“Is the Old Testament Still Valid for Christians Today?”

The Hebrew Scriptures (or the Old Testament) has been a mystery for Christians since the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  The traditional Christian teaching has been that it ended at the cross, particularly the Old Testament Law given in the first five books.  However, there’s enough textual reasons and evidence given in the Bible to call that traditional teaching into question.

THE HEBREW BIBLE – IT’S THREE PART COMPOSITE

The Hebrew Bible, called in Hebrew the TANAKH is an acronym for the three parts that make it up: “T” for the Torah (trans. “Law”); “N” – Nevi’im (Prophets); and the “K” for the Ketuvim (Writings).  Even though the same books are present in both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, they are arranged differently.  For example, in the Hebrew Bible, the last book is 2 Chronicles, but in the Christian Old Testament, the last book is Malachi.

“TESTAMENT OR COVENANT”?

Although in the Christian Bible, the two parts of the Bible is called the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament” in English, the word “Testament” should have been translated as “Covenant.”  The word “Testament” comes from the Latin word Testamentum, which can mean “Covenant” or “Testament.”  It is the Latin equivalent of the Greek word Diatheke, which can also mean “Covenant” or “Testament,” but diatheke is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word B’rit, which means “Covenant,” but it does not have the meaning of “Testament” in it at all.

There’s a major difference between the words “Covenant” and “Testament.”  It is understood that a NEWER TESTAMENT (like in one’s “Last Will & Testament”) automatically replaces an AN OLDER TESTAMENT; however, this is absolutely NOT TRUE for a Covenant.  A “COVENANT,” on the other hand, can be explained, expounded upon, further developed, and even added to, but it CANNOT be replaced, pushed aside, done away with, or annulled.   Consequently, how one translates the Greek word diatheke has a great importance in how that word is understood.

And since the title “New Testament” actually comes from the prophecy for the “NEW COVENANT” (“Brit Chadasha“) in the book of Jeremiah and a COVENANT is definitely NOT the same thing as a TESTAMENT, our Bibles should have been translated to say “OLD COVENANT” and “NEW COVENANT.”

BUT HOW MANY COVENANTS ARE THERE?

However, even the correction of OLD COVENANT is misleading, because there’s not just one covenant in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament – BUT AT LEAST SEVEN DIVINE COVENANTS!  Some might even argue as many as TEN DIVINE COVENANTS!

All of these covenants are discussed in the Old Testament.  The New Testament only mentions the covenants with Abraham, Moses and the children of Israel, and some parts of the Levitic, but it does not go into the detail with these other covenants that the Old Testament does.  And just as the “New Testament” highlights certain aspects of the Old Testament, so the next covenant will highlight other aspects of it.

WHAT ABOUT THE ADAMIC COVENANT?

Should this be counted among the covenants?  There are many who claim that all of the elements of covenant are there in the Garden of Eden, but I excluded it from the minimum list because the word “covenant” is not used in the Eden account, and I believe it’s because God did not want the word “covenant” associated with Eden.

HOW CAN IT BE DONE WHEN IT’S NOT FINISHED?

So when we consider the fact that there’s another covenant coming, a final covenant, for the Millennial reign, and that God has NOT completely fulfilled all the previous covenants either, then how can we legitimately claim that the “Old Testament has been fulfilled” or that the “Old Testament is no longer relevant”?  Those who make either one of these claims has apparently not spent any time, or very little time, actually studying the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, because if they did, they would see, as I do, what a clearly unfounded claim that they are actually making.

“DIDN’T JESUS SAY ON THE CROSS, ‘IT IS FINISHED’?”

Yes, He did, but He wasn’t speaking about the Old Testament, or even the Law, being finished, but our slavery in sin.  We need to remember that Jesus died on Passover, an observance whose theme was “Freedom from Slavery.”  Although Christianity may consider the Law to be a form of slavery, Jesus did not.  There was only one thing that Jesus ever called “slavery,” and that was sin.  Jesus died to free us from the slavery of sin, and its control over our lives, and by Him dying on the cross, our time of slavery was finished.  (For more information, see my article “Did Christ Bring the Law to an End?”)

FUTURE UNFULFILLED PROPHECIES

Also, there are many future unfulfilled prophecies in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  In fact, there are 500 Messianic prophecies that Jesus will fulfill during His coming return, the battle of Armageddon, and during the Millennium. (I’ll show some sample examples in just a minute.)  So let’s consider this for a moment: If these prophecies are not yet fulfilled, then how can we go around and make such brash and unfounded claims as “The Old Testament has been fulfilled” or “it is no longer relevant”?

ARE WE FOLLOWING THE BIBLE OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH?

The traditional view of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was formulated by the Roman Catholic Church.  Rather than taking a literal view of the Scriptures, it spiritualized everything and turned various teaching into analogies.  They taught that the Church was the “New Israel,” and that the Jewish people had been rejected by God and got all the curses, while the church got all the blessings.  In addition, to further illustrate this idea, they taught that the New Testament had REPLACED the Old Testament.  The teaching that the New Testament has REPLACED the Old Testament is still extremely dominant in the Christian faith today.

But this teaching is not based on a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and for Christian denominations who claim to believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and yet still teach that “the Old Testament, or even the Law, has been replaced by the New Testament” is in contradiction with itself.  For example, according to Zechariah 14, after Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom, God tells us,

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of ALL THE NATIONS which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to WORSHIP THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS, and to KEEP THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.  And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH unto Jerusalem to WORSHIP THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS, even upon them shall be no rain.  (Zechariah 14:16-17; Emphasis Mine)

If the Feasts in the Old Testament ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require EVERY FAMILY from ALL THE NATIONS to come to Jerusalem during the FEAST OF TABERNACLES to worship the King, Jesus Christ?  And not only the Feast of Tabernacles, but we will be required to worship God on the biblical SABBATH, not Sunday, and on the New Moon feasts:

For as the New heavens and the New Earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, says the LORD, so shall your [Israel’s] seed and your name remain before Me.  And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall ALL FLESH come to worship before Me, says the LORD.  (Isaiah 66:22-23; Emphasis Mine)

Again, if the Sabbath and New Moon feasts ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require ALL FLESH to come and worship before Him during those times?  Notice, it does NOT say “all Israel” or “all Jews,” but “ALL FLESH.”  Jew and Gentile alike.  So if the commandments given to Moses was ONLY for the Jews, as Christianity teaches, then why is God going to require “ALL THE NATIONS,” “ALL FAMILIES” and “ALL FLESH” to observe them?

GENTILES ARE GOING TO SEEK TO BE WITH JEWS?

During the Millennium, people from the nations (Gentiles; non-Jews) are going to seek to be around and travel with Jews.  For example,

So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.  Thus says the LORD of hosts, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp [the corner of] the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'” (Zechariah 8:22-23)

At what point in Jewish history has this ever happened?  It hasn’t, at least, not yet, but it will when Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom in Jerusalem.  So how can the Old Testament be “fulfilled,” if this prophecy has not happened yet?

GOD’S COVENANTS WITH DAVID AND THE LEVITES?

Did you know in the book of Jeremiah, God has promised that as long as there’s day and night, God’s covenants with David and with the Levites shall stand.

For thus says the LORD; DAVID shall never want (or lack) a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall THE PRIESTS want (or lack) a man before Me to OFFER BURNT OFFERINGS, and to KINDLE MEAT OFFERINGS, and to DO SACRIFICE CONTINUALLY

How can the Church have replaced the Levitical Priesthood when God clearly promises them that they will always have the position He gave to them as His ministers within the Temple and to offer Him these various animal sacrifices?  If you accept traditional Christian doctrine, then you’d also have to come to the conclusion that God lied to the Levites here.  Either they have the position before God that He says for as long as there’s “daylight” and “night time,” or they don’t?  Yes, the Temple has been destroyed, but it will soon be rebuilt.  And when it is, this promise will again be active.  He goes on to say,

Thus says the LORD, If you can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites My priests, My ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David My servant, and the Levites that minister unto Me.  (Jeremiah 33:20-22)

This prophecy is only two chapters after the prophecy of the “New Covenant.”  Again, how can the New Testament replace or do away with the Law or the Old Testament as a whole when God has promised the Levites and David that His covenant with them would endure until the time period when there would not be any “day time” or “night time” (the time period of the New heavens and the New Earth?)

JESUS COULD NOT BE A PRIEST?

Now Jesus does fulfill the promise to David since Jesus is “the son of David” (or descendant of David); however, Jesus does not fulfill the promise to the Levites since Jesus is not of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah.  Even the book of Hebrews acknowledges that Jesus is not of Levitical descent:

FOR IF HE WERE ON EARTH, HE SHOULD NOT BE A PRIEST, seeing that there are priests that [continue to] offer gifts according to the Law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, says He, that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the Mount.  (Hebrews 8:4-5; Emphasis Mine)

The book of Hebrews must have been written BEFORE 70 C.E., because according to this passage, the Temple was still in operation in the city of Jerusalem, Israel.  But also notice that the passage clearly says that if Jesus had remained on earth and not ascended into heaven, “HE SHOULD NOT BE A PRIEST.”  Ask yourself the logical question, if the Law ended at the cross, as Christianity teaches, then why couldn’t Jesus have been a priest?  The only logical answer is that the Law did not end at the cross at all, including the Levitical Priesthood and the Temple system.  And because of that, according to the Levitical covenant and laws, since Jesus was a Judean, He was not qualified to function as a priest.

This is the whole reason for the argument in Hebrews for Him being a priest according to Melchizedek priesthood.  If the law was no longer valid, there would not be any need for this argument.  The fact that there was a need for the argument proves that the Law did not, in fact, end at the cross, as Christianity teaches.  Therefore, it was NOT God who brought the Temple system to an end, but the Roman army under the General Titus in 70 C.E.

THE BUILDING OF THE THIRD TEMPLE

The Jews are working on rebuilding the Third Temple, and when they do, they will have God’s full support, because as He promised the Levitical Priesthood, they will always a man before Him to offer the sacrifices unto Him, as long as there’s “daylight and night time.”  Also, in contrast to traditional Christian teaching, the tearing of the Temple Veil when Jesus died had absolutely NOTHING to do with bringing the Temple System to an end either, but was an act of God mourning for the death of His dearly, beloved Son, the same thing we see Jewish men and fathers doing throughout the Hebrew Bible, throughout Jewish history, and among Jews today.  It was the same thing any loving Jewish father would’ve also done in that same position.  (See my article, “Why Did God Tear the Temple Veil in Half? Not the Reason You Think”)

ANOTHER PARADIGM FOR VIEWING THE TWO TESTAMENTS

Rather than viewing the New Testament as a replacement of the Old Testament, which obviously violates Scripture, a better alternative would be to view the Old Testament like the original computer program, and the New Testament as it’s most recent update.  And yes, when Jesus returns, there’s another update coming!  So obviously, if you continue to just run the original program, without the update, you are missing out on the new features that the Creator had intended for you to have.  On the other hand, you cannot just run the update.  It will not run properly, and the result will not be what the Creator intended.  Consequently, in order to get the intended, desired effect by the Creator, we need to run both the original program (“the Old Testament”) and the update (“the New Testament”) together as one new program.

