Metonic Cycle

I’d like to provide some background information about the Jewish calendar that may prove helpful for those who are trying to figure out the visions of Daniel.  This information is widely available on the internet but if you don’t know you need it, you’ll never look for it.  Besides I tend to be a one stop shopper and I like it when things are neat and tidy in one place.

Originally, God planned for His people to monitor the changing of the months by the sighting of the new moon.  The sighting of the crescent new moon signals the ending of the first day of every month on the Hebrew calendar; the time of the conjunction when the moon is fully dark is the first day of the month. The conjunction marks the first day of the year and thereby the count of the dates of the holy days.  The moon goes through several phases (new crescent, waxing crescent > waxing quarter > half > full > half  > waning quarter >  waning crescent > invisible/old) as it reflects sunlight over a period of 29.5 days.  If you observe the month each evening, you can see this for yourself.

Biblically, the new moon ends at the appearance of the crescent moon; it begins when it is invisible (not reflecting light from the sun).  My position on this has changed. 119 Ministries has a good explanation on this on their web site; see their video:  Time Our Creator’s Calendar – The Foundation – Part 2.  They do discard the Hillel calendar used in this post; if I ever change any other positions on this post, I will make appropriate updates.  There are other seemingly valid reasons for the new moon being at the sighting of the sliver so the debate continues on.

Phases of the moon

As God’s people were spread throughout the world, it became impossible for everyone to know when the sighting of the crescent moon took place in Israel; it ensured that the conjunction or new moon had taken place.  The sighting of the new moon is important because it insures the feasts of the Lord are celebrated on the correct days of the year.

Two or three witnesses are required to confirm the presence of the crescent moon in Jerusalem.  A calendar day actually begins at sundown and changes to the next calendar day when the sun goes down the following day.  This is consistent with the pattern of creation–darkness followed by light.

The Hebrew calendar used today is based on a 19 year cycle called the Metonic cycle.  The Hebrew calendar normally has 12 months each year but sometimes it is necessary to add a 13th month (an embolismic month called Adar II) if the barley is not ripe.  This ensures that Passover is always celebrated in the month of Nissan when the barley is ripe (in the state of “Abib”).  The new moon which marks the beginning of Nissan must come on or after the spring (vernal) equinox.

An embolismic month (Adar II) takes place 7 times in the 19-year Metonic cycle.  Adar II is added in the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the Metonic cycle.  This pattern is sometimes described as 3, 3, 3, 2, 3, 3, 2.  It is possible to determine which years in the past and in the future had/will have an embolismic month (30 intercalary days); however, Hebrew date converters (found on the internet) which convert Gregorian calendar dates that we use to Hebrew dates warn us that results for year 1752 C.E. and before may not be accurate when calculating date conversions.  This is an important tool for those interested in prophecy and in celebrating the feasts of the Lord because Gregorian dates calculated for Hebrew dates vary from year to year.  This is the next best thing to the sighting of the new moon.

Originally, the months of the year were numbered like the days of the week but eventually they were given names while the Jews were living in Babylon.  Tishrei begins the civil calendar year which is when the number of the year changes.  Nissan begins the religious calendar year which begins the counting of the months of the year and the spring feasts (Ex.12:2).  The months of the Jewish year are:

  1. Nissan (30 days)
  2. Iyar (29 days)
  3. Sivan (30 days)
  4. Tamuz (29 days)
  5. Av (30 days)
  6. Elul (29 days)
  7. Tishrei (30 days)
  8. Cheshvan (29 or 30 days)
  9. Kislev (29 or 30 days)
  10. Tevet (29 days)
  11. Shevat (30 days)
  12. Adar I (29 or 30 days)
  13. Adar II (29 days)

There can be either 354, 355, 356, 383, or 384 days in a Jewish year.  I’ve looked at lots of theories and by now I’m pretty sure the idea of using a 360 day year for Daniel’s visions is worthless.

A shavuah (7 year period) can be either 86 moons (months) or 87 moons (months).  The times and seasons of Daniel center around  the Feasts of the Lord because they are His appointed times.  For the timing of the 70th week of Daniel to be right, we’re probably looking at a shavuah with 86 moons.  For those interested in the times related to Daniel’s visions, Nissan 11, 5785 (September 7, 2021) through Elul 29, 5788 (September 20, 2028) is 1260 days…the next day being Tishrei 1, 5789.  There are exactly 42 moons between those dates as well.  I haven’t checked but this can probably happen in more than one shavuah with 86 moons but I am partial to this particular shavuah.

