Jews and Christians, Judah and Ephraim, that was symbolized in Zechariah’s breaking of his staff called Union. It was a FYI to Israel that a second separation of God’s people would take place at the beginning of the “church age.” This time it would last until the Jewish exile ended and their state restored in 1948. That’s when the Holy Spirit would begin to knit us together again. This “knitting” process, I believe, began with a stirring in the heart of Ephraim to reach out in love towards Judah in support of their new state. And although Judah was at first suspicious, and understandably so given the centuries of persecution, they have finally begun to receive that love.

                                     The worthless shepherd
But there’s one more part to Zechariah’s prophesy. After shattering his second staff Union, he is told by God to portray a worthless shepherd. One “who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken, or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves” (Zech. 11:16). In short, this loser would have no regard for the spiritual or physical welfare of God’s flock.

This was clearly a prophetic warning that a deceitful shepherd would show up one day to wreak havoc on God’s unsuspecting flock. Like all hired hands, he’ll be one who leaves the flock in times of trouble. He will be a false messiah, the Antichrist. One who we are told in the New Testament will become the fullest expression of evil in human form ever seen on this planet. He will be Satan incarnate. And Zechariah indicates he’ll be marked by “a sword on his arm and on his right eye. His arm will be withered and his right eye will be blind” (Zech. 11:17).

Although we know he won’t be revealed until the great Day of the Lord,  history has shown he’s been preceded by a series of leaders possessed by his evil  spirit. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Hellenistic Greek king who desecrated the Jewish temple some 200 years before Yeshua, is considered the ultimate prototype of the arch villain. And as history also shows, others have arisen within the very Israel of God, the body of Messiah, now called the “Christian church.”

                                              Son of Jeroboam
After the last of the apostles died, a succession of false shepherds arose who declared themselves the head of Christ’s body of believers. The first in this line of Pharaohs “who knew not Joseph” was the most deceptive of all – the Emperor Constantine. He was the man all Christendom had hailed as its savior for stopping the persecutions. But the truth is he introduced the most corruption of all. True to form, he followed in the evil footsteps of the first Ephraimite king, Jeroboam, who led Israel into idolatry following their historic split from Judah.

Like Jeroboam, Constantine used his royal position to officially sever God’s people from the Hebraic roots of their faith. He convened the First Ecumenical Church Council in 325 A.D., the Council of Nicaea, creating a bogus religion parallel to Judaism. One that approved a pagan philosophic concept of God, built false temples of worship, sanctioned an unbiblical priesthood and hierarchy, allowed unbelievers into the fellowship of believers and invented new feast days such as Easter, Christmas and the Sunday Sabbath. And in the process, yoked the church to the authority of a pagan state for centuries.

Constantine’s influence was so pervasive he accomplished what Antiochus IV Epiphanes had failed to do. He imposed a pagan Hellenistic mindset upon God’s people. It was the classic inside job epitomized in the Trojan Horse. With the help of theologians known as the Church Fathers who were steeped more in the writings of Plato and Aristotle than Paul and the apostles, Constantine thoroughly corrupted the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What Satan cannot do from the outside, he’ll do from the inside. There’s always a Judas waiting in the wings.

After Constantine moved his throne from Rome to Constantinople, kingly authority over the western church was rivaled by a succession of Roman bishops known as the Popes. For centuries, there was a wrestling back and forth between the Empire’s monarchs and the Popes about who had the final say over Western Christendom. Later to be known as the Holy Roman Empire.

                                          But this is a new day.
Over 2500 years have now come and gone since Zechariah did his false shepherd impersonation. We realize the man who will finally fill those evil sandals will be the satanic Man of Lawlessness. And when he appears he will assume full control of the Empire, even doing away with his religious rival described in the Bible as the great whore of Babylon.

“For the Beast…will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” (Rev. 17:16).

As those false shepherds gorged on the flesh of God’s sheep, so it will be done to them.

We also know from Scripture this deceiver, who Daniel described as the “boastful horn” (Dan. 7:20), will be given three-and-a-half-years to vent his evil. He will assume both the office of king and high priest, just as Constantine had. He will fool a sleeping church and an unbelieving world. But not us. Because we are not his sheep. And he is not our shepherd. And we will not respond to his voice. Instead, we will be looking and listening for the voice of our shepherd, the good shepherd, the one who will open the gate and lead us forth. For he has not forgotten us. And he will not forsake us. He will come to bring us home. Just as he informed his Jewish sheep in the day of his flesh, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).

“Therefore, he will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of his brethren will return to the sons of Israel, and he will arise and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God…This one will be our peace” (Micah 5:3,4).

“Since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:8,9)

                                                A quick recap
Because the story of Israel with its ever-changing identities can get very confusing, I will recap my understanding of the breaking of Zechariah’s two staffs. I believe his first staff, Favor, signaled the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish religion in 70 AD. The breaking of his second staff, Union, signaled that history was about to repeat itself. A historic reunion of Judah and Ephraim had just taken place in Yeshua, which had been acknowledged and preserved by the wisdom of God at the Jerusalem Council (see my article, “Restoring the Tabernacle of David”). But now the “nation” would be split apart again. The gospel had to go out to the world to bring in the fullness of Ephraim, and that would take time. Meanwhile, the larger communities of God’s people, the Jews and Christians, would find themselves as opponents until the last days. Then the Davidic nation would finally be restored by a second coming of Yeshua to become the ruling centerpiece in the kingdom of God. And then all evil in the world would be trodden under foot.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.

 

*Although Matthew is quoting Zechariah’s prophecy about the thirty pieces of silver he says it was spoken by Jeremiah. One explanation is that Jeremiah was considered by the Jews to be the head of the prophets and was often  referenced for the utterances of all the prophets, including Zechariah.

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

Most of us are familiar with that knee-slapping spiritual that musically celebrates Ezekiel’s famous dry-bones prophecy. In that prophecy, God had shown Ezekiel a vision of Israel which had ceased to exist. The nation’s people were all pictured as dry bones scattered “on the surface of the valley”- like the remains of slain soldiers from a long-forgotten battle.

God then asked Ezekiel if he thinks these bones can live again? Knowing only a miracle of God could accomplish that, Ezekiel responded, “O, Lord God, you know” (Ezek. 37:3). God then tells him to speak to the bones. When Ezekiel does they all come rattling together as skeletons, which are then covered with muscle and flesh – but no life comes into them. They were as corpses.