We Need Them Both

There are many places in Paul’s writings, for example, where he teaches us that the Old Testament (or the Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament is an important part of the education and training of the believer (including us today).  for example, in Ephesians 2, Paul writes to the Gentile believers,

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being fitted together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22, NASB)

Notice in this passage, that as believers in Christ [Messiah], our faith is “built upon the foundation of the apostles [i.e., New Testament] and the prophets [i.e., Old Testament]” with “Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,” or the connecting stone.  So if the foundation upon which our lives as believers consists of both Old and New Testaments, then we will need to be taught and trained in both in order for us to gain the foundation, framework and context that God says He desires for us to have to understand and live in obedience to His Word.

Another scripture where Paul indicates we need both the Old and New Testaments is in 2 Timothy, which is an extremely important epistle for believers today to consider when reading and studying Paul’s writings.  The reason this epistle is so important is because it’s the last epistle that Paul wrote before he was sentenced by the Roman Emperor Nero to be beheaded. This is evident in this epistle, for Paul writes,

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:6-7, NASB)

Consequently, then, Paul is fully aware that this is his last opportunity to give Timothy (and us) instruction in regard to the Scriptures; therefore, Paul’s epistle here would have been written after much thought and prayer.  As a result, when we read this epistle and examine what he has to say here, it should be paramount to us in keeping what he says about the Scriptures continually in mind in how we view and understand his previous writings.  For example, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Notice that Paul points out several important things here.

The topic of his statement here is on “All Scripture.”  This includes, of course, the Old Testament and the New Testament (even though, at this point, not all of the New Testament has been written).  The word translated “All” is the Greek word pas, which can be translated as either “all,” “each,” or “every.”  Therefore, by using this word, Paul is not referring to “All Scripture” in a generic sense, but he is literally referring to “All, Each, and Every Scripture.”

Secondly, Paul points out four facts about “All Scripture”:

“All Scripture is inspired by God.”  The word translated “inspired” is the Greek compound word θεόπνευστος  (theopneustos, Strongs #2315).  It’s comprised of the Greek words, theos meaning “God” and pneo meaning “breathed out,” so it literally means “God-breathed out,” or we could literally translate this as, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” And according to the text, Introduction to Theology, the Scriptures being “God-breathed” means,

by divine “breath,” or power, the Holy Spirit moved the human authors with such purpose that the final product accurately reflected the intention of God Himself (18).

“All Scripture is…profitable”  The word translated as “profitable” is the Greek word  ὠφέλιμος (ophelimos, Strong’s #5624), and this word also means “helpful, serviceable, or advantageous.” Notice that Paul does not say, “All Scripture used to be profitable and advantageous to us, but now that Christ has died on the cross and rose again, only the New Testament is profitable.”  This is NOT what Paul says here, but this is what many ministers teach.  Another variation of this is the teaching that “the Law (of God) is not for today.”  But “the Law” is part of “All Scripture,” and, therefore, profitable and advantageous for the believer. To teach anything else would be a contradiction of Paul’s statement here. Therefore, those who deny that the Old Testament or even God’s Law is “profitable” to the believer today is in direct contradiction to Paul’s statement here.

Also notice that there are four areas, Paul writes, that “All Scripture is profitable” or advantageous or helpful for us as believers:

  • for teaching,” or for instruction and doctrine;
  • for reproof,” or for proof, evidence, conviction (or in being fully convinced);
  • for correction,” or for helping one to “straighten up again”; and
  • for training in righteousness,” or for the education and training, and when needed, the disciplinary correction of believers in righteousness, or in knowing and living the standard of life God expects of us as His people.

And why, does Paul conclude, are these four areas important or needed?  So “that the man [or woman] of God may be adequate [or complete], equipped [or equipped fully or thoroughly furnished] for every good work.”  Consequently, if believers are not being educated and trained in both Testaments or “All Scripture,” then, according to Paul, that individual is not being “fully equipped” or “thoroughly furnished” to do the “good works,” or live the life, that God expects of us.

Therefore, we must conclude that both the Old and New Testaments are important for the education, training and development of all believers today.  However, I am frequently saddened when I hear ministers, evangelists and writers denounce or criticize the writings and ideas in the Old Testament.  They are only hurting people by their comments since they are denouncing the very Scriptures that God says we need for our education, training,  development and growth.  In fact, just prior to Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul advises Timothy,

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

What were the “sacred writings” that Timothy had learned as a child which gave him “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith”?  Was it the New Testament?  No, it did not exist then.  Paul, here, is specifically referring to the Old Testament.  It was the “sacred writings” of the Old Testament that gave Timothy the wisdom, education and training, he needed to lead him “to salvation through faith.”  And finally, in another passage regarding the Old Testament, Paul writes,

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4, NASB)

I hope you can see now that by not reading and studying  “All Scripture,” both the Old Testament and the New Testament, that we are, in fact,  harming ourselves, and maybe others,  by not getting what we need (or providing what others need) to be “equipped fully” or “thoroughly furnished” “for every good work” that God has called us to do from before the beginning of the world.

TWO REVELATIONS COMBINED

And even in the book of Revelations, we can see evidence that God intended the Old Testament and the New Testament to be seen as a unified whole.  For example, in Revelations 15, John sees a vision of a mass of people who had come through the tribulation period:

And I saw, as it were, a sea of glassed mixed with fire, and those who had come off victorious from the Beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.  And they sang THE SONG OF MOSES, the bond-servant of God AND THE SONG OF THE LAMB, saying,... (Revelation 15:2-3)

I  have heard many ministers erroneously teach that this song is being sung to the Lamb, Jesus Christ, but this is not what this says.  Just as THE SONG OF MOSES was a song sung by Moses to God the Father, so THE SONG OF THE LAMB is a song sung to God the Father as well.  And as we can see here, these two songs are being joined together into ONE SONG.  “THE SONG OF MOSES” (representing the Old Testament) and “THE SONG OF THE LAMB” (representing the New Testament and the coming Covenant of Peace”).

SO HAS THE OLD TESTAMENT BEEN REPLACED?

Absolutely NOT!  There’s still many prophecies and teachings that need to be learned from the Old Testament.  Obviously, those who continue to discard it do not understand how much beneficial instruction they are simply “tossing into the trash.”  Those who teach this false doctrine that “the Old Testament has been done away” or “it is no longer valid,” only demonstrate how much of the Bible they truly do not understand or, perhaps, have never taken the time to read or study.   We need to begin teaching a WHOLE BIBLE PERSPECTIVE within the Church, so that we can prepare them for the coming of the Lord and to the establishment of His coming kingdom.   May we all be found prepared and ready at His coming!

Return to the top

WHAT IS THE “MESSIANIC MOVEMENT”?

And He said, It is a light thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give You for a light to the Gentiles, that You may be My salvation unto the end of the earth.  (Isaiah 49:6)

AN INTRODUCTION

What is the “Messianic Movement”?  The Messianic Movement is NOT a RELIGION, nor is it a DENOMINATION.  It is an INTERNATIONAL INTER-RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT comprised of both CHRISTIANS and JEWS.

However, the beliefs and practices of this International Inter-Religious Movement can not be easily defined or described, because it is so diverse with so many people from so many different backgrounds, views, beliefs, and perspectives that comprise it.

THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT – A BRIDGE?

messianic-bridge

The best way to describe the Messianic Movement is as a ideological bridge that spans across two interrelated, yet distinct religions: Christianity and Judaism. It is a bridge because you can get on it from both directions, not just one.  And the intersection of these two religions are the following shared beliefs:

  • Both religions believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the One True, Living God;
  • Both religions believe in the Hebrew Scriptures (or what Christians call “the Old Testament”);
  • Both religions believe in an afterlife;
  • Both religions believe in angels; and
  • Both religions have replaced the Hebrew Scriptures with another writing and their traditions (Rabbinic Judaism with the Talmud and rabbinic traditions; and Christianity with the New Testament, Church Councils, and their denominational beliefs and traditions).

THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT – AN EXTREMELY DIVERSE MOVEMENT?

Because the Messianic Movement does span two inter-related, yet distinct religions, it cannot be easily defined or described, because it is so diverse with so many people from so many different backgrounds and belief systems that comprise it.  In fact, on this bridge, you have everything from non-Jewish Christians who have an interest in the Jewish background of their faith on the one side of the bridge to Orthodox, Chasidic Jews who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Promised Messiah on the other side, and everything in between those two extremes.  Consequently, then, to say that one is “Messianic” is merely to denote that one is somewhere on this bridge, but nothing else beyond that.

As a result, what one point on the bridge may constitute “Messianic” for one person may be an entirely different position for another person.  Therefore, what’s considered “Messianic” all depends on who you ask.

As I’m going to show in the rest of this four-part series, the Messianic Movement has grown way beyond its present definition and view of itself, because it only defines one side of the bridge, the Jewish side. Since it’s definition is incomplete, then it’s description of itself is not helpful for those in the movement and those outside of the movement.  As I am going to show, I believe that both the definition and understanding of the movement has to be greatly broadened, and maybe even re-contextualized, in order to prepare people for what God is leading His people towards:  the return of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.

MY OWN INTRODUCTION

I was first introduced to the “Messianic Movement” in 1982 through a band called Lamb, although at that time, I did not know the name of this movement, nor did I realize there was a connection between it and the band.  My wife had gone to the Bible bookstore in the area where we lived, and they had several Lamb albums on sale.  My wife bought them all.  What motivated her to do this, my wife still isn’t sure even to this day.  But she brought them home and I put one of the albums on the record player, and I so enjoyed the music and lyrics that I listened to them over and over again (Much to the dismay of my wife at the time).