As we look for Yeshua’s return, know that it must be during a conjunction when all is in darkness:

Isaiah 13:9-10 says, “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.” and Mark 13:23-27 says, “But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand. 24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;  25 the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.  27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”

 

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70 Weeks of Daniel

Daniel 9:24-27:

“Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.

25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.

26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.” (NKJV)

A total of seventy weeks have been decreed for God’s people.   The Hebrew word for weeks is shavuiym (plural) or shavuah (singular).  This is not some kind of prophetic or Biblical time.  A shabuah is specifically a period of seven years.  Not all of the 70 weeks have been fulfilled yet.  Those who study prophecy all try to figure out the details of 70th week of Daniel.  Everyone agrees it is the last 7 years prior to Christ’s return and it is known as the tribulation.

According to Daniel 9:25, the time from the edict given to Nehemiah by Artaxerxes in 445 B.C.E. to restore and build Jerusalem until Jesus the Messiah made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was 7 and 62 seven year periods, 49 + 434 years, or 483 years.  Jesus was crucified or cut off according to God’s plan for those who would trust in Him as Lord and Savior.

It seems as if time has been suspended until some point in the future when the last shavuah will begin. A prince yet to come will make a covenant with many for a 7 year period but he will do evil and reveal his true nature until the very end.  This prince will be much like Antiochus Epiphanes IV and Adolf Hitler.  No one could have been prepared for what these men did to the Jews.

Do you think we’ll be any better prepared?  With technology the way it is today, how can we really defend ourselves?  I think all we can do is place ourselves in the hands of the Lord.

Daniel 9:25 commanded Daniel to “know and understand” while Daniel 12:9-10 says, “And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. 10 Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”

It seems the wise will eventually understand.  As current events transpire around us, our knowledge increases so we can understand the timing of Daniel’s visions better each day.  I am not too bothered when those who study prophecy understand incorrectly because I know eventually the puzzle pieces with fall together perfectly.  Many people can contribute a correct piece of the puzzle.  Our job is to examine the pieces and discern which pieces are correct and which are incorrect.  Understanding the Hebrew calendar (Metonic Cycle), the Feasts of the Lord, and Biblical accounts with similar themes are major keys to accomplishing this goal.  As we study, let’s pray for wisdom, discernment, and understanding.  (Be sure to see my post on the Metonic Cycle for more details concerning the 70th week.)

When the 70 weeks are complete, all of the following will be accomplished:

  • The transgression will be finished.
  • There will be an end of sins.
  • Reconciliation will be made for iniquity.
  • Everlasting righteousness will be brought in.
  • Vision and prophecy will be sealed up.
  • The Most Holy will be anointed.

Keys to End Time Prophecy

Daniel holds many keys to end time prophecy.

If you study Daniel you will notice that a progression takes place throughout the book which shows the rise and fall of the empires of the Antichrist.  Each vision builds upon the previous.

Daniel 2 — Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue: 

  • Head = Babylon
  • Chest and Arms = Medo-Persia
  • Belly and Thighs = Ancient Greece
  • Legs = Western and Eastern Rome
  • Feet = Antichrist

Daniel 7 — Vision of 4 beasts:

  • Babylon = Lion with eagle’s wings
  • Medo-Persia = Bear with 3 ribs
  • Ancient Greece = Leopard
  • Rome = 10 horned beast
  • Antichrist = Little horn (11th horn)­ ­­­– The description here seems to describe Adolf Hitler who arose out of 10 Germanic Tribes and caused a horrible holocaust yet there will be someone worse than him in the future.

Daniel 8 — Vision of a ram and a goat:

  • Medo-Peria = Ram with 2 horns
  • Ancient Greece = Goat with 1 horn that became 4 horns
  • Antichrist = King with fierce features rises out of 1 of the 4

Daniel 11 and 12 — Antiochus Epiphanes IV eventually arose from Assyria.

  • Antiochus seemed to be the Seleucids’ Willful King of the North of Daniel 11:21.
  • In Matthew 24:15, Jesus indicated Antiochus’ abomination of desolation was not the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of Daniel 11:31 and 12:11.  There must be another.