That’s when God tells Ezekiel to prophesy again, this time to the breath, saying, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may come to life” (v. 9). He does so, and sure enough, “the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (v.10).

Now, most students of the Bible have long seen a fulfillment of this prophesy in the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 after 2000 years of exile. And that the life-giving “breath,” which represents the Holy Spirit, is  noticeably lacking still in the regathered Jewish nation. They may be physically restored to the land, but they’ve not yet received the spiritual renewal that only comes through faith in Messiah Yeshua.

But recently many Christians have started to ask – were those bones on the valley floor just Jewish bones? And the answer is “no.” Because, as God later tells Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (v.11). Biblical history informs us that the “whole house of Israel” includes more than just the House of Judah (the Jews). It also includes the House of Israel, which is also called “Ephraim” after its largest tribe. Therefore, both kingdoms of Israel with all twelve tribes are represented in Ezekiel’s boneyard.

This understanding is reinforced by Ezekiel’s “two-stick” prophecy which immediately follows in the same chapter. In this prophecy, God states, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the [ten] tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick in My hand…and I will bring them into their own land” (Ezek. 37:19-21).

Taken together, the two prophecies confirm God’s promise to physically and spiritually restore both kingdoms of Israel from the dustbin of history. And to reunite them again in the land of Israel.

Well we know Judah has been resurrected and is now back in the land. But what about Ephraim? Their kingdom has been missing for almost 2700 years since Assyria destroyed that nation in 722 BC and took them away. Where are those bones?

It is the conviction of the author, and many others, that Ephraim too has arisen. And, unlike Judah, has even received the breath of life and been walking around for the last 2000 years. God has just been hiding them, as they say, in plain sight. They are none other than all those saints who have come out of the nations to believe in Yeshua who are called “Christians.” Having believed in Yeshua, Israel’s Messiah, we have been raised up with him. And our “bones” miraculously rejuvenated by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

This understanding that we are the missing Ephraim, as shocking as it might be for some, is seen prophetically in the story of the patriarch Joseph. This son of Jacob, who God had sent ahead to Egypt to preserve the family from famine, is clearly a type and shadow of Yeshua – who is also the head of the body of Messiah. But in the story, if you recall, when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain they did not recognize him. They saw him only as an Egyptian prince, a foreigner. It wasn’t until Joseph had tested them to see if they’d repented of their jealousy and rejection of him – and he’d dealt with any unforgiveness he had towards them for sending him there – that he revealed who he truly was. Then there was much weeping and hugging.

As God did with Joseph, He did with Yeshua. He used his brethren’s rejection to send him to “Egypt” – to find us! And in us He has preserved “the Bread of Life” all these centuries. So that when the brothers reunite there’ll be bread for Judah, too. As Joseph told his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive for a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7). And as Paul told us,  “For if their rejection [of Messiah] is the reconciliation of the world, what will be their acceptance be, but life from the dead” (Rom. 11:15).

But here’s the dilemma. The Jews, who are still missing their promised  spiritual life, are physically back in the land. While we, who have received that breath of life, are still in “Egypt.” And blocked from joining Judah for a number of reasons. Not the least being that the Jews still see “Joseph” as an “Egyptian.” So how will God bring us together? Because Ezekiel’s promise to all of Israel’s dry bones, couldn’t be clearer: “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord” (Ezek. 37:14).

I do not see how this final reunion can take place without a massive supernatural salvation event to bring Ephraim home to Israel. That’s when I suspect most of Judah will finally recognize “Joseph” – in us! Just consider what God has been doing over the last 50 years. He has begun to awaken many Jews to the gospel. He has also awakened Ephraim to his Hebraic roots and given us a supernatural love for the Jews and Israel. As a result, many unbelieving Jews have put away their jealous anger (which we had compounded through our anti-Semitic ignorance) and are now accepting that love. As well as us!

All this was foreseen by Isaiah: “Then [Judah’s] jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those [in Ephraim] who harass Judah will be cut off. Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim” (Isa. 11:13). And if you go to the beginning of Isaiah’s prophecy you discover what will massively trigger this reconciliation. It will be a second exodus: “Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand, the remnant of His people who will remain” (Isa. 11:11).

It seems pretty clear to me that God is planning a stupendous conclusion to Israel’s restoration. That there is another worldwide exodus ahead – this time for us. One that will dwarf the Jewish return in the past century. Indeed, one that will even dwarf the Red Sea exodus under Moses. Listen to this prophecy by Jeremiah: “Therefore, behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they will no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they shall live on their own soil” (Jer. 23:7,8).

All of this throws new light on a curious request Joseph made on his death bed. After assuring his brethren that God would one day bring them back to their promised land, he made them swear, that when they left “to carry my bones up from here” (Gen. 50:24). Which Moses was faithful to do when he came to take Israel home.

Brothers and sisters, I am convinced we are those “bones of Joseph.” And that God is about to initiate a second exodus to bring us back to Israel. For like Judah, we were once dead and buried because of our sin. But, unlike Judah, we had also suffered another death when our forefathers caused God to declare, “You are not My people, and I am not your God” (Hos. 1:9). That’s why, as descendants, we found ourselves “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, made strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in this world” (Eph. 2:12). But through Messiah, God has mercifully redeemed a remnant of Ephraim. In Yeshua, we are now declared “Abraham’s[chosen] offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). And it’s time for us to realize who we really are, and get ready to go home.

In past generations, this understanding had not been given to us. So, we came up with all sorts of end-time theologies to differentiate the salvation of Jewish Israel from the salvation of the church. Not realizing we’d both be part of the same glorious salvation and enthronement in the kingdom of God.

But keep this in mind, too. Our deliverance is not the only salvation at stake here. I believe God will use our miraculous return from the four corners of the earth to be the catalyst that breathes life into Judah. For we carry the very breath of God that will no doubt be the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophesy: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may come to life” (Ezek. 37:9)

That’s when I believe Jewish Israel will recognize “Joseph.” And we will see that same emotional scene of reconciliation dramatically repeated, this time on the world stage. For God “will pour out on the house of [the son of] David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on me whom they have pierced [lit. “the Pierced One”]. And they will mourn for him, as they mourn for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).

Restoring the Tabernacle of David

Restoring the Tabernacle of David

In chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles we find the dramatic account of what is arguably the most important “Christian” conference ever held; namely, the Council of Jerusalem.

