|Shlomo Neumann's Little Book
of Jewish Wisdom
(What every Jew should know about his future)
|By Shlomo Drori - Haifa, Israel
We Jews are funny persons - everyone thinks us clever and we are called "the People of the Book", i.e. the Bible, but most of us don't read the Bible for ourselves. We rely on the interpretations the rabbis give us. But this is not right. God gave every one of us a mind of our own and we should decide, ourselves, how we understand things, and ESPECIALLY IF OUR FUTURE IS AT STAKE!
The Jewish people is an eternal, everlasting one. This fact is recognized by all: the Jews themselves, the friends of Israel, and even their enemies have to accept this, though in the eyes of Israel's enemies the indestructibility of the Jews is a frustrating situation. Especially the events of recent Jewish history Zionism, the Holocaust, and the establishment of the state of Israelhave proved (even to non-religious, unbelieving persons) the validity of the divine promises given to Israel as written down in the Bible: "The Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind" (I Sam. 15:29).
Yet surely this eternity relates only to the continued existence of a people on earth, and has no connection whatsoever with the life and death of the individual members of this nation. Exactly as every parent knows that his family will continue to live through his children, in the same way a Jew can be totally sure that his people will go on living through the coming generations no matter what the plans of Israel's enemies may be. Then what about the individual Jew? Will his life be ended by physical death? Does the Bible, the Holy Book of Israel, tell anything about this burning question? The aim of this booklet is to show you, dear fellow Jew, that not only the people of Israel are eternal, BUT THAT YOU TOO CAN HAVE LIFE EVER- LASTING!
A nice prospect, isn't it?
THE FUTURE PROSPECT
There are many references in our Biblewhat is called the Old Testamentthat point clearly to life after death, but none tell us such precise details as the prophet Daniel did: "AND MANY OF THOSE WHO SLEEP IN THE DUST OF THE EARTH SHALL AWAKESOME TO EVERLASTING LIFE AND SOME TO SHAME AND EVERLASTING CONTEMPT" (Dan. 12:2).
So we learn two important things:
1. Physical death is not the end of life, and
2. This life-after-death will not be equal for all persons. Some will awake to everlasting LIFE, but others to everlasting SHAME.
Surely everyone is interested to know what he has to do in order to join the lucky ones that go to heaven, the place where eternal life is lived. On this point also the Bible is clear. Psalm 31:28 tells us, "The righteous shall be preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off."
But now arises the big question: Who is righteous and who is not? Again the Bible says it explicitly: "The righteous do not sin." But what is sin? This is explained in Daniel 9:9,10: "We have rebelled against the Lord, have not obeyed His voice and have not followed His laws." So we see that the righteous do not disobey God and break His laws. And now we come to the Law that Israel was given, a vast number of DO'S and DONT'S that everyone was told to keep, but in fact no one was able to do so.
On this subject there Are many references in the Bible. Let us look at only two of them.
1. "There is none that does good, no one!" (Psalm 14:3)
2. "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment!" (Isaiah 64:6)
A big problem, therefore, lies before us: how can we resolve the connection between eternal life, righteousness, sin, and the Law? This precondition is on one side, and on the other side is the impossibility to reach the standard desired. To bring all these birds under one hat we have to search our Bible thoroughly and look for its main message.
A SAD SITUATION
Let us start from the very beginning and with the most important of all: GOD the ALMIGHTY.
He is the creator of everything as the opening verses of the Bible tell us clearly; "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). There have been many scientific theories which try to contradict the biblical story of creation, but up until now there has appeared none that is so convincing that it doesn't require a very deep faith in science. And if faith is needed, then I think the belief in God's Word is preferable.
Now let us turn to the attributes of God. First of all, He is HOLY, as written in I Sam. 2:2, "There is none holy like the Lord," and this holiness must be coupled with FAULTLESS JUSTICE: "... Who will by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:7).
That's the dark side of the picture, but there is a bright one too. God is also LOVING and MERCIFUL, as the Bible confirms in Isaiah 63:7, "I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord ... and the great goodness He has granted according to His mercy and steadfast love." How these apparently contradictory attributes are combinable we will see later.
Now, let's look at ourselvesthe human species. Whether we believe it or not, there is no question that man was created in the image of God and therefore needs His fellowship like the air we breathe. God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Gen. 1:26). But man chose disobedience to God and went his own way, and this we can see in the story about The Fall (Gen. 3). So the fellowship God had planned for with His creation was broken; the Holy One could keep relations only with someone as holy as Himself. As it is written, "You shall be holy, for the Lord your God is holy" (Lev. 19:2).