Shortly after this, due to things going on in my own life and what I was seeing in the American church, I believed that something had changed from the way the church was in the book of Acts to the way it was today, so I spent better than six months researching everything that I could find on the time period from 200 B.C.E. to 1,000 C.E.   The more I research, the more convinced I was that something had occurred to transform the early Jewish sect of Yeshua/Jesus and His early disciples into what evolved into Christianity.  I just wasn’t sure what had happened.  After completing my research, I came to my own conclusions, independent of any Messianic writer or teacher.  At that time, I did not even know there was a movement called the “Messianic movement” nor did I realize that there were others who had drawn similar conclusions.

It wasn’t until after I received my Master of Arts degree in English, and I moved my family down to the Phoenix area, that I came across a book by Dr. David Stern, called Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospels: A Message to Christians while visiting a local library.  It was in his book that I discovered that Dr. Stern and I had drawn many similar conclusions, but quite independent of one another, and it was through his book that I learned about the Messianic movement.   In fact, after reading his book, my wife still remembers me running through our apartment yelling, “I’m not crazy!  I’m not crazy!”  So after calming down from the excitement of discovering I was not alone in my thoughts, we became part of the movement for the next eight years because of the similar viewpoints and ideas that I shared with them.

During that time (1992 – 2000),  the groups we were a part of were either extremely small or were not well established.  A couple of them were home groups; consequently, we ended up going from group-to-group because the groups would either collapse or disperse.  Eventually, we did find a group large enough to have children in attendance, but unfortunately, none of them were my own childrens’ ages, so they did not have anyone their own age to play with.  But we hung in there until I needed to move due to work, and the new location did not have a Messianic congregation, so we went back to attending a local church.

I realize not everyone’s experience was like mine; however, it was my experience.  At this time, the Messianic movement was not well known or popular, so as a result, the groups were extremely small.  Most of the people in the groups I attended were non-Jewish like me, but the one large group I eventually did find did had a few Jews attending. Unfortunately, the larger Messianic organizations at that time did not give non-Jews the same voting rights or decision-making power as those who were Jewish.  As a result, there were many non-Jews, like me, who wanted to be a part of the movement, but we were not given the same voice as the Jews who were in the movement.

From 2000 – 2015, we were out of the movement.   However, in the Fall 2015, God spoke to my wife and I, and He told us that it was time again for us to again obey His Torah, to remember His Sabbaths and feasts, as well as to keep His commandments; in addition, He also directed us to a local Messianic body, Rosh Pinah, in Oklahoma City, which we attended until the end of July 2016.  On August 1, 2016, we left the country for three months to live in Jerusalem, Israel.  We met many people over there, and we learned quite a bit.

When we came back, the Lord led us to a small Assemblies of God church on the Cocopah East reservation, where we pastored for almost two years.  Then near the end of the two years, the Lord again moved us to Phoenix, where I am working on a book and we have again started attending a Messianic congregation here in town,

The last four years has been quite a ride for us with the Lord, but our present participation in the Messianic movement and our learning to be more Torah-observant than what we had been previously is due to us striving to be obedient to the will of God for our lives.   In other words, this time we are part of the movement and are being Torah-observant simply because God told us to do it.

PART 2:  WHAT IS “MESSIANIC JUDAISM”?

PART 3:  WHAT IS “MESSIANIC CHRISTIANITY”?

PART 4:  THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM MOVEMENT: A BETTER ALTERNATIVE

 

Return to the top

What’s Messiah’s Name? The “Hidden” Joshua Connection

WHAT IS THE NAME OF MESSIAH?  It seems like a rather simple question, doesn’t it? The answer to this question is seen throughout the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments.  Now many may not be aware that the Messiah’s name is seen throughout the Bible, but it is true.  In fact, as I will show you in the Bible itself, it appears in three forms, but two of the forms are just alternate versions of the name “Joshua.”

Now I should say up front here that I am NOT arguing that we all need to use the name “JOSHUA” rather than “JESUS,” instead I want to broaden your understanding of the Lord’s name.  I want you to realize that there are FOUR FORMS of His name, THREE FORMS are used in the Bible, and the fourth is alluded to.  I also want you to know why these different forms are used.

A WORD OF WARNING:

I also want to protect you from the deceptions, half-truths, and innuendos that are being used by those in the “SACRED NAME MOVEMENT” and others who are deceiving people away from the Bible to believe in one of their man-made names, like I mentioned in the last post “What’s God’s Name?” that they are doing to the Father.  And just as the Father has more than one name, so does the Son.  They always try to catch you by telling you that there is “no letter J” in the Hebrew.  This is true, there’s not, as I will explain, but after this then is where they begin leading you down the road of deception.

Here are just a few of the false man-made names these groups are using:

For God:  Yahuwah, Yahuweh, Yahua
For His Son:  Yahshua, Yahusha, Yahushua, Yashua, Yahawashi, Yehushua, Yehowshuwa

If you read an article on the Internet or someone is speaking to you in person, and they present one of these names to you, please understand that they are presenting you with a name or names that DO NOT APPEAR ANYWHERE IN THE BIBLE.   I believe it is absolutely essential that we stay true to what we can see and find in the Bible.  A man-made name for God and Messiah (Christ) means that it’s a “false god” and a “false Messiah” or “false Christ,” and you do not want to get attached to any of these “false deities” being followed by these groups or individuals.

THE REASON FOR MY WARNING:

A lady who follows my posts asked why I was “bashing the Sacred Name Movement,” and so if she had a question about this, I imagine others do as well.  So I’ve included this to the original post. This was my response to her question:  A number of years ago, my brother-in-law got involved in that group, and he began using “Yahuah” for God and “Yahushua” for the Lord’s name. He taught his four daughters that it was okay to curse and swear using the words “God” and “Jesus” because it wasn’t their names anyway. He would always argue with us about these names and why we should not use the words “God” or “Jesus.” As a result, we had to limit our interactions with him; we just got tired of all the fighting.

Then a few years later, he had a heart attack which led to a triple-bypass, but then his kidneys and liver started shutting down, and he had problems with his lungs filling up with fluid. We discovered through his daughters that he had been hospitalized, and he wasn’t going to live much longer. My wife started talking to him more. Before he died, the Lord spoke to my wife and told her that her brother had once been close to him, but he had gotten confused, started using these other names, and wandered away from Him. So the Lord gave my wife a letter to read to her brother. My wife expected a lot of complaints and fighting because it had the name “Jesus” used throughout it. But when she finished it, he responded by saying, “What’s wrong with that? I believe all of that. Jesus is my Lord and my Savior.” And then he started using the name “Jesus” as if it was the most normal thing for him to do.

Not only was my wife shocked, but so were his daughters who were there in the room with him. All of this was on the speaker phone, so they all could hear one another. So my attitude towards the names promoted by the “Sacred Name Movement” is based on this experience, and what the Lord told my wife about their “man-made false names” for Him and His Son. I am not arbitrarily against them for no reason, nor is it based on some theological differences. A man’s life hung in the balance between heaven and hell because of what he took from their teachings about these names, and I do think that is reason enough to oppose their false names.

I should also say that I do make a clear distinction between “the Messianic Movement” and “the Sacred Name Movement.”  These two movements are not the same.  Although those from the “Sacred Name Movement” does tend to attend Messianic Movement, their goals and agendas are NOT the same as I will also explain later in this post.  Now let’s begin this study.

JESUS – THE GREEK FORM OF JOSHUA

First of all, “JESUS” (Gk. Iesous) is the Greek form of the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. Y’hoshua). This was a complete shock to me when I first found this out because I had never heard anyone point this out to me, so when I started researching this topic, I thought I had stumbled across some great new truth, only to discover that it was already well known.

MODERN TRANSLATORS KNOW THIS

For example, in the introduction of the book of Joshua, in my Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, it says,

This book describes the conquest of the land of Canaan under the leadership of JOSHUA, the successor of Moses.  His name means “Jehovah saves” or “Jehovah is salvation.”  The Greek transliteration of his name is “JESUS (Heb. 4:8′ Emphasis Mine).  (294)

Is there any biblical support for this?  Actually, there is, if we compare Acts 7:44-45 in the King James Version with more modern translations.

ACTS 7:44-45 (KJV) ACTS 7:44-45 (NASB)
Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.  Which also our fathers that came after brought in with JESUS [Gk. Ιησους] into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.  And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with JOSHUA [Gk. Ιησους] upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David.

In both versions, the same Greek form of His name is used, but in the King James Version, the Greek form is transliterated into English as “JESUS,” and in this same passage in the modern translations, the name “JOSHUA” is used.  Why?  Because in this passage, JOSHUA SON OF NUN is the one being referenced, but the Greek form of his name is IESOUS, or in English “JESUS.”  We can also see this in Hebrews 4:8.

HEBREWS 4:8 (KJV) HEBREWS 4:8 (NASB)
For if JESUS [Gk. Iesous] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day For if JOSHUA [Gk Iesous] had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that

Again, we can see the same Greek form of the name is used, but in the King James Version, the Greek form is transliterated into English as “JESUS” and in the NASB, and other modern translations, it is “JOSHUA.”  And again, the person being referenced here is, in fact, JOSHUA SON OF NUN.  And this is not a different Greek spelling than the name of the Messiah (Christ), but the same exact spelling!

EVEN HISTORIANS KNOW THIS?

Not only do modern translators know that the name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the name “Joshua,” but so do historians.  For example, in Paul Johnson, a Christian, wrote a book called A HISTORY OF THE JEWS (1987), and in it he writes, “Jesus was the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua” (126).  Also, Chaim Potok, a well-known Jewish author of THE CHOSEN, THE PROMISE, MY NAME IS ASHER LEV, and IN THE BEGINNING, has also wrote a historical book on his own people, called WANDERINGS: CHAIM POTOK’S HISTORY OF THE JEWS (1978), and he, like Johnson, confirms that the name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the name “Joshua”:

The name of the founder of Christianity was JOSHUA son of Joseph.  In the Galilean Hebrew dialect of that day his name was probably pronounced Jeshua.  JESUS IS THE ORDINARY GREEK FORM OF THE HEBREW NAME JOSHUA. (371)

I brought in these two outside sources to show that I am not making this up.  It is well known and established by both historians, scholars and translators.  Of course, my question is that, “If this is so well known that the name ‘JESUS‘ is, in fact, the Greek form of the name ‘JOSHUA,’ then why not translate every occurrence of ‘JESUS‘ as ‘JOSHUA’?”  Of course, if translators did that, even though it would be correct translation of the Greek form of His name that’s seen used throughout the New Testament, it would cause an avalanche of complaints from people, businesses, card companies, song companies, movie companies, etc.