It was here that the term expressed as the “tabernacle of David (also translated as “tent” or “booth”), so frequently celebrated and interpreted of late, first came into prominence. I say interpreted because it’s not exactly clear what the “tabernacle of David” is. The term is found in a prophecy in the Book of Amos that was quoted by James, leading to his decision not to impose the Law upon the non-Jewish converts. So, obviously, understanding what both Amos and James meant by the “tabernacle of David” is important.

Therefore, I would like to share with you my investigation, not only into the meaning of the term, but into what provoked James to quote Amos in the first place. And why it caused him to rule the way he did.

What I believe the Lord showed me will greatly bless you.

                                            David’s “tabernacle”
To begin, here is the passage James quoted in my New American Standard translation. First, as it appears in the Book of Amos. And second, as James quoted it in the NT. The James version is slightly different because he no doubt had a different manuscript.

“In that day, I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the Lord who does this.’” (Amos 9:11,12)

“With this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the nations who are called by My name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’” (Acts 15:15-18).

So, what is the “tabernacle/tent/booth of David?” In searching Israel’s long history, there are really only two legitimate possibilities Amos could be referring to.

First, it could be the tent David pitched in Jerusalem to temporarily house the Ark of the Covenant that had been previously captured by the Philistines, and then returned (see 1 Chron. 16:1). David had moved the Ark to Jerusalem and placed it inside a special tent pavilion, appointing Levite priests to offer continuous praise and worship there before the Lord. The Ark then remained in David’s “tent” until Solomon built his grand edifice.

Some teachers believe this is the tabernacle/tent Amos was referring to, seeing in this unique enclosure a foreshadowing of a soon-coming restoration of Davidic praise and worship. I have no doubt David’s highly unorthodox tabernacle is freighted with many Messianic types and shadows like that. However, I don’t believe this is the “tabernacle/tent” Amos was speaking about; neither do I believe James thought this.

A major reason for dismissing David’s ‘pup tent’ from consideration is that the tabernacle Amos spoke about had “fallen,” sustained “breaches,” was in “ruins” and needed to be rebuilt. How could that apply to David’s temporary shelter for the Ark? As far as we know that tent was simply folded up and retired after Solomon built his magnificent temple, and the Ark restored to its proper place in the Holy of Holies.

Therefore, I’m convinced the second possibility is the correct one. Namely, that it was a figurative reference to the kingdom of David that had been reduced to the status of a small hut – or tent – following the secession of the northern ten tribes after the death of Solomon. A breakup that left the kingdom divided into two separate nations, the House of Israel and the House of Judah.

If so, then Amos’ “tent” was not a tabernacle or temple at all. But a restored throne. Amos was simply prophesying that God would one day reunite and restore the Davidic kingdom. The implication, of course, was that God would raise up a future king from the line of David to sit on that throne and rule over his restored kingdom. That son of David, of course, we know is Jesus – Messiah Yeshua. And that with His resurrection the Davidic kingdom was reborn with the promise it will be completed and fully manifested in the last days.

The New Living Translation Bible, I believe, correctly captures the Amos prophecy, saying: “In that day I will restore the fallen kingdom of David. It is now like a house in ruins, but I will rebuild its walls and restore its former glory” (Amos 9:11).

A prophecy by Isaiah also adds support to this understanding: “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David. Moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness” (Isa. 16:5).

So, let us proceed with that understanding and investigate the curious ruling James made at the apostolic council, which raises two questions: first, what caused James to determine from the Amos quote that the non-Jewish converts should not be subjected to the Law of Moses?” And two, why did he quote the Amos prophecy at all?

                                         Amos and the Law
At this point I’d like you to go back and reread both versions of the Amos prophecy. Then I have a question for you.
I’ll wait.  (Amos 9:11,12) (Acts 15:15-18)

Done? Good. My question is, do you see any mention of the Law in either quote? Because I don’t. The only link to what Amos said and the purpose of the meeting I see is that, when you see goyim begin to seek the Lord, it will signal that the healing and restoration of the Davidic kingdom has begun.

So, if there is no mention of the Law in Amos, then what did James see in the prophecy that convinced him the Law should not be imposed on those coming to Messiah from the nations?

I believe the answer can be found in the fact that James was no doubt very familiar with the history of Israel. Especially, as to what caused the breakup of the united kingdom 900 years earlier. And from that knowledge he gained a huge insight that he saw being played out in the council’s proceedings. So, let’s revisit that dark and gloomy day as told in 1 Kings 12 and see what James understood by the Spirit that led him to rule the way he did.

                                                  A king’s folly
The year was around 930 BC. King Solomon has died and judgement is about to fall upon Israel. Despite all his renowned wisdom, the king had wandered from the paths of righteousness in his later years. He’d gathered many chariots of war with horses, taken many wives and built many temples to their gods. Everything God told him not to do – he did. Though warned many times by the prophets, he’d persisted in his rebellion.

Consequently, God allowed discontent to grow in his kingdom like a cancer. It stemmed mostly from the forced labor he’d imposed upon the tribes of the north, along with high taxes. To trouble him further, God raised up a firebrand from the tribe of Ephraim, a man named Jeroboam, to whom God promised the ten tribes following Solomon’s death.

Well, Solomon has finally died. And his son Rehoboam has assumed the throne. Seemingly unaware of the impending judgment about to fall, Rehoboam visits the northern tribes to try and consolidate his kingdom.

Here then is my portrayal of the “town meeting” in Shechem, which
resulted in the awful breakup of the Davidic kingdom.

It was well before dawn when the people began to gather inside the city. Old men and warriors, women with children, Levites and laborers, nobles and farmers, all crowded together to get close enough to hear what their new young king Rehoboam would say to them.

Three days had passed since they’d first met with their new regent to present their simple request – a plea for mercy. “Your father made our yoke hard; therefore, lighten the harsh service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put upon us and we will serve you,” Those were the words their leader, Jeroboam, had used to plead on their behalf.

The king had listened attentively, but did not respond “yea” or “nay.” Instead he’d ordered all to depart and return in three days when he’d give them his answer. The king then spent the next three days conferring with his advisors. His older advisors, seeing the rebellious mood of the people, and understanding the need to win the allegiance of these northern tribes, advised the king to comply with the people’s request. But his younger, hot-headed counselors told him to use all the power of his Davidic monarchy to bring the people into submission.

It was now the third day. Stepping out from among his royal coterie, the king surveyed the vast crowd, along with their representative Jeroboam, who stood before him with arms folded. Lifting his voice so all could hear, the king gave them his answer: “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”

His words hung in the air like a death sentence. Then suddenly the people erupted. “What portion do we have in David?” one man shouted. “We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse,” cried another. Turning to the crowd, Jeroboam bellowed, “To your tents, O Israel!” And then spinning again to face the seething king, he spat out his contempt: “Now you can look after your own house, David!”