The beasts of Revelation also show a progression and have thematic similarities with the beasts of Daniel:

  • The Beast of the Sea (Leopard-Bear-Lion Beast) is related to the beasts of Daniel 7 and the goat of Daniel 8.  The mouth of the lion is related to the mouth of the little horn.  He will come from somewhere in the Middle East–most likely from Nineveh near Mosul, Iraq which was formerly part of Assyrian territory (Nahum 1:11).  In Isaiah 14, he is also known as the king of Babylon and in Ezekiel 28:2, he is known as the prince of Tyre.  It is possible that the little horn or mouth of the lion is Isa, the Islamic Jesus.
  • The two-horned Beast of the Earth (one of the horns is the False Prophet) is related to the two-horned ram of Daniel 8.  If Isa is the False Prophet, it’s possible that al-Mahdi is the second horn.
  • The Scarlet Beast with seven heads and ten horns is the same as the ten-horned fourth beast of Daniel 7.  This beast may head up a revived Islamic Caliphate.
  • The Harlot Babylon the Great will mostly likely arise from Western Europe (formerly the Western leg of Rome) in the form of the New World Order.
  • Initially the Harlot rides the Scarlet Beast but eventually the Scarlet Beast will destroy Babylon the Great which will break into 3 parts.

Keep your eyes and ears focused on world events to see how the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation will unfold in our lifetime.  There has been talk of forming a New World Order and reviving the Caliphate for several years.  We are closer than ever to the possibility of all the end time prophecies being accomplished within the next 10-20 years.

If you are not familiar with eschatology, now would be a good time to start studying it so you can avoid the Great Apostasy and be ready for Christ’s return.

Spring Feasts of the Lord

The Feasts of the Lord are not only for the Jews but for all of God’s people.  They are God’s plan for mankind.

The Spring Feasts were fulfilled during Jesus’ first coming:

Passover Eve (Pesach – Nissan 14th) – On the first Passover, the blood of the Passover lamb was painted on the doorposts and lintels of the homes of the Hebrews to provide atonement and protection for God’s people.  The Lord passed over the firstborn Hebrew males delivering them and their families from slavery and death in Egypt.  Since the firstborn Egyptian males were not protected by the blood atonement of the Passover Lamb, God killed them.

Passover (Nissan 14th) is the Preparation Day for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (John 14:19).  The week of Unleavened Bread is also known as the week of Passover.

Jesus died as the ultimate Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7b).  Jesus was crucified and buried before sundown on Nissan 14th and before the Jews celebrated their Passover meal in the evening when the 14th officially became the 15th (John 18:28).

Jesus’ blood provides atonement for those who choose to submit to Him.  In fact, believers live under that atonement covering as they obey His commandments.  Submitting to Jesus as Lord and Savior frees Christians from slavery to sin and from the curse of the law which is the second death or being consumed in the lake of fire.

Week of Passover or Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzot – Nissan 15th – 21st) – When the mixed multitude left Egypt, they ate unleavened bread.  The Jews celebrate this feast in remembrance of the event of Passover and the Exodus from Egypt.

Jesus’ sinless, dead, unleavened body was in the grave during the first 3 days and 3 nights of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nissan 15th, 16th, and 17th).

Firstfruits (Yom HaBikkurim – end of Nissan 17th/beginning of Nissan 18th) – The Hebrews were commanded to offer firstfruits from the barley harvest on the day after the Sabbath (Lev. 23:11).  There is a difference of opinion as to which Sabbath is referred to here.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread has two High Sabbaths which are Nissan 15th and 21st.  The Feast of Firstfruits is either the day after the first High Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nissan 16th) or the day after the weekly Sabbath which is during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Jesus rose from the dead (became leavened) in the middle of the week of Unleavened Bread (Passover).  This happened 3 days and 3 nights after Jesus’ death and burial.  This was the day after the weekly Sabbath and not the day after the first High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread (Nissan 16th).  Jesus most likely died and was buried on Wednesday right before sundown and rose from the dead on Saturday evening right after sundown (which was technically when Sunday began).

Most English versions of Matthew 28:1 indicate the women went to the tomb after the Sabbath (singular).  Actually, the Greek New Testament indicates they went to the tomb after the Sabbaths (plural).  This verse was referring to both the first High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread and the weekly Sabbath.  According to 1 Corinthians 15:20, Jesus was the Firstfruit of the Barley harvest.

For a long time I believed the Feast of Firstfruits should fall on the day after the weekly Sabbath during the week of Unleavened Bread (Passover) but at this point in time, I have a reason to believe otherwise.  This does not change the fact that Jesus was the Firstfruit of the Barley harvest.  Jesus also fulfilled some aspects of the fall feasts but we are waiting for future fulfillments as well.