EVEN ANCIENT GREEK SPEAKERS KNEW

Nor is this a recent revelation.  Instead, I discovered that the awareness that “JOSHUA” and “JESUS” were, in fact, equivalent forms of the same name goes back to when Greek was still the common parlance of the Roman Empire.  For example, this was also discussed in the book Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Complete and Unabridged, translated by C.F. Cruse (1998).   Eusebius, who lived from 264-340 C.E., is known as “the Father of Church History,” and he wrote in his first book of Church History (or Ecclesiastical History),

The same Moses, under the divine Spirit, foreseeing the epithet JESUS, likewise dignified this with a certain distinguishable privilege.  This name, which had never been uttered among men before Moses, he applied first to him alone who, by a type and sign, he knew would be his successor after his death in the government of the nation.  His successor, therefore, who had not assumed the appellation JESUS (JOSHUA) before this period, being called by his other name OSHEA [Heb. HOSHEA], which his parents had given, was called by Moses JESUS (JEHOSHUA, JOSHUA) (Num. 13:16). (Book 1, Chapter 3, page 10).

The name “JOSHUA” was NOT given him by his parents, but instead the name they gave him was HOSHEA, or the Greek form OSHEA, but it was Moses who changed HOSHEA’S name into “JOSHUA.”  The Greek language does not have a “H” or “huh” sound, which is why in our English Bibles, the Hebrew name HOSHEA is written as OSHEA.

But being a Greek-speaker, Eusebius here clearly identifies the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. YEHOSHUA“) and the name “JESUS,” derived from the Greek and Latin, as the same name.   Also, he believed that the reason Moses changed HOSHEA (JOSHUA’S name originally; Numbers 13:16) to “JOSHUA” was because he would be “a type and sign” of the future Messianic “JOSHUA,” “JESUS CHRIST.”  In his book, Eusebius goes on to say,

This name, as an honorable distinction far superior to any royal diadem, was conferred on JOSHUA, because JOSHUA the son of Nun bore a resemblance to our Savior as the only one after Moses and the completion of that symbolical worship given through him that should succeed him in a government of pure and undefiled religion. (Book 1, Chapter 3, page 10)

Consequently, the name “JOSHUA” in the Old Testament is the same name as “JESUS” in the New Testament, one from the Hebrew and other from the Greek, respectively.  And up until the Babylonian Exile, the name “JOSHUA” had only one basic form.  It isn’t until after the Babylonian exile where we see two biblical writers maintain the same name and spelling of “Joshua” and two others who present a different alternative form.

HAGGAI AND ZECHARIAH

Some of the Jews were allowed to leave Babylon in 536 B.C.E. (about 50 years after the Exile) when Cyrus the Great issued the Edict of Cyrus, and with that edict, the first group of Jews was allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.  In this first group were the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who were very young when they had been taken from Israel to Babylon in 586 B.C.E., but are now fifty years older when they are now returning to the land of Israel.

In both the prophetic books of Haggai and Zechariah, the High Priest at the time was named JOSHUA SON OF JOSEDECH.

HAGGAI 1:1 Zechariah 6:11-12
In the second year of Darius the king, in
the sixth month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor
of Judah, and to JOSHUA THE SON OF JOSEDECH, the High Priest.
Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of JOSHUA THE SON OF JOSEDECH, the High Priest; and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.

Even though both Haggai and Zechariah were both young teens when they were taken into captivity and are now fifty years older, they still remember the original Hebrew form and pronunciation of the name “Joshua” (or Heb. Yehoshua).  However, years later, when Ezra and Nehemiah come back to the land, they, unlike Haggai and Zechariah, use a different form of the name.

YESHUA – THE ARAMAIC FORM OF JOSHUA

Ezra and Nehemiah were both born and grew up in Babylon.  Ezra was sent to the land of Israel in 457 B.C.E. to teach people the Law of God (Heb. Torah), 129 years after the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C.E.  Nehemiah, on the other hand, was the cup bearer of the King and was not sent to the land of Israel until 445/444 B.C.E. (or 142 years after the Babylonian Exile).  Obviously, these men would have been born in Babylon as stated and grown up reading, writing, and speaking both Aramaic and Hebrew.  It is in their writings, as well as the books of I Chronicles and II Chronicles, which according to tradition, were written by Ezra after the Babylonian Exile, that we find the Aramaic form of “YESHUA” being used, rather than the traditional Hebrew form of “JOSHUA” (Heb. Yehoshua). An example of this can be seen in Nehemiah 8:17,

And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of JESHUA the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.  And there was very great gladness. (Emphasis Mine)

Although the name “JESHUA” begins with the letter “J” in our English translations, when I looked in a Hebrew Bible, I discovered that the first letter is actually a yodh (or “Y”), and so the name here is really “YESHUA.”  But then when I looked at this same verse in my New American Standard Bible (as well as all other more modern versions), the name “YESHUA” (or “JESHUA“) was replaced with the name “JOSHUA.”

The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them.  The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of JOSHUA the son of Nun to that day.  And there was great rejoicing.  (NASB, Nehemiah 8:17; Emphasis Mine)

Consequently, then, the names “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA” (or “JESHUA“) are synonymous and interchangeable, one coming from the Hebrew and one coming from the Aramaic.

YESHUA – HEBREW OR ARAMAIC?

There’s a debate right now as to how the name “YESHUA” originated.  Modern day Messianic Jews argue that the name “YESHUA” is a shortened, abbreviated form of the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. “YEHOSHUA“; the “HO” being removed) and, therefore, it is Hebrew.  I have two reasons for calling this into question:

  • The name “YESHUA” does not show up in any of the biblical writings prior to the Babylonian exile; and
  • The name “YESHUA” is used throughout the Aramaic New Testament for the name of Messiah (or Christ).

If the name “YESHUA” is originally Hebrew, then why is it used throughout the Aramaic New Testament (called the Peshitta).  For example, here is Matthew 1:21 from the English translation of the Aramaic NT,

And she will bear a son and she will call his name YESHUA for he will save his people from their sins. (Peshitta Aramaic/English Interlinear New Testament, found at http://www.peshitta.org)

So when a pastor says that the name “YESHUA” is NOT used in the New Testament, that all depends on what language you are looking at.   For example, the Western branches of Christianity argue that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, so if you look in the Greek New Testament, then no, it is not there.  However, the Eastern branches of Christianity argue that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, and so if you look in the Aramaic New Testament, then yes, it is there.  (This is one of the many differences between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity.) It just depends on whether you look into the Greek or to the Aramaic.

But again, if the name “YESHUA” is HEBREW in origin, then why didn’t it show up prior to the Babylonian exile and why is it used in an ARAMAIC version of the New Testament?  I have a couple of ideas about this:

  • The name “YESHUA” is an Aramaic form of the name “JOSHUA” that was adopted into the Hebrew language during the Babylonian captivity, and so by the time of the New Testament and onward, it was considered Hebrew; OR
  • The name Yeshua is the transliteration of the Hebrew name “JOSHUA” into Aramaic.

I personally tend to favor the second option, because according to some research sources,  there was a law passed in Babylon requiring the use of the official language, Aramaic.  So what if the traditional form of the name “JOSHUA” was transliterated into the Aramaic to form the name “YESHUA” in order to comply with this mandate?  This would support the name originating in the Hebrew, as well as explain why we do not see the name being used in Scripture until after the Babylonian Exile.

Not only did Nehemiah use the alternate form “YESHUA” for JOSHUA SON OF NUN, but Ezra uses “YESHUA” in place of the name “Joshua” for JOSHUA SON OF JOSEDECH the High Priest.

HAGAGAI 1:1 EZRA 3:2
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to JOSHUA the son of Josedech, the High Priest. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and JESHUA (or Yeshua) the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.

Just as Nehemiah did with JOSHUA SON OF NUN, so Ezra has done with JOSHUA SON OF JOSEDECH, the High Priest.  Not only did he use YESHUA (instead of JOSHUA) in both cases (as we will see), but in writing the name of JOSHUA‘s father, Ezra again took the shortened Aramaic form, from JOSEDECH to JOZADAK.  He does the same here as well.

ZECHARIAH 6:11-12 EZRA 5:1-2
Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of JOSHUA the son of JOSEDECH, the High Priest; and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of God of Israel, even unto them.  Then rose of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and JESHUA the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.

Again, as we saw before, Zechariah, like Haggai, uses the original Hebrew form for the name of “JOSHUA” and for the name of his father “JOSEDECH.”  However, Ezra uses the shortened Aramaic form for both names: JESHUA (Heb. YESHUA) and JOZADAK.

Therefore, Haggai and Zechariah, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah, all mention the High Priest; however, Haggai and Zechariah call him by the original Hebrew form of His name, “JOSHUA” (Heb. YEHOSHUA); whereas, Ezra and Nehemiah call him the shortened Aramaic form, “JESHUA” (Heb. YESHUA).  Just as the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) call “JOSHUA” by the original Hebrew form given to him by Moses, but Nehemiah, instead, uses the shortened Aramaic form of his name, “JESHUA” (Heb.  YESHUA.

Therefore, we have two biblical examples, Joshua son of Nun and Joshua the High Priest.  “Joshua son of Nun” is called “JOSHUA” by Moses and Joshua Himself; however, after the Babylonian exile, Nehemiah calls him “YESHUA” (or “JESHUA” in our English translations).  Also, two biblical writers, Haggai and Zechariah, call Joshua the High Priest the name “JOSHUA” and Ezra calls him “YESHUA.”

So as a result, the names “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA” can be seen in the Bible to be two forms of the same name, and which one is used is really just a matter of preference.  The Bible supports the usage of both. And just as “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA” are interchangeable, so are “JOSHUA” and “JESUS;” consequently, “YESHUA” and “JESUS” must be seen as biblical equivalent forms of the name “JOSHUA.”

I point this out because there are those who try to argue online and in various places as I mentioned at the beginning that the Messiah only has ONE form of His name (and it usually involves some Hebrew form that begins with “YAH“), and they say that this ONE FORM is “the ONLY CORRECT FORM” and all others are false.  But as we can see here from the Scriptures, the Bible does not support this position since both the names “JOSHUA” (Heb. YEHOSHUA) AND YESHUA are used for “the son of Nun” and for the “son of Josedech the High Priest.”  Therefore, which form of the name that’s used in the Hebrew text, Yehoshua (“Joshua”) or Yeshua, is merely a matter of personal preference.  There is NO SUCH THING as ONLY ONE CORRECT FORM.