Returning to Jerusalem, King Rehoboam immediately began raising an army to smash the rebellion and reunite the country. But God sent a prophet and told him not to fight against his relatives, revealing the whole separation was of Him. Rehoboam, showing he was not totally void of spiritual discernment, heeded the prophet and did not go to war.

The ten northern tribes quickly crowned Jeroboam king and established their own nation with their capital in Shechem (later Samaria). It would be called the Kingdom of Israel, or “Ephraim” after the most powerful of their ten tribes. In the south, only the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to House of David. They became known as the Kingdom of Judah with their capital remaining in Jerusalem.

The family of Abraham had now split into two rival nations which continued for another two hundred years. When the northern kingdom became utterly and hopelessly idolatrous, God sent in the nation of Assyria to deliver the divorce papers by utterly destroying the kingdom of Samaria/Israel. As Hosea had prophesied, they became, “Not My people” (Hos. 1:9).

The ten tribes were carried off and eventually scattered among the nations, never to be seen or heard from again (Hos. 8:7-9). Nevertheless, God placed a light at the end of their dark tunnel. He sent prophets like Hosea and Amos to declare that one day He’d bring back a remnant and reunite them with Judah under a future Davidic king.

                                        The Jerusalem Council
Now, fast forward nine centuries and take a front row seat at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).

Men kept filing into the room in twos and threes until there was no place left to sit or stand. All the Jewish believers in Jerusalem knew of the importance of the meeting and all who could fit were squeezing in to hear the determinations first-hand.

In the midst of the crowd, Paul and Barnabas, and the disciples who had come with them from Antioch, were describing to the apostles and elders the things God was doing among the uncircumcised through their ministry. Seated to the left of the apostles sat a number of men with grim faces in fine robes who were paying very close attention to all their words. These believers in Yeshua belonged to the Jewish sect known as the Pharisees.

Paul, speaking with much animation, was describing in great detail the numbers of non-Jewish believers coming to Christ. As the sound of murmured approval grew louder, suddenly one of the Pharisees harrumphed, and standing to his feet, declared, “It will be necessary to circumcise these new converts and direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” A nervous silence descended upon the room.

The apostles and elders immediately asked for the Torah scrolls to be brought forth so they could look into the matter. An intense debate then followed, until Peter, frustrated by the lack of progress, stood up and reminded everyone how God had recently used him to share the gospel with the family of Cornelius. And how they had all gotten saved and been filled with the Holy Spirit. Didn’t this clearly show that God was making no distinction between Jews and non-Jews? That He was cleansing the hearts of all who came to Him?

Realizing he had caught the wind of the Spirit, he then looked at the Pharisees and drove home his argument: “Now therefore, why would you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of these new disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

The silence that followed Peter’s heartfelt defense gave instant feedback that the tide was turning. Paul and Barnabas immediately arose and confirmed Peter’s witness that God was truly in this, relating more of the signs and wonders He was doing among the uncircumcised.

When they had finished, James, the brother of the Lord, and the acknowledged leader of the ecclesia in Jerusalem, rose slowly to his feet. “Brethren, listen to me.” Immediately, every head swiveled in his direction.

“Peter has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the nations a people for His name, and with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all those from the nations who are called by My name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’”

Continuing as if everyone clearly understood that this quote from Amos was the final word on the subject, James declared:

“Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the nations.”

The debate was over. Peter and Paul’s defense of the new converts had been vindicated. The Mosaic Law would not be imposed upon the disciples. They would only be asked to abstain from a few Mosaic red lines, most likely so as not to offend the Jews who lived among them in the Diaspora. It would be a decision that would cause great rejoicing among the new converts, then, and for centuries to come.

                                 Would history repeat itself?
Now let me ask. Did you see the parallel between these two meetings? I believe James did. And it was the reason he decided to rule as he did. Let’s see.

Both meetings revolved around a plea from one party asking to be released from a harsh yoke of slavery. The first from the yoke of conscription to hard physical labor and high taxation. The second from the yoke of the Law.

Both took place at the start of a new Davidic rule in Israel: Rehoboam’s and Yeshua’s.

Both had their defense lawyers advocating for mercy and grace. And both had prosecuting attorney’s advocating to maintain the harsh yoke of servitude. The only difference was the outcome. The Jerusalem tribunal resulted in a decision that favored the complainants.

I’m convinced the only reason James ruled as he did was because the Holy Spirit reminded him of King Rehoboam’s awful ruling. In a nanosecond, he must have realized that if he allowed the Law to be imposed upon the necks of those now being saved from the nations they’d be repeating the same tragic mistake their forefathers had made. A mistake that would have the same painful consequences – another tragic division. For surely the new believers would be no more willing to have the yoke of the Law imposed upon them (especially starting off with circumcision) then the northern tribes wanted to continue under heavy taxation and forced labor.

I believe James grasped in that moment the historical importance of his decision. And he knew this time God didn’t want a division to happen. This was the time of restoration. So, he ruled against placing the Law on the disciple’s necks, overturning 1400 years of tradition. And preserving the spiritual unity of this newly formed “holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9).

With that ruling, it was agreed the burdensome legalism of the Old Covenant that had once placed a wall of partition between circumcised and uncircumcised believers, namely “the Law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15) had been torn down in Messiah.

In Messiah, we could all live, Jew and non-Jew alike, as one new man on ground – “apart from the Law” (Rom. 3:21). The only yoke we had to carry now was the personal one Yeshua gives to each of us. But as He promised, “My yoke is easy, and my load is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

                                                  The final mystery
But, even if I’m correct in that understanding, there remains one more question to be answered. Namely, if the Amos prophecy had nothing to do with the Law, why did James quote it? What did the evidence of goyim seeking the Lord have to do with the restoration of David’s throne?

                                       There can only be one answer
I believe James realized that these goyim being saved were a remnant of Ephraim. The very ones God had divorced for their idolatry and called “not My people.” Redeemed through the blood of Messiah, they were now being reunited with a saved remnant of Judah.

And what better proof text to quote than Amos 9:11,12? It was the passage that tied the sign of goyim seeking God with the restoration of David’s kingdom! If you recall, the whole book of Amos is primarily a judgment against the northern Kingdom of Israel. But it is in the ninth chapter where we find the promise given that the very breach God had imposed on the nation would one day be healed.