Pentecost (Hag Shavuot or Counting the Omer – Sivan 6th or between Sivan 5th and 11th depending on which Sabbath you Count the Omer from) – Traditionally, the Hag Shavuot is when God spoke the Ten Commandments to His people so that He could dwell among them.

Today the Jews Count the Omer for 50 days starting from the day after the first High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread which is Nissan 16th and ending on Sivan 6.  Others believe we should Count the Omer for 50 days starting from the day after the weekly Sabbath (from the Sunday) during the week of Unleavened Bread and ending on the Hag Shavuot (Pentecost) because Christ rose from the dead on the day after the weekly Sabbath.

As we think about these two options, we should take time to ponder the possible significance of Daniel 12:11-12.  By the time of the 1290th day, the adomination of desolation will be set up in a future temple.  This should be Nissan 19th if the final shavuah (7 year period; in this case, the 70th week of Daniel) I’m thinking of is correct.  In this particular shavuah, the 1335th day will be the 49th day of the Omer if the omer is counted from the day after the first High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread (Passover).  Daniel was told that anyone who waits and arrives at the 1335th day will be blessed.  Recall the common pattern (7×7) + 1 because the blessing will most likely come on the 50th day.

This seems similar to Jesus telling His disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the power of the Holy Spirit from on high (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5).  The Holy Spirit was certainly a blessing to those who received it.

Physically waiting (chakah) until the 1335th day for a blessing will be hard to do because Jesus encouraged those in Judea to flee to the mountains when they see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place (Matt. 24:15-22).  Perhaps this is not meant to be a physical tarrying.  Chakah can also mean to hope, expect, or long for.

In the disciples’ case, Jesus made it clear they were to physically wait.  This was difficult for them to do because they feared for their lives but when the day of Pentecost finally came, the Holy Spirit came at the appointed time to dwell within all believers and empowered them to preach the gospel (Acts 2:1-4).

The  Hag Shavuot is the fulfillment of the Firstfruits of the Wheat harvest (Act 2:41, Acts 10:45-46).

**Be sure to see the article on the Metonic Cycle and the accompanying powerpoint called “The Secret of the 1260 Days” in order to learn more about the 70th Week of Daniel and the particular shavuah I have in mind.

Celebrate the Feasts

In 1 Corinthians 5:8, Paul encouraged us to keep the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread and told us in what manner we should observe it:  “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  NKJV

My kids have complained that observing Passover is difficult but I have told them that it’s a great way we can learn to put to death the sins of the flesh in our lives in a very tangible way.  It’s given me the opportunity to teach them that removing sin and leaven from our lives takes awareness, planning, and commitment in both the physical and spiritual realms.  Once they understood the spiritual application, they were a little more willing to celebrate the feast in a more physical way.

Would you be willing to celebrate the Spring Feasts too?

Don’t be afraid to plan a Messianic Passover Meal, cleanse your house of products containing leavening agents for the week of Unleavened Bread, and daily Count the Omer for 50 days each year!

Please don’t plan to do so based on the dates for Easter.  Get on-line and find out the proper dates each year to celebrate the feasts of the Lord because the Hebrew dates differ from the Gregorian dates each year.

Don’t worry about what others say to you concerning your decision.  Allow the celebration of the spring feasts to deepen your understanding of how Jesus fulfilled them and to enhance your relationship with the Lord.

Remember Colossians 2:16-17 says, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”  NKJV

May God bless you as you celebrate the spring feasts!

Making Right Choices

People often turn to Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians in order to determine how to make right choices.  One of the first things they do is refuse to look at Torah because they think it has been abolished or inappropriate in our day and age.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul scolds the church in Corinth for ignoring the sexual relationship between a man and his father’s wife.  Paul knew this particular relationship was sinful was because it was defined as such in Torah.

If you are faced with making a decision, the first thing you need to determine is whether or not your choices are forbidden (negative commandment) or commanded (positive command) in Torah.

If your choices are commanded, you should fulfill those commands if possible.  If your choices are forbidden, you should avoid those choices.  Bear in mind whether or not the laws associated with your choices were to be followed only in the land of Israel, only in the Temple, only by the priests and/or judges, only by women or men, or by everyone.

If your choices are not commanded or forbidden in Torah you have even more flexibility in making your decision.  At this point you should also consider what is written in the New Testament.

Are you considering a law suit among believers or non-believers?  Do not bring a case with a believer before non-believers. (1 Cor. 6) Instead, consider putting up with injustice or attempt to work things out privately.