FROM HEBREW & ARAMAIC INTO GREEK

Now there are numerous articles online, written by those in the Messianic Jewish Movement, showing how the name “YESHUA” was transliterated to form the Messiah’s name in Greek.   However, what you will not find mentioned in ANY of these same articles is that the name “JOSHUA” (Heb. Yehoshua) was also transliterated into the same Greek form of His name.  In fact, when I asked a Messianic Jewish rabbi about this connection to “JOSHUA,” he had no idea what I was saying.  He said that he had never heard anyone connect “YESHUA” with the name “JOSHUA,” and yet here the connections are within our own Bible.  And what I found surprising is that there’s a clear lack of teaching in Messianic Judaism regarding the connection between the names YESHUA and JOSHUA.

Therefore, both forms – “JOSHUA” and “YESHUA“-  were transliterated into the Greek form, Ιησους (Iesous; pron. “Yay-soos” or “ee-ay-soos“) by Jewish scholars 250 years before JOSHUA (YESHUA/JESUS) was ever conceived.   Consequently, the accusation that this Greek form was the creation of the early Christians is FALSE.  The Hebrew Scriptures had already been translated into Greek before JOSHUA (YESHUA/JESUS) was ever conceived or born, so when it came time to write the New Testament, the disciples just made use of the Greek names and words that were already in use.

Now I understand why many Messianic Jews prefer the use of the name “YESHUA” to “JESUS” because they want to restore to Him His Jewish ethnicity and culture.  However, the name “JOSHUA” is also a very Hebrew name, it has a long Jewish tradition and history, and I’m wondering why “JOSHUA” couldn’t likewise be seen as a valid alternative since like YESHUA, it was also transliterated into the same Greek form, Ιησους, the same exact form used for our Lord and Savior throughout the Greek New Testament, and since, as Eusebius pointed out, when the ancient Greek readers read His name in Greek, they connected it to the name “JOSHUA” as opposed to the name “YESHUA“?  And from what I’ve studied, this has never been a discussion point among Messianic believers.

ARAMAIC ADOPTION INTO HEBREW

In ending this study,  we need to realize that just as words from other countries and languages have been brought into the ENGLISH language, like the word “captain,” which is originally FRENCH, but is now seen as being ENGLISH, so ARAMAIC words were brought into the HEBREW language when the Jews were taken captive and lived in Babylon for 70 years.  And by the time of the New Testament and Jesus’ ministry, these ARAMAIC words and names were then considered to be HEBREW.

CONCLUSION

So is there ONLY ONE CORRECT FORM of the Messiah’s name found within the Bible?  No, there’s not.  There’s actually the following biblical forms: “JOSHUA” (Heb. Yehoshua); “JESHUA” (Aramaic; Post-Babylonian Heb. Yeshua); and the Greek form IESOUS and the Early Latin form, IESVS, which is the fourth form that’s alluded to within the Gospels.

Now according to research, the Aramaic and post-Babylonian Hebrew form, YESHUA was much more popular than YEHOSHUA (“Joshua”); in fact, they say that 20%, or one out of every five, males at the time, all had the name YESHUA, which, of course, means that the Lord was NOT the only one who possessed His same name.

In fact, all THREE of these forms – the Hebrew, Greek and Latin, (probably) YESHUA, IESOUS, and IESVS (Early Latin form) – were written on the sign that was nailed above His head on the cross (John 19:19-20).  Later, the Latin form IESVS became IESUS (Late Latin), which is the form that was written and used in the original King James Version in 1611.

At this time, the letter “J” had not yet developed into a letter of its own right, this came after the 1611 publication.  The letter “J” was, in fact, the last letter to become a part of our English alphabet.  However, in 1629, eighteen years later, Cambridge University gained the right to publish the Bible on their presses, and so for the King James Bible’s first revision, called the “1629 Cambridge King James Authorized Bible,” we find the first time that the letter J is used in the Bible, for names like “Jacob,” “Jerusalem,” and, of course, the name “Jesus Christ.”  And this is the way it has been printed in our English Bibles ever since.

In conclusion, then, is it wrong to use any of the biblical forms of His name?  Absolutely not!  Again, any of the three biblical forms are valid, and no, I am not saying that we need to change or stop using the name “JESUS,” since it is a modern English form of the Late Latin form, IESUS, that was used in all previous biblical publications from the Latin Vulgate of the 4th century, C.E. to the King James Version of 1611.  And of course, the Latin Late form is a variation of the Early Latin form, IESVS, which was one of the three languages written on the sign that was nailed above Jesus’ head as He was hanging on the cross and dying for our sins.   We serve an awesome God, who has given to us His Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, and how He’s revealed to us the name of His Son from Exodus to Revelation!!  Praise His name!!

 

Return to the top

WHAT’S GOD’S NAME?

WHAT’S GOD’S NAME?  Have you ever asked yourself that question.  There are so many who are going around arguing this question, such as “the Sacred Name Movement” or “the Assembly of Yahweh,” and there are some within these groups and others who have made it into a salvation issue.  Although I don’t God’s Word presents the exact spelling and pronunciation of God’s name as a salvation issue, but because of the teachings of these cults who are creating names that are NOT in the Bible and, therefore, are creating false names (i.e., “false gods”) in place of the God of the Bible, it has become a salvation issue.  But not only is it now a salvation issue, but it’s also an educational issue, and since they are attempting to divide the body through their teaching, it’s also become a unity issue.

But let me say up front that the “Messianic Jewish Movement” and the “Sacred Name Movement” are TWO DIFFERENT MOVEMENTS; they are not the same.  They have two different beliefs and agendas.  However, those who are in the “Sacred Name Movement” tend to hang out or attend Messianic groups.  So although they may appear together, they are really not.  And since most mainstream pastors, teachers and evangelists aren’t that familiar with either group, they really don’t know the difference between the two groups.

Again, I believe what is more important than the exact spelling and pronunciation of the name is the God behind the name.  What we should be seeking to know is the character and nature of God.  What is He like?  What are His values? His beliefs? What does He like and what doesn’t He like?  What kind of things does He think about?  Have you ever tried to view and understand God as an individual? What is His heart like?  In essence, this is what Moses is trying to understand when he meets God at the burning bush.  So rather than focus on all the false names that are out there, let’s see what the Bible actually teaches since it’s supposed to be our standard of truth.

MOSES AT THE BURNING BUSH

In Exodus 3, Moses (Heb. Mosheh) discovers a bush that appears to be burning, but there’s something odd about this one.  It’s burning, but it’s not being consumed.  So he goes to investigate this odd sight.  As he approaches the bush, God begins to speak to him from the midst of the bush:

Moses, Moses…take off your shoes from off your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground…I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  (Exodus 3:4-5)

Moses discovers that God has used the burning bush to gain his attention, and unlike the gods of Egypt, this God actually speaks.  And He identifies Himself as “the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  During this conversation, God has told him that He was going to send him back to the land of Egypt to lead His people, Israel, out of bondage back to this mountain.  After several failed attempts to get out of this, Moses then says to God,

Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” Now they may say to me, “What is His name?” What shall I say to them?  (Exodus 3:13)

It seems like a simple question, doesn’t it?  However, the word translated “name” doesn’t really focus so much on what to call Him, but its focus is more on learning about His character, His nature.

ABOUT THE MEANING OF THE WORD “NAME”

In addition, according to the ancient Hebrew mindset, only what we can experience has a name; therefore, in asking this question, Moses is really saying here that since the Israelites have not experienced God for 215 years, they no longer know or understand who He is, or what His character or nature is like.  Consequently, Moses is wondering what do I tell them?

THE FIRST NAME OF GOD

God then gives Him the following response:

I AM WHO I AM.”  And He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)

In this verse, the phrase “I AM WHO I AM” is the English translation of the Hebrew ‘Ehyeh asher ‘Ehyeh.  And then He says, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM (or ‘Ehyeh) has sent me to you.”  Consequently, the first name that God gives to Moses in response to his question, is the name ‘Ehyeh (“I AM” or Aleph-Hey-Yodh-Hey).

Many people assume or mistakenly think that when God said, “I AM,” that it is the name YHVH (Heb. “yodh=hey-vahv-hey”), but it’s not.  “I AM” is the Hebrew name ‘EHYEH. And in the Gospels, this is the name that Jesus used to identify Himself.  For example, in John 8:58, Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.”  In Hebrew, He was identifying Himself as ‘Ehyeh (“I AM“).  The same ‘ehyeh (“I AM“) that spoke to Moses out of the burning bush.

Since this was God’s first response to the question, this seems to imply that this is how God views Himself.  It is His character and nature.  He is ‘Ehyeh (“I AM“), the Eternal One who is ever present. To help to understand this, I often think of those display boards kids buy for school for their presentations that have three sides: the left, the middle and the right.  Think of the left side of the board as eternity past, the middle as the present, and the right as eternity future.  God is standing outside of Time, Space and Matter, also represented by this board, and He is able to see the past, present, and future all at the same time, so as a result, He is the eternal “I AM” (or ‘Ehyeh).

Interestingly, to also help to understand His initial response, many times, when people ask me my name, I will respond with my nickname “Chris,” rather than with my proper or legal name “Christopher.”  Why?  I simply prefer the name “Chris.”  And in the past three years, when the Lord has spoken to my wife or I, He uses the name “I AM.”  Perhaps, like many of us, God has a “nickname” that He prefers and uses with His friends, just a thought.

THE SECOND NAME OF GOD

The name that many people tend to think about, YHWH (Heb. “yodh-hey-vahv-hey”), doesn’t actually appear until the next verse, verse 15, and I believe that in the same verse, there’s perhaps a third name given as well.

And God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.”  This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.  (Exodus 3:15)

In this verse, the English phrase “The LORD” in all capitals is the Hebrew YHWH (Heb. Yodh-Hey-Vahv-Hey or “Yeh-wah”) .  I transliterated the Hebrew as Yehwah, rather than Yahweh, which is how it is usually transliterated into English, for the following reasons:

  • The consonant letters are the same in both, my transliteration and the traditional transliteration: YHWH.  But the real difference is in the two vowels.
  • In the Hebrew text, there is a vocal shewa (it looks like a small colon) under the first letter yodh (“Y”; the letter yodh in Hebrew looks like an apostrophe in English, and it’s the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet).  According to Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt’s Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar,

The Vocal Shewa maintains a hurried pronunciation and sounds like the a in amuse.  It is transliterated either as an upside down e (bǝ) or as a superscript e (be ). (11)

In either case, the vowel sound is an “uh” sound.  In my English classes, I use to explain to my students that the English schewa, just like the Hebrew vocal schewa, makes the “uh” sound.  I told them, “It’s the sound you make when you don’t know what to say. Uhhh.”  Consequently, I’ve chosen to use the superscript e since that transliteration format is used in many Jewish publications.