The prophecy also implied that the incoming remnant of Ephraim at that time would be resubmitted to the reigning king of the House of David. And in Yeshua, those who were coming out of the nations had indeed repented of their rebellion and bowed in submission to the son of David’s rule. All that was needed now, according to Paul’s prophecy, was for the fullness of these now being saved from the nations to come in. Then the eyes of Judah would be opened – and “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26).

For me, it is the only explanation that makes sense. How else could the inclusion of saved goyim factor into the restoration of David’s kingdom? It only makes sense if they are the missing rebellious family members being brought home under a new covenant. One “not like the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt (Jer. 31:31).” One that was promised ONLY to the descendants of the House of Israel and the House of Judah!

It also helps explain why James, and even the Pharisees, were so willing to swallow a lifetime of prejudice to accept the goyim into the family to start with. They had to have seen that God was now fulfilling the prophecies about rebuilding the tabernacle of David through Messiah, just as He said He would though Amos, and all the prophets. Jeremiah had said: “I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel and will rebuild them as they were at first” (Jer. 33:17).

The final piece of evidence for me that James no doubt understood who the new believers were, is found in his opening salutation in his one letter that made it into the New Testament. It begins, “James, a bond servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad, greetings” (James 1:1). In the Greek, it literally says – “to the twelve tribes in the Diaspora.” Keep in mind, the massive Jewish Diaspora following the Roman destruction had not yet occurred.

Some teachers are at a loss to explain this salutation by James, suggesting he was putting the equivalent of a note in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean. Hoping some lost scattered descendants of the nation might see it and call home.

No, this was a letter of encouragement sent specifically to all the believers in Messiah who were living in all the different nations. Because I believe he knew he was speaking to all the mishpochah (Heb. “family”), the saved remnant of Judah and Ephraim. He understood that in them the “tabernacle of David” was finally being restored. It was just going to take a lot longer than anyone back then could have imagined.

                       Will history try to repeat itself – again?
I will conclude with this final heads-up. As the time approaches now for the full restoration of David’s Tabernacle and the physical and spiritual reunion of Judah and Israel, the very issue that should have been settled forever at the Jerusalem Council has come alive again.

It has arisen as more and more Christians have awakened to the falseness of the religion created under Constantine. We are finally seeing the Christianity that evolved from the decisions of Nicaea, and the so-called ecumenical councils that followed in the fourth and fifth centuries, was more influenced by the teachings of Plato and Aristotle than by the writings of Paul and the apostles. In time, this Hellenized hybrid became the all-powerful Roman Catholic Church.

Primarily a “Gentile religion,” it was  created by Constantine and others mainly as a substitute and a rival for Judaism, and in many ways, was modeled after it. It showed that the apple had not fallen far from the tree. We had followed in the same foolish footsteps of our Ephraimite ancestor, Jeroboam, who upon realizing God had given him a new kingdom, decided to keep it all under his control. So he cut the people off from their Hebraic roots so they wouldn’t rejoin the nation and leave him out in the cold. He accomplished this goal by giving them a parallel religion with their own holy days, shrines and gods.

It has now become obvious to many that Constantine was our Jeroboam. And Christianity was his “gift” to us.

Well, many centuries rolled by and God sent numerous reformations to restore us to Biblical integrity. But in took a miraculous Twentieth Century event outside of Christianity  to really awaken us: the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland and the establishment of the State of Israel. It showed God had not abandoned the Jews as Replacement Theology had taught. Though unable to rebuild their temple, there has been a huge push to do so. If God hadn’t allowed the Dome of the Rock to be on the temple Mount to keep that from happening, it would already be up. And their religion restored.

Following Israel’s stunning victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, two more miraculous events occurred. For the first time since the days of the apostles, the blinders came off Jewish eyes, and many began to see Yeshua was the Messiah. At the same time, blinders came off the eyes of many non-Jewish followers to see how we’d been cut off from the Hebraic roots of our faith. And even more, to realize how the religious title of “Christian” had robbed us of our true identity. So that we never saw all the prophecies about Ephraim’s restoration were actually talking about us.

That brings me to the deception I now see spreading among many Christians awakening to the Hebraic roots of their faith. In separating from the man-made holidays and rituals of Christianity they are replacing them with the tenets of Judaism. Like hungry Esaus’,  they don’t realize they are trading away their inheritance in Messiah for a mess of pottage.

Calling themselves “Torah Observant,” these foolish ones are just  exchanging one man-made-up religion for another. For with or without a temple and animal sacrifice, this brand of Judaism is just another hybrid. One that combines belief in Jesus with observance of a smattering of  Mosaic commands. I call it New Covenant Judaism.

The tail that’s wagging this dog, sad to say, are mostly teachers from the Messianic Jewish Movement. Early on, most Jewish believers had shucked Christianity’s holidays and traditional worship in favor of more Jewish-flavored celebrations that embraced their own heritage. It was not a giant step for them to then really start practicing their ‘old time religion.’ After all, most had grown up observing some form of Judaism before getting saved. So that’s where they are most comfortable.

Being Torah Observant lets them have their cake and Yeshua too (they think). And now they are inviting (in fact, insisting) all non-Jewish brethren who want to draw closer to their “Jewish roots” to join them in practicing the Law of Moses. For them,  true fellowship in the “Commonwealth of Israel” cannot be found outside of Moses. But Scripture tells us it is found only Yeshua. “That in himself he might make the two into one new man, thus establish peace” (Eph. 2:15).

                                   We’ve come full circle.

More and more believers are now seeing the restoration of Israel has been God’s primary concern all along. That the kingdom of God was never about going to Heaven. But about bringing forth a restored throne of David under a righteous king, Yeshua, here on earth. A servant nation through whom God could save the whole world from the corruption of evil.

But, just as it looks like it’s about to happen, we find ourselves once again facing the need of another Jerusalem Council. Only this time Paul won’t be here to rescue non-Jews from  succumbing to this false gospel, shouting – “who has bewitched you?” Or Peter to remind Jews, “Why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our fathers no we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Or a recognized leader like James to speak for the whole body and pronounce God’s warning not to go down that path. Or we’ll see the Israel of God split in two again.

Those anointed voices, of course, are still speaking loudly from our Bibles. But few seem to be listening. Which tells me we desperately need, and will surely receive, a fresh move of God’s Spirit to descend upon us and make it absolutely clear to all that there will be no going back to the Old Covenant. It’s a new day!