So now something stood between God and man preventing the desired relationship and this is called "sin".
What does this expression mean? The Bible says it clearly: "We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God in following His laws" (Dan. 9:9, 10). And as we have said already, this sin stands between God and man: "... your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God" (Isaiah 59:2).
This is really a sad situation man has brought himself into, but the story becomes still sadder because man is not able to free himself from this horrible obstacle called sin, try as hard as he can. The result to become "sinless" is man's lack of peace and final death, i.e. bodily as well as spiritually. As it is written, "But when man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity ... shall he live? ... he shall die!" (Ezek. 18:24).
We saw in the beginning that God is just, and therefore has to punish sin; but on the other hand He is also loving and mercifulHe loves the sinner. In order to show that this love and mercy are not incompatible with His justice, God made one-sided agreements with certain persons specially chosen by Him. These agreements are called covenants.
So let us examine what this expression really means. First of all we have to keep in mind that these covenants were acts of grace, i.e. the initiative came always from God, never from man. Gen. 9:9 tells us, "God said to Noah, Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants." But God not only initiated the covenants, He also declared them irrevocable, everlasting, in spite of man's fallen nature. As the Bible says, "The Lord said in His heart, I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8:21, 22).
God made four covenants, and they represent progressive steps in the divine-human relationship:
1. With Noah. As we have already seen, in this covenant God promised never again to destroy life on earth "by the waters of a flood" (Gen. 9:11).
2. With Abraham. God promised that Abraham would become the father of a chosen people with a special relationship to God. According to Gen. 17:7
God said, "I will establish My covenant between Me and thee, and our descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto you and to your descendants after you." (God reaffirmed this covenant to Isaac and also to Jacob.)
3. With Moses at Mt. Sinai. By this time the descendants of Abraham had become 12 tribes united into one nation. They were to receive God's law. As recorded in Ex. 34:27, "The Lord said unto Moses, Write these words, for in accordance with them I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
4. With Israel through the New Covenant. This was called "new" because it was to replace the previous ones. Its details we will discuss later. At this stage let us cite only the Bible quotation referring to it: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant Which I made with their fathers, which covenant they broke, but I will put my Law within them and write it on their hearts, and I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more" (Jer. 31:33).
Each one of these covenants had a sign which symbolized the agreement made: The Noahic one had the RAINBOW; the Abrahamic one, CIRCUMCISION; the Mosaic one, the TABLETS OF THE DECALOGUE; and the New Covenant, the SIGN OF REDEMPTION.
The result of the Mosaic covenant was the creation of the people of Israel, a people elected by grace, for everlasting existence. As it is written, "the Lord your God has chosen you ... because the Lord, loves you and is keeping the oath He swore to your fathers ... your God is a faithful God who keeps covenant" (Deut. 7:6-8).
ISRAEL, GOD'S SHOWCASE AND ROSTRUM
So Israel was chosen, but for what purpose? Now we have reached an issue which has caused much controversy, though the Bible speaks quite clearly about it. Israel was to be used by God as a tool and a stage. Within the chosen people the Holy One could reveal Himself and make His laws known. Through the mouths of Israel's leaders and prophets the world could hear about the Unseen Lord of heaven and earth and learn about Him and the need to praise His glory. Isa. 43:21 describes Israel as "... the chosen people whom I formed for Myself that they might tell My praise."
Yet all this would be only a preparation, an overture to the main play. Through Israel something was to happen that would change the world. In this people someone would appear of whom God would say (Isa. 49;6), "It is too light a thing that you should be my Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob ... I will also give You as a Light to the nations that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
So we see that throughout human history even until our daysthe existence of Israel provides the best proof of God's existence, His faithfulness, and the holiness and truth of His Word, the Bible. Again I refer to I Sam 15:29: "The Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind, for He is not a man that He would do so."
A POSSIBLE WAY OUT
Israel received through Moses the Law, and one of its parts detailed the sacrifices. Every law code provides a set of penalties against those who break it; the same also appears in the Mosaic law, and the importance of this we will see later. There exists also a type of restitution by substitution; that is, something or someone else must pay the price, which means he has to die. We read in the Bible, (Lev. 4:13- 1 5) "... if the congregation commits a sin ... they shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and the elders shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord and the bullock shall be killed before the Lord."