  • The other vowel in question is the qamats (it looks like a small capital T in English) located under the vahv (the “w”) in the original Hebrew text.  According to the same Hebrew grammar book, it is pronounced like the “a as in father” (Pratico and Van Pelt 10).  I have not found anything that explains why it is often transliterated with an “e,” when the letter there is clearly a qamats (or “a”).

Therefore, based on the Hebrew text there in Exodus 3:15, it should be transliterated as Yehwah (pron. “Yuh-wah”).  There are some who argue that the vahv should be seen as a vowel rather than a consonant, and should be transliterated as Yahuah.  However, this violates one of the basic syllabication rules in Hebrew.  The rule states, “Every syllable must begin with one consonant and have only one vowel” (Pratico and Van Pelt 17).  In the word “Yahuah,” there are three syllables: “Ya-hu-ah.”   The last syllable does not begin with a consonant; therefore, this transliteration and pronunciation must be wrong.

Consequently, then, we see that in His response to Moses’s question, God here has given to Moses two inter=related names: ‘Ehyeh and YHWH, and both names are derived from the infinitive verb, “To be.”  And what the exact relationship is between these two names is the great theological mystery of the ages.   KJ Cronin, in his website, “The Name of God as Revealed in Exodus 3:14: An Explanation of Its Meaning,”  does a really good job in diving into this complex topic and trying to explore it.

So let’s think about this, if God Himself has given to Moses two interrelated names for Himself in response to Moses’ one question, then how could He only have “ONE CORRECT FORM” of His name, as some people try to argue?  Also, the one form they try to argue, I can’t find in the biblical text, so how can it be correct?  But it just doesn’t stop there.

A MEMORIAL NAME?

In addition to these two names, I believe that there’s also a third name given here: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”   I do not believe that this series of phrases is just an added identifier.  When my wife and I got married (a type of covenant), she took my last name to be her’s.  And in the biblical period, when God entered into covenant with Abram (Actually “Avram” in Hebrew), Abram and Sarai each got an “H” from God’s name, changing their names to Abraham (lit. Avraham) and Sarah.  But God got also got a name change, Abraham’s name became a part of His name forever: “the God of Abraham.”

THE PARITY COVENANT

This covenant that God made with Abraham is called a PARITY COVENANT: “A covenant made between two equal parties.” Now sometimes the word “friend” in the Bible has the meaning that we give to it today, and there’s other times when it’s being used for one’s covenant partner.  For example, both of these uses is seen in Proverbs 18:24,

A man that has FRIENDS must show himself friendly: and there is a FRIEND that sticks closer than a brother.

Even though the word “FRIENDS” and “FRIEND” appear to be the same in English, in Hebrew they are actually two very different words that are being used.   The word “FRIENDS” is the English translation of rea or reya (Strong’s #7453),  and it has the meaning of “friend” like we typically use it today.  But the second word “FRIEND” is the English translation of the word ‘ahav (Strong’s #157), and it’s the term that’s used for one’s covenant partner, or “one who sticks closer than a brother.”

Throughout the Scriptures, Abraham is called “the FRIEND of God,” because God entered into a parity covenant with him.  For example, in Isaiah 41:8, we read,

But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham MY FRIEND.

We can also see this in 2 Chronicles 20,

Are not You our God, who did drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and He’s given it to Abraham Your FRIEND forever. (2 Chronicles 20:7)

Again, the word “friend” in each of these passages is the Hebrew word ‘ahav, the parity covenant term for one’s covenant partner.  And this identification as Abraham being “the friend [or parity covenant partner] of God” is also seen in the New Testament.  For example,

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the FRIEND of God. (James 2:23; Emphasis Mine)

Another type of parity covenant is marriage.  For example, in Song of Solomon, the Shulamite woman says about her husband:

His mouth is most sweet: yes, he is altogether lovely.  This is MY BELOVED, and is MY FRIEND, O daughters of Jerusalem.  (Song of Solomon 5:16; Emphasis Mine)

He is her “friend” because he’s her marriage or parity covenant partner.   Most parity covenants were non-sexual, but marriage is the one exception to this.

This same parity covenant was then passed down to Isaac and then Jacob, so that God became the “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” or sometimes it’s expressed as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  This is His “memorial name,” because it recounts the original relationship covenant (or PARITY COVENANT) that God established with Abraham, and then it was passed down to his son, Isaac, and then his grandson, Jacob.

THE SUZZERAIN OR VASSAL COVENANT

However, the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19 – Deuteronomy 34) is not a PARITY COVENANT, but a SUZZERAIN OR VASSAL COVENANT: “a one-sided disposition imposed by a superior party upon an inferior party.”  This type of covenant was used when a King would conquer a nation of people or would rescue them from trouble.  This type of covenant would benefit the nation, but it’s NOT a relationship covenant, not like the PARITY COVENANT.  And the covenant terms for the Suzzerain or Vassal covenant is “Lord/Master” for the King and “slave/servant” for those in the nation.

Did you know, for instance, that God is never called in the Bible “the God of Moses”?  Nor is Moses ever referred to in the Bible as “the FRIEND of God”, not even once?  Abraham, on the other hand, is called “the friend of God,” but not Moses.  Instead, Moses is called “the servant of God,” as is appropriate for the type of Suzzerain or vassal covenant that God entered into with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai.

And because most Christians don’t know the difference in the four types of covenants that are used in the Bible (yes, we’ve just discussed two of them here), they have traditionally misidentified the correct relationship covenant.  For centuries, they have identified the Mosaic Covenant as the relationship covenant when, in truth, the great relationship covenant of the Old Testament is the Abrahamic Covenant.

THE NAMES OF THE PATRIARCHS – A PART OF GOD’S CHARACTER AND NATURE?

By saying that names “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” are an intricate part of His “memorial-name,” I believe God is saying that a central part of who He is, His character and nature, is that He is a God who remembers His Covenants, not just the parity covenant, but all covenants that God has made.  This is so much the case, that He made their names a part of His name: “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

But He also remembers all His covenants, since He specifically says in Deuteronomy that He KEEPS HIS COVENANT AND HIS LOVINGKINDNESS to a THOUSAND generations.

Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, WHO KEEPS HIS COVENANT and His lovingkindness to a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Emphasis Mine)

A generation is about 40-45 years, so a “THOUSAND generations” would be 40,000 – 45, 000 years.  Obviously, since it’s only been more than 3, 500 years, it’s not even been 10% of the time God says He keeps His covenants.  In fact, God has not only promised to keep His covenants to them, the Jews and non-Jews who were standing there at Mt. Sinai, but He also states that His covenant to them is so He can keep His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

that you may enter into the covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath which the LORD your God is making with you today, in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB. (Deuteronomy 29:12-13; Emphasis Mine)

God here clearly connects His covenant with Moses, the children of Israel, and the “mixed multitude” of Gentiles (non-Jews; see Exodus 12:38) as a fulfillment of the promise of what He swore to the fathers: ABRAHAM, ISAAC, and JACOB.  But His promise to them that day at Mt. Sinai, as well as the connection to the fathers, was not just for those who were there, but also for all those who were not there:

Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God and with THOSE WHO ARE NOT WITH US HERE TODAY (Deuteronomy 29:14-15; Emphasis Mine)

Moses is saying here that this covenant was being made with not only the people who were there (Jews and non-Jews alike), but it was also being made for all people (Jew and non-Jew alike) who were not there at that time.  This would be for all people from that time forward, including people today.  In other words, the Mosaic Covenant is the result of the Abrahamic Covenant (or the relationship covenant).

This promise, then, would not only include all future Jewish people into the promise, but it would also include all non-Jews as well:

For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.  (Romans 4:16, NASB)

And if you belong to Christ [Messiah], then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  (Galatians 3:29)

Note in the Galatians passage, Paul did not say “if you are in Christ [Messiah], then you are heirs according to the promise.” Instead, by us “belonging to Christ [Messiah],” then we are “Abraham’s seed,” and then, therefore, “heirs according to the promise.”  But why did God set this up this way?  Why is it important that we are to be a part of “Abraham’s seed”?  Why couldn’t we just “belong to Christ [Messiah]?”  Why is it necessary to connect the two?  He did it this way, so that He could open the way for all people of all nations to become a part of His promise to Abraham: “And in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3c).

So if we are in Messiah, we are part of Abraham’s seed, and therefore, a part of Abraham and Abraham’s family, so that we, together with the Jewish people, can enjoy not only the promises of the Abrahamic covenant but also get to experience the blessings and the responsibilities of Mt. Sinai as well.  One God, One Call, One Family, One Mission, and One Destiny for all.

THE GOD WHO IS MORE THAN ENOUGH

But not only did God share these three names with Moses, but He shared a fourth name with Him as well, the name ‘El Shaddai.

God spoke further to Moses and said to him, I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty [Heb. ‘El Shaddai], but by My name, LORD [YHVH], I did not make myself known to them.  And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. (Exodus 6:2-4)

In this verse, God makes it quite clear that even though He did enter into covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He did not reveal His name YHVH or Yehwah to them; instead, they knew Him by the name of ‘El Shaddai.  By revealing Himself to Moses and the children of Israel as ‘Ehyeh and YHVH at Mt. Sinai, He was revealing something new about Himself to them that the Patriarchs never got to experience.

So why do we see the name “YHWH” (“LORD”) in the book of Genesis, if the patriarchs did not know Him by that name?  Because Moses wrote the book of Genesis, and God had revealed to Him the name YHWH to him at the burning bush.  Therefore, Moses used the name that God revealed to him when writing the events of the book of Genesis.  It doesn’t mean that the people at that time knew this name, since God Himself said that they didn’t.  Moses wanted to merely identify which God was at work during creation and during the lives of all those mentioned in this first book of the Bible.  It’s not that hard to understand.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, if God has these four names that He gave to Moses in the Scriptures, then how could He have only ONE CORRECT FORM?  But I am praying that by reading this article, you will realize that there are deeper truths and realities than what we read in the English translations of our Bible, and why it is important to study the Scriptures, so that we can discern the truth from deception, half-truths, and lies, as well as discern the different covenants that we see at work within the Bible.

 

Return to the top

THE ALTAR CALL: A CHRISTIAN DECEPTION?