“Come let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us. He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days. He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. So, let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn. And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)

 

Who Is the Israel of God?

Who Is the Israel of God?

The term “Israel of God” is found in the final chapter of the Book of Galatians. In fact, it’s the only place in the Bible where it is found. But of whom was Paul speaking? Was he applying the term to the entire biological Jewish nation? Or was he limiting it only to those Jews who had come to believe in Yeshua? Or, was Paul using the term to describe all believers, the whole ecclesia – Jews and non-Jews alike?

It is my belief that Paul was without a doubt speaking of the entire saved congregation of believers. The whole ecclesia was the “Israel of God.” The same ones he had included elsewhere under the term – “the commonwealth of Israel” (Eph. 2:11).

And here’s what convinced me.

Throughout this whole letter to the Galatians Paul is anguishing over the activities of his new non-Jewish converts. He had learned they were being seduced by some Jewish disciples into submitting to the rituals and holy days prescribed under the Mosaic Law. At one point, he cries out, “who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1).

After laying out all the reasons for why they shouldn’t be doing what they were doing, Paul wraps up his letter with this final statement. “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15,16).

Based on the entire focus of his letter, I think we can safely eliminate unbelieving Jews as being included in the term “Israel of God.” Unbelievers are not within the scope of his concern here. Only believers, and how we should live under the new covenant of grace. So, it makes no sense to think he was including unbelievers in his final prayer of blessing. And since we know the first half of that blessing was for all believers “who walk by this rule,” that leaves just two candidates to be defined as “the Israel of God.” Either they too are all believers. Or  they are just Jewish believers, as some want to believe.

The argument put forth by those who insist the “Israel of God” is just for believing Jews hangs on the word “and.” They argue that by inserting the conjunctive Paul was clearly differentiating between two groups of believers. By their definition, the first group, those “who walk by this rule” (of living by the Spirit and not Law), must therefore be just non-Jews.

But we know there were many Jews included in the first group – starting with Paul. It was only those Jews (and those new converts they had persuaded) who were not walking “by this rule.” They were  insisting that circumcision and the Law’s precepts were still necessary for the followers of Messiah.

Therefore, the argument that the word “and” is connecting two different groups of believers is a false argument. Paul was speaking of the same group in two different ways – going from the particular to the general. To use an analogy, if Paul were George Washington, his conclusion could be stated this way: “And let God’s peace and mercy be upon all citizens who abide by the Constitution of the United States, and upon our whole constitutionally-founded country of America.”

The only division that existed among believers at that time was caused by those who did not want to abide by Israel’s new God-approved constitution, the New Covenant. They wanted to continue under the former governing statutes. So, Paul was simply blessing those who had correctly discerned how to live by God’s New Covenant “rule” of walking by the Spirit. And then praying for the well-being of this whole nation, including those chosen ones who were yet to be added, which he terms “the Israel of God.”

That’s why I believe the “Israel of God” is the “commonwealth of Israel.” Which is “all Israel.” Which includes both Jewish and non-Jewish believers.” Which is the ecclesia. Which is the body of Messiah.

But we could ask, what prompted Paul to use the term “Israel of God?” Were their two Israel’s in Israel? One of God, and one not? Yes. He explained this in his letter to the Romans: “They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel [Jacob] (Rom. 9:6). What did he mean? Simply that not every child who exited the womb of an Israelite mother had been chosen by God to be included in the inheritance promised to Abraham. These he called “children of the flesh.” The ones chosen were “children of promise.”

In other words, God had left to Himself the prerogative of choosing which children of Abraham would be His. And which ones wouldn’t be. As the Psalmist wrote: “He chooses our inheritance for us, the glory of Jacob whom He loves” (Ps. 74:4).”

As examples of those not included in the Israel of God were Ishmael and Esau. Isaac and Jacob were among those who would receive the promised inheritance. And if anyone had a problem with that truth, Paul told them to chew on this: “Who are you O man who argues with God. Does not the potter have the right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” (Rom. 9:20).

We see then that the “Israel of God” was not something that just started in the first century. No, God had been selecting this blessed group of Abraham’s seed from day one. Like Abraham, who Paul terms “the father of all who believe” (Rom. 4:11), they are known only through their faith. Which meant there was always a faithline within the bloodline. It included all those who lived before Yeshua who had believed in him via the types and shadows. Many are listed in Hebrews Eleven. And it included all those who believed after he came through the eye-witness accounts of his miracles and resurrection as recorded in the Bible.

The real puzzling factor in all this, however, was how to account for the inclusion of believers pouring in from among the nations who were obviously not Jewish. That’s when Paul ripped the covers off one of the biggest revelations of the New Testament. One that has sailed right over our heads for 2000 years. One that showed the Jews aren’t the only ones wearing spiritual blinders.

At the end of the ninth chapter of Romans Paul defines the Israel of God this way:

“And He [endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction] to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He called not from among Jews only, but also from among the nations. AS HE SAYS ALSO IN HOSEA, ‘I will call those who were not My people, My people, and her who was not beloved, beloved.’ And it shall be in the place where it was said to THEM, ‘you are not My people,’ there THEY shall be called ‘sons of the living God.” (Rom. 9:25,26)

When Paul told us that the non-Jewish believers were the very ones to whom Hosea’s prophecy applied, he revealed our identity. We were the redeemed descendants of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel who had assimilated among the nations. The ones who had been missing for over 700 years.

Could this really be true? Could we really be THEM? Well, didn’t the prophecy say they’d be called “sons of the living God?” And aren’t we? And didn’t Paul also tell us, “If you belong to Messiah, you ARE Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29).

Paul had called God’s restoration of Israel a “mystery.” A hidden truth. But as Yeshua told us, “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed” (Luke 12:2). It just took another two millennia to pull the covers off this one.

That’s why I can joyfully say to you, whether you are Jewish or not, if you believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, and that God raised him from the dead – “welcome to the Israel of God!”

 

The Conclusion to the Parable of the Prodigal Son

The Conclusion to the Parable of the Prodigal Son

If you recall, when Jesus ended his famous parable (Luke 15:11-31), the older brother was still having a hissy-fit. And the father, who had organized a wonderful homecoming celebration for his younger brother, “who was lost and has been found,” was desperately trying to talk him into joining the party. But the older boy was having none of it. He couldn’t understand how his father could have a party for that worthless, no-good brother of his when he had served so faithfully and nobody had ever thrown him a party.