Are you considering marriage or divorce?  Marriage should only be between believers.  Divorce is acceptable in the event of sexual immorality.  Remarriage is an option in the event of the death of your spouse.

Will your decision show love for God and/or your fellow man?  Will your decision harm anyone?

If you are forced to decide between two evils, choose the lesser evil or the choice that protects or helps others.  If you are faced with breaking the Sabbath and meeting human need, always choose to meet human need.

Are you dealing with an issue of ritual purity?  Remember God’s desire for His people is holiness.  Will your decision cause you to become more or less ritually pure or unclean? Maintain ritual purity if possible except when human need requires you to become unclean.

Does God want you to prophesy?  Be strong and courageous. Allow Him to speak through you.  Afterwards, be still and know He is God.

Finally make decisions that will ultimately bring glory to God.

What decisions are you faced with today?

Don’t be afraid to use these guidelines to make the right decisions.

Grafted Into Israel

In order to understand what being grafted into Israel means, we should understand that believers today are not much different from the Israelites in the Old Testament. We come to God essentially the same way.

  • Chosen by God
  • Redeemed
  • Baptized (immersed in water)
  • Saved from death and slavery
  • Voluntarily entered into covenant with God
  • Commanded to be holy
  • Blood atonement for sin and guilt
  • Require frequent cleansing from uncleanness
  • Received forgiveness of sins and trespasses
  • Justified by grace through faith
  • Experience blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience
  • Process of sanctification is accomplished by living a life of obedience
  • Those who are disobedient and rebel against God fail to enter God’s rest.

Paul emphasized in Romans and Galatians that entering into covenant with God is not accomplished by circumcision = ritual conversion to Judaism. It’s not accomplished by any other ritual for that matter. Baptism and circumcision have their own purposes and meanings that must be done in obedience to God’s commandments but they are not specifically done for conversion sake. These things are meaningless (nothing) in terms of their ability to make you part of Israel. In Romans 11, Paul describes Gentiles being grafted into the olive tree of Israel.  Becoming grafted into the olive tree of Israel is accomplished purely by faith in Jesus Christ.

So what does being grafted into Israel mean? It means Jewish and Gentile believers have been joined together to comprise one spiritual body of people. If you are a Gentile, it means you have forsaken that which you have always known and chosen to embrace Israel as your people.  This happens when a person forsakes their sins, chooses to obey God’s commandments, and trusts in the atonement Jesus provided on the cross.

Gentiles are like Ruth, the Moabitess who said to Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” (NKJV)

Many people enter into covenant with God without fully realizing what they are doing. By entering this marriage covenant, people are choosing to:

  • Accept the terms of the covenant (God’s laws).
  • Become one with Israel, God’s chosen people.
  • Embrace the past, present, and future of Israel.

In the final judgment only Israel will be saved.

God’s grace has always been available to Israel. Those who bless Israel will be blessed. Those who curse Israel will be cursed.

Will you choose to become grafted into Israel?

The issue of Galatians is not law versus grace. It’s how to be grafted into Israel. For a study on Galatians, I highly recommend visiting http://www.bereansonline.org , clicking on Studies, and downloading Epistle to the Galatians. Be sure to download the audio files that go with it. You will not be spoon-fed. You must study like a Berean. There’s lots of excellent stuff on this site so if you’re hungry, it’s a good place to feast from.

Hebraic Culture Found in Acts

Many Christians would be surprised to find out what the book of Acts reveals about the Hebraic culture of the early church. When they find out, they don’t know the best way to respond to this revelation. You see, many people like their doctrines and beliefs wound up neat in a tight little ball of multicolored string. When the ball is loosened up, it turns into a big mess which makes them highly uncomfortable.

There are two typical reactions to this. One is they scoop up the mess, ignore the information, and try to get their doctrinal beliefs and religious customs back in a nice neat multi-colored ball without forsaking any of their long held traditions which are synchretized with paganism and doctrinal error. The other option is to be shocked by the mess but willing to examine things further despite being very uncomfortable in the process. If they tolerate the mess long enough, embrace real truths bit by bit, and be obedient to apply what they learn, the Holy Spirit will then unravel the remaining colorful mess, put everything in its rightful place, and reveal the magnificent tapestry that can’t be seen when everything is in a boring tight little ball.  If you choose this path, it can take several years of patience and study to see much of this tapestry but based on my personal experience I can assure you that it’s worth the process. You will hunger daily to see more and more.  It’s more incredible than you can possibly imagine including the fact that the Old Testament meshes perfectly with the New Testament.