THE ALTAR CALL – A DECEPTION?  Many people may find this statement shocking, even heretical, but the problem is not the altar call itself, but what pastors, ministers, and evangelists say at the altar call.   I have experienced and observed many, many altar calls growing up in church, and they all usually end up with the person conducting the altar call saying after the “sinner’s prayer,” “Now that you’ve prayed ‘the sinner’s prayer,’ you are now saved.”  And there’s the problem.

SALVATION IS AN EXODUS JOURNEY – NOT AN EVENT!

This concept that we are saved simply be making a decision for Christ is NOT taught anywhere in the New Testament.  Jesus does not teach “accept Me,” but “follow Me.”  And following involves A LIFE-LONG PROCESS, not an instantaneous event. For example, i John 8, Jesus taught Jews who believed in Him,

IF YOU CONTINUE IN MY WORD, THEN ARE YOU MY DISCIPLES INDEED; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that Jesus didn’t tell these “believing Jews,” “Hey, good going, guys.  You believed, so now you are all set to go to heaven.”  No, He doesn’t.  He tells them, “if you CONTINUE in My word,…”  Jesus places the emphasis on whether we are CONTINUING WITH HIM, NOT on whether or not we begin.

Salvation is NOT AN EVENT, but it is an Exodus, a life-long journey that we experience with God and Jesus Christ.  It is not some microwavable deed that we do in a few minutes at the altar that guarantees us anything, except that we’ve begun the journey.  But if we don’t continue the journey, then we can lose what we’ve attained by starting it.

THERE’S MORE TO REPENTANCE THAN SAYING, “I’M SORRY.”

There’s many people who would argue that what I just said is not true, but then, they would be arguing with the Bible, because it says otherwise.  Many people today think that “to repent” means to tell God they are sorry for their sins, but that’s only partially true.  It also involves “turning away from sin.”  If there’s no turning away from sin, then you may have been sorry for what you’ve done, and you may have even felt guilty for doing it, but you have not repented UNTIL you have turned away from the sins you have committed and started walking in OBEDIENCE to God.

REPENTANCE IS A TWO-WAY STREET

Repentance is NOT an event, it’s a life-long journey, and we are deceiving people if we teach anything else.  For example, a key passage in teaching us about TRUE REPENTANCE is Ezekiel 18.

But if the wicked man turns [or repents] from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die.  All his transgressions which he has committed will NOT be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.  (Ezekiel 18: 21-22)

As we can see here, we must do more than say, “I’m sorry.”  We must turn away from our sins and walk in obedience to God and ALL HIS WORD, from Genesis to Revelation, and not just a few verses in the New Testament.  But if we turn away from our sins and begin walking in obedience to God, then our transgressions will NOT be remembered.  Obviously, this is more than what can happen at one particular altar call.

But there’s another aspect of repentance that most people don’t know or understand, because in all the years I’ve grown up in church, I have NEVER, EVER heard even one minister teach it.

But when a RIGHTEOUS (or SAVED) man turns away from his righteousness [his obedience to God], COMMITS INIQUITY [sin] and does according to ALL THE ABOMINATIONS THAT A WICKED MAN DOES?  ALL HIS RIGHTEOUS DEEDS which he has done WILL NOT BE REMEMBERED for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; FOR THEM HE WILL DIE.  (Ezekiel 18: 24; Emphasis Mine)

REPENTANCE happens NOT when you say “I’m sorry,” but at the point you change your behavior.  Saying “I’m sorry” is the FIRST STEP, but it is NOT the whole thing.  Therefore, if you’ve been living your life in obedience to God, but then change your obedient lifestyle for a SINFUL LIFESTYLE, doing the same things that other sinners do, then by changing your lifestyle from obedient to disobedient, you have REPENTED of following after God and, therefore, all of your previous RIGHTEOUSNESS (“RIGHT STANDING WITH GOD”) will be FORGOTTEN and, therefore, YOU WILL DIE IN YOUR SINS.

THE CROSS DID NOT CHANGE THE STANDARDS OR WAYS OF GOD

Now some may say, “Well, that’s Old Testament.”  But the implication from this is that due to the crucifixion that God has changed, which is NOT the case.  God does NOT change (Malachi 3:6), nor has His standards or way of doing things changed in any way.  For example, in Matthew 3, we can see this in the ministry of John the Baptist.  For example, the Scriptures teach us,

But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore BRING FORTH FRUIT IN KEEPING WITH REPENTANCE;…” (Matthew 3:7-8; Emphasis Mine)

Did you know that REPENTANCE, if it is REAL, will produce “fruit”?  And what is that “fruit”?  A changed life and a lifestyle of obedience to God.

Not only does John the Baptist teach this, but so does the Apostle Paul.  In Corinthians 6:9, Paul writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous [those living in disobedience to God] shall NOT inherit the kingdom of God.”  He then gives examples of various sins in I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-20; and Ephesians 5:5 that if people are doing these things, they shall NOT inherit the Kingdom of God (i.e., heaven).   Obviously, if these people are still committing these sins, then they have NOT REPENTED, and just as Ezekiel 18 teaches, they shall die in their sins and NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

In fact, in I Corinthians 6:11, Paul writes,

And such WERE some of you; but you were WASHED, but you were SANCTIFIED, but you were JUSTIFIED in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, AND in the Spirit of our God.

Notice that it takes being WASHED, SANCTIFIED, and JUSTIFIED, both in the name of Jesus Christ AND in the Holy Spirit to accomplish TRUE REPENTANCE.  We see this again in Galatians 5:21.  After giving his sample list of sins (Galatians 5:19-21a), he says,

and things like these [so this is not the complete list], of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that THOSE WHO [CONTINUE TO] PRACTICE SUCH THINGS SHALL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (Galatians 5:21; Emphasis Mine)

Although the words “continue to” in brackets are not explicitly stated, the verb “practice” is a present participle tense verb, which means it indicates “repeated” or “continuous” action, which is why I included it in the text.  Obviously, again, if they are continuing to commit these sins, they have NOT REPENTED.

And finally, in Ephesians 5:5-6, Paul again makes the same point:

For this you KNOW WITH CERTAINTY, that NO IMMORAL OR IMPURE PERSON of covetous man, who is an idolater, HAS AN INHERITANCE IN THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST AND GOD.

In this passage, Paul does not say, “There’s a chance you might not make it in if you are living in sin,” but instead, that this was something we can “KNOW WITH CERTAINTY.” If someone has NOT brought forth the “fruit of repentance,” a changed life, then they have NOT truly repented, indicating again, that TRUE BIBLICAL REPENTANCE is A PROCESS, and not something that can happen in a few minutes at the altar.  An alter call, again, is the FIRST STEP, but it’s not all there is to REPENTANCE.

WHAT ABOUT JAMES 2:10?

Anytime someone mentions that to truly repent, we need to live our lives in obedience to God’s commandments, there’s always someone who brings up James 2:10,

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

Christians will quote this verse to dissuade people from trying to be obedient to God, because it’s a lost cause.  They argue, even if you could obey 99% of it, but you mess up on one commandment, then you’ve blown it.  However, is this what James is actually saying?

James himself lived his life in accordance to the teachings of God’s commandments his entire life.  At no point, did he ever give up his belief that the Law was necessary for his relationship with God.  For example, Eusebius (260/265-340 A.D.), one of the early church historians, recorded in his ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, not only how James died, but also a written description of him from a previous historian who lived close to the time period of the Apostles, by the name of Hegesippus (110 – 180 A.D.).  He writes,

James, the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles.  This apostle was consecrated from his mother’s womb.  He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food.  A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a [public] bath.  (Book 2, Chapter 23, 4-5).

From this we can see that James was raised a NAZARITE (see Numbers 6) from conception, much like Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist.   But James took his devotion and commitment to the extreme.  Hegesippus goes on to say,

He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary [the Temple].  He never wore woolen, but linen garments.  He was in the habit of entering the temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camel’s.  And indeed, on account of his great piety, he was called the Just, and Oblias (or Zaddick and Ozleam) which signifies justice and protection of the people; as the prophets declare concerning him. (Book 2, Chapter 23, 6-7).

James was an extreme Orthodox Jew who made sure to keep even the smallest detail, or as the expression goes,  he “crossed his t’s and dotted his i’s.”  So why would such an observant Orthodox Jew try to dissuade people from the law, when he, himself, obeyed it so zealously?  The meaning that Christians give to James 2:10 violates not only the text, but also the person and beliefs of James, who wrote the epistle.

So to see James’ true intent in making this statement, let’s put it back into its original context.

If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law [God’s commandments given at Mt. Sinai], according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Leviticus 19:18; qtd. by Jesus (Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mk. 12:31, 33), by Paul, Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14)], you are doing well.  But IF YOU SHOW PARTIALITY, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. (James 2:8-10; Emphasis Mine)

If we place this back into context, James makes this statement about keeping the whole law, yet stumbling in one point, NOT TO DISSUADE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, as Christians often use it, but to ENCOURAGE FURTHER OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, which is how Christians DO NOT USE IT.  In other words, this statement does not mean what Christians often says that it means.  We do NOT need to keep the whole law, but only those parts of the law that deal with us personally.

For example, Jesus did not keep those commands dealing with menstruation, because He was not a woman.  Nor do we have any record of Him going into the Temple, cutting up the sacrifices, and offering them on the alter; therefore, none of those laws He performed either.  And yet, Jesus lived His life without sin; therefore, the traditional Christian interpretation of James 2:10 is shown to be faulty by Jesus’ own sinless life.  So, therefore, we can live in obedience to God without having to keep all 613 commandments handed down by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  But this realization has escaped the Christian mind for over 1, 900 years.

CONCLUSION

There is more to repentance than what we are often taught in the church.  It is not as simple as going forward to the altar and saying “the sinner’s prayer.”  This is where our journey begins, but to say after saying the prayer that “we are saved,” and that there’s nothing more we need to do to be saved and to go to heaven is NOT BIBLICALLY TRUE.  We need to change what we are doing during the altar call.  We need to tell people that this is only the first step; it is not the whole journey.  We then need to tell them what more they need to do on this Exodus journey called “salvation.”

 

Return to top

The Law of Sin: A Hardware Problem?

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who
really knows how bad it is?
” (Jeremiah 17:9, New Living Translation)

SIN HAS A LAW?

What is “sin”?  What is “the law of sin”?  Many people think these two things are the same thing, but they are not.  They are different.  For example, gravity and the law of gravity are also not the same thing.  The law of gravity is actually an explanation of how gravity works.  In much the same way, the “law of sin” explains how sin works.  The interesting problem in understanding many of Paul’s phrases in his writings is that he doesn’t stop to define terms too often.