And that’s where Jesus left us. Wondering if the older son would ever understand and receive his father’s unconditional love. And if the two brothers would ever reconcile.

Well, after 2000 years, I believe we’re watching the conclusion to this parable unfold before our eyes. And it seems headed for a happy ending. Of course, what happened to the angry older brother in the interim, sad to say, was pretty devastating. He ended up in the same pitiful homeless situation his younger brother had experienced, destitute and far from home. We know that because the parable was clearly a prophecy about to be fulfilled. And hindsight tells the tale.

The older brother surely represented the Jews in Yeshua’s day. And in telling the parable, he was revealing how they would react after he was gone and Father God began to bring into the family those who had been far off among the nations (the prodigal). They’d become jealous and go ballistic – just as the older boy did.

Why? Because, like that son, they thought they could earn God’s love and approval by following commandments. They did not understand they already had His love. But His approval and reward of righteousness comes only through faith. “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God”

Therefore, when they saw all those “aliens and strangers” (Eph. 2:12), who didn’t know Moses from Adam, claiming to be part of the commonwealth of Israel through faith in Yeshua, it pushed them right over the edge.

History then records how the older brother’s hardened heart eventually drove him from the Father’s estate. And how the relationship between the two brothers went from bad to worse. In fact, there was a complete role reversal. The prodigal (now called “Christian”) began to consider himself the favorite son and persecuted his older brother in whatever country he lived in. Driving him further and further from experiencing his Father’s love.

Centuries passed – then two miracles occurred . . .

First, the older brother was allowed to return home from his bitter exile. Secondly, the younger brother came to his senses again and remembered the unconditional love and mercy he’d been shown. Yes, suddenly we saw how poorly we’d been treating our older brother. And we wept bitter tears. And began to love again.

So here we are today. Two brothers, separated for centuries by jealousy and persecution, trying to trust one another again. Still not on the same page yet, but letting the mutual worship of our Father in Heaven, and desire to see Israel strengthened, heal our self-inflicted wounds. The story is almost complete.

In Yeshua’s parable, we see that the father wanted to celebrate with both sons. But only the forgiven son had reason to rejoice at that time. That tells me this gift of unconditional love we have been given for our embattled brother is a preparation for him to now enter God’s “covenant of peace” (Ezk. 37:26).

Which means Abba is about to throw another party – this time for the two of us! And who are his two sons? Who else but Judah and Ephraim.

The parable also reveals one more truth. When the prodigal came to his senses and repented he was far off. He still had to pick himself up and return home to be reunited with his family. That tells me there is a return trip ahead for us. That there’s “going to be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim call out, ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God’” (Jer. 31:6). We just need to be ready to move when the door opens. And the call comes.

Because this time our homecoming will result in a family reunion celebration that will rock the universe.

How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

 

When Did Christians Ever Make Jews Jealous?

When Did Christians Ever Make Jews Jealous?

Wasn’t that supposed to be our job? Didn’t the apostle Paul say he magnified his ministry to the goyimthat I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them?” (Rom. 11:14) Implying, we thought, that the more goyim he could convert to the faith, the more his brethren would become envious of what we had, and want to know Yeshua.

But when I search the New Testament I can’t find even one example of where a Jew meets a non-Jewish believer and says, “I want what he has!” And then repents and gives his life to God. Instead, all I see is Jewish outrage at the idea unclean goyim would dare think we could be accepted by God apart from the Law. Look at the murderous intent Saul (before he became Paul) showed towards his own Jewish brethren who’d become believers, even sanctioning the stoning of Stephen.

Of course, after non-Jews started getting saved in droves, and Rome destroyed the nation, everything flipped. We became the ones who thought we were now God’s favorite people, and we began persecuting the Jews. So, any chance then the Jews would become envious of our beliefs plummeted to zero.

That’s when I realized we might have this all backwards. That when Paul said “salvation has come to the nations to make them jealous” (Rom. 11:11) God’s real purpose was not to attract them to the gospel – but to repel them!

Didn’t Paul also tell us, that from the standpoint of the gospel God had made them “enemies for our sake?” (Rom. 11:28). Paul had to give them every chance, but he knew only a small remnant would respond. Most would reject the gospel. Because nothing stokes fury faster than to be convicted by the truth that “this people [only] honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mark 7:6).

When God tied His righteousness to faith in Yeshua, those Jews who were just going through the motions in their service to God erupted in anger.

I found my suspicions confirmed when I went back a few verses in Romans and found what Paul had said previously. He asked two questions related to showing why his unbelieving fellow Jews were without excuse: “(I paraphrase) Did they not hear the word of God?” And, “Did they not understand?” And answers both – “Indeed they did!” (Rom. 10:17-20)

His second question, especially, revealed his brethren should have realized that their reaction towards the incoming non-Jewish believers was way over the top. And that should have triggered something in their memory. Namely, that a judgment prophesied by Moses (and Isaiah) was now being fulfilled.

Moses had foreseen that once Israel settled in the land they’d fall away from the Lord. So, he had declared God’s judgment in advance. And Paul quoted it: “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you” (Deut. 3:31; Rom. 10:19).

There it was – he equated their jealousy with anger! And when you read the whole prophecy of Moses we learn the punishment fit the crime. “They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked me to anger with their idols. So, I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” (Deut. 32:21)

But God had a purpose for that anger. He used it to drive the gospel forth from Jerusalem to find more of that “foolish nation” scattered among the nations.

But that raises this question. What about Paul’s words that suggested this jealousy would bring about a salvation for the Jews?  If God’s purpose was not to make Jews envious, but to make them furious, why would Paul say, “I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them?” (Rom. 11:14).

There can only be two possible explanations.

First, Paul knew his countryman’s time of salvation was not then, but future. He had just quoted Isaiah, informing us how long ago God said he’d visit upon Israel “a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not, and ears to hear not” (Rom. 11:8). This was all due to the past sins of the fathers who’d refused to repent.

So, maybe Paul realized he only had one shot at rescuing some of his beloved brethren at that time. And that was to preach the gospel all the louder in the hopes it would make a few so hopping mad they’d connect the dots and remember the Moses prophecy and realize – this was that! And then realize this Yeshua who had so inspired the goyim must be the Messiah. And they’d repent and be saved. Maybe.

For a long time, that was the only explanation I could see. But I now see another possibility. One that sees the meaning of “jealousy” as we traditionally understood it. That is, provoking a desire within the unbelieving Jews to want what we have. Because now it’s a new day. The “judgment of jealousy” with its resultant Jewish anger has served God’s purposes. God has returned them to the land. The judgment has passed. Now it’s time for all Israel to get saved.