For communication with Israel, God used special persons who were called prophets. These were chosen by the Lord, as recorded, for example, in Ex. 3:4, "God said to Moses, Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh has sent me to you." The prophets were the messengers bringing God's orders. For example, in 11 Sam. 7:4, 5 we read, "The word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant, David, Thus says the Lord ..." The second task of the prophets was foretelling future events, and the vast majority of biblical prophecies came true, so we may have the sure belief that also the rest will be fulfilled. For example, Elijah said (I Kings 17:1), "There will be neither rain nor dew these years," and so it was!
But the people of Israel never lived up to the divine standard; their sin stood always between them and their Lord and Creator. This fact the prophets proclaimed incessantly. Mi. 3;4 says, "Then shall they cry unto the Lord but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings." But on the other hand, the prophets also mentioned a possible change in this unhappy situation, and this was called salvation. Let us examine what the Bible tells us about this.
Salvation means three things that can happen to us in a chain reaction, and this by the grace of God alone. without any merit from our side:
1. The forgiveness of sins, however heavy they may be, is achieved because someone else has taken the guilt and received the punishment. As it is written, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, and upon HIM was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes are we healed ... and the Lord has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:5, 6)
2. After the removal of this terrible obstacle between man and God, the original relationship (as planned by God but destroyed by The Fall) is to be renewed. In Jer. 31 34 we read, "... says the Lord, I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more."
3. The good news follows. Everlasting life will be given to those who have received salvation. As recorded in Dan. 12:2, 3: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to ever lasting LIFE ..."
Once sin is forgiven, thanks to the punishment paid for by someone else, man is counted as righteous again and the former relationship with God can be restored. Since God's demand for righteousness is fulfilled, life everlasting is no dream any more! That is what salvation really means! So the situation becomes clearer: the source of all the trouble is sin, but there seems to be a possibility of a change for the better. After the "Bad News" of the past and present, some "Good News" for the future is hinted at. There may be a chance to go back to the original "Eden" situation.
The only question left is, Who can be the mysterious ONE that on Him all our iniquities could be laid? And what is still more important, would God be prepared to accept this substitutional sacrifice?
EARTH'S MYSTERIOUS VISITOR
The answer to these two questions is not so difficult to find because it appears in the Bible, too. We may call it the Messianic Concept. The Messiahthe Anointed Oneis in fact not mysterious at all. Hints about His existence run throughout the Bible like a red thread. He is mentioned from the first book (Genesis 3:15), "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed, and He shall bruise your head and you His heel," until the last prophet (Mal. 3:1), "Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way for Me, and the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to the temple, the Messenger of the covenant in whom you delight; behold, He is coming, says the Lord of Hosts."
Someone took the time to count these hints of the Messiah; the total is 333 times!
Now let us look at the tasks this Messiah has to fulfill. This point is, in fact, the most disputed one in the Messianic concept. It is the crossroads where Messianism and Rabbinical Judaism diverge. The Messiah has to serve a twofold ministry: on one hand He has to be the substitutional sacrifice, and herewith fulfill the Mosaic Law (Lev. 4:14, 15) as clearly in Isa. 53:11, "The Righteousness One, My servant, will make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities."
But on the other hand, he has to be also a ruler and judge of humanity at the end of these times, as written in Dan. 7:13, 14: "There came One like the Son of Man ... and to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him."
These two ministries belong to one and the same personnot to two, as was, and still is, sometimes claimed by the rabbis; but they happen at different times.
The period between the first coming and the second coming represents a time of grace in which a person's final judgement can be averted by accepting the Messiah's atonement as offered at His first coming.
Now comes the greatest Surprise to so many people: This Suffering Servant the Messiah in His first appearance, has already visited the earth! He has been here, about 2000 years ago, and He has brought the so much longed-for salvation to all those who have accepted, who do accept, and who will accept Him as their personal Messiah, Lord, and Saviour.
CHECK HIM OUT: FRAUD OR VERITY?
But how can we know for sure that this person was really the Messiah, and not some swindler and blasphemer?
First of all, this Messiah, named Y'shua, answered ALL the biblical prophecies as no one else will ever be able to do. This is partly because situations have changed, and partly due to the time that has passed, but mostly because of the scientifically affirmed impossibility that any other person could fulfill all the conditions specified by the Bible.