WHAT IS “SIN”?

Let’s start here.  “Sin” is defined repeatedly in the book of Leviticus as “to do any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done” (see Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:17). In addition, there is a New Testament parallel to this definition found in the epistle of I John:

Whosoever commits sin transgresses [violates or breaks] also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (I John 3:4)

In the United States, if someone breaks “the law,” then that person has committed “a crime,” and one who commits “a crime,” we call “a criminal.” However, in God’s kingdom, if someone breaks one of His laws, then then that person has committed “a sin” (i.e., “a crime”), and if someone has committed “a sin,” then God and His Word says they are “a sinner” (i.e., “a criminal”).  But understand that even though the terms differ, their essential definitions are really the same.  In other words, when we compare these terms, sin/crime and sinner/criminal,  they are essentially synonymous terms.

But who determines what is “sin”?  Through all the years that I have spent studying the Scriptures, I have not found even one verse or passage that teaches that we have the right to decide what is a sin or what is not a sin.  Only God has the right to make that determination.  The problem with any religion, including Judaism and Christianity, is that we have created our own ideas of what is or is not sin, and in so doing, we have added to the Scriptures, but we’ve also deleted portions of those same Scriptures.  For to add to or delete from the Scriptures is in itself an act of sin.

YOU SHALL NOT ADD to the word which I am commanding you, nor TAKE AWAY FROM IT, that you may keep the the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.  (Deuteronomy 4:2; Emphasis Mine)

Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; YOU SHALL NOT ADD TO NOR TAKE AWAY FROM IT.  (Deuteronomy 12:32; Emphasis Mine)

Consequently, for us TO ADD TO or TO TAKE AWAY FROM any of the commandments of God is, itself, a sin.   Therefore, for any Christian to say, even from behind the pulpit, that “the Law has been done away,” “the Law is not for the Christian,” “the Law ended at the cross,” etc., is to “TAKE AWAY FROM” the commandments and, therefore, constitute a sin.  So am I saying that Paul sinned?  If our interpretation of Paul was correct, then yes, it would be a sin; however, since our interpretation is wrong, then Paul is not the one who has sinned, but us, in the church, through our misinterpretation of his teaching.

WHAT IS “THE LAW OF SIN”?

What we do see Paul arguing against in the New Testament is not the “law of God,” but the “law of sin,” and it’s a concept that’s expressed in several different ways.  For example, he refers to it as our “sin nature,” “our old man,” “the law in my flesh (or members),” “the law of sin,” or simply as “sin.” The root cause of human sin is a multi-level defect in our human hardware.  The “law of sin” is the central topic of the book of Romans and is foundational to properly understanding the book of Galatians.  For example, in Romans 7:25, he writes,

So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God;  but with the flesh the law of sin.

Notice in this verse, Paul identifies two different laws: the law of God and the law of sin. This is only one of many references in the New Testament that demonstrate that the law of God, given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, did not, in fact, end at the cross as Christianity has taught since the mid-second century, C.E.   If it had ended as they contend, then why is Paul serving “the law of God” with his mind?  The “law of God” and the “law of sin” are not the same. (contrary to some who teach that “the law of sin and death” is the Ten Commandments.)  Therefore, if we are going to understand his argument, we need to have a clear definition of “the law of sin.”

The problem with the way society, psychology, sociology, education, and even many religions approach sin is that they all approach it as a “software” problem – not a “hardware” problem.  From their perspective, the reason people “sin” (or “do bad things”) is because they’ve not been taught or trained properly or because of the environment that they have been raised in, not because that there’s something wrong with the individual himself or herself.

Although this may explain some surface level issues in people, it really does not get at the heart or root of the problem.  The heart or root of the sin issue is not found in humanity’s “software” (teachings, understandings, or habits) but in our “hardware.”  It is a defect in every aspect of our being, who we are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially and physically.  It permeates every aspect of who we are, even further down than our very own DNA,  every second of every minute of every day.  People will say, “But I’m not a bad person,” but in comparison to whom?  Perhaps in comparison to murderers, rapists or thieves, but what if God were to compare you to Himself?  How would you do then?

According to the Bible, humanity was created “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27).  This means that when you stand before God on judgment day, He will not be comparing you to your family, neighbors, or the bad people in town, but He is going to compare you with Himself.  We were created to reflect “His image and likeness” in the earth.  The central question He will be examining in our lives is, How well have you reflected His image and likeness in your own life, to your family and friends, and to the society around you?  In considering this question, the Bible tells us,

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)

Even in the Psalms, we are told,

The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that does good, no, not one. (Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:10-12)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.  (Psalm 51:5)

The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.  (Psalm 58:3)

Even in the first book of the Bible, we are given this view of the condition of humanity:

And God saw that the wickedness of man [humanity] was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  (Genesis 6:5)

Some may say, “I’m not THAT bad; I don’t think ‘evil continually’.”  That depends on your definition of “evil.”  In God’s view, if He is not at the center of your thoughts and life, then it’s “evil.”  Remember, you were created to reflect His “image and likeness,” so how are you doing that if He is not at the central core of all that you are thinking about and doing?

“HOW DID THIS START?”

To explain this, let me give an analogy.  Suppose a new phone company came up with a model I-Phone that would revolutionize our world and lives.  They had developed their new prototype and manufacturing was all set to begin the next day.  However, that night someone broke into the plant and caused a defect in both the original prototype and the computers involved in its manufacturing.  Not knowing what had happened, the owner okayed the beginning manufacturing of the product.  Thousands were created and sold around the world.  Soon complaints were coming back to the owner regarding this hidden defect.

Did the owner intend to sell thousands of defective products?  Of course not.  As far as He knew, He had created an awesome product, but something happened which changed something good into something less than good.  In much the same way, God had created Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah) as something good, as people who were made to reflect His image, likeness and character within the earth.  However, something happened.  Another being got involved who tempted them to disobey God [the serpent], and when Adam and Eve disobeyed, it caused a defect to occur within them, and through them, all of humanity.  And since that time, God has been working on correcting this defect in the lives of each and every person who turns to Him in faith.

HOW DOES THE DEFECT WORK?

Our human defect, which the Bible calls “the law of sin,” works by taking anything that God has given to us to be a blessing, and it altars, changes, distorts, or perverts it into something other than what God intended.

For example, consider what Isaiah teaches in the following:

Woe to those who call evil “good,” and good “evil;” who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight!  (Isaiah 5:20-21)

As we can see, there’s an inversion that occurs in sin: good becomes evil, and evil becomes good.  And we can blatantly see this. not only in American society, but in the American church as well.

But the hard truth is that as long as the “law of sin” is in operation within our lives, then God’s design can never be fully realized within our lives.  And one of the reasons why Jesus died was to provide the means for God to correct this defect in our lives.  Although this was not the ONLY reason for His death (contrary to what Christianity teaches), it was one of the main reasons.

Let me give you some examples to illustrate my point of how “the law of sin” operates.  For example,

  • God gave us speech to be able to speak with Him and to be a blessing to others.  Instead, the law of sin distorts this into us denying God’s existence and swearing, cursing, blaspheming God, and speaking evil of others by means of slander, lying, and deceit, etc.
  • God gave us hands to care for and be helpful to one another and to care for the earth.  Instead, the law of sin distorts that into brutality, fighting, war, maiming, killing, and ripping apart and destroying the earth.
  • God gave us the ability to express love, but instead, the law of sin distorts it into lust, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, anger, bitterness, and rape.  “Our human defect” [“the law of sin”] takes the goodness of God and turns it into an abomination and a curse.

Also, not only does the law of sin twist and distort the use of our own bodies, but it also twists and distorts things God gives to us to help us into something evil.  For example, in Numbers 21, the children of Israel has started complaining again about God and Moses.  They said,

Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and water, and we loathe this miserable food.  (Numbers 21:5)

In response to this, God sends “fiery serpents” that are poisonous among the people, and many of them are bit and die.  The people then come to Moses and confess that they have sinned against him and God, and they ask him to intercede on their behalf (Numbers 21:6-7).  In response, the LORD gives Moses the following instructions:

Make a fiery [bronze] serpent, and set it on a standard [pole]; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live.  (Numbers 21:8)

Moses does this, and when the people look upon the bronze or fiery serpent, they are healed.  Now let’s go ahead about 950 years to the reign of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18.  He was twenty-five years old when he began his rule and reign over the southern kingdom of Judah.  In verses 3-5, we read,

And he did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father [ancestor] David had done.  He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah.  He also broke in pieces the BRONZE SERPENT THAT MOSES HAD MADE, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehustan.  He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.

950 years after Moses makes the bronze serpent, Hezekiah destroys it because people had been worshiping it as an idol.  They even gave it a name: Nehustan.  What God had given to be a source of healing, the people turned into a god and worshiped it.  That’s how messed up the law of sin is within each and every one of us.

This is the law that Jesus died to set us free from, NOT the law of God.  The church has traditionally confused these two laws.  For example, in Romans 6:14,

For SIN shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.

What “laws” are we not under?  Paul tells us in the first part of the verse: “SIN SHALL NOT BE MASTER OVER YOU.”  In other words, the “law of sin.”  In fact, in Romans 6-8, Paul is answering the question: “Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Romans 6:1)  All three chapters are Paul’s answer to this question.  And in this discussion, from Romans 6:1 – 13, there’s absolutely NO MENTION of God’s law in the text at all.  So obviously to include “God’s law” into that statement is to read into the text someone’s own idea, rather than what the text says itself.

SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

The solution to the law of sin is given by Jesus: “FOLLOW ME.”   Notice that Jesus does not say, “ACCEPT ME,” but “FOLLOW ME.”  In other words, the solution lies in the process of discipleship to Christ.  But this involves more than just going up front to the altar and praying “the sinner’s prayer.”  That is just where the process begins.

The solution comes as WE ARE SANCTIFIED (made holy) by the blood of the cross, by the Holy Spirit, the washing of water by the Word of God (Ephesians 5:25-27), and by daily spending time in prayer with God.  These four things have to work together as we follow Christ for our “defects” (the law of sin) to be corrected.  There is NO INSTANTANEOUS CURE for the “law of sin.” The “sinner’s prayer” at the alter will NOT CORRECT the problem, contrary to what many pastors, ministers, Bible teachers and evangelists are teaching.  The “sinner’s prayer” again is where the journey, or process, begins – it is NOT the full journey.

 

Return to the top