The Messianic Church in Israel

Prof. Johan Malan, South Africa (January 2010)

Although the Messianic church in Israel is still very small it represents the beginning of great things in Israel’s spiritual awakening. The Messianic movement among the Jews dates back to the time of the first disciples of Jesus. As described in the book of Acts, there was a small but dynamic minority group of Messianic Jews that existed since the beginning of the church dispensation, and their history continued throughout the centuries. According to J. Gartenhaus, in his book Famous Hebrew Chris­tians, the nineteenth century saw large numbers of Jews accepting Jesus. As far as the 20th century is concerned, Reverend E. Newman, a Jewish pastor, believes that more than 500 000 Jews from a total of sixteen million, had accepted Jesus as the Messiah before World War II. The last decades of the 20th centuries saw a great increase in the number of Jews who converted by accepting Jesus as Messiah, particularly in America. Even if there presently are about half a million saved Jews in the world, they only represent 3,8% of the total Jewish population of about 13 million.

Through the centuries these Messianic Jews had the important mission to witness about the Messiahship of Jesus among fellow Jews. They experienced a lot of rejection and resistance but there were also wonderful testimonies of Jews whose eyes and hearts were opened to the gospel message. But the Bible also places a big responsibility upon the Christian church to become involved with Jewish evangelism. Paul writes, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!” (Rom. 11:11-12).

Israel’s spiritual fall because of rejecting the Messiah was not permanent. Their blinding contributed towards achieving a wonderful purpose, i.e. the evangelising of the entire non-Jewish world. Their fall is spiritual riches to us, and because of this we are their debtors. We must be grateful towards Israel as the salvation that was in the first place destined to them was offered to us after their negative reaction to it. We were spiritually enriched by it and should now have compassion with Israel. They should be able to see in our lives what they have missed, and should be provoked to jealousy by the way in which we serve the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. We should not condemn them. Remember that all the authors of Bible books, except for Luke, were Messianic Jews, and that these Jewish believers, particularly Paul, were the first to evangelise our ancestors in Europe.

We must not make the mistake of abandoning Jewish evangelism by arguing that the Lord has given them a spirit of blindness and deep sleep. The Lord only hardens the hearts of people who have already hardened themselves, and will only put a veil on those who are so negatively inclined that they refuse to see. All people are basically responsible for their own misery. The veil over Israel has been taken away in the Messiah (2 Cor. 3:14-16) so all Jews can turn to Him for salvation. There is no barrier in the way of Jewish evangelism since the Holy Spirit convicts all people of their sin and also of the righteousness of Christ (John 16:8). The church history bears witness to these facts.

After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the Lord separated Peter and various other apostles to specifically witness among the Jews. The first 5000 converts of the Christian church were Jews. Paul says that the gospel of Christ is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

Jewish evangelism is a very big challenge since deeply-rooted prejudices must be overcome before a Jew will accept Jesus as Messiah. The following are the four major reasons why Jews generally abhor and reject Christianity:

1.    During Medieval times they were severely persecuted by Catholic-dominated countries in Europe where hundreds of thousands of them were brutally killed. According to them they suffered at the hands of Christians.

2.    Six million Jews were slaughtered during the World War II in Lutheran Germany – according to Jewish perceptions also by a Christian state.

3.    Many of the nominal Christian churches still entertain negatives sentiments towards Israel, and rather support the establishment of a Palestinian state than the restoration of Israel in their God-given land.

4.    The rabbis and other scribes of Israel are still hostile towards Jesus and absolutely reject His claim to be the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world. They cling to a dead form of godliness and fix their hope on the rebuilding of the temple and the reinstitution of the Old Testament’s sacrificial service. They actively participate in the campaign to discredit Jesus of Nazareth, thereby increasing the negative sentiment about Him among Jews.

It is the duty of Messianic Jews as well as evangelical Christians to overcome these strong prejudices and prove them wrong by demonstrating the love of the Messiah to orthodox and agnostic Jews. The more Israel is isolated and internally rejected, the more they will be receptive and thankful for the aid and support received from evangelical Christians and Messianic Jews. The situation is already changing.

It should be clearly stated that our main obligation is towards Messianic Jews. Paul says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). We should strongly support the Messianic movement by assisting to expand it. Israel’s entire future is dependent upon them since the Lord is preparing the whole nation to once again be His nation in the true sense of the word. Those who refuse to revive spiritually and become Messianic will die in their sins, but the remnant who are reconciled with the Messiah represent the small beginning of the true Israel of the future.

It should always be remembered that the spiritual awakening of the entire nation is the Lord’s ultimate purpose with the restoration of Israel. We should not, at this stage, be overly concerned to promote Israel’s political or economic stability, or to bring peace to the Middle East, as that will only be achieved after the Messiah has come. We should indeed assist where the need is great, but our main priority should be to promote the Messianic movement. Assistance of this nature is focussed upon the full spiritual restoration of Israel, as clearly stated in the following prophecy in Ezekiel 36:

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, this says the Lord God: I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, say the Lord God, when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. 36:22-28).

It is obvious that the spiritual cleansing of Israel has not yet occurred. There was indeed a small beginning in the Messianic movement that existed since the beginning of the church dispensation, but the great majority of Jews have not yet awakened spiritually – particularly not the political and spiritual leaders of Israel. Now that Israel has been physically and politically restored to their land, it becomes all the more imperative to expand the Messianic movement among them. This obligation should be pursued with greater dedication so that more Jews can become conscious of the Lord Jesus and His biblical claims as the Messiah of Israel, while also being informed on the coming of the false messiah. In terms of traditional Jewish practices they should know that the heavenly Bridegroom will secretly come to take His earthly bride away (Matt. 25:1-13).

Knowledge of this nature is critically important to prepare the future group of 144 000 Jews to resist the false messiah shortly after the rapture, and to accept the true Messiah as Saviour. They will replace the Messianic Jews who will have been taken away at the rapture, and through their dynamic witness the Messianic movement in Israel will strongly increase. According to Revelation 11:1-14, two special witnesses with great powers will also minister during this time and proclaim Jesus as Messiah. Many Jews and Gentiles will be saved during this time.

However, the deception of the false messiah will be so strong and convincing that the majority of the unsaved Jews will conclude a covenant with him and follow him. The Lord Jesus has long ago warned Jewish leaders against the coming false messiah when He said: “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43). The deceived, unsaved Jews will be disillusioned in the middle of the tribulation period when they discover that their newly-found messiah is proved to be false when he proclaims himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:4). They will then revoke their covenant with him and then, according to Matthew 24:15-22, have to flee for survival to a place in the wilderness. Their spiritual perspective will only then be corrected and they will start seeking the true Messiah as explained in Hosea 6:1-2. At that time they will fully realize that Israel’s afflictions during the past two thousand years were caused by the rejection of their Messiah who was born in the house of David.

When the remnant in Israel see the true Messiah descending upon the Mount of Olives at the end of the tribulation period, they will all heartily welcome Him and be reconciled with Him (Matt. 23:39). According to Zechariah 12:10 they will weep at His feet while repenting of their sins. The Messianic movement will only then have achieved its full and glorious purpose.

Do you wish to join in realising this highly honourable purpose? Then become a supporter of the Messianic movement in Israel and also across the globe. At the end of this wonderful road the Lord will say of Israel: “No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).