Let us mention only a few of them: Messiah (the true and only One) must: be a descendant of David (Ps. 89:3, 4), be born from a virgin (Isa. 7:13, 14), in Bethlehem (Mi. 5:2), bring salvation not only to Israel but to "all the ends of the earth" (Isa. 52: 10), and have a special messenger to proclaim His coming (Mal. 3:1). The scriptures also pinpoint the exact time of His coming (Dan. 9:24, 25), indicate He would start His ministry in Galilee (Isa. 9:1, 2), and note that the people would not believe Him (Isa. 53:1). His hands and feet were to be pierced (Ps. 22:16), and His side also would be pierced (Zech. 12:10).
Setting aside all the many other evidences besides these we have just mentioned, two things are sure: after the destruction of the second temple where all the family archives were kept, nobody can prove any more that he is a descendant of David. Furthermore, any other date of Messiah's appearance would have no biblical confirmation because Daniel set the time and it was conditioned on the existence of the temple!
When we look at the life and ministry of Y'shua as recorded in the New Testament (and we have sufficient reason and evidence to accept this book as the trustworthy Word of God), then we cannot deny that His teaching and His actions, the performance of His miracles, and His death and resurrection, all of these factors point to a Person far beyond the mere human level. Let us mention just several more biblical prophecies concerning the Messiah that was to come: He would be the Good Shepherd (Isa. 40:11) and the Righteous One (Jer. 23:5, 6). His death was to be substitutional for mankind (Isa. 53:4, 8); He was to heal the sick (Isa. 53:12) and to pray for His persecutors (Isa. 53:12). He would rise from the dead on the third day (Jonah 1:17). God would exalt and extol Him (Isa. 52: 13). He would, in fact, be the Saviour of the world (Isa. 49:6).
As a last example to prove that Y'shua is Hethe long expected Messiahwe bring as evidence the way He has changed the life of all those that have accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord, and who have been prepared to follow Him. This astonishing transformation has been continuously happening throughout the ages, from the time His first disciples went forth until our time. Some incredible changes take place in all those who accept HIM into their hearts and lives.
Isa. 32:3, 4, 15, 17 describes it by saying "the Spirit is poured upon us from on high ... then justice shall dwell in the wilderness and righteousness abide ... and the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever!"
We have come to the end of our journey through our Hebrew Bible and we have found the answer to the question we asked at the beginning: Even the personal life of an individual Jewish person can be eternal. It is not just the existence of Israel as a nation that is to be everlasting. Physical death is not the end of human existence. There will be a judgement, and the righteous ones will go to heaven as Daniel prophesied.
Though no man can be righteous by his own efforts, yet his sins can be wiped out if he accepts the salvation offered to him by the Messiah Y'shua, who died for the sins of the world on the cross as the substitutional sacrifice, according to the Mosaic law.
Therefore, the cross is the symbol of the fourth and last covenant, the New Covenant which brought the fulfillment of its three predecessors.
Concluding this Good News, we would like to bring only a few of Y'shua's own words concerning life everlasting:
"Whosoever believes in the Son of Man will not perish but will have eternal life" (John 3:16).
And another statement, "I give unto them eternal life and they shall not perish" (John 10:28).
Also, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).
NOW IT'S UP TO YOU!
The circle is closed; the hereditary sin of the first man is atoned for; fellowship with the holy and just God is renewed, and forever.
Eternal life is no dream.
Y'shua said, "I came that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly!" (John 10:19).
The Messiah came to earth that man could have life, true life in fellowship with God his Creator, in peace with Him and with himself, and have it more abundantly, a wonderful, limitless possession for ever and ever! In another place He said, "See, I stand at the door (of your heart and life) and knock; if you hear My voice and open the door, I will come into your heart and life and sup with you, and you with Me" (Rev. 3:20). All anyone has to do is talk to Him like Tyviye did in "The Fiddler on the Roof," and invite Him in. It's a very Jewish thing to do.
So you see, our dear fellow JewNot only are the people of Israel eternal, but every Jew can have life everlasting as wellthanks to the Messiah Y'shua, the Son of David!
PRAISE TO THE LORD!
Shlomo Drori is an Elder at Beth Elijah Messianic Congregation in Haifa, Israel.
POB 525, Haifa, 31004 Israel 972-04-247769
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