Let’s see what we can learn in the book of Acts.  The very first thing we notice it that the first century believers still observed the Feasts of the Lord.  Activities in the temple were an important part of life of all believers.  The prayers were the temple prayers (Shacharit – morning, Minchah – afternoon, and Ma’ariv –evening).  Interesting things like healings and visions seemed to happen at the times of the daily prayers.

The apostles had become rabbis and were teaching Jesus’ interpretation of Torah.  Initially the missionary focus was on Jews and proselytes found in various countries before it was on the Gentiles.  The church or assembly was not new as many people currently believe but existed even in Abraham’s time.

Hebrew believers were a sect of Judaism that was still worshipping in the temple.  They met at Solomon’s Colonnade which was located on the east side of Herod’s Temple.  They understood that to repent meant to return back to the commands of Torah (Malachi 4:4-6) and that being transformed by the renewing of your mind involved obeying the original commands of God.

Stephen was put to death due to false accusations against him.  He had not said anything against Moses, God, the temple, or the law.  He did not say Jesus would destroy the temple and change the customs Moses had given them.  Stephen said it was really his accusers who did not obey God’s commandments.

Hebrews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus as the long awaited Messiah still attended synagogue on the Sabbath.  The Jerusalem Council gave their recommendations from Leviticus 17-18 for Gentiles coming to faith in Christ yet reminded everyone that people could easily learn more of what was expected of them because Moses was being taught in every city and in the synagogues each Sabbath.

Many Hebrew believers were zealous for the law but had been told that Paul had told the Gentiles to forsake the law –not to circumcise their children or walk according to the customs.  That’s not entirely correct.  First , Paul said he walked orderly and kept the law (Acts 21:17-25).  Second, Paul taught that circumcision (ritual conversion to Judaism) was not required in order to become a believer in Jesus but showing love for God by obeying His commandments was most important.  Paul supported the recommendation of the apostles which was for Gentiles to keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.  These things are basically a summary of what is taught in Leviticus.  The phrase “that they should observe no such thing” which is found in English versions of Acts 21:25 is not even in the original Greek text!   This added phrase leads us to believe Paul taught Gentiles to abandon the law.  If we take out this phrase that’s not supposed to be there in the first place and read the rest in context we, see that Paul had not told the Gentiles to forsake the law but that he had been misunderstood or misquoted.

Believers in Christ still made vows including the vow of Nazirite and they offered sacrifices until the temple had been destroyed.  Paul was falsely accused of defiling the temple by bringing Greeks into it and teaching all men everywhere against the people, the law, and the temple. Paul said “I am a Jew” and “being zealous for God, just as you all are today.” Note Paul used the present tense, not past tense.  Paul also said he had done nothing worthy of death. If he had taught what they had accused him of, he would most certainly have been worthy of death according to the law.

As believers today study Romans and Galatians they look at it through a Greek perspective and fail to interpret it properly because they don’t understand the Hebraic culture of Paul’s time, the religious issues of the day, or the idioms Paul used. The differences are relatively minor but are still significant to us none the less.

Sometimes proper interpretation only requires a change in definitions.  Even Peter admitted that Paul was difficult for many to properly understand.  Second Peter 3:15-18 said, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.  You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (NKJV) Many Gentiles are still improperly taught and still twist Paul’s teachings today. It is unfortunate that the Protestant Reformation was not complete or that doctrinal error was not corrected at that time.

Initially, it’s best to remember what Paul said in Romans 3:31 until we can learn more, “Does it follow that we abolish Torah by this trusting? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, we confirm Torah.” (CJB) Yes, this is a good start…

It also helps to remember Jesus words in Matthew 5:17-20, “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (CJB) Jesus has made it clear that Torah will be the law until heaven and earth pass away.  Until that time there is still much for Jesus to fulfill so don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

Look again at these verses.  Who will be great in the kingdom of heaven?

So what will you do with your theological ball of string?  Will you let it unravel some and let the Holy Spirit show you something awesome?

Never fear. Salvation is still by grace through faith in Jesus. He is the only way to the Father.   Ask God to give you wisdom and knowlege.  Be willing to embrace the Hebraic culture of those who lived during the time of the Acts of the Apostles.  After all, the law was not abolished because of faith (Rom. 3:31).  Remember:

  • God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge and for practicing lawlessness (Torah-lessness).
  • The only curse we’re not under is the curse of the second death.