So, maybe, just maybe, Paul was looking towards this day when he saw that the more he “magnified” his ministry the more chance his brethren could get saved. Just like in the story of Joseph. God had used the jealous anger of the eleven brothers towards Joseph to send him to Egypt to be part of God’s future salvation plan for Israel. And indeed, for the rest of the world.

So, Paul too could have realized that the sooner the “fullness of the ethnos (nations) came in,” the sooner God could return to the Jews. And save some of them. So, he redoubled his efforts to reel in the ones God had chosen from among the nations.

And here we are today. And look what is happening. There’s been an unprecedented outpouring of Christian love towards Israel and the Jews over the last forty years. And for the first time it’s actually making the Jews curious as to what makes us so different – at least from other Christians!  More and more want to know why we love them and Israel so much. Initially, they thought we had a hidden agenda to “missionize” them – the term they use for “evangelization.” But now many are seeing our love and concern is genuine. Time will tell.

I’ll just close with one more observation. Notice that the Moses prophecy said: “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.” In other words, this people who would make Jewish Israel angry had been a nation. But now it was not.

Well, who does that sound like? Sounds like the House of Israel to me. For they had been a distinct nation until Assyria carried them off to be assimilated among all the tribes and tongues and peoples of the earth. And then they were a nation no more.

And since Paul equated all the so-called non-Jewish believers with that “foolish nation,” doesn’t that reveal we must be that missing House of Israel – the remnant of Ephraim? And what better descriptive then to call us a “nation without understanding.” For we have had no clue who we were for the last 2000 years.

But we’re waking up.

Are “Gentile Believers” Still “Gentiles?”

Are “Gentile Believers” Still “Gentiles?”

By Brian Hennessy

(Posted by Doug Krieger)

(Originally Published on ISRAEL TODAY)

It was Yeshua’s greatest desire that all his followers, from both Jews and the nations, become one people. His impassioned plea to the Father before going to the cross was “that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know You sent me, and loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:23).

Well, it’s no surprise that the world still remains unconvinced of his Messiahship.  How could it be otherwise when his followers have separated into over 40,000 denominations and other unaffiliated groups.

But even before our divisions metastasized there existed an issue of unity between the Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Yeshua.  It began on the day the Lord told Peter to witness to the family of Cornelius. Before then the Jewish nation was under the impression this salvation belonged exclusively to them. Now, suddenly, it was being offered to others.  Worse, these “others” were the former bane of their existence – the so-called goyim, whom our Bibles term “Gentiles.” The very ones they’d been shunning for the past 1400 years, according to Moses instructions.

But hadn’t Yeshua prepared his Jewish followers for this when he was with them in the flesh? Hadn’t he told them, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd?” (John 10:16). Nevertheless, it was still a tough pill for Jewish Israel to swallow. And it was made harder, because along with this influx of unsavory outsiders, Israel was being asked to transition from their God-given covenant of Law to a new covenant of grace.  

The transition was so formidable, that to make it happen God had to raise up a uniquely qualified man –Saul (later Paul) of Tarsus. To this former Pharisee was given the anointing to bring us all together under “the law of liberty” (James 1:25).  And even though the Roman Empire cut short his work, along with Jewish life in Jerusalem, God made sure Paul’s teachings were preserved as Scripture in the New Testament.  

Since the Roman exile, for 2000 years the unity of Jewish and “Gentile” believers in Messiah has not been an issue. Mainly because after the first century there were almost no Jewish believers! And the non-Jewish believers had taken on another identity, calling themselves “Christians.” But with the physical rebirth of Israel, many Jews began experiencing the spiritual rebirth. And all of sudden the term “Gentile believer” was back in vogue. Along with the issue of us all becoming one again.

As I see it, the term “Gentile believer” is inherently discriminatory and creates an unhealthy division in the body of Messiah. If one is a “Gentile” it implies you are an unbeliever, outside the camp of God’s people. After all, the word often translated as “Gentile” just means “nations” – in both the Hebrew (goyim) and Greek (ethnos). Even then, it carries centuries of baggage. Over half of its usages in the Old Testament are negative. And so is a quarter of them in the New Testament, where the word is occasionally translated as “heathen” or “pagan.” It may not equate non-Jewish believers with being “uncircumcised Philistines,” but it doesn’t define them as “Snow White,” either.

But weren’t we all made “white as snow” in Yeshua? Weren’t we all circumcised with the circumcision made without hands?  Why then should we who are not Jewish be saddled with terminology that immediately creates a division in the body of Messiah? From God’s perspective we are no longer goyim. We are no longer “Gentiles.” We have come out of the nations and are now included with God’s people in the commonwealth of Israel. We have been counted as part of the nation, co-inheritors with all Jewish believers in the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “For if you belong to Messiah, you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29).

Paul had explained, just prior to that verse, that now “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua” (Gal.3:28). Did he mean Jews are no longer Jews, Greeks no longer Greeks, females no longer females? Of course not! Until the Lord returns and we are transfigured into our new bodies we remain who we are in this world. But in Messiah, all racial, national, economic, gender – and other fleshly differences – disappear. In him we become one people, the Israel of God! Different ministries and callings, yes. Different ethnic and racial groups, no.

It was Peter, the first Jew to witness to non-Jews, who later said to the entire body of Messiah, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” ( 1 Pet. 2:9). He had taken the very words Moses had spoken to all Israel and applied them to the New Covenant ecclesia without distinction. He was not saying the “church” had replaced the physical descendants of Abraham as God’s people, but that all who are in Messiah, both Jew and non-Jew, are the chosen remnant of Israel.

As we see God restoring the nation of Israel today, isn’t it time to also believe Him for a greater unity among Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Yeshua? After all, who are the Jews but the descendants of Judah, the former southern kingdom of Judah exiled by the Romans. And who are those who have come out of the nations, but Ephraim? A remnant of the once divorced, idolatrous northern kingdom, known as the House of Israel exiled in 722 BC by Assyria. The ones to whom God promised through the prophets that He’d show mercy to one day and bring back?

If so, isn’t it time we both started to treat each other, not only as brothers in the Lord, but as brothers in the commonwealth of Israel – the Israel of God? Again, let us recall Yeshua’s impassioned final prayer request to the Father on our behalf – “that they may all be one…so that the world may know You sent me.”

A good place to begin is by retiring the unbiblical term “Gentile believer,” once and